Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry opened in LA on this day in 1971. Not exactly a Christmas movie, is it?
Category Archives: 1971
Monte Hellman (Monte Jay Himmelman)
(July 12, 1929 – April 20, 2021)
When I was a kid, my gear-head cousin used to talk about this movie about a ’55 Chevy and a GTO racing cross-country for pinks. It was called Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), and he thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was several years later before I finally saw it, but he was right — it’s about the coolest thing ever.
Monte Hellman directed that movie, and he has passed away at 91.
Hellman certainly had a weird career. He was one of the Roger Corman kids, who learned by doing, making Roger’s cheap movies. Of course, that’s probably the best way to learn anything. There were a few of those. He directed a couple of terrific Westerns with Jack Nicholson in 1966, Ride The Whirlwind and The Shooting. They’re called things like Acid Westerns, Revisionist Westerns and Weird Westerns. Call ’em what you want, but they’re just Westerns — different, sure, and very good.
Then came Two-Lane Blacktop. It absolutely nails the car culture — which is why folks like my cousin hold it in such high esteem — and contains one of the greatest film performances you’ll ever see, from Mr. Warren Oates. In the photo up top, there’s (L-R) Hellman, Warren Oates and James Taylor on location.
One of the picture’s final scenes was shot on near the North Carolina-Tennessee line. I pay homage every time I pass by.
There were other movies — some he directed (Cockfighter is incredible), others he worked on (often without credit) as a director/editor/fixer. I wish he’d made more movies because he sure knew what he was doing, and he put his stamp on everything he touched. And it was one helluva stamp.
Severin Films has announced The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection, an exhaustive eight-disc set coming out May 25.
The Castle Of The Living Dead (1964)
Directed by Warren Kiefer
Starring Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Mirko Valentin, Donald Sutherland
Lee plays a 19th century Count who lets a theatrical troupe spend the weekend in his creepy castle. As you’d expect, it would’ve been better if they’d turned down his invitation. 4K restoration from the Italian negative; English audio.
Challenge The Devil (1963, AKA Katarsis)
Directed by Giuseppe Vegezzi
Starring Christopher Lee, Giorgio Adrisson, Vittoria Centroni
One of Lee’s most obscure films. He turns out to be the devil. 2K restoration from the Italian negative; Italian audio.
Crypt Of The Vampire (1964, AKA Terror In The Crypt and Crypt Of Horror)
Directed by Camillo Mastrocinque
Starring Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi
Another adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, with Lee as Count Karnstein. 2k restoration from a fine-grain 35mm master print; Italian and English audio.
Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace (1962)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Senta Berger
Lee and director Terence Fisher follow Hammer’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959) with Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace, giving Lee and chance to play the world’s greatest detective. (It was Peter Cushing in Hound.) Written by Curt Siodmak, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley Of Fear. 2K restoration from the German negative; English & German tracks.
Theatre Macabre (1971-1972)
Christopher Lee hosts an anthology TV series, providing and intro and wrap-up for each episode. 24 surviving episodes have now been scanned in 2K from the original negatives.
The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism (1967, AKA The Blood Demon, The Snake Pit And The Pendulum, Castle Of The Walking Dead)
Directed by Harald Reinl
Starring Christopher Lee, Karin Dor, Lex Barker
Count Regula (Christopher Lee) is executed for killing 12 virgins in his dungeon. Years later, he comes back for revenge. 4K restoration from from the original German negative; English and German audio.
Relics From The Crypt
A collection of interviews with Lee over the years and other related horror featurettes.
In addition to the Relics From The Crypt disc, each disc is packed full of extras, from commentaries and interviews to trailers and still galleries. There’s a CD of Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s score for The Castle Of The Living Dead, and an 88-page illustrated book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby. This is really gonna be something. Highly, highly recommended.
Arrow’s He Came From The Swamp: The William Grefé Collection offers up seven films produced and/or directed (and often written) by William Grefé, all newly restored from the best film elements around:
Sting Of Death (1966)
Starring Joe Morrison, Valerie Hawkins, John Vella, Jack Nagle
Death Curse Of Tartu (1966)
Starring Fred Pinero, Babette Sherrill
The Hooked Generation (1968)
Starring Jeremy Slate, Steve Alaimo
The Psychedelic Priest (1971)
Starring John Darrell, James Coleman, Joe Crane
The Naked Zoo (1971)
Starring Rita Hayworth, Steve Oliver, Fay Spain
Mako: The Jaws Of Death (1976)
Starring Richard Jaeckel, Jennifer Bishop, Harold Sakata
Whiskey Mountain (1977)
Starring Christopher George, Preston Pierce, Roberta Collins
Mr. Grefé participated in this from one end to the other. Each picture is packed with extras, from commentaries and trailers to director’s cuts and behind-the-scenes footage to photo galleries and a collector’s booklet. Also included is the documentary They Came From The Swamp: The Films Of William Grefé.
Should be a real hoot, and an exhaustive one at that. Coming in November. Recommended.
I’ve been really impressed with Mill Creek’s Hammer releases. They don’t have the extras we get from someone like Scream Factory, but they look good, they’re often in double bills or sets (with us DVD/Blu-Ray collectors, shelf space is always a concern), and the price is certainly right.
Mill Creek’s newest Hammer project is the 20-picture Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection. It’s got some great stuff — some are repeats from previous MC releases, some not. It focuses on Hammer films that were distributed by Columbia in the States. Here’s the lineup:
The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)
The Stranglers Of Bombay (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
Scream Of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)
The Gorgon (1964)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Creatures The World Forgot (1971)
I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing. These films are essential stuff. A few of these I haven’t seen in quite a while — and never on Blu-Ray. It’s coming in November.
(April 21, 1939 – August 1, 2020)
Reni Santoni was a good actor, and it was always a pleasure to bump into him in some picture or TV show. He’s terrific in one of my favorite movies, Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry (1971), and he’s the only good thing about Cobra (1986). He has passed away at 81.
Mr. Santoni did a blue million TV shows, including a later episode of The Rockford Files, which I’ll probably dig out tonight.
Before getting this set, I don’t think I’d ever seen an episode of Dan August all the way through. I thought of it pretty much the way most folks do: either it was this TV thing Burt Reynolds did before Deliverance (1972) made him a big deal, or it was just another 70s cop show — take your pick. Either way you look at it, you’re selling it short.
The set Dan August – The Complete Collection kicks off with the 1970 TV movie House On Greenapple Road that introduces the Dan August character, played by Christopher George. Like the series that would come after it, it’s got a terrific cast — Janet Leigh (who’s really good), Keenan Wynn, Julie Harris, Walter Pigeon, Ed Asner, Paul Fix and Barry Sullivan. Whether they saw it as a pilot or just a TV movie at the time, it’s really good.
Dan August is a homicide detective in the fictional Southern California town of Santa Luisa. It doesn’t seem to be a very big place, but people sure do turn up dead a lot. And that’s were August comes in. Christopher George played him as the typical late 60s TV detective, and he’s very good. But when the series came along, George turned it down and recommended his friend Burt Reynolds for the part. It took some time to sell Quinn Martin (and Burt) on the idea, but it all came together.
Reynold’s Dan August is younger and more physical, which brings in more topical subject matter (drugs, hippies, homosexuals, protests, etc.) and a lot more action. Burt does all his owns stunts — leaping over fences and cars, fighting one crook after another, and always running. He must’ve been a bruised-up, exhausted mess when he got home each day. Of course, it adds a lot of authenticity to the show. His self-deprecating sense of humor isn’t on display here, and the series is better off without it.
The principal cast was reimagined with Burt in the lead. His partner’s Norman Fell (taking over from the movie’s Keenan Wynn), and Richard Anderson replaced Barry Sullivan as the Chief Of Police. Ned Romero and Ena Hartman were kept from the TV movie.
The shows are well-written and sharply, stylishly directed. And the casting from episode to episode is fabulous, bringing in folks like Ricardo Montalban, Vera Miles (above), Harrison Ford, Dabney Coleman, Larry Hagman, Diana Muldaur, Julie Adams, Carolyn Jones, Bradford Dillman, Donna Mills, Victor French, Richard Basehart, Lee Meriweather, Don Stroud, Sal Mineo, Ellen Corby, Billy Dee Williams and Mickey Rooney. It’s a lot of fun watching for who’ll pop up in the next one.
Even though Burt was nominated for a Golden Globe, Dan August only lasted one season (on ABC). It was an expensive show to make, and it was up against some heavy competition. Burt would quickly move on, and after he was a major star, Dan August would be rerun by CBS both late at night and in primetime.
Now, thanks to the DVD set Dan August – The Complete Collection from VEI, it runs whenever you want it to run. The shows are complete and look really good. The pilot movie, House On Greenapple Road, looks terrific, bright with rich color. The set is highly recommended.
I love behind-the-scenes photos from Toho’s kaiju movies, so here’s the latest batch — all from Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster (1971, AKA Godzilla Vs. Hedorah).
Toho’s masters, director Ishirō Honda and special effects man Eiji Tsuburaya, weren’t on board this time around. Yoshimitsu Banno directed and worked on the script.
There’s an environmental message to Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, but as a kid I didn’t hold it against it.
It has Godzilla taking on a pretty cool monster, and plenty of stuff got stomped, so us kids were pretty happy with it.
There was even a pop song tie-in in Japan, which was totally lost on us here in the States.
When the Japanese special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya passed away in 1970, his son Hajime took over the family business, Tsuburaya Productions. In what would prove to be a very smart move, he resurrected the Ultra Series with The Return Of Ultraman. (Sadly, Hajime Tsuburaya passed away in 1973.)
The Return Of Ultraman was the fourth entry in the Ultra Series, and what’s cool about this batch is that Ishirō Honda, the principal director of Toho’s Godzilla movies and other kaiju pictures, was on hand for a few episodes, including the first one, “All Monsters Attack.” Honda is the John Ford of Japanese monster movies — everyone copies what he did, but no one could come close to the master’s work. (Years later, Akira Kurosawa would coax Honda our of retirement to work on his later films, sometimes as a second unit director.)
You could probably say The Return Of Ultraman is more of the same. Which, if you like the earlier stuff, sounds like a pretty good deal. (Today, Hollywood pretty much lives on the “more of the same” approach to filmmaking.) There are some subtle differences in how our new Ultraman, a race-car driver named Hideki Go, works — and there are some alterations to the Ultraman outfit, but when it comes to Ultraman battling monsters, the Tsuburayas knew they were onto a good thing.
What I found interesting about The Return Of Ultraman is that the Ishirō Honda episodes have a slightly different look and feel to them. Honda’s style, while maybe hard to describe, seems to be impossible to duplicate (whether it’s Godzilla or Ultraman, features or TV).
Mill Creek has released The Return Of Ultraman as part of their ongoing Ultraman DVD/Blu-Ray program, and like its predecessors, it looks and sounds terrific. They’re presented in Japanese with nice English subtitles (even the theme song), they look like a million bucks, and they’re packaged with obvious care. The monster “roster” included in the booklet is a lot of fun. It’s always nice to see something like this, as goofy or juvenile as it may seem, receive stellar treatment like this. For fans of this sort of thing, this is highly, highly recommended.
Directed by Seth Holt
Starring Andrew Kier, Valerie Leon, James Villiers
Scream Factory’s trip through the Hammer vaults continues with Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971), a later-period highlight for Hammer. This picture certainly had its troubles. Peter Cushing shot one day’s worth of scenes before his wife became ill. He was replaced by Andrew Kier. Near the end of the shoot, director Seth Holt had a heart attack and died on the set.
It’s based on a story by Bram Stoker, has really terrific cinematography by Arthur Grant and gives the lovely Valerie Leon a lead role for a change. Can’t wait to see what Scream Factory does with this. Their Hammer series has been really incredible so far. Coming in September.