Category Archives: Antonio Margheriti

Blu-Ray Review: Battle Of The Worlds (1961).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Story & Screenplay by Vassily Petrov
Cinematography: Marcello Masciocchi
Edited by Mario Serandrei
Music by Mario Migliard

Cast: Claude Rains (Professor Benson), Bill Carter (Cmdr. Robert Cole), Maya Brent (Eve Barnett), Umberto Orsini (Dr. Fred Steele), Jacqueline Derval (Mrs. Collins)


Antonio Margheriti’s first film as director, Assignment: Outer Space (1960, AKA Space-Men) did well, so Titanus (there’s no producer credited on these films) gave him a bit more to work with for the next one, which ended up being Battle Of The Worlds (1961). The most obvious thing to come from that boost in budget was hiring Claude Rains, who does a lot more for the film than it does for him.

Rains plays Professor Benson, a cantankerous old genius who’s been watching another planet, which he calls “The Outsider,” approach the earth. Scientists from a space station near Mars consult with Rains, who predicts The Outsider will come close to the earth, but pass by without hitting it. They doubt him, but when it turns out he’s right, everybody’s relieved. Whew! Then it alters its course and settles into an orbit around the earth. That’s not a very planet-y thing to do.

Rains decides some sort of intelligence is controlling The Outsider and tells the scientists it needs to be destroyed right away. Again, the professor is ignored.

Spaceships are sent out to investigate — and they’re promptly destroyed by a fleet of flying saucers that come swarming out of The Outsider. Whatever this thing is, it’s got some vile ideas about the earth. Now, everybody’s more than willing to listen to Rains. And he knows exactly what needs to be done.

Like most Italian science fiction movies, Battle Of The Worlds is pretty odd. At times, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The budget limitations are painfully obvious. The acting is, for the most part, pretty bad (hard to tell with all the dubbing). And the pacing is weird. But like Margheriti’s previous picture, there’s something about it that I find really, really cool.

All of Margheriti’s sci-fi pictures of the 60s demonstrate his love of science fiction, which makes up for most of the film’s deficiencies. The special effects run hot and cold. Maybe that’s being generous, but I prefer them that way. Battle Of The Worlds is jam-packed with ideas and creativity, which are far more valuable than a several million bucks worth of CGI. 

Claude Rains is a lot of fun in this thing. He’s pretty over-the-top, playing an eccentric scientist a lot like the one he played in the remake of The Lost World (1960, he was Professor Challenger in that one). Rains demanded that his scenes for Battle Of The Worlds be shot with sound, rather than the Italian way of dubbing everything in later. English-speaking actors were used frequently. All this makes a big difference in how the film plays.

Margheriti and cinematographer Marcello Masciocchi are very inventive with their camerawork. Odd angles and unusual lens choices give the picture a very distinct, other-wordly look — and help disguise the lack of funds.

Battle Of The Worlds touches down in Orlando, Florida, 1963.

In 1963, Topaz Film Corporation paired Battle Of The Worlds with another Italian picture, Atom Age Vampire (1960). They played drive-ins for years before winding up on television. That’s where I caught up with it, on a local station late one night in the mid-70s.

The crap we used to watch (left) vs. The Film Detective (right).

Now let’s get to the new Blu-Ray from The Film Detective. An original 35mm print from the American Topaz release was used. While the picture played Italy in Technicolor, it criss-crossed the US in Eastman Color — and that’s what we see here. The folks at The Film Detective have cleaned up the print quite a bit — it’s sharp as a tack, very steady and with minimal splices. The color has faded a bit toward that Eastman Color’s weird, sickly, pinkish brown, however. That’s a shame, but what we have here is far, far superior to what we’ve been suffering through for decades (see the above comparison, from The Film Detective YouTube channel). It’s not perfect, but I’m so happy to have it. (Having grown up watching lots of film prints, mostly 16mm, I have a soft spot for a few light lines, some grain and a bit of fading. It’s part of the film experience, and I like being reminded of it every now and then.) I’m so thankful that companies like The Film Detective are willing to do the sleuthing necessary to find the best available material for films like this, then taking on the costly clean-up work needed for a nice DVD/Blu-Ray release.

The supplements are quite nice. There’s a half-hour piece on Antonio Margheriti from Ballyhoo and Tim Lucas. It’s excellent. There’s also a commentary by Justin Humphreys, and a nice essay in the booklet.

I’ve been a fan of Battle Of The Worlds since I saw it on TV. For years, I’ve wanted it to make it to DVD or Blu-Ray in a version that reflected what it looked like back in 1961 (or ’63). This isn’t perfect, but I love it. I’ve been on a Margheriti sci-fi mini-binge of late, so the timing with this is perfect. A big thanks to folks at The Film Detective, and a big recommendation to all y’all out there.

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Filed under 1961, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, The Film Detective

Assignment: Outer Space (1960, AKA Space-Men).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Screenplay by Antonio Margheriti & Ennio De Concini
Cinematography: Marcello Masciocchi
Music by Lelio Luttazzi

Cast: Rik Van Nutter (Ray Peterson, IZ41), Gabriella Farinon (Lucy, Y13), David Montresor (George the Commander), Archie Savage (Al, X15), Alain Dijon (Archie, Y16), Franco Fantasia (Sullivan)


Antonio Margheriti worked on documentaries, did special effects work and wrote screenplays before directing his first feature, Assignment: Outer Space (1960). This kicked off a career that went from whacked-out Italian science fiction and spaghetti westerns to peplum and horror movies to spy movies and action films.

When you crank out more than 50 fad-chasing genre pictures, it’s understood that quite a few of them will be less than great. But Margheriti had a real knack for no-budget special effects — and he loved science fiction. He certainly knew how to get a movie done quickly and efficiently — using multiple cameras to get everything from master shots to closeups at the same time. With the Gamma One series, for instance, he shot four films simultaneously, using the same actors, props and sets — shooting scenes from four color-coded screenplays each day. Margheriti’s ingenuity and love of cinema is baked into most of his films, especially the ones from the 60s, and it helps put a lot of them over.

Space-Men — or Assignment: Outer Space, as it’s known in the States — is a picture with more ideas and scope than its budget could bankroll, but Margheriti manages to make it work.

Antonio Margheriti (from a 1970 interview): “Back then, Titanus was a big production company and one day they asked me if I wanted to make this film. I said yes, obviously… I made the film in 14 days and I spent 41,000,000 lire, which is very little money.”

The story is pretty basic — a broken-down spaceship is on a collision course with Earth, and the team on a single space station are mankind’s only hope. The special effects are passable, nothing more. And its pacing is pretty leisurely for a story with so much natural suspense.

But these liabilities become assets in Margheriti’s hands. The story serves as a framework for some imaginative sequences that may, or may not, advance the story. Margheriti devotes lots of screen time to showing us the (speculative) ins and outs of space travel, in a way that plays a bit like a precursor to Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968) — with a waking-up-from-suspended-animation scene that was clearly an influence on Alien (1979). The special effects are quaint, cool, surreal and charming — especially for those of use who consider CGI a nail in cinema’s coffin. (Larger models would’ve made a big difference, no pun intended.) It’s a very visual experience throughout, which makes it a real shame that it looks so consistently, and internationally, lousy on video.

They say that while Margheriti was shooting Assignment: Outer Space, Mario Bava was hard at work on Black Sunday (1960) on the soundstage next door at Scalera Film studios. One thing I found brilliant was the use of letters and numbers on the characters’ uniforms and space suits, so we know who’s who in longer shots — much like numbers on a baseball jersey. And one more thing: Rik Van Nutter would go on to play Felix Leiter in Thunderball (1965) — and was married to Anita Ekberg.

Antonio Margheriti would follow this with Battle Of The Worlds (1961), which is on its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective, and a few years later would come the Gamma One pictures (available from Warner Archive). In between, some spaghetti westerns and gothic horror — all of it worth your time. And though his work from the 70s and 80s doesn’t have the same ingenuity and creativity, it’s a real shame that Margheriti isn’t better known, and appreciated. 

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Filed under 1960, Antonio Margheriti, Mario Bava, The Film Detective, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #387: Battle Of The Worlds (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti, 1961).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Starring Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Maya Brent, Umberto Orsini

Antonio Margheriti directed quite a few science fiction and horror movies, spy films, spaghetti westerns and peplum pictures in the 60s and 70s. He rarely had much money to work with, and some of the scripts were lousy, but he had a visual flair that makes his films worthwhile. His whacked-out Wild, Wild Planet (1966) is incredible.

The Film Detective is bringing Margheriti’s second film, Battle Of The Worlds (1961) starring Claude Rains, to Blu-Ray this summer. Distributed in the States by Topaz Film Corp. in 1963, it was often paired with Atom Age Vampire (1960). Battle Of The Worlds is one of those movies that looks pretty terrible whenever it turns up, a situation I’m sure the folks at The Film Detective will rectify. Looking forward to seeing it look like something!

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Filed under 1961, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #300: Lightning Bolt (1966).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Anthony Eisley, Wandisa Guida, Diana Lorys, Ursula Parker, Folco Lulli

This one’s already out. Code Red has released Antonio Margheriti’s Lightning Bolt (1966, also known as Operazione Goldman) on Blu-Ray, with The Resurrection Of Zachary Wheeler (1971) as an extra. That’s got Leslie Neilson and Angie Dickinson in it.

Lightning Bolt is one of those European James Bond ripoffs from the mid-60s. This one proved (to me, at least) that the ripoffs could be every bit as enjoyable as what they were ripping off, sometimes more. It’s a lot of fun, if you don’t ask it to make a lot of sense. Margheriti was really on a roll during this period, with Barbara Steele pictures (Castle Of Blood, The Long Hair Of Death) coming before this one — and the Gamma 1 series (Wild, Wild Planet, etc.) following it.

Picked up by Woolner Bros. in the States, Lightning Bolt played with Red Dragon (1966) during its original run. It’s not near as good. Judging from screen grabs from the Blu-Ray, the picture may not be of demonstration quality, but it’s miles ahead of what I saw on TV and had on VHS once upon a time. Can’t wait to see its full Techniscope framing!

If you’re a fan of this stuff, this one comes highly recommended. I’ll get around to a longer piece once I see the Blu-Ray.

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Filed under 1966, Angie Dickinson, Antonio Margheriti, Code Red, DVD/Blu-ray News, Woolner Brothers

Blu-Ray News #232: The Golden Arrow (1962).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Tab Hunter, Rossana Podestà, Umberto Melnati, Mario Feliciani, Dominique Boschero, Renato Baldini

The only time I’ve ever run into The Golden Arrow (1964) was back in the 70s on the afternoon movie. You can imagine how badly the Technirama was butchered to shoehorn it onto TV. So I’m really stoked to see it coming on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

This Italian epic comes from director Antonio Margheriti, who made a string of wonderfully delirious science fiction movies (the Gamma 1 saga) a few years after this picture — The Wild, Wild Planet (1966) is probably my favorite of the bunch. He’d already done a few Barbara Steele and peplum movies, too. Then there’s his 60s spy movie Lightning Bolt (1966). If your taste in movies runs toward 60s Italian weirdness, Margheriti’s your man.

Tab Hunter seems to be having a blast in this, though it’s a shame he didn’t get to supply his own voice. His leading lady Rossana Podestà made all kinds of cool Italian movies, and I’d really love to see her 7 Golden Men (1966) make it to DVD. It’s an ultra-stylish caper picture with a liberal dose of that 60s Italian weirdness I just mentioned. The Golden Arrow is scheduled for a May release.

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Filed under 1964, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Peplum, Tab Hunter, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by William Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair

Cast: Robert Horton (Commander Jack Rankin), Richard Jaeckel (Commander Vince Elliott), Luciana Paluzzi (Dr. Lisa Benson), Bud Widom (Gen. Jonathan B. Thompson)

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A group of intrepid astronauts, lead by Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel, visit an asteroid (and destroy it before it collides with Earth). One of them returns to space station Gamma 3 with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into dozens of nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton): “Wait a minute — are you telling me that this thing reproduced itself inside the decontamination chamber? And, as we stepped up the current, it just… it just grew?”

The men and women (including Luciana Paluzzi of Thunderball and Muscle Beach Party) stationed on Gamma 3 soon find themselves in a battle to the death with these wretched things — all in Panavision and Metrocolor. (It’s a little embarrassing to admit that, as a kid, I was genuinely frightened by the scenes on the asteroid, as the titular green slime attached itself to the astronauts and their equipment.)

Filmed in Japan, with a Japanese crew and American cast, The Green Slime is slightly related to the four sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti about space station Gamma 1 — Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The Planets, War Between The Planets (all 1966) and Snow Devils (1967). Those films, which share some of the same screenwriters as The Green Slime, were produced by MGM as TV movies but sent to theaters instead. Margheriti made all four in just three months! (Maybe it’s time to cover the entire Gamma 1 saga. Three of the four are available from Warner Archive.)

Thanks to 2001: a space odyssey (1968), The Green Slime oozed into theaters woefully behind in the special effects race. That’s not a complaint, as I’m a big fan of spotty practical effects, rubber monsters and cheesy miniatures. Fact is, everything in this movie is absolutely perfect for what it is. Writing, acting, sets, effects, music — they all suit each other. I love that the lighting rig is clearly reflected in the space helmets as our heroes explore the surface of the asteroid. I would’ve been disappointed if a wire wasn’t visible on a spaceship somewhere along the way. If the monsters were something other than Japanese guys in rubber suits, well, that would’ve ruined it for me. And the terrific theme song — from Richard Delvy of the surf band The Challengers — is the cherry on top of the whole gooey mess.

The green slime doesn’t show up green in this faded old 35mm publicity slide.

Believe it or not, I was a little concerned that the improved detail, contrast, color, etc. of the Warner Archive Blu-Ray would take away from the cheesy enjoyment packed into every frame of The Green Slime. But I was wrong. The silver-painted plywood grain of the space station is clearer than ever. The wires on the space ships are easier to spot. And the colors really pop, though I think the tint was a little truer on the old DVD. The audio’s clean and crisp — and there’s an original trailer to marvel at.

The movie’s a gas, and the Blu-Ray’s a real beauty. Essential to those who dig this kinda stuff.

One last thing. Given the perils of Gamma 3 and considering the giant slug hiding in the asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), there’s an important lesson to be learned: stay the hell away from asteroids.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #139: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Starring Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi

With Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968), MGM took science fiction, and filmmaking in general, a huge leap forward. With The Green Slime, later that same year, they took it backwards just as far. The result, a wonderfully cheesy Japanese/US co-production, is coming to Blu-Ray from our intergalactic friends at Warner Archive later this year.

Some astronauts visit an asteroid (and destroy it), and one of them comes back with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Filmed in Japan by a Japanese crew, with an American cast (and script), it’s slightly related to a series of sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The PlanetsWar Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).

Green Slime 45.jpg

If you have one of these, please consider leaving it to me in your will.

The title tune is terrific. And if all that doesn’t promise an hour-and-a-half of cheesy goodness, note that it features Luciana Paluzzi, an actress with one of the greatest 60s and 70s filmographies of them all: Bonanza, Muscle Beach Party (1964), Thunderball (1965), Hawaii Five-O and more.

The Green Slime announced for Blu-Ray — this is a red-letter day.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive