Category Archives: Edward Bernds

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

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This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Queen Of Outer Space (1957).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Screenplay by Charles Beaumont
From a story by Ben Hecht
Cinematography: William P. Whitley
Music by Marlin Skiles
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Zsa Zsa Gabor (Talleah), Eric Fleming (Capt. Neal Patterson), Dave Willock (Lt. Mike Cruze), Laurie Mitchell (Queen Yllana), Lisa Davis (Motiya), Paul Birch (Prof. Konrad), Patrick Waltz (Lt. Larry Turner), Barbara Darrow (Kaeel), Marilyn Buferd (Odeena), Lynn Cartwright

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Some movies are labelled art, others are considered simply entertainment. A select few can actually be both, while unfortunately, some are neither. While film critics and scholars like to decide what falls into which category, we all get to call ’em as they see ’em. For me, Queen Of Outer Space (1958) — which is a real hoot, is a helluva lot better movie than, say, The English Patient (1996).

A team of astronauts, led by Eric Fleming of Rawhide, is drawn to Venus, where they find the planet populated by beautiful women in miniskirts with ray guns — except for a few who wear masks to cover ghastly radiation burns. Zsa Zsa Gabor plays a Venusian scientist — and the only human on the planet with a Hungarian accent. All that, plus a giant rubber spider.

It all started with a 10-page story idea (called Queen Of The Universe) by the great screenwriter Ben Hecht. It had been sitting around Allied Artists for a few years when Ben Schwalb, who was producing The Bowery Boys movies, ended up with it. He handed it off to writer Charles Beaumont. Beaumont’s script was then fiddled with by Ellwood Ullman, who’d written for The Three Stooges. Edward Bernds, another Stooge veteran, directed — just as he’d done with AA’s previous sci-fi picture, World Without End (1956).

Don’t let the DeLuxe color and CinemaScope fool you — Queen Of Outer Space is a pretty cheap affair. You might recognize the spacemen’s uniforms and some of the ladies’ costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). There are models, sets and footage from World Without End (1956) — which featured rocket footage lifted from Flight To Mars (1951). And the rubber spider is the same one seen in World Without End (1956).

Bud and Lou with Mari Blanchard

Of course, others had boldly gone after the planet-of-women plot-line before. Take a look at Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953, above), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953) and Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1955). But with Queen Of Outer Space, they got the mix of chicks, chills and cheese just right. (Okay, I’m stretching it a bit with the chills part.)

Speaking of just right, the Warner Archive Blu-Ray is a great example of bringing an old movie to high-definition. It’s sharp as a tack, with the color dialed in perfectly. This is maybe the best-looking DeLuxe color I’ve seen on Blu-Ray — and a big improvement over the nice-looking DVD. The audio is clean. And the commentary from that DVD has been retained.

For some of us, and we know who we are, owning this is an absolute necessity. For others, it’s a complete waste of time, money and pixels. If you’re in the former group, you won’t be disappointed.

One last thing: In some lucky cities, Queen Of Outer Space was paired with Howard W. Koch’s Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Those were the days.

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Filed under 1958, Abbott & Costello, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #189: Queen Of Outer Space (1958).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, Dave Willock, Laurie Mitchell, Lisa Davis, Paul Birch

Back when Warner Archive brought World Without End (1956) to Blu-Ray, I wondered if they’d get around to Edward Bernds’ other Allied Artists chicks-in-outer-space picture Queen Of Outer Space (1958). Well, it’s on its way.

The story’s nothing new. Ever seen Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953) or Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1955)? You might recognize props and costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). And you’re sure to notice some special effects from World Without End (1956), which are actually stock footage from Flight To Mars (1951) cropped and blown up for CinemaScope. But what Queen Of Outer Space has that all the others don’t is Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was supposedly a real pain on the set. She can’t act and her accent is totally over the top. She’s perfect.

Sure, it’s terrible. But it’s also wonderful, and I can’t wait to see it in high definition. Highly recommended to those who appreciate junk like this.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: World Without End (1956).

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Directed by Edward Bernds
Story & Screenplay by Edward Bernds
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Original Music Leith Stevens

Cast: Hugh Marlowe (John Bordon), Nancy Gates (Garnet), Nelson Leigh (Dr. Eldon Galbraithe), Rod Taylor (Herbert Ellis), Shawn Smith (Elaine), Lisa Montell (Deena), Christopher Dark (Hank Jaffe), Booth Colman (Mories), Everett Glass (Timmek)

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Allied Artists’ ads for World Without End (1956) bragged that it was the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope and Technicolor. Its writer and director Edward Bernds called it “A-picture mounting for a B-budgeted picture.”*

And what a B picture it is! A team of intrepid U.S. astronauts — including Hugh Marlowe and a very young Rod Taylor — returns to Earth from their trip to Mars. Somehow they wind up in the 26th century, finding their home planet reduced to a hostile, post-Apocalyptic world teeming with mutants (that’s one to the left), giant spiders, underground cities, weird old men wearing kooky hats and beautiful girls in mini skirts. You’re starting to get a feel for how terrific this is, aren’t you?

You know how these things work. Before long, the astronauts are killing the spiders, duking it out with the mutants and romancing the ladies. And people wonder why I love these old things so much.

Allied Artists sprang for Technicolor and Scope for World Without End, but that doesn’t mean Bernds had a blank check. Not by a long shot. The spaceship footage — leaving Mars’ orbit and crash-landing back on Earth — was lifted from Monogram’s Flight To Mars (1951) and severely cropped for CinemaScope (from 1.33 down to 2.55). Of course, Allied Artists used to be Monogram, so it’s easy to understand why the footage was cheap.

Walter Mirisch of Allied Artists and Edward Bernds

Bernds: “It’s strange how some producers, at least at that time, got hooked on the idea of saving money by using stock film… You could duplicate those stock shots for a few thousand dollars — are you going to make a $400,000 picture on the basis of saving a few bucks?”*

Another sign of cost-consciousness (one that you see in a lot of these 50s sci-fi flicks): post-Apocalyptic Earth looks a whole lot like the Iverson Ranch.

Edward Bernds wanted Sterling Hayden for the lead, but Allied Artists went with the much cheaper Hugh Marlowe. He’s a little bland, maybe, but fine. Marlowe would have a pretty good run in 50s science fiction. He started out in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), and he’d follow World Without End with Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956).

Lisa Montell plays Deena, one of the lovely women of our planet’s grim future. As she describes it, “That film was a lot of fun… Part of the fun was that my character was related to the ‘Mutates’ and I got to speak in Mutate talk, which I just made up as I went along.”*

Nancy Gates falls for Hugh Marlowe, and Rod Taylor winds up shirtless. Gates’ career was going a mile a minute at this time, working steadily in movies and TV. Taylor had only been in the States a couple years when he was cast in this; he’d appear in Giant (1956) the same year.

Pin-up artist Alberto Vargas (the pressbook called him an “internationally known painter of curvaceous femininity”) did sketches for the film, focusing on the women’s costumes. These were used to promote the picture, and I’m sure they were effective. A six-sheet was available with each of the ladies 5′ 6″ tall.

Director of photography Ellsworth Fredericks did a ton of stuff for Allied Artists around this time, everything from At Gunpoint (1955) to Friendly Persuasion (1956). Wow, from Gary Cooper as a Quaker to rubber spiders. He shot Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers the same year.

Warner Archive has done us all a huge favor by bringing this glorious bit of nonsense to Blu-Ray, gloriously. Fredericks uses the Scope frame really well, and it’s great to have the CinemaScope presented in high definition. Every plastic rocket, every fake spider, every skimpy costume is as sharp as a tack. The color’s perfectly saturated, and the sound’s clear as a bell.

There are certainly better movies than this, but this has become one of my favorite Blu-Rays. It’s a marvel to look at and a real hoot of a movie. Highly, highly recommended.

Read somewhere that Joe Dante saw World Without End and Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) as a double bill some Saturday afternoon when he was a kid. He loved it so much, he sat through it twice — and when he got home, his parents had called the police!

*Sources: The Edward Bernds quotes are from Tim Weaver interviews; Lisa Montell’s quote comes from the Treasures Of Wonderment website.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Hugh Marlowe, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #110: World Without End (1956).

world-without-end-hs

Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor

Allied Artists bragged that with World Without End (1956), they’d given the world the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope. And Warner Archive is about to give it to us on Blu-Ray.

So, these astronauts return to Earth from a trip to Mars. Somehow they end up in the 26th century, to find a post-Apocalyptic world (actually, the Iverson Ranch) of mutants, monsters and girls in mini skirts. I love this kinda stuff.

world-without-end

Director Edward Bernds  had a most interesting career, going from The Three Stooges to The Bowery Boys to Westerns like The Storm Rider (1957) to a string of sci-fi movies — World Without End, Queen Of Outer Space (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Valley Of The Dragons (1961). He wrote or co-wrote all of these. Oh, and Sam Peckinpah was the dialogue director. So far, there is no specific release date.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Sam Peckinpah, Warner Archive