Category Archives: 1966

Blu-Ray News #354: The Harry Palmer Collection (1965-1967).

Here in the States, the Harry Palmer films are available on Blu-Ray from two different companies (Kino Lorber has two, Warner Archive has one) — each film was originally released through a different studio. The folks at Imprint out of Australia have managed to scoop ’em all up and put them in a single package. But however you pack these things, they’re essential.

The Ipcress File (1965)
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Starring Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Stanley Meadows

Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman gave us an anti-Bond with Harry Palmer, based on Len Deighton’s novels. Michael Caine was perfectly cast as the sarcastic spy — caught up in a scheme to kidnap and brainwash noted scientists.

I was 10 and had just gotten my first pair of eyeglasses when I came across The Ipcress File, and a smartass secret agent with glasses and a machine gun (and Sue Lloyd) gave me hope. Maybe it was going to be OK after all. I love this film. But don’t take it from me, the BFI named it one of the 100 best British films of the 20th century.

Funeral In Berlin (1966)
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Starring Michael Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Oskar Homolka, Eva Renzi, Guy Doleman

Palmer is sent to Germany to arrange the defection of a Russian intelligence officer. Things get weird. This one was directed by Guy Hamilton, who’d just done Goldfinger (1964). Given the different tones of the two films, you’d never know. 

Billion Dollar Brain (1967)
Directed by Ken Russell
Starring Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Ed Begley, Oskar Homolka, Françoise Dorléac, Guy Doleman 

A half-dozen eggs containing a deadly virus are stolen from a British research facility. Palmer, no longer part of MI5, is hired to bring them back. Before long, he’s back in MI5 and trying to bring down a supercomputer while recovering the eggs. The great Andre de Toth worked on this one as an executive producer; he’d later direct Caine in the underrated Play Dirty (1968).

Of course, Imprint is giving these their usual wealth of extras, from commentaries and interviews to trailers, stills and more. Even isolated tracks for the scores. Have all three together, and with all this extra stuff, is a really big deal. Coming in September. Can’t wait!

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Filed under 1965, 1966, 1967, Andre de Toth, DVD/Blu-ray News, Guy Hamilton, Harry Palmer, Imprint Films, Ken Russell, Michael Caine, Sidney J. Furie

Blu-Ray News #348: Arabesque (1966).

Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren

Stanley Donen directed a couple of my favorite films of the 60s, Charade (1963) and Bedazzled (1967). In between, he did Arabesque (1966), a fun piece of Hitchcockian eye candy starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.

Donen offered the lead to Cary Grant, who’d starred in Charade. Grant turned it down, and the part went to Peck. He’s a hieroglyphics expert who can decode a secret message — and who ends up pursued by sinister agents with Sophia Loren in tow. The story’s slight, but Donen and cinematographer Christopher Challis more than make up for it with all kinds of Technicolor-Panavision loveliness.

Henry Mancini cooked up a great score, which The Ventures covered (only released as a 45). Robert McGinnis did the terrific poster art (up top) between his work for Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967).

Flashy 60s pictures like this are perfect for Blu-Ray, and this one comes highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gregory Peck, Kino Lorber, Robert McGinnis, Sophia Loren, Stanley Donen, Universal (-International)

Dialogue Of The Day: The Endless Summer (1966).

From Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer (1966), the greatest surfing documentary ever made — with one of the best posters of them all.

Narrator (Bruce Brown): “The only way to avoid a wipeout is to take this wide, stink-bug stance.”

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Filed under 1966, Bruce Brown, Dialogue Of The Day

Blu-Ray News #330: The Matt Helm Movies (1966-69).

Dean’s Martin’s Matt Helm series of James Bond spoofs, based on Donald Hamilton’s hard-boiled spy novels, is coming to Blu-Ray in the UK, thanks to Mediumrare Entertainment. The set’s called The Matt Helm Lounge, the same name Columbia called the set they released on DVD in the US.

In 1966, it seems that the only way to compete with the James Bond juggernaut was to spoof it, as these films, the Derek Flint pictures and countless one-offs show. The lone exception might be the Harry Palmer films, starting with The Ipcress File (1965). 

The Helms bear almost no resemblance to the novels, aside from Helm’s name the the book titles. (Actually, The Silencers borrows a couple things from Hamilton’s Death Of A Citizen.) Love ’em or hate ’em, the Matt Helm films are exactly what you’d expect from James Bond spoofs starring Dean Martin. While the Helm pictures were meant to make fun of the James Bond films (and cash in on the spy craze), the Bond pictures themselves would eventually adopt the tone of spoofs like these. 

The Silencers (1966)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, Arthur O’Connell, Robert Webber, James Gregory, Nancy Kovack, Beverly Adams

Opening around the same time as Martin’s TV show, The Silencers was a huge hit. Believe it or not, at one point it was going to be a serious film, with a screenplay by Oscar Saul. It was director Phil Karlson’s idea to go for the tongue-in-cheek approach, and Saul’s script was rewritten by Herbert Baker, who was writing for The Dean Martin Show. Baker does not get credit. By the way, Baker wrote the incredible The Girl Can’t Help It (1956).

Dean Martin, Nancy Kovack and Phil Karlson.

Stella Stevens is terrific as Gail Hendricks, a bumbling agent Matt gets stuck with. She shows a real flair for comedy. It’s a shame Ms. Stevens was never recognized as the talent she was.

Dean/Matt has a tricked-out station wagon, complete with a bed and a bar, and a pistol that shoots backwards. The picture was shot by the great Burnett Guffey, a year before he’d head to Texas to shoot Bonnie And Clyde (1967). Elmer Bernstein provides a great score, that somehow mixes a little Rat Pack swing with the appropriate secret agent feel.

Murderers’ Row (1966)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Camilla Sparv, James Gregory, Beverly Adams

Oscar Saul wrote a draft or two for this one, too, and Herbert Baker rewrote that. The credits are the reverse of the last one; this time, Saul is not credited.

Murderers’ Row was supposed to be shot on location, but Dean Martin refused to go to Europe, and being that he was a co-producer, he got his way. Ann-Margret is a real firecracker, as always, and Karl Malden looks like he’s having fun. James Gregory and Beverly Adams are back from ICE HQ. The gadgets this time include a cigarette that launches a tiny missile, something that would turn up in the next Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967).

The score this time comes from Lalo Schifrin, and it’s a good one. The group Dino, Desi & Billy (Dino is Dean Paul Martin, Dean’s son) appear in a discotheque scene.

The Ambushers (1967)

Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Dean Martin, Senta Berger, Janice Rule, James Gregory, Albert Salmi, Beverly Adams

Every series has a low point, a weak link, and in the Matt Helm movies, The Ambushers is it. Again written by Herbert Baker, it doesn’t have quite the sense of fun of the previous two. Doesn’t have much of a plot, either. As Roger Ebert put it in his review back in ’67, “Dean plays Matt Helm again, and goes to Acapulco, and drives up and down scenic highways with ravishing beauties, and occasionally gets shot at.” There’s a UFO, by the way.

This time, Hugo Montenegro composed the score. There was no soundtrack album, unfortunately. The music’s the best thing in the movie.

The Wrecking Crew (1969)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise

Getting Phil Karlson back as director was a good idea, as The Wrecking Crew is easily the best in the series, except for maybe The Silencers. A new writer was brought in, William P. McGivern, who wrote the stories that became The Big Heat (1953) and Shield For Murder (1954) and the script for William Castle’s I Saw What You Did (1965). He also wrote a couple of episodes of Adam-12.

There’s some other interesting casting. James Gregory is replaced as MacDonald by John Larch. Bruce Lee provided choreography for the martial arts scenes. And Chuck Norris appears as a henchman in a scene or two.

Bruce Lee trains Nancy Kwan and Sharon Tate train for thier fight scene.

The film’s claim to fame today is that it the last Sharon Tate released in her lifetime. She was murdered by the Manson family in August of 1969. She’s very good here as an incompetent aide to Helm similar to Stella Stevens in the first one. There were plans to make a fifth Matt Helm picture, The Ravagers, with Tate back as Miss Carlson. Some say The Ravagers was cancelled due to lackluster grosses for The Wrecking Crew, but after Sharon’s murder, Dean Martin pulled the plug on it.

I remember sitting in the back seat of the family Chevrolet and seeing this trailer for The Wrecking Crew at The Hi-Way Drive-In in Thomasville, Georgia. I was five. Funny, but I don’t remember what movie we saw, just this trailer.

Bright and breezy with great modern architecture and furniture, these films will look terrific in high definition when they arrive in April. They were originally 1.85. Not sure what the set’s region status will be, but it comes highly recommended anyway.

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Filed under 1966, 1967, 1969, Ann-Margret, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Columbia, Dean Martin, DVD/Blu-ray News, Henry Levin, James Gregory, Phil Karlson, Senta Berger, Sharon Tate, Stella Stevens

The Good, The Bad And The Urine.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to watch The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) again. It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down with it, and my daughter has never seen it. So I dug out my Blu-Ray — and was instantly reminded why it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I don’t have anything worth watching. 

There’s plenty out there on the internet about what’s wrong with every single version of the film available on video. The old laserdisc from 1993, which was sourced from an actual print, came the closest to what US audiences saw back in 1967. Everything since has a list of problems a mile long, from missing stuff to badly added stuff to a botched surround mix to color that turns everything the color of urine, even the sky. Of course, that sickly yellow has become the color of choice for film transfers these days, rendering them all unwatchable. Even The Searchers isn’t immune to it.

What’s really troubling about a film like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is that so many of us have seen it a million times, we know what it’s supposed to look, and sound, like. They can’t pull one over on us so easily. We’re onto them. Why is everything so yellow? That’s not what the guns are supposed to sound like. When the 16mm print I used to check out of the library looks and sounds better than the latest 4K “restoration,” something ain’t right.

There are old prints of Leone’s masterpiece out there. The IB Tech ones won’t fade — they’re the perfect color reference, no matter how scratched or spliced up they might be. Hell, I’d prefer a decent scan from one of those prints to what’s out there now. 

This is a time when even the smallest of movies are coming to Blu-Ray with startling results. Giant From The Unknown (1958) is a good example. Doesn’t one of the biggest deserve at last as good?

Evidently so, since there’s yet another The Good, The Bad And The Ugly on the way from Kino Lorber. We’re promised the original theatrical cut, in glorious mono, with a 1967 IB Tech print used as a guide and occasional source. It’ll be both 4K and Blu-Ray, I believe. This sounds promising, but I’ll wait and see how this one shakes out before I lay down my fistful of dollars.

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Filed under 1966, Clint Eastwood, Kino Lorber, Lee Van Cleef, Sergio Leone, United Artists

RIP, Barbara Shelley.

Barbara Shelley
February 13, 1932 — January 4, 2021

I grew up watching Barbara Shelley in pictures like Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966) and Quatermass And The Pit (1968). She was always terrific. She passed away today at 88.

Miss Shelley was one of those actors or actresses that didn’t look down on material like this, and her performances were as good as the genre ever saw. I’d have a real hard time picking a favorite — so I guess I’d recommend you watch ’em all. Which is what I plan to do.

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Filed under 1966, 1968, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, Hammer Films, Terence Fisher

RIP, Pamela Tiffin.

Pamela Tiffin
(October 13, 1942 – December 2, 2020)

Pamela Tiffin had a pretty short career in movies and on the stage. She was wonderful in a couple of my favorite films of the 60s — One Two Three (1961) and Harper (1966). She passed away last week at 78.

Not long after Harper, she headed to Italy and did a few films. By the mid-70s, she’d retired. It’s a shame she didn’t stick with it a bit longer, she was terrific.

The top image is from the Harper trailer; the bottom for Harper itself.

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Filed under 1961, 1966, Billy Wilder, Paul Newman

A Night At The Movies: Halloween – Illinois, 1967.

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Filed under 1959, 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, A Night At The Movies, AIP, Boris Karloff, Dick Miller, Herman Cohen, Jack Nicholson, Mario Bava, Michael Gough, Roger Corman

Happy Birthday, Stella Stevens.

Stella Stevens (Estelle Eggleston)
(Born October 1, 1938)

Here’s wishing a happy birthday to Stella Stevens, an actress who was often wonderful — and always under-appreciated.

Working on a commentary for her picture Rage (1967) recently, I’ve been reminded again and again of how good she is. She’s seen here in The Silencers (1966), the first of the Matt Helm movies starring Dean Martin. She easily walks away with the movie.

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Filed under 1966, Dean Martin, Phil Karlson, Stella Stevens

Blu-Ray News #310: Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

Loved these back in the day, and I thought the comic books were even better. So I’m super-stoked about Warner Archive’s upcoming Blu-Ray Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

This was before Space Ghost was shanghai’d by Cartoon Network for Space Ghost Coast To Coast. Space Ghost was created by comic artist Alex Toth. The voice talent was top-notch: Gary Owens (as Space Ghost), Tim Matheson, Keye Luke, Ted Cassidy, Paul Frees and Vic Perrin. Coming October 13.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Paul Frees, Television, Warner Archive