Category Archives: Columbia

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Blu-Ray News #346: Corruption (1968).

Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis
Starring Peter Cushing, Sue Lloyd, Noel Trevarthen, Kate O’Mara, David Lodge, Antony Booth

Corruption (1968) is a weird one, placing Peter Cushing in the swinging London of 1967, up to the nasty business we’re accustomed to him doing in a more Gothic setting. His fiancee (the terrific Sue Lloyd) is scarred and Cushing goes about all sorts of butchery to set things right. It was seen as rather lurid and gory back in the day, and it’s still a bit jarring to see Mr. Cushing involved in something like this (which Columbia slapped a “Suggested For Mature Audiences” banner on).

Indicator/Powerhouse Films is bringing Corruption to Blu-Ray in August, giving us two versions of the film — the 92-minute theatrical version and the more graphic international one. They’re also piling on the extras: commentary, interviews, trailers, TV and radio spots, galleries and more. 

A good friend mentioned this the other day, that they saw this in the theater as a kid. This Blu-Ray sounds pretty exhaustive and definitive. Recommended, as is anything Peter Cushing touched. 

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Filed under 1968, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Indicator/Powerhouse, Peter Cushing

DVD Review: Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

Directed by Lee Sholem
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Samuel Newman
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim), Karin Booth (Dr. Bonnie Crandall), Richard Wyler (Inspector Jeffrey Bernard), Bernie Hamilton (Zuwaba), Gregory Gaye (Leroux), Lester Matthews (Commissioner Kingston), Paul Thompson (Zulu), Vince Townsend, Jr. (Chief Boganda), Louise Franklin (N’Gala), Tamba

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Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek have released a six-movie set of Jungle Jim movies (there are 16 of ’em, 1948 – 1955), pulled from the middle to the end of series (’50-’55). The next-to-last picture in the set is Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

The later Jungle Jim movies look even cheaper than the early ones, with a very heavy reliance on stock footage. Even some of the Johnny Weissmuller shots look like footage from previous entries, given away by the new 1.85 framing. In this one, Jungle Jim (Weissmuller) gets involved in a war between tribes largely orchestrated by Leroux, a French diamond smuggler. Pretty Kari Booth (I’ve always liked her) is a doctor along for the ride, and she gets caught up in the birth of the son of one of the warring tribes’ leader. Tamba dresses up like a doctor, torments Karin Booth, does plenty of flips and eats a lot of bananas.

Despite the title and ads, there are cannibals, no man is eaten (“human banquet”) and Karin Booth’s legs are never threatened by fire.

While there are three more pictures in the series, this is the last one where Weissmuller is actually called Jungle Jim. Producer Sam Katzman has Weissmuller use his own name for the rest of the run, probably because Screen Gems had signed with King Features to use the character in a TV series, again with Weissmuller. It debuted about the time the last feature, Devil Goddess, hit theaters in October 1955.

Jungle Man-Eaters features the work of the couple of guys who toiled quite a bit on Katzman pictures: director Lee Sholem and cinematographer Henry Freulich.

Sholem was known as “Roll ‘Em Sholem” for how quickly he worked. He directed over 1,300 features and TV shows over the course of four decades. They say he never went over schedule. One of his masterworks is Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

Henry Freulich had been behind the camera since the Silents. He was a cameraman on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1922). He was at Columbia for years and years, shooting everything from It Happened One Night (1934) to over a hundred Three Stooges shorts to all sorts of wonderful things in the 50s — pictures like William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Fred F. Sears’s Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955) and George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956).

Freulich’s work on Jungle Man-Eaters looks terrific on DVD in this set. In fact, all six boast the gorgeous transfers we’ve come to expect of cheap Columbia movies from this period. A lot of us have been waiting quite a while for Jungle Jim to make his way out of the jungle and onto DVD. This collection is worth the wait — and hopefully the first of several volumes. Recommened.

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Filed under 1954, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #336: Five (1951).

Produced, written, and directed by Arch Oboler
Starring William Phipps, Susan Douglas Rubeš, James Anderson, Charles Lampkin, Earl Lee

Five people survive an atomic blast and try to figure out how to carry on. That’s pretty much the premise of Five (1951), Arch Oboler’s post-apocalyptic story shot on a number of LA locations, including Oboler’s own Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Oboler’s home has since burned to the ground, in a 2018 wildfire, so it’s great to have it has preserved in this way. It’s a stunning place.

Shot for a little over $75,000, using an unknown cast and USC students for a crew, Five is a pretty interesting picture. It’s the first of its type, and we’ve seen a lot of them sense. It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Imprint with their usual thorough batch of extras. Recommended.

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Filed under 1951, Arch Oboler, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Imprint Films

Blu-Ray News #333: The Face Behind The Mask (1941).

Directed by Robert Florey
Starring Peter Lorre, Evelyn Keyes, Don Beddoe, George E. Stone, John Tyrrell

One I’ve been waiting for. The Face Behind The Mask (1941) is one of those sublime B movies where everything went just right.

Peter Lorre is terrific as an optimistic immigrant whose personal version of the American Dream becomes a living hell. He goes from lowly dishwasher (who’s hideously scarred in an accident) to a criminal ringleader (amassing the fortune needed for plastic surgery). Everything changes when he meets a sweet young blind woman (Evelyn Keyes), but will he be able to just walk away from his double-crossing gang?

Robert Florey’s direction and the moody camerawork of Franz F. Planer — and one of Lorre’s best performances — make this thing a winner from fade-in to fade-out.

Imprint is bringing The Face Behind The Mask to Blu-Ray in May with an assortment of commentaries and interviews. But the real attraction will be the chance to see this terrific little picture in high definition. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Imprint Films, Peter Lorre