Category Archives: Columbia

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

__________

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

Blu-Ray News #330: The Matt Helm Movies (1966-69).

Dean’s Martin’s Matt Helm series of James Bond spoofs, based on Donald Hamilton’s hard-boiled spy novels, is coming to Blu-Ray in the UK, thanks to Mediumrare Entertainment. The set’s called The Matt Helm Lounge, the same name Columbia called the set they released on DVD in the US.

In 1966, it seems that the only way to compete with the James Bond juggernaut was to spoof it, as these films, the Derek Flint pictures and countless one-offs show. The lone exception might be the Harry Palmer films, starting with The Ipcress File (1965). 

The Helms bear almost no resemblance to the novels, aside from Helm’s name the the book titles. (Actually, The Silencers borrows a couple things from Hamilton’s Death Of A Citizen.) Love ’em or hate ’em, the Matt Helm films are exactly what you’d expect from James Bond spoofs starring Dean Martin. While the Helm pictures were meant to make fun of the James Bond films (and cash in on the spy craze), the Bond pictures themselves would eventually adopt the tone of spoofs like these. 

The Silencers (1966)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Dean Martin, Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, Arthur O’Connell, Robert Webber, James Gregory, Nancy Kovack, Beverly Adams

Opening around the same time as Martin’s TV show, The Silencers was a huge hit. Believe it or not, at one point it was going to be a serious film, with a screenplay by Oscar Saul. It was director Phil Karlson’s idea to go for the tongue-in-cheek approach, and Saul’s script was rewritten by Herbert Baker, who was writing for The Dean Martin Show. Baker does not get credit. By the way, Baker wrote the incredible The Girl Can’t Help It (1956).

Dean Martin, Nancy Kovack and Phil Karlson.

Stella Stevens is terrific as Gail Hendricks, a bumbling agent Matt gets stuck with. She shows a real flair for comedy. It’s a shame Ms. Stevens was never recognized as the talent she was.

Dean/Matt has a tricked-out station wagon, complete with a bed and a bar, and a pistol that shoots backwards. The picture was shot by the great Burnett Guffey, a year before he’d head to Texas to shoot Bonnie And Clyde (1967). Elmer Bernstein provides a great score, that somehow mixes a little Rat Pack swing with the appropriate secret agent feel.

Murderers’ Row (1966)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Dean Martin, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Camilla Sparv, James Gregory, Beverly Adams

Oscar Saul wrote a draft or two for this one, too, and Herbert Baker rewrote that. The credits are the reverse of the last one; this time, Saul is not credited.

Murderers’ Row was supposed to be shot on location, but Dean Martin refused to go to Europe, and being that he was a co-producer, he got his way. Ann-Margret is a real firecracker, as always, and Karl Malden looks like he’s having fun. James Gregory and Beverly Adams are back from ICE HQ. The gadgets this time include a cigarette that launches a tiny missile, something that would turn up in the next Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967).

The score this time comes from Lalo Schifrin, and it’s a good one. The group Dino, Desi & Billy (Dino is Dean Paul Martin, Dean’s son) appear in a discotheque scene.

The Ambushers (1967)

Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Dean Martin, Senta Berger, Janice Rule, James Gregory, Albert Salmi, Beverly Adams

Every series has a low point, a weak link, and in the Matt Helm movies, The Ambushers is it. Again written by Herbert Baker, it doesn’t have quite the sense of fun of the previous two. Doesn’t have much of a plot, either. As Roger Ebert put it in his review back in ’67, “Dean plays Matt Helm again, and goes to Acapulco, and drives up and down scenic highways with ravishing beauties, and occasionally gets shot at.” There’s a UFO, by the way.

This time, Hugo Montenegro composed the score. There was no soundtrack album, unfortunately. The music’s the best thing in the movie.

The Wrecking Crew (1969)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Dean Martin, Elke Sommer, Sharon Tate, Nancy Kwan, Nigel Green, Tina Louise

Getting Phil Karlson back as director was a good idea, as The Wrecking Crew is easily the best in the series, except for maybe The Silencers. A new writer was brought in, William P. McGivern, who wrote the stories that became The Big Heat (1953) and Shield For Murder (1954) and the script for William Castle’s I Saw What You Did (1965). He also wrote a couple of episodes of Adam-12.

There’s some other interesting casting. James Gregory is replaced as MacDonald by John Larch. Bruce Lee provided choreography for the martial arts scenes. And Chuck Norris appears as a henchman in a scene or two.

Bruce Lee trains Nancy Kwan and Sharon Tate train for thier fight scene.

The film’s claim to fame today is that it the last Sharon Tate released in her lifetime. She was murdered by the Manson family in August of 1969. She’s very good here as an incompetent aide to Helm similar to Stella Stevens in the first one. There were plans to make a fifth Matt Helm picture, The Ravagers, with Tate back as Miss Carlson. Some say The Ravagers was cancelled due to lackluster grosses for The Wrecking Crew, but after Sharon’s murder, Dean Martin pulled the plug on it.

I remember sitting in the back seat of the family Chevrolet and seeing this trailer for The Wrecking Crew at The Hi-Way Drive-In in Thomasville, Georgia. I was five. Funny, but I don’t remember what movie we saw, just this trailer.

Bright and breezy with great modern architecture and furniture, these films will look terrific in high definition when they arrive in April. They were originally 1.85. Not sure what the set’s region status will be, but it comes highly recommended anyway.

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Filed under 1966, 1967, 1969, Ann-Margret, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Columbia, Dean Martin, DVD/Blu-ray News, Henry Levin, James Gregory, Phil Karlson, Senta Berger, Sharon Tate, Stella Stevens

Blu-Ray News #328: Columbia Noir #3 (1947-59).

Indicator’s got a third Columbia Noir Blu-Ray box on the way, and it’s gonna be another good one.

Johnny O’Clock (1947)
Written and directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, Jeff Chandler
Dick Powell is cool in his second noir picture, Burnett Guffey’s cinematography is often stunning. Robert Rossen does a good job guiding us through the rather complex plot.

The Dark Past (1948)
Directed by Rudolph Maté
Starring William Holden, Nina Foch, Lee J. Cobb
William Holden is an escaped convict in this remake of 1939’s Blind Alley. Lee J. Cobb is a psychologist who’s held hostage and analyzes his captor along the way.

Convicted (1950)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford, Millard Mitchell, Dorothy Malone, Carl Benton Reid, Frank Faylen
Another remake of The Criminal Code, with Glenn Ford an inmate and Broderick Crawford the warden. Burnett Guffey shot this one, too, which is always a good thing.

Between Midnight And Dawn (1950)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Mark Stevens, Edmond O’Brien, Gale Storm, Madge Blake
A prototype for the buddy cop movies, with Edmond O’Brien and Mark Stevens  childhood friends who end up cops. Gale Storm is the dispatcher they talk to throughout their shift.


The Sniper (1952)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Starring Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz, Gerald Mohr, Marie Windsor, Frank Faylen
Arthur Franz plays a freak with a rifle before the freak-with-a-rifle sub-genre even existed. Dmytryk does a terrific job, as does DP Burnett Guffey. Essential.

City Of Fear (1959)
Directed by Irving Lerner
Starring Vince Edwards, Lyle Talbot, John Archer
Vince Edwards escapes from San Quentin and has what he thinks is a vial of heroin. Turns out it’s the ultra-dangerous Cobalt-60, which could wipe out LA. Edwards gets sicker as the movie plays out — and time runs out. A very cool little movie.

The set comes with the kind of extras — commentaries, video essays, shorts (including six from The Three Stooges!), trailers, galleries and more. You don’t wanna miss this one.

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Filed under 1950, 1959, Broderick Crawford, Columbia, Dick Powell, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Dmytryk, Frank Faylen, Glenn Ford, Indicator/Powerhouse, Marie Windsor, Mark Stevens, The Three Stooges, William Holden

Blu-Ray News #327: Karloff At Columbia (1935-42).

The six pictures Boris Karloff made for Columbia between 1935 and 1942, which include the films now called “The Mad Doctor Cycle,” are a hoot. Eureka has announced a two-disc Blu-Ray set of these movies films for April.

The Black Room (1935)
Directed by Roy William Neill
Starring Boris Karloff, Marion Marsh
Karloff plays twin brothers in 19th century Europe. One twin inherits the family castle and all hell breaks loose.

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray
In the first entry in what became “The Mad Doctor Cycle,” Karloff has discovered a way to bring the dead back to life. His assistant volunteers to have it tested on him, and once he’s dead, his girlfriend gums up the works and prevents the volunteer from being revived.

The Man With Nine Lives (1940)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff, Roger Pryor, Jo Ann Sayers
Karloff developed “frozen therapy” and used it on himself. Ten years later, he’s awake and wants to whip a new batch of his formula.

Before I Hang (1940)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff, Evelyn Keyes, Bruce Bennett
This time, Karloff has developed an anti-aging serum. Today, he’d have an infomercial, but it 1940 he’s to be hung instead.

The Devil Commands (1941)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Starring Boris Karloff, Richard Fiske, Amanda Duff
Karloff is a doctor who shifts his research on brain waves into an effort to reach his dead wife.

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Max Rosenbloom
Spoofing the rest of these films, this one has Karloff as a professor trying to create a race of supermen, to help the war effort, in the basement of an old tavern.

These films are a load of fun, and it’ll be great to see them in high-definition. 

It’s also been announced that Warner Archive will be bringing Isle Of The Dead (1945) to Blu-Ray — from a 4K scan of the original nitrate negative.

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Filed under Boris Karloff, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eureka Entertainment, Lew Landers, Peter Lorre, Val Lewton, Warner Archive

DVD News #314: The Jungle Jim Movie Collection (1950-55).

The Jungle Jim Movie Collection from Critics’ Choice Collection gives us six of Sam Kaztman’s Jungle Jim pictures starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Mark Of The Gorilla (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Trudy Marshall, Onslow Stevens

Pygmy Island (1950)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Savage, David Bruce, Steven Geray, William Tannen, Tristram Coffin, Billy Curtis, Billy Barty

Fury Of The Congo (1951)
Directed by William Berke
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Sherry Moreland, William Henry, Lyle Talbot, John Hart

Jungle Manhunt (1951)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Bob Waterfield, Sheila Ryan, Rick Vallin, Lyle Talbot

Jungle Man-Eaters (1954)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Karin Booth, Richard Stapley, Richard Wyler, Bernie Hamilton

Jungle Moon Men (1955)
Directed by Charles S. Gould
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Jean Byron, Helene Stanton, Bill Henry, Myron Healey

The transfers on these films are usually terrific. Let’s hope Jungle Man-Eaters (1954) and Jungle Moon Men (1955) are widescreen. They were 1.85 in theaters.

A few years ago, Umbrella Entertainment in Australia put out a six-movie/three-DVD set, The Jungle Jim Movie Collection. Get both sets and you’ll have 11 of the 16 Jungle Jim pictures.

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Filed under 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lyle Talbot, Myron Healey, Sam Katzman