Category Archives: 20th Century-Fox

Making Movies: The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Here are some behind-the -scenes shots of the terrific model work for The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Getting ready for the wave to tip over the model ship.

What it looks like in the finished film.

A diver works on the model, post-wave.

It’d been years since I’d seen it, and my entire family watched it the other night. It holds up well — the movie, not the ship. One of the things that really makes the movie work, aside from performances that help us get past the soap-opera first couple reels, are the incredible upside-down sets. They sent me looking for some making-of images immediately, but about all I found were these model images.

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Filed under 1972, 20th Century-Fox, Ernest Borgnine, Gene Hackman, Making Movies, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens

RIP, Carrie Fisher.

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Carrie Fisher
(October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016)

If you grew up in the late 70s, Star Wars (1977) was a part of your life — whether you liked it or not. So for many of us out there, it’s quite a blow to lose Carrie Fisher. (Kids of the 80s are going through the same thing with George Michael.)

Here she is on location for The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the second Star Wars movie. With a film so big and filled with special effects — and Empire is an epic in every sense of the word, it’s easy to overlook what the actors are doing. Pay attention next time, she’s really terrific.

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Filed under 1977, 20th Century-Fox

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970).

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Directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku

This being a movie blog, the best way for me to honor the bravery and sacrifice of those who went through the attacks at Pearl Harbor is to encourage you to seek out Darryl F. Zanuck’s Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), the mammoth Japanese-American co-production that depicts December 7, 1941, from both the American and Japanese viewpoints.

While it’s not as sublimely wonderful as Zanuck’s D-Day epic, The Longest Day (1962), it has scenes that are truly jaw-dropping. You certainly get an idea of the chaos, terror, loss and heroism that marked the “day that will live in infamy.”

I’m in awe of this generation of Americans, and I thank them all for fighting to keep us free — and for setting such a terrific example for us all.

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Filed under 1970, 20th Century-Fox, Richard Fleischer

DVD/Blu-Ray News #90: The Alligator People (1959).

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Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane

Anolis Entertainment, a company out of Germany, has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray combo release of The Alligator People (1959) from 20th Century-Fox and Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.

This is one of those 50s monster movies that is 100% carried by its cast. Beverly Garland, one of my favorite actresses, is terrific here — as she always was in these things. This kind of hokum needs just the right touch to really work, and Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney and George Macready are on hand to help pull the whole thing of.

Garland’s new husband (Richard Crane) suddenly disappears during their honeymoon. It takes her a couple years, but she tracks him down to his family’s Southern estate, where a botched medical treatment has turned him into an alligator.

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It’s clearly inspired by The Fly (1958), and it’s a load of fun. 20th Century-Fox proudly boasted that The Alligator People (and its co-feature The Return Of The Fly) were in CinemaScope, no longer releasing their black-and-white Scope pictures under the Regalscope banner. The domestic DVD presents the picture in gorgeous widescreen and stereo. The Blu-Ray can only be stunning.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1959, 20th Century-Fox, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lippert/Regal/API, Lon Chaney Jr., Vincent Price

Blu-Ray News #84: Lifeboat (1944).

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Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by Jo Swerling, from a story by John Steinbeck
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee

They say constraints can greatly influence creativity. (Working advertising, I hear all it all time.) You can see evidence of this idea in movies that overcome obstacles ranging from limited budgets and schedules (the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher Westerns) to a mechanical shark that doesn’t work (Jaws).

No one understood this better than Alfred Hitchcock, who seemed to choose projects because of the challenges they’d toss at him. Lifeboat (1944) might be the ultimate example of this, an entire picture on a lifeboat.

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Lifeboat puts a handful of people in a lifeboat after their ship’s torpedoed by a Nazi submarine. That’s it. The movie never leaves the boat. What’s more, once the titles are out of the way, there’s not even a score.

Of course, this being Hitchcock, it all comes together perfectly. It helps that his cast turns in one flawless performance after another. Tallulah Bankhead makes a huge impression here, but everybody else is just as good.

Kino Lorber has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray of Lifeboat to set sail sometime in 2017. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 20th Century-Fox, Alfred Hitchcock, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber

DVD News #65: Gang War (1958).

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Directed by Gene Fowler, Jr.
Starring Charles Bronson, Kent Taylor, Jennifer Holden, John Doucette, Gloria Henry, Whit Bissell

Since I haven’t gotten any sort of verification on the aspect ratio of this Fox Archives DVD, I’m a little hesitant to mention Gang War (1958). But it’s another Regalscope picture, and it stars Charles Bronson — who’s also in one of the better Regalscope Westerns, Showdown At Boot Hill (also 1958) — so it’s way up there on my Want List.

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It’s a cool movie, and it should be anamorphic widescreen to preserve the picture’s 2.35 Scope photography. Fox has released some of these early Scope films in terrible 1.33 pan-and-scan transfers. If you hear anything on this one, please let me know. It’s available now.

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Filed under 1958, 20th Century-Fox, Charles Bronson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lippert/Regal/API

DVD Review: Hand Of Death (1962).

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Directed by Gene Nelson
Written and Produced by Eugene Ling
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Music Composed and Conducted by Sonny Burke

Cast: John Agar (Alex Marsh), Paula Raymond (Carol Wilson), Stephen Dunne (Tom Holland), Roy Gordon (Dr. Frederick Ramsey), John Alonzo (Carlos), Jack Younger (Mike), Joe Besser (Gas station attendent), Butch Patrick (Davey)

You know you’re having a good day when a black-and-white CinemaScope monster movie starring John Agar that you’ve never seen shows up in your mailbox. In my case, such a day came courtesy of Hand Of Death (1962), a 60-minute cheeseball masterpiece from Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc. It’s a picture that’s been almost impossible to see over the last few decades, especially in something resembling its original CinemaScope.

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Working in a desert laboratory, research scientist Alex Marsh (John Agar) develops a powerful nerve gas. Accidentally exposed to it, he becomes a hideous, burned, swollen monster — and anyone he touches dies. The last half of the picture finds Agar driving around L.A. in a Chrysler station wagon, killing a cab driver, and eventually winding up in Malibu where he terrifies his girlfriend (Paula Raymond) in a beach house before the cops catch up with him.

Hand Of Death gave musical actor Gene Nelson his first directing credit. He’d go on to direct the two Elvis movies Sam Katzman produced, Kissin’ Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965).

John Agar: “Hand Of Death was [Gene Nelson’s] first shot at directing, and I thought he did a very good job for his first go at it.”

Nelson was mentored along the way by Maury Dexter, who seemed to be cranking out one of these API features about every week. Nelson’s job was no doubt made even easier by having master cameraman Floyd Crosby on hand. This was around the time Crosby was collaborating with Roger Corman on pictures like Pit And The Pendulum (1961), working wonders on a low budget. Carlos, Agar’s lab assistant, is played by John Alonzo, who’d leave acting to become a cinematographer (his work on Chinatown is beautiful). Wonder if watching Crosby at work influenced Alonzo’s career change?

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Bob Mark, a veteran makeup man who spent years at Republic Pictures, handled Agar’s bloated, crusty head and hands — which resemble The Thing from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four comics.

John Agar: “First they got some long johns and padded ’em to make me look like I weighed about 400 pounds. Then they had this grotesque mask — a complete hood — and very large hands, to make me look burned… It wasn’t that bad — except at the very end, when I finally died. We went out to Malibu for a scene where I run into the ocean trying to get away from the police, and they shoot me. When I fell, the waves started knocking me around, and with that mask over my face I didn’t know where I was! My eyes were set way back and the mask was sticking way out in front, and the only thing I could see was just directly straight out. I couldn’t see the waves coming — that water was crashin’ on me, and I was flopping around, supposed to be dead! That was quite an experience.”

The monster getup is pretty impressive. It doesn’t let Agar get very expressive, but since all he’s called to do is grunt and get mad and bust stuff, it’s fine. Of course, by the early 60s, Agar had been in a slew of these movies, from great ones like Tarantula (1955) to The Brain From Planet Arous (1957). He’s pretty good here, delivering the typical pseudo-science dialogue with authority. Paula Raymond is able to make her role a bit more than the usual screaming girlfriend.

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The picture also benefits from Sonny Burke’s jazzy score, which mixes organ, theremin and bongos to great effect. It gives the picture a little extra snap, and I’d give my right arm for a soundtrack LP. (I knew Burke from my Frank Sinatra records and his work on 1969’s The Wild Bunch.)

Hand Of Death is a cheap monster movie. You could even say very cheap. Agar becoming a monster isn’t a cosmic punishment — he simply knocks over a flask and gets the stuff on his hands, so it doesn’t have the Beware Of Science message you find in so many of these things. It doesn’t build to a Big Finish, though it has its moments (usually when someone first sees Agar’s deflicted* head). But for some reason, it all comes together — the cast, the cinematography, the music, the makeup — into something I love.

There have been complaints about a few of the transfers from Fox’s Cinema Archives collection, namely pan-and-scan versions of Scope pictures. But I can’t imagine how Hand Of Death could look any better than it does. It’s clean and crisp, with contrast, grain and framing the way they should be. This isn’t the kind of movie you’re likely to see turn up on Blu-ray, and since this DVD-R (available from major online retailers) looks so good, that isn’t a problem.

For Hand Of Death to go from practically lost to looking like this, is wonderful. Is this a good movie? No. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Source: On The Good Ship Hollywood: The John Agar Story by John Agar and L.C. Van Savage.

* Deflicted is a Frank Zappa word, not a real word.

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Agar, Lippert/Regal/API