Category Archives: Columbia

DVD Review: Jungle Jim (1948).

Directed by William Berke
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Carroll Young
Based on the newspaper feature Jungle Jim
Director Of Photography: Lester White, ASC
Art Director: Paul Palmentola
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim Bradley), Virginia Grey (Dr. Hilary Parker), George Reeves (Bruce Edwards), Lita Baron (Zia), Rick Vallin (Kolu – Chief of the Masai), Holmes Herbert (Commissioner Geoffrey Marsden), Tex Mooney (Chief Devil Doctor)


After 16 years and 12 movies (six for MGM, six for RKO), Johnny Weissmuller’s days are Tarzan came to an end with Tarzan And The Mermaids (1948). (It was a troubled production, shot in Mexico, well worth reading up on sometime.)

That same year, Sam Katzman came along to offer Weissmuller the part of Jungle Jim, a big game hunter featured in Alex Raymond’s comic strip. It was perfect for the former Olympic swimmer, now middle aged — a chance to trade his loin cloth for khakis. Jungle Jim had already hit the screen as a 1937 serial from Universal (there was a radio show, too). Katzman had in mind a series of short, characteristically cheap features for Columbia. He’d recently added features to his duties at the studio; he’d been in charge of their serials since ’45. 

In this first picture, called simply Jungle Jim (1948), Weissmuller is hired to help Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey), a medical researcher, find the source of a rare poison that might point the way to a cure for polio. Bruce Edwards (George Reeves) comes along as a photographer. Jim brings along Kolu (Rick Vallin) and his sister Zia (Lita Baron). As they make their way through the jungle to the temple of Zimbalu and its “devil doctors,” they tackle a crocodile, elephants, a lion and more — including the “devil doctors.” And it turns out George Reeves would rather take the treasures of Zimbalu than take pictures of them. 

Virginia Grey had been in Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) with Weissmuller. George Reeves was still a few years way from playing Superman. And Lita Baron was Mrs. Rory Calhoun at the time. Of course, Weissmuller gets plenty of chances to swim, and he’s still incredible in the water.

Director William Berke started out writing silent Westerns. He became a prolific B director, cranking out tons of movies and TV shows before having a heart attack on the set of his last film, The Lost Missile (1958). He was only 54. Berke directed several of the Jungle Jim movies, along with Robin Hood Of The Range (1943), Dick Tracy (1945) and Cop Hater (1958).

Carroll Young had written some of the later Tarzan pictures and hopped right into the Jungle Jim series. He also wrote a couple of the better Regalscope pictures, She Devil and Apache Warrior (both 1957).

Jungle Jim was successful enough to spawn 15 more films (1948-1955) and a single-season TV show. Weissmuller would retire after the last one, Devil Goddess (1955), and the series.

The movies are as fun as they are dumb. I love them, even though Weissmuller can’t act and you see the same elephant, monkey and crocodile footage over and over and over. This first one is available in Volume 1 of the three-volume set from Umbrella out of Australia. It looks nice. If you know these films, I don’t need to recommend them — you know what you’re getting into. 

3 Comments

Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman, Tarzan

DVD News #408: Samuel Fuller Collection (1943 – 1960).

There’s so much written about Samuel Fuller (above, with John Ford). My suggestion is just watch his films — they’ll tell you about all you need to know — and maybe read his autobiography A Third Face. Watching his movies is a little easier thanks to a cool little set coming later this month from Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek. He didn’t direct all these films, but his fingerprints are on ’em for sure.

Power Of The Press (1943)
Directed by Lew Landers
Story by Samuel Fuller
Starring Guy Kibbee, Gloria Dickson, Lee Tracy, Otto Kruger, Victor Jory
A corrupt New York newspaperman murders his partner over his pro-war stance. A small town journalist gets to the bottom of things.

Scandal Sheet (1951)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller
Starring Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek, Rosemary DeCamp, Henry Morgan, James Millican
A newspaperman tries to bury a murder story since, uh, he’s the murderer!

The Crimson Kimono (1959)
Written & Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw, Anna Lee
Two cops — Korean War veterans and friends — wind up in a love triangle with a witness to the murder of a stripper. Into this sordid tale, Fuller deftly weaves a message of racial tolerance. One of his best.

Underworld, USA (1960)
Produced, Written & Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay
A young man infiltrates the mob to get the mobsters who murdered his father.

I’m really looking forward to this. Highly recommended if you don’t have ’em elsewhere.

7 Comments

Filed under 1951, 1959, 1960, Broderick Crawford, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Harry Morgan, John Ford, Mill Creek, Phil Karlson, Sam Fuller

DVD News #404: The Jungle Jim Films (1948-1955).

The Jungle Jim puzzle is complete!

Here in the States, you can get six of Sam Katzman’s Jungle Jim movies in a terrific DVD set from Critics’ Choice. But in Australia, Umbrella has brought all 16 pictures out in three sets (six in Volume 1, five each in 2 and 3).

The Jungle Jim Series
(With Volume # for each title; CC marks the ones in the Critics’ Choice set)
Jungle Jim (1948) V1
The Lost Tribe (1949) V2

Mark Of The Gorilla (1950) V2, CC
Captive Girl (1950) V2
Pygmy Island (1950) V2, CC
Fury Of The Congo (1951) V3, CC
Jungle Manhunt (1951) V2, CC
Jungle Jim In The Forbidden Land (1952) V3
Voodoo Tiger (1952) V1
Savage Mutiny (1953) V1
Valley Of The Head Hunters (1953) V3
Killer Ape (1953) V3

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) V1, CC
Cannibal Attack (1954) V1
Jungle Moon Men (1955) V3, CC
Devil Goddess (1955) V1

The transfers on these are terrific and these discs are (I’ve heard) Region Free. We’ve been on a real Katzman kick around here of late. These cheesy little films come highly, highly recommended.

16 Comments

Filed under Angela Stevens, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Reeves, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Lyle Talbot, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennet

DVD News #403: The William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54)

We can all use some good news these days, and this is good news indeed. Critics Choice has announced a DVD set featuring four adventure pictures from William Castle and Sam Katzman — The William Castle Adventures Collection — coming in September.

All four films were shot in Technicolor (none were in 3-D). The transfers should be terrific. The 1954 films should be widescreen, either 1.66 or 1.85.

Sam Katzman, Rhonda Fleming & William Castle. Fleming holds the Serpent Of The Nile.

Serpent Of The Nile (1953)
Starring Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Michael Ansara, Julie Newmar

Castle’s first film for Katzman (he’d been at Columbia in the 40s), it’s an epic done on the cheap (as you might expect). Rhonda Fleming is Cleopatra, wandering around on sets left over from Columbia’s much bigger (but not nearly as much fun) Salome (1953). Another director from Katzman’s unit, Fred F. Sears, serves as narrator.

The Iron Glove (1954)
Starring Robert Stack, Ursula Thiess, Richard Stapley, Alan Hale Jr.

In this two-week swashbuckler, the Columbia backlot doubles as Scotland. Robert Stack would soon do The High And The Mighty (1954), which would give his career a boost. Katzman wanted Cornel Wilde in the lead, and at one point the title was to have been The Kiss And The Sword.

Charge Of The Lancers (1954)
Starring Paulette Goddard, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Karin Booth

Castle and Katzman raid the costume department again, this time going for the Crimean War of the 1850s (don’t expect any actual historic accuracy). One of Paulette Goddard’s last films. 

The Saracen Blade (1954)
Starring Ricardo Montalbán, Betta St. John, Rick Jason, Carolyn Jones

This was the last of Katzman and Castle’s pictures like this, and this one takes on the Crusades. There was talk of filming this in Italy, but it was probably just that, talk. In his wonderful book Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare The Pants Off America, Castle wrote that for “three years I had been up to my ass in queens, kings and jokers.” He’d also been making plenty of Westerns for Katzman, and in 1958, he’d go independent and make his own series of gimmicky horror pictures, most of which Columbia would release.

These cheap and tacky little movies are a lot of fun. I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Thanks to John Hall for the tip!

8 Comments

Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

Cash On Demand (1961).

Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Screenplay by David T. Chantler & Lewis Greifer
Based on the teleplay The Gold Inside by Jacques Gillies
Director Of Photography: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins
Music by Wilfred Josephs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Harry Fordyce), André Morell (Colonel Gore Hepburn), Richard Vernon (Pearson), Norman Bird (Arthur Sanderson), Kevin Stoney (Detective Inspector Bill Mason), Barry Lowe (Peter Harvill), Edith Sharpe (Miss Pringle), Lois Daine (Sally), Alan Haywood (Kane)



What’s better than a heist movie? A heist movie starring Peter Cushing, from Hammer Films. Cash On Demand (1961) is another Hammer picture that’s eluded me over the years, and I’m so glad I finally caught up with it.

It’s a couple days before Christmas, and Harry Fordyce (Peter Cushing) is running the Haversham branch of City And Colonial Bank as coldly and efficiently as ever. Then Colonel Gore Hepburn (André Morell) comes in, announcing that he’s an insurance investigator. But once he’s in Fordyce’s office, Hepburn reveals that he’s actually a bank robber, he has Fordyce’s family hostage and that he fully expects the branch manager to help him clean out the vault.

From there, it gets very tense. Cash On Demand proves that when you have a good script to work with, along with a strong cast and crew, you don’t need much money. (They say Hammer spent just £37,000 on this thing.) The entire picture takes place in the bank or in front of it (Morell’s Maserati parked out front is nice to see).

The performances here are top-notch, and I think that’s the key to the film’s success. André Morell is charming as the robber, but we completely believe him when he threatens Fordyce’s family. Peter Cushing is incredible here. We don’t care much for the bank manager, he’s the ultimate cold fish, but Cushing makes us sympathize with him over the course of the film. For his sake (and his family’s), we want the heist to succeed. Cushing plays his rather Scrooge-ish redemption at the end just perfectly.

The US prints run 80 minutes, while the UK theatrical cut is just 67. As tight as the longer version is, I’d love to see how the shorter version plays. The Indicator Blu-Ray gives you both, by the way.

Richard Vernon has a good part in this. I’ve been aware of him for ages, thanks to movies I watched constantly as a kid: A Hard Days Night, Goldfinger, The Tomb Of Ligeia (all 1964) and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973). Both Morell and Richard Vernon were in the television play this was based on, The Gold Inside, and Morell played Watson to Cushing’s Holmes in Hammer’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959). Norman Bird was in The League Of Gentlemen (1960), Maniac (1963) and The Wrong Box (1966).

Director Quentin Lawrence worked largely in television, but he also did The Crawling Eye (1957). And, of course, cinematographer Arthur Grant’s work is as masterful as ever. Editor Eric Boyd-Perkins excels here, putting the pieces together to really ramp up the suspense.

How’d that vault get backstage at the London Opera House?

Another familiar “face” is Bray Studios. I recognized some of the bank sets from other Hammer films, namely The Phantom Of The Opera (1962).

My Peter Cushing bias is splattered all over this blog — he’s one of my absolute favorites, and I’d list him as one of the greatest, and most under-appreciated, screen actors of them all. Cash On Demand is yet another picture that supports my lofty claims. But from one end to another, this is an excellent film, one where everything — script, cast, direction, etc. — comes together perfectly. Highly, high recommended.

1 Comment

Filed under 1961, 1964, Arthur Grant, Columbia, Hammer Films, Indicator/Powerhouse, Peter Cushing

Invasion, U.S.A. (1952).

Directed by Alfred E. Green
Produced by Robert Smith & Albert Zugsmith
Written by Robert Smith & Franz Shulz
Director Of Photography: John L. Russell
Supervising Editor: W. Donn Hayes
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Gerald Mohr (Vince Potter), Peggie Castle (Carla Sanford), Dan O’Herlihy (Mr. Ohman), Robert Bice (George Sylvester), Tom Kennedy (Tim), Wade Crosby (Arthur V. Harroway), Erik Blythe (Ed Mulfory), Phyllis Coates (Mrs. Mulfory), Aram Katcher, Knox Manning, Edward G. Robinson Jr., Noel Neill, William Schallert


After the news about I, The Jury (1953), I decided to finish up a half-done post on Invasion, U.S.A. (1952). You can’t have too much Peggie Castle.

Invasion U.S.A. is a rather odd Cold War anti-commie picture, the second release from Albert Zugsmith’s American Pictures Corporation. Distributed by Columbia, it grossed over a million dollars, not bad for about a week and budget of $127,000. The liberal use of stock footage no doubt helped keep costs down.

A group of strangers in a New York City bar — including beautiful socialite Peggie Castle, TV newsman Gerald Mohr and the mysterious Mr. Ohman (Dan O’Herlihy) — get to discussing the growing communist threat and the idea of an international draft. Soon, along come reports of “The Enemy” attacking Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. (You don’t have to be an expert on foreign affairs to figure out who “The Enemy” is supposed to be.)

As the invasion plays out largely in stock footage (much of it seen on the bar’s Admiral TV set, “a remote-control view from our portable equipment”), we follow our once-complacent elbow-benders as they leave the bar and head out into the now war-torn New York — where they each learn the hard way that freedom isn’t free.

If you’ve seen the film you know, and after this synopsis, you’ve probably guessed, that Invasion U.S.A. is a cheesy, over-the-top B movie with a pretty whacked-out “Red Scare” message — and plenty of unintentional humor. It certainly means well.

Invasion USA was later re-released with 1000 Years From Now.

But what’s remarkable about it is how effective it is. How watchable it is. Of course, many of us have experienced this before: a junk movie put together by a group of real pros that ends up much better than it has any right to be. This was one of the last pictures from director Alfred E. Green, who’d given us things like Shooting High (1940), Four Faces West (1948) and Sierra (1950). The acting from folks like Mr. Mohr and Ms. Castle comes real close to overcoming the terrible dialogue, while the enemy soldiers often sound like Boris Badenov from The Bullwinkle Show. Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill, TV’s first two Lois Lanes, have tiny parts. The cinematography from John L. Russell looks great, especially if you consider the week-long shoot. (Russell would go on to shoot Psycho.) The special effects are pretty good. And the editing, supervised by W. Donn Hayes, brings together the stock footage and studio stuff surprisingly seamlessly.

Peggie Castle, Noel Neill and a miniature for scenes of bombed-out NYC.

Albert Zugsmith said this is where he learned how movies were made. He went on to give us Star In The Dust, Written On The Wind (both 1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and High School Confidential (1958). Onward and upward!

10 Comments

Filed under 1952, Albert Zugsmith, Columbia, Peggie Castle, Phyllis Coates, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #381: Shamus (1973).


Directed by Buzz Kulik
Starring Burt Reynolds, Dyan Cannon, John P. Ryan, Joe Santos, Larry Block

Burt Reynolds is in his early-70s prime in Shamus (1973), a cool private eye picture co-starring Dyan Cannon. Kino Lorber will be bringing it to Blu-Ray later this year.

Burt’s a pool-shooting PI hired to track down some stolen diamonds. Naturally, he gets into all sorts of trouble along the way.

Shamus has great NYC location stuff and a pre-Rockford Files Joe Santos. Director Buzz Kulik worked steadily in TV, directing lots of outstanding TV movies (such as Brian’s Song). Shamus is one of his few theatrical films. Recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1973, Burt Reynolds, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber

Blu-Ray News #379: Human Desire (1954).

Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Edgar Buchanan, Peggy Maley

Human Desire (1954) is small-town noir as only the great Fritz Lang could do it — and Kino Lorber is bringing it to Blu-Ray later this year.

Glenn Ford’s a train engineer who gets involved in murder, blackmail and about every kind of seediness you can think of — all thanks to Fate and Gloria Grahame.

Lang and DP Burnett Guffey come up with some stunning widescreen visuals, especially around the railroad yard. And while it’s not quite the seedy masterpiece The Big Heat (1953) is — which first brought Lang, Ford and Grahame together — it shows how Lang’s stylistics can elevate substandard material. (There were all kinds of problems with this thing as it came together.)

I’m a huge fan of Lang’s Hollywood pictures, film noir and trains, so this one’s a real favorite. Highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1954, Broderick Crawford, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fritz Lang, Glenn Ford, Kino Lorber

4K News: The Guns Of Navarone (1961).

The guns built for the movie. Navarone is not a real island, by the way.

Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, Richard Harris

Sony has announced a 60th anniversary 4K edition of J. Lee Thompson’s The Guns Of Navarone (1961) — in both the US and the UK. The Blu-Ray from 2011 was a huge upgrade from the DVD, and I’m eager to find out how much more resolution can be gotten out of this thing. (It’s never been a super-sharp-looking film, as far as I can tell.) Sony has listed a lot of extras, some carried over from the Blu-Ray. I’m excited about the restoration of the picture’s original four-track stereo.

The Marx Navarone playset is a really cool thing.

Of course, no matter how you see it, The Guns Of Navarone is terrific. Alistair MacLean’s “impossible mission” novel made a great movie — and everyone from director J. Lee Thompson to that stellar cast to composer Dimitri Tiomkin brought their A game. What always strikes me about it is how quickly its 158 minutes go by. (The same can be said for another MacLean picture, 1969’s Where Eagles Dare.)

I haven’t taken the 4K plunge yet, and it’s terrific to see these older pictures getting this UHD treatment. The movie itself, of course, is highly, highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1961, 4K, Anthony Quinn, Columbia, David Niven, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gregory Peck, J. Lee Thompson, Stanley Baker

Blu-Ray News #352: Columbia Noir #4.

Indicator/Powerhouse’s terrific noir series continues with Volume Four, and I’m proud to be playing a tiny part in this one. All six films are coming to Blu-ray for the first time anywhere. Among the extras are commentaries, documentaries, trailers, six Three Stooges shorts and a 120-page book.

Walk A Crooked Mile (1948)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Louis Hayward, Louise Allbritton, Carl Esmond, Onslow Stevens, Raymond Burr, Art Baker. Frank Ferguson 

The Commies have infiltrated an atomic research center in California. It’s up to an FBI agent (Dennis O’Keefe) and a Scotland Yard detective (Louis Hayward) to find ’em. Gordon Douglas directed. Look at that cast. It’s gotta be good.

Walk East On Beacon! (1952)
Directed by Alfred L. Werker
Starring George Murphy, Finlay Currie, Virginia Gilmore

This time the FBI agent is George Murphy, and he’s after Commies in Boston, trying to stop ’em from snagging a top scientist. 

Pushover (1954)
Directed by Richard Quine
Starring Fred MacMurray, Phil Carey, Kim Novak, Dorothy Malone, EG Marshall

Fred MacMurray’s a cop tempted by $200,000 in bank heist loot and one of the robbers’ girlfriend, Kim Novak (in her first movie). Can you really blame him?

A Bullet Is Waiting (1954)
Directed by John Farrow
Starring Jean Simmons, Rory Calhoun, Stephen McNally, Brian Aherne

Rory Calhoun’s a prisoner who gets away from sheriff Stephen McNally after a plane crash. They both end up in a cabin with Jean Simmons. She doesn’t know who to trust, and the tension builds for a solid 90 minutes.

Chicago Syndicate (1955)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Paul Stewart, Abbe Lane, Allison Hayes, Xavier Cugat

An accountant (Dennis O’Keefe) helps the FBI crack the Syndicate in Chicago. A solid crime picture from Sam Katzman and Fred F. Sears, with a terrific performance from Paul Stewart as a mob boss and great location work. The commentary for this one comes from some clod named Toby Roan.

The Brothers Rico
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Richard Conte, Dianne Foster, Kathryn Grant, Larry Gates, James Darren, Paul Picerni

Eddie Rico (Richard Conte) is a Mob bookkeeper, and his plan to go straight does not go over well with his brothers (James Darren, Paul Picerni) or his boss (Larry Gates). Another tough, essential movie from the great Phil Karlson.

2 Comments

Filed under 1954, 1955, Allison Hayes, Columbia, Dennis O'Keefe, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Ferguson, Fred F. Sears, Fred MacMurray, Gordon Douglas, Paul Picerni, Rory Calhoun