Category Archives: AIP

Blu-Ray News #257: Hammer Volume 4 – Faces Of Fear.

The folks at Indicator have done a terrific job with their Hammer Blu-Ray sets — and I expect just as much from this one.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Hammer made a string of Psycho-inspired thrillers in the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch.

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

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958) is the second entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, coming after The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957). Hammer went a different route than Universal — they follow the Doctor, not the Monster, which lets the stories go in all sorts of different directions. And more important, it established Peter Cushing as a leading horror star through the 70s.

Revenge picks up where Curse left off. Frankenstein escapes the guillotine, flees to Carlsbruck and builds a successful practice under the name Stein. Of course, he’s conducting his usual experiments on the side — and they go horribly wrong. Frankenstein transplants the brain of a willing assistant into the newly constructed monster, giving the crippled young man a stronger, straighter body. Or that’s the idea anyway.

This, for my money, is one of Hammer’s finest films. Cushing is terrific as the brilliant doctor completely taken over by arrogance and misguided ambition (making it quite appropriate during this Presidential election). Eunice Grayson and Francis Matthews are good as the nurse and young doctor caught up in Frankenstein’s mayhem. Michael Gwynn is really superb as the monster, perfectly balancing the sympathy and horror the part requires. His performance is what makes the movie work as well as it does. Jimmy Sangster’s script is more disciplined than usual, free of the diversions that can lead his films astray. And Terence Fisher’s direction is as assured as ever.

The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Title: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Oliver Reed

Hammer always put their own spin on the horror standards they tackled, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde is no exception. Their Dr. Jekyll (Paul Massie) is rather boring, but his potion transforms him into the suave, yet lecherous and murderous Mr. Hyde. Minus the murder part, this seems like a precursor to Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (1963). This framework provides ample opportunity for everything from rape and murder to snake-charming — the kind of stuff censors pounced on, resulting in a cut-up American release from American International.

The Damned (1963; US Title: These Are The Damned)
Directed by Joseph Losey
Starring MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field, Viveca Lindfors, Oliver Reed

Fleeing the harassment of a motorcycle gang (lead by Oliver Reed), a couple (MacDonald Carey, Shirley Anne Field) winds up in a cave occupied by a group of children — the product an experiment to create a race of radiation-friendly humans.

Hammer sat on this one a while before releasing it, and in in the States it was cut to just 77 minutes. It’s never been given its due, though it’s cherished by fans of Joseph Losey. Indicator, of course, is offering up the original cut, not the chopped-up American thing.

Coming November 18, this Region-Free set loads each picture up with extras — from interviews and trailers to commentaries and photo galleries. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, AIP, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Rays News #256: Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic (1959).

The great Fritz Lang returned to Germany to put together two adventure films — The Tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb (both 1959), got special permission from the Maharana to shoot at Indian locations previously off-limits, and in the end, AIP edited them both down to a single 95-minute thing called Journey To The Lost City (1959) — and had censor trouble thanks to Debra Paget’s barely-there costumes. The original pictures, which were impossible to see for years, are unbelievably cool. (Keep in mind that if Fritz Lang made a movie out of the phone book, I’d be the first one in line.)

Film Movement Classics is bringing The Tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb to Blu-Ray — with theatrical screenings at NYC’s Film Forum in late September 27. Highly, highly recommended.

By the way, the Warner Archive Blu-Ray of Lang’s Moonfleet (1955) is gorgeous.

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Filed under 1959, AIP, Debra Paget, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Movement, Fritz Lang

Blu-Ray News #255: Circus Of Horrors (1960).

Directed by Sidney Hayers
Starring Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence

A plastic surgeon (Anton Diffring) takes over a circus, transforming unfortunate women into great beauties who work under the big top — and are killed in terrible accidents when the decide to leave.

Caught this thing on TV about 10,000 times as a kid. It’s every bit as nasty as its makers’ previous picture, Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959). And it’s coming to Blu-Ray from Scream Factory in September. Can’t wait to experience this thing in high definition!

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Filed under 1960, AIP, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray Review: How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965).

Directed by William Asher
Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff & James H. Nicholson
Written byWilliam Asher & Leo Townsend
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby
Film Editor: Eve Newman
Titles: Art Clokey

Cast: Annette Funicello (Dee Dee), Dwayne Hickman (Ricky), Brian Donlevy (B. D. “Big Deal” McPherson), Buster Keaton (Bwana), Beverly Adams (Cassandra), Harvey Lembeck (Eric Von Zipper), John Ashley (Johnny), Jody McCrea (Bonehead), Mickey Rooney (J. Peachmont “Peachy” Keane), Marianne Gaba (Animal), Len Lesser (North Dakota Pete), Irene Tsu (Native Girl), Arthur Julian (Dr. Melamed), Bobbi Shaw (Khola Koku), Alberta Nelson (Puss), Mary Hughes, Mickey Dora, Frankie Avalon, Michele Carey, Elizabeth Montgomery, The Kingsmen

__________

The merits, or lack of them, of the Beach Party movies may be the embodiment of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” To me, these things are treasure all the way. I love these stupid movies, so I was overjoyed to learn that Olive Films was bringing How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965) to Blu-Ray.

How To Stuff A Wild Bikini is one of the later ones — some consider it the last “official” one, and admittedly things were getting a little tired by this point. But many of the key people and elements are in place — Annette, Eric Von Zipper, Bonehead, Animal, surfing, Rock N Roll, Mary Hughes and so on. Buster Keaton is a welcome addition — he’d been in a couple of the previous ones. Instead of Timothy Carey as South Dakota Slim, we get Len Lesser as North Dakota Pete. Frankie’s on hand, but he’s limited to not much more than a cameo.

It goes something like this. Frankie’s away  Tahiti in the Naval Reserve. While he’s enjoying the company of the local girls, he wonders if maybe Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) is behaving as badly. A witch doctor (Buster Keaton) sends the beautiful Cassandra (Beverly Adams) to the beach to catch the eye of Dwayne Hickman, a young advertising man who’s taken a shine to Annette.

Cassandra creates quite a splash at the beach — all the surfers go nuts for her, an executive (Mickey Rooney) wants to use her to sell stuff, and Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and the Ratz and Mice turn up. It all winds up with a bunch of nonsense on motorcycles, along with a cameo from Elizabeth Montgomery.

Annette Funicello with The Kingsmen.

Some terrific musicians and bands make their way through these films, from Dick Dale to Stevie Wonder. This time around, we get The Kingsmen, the Portland garage band whose “Louie Louie” is the one you hear constantly. A soundtrack LP for the picture had two songs by The Kingsmen, one being the title tune.

And if all that’s not enough, the titles are by Art Clokey, the clay animation guy behind Gumby.

Dee Dee (Annette Funicello): Men! They’re all beasts!
Animal (Marianne Gaba): Yeah. But isn’t it wonderful?

Olive Films has brought How To Stuff A Wild Bikini to Blu-Ray, and it looks splendid. Having seen these things on TV countless time growing up, it’s a revelation to see them on Blu-Ray. Floyd Crosby’s Panavision photography makes the most of the wide screen and saturates the Pathecolor, and it’s all perfectly presented on this Blu-Ray.

Some might consider this a waste of high-definition technology, but this is the only way to see these movies. It’s gorgeous and highly recommended. Now, where’s Bikini Beach (1964)?

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Filed under 1965, AIP, Annette Funicello, Buster Keaton, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Elizabeth Montgomery, Frankie Avalon, John Ashley, Mickey Rooney, Olive Films

Blu-Ray News #248: Godzilla – The Showa-Era Films (1954-1975).

If I had a nickel for every minute I stared at this FM cover as kid…

For their 1000th release (or spine number), The Criterion Collection has gone very big with a great big giant box of Godzilla movies. Not those new things — no thank you — but the real ones.

Of course, this being a Criterion release, you can count on each of these the films — all 15 Godzilla movies released from 1954 to 1975 — shining like a jewel. And naturally, there will be tons of extras, from alternate versions to commentaries to documentaries and trailers and so on. Does my heart good to know the work of Mr. Honda and Mr. Tsuburaya will get the level of respect these folks will give it.

The films are:
Godzilla (1954)
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1963, 2.35 AR)
Mothra Vs. Godzilla (1964, 2.35 AR)
Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964 2.35 AR)
Invasion Of Astro-Monster (1965, 2.35 AR)
Son Of Godzilla (1967, 2.35 AR)

Destroy All Monsters (1968, 2.35 AR)
All Monsters Attack (1969, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Ss. Hedorah (1971, AKA Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, 2.35 AR)

Godzilla Vs. Gigan (1972, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973, 2.35 AR)
Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974, 2.35 AR)
Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975, 2.35 AR)

I absolutely love some of these movies. One of them I hate with a passion. Son Of Godzilla is criminally lame, and at 10, I considered it the worst movie I’d ever seen (that was before The Witches Of Eastwick). The very thought of making my way through this thing (yes, even Son Of Godzilla)  makes me happy.

Stomping its way to TVs everywhere in October. Make sure yours is one of them.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, AIP, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Toho

Blu-Ray News #237: How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965).

Directed by William Asher
Starring Annette Funicello, Dwayne Hickman, Brian Donlevy, Buster Keaton, Beverly Adams, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Mickey Rooney, Len Lesser, Bobbi Shaw, Michele Carey, The Kingsmen, Frankie Avalon, Elizabeth Montgomery

Okay, so maybe the whole Beach Party thing was starting to run out of steam by the time they got around to How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965). But who cares? All the elements are in place, from Frankie and Annette to Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and Bonehead (Jody McCrea) to the later addition Buster Keaton (as Bwana in this one).

It’s plenty stupid and tons of Pathécolor, Panavision fun. And I’m so stoked that it’s making its way to Blu-Ray from the folks at Olive Films. They did a tremendous job bringing Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) to high definition — let’s hope they get around to Bikini Beach (1964). Coming (in off the curl) in late June.

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Filed under 1965, AIP, Annette Funicello, Buster Keaton, Elizabeth Montgomery, Frankie Avalon, John Ashley, Mickey Rooney, Olive Films, William Asher

RIP, Dick Dale.

Dick Dale (Richard Monsour)
May 4, 1937 – March 16, 2019

Dick Dale, The King Of The Surf Guitar, maybe the inventor of Surf Music — and easily the loudest musical performance I ever experienced, has passed away at 81. He’s seen here in Muscle Beach Party (1965) with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

Dale’s 1963 single “The Wedge,” when played at maximum volume, is one of Mankind’s greatest achievements.

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Filed under AIP, Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon