Category Archives: 1965

Blu-ray Review: Giant Monster Gamera (1965), Or Gammera The Invincible (1966), Or Gamera The Giant Monster.

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Starring Eiji Funakoshi, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita
American version stars Albert Dekker, Brian Donlevy

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Mill Creek’s Blu-ray Gamera sets, Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2, have gotten some lukewarm reviews. They don’t look all that good. The detail’s fine, but things are a bit flat. Same goes for the audio: flat. But what I think folks are forgetting is that this is right in line with the way we’ve always seen these Japanese Daiei monster movies in the States. Growing up in the 70s, I saw them on TV — pan-and-scan and perforated by used car commercials. Later, when they started showing up on videotape, they looked just as bad, only you could stop them to go to the bathroom.

What I’m taking forever to get around to is this: in my mind, these kinds of movies aren’t supposed to look all that good. An iffy transfer? If you insist. Scratches? Yes, please. Splices? A few, just for authenticity. And grain? It’s a must. When these start looking too good, they lose some of their appeal. (Grindhouse didn’t look like that just to be obnoxious.)

And, be honest, did you buy a set of Gamera pictures to demonstrate your swanky TV next time your brother-in-law comes over?

A Brief History Of Giant Flying Turtle Movies, Part One.

Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965) was produced by Japan’s Daiei Motion Picture Company, clearly inspired by the callossal worldwide success of Toho’s Godzilla films.

Gamera is a giant prehistoric fire-breathing flying turtle with tusks, who’s released from the North Pole or someplace by a nuclear explosion. Gamera makes his way to Japan, where all hell breaks loose. The first attempt to get rid of him fails (explosives underneath him simply flip him onto his back), and he’s lured into a rocket and sent to Mars.

It’s clearly a Godzilla knock-off, with its meager budget evident in almost every frame. It’s black and white and Scope, which is always a good look, regardless of the picture’s budget (Lippert’s black and white Regalscope pictures were notoriously cheap).

A special version was prepared for the United States, called Gammera The Invincible (note the extra M), with sequences added featuring Albert Dekker and Brian Donlevy. This version played theaters in 1966 and was a constant on TV throughout the 70s.

The first volume in the Mill Creek Blu-Ray set includes the original foreign version, in Japanese with English subtitles. It looks nice and sharp — it’s terrific to see it widescreen, and the original Japanese audio tracks give the picture a slightly more sophisticated feel. (Very slightly — remember, this is a movie about a giant flying turtle.)

Personally, I would’ve preferred the Dekker/Donlevy American version I saw countless times on TV as a kid. It adds an extra layer of cheese, and for me, has added nostalgia value. Some of the dubbed voices are cats you’d recognize from Speed Racer and Ultraman.

By the way, there was a theme song, “Gammera The Invincible” by The Moons, released as a single in 1966 (that’s the sleeve to the right). It’s suspiciously similar to Neil Hefti’s Batman TV theme.

The picture was a success in Japan, particularly with kids, and a series was quickly launched, with Gamera taking on one crazy monster after another. The followups were all in color — and in the States, they all went straight to TV. Only Gammera The Invincible played US theaters.

Gamera: The Giant Monster was followed by six additional Gamera films, released between 1966 and 1971 —
Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966; AIP-TV title: War Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Gyaos (1967; AIP-TV title: Return Of The Giant Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Viras (1968; AIP-TV title: Destroy All Planets)
Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969; AIP-TV title: Attack Of The Monsters)
Gamera Vs. Jiger (1970; AIP-TV title: Gamera Vs. Monster X)
Gamera Vs. Zigra (1971)

Daiei ran into money trouble and went into bankruptcy, leaving an eighth Gamera picture unmade. But just like Gamera busting out of the ice after that long repose, the series was back in theaters in 1980 with Gamera: Super Monster from New Daiei. It includes footage from the seven previous movies. The fiery flying turtle was revived again in 1995 for series of films I have absolutely no interest in.

Mill Creek’s Gamera: Ultimate Collection Volumes 1 and 2 give these eight Gamera movies in hi-def, looking pretty splendid (as I see em). All are in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio, are all in color but the first one, and all feature what seems to be a solid job of subtitling. And, to top it all off, the pricing is terrific.

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Filed under 1965, 1966, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kaiju Movies, Mill Creek

Blu-Ray News #143: Orgy Of The Dead (1965).

Directed by Stephen C. Apostolof (as A. C. Stephen)
Written by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Starring Criswell, Pat Barrington, Fawn Silver, William Bates

A couple (Pat Barrington and William Bates) crash their car and wander through a graveyard on their way to help. They end up being tied to stakes by a mummy and a werewolf — the evil minions of the Emperor Of The Night (Criswell) and the Black Ghoul (Fawn Silver). They’re then forced to watch some strippers in the titular Orgy Of The Dead (1965) — one of which is Pat Barrington again, painted gold like Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger (1964).

Exactly what you’d expect from a script by Ed Wood — who also wrote the novel!

Edward D. Wood, Jr. holds Criswell’s cue cards.

Emperor Of The Night (Criswell): “This is a story of those in the twilight time. Once human, now monsters, in a void between the living and the dead. Monsters to be pitied, monsters to be despised. A night with the ghouls, the ghouls reborn from the innermost depths of the world.”

While the sets are pitiful — not even the fog can’t conceal the lameness of the cemetery — the camerawork by Robert Caramico features gorgeously saturated color. He shot a bunch of low-budget movies, including Tobe Hooper’s amazing Eaten Alive (1976), before landing in TV with stuff like The Waltons and Dallas.

This whole crazy mess is coming to Blu-Ray from Vinegar Syndrome on September 26. You can bet they’ll have Caramico’s color looking better than ever — it’ll restore the original 1.85 cropping — and the extras will be extra-extraordinary.

Note that the novel (up top) features a “special introduction” by Forrest J. Ackerman of Famous Monsters!

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ed Wood, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Forrest Ackerman, James Bond

Blu-Ray News #133: Rat Fink (1965).

Directed by James Landis
Starring Schuyler Hayden, Hal Bokar, Warrene Ott, Judy Hughes, Eve Brenner
Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond

It’s always good when a lost movie turns up. For me, when it turns out to be something from 1965, directed by the guy that did The Sadist (1963), then it’s a really big deal.

Rat Fink (1965) has been presumed lost for decades. Well, a 35mm print has been found and it arrives on Blu-Ray this month from Retromedia Entertainment. Limited to a thousand copies, it’s something you might wanna snag while you can. They say a DVD may come along later. Either way, here’s to another lost movie returning from the Land Of The Lost.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Retromedia

Blu-Ray News #107: The Blood Of Fu Manchu (1968) And The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969).

caslte-of-fm

Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Christopher Lee, Richard Greene

The Blood Of Fu Manchu (1968, AKA Kiss And Kill) and The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969) — the last two pictures in producer Harry Alan Towers’ series based on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, star Christopher Lee, Richard Greene and the Law Of Diminishing Returns.

blood-of-fm

Directed by the Spanish cult director Jess Franco, they have their fans — and they’ll be happy to know that Blue Underground is bringing them to Blu-Ray some time this year. The previous DVD release had a lot of extras, which will make their way to the Blu-Ray set.

face-of-fm-tc

The first and third Lee/Fu Manchu pictures, The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965, directed by Don Sharp) and The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967) are available from Warner Archive. (I really like Face.) The second, The Brides Of Fu Manchu (1966), was released several years ago from Warners, paired with Chamber Of Horrors (also 1966). How deep you want to go in this series is a personal thing, but Lee makes a terrific Fu Manchu — and let’s not forget him as Chung King in Hammer’s Terror Of The Tongs (1961).

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Filed under 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, Blue Underground, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Warner Archive

CD News: Jonny Quest Soundtrack.

LLL1400_booklet2.indd

La-La Land Records and Warner Bros. is about to release the original television score to the Hanna-Barbera adventure series Jonny Quest (1964-65). This deluxe 2-CD tribute to the musical genius of Hoyt Curtin is something a certain demographic has been waiting for for years.

La-La Land has brought out a lot of really great stuff — their complete score to It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World is terrific, but this might be the best yet.

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Filed under 1964, 1965, Hanna-Barbera, Television

Blu-ray Review: I Saw What You Did (1965).

I saw NP

Produced and Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by William McGivern
Based on the novel Out Of The Dark by Ursula Curtiss
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Music: Van Alexander
Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant

Cast: Joan Crawford (Amy Nelson), John Ireland (Steve Marak), Leif Erickson (Dave Mannering), Sarah Lane (Kit Austin), Andi Garrett (Libby Mannering), Sharyl Locke (Tess Mannering), Patricia Breslin (Ellie Mannering), John Archer (John Austin)

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After the big-time box office of Strait-Jacket (1964), William Castle re-teamed with its star, Joan Crawford, for I Saw What You Did (1965). It’s the story of a couple of high school girls making prank calls, who just happen to say “I saw what you did and I know who you are” to a guy who just killed his wife (John Ireland). This tactical error spurs the thrills and mayhem that make up the rest of the movie.

(In the film’s ads, Castle got a lot of mileage out of the scientific term Uxoricide, which means simply “the act of killing your wife.”)

I saw what you did

William Castle’s at his pseudo-Hitchcockian best here, dialing back the gimmicks and doing a very good job at creating tension. While we often overlook his skills as a director to focus on his genius as a showman, the man knew how to make a movie. Castle’s been one of my favorite filmmakers since I saw House On Haunted Hill (1959) on TV at the age of nine — even without the floating skeletons, I was awestruck.

ISAWWHAT

But back to I Saw What You Did. Joan Crawford only worked four days on it. And though she was a consummate professional, the effects of her ever-present flask can be seen in some scenes — probably the ones shot each afternoon. The aging star intimidated the two teenage players, Andi Garrett and Sara Lane, who are quite good.

Scream Factory has done a great job with I Saw What You Did, mainly by presenting Joseph Biroc’s cinematography well (it’s nice and crisp, with a pleasing amount of wear and tear) and by including trailers and other material to highlight how Castle promoted his film — which he seemed to consider every bit as important as the film itself. This isn’t Castle’s best work, and it’s a long way from Crawford’s, but this Blu-ray is highly recommended. (Scream Factory, I’d like to put in a request for another Castle Universal picture, 1964’s The Night Walker.)

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joan Crawford, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), William Castle

DVD News #53: Hammer Films Collection Vol. 2.

Mill Creek has announced a second volume of Hammer movies. From the second of their Frankenstein pictures to one of their chicks-and-dinosaur movies, this is some good stuff.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Eunice Grayson, Francis Matthews

The Snorkel (1958)
Directed by Guy Green
Starring Peter Van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Starring Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford

The Maniac (1963)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston.

Die! Die! My Darling (1965: UK Title Fanatic)
Directed by Silvio Narizzano
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

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Creatures The World Forgot (1971)
Directed by Don Chaffey
Starring Julie Ege

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Filed under 1958, 1963, 1965, 1971, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher