Category Archives: AIP

Blu-Ray News #115: The Angry Red Planet (1959).

Directed by Ib Melchior
Produced by Sidney Pink
Starring Gerald Mohr, Naura Hayden, Les Tremayne, Jack Kruschen

This cheap. weird-looking science fiction picture was shot in 10 days for $200,000. The creepy miniatures, solarization and red tinting (advertised as CineMagic) make the Martian sequences pretty effective. As a kid, I was certainly impressed.

Since its effects and camerawork, from the great Stanley Cortez, are its claim to fame, it’s terrific that Shout Factory is bringing it to Blu-Ray. It’ll be great to see its widescreen framing restored — and hopefully the “Angry Red” will not be the muted orange of previous video releases. Guess we’ll find out this June.

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Filed under 1959, AIP, Ib Melchior, Shout/Scream Factory, Sidney Pink

Why Aren’t These Out On DVD?

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There are hundreds, probably thousands, of movies sitting on our collective DVD and Blu-Ray Want Lists. But coming across this pressbook for a twin bill of Machine Gun Kelly and The Bonnie Parker Story (both 1958) — while doing some research on William Witney — got me thinking what a fun widescreen, hi-def package this would be.

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Filed under 1958, AIP, Charles Bronson, Roger Corman, William Witney

Blu-Ray News #99: The Screaming Skull (1958).

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Directed by Alex Nicol
Starring John Hudson, Peggy Webber, Russ Conway, Alex Nicol

American International’s posters are often better than the films they promote. Make that much better. The Screaming Skull (1958) was one of their masterpieces, complete with the promise to bury you for free if you died of fright while watching the movie (there’s a prologue covering it on the front of the picture). Pure genius. Of course, William Castle used a similar gimmick the same year with his Macabre.

Scream Factory has announced an April release for The Screaming Skull on Blu-Ray. For those of us who can’t get enough of these AIP pictures in hi-def, that’s good news indeed.

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Filed under 1958, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory

DVD News #95: Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967).

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Directed by Haruyasu Noguchi
Starring Tamio Kawaji, Yoko Yamamoto, Yuji Okada

Why am I writing about Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967), which under its American TV title, Monster From A Prehistoric Planet, is already available from just about every public doman video company there is? Mainly because I get a real kick out of typing the phrase “giant reptilian chicken monster.” Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

The deal with Gappa is this. It’s a Japanese Kaiju film, from Mikkatsu Studios instead of the usual Toho, that never saw theatrical release in the US. American International sent it straight to TV in 1968 as Monster From A Prehistoric Planet. It’s more or less a remake/ripoff of the British (fake Kaiju) monster movie, Gorgo (1961). In it, a sea monster is discovered and brought to London, only to have its angry mother trash the city to get her kid back. In Gappa, the monster is a “bird-lizard” — a giant reptilian chicken with green scales, and both cheesed-off parents come to Japan in search of their offspring.

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As a kid, I had the 200′ Super 8mm version from Ken Films. Since it focused on the monster stuff, I was very happy with it. Mill Creek Entertainment has brought it to DVD before, and it’s bringing it around again as part of a five-picture set called “Freak Fest.” Not sure what the source is — hopefully, they used something that preserved the original Scope photography rather than AIP’s panned and scanned TV material. The other films are Killers From Space (1954) with Peter Graves, the Gamera movies Destroy All Planets (1968) and Attack Of The Monsters (1969), and Sound Of Horror (1964).

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Filed under 1967, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kaiju Movies, Ken Films, Mill Creek

Blu-Ray Review: The TAMI Show (1964)/The Big TNT Show (1966).

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I’m a big fan of 60s music by the likes of Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, James Brown, The Rollings Stones and Roger Miller, and the concert movies The TAMI Show (1964) and The Big TNT Show (1966) have been on my Must See List for decades (the combine-the-two-into-one-VHS-tape thing, This Was Rock, doesn’t count.)

Both shows were shot on an early hi-def TV system, then transferred to 35mm for theatrical release — thanks to a process called Electronovision. So while I knew the music was great, I’ve always wondered how good they’d look when I finally got the chance to see them.

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There was no reason to worry. The new Shout Factory Blu-Ray package gives us both films, The TAMI Show and The Big TNT Show, looking splendid — taking into consideration that these are basically high-end kinescopes. They’re widescreen (1.78 for TAMI, 1.85 for TNT), as they were in theaters, and the monophonic sound is absolutely glorious.

Which performances you like best is a matter of personal taste, with the fabled James Brown/Rolling Stones sets being obvious standouts. (The Stones do “It’s All Over Now!”) Roger Miller really knocked me out in the second picture — it’s a real treat to see him in these prime years — and The Byrds are really cool (the image is sharp enough for us to see the sweat pouring off of David Crosby, who’s wearing a cape/coat/wrap thing during their handful of songs). It’s a really diverse mix of incredible talent — so many of these acts have made their way into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

These movies serve as a remarkable time capsule, documenting a time when popular music was on fire. If the music of this period is your bag, this double feature is essential.

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Filed under 1964, 1966, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #89: The Film Detective’s Roger Corman Collection.

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The Film Detective has gathered up three Roger Corman pictures and repackaged them on Blu-Ray at a special price. Sounds like a good idea to me.

The Terror (1963)
Directed by Roger Corman (along with Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Jack Nicholson)
Starring Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Knight, Dick Miller

A crazy patchwork quilt of a movie. Boris Karloff’s scenes were shot as the wonderful sets for Corman’s The Raven (1963) were being torn down. The rest was made up, with a script by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill, and shot later by a revolving door of cast and crew. It all comes together much better than you’d think, and with repeat viewing almost starts to make some sense. Almost. The Film Detective has this one looking good — and in 1.85 (which AIP called Vistascope).

Dementia 13 (1963)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring William Campbell, Luana Anders, Patrick Magee

With just $40,000 and nine days, Francis Ford Coppola made one of the best Psycho ripoffs, even though you can feel the fact that it was written in a hurry. However, Coppola the director saves Coppola the writer.

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A Bucket Of Blood (1959)
Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Dick Miller, Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone

A goofy/funny/scary little gem of a movie with a rare lead role for Dick Miiler. Of course, he’s terrific. The Film Detective offers it up 1.85, the way it oughta be.

It’s easy to recommend this set. I grew up on these things, and it’s great to see them treated with the respect some people (like me) feel they deserve.

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Filed under 1959, 1963, AIP, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Francis Ford Coppola, Leo Gordon, Monte Hellman, Roger Corman, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray Review: The Return Of Dracula (1958).

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Directed by Paul Landres
Story and Screenplay by Pat Fielder
Music by Gerald Fried
Director Of Photography: Jack MacKenzie, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman A. Rose, ACE

Cast: Francis Lederer (Count Dracula/Bellac Gordal), Norma Eberhardt (Rachel Mayberry), Greta Granstedt (Cora Mayberry), Gage Clark (Doctor/Reverend Whitfield), Ray Stricklyn (Tim Hansen), John Wengraf (Merriman), Virginia Vincent (Jenny Blake), Jimmie Baird (Mickey Mayberry), John McNamara (Sheriff Bicknell)

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The late 50s were a good time for movie vampires, thanks largely to the first of Hammer’s Dracula films, Horror Of Dracula (US title, 1958). But there was also The Vampire and Blood Of Dracula in 1957 and Blood Of The Vampire and The Return Of Dracula in 1958. Oh, and let’s not forget the vampire Western, Curse Of The Undead (1959).

What’s interesting about all these blood-guzzling movies is how each took a different approach to the traditional vampire lore. Hammer, with Christopher Lee in Dracula (1958), dialed up the sex and blood — all of it in alluring Technicolor. The Vampire made vampirism a medical condition. Blood Of Dracula fits right in with AIP’s I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957), with a teenage vampire created by hypnotism, not a bite on the neck. The Return Of Dracula, which Olive Films has just released on DVD and Blu-Ray, goes in a different direction entirely — following in the steps of many of the Dracula movies that came before it, while moving the Lugosi-ish proceedings to modern-day California.

The Return Of Dracula comes from director Paul Landres and writer Pat Fielder. So did The Vampire. Landres worked mostly in TV, but his low-budget features from the 50s (Westerns and monster movies) are well worth seeking out. Pat Fielder also wrote the excellent The Monster That Challenged The World (1957) — and a number of episodes of The Rifleman.

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Fleeing Transylvania, Count Dracula (Francis Lederer) kills an artist and assumes his identity. Arriving in California, he moves in with the victim’s family, who only know him from letters. They eventually notice that their guest sleeps all day, goes out at night and doesn’t like mirrors or the local priest. Teenage Rachel (Norma Eberhardt) also becomes concerned when her friend Jenny (Virginia Vincent) starts wasting away.

Lederer makes a pretty good Dracula, aided by his Hungarian accent. Norma Eberhardt tries hard to convince us she’s a teenager, and almost pulls it off. And Jenny Blake has a great part as Rachel’s friend turned Dracula’s minion.

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But it’s the assured, creative direction of Paul Landres that keeps things interesting, and the cinematography of Jack MacKenzie that adds the atmosphere these movies rely on — both to create the right mood and conceal how cheap the sets are. MacKenzie shot Isle Of The Dead (1945) for producer Val Lewton, which should tell you something.

Olive Films has The Return Of Dracula polished up and shining like a brand new chrome-covered 1958 Impala. It’s a beautiful Blu-Ray, with contrast levels and aspect ratio (1.85) right where they need to be — and a cool color effect toward the end. Revisiting films like this, in this kind of quality, has been a real joy the last few years, and a number of them have come from Olive.

For fans of these things, or of the people who made them (I’m a big admirer of Landres’ work from this period), The Return Of Dracula comes highly recommended. And I’m hoping Olive gives The Vampire the same treatment.

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Filed under 1957, 1958, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Olive Films, Paul Landres, United Artists