Category Archives: Columbia

Blu-Ray news #130: Castle Keep (1969).

Directed by Sidney Pollack
Starring Burt Lancaster, Peter Falk, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Patrick O’Neal, Scott Wilson, Tony Bill, Al Freeman, Jr., Bruce Dern, Michael Conrad

This is a weird movie, but I always liked it — thanks largely to Burt Lancaster and the terrific supporting cast (Peter Falk, Scott Wilson, Bruce Dern). Lancaster’s a one-eyed major whose company takes over a French castle toward the end of World War II.

The production had its woes, from unusually warm Yugoslavian temperatures that melted the snow and prompted the trees to sprout buds to trouble with pyrotechnics that meant sets had to be rebuilt. Hopefully some of that will be covered in the interviews and others supplements that are part of the upcoming Blu-Ray from Indicator/Powerhouse Films in the UK.

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Filed under 1969, Burt Lancaster, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Falk

DVD News #116: Man On A String (1960).

Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Ernest Borgnine, Kerwin Matthews, Colleen Dewhurst

Ernest Borgnine stars in this 1960 spy picture based on the life (and autobiography, Ten Years A Counterspy) of Boris Morros, a Russian-born musical director in Hollywood (John Ford’s Stagecoach, 1939) who was first a Russian spy, then a counterspy for the FBI.

Man On A String is given a gritty, documentary-style treatment by director Andre de Toth, who focuses on the double-crosses that stack up like cordwood. It’s coming to DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment in a four-picture “Soviet Spies” set that also includes Anthony Mann’s last film, A Dandy In Aspic (1968). These two films are well worth the $14.98 price tag. It’s great to see de Toth’s work show up on DVD or Blu-Ray. Recommended.

 

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Filed under 1950, Andre de Toth, Anthony Mann, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ernest Borgnine, Mill Creek

Blu-Ray News #114: White Line Fever (1975).

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Starring Jan Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones, Don Porter, R.G. Armstrong, Dick Miller

Growing up in the South in the 70s, White Line Fever (1975) was a very big deal. It seemed like every kid I knew was crazy about either White Line Fever or Jaws (1975) — or they hated their moms for not letting them see them.

Jonathan Kaplan was clearly (and admittedly) inspired by Sam Peckinpah here, and it shows, especially in the cast: Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones and R.G. Armstrong. This thing was a huge hit, with every redneck kid in the fifth grade wanting a Ford cabover truck like Jan Michael Vincent’s Blue Mule.

Mill Creek’s bringing it to Blu-Ray as part of its Payback Time Triple Feature. The other two are Chuck Norris in Silent Rage (1982) and Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer. I worked in a few video stores in college back in the 80s. If I had a nickel for every time someone rented Silent Rage, I’d be trying to buy that Bullitt Mustang from the previous post.

Not sure why, but the CED Videodisc seemed like the perfect image for this post.

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Filed under 1975, Chuck Norris, Columbia, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong, Sam Peckinpah, Slim Pickens

Blu-Ray News #102: Edge Of Eternity (1959).

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Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Cornel Wilde, Victoria Shaw, Mickey Shaughnessy, Edgar Buchanan, Rian Garrick, Jack Elam

Don Siegel didn’t like CinemaScope. But the setting of Edge Of Eternity (1959), the Grand Canyon, screams for the wide screen. So here we get one of the great director’s few films in 2.35. (Flaming Star was also in ‘Scope; Dirty Harry and a few others were in Panavision.) His director of photography for this one was the great Burnett Guffey, who he’d worked with on Private Hell 36 (1954). Guffey’d go on to do the groundbreaking camerawork for Bonne And Clyde (1967).

Edge Of Eternity is a Siegel picture I’ve never seen, so I’m really stoked that Twilight Time is bringing it to Blu-Ray. Siegel certainly deserves the kind of treatment that comes from Twilight Time — they’ve already put together a great Flaming Star. Edge Of Eternity will be available in February.

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Filed under 1959, Columbia, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, Twilight Time

Blu-Ray News #86: The Mad Magician (1954) With Spooks And Pardon My Backfire (1953).

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Directed by John Brahm
Starring Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor, John Emery, Donald Randolph, Lenita Lane

Here’s a perfect announcement for Halloween. Twilight Time has announced a January Blu-Ray release for Columbia’s The Mad Magician (1954) in 3-D and 2-D — with the added bonus of the two 3-D Three Stooges shorts, Spooks and Pardon My Backfire (both 1953).

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All three are goofy fun. The Mad Magician is very much a ripoff of House Of Wax (1953), but that’s not a complaint. It’s terrific, with Vincent “Mr. 3-D” Price at his best. The Stooges shorts are exactly what you’d expect — some of the pies and stuff are thrown at you this time around. All come highly recommended, whether you have a 3-D rig or not.

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Filed under 1953, 1954, 3-D, Columbia, The Three Stooges, Twilight Time, Vincent Price

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 — The Revenge Of Frankenstein/The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb.

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Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2 presents a couple more hi-def Hammer horror films — one a classic, one not so much, but both looking great.

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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 (then he went and did a little thing called Star Wars).

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.

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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.

One thing: why didn’t Hammer put the tattoo on Cushing’s right arm in the later films? What a cool touch that would’ve been throughout the series.

For some reason, The Revenge Of Frankenstein has never looked very good on video. Shot in Technicolor and 1.66:1 by John Asher, it should really pop off the screen, the way The Gorgon (1964) does in Volume 1. But it’s always seemed grainy and a bit blown out, with the color too muted to match the typical late-50s Hammer esthetic. Though not a thing of great beauty, Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray is a huge improvement over the old Columbia DVD. The grain is there to remind you this was once on film, but it’s not a distraction; the color is a lot closer to what it must’ve looked like in theaters back in ’58.

This, folks, is a really good movie.

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The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland

While Hammer knocked Dracula and Frankenstein out of the park, they had a harder time with the Mummy. The Mummy’s an difficult monster on the whole — cool-looking and creepy for sure, but not all that scary. In the Universal Mummy pictures, women have to trip and fall for the Mummy to catch them. Hammer’s The Mummy (1959) was pretty solid, but they seemed to have a hard time figuring out how to work the Mummy into the plots of the later movies. All that said, The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964) still works pretty well.

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A group of Egyptologists bring an exhibit to London, backed by an American showman named Alexander King (Fred Clark). King is determined to exploit the artifacts for maximum profits, which doesn’t sit too well with the revived Mummy. The usual havoc follows.

This is an odd Hammer film. It wasn’t shot at Bray Studios, and there are very few of the regulars among the cast and crew. And while it suffers from the same limitations other Mummy films have (What do you do with this guy?), it has some nice atmospherics here and there. And it’s a thousand times better than the next one, The Mummy’s Shroud (1967).

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It’s easy to sing the praises of how The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb fares on Blu-Ray. It looks fantastic. The Technicolor is nicely presented and the Techniscope framing’s perfect. A big improvement over the DVD. And as with the first volume, you can’t beat the price.

The Revenge Of Frankenstein alone is worth the price of admission — it’s one of Hammer’s best, and it looks far better than previous releases. Think of The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb as a bonus. Recommended. And I hope Volume 3 isn’t too far behind.

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Filed under 1958, 1964, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher

Blu-Ray Review: Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1 — The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll/The Gorgon.

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With a string of terrific Blu-ray releases, this Fall is really turning into a hi-def trip down Memory Lane — so much of the stuff that rotted my brain when I was a kid has been announced for release on Blu-ray. One of the first to make its way to my mailbox and Blu-ray player is Mill Creeks’ Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 1.

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The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960; US Titles: House Of Fright)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher, 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. This has never been held up as a prime Hammer picture, but it’s well made and Christopher Lee’s in it.

Shot in MegaScope, The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll was released in the UK in Technicolor. No such luck in the States — AIP went with crappy Eastmancolor prints. Lucky for us all, Mill Creek offers up a gorgeous transfer from original, longer British material, with the proper title and the kind of eye-popping color these films are known for.

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The Gorgon (1964)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe, Barbara Shelley, Prudence Hyman

The Gorgon (1964) was the first Hammer film I remember seeing (during one of those local-station all-night Halloween marathons), and it had a huge impact on me. From the Technicolor to the blood to Cushing and Lee to the Gorgon herself, I absolutely loved this thing. And I still have a soft spot for it, even though the studio certainly made better films.

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It still has one of my favorite Hammer moments, as Professor Heltz (Michael Goodliffe) writes the letter while turning to stone. (That’d be a fun poll, wouldn’t it — “What’s your favorite single scene in a Hammer horror movie?”)

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On Blu-Ray, The Gorgon won’t turn anybody to stone. It’s beautiful. The color’s appropriately saturated, the 1.66 is spot-on and James Bernard’s score sounds great (and as eerie as ever). Some folks have been harsh on these Mill Creek Hammers, but I don’t get it. There are no complaints here. I’d love to have every horror movie the studio ever made looking as good as The Gorgon does here.

gorgonmummy-adBy the way, The Gorgon played theaters in a twin bill with The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964), which is is included in Mill Creek’s Hammer Films Double Feature Volume 2, which we’ll get around to soon.

With these Blu-Rays in your collection, you might end up with some duplication from some of your other Hammer sets. But the improved picture quality and terrific price make it worth the double dip. For Hammer fans out there, this set (and Number 2) is highly recommended. Thanks, Mill Creek, and keep ’em coming!

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Filed under 1960, 1964, AIP, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Jerry Lewis, Mill Creek, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher