Category Archives: Elizabeth Montgomery

Blu-Ray News #239: Johnny Cool (1963).

Directed by William Asher
Starring Henry Silva, Elizabeth Montgomery, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop, Telly Savalas, Sammy Davis, Jr.

William Asher’s 1963 gangster picture Johnny Cool is terrific, and I’m so stoked it’s making its way to Blu-Ray later this year from the folks at Scorpion Releasing.

In the early 60s, the gangster picture enjoyed a small resurgence, thanks to stuff like Budd Boetticher’s The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond (1960), Murder Inc. (1960) and Portrait Of A Mobster (1961). Asher’s picture might be the most brutal and violent one of the bunch. Most stylish, too — thanks in large part to the great cinematography of Sam Leavitt.

William Asher was in the middle of his Beach Party movies at AIP when he took on Johnny Cool. He and Elizabeth Montgomery became an item after she auditioned for the picture, they’d marry, and he’d go on to direct the bulk of her Bewitched TV show. The cast is really something, from Henry Silva to Jim Backus to Mort Sahl to Telly Savalas (with hair) — with a great part for Sammy Davis, Jr.

Johnny Cool has a great score from Billy May, with Davis singing the title tune. This is an overlooked, under-seen little movie, well worth (re)discovery in high definition. Recommended.

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Filed under 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elizabeth Montgomery, Henry Silva, Jim Backus, United Artists, William Asher

Blu-Ray News #237: How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965).

Directed by William Asher
Starring Annette Funicello, Dwayne Hickman, Brian Donlevy, Buster Keaton, Beverly Adams, Harvey Lembeck, John Ashley, Jody McCrea, Mickey Rooney, Len Lesser, Bobbi Shaw, Michele Carey, The Kingsmen, Frankie Avalon, Elizabeth Montgomery

Okay, so maybe the whole Beach Party thing was starting to run out of steam by the time they got around to How To Stuff A Wild Bikini (1965). But who cares? All the elements are in place, from Frankie and Annette to Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and Bonehead (Jody McCrea) to the later addition Buster Keaton (as Bwana in this one).

It’s plenty stupid and tons of Pathécolor, Panavision fun. And I’m so stoked that it’s making its way to Blu-Ray from the folks at Olive Films. They did a tremendous job bringing Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) to high definition — let’s hope they get around to Bikini Beach (1964). Coming (in off the curl) in late June.

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Filed under 1965, AIP, Annette Funicello, Buster Keaton, Elizabeth Montgomery, Frankie Avalon, John Ashley, Mickey Rooney, Olive Films, William Asher

DVD Review: The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1975).

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Directed by Paul Wendkos
Written by William Bast
Cinematography: Robert B. Hauser
Film Editor: John A. Martinelli

Cast: Elizabeth Montgomery (Lizzie Borden), Fionnula Flanagan (Bridget Sullivan), Ed Flanders (Hosea Knowlton), Katherine Helmond (Emma Borden), Don Porter (George Robinson), Fritz Weaver (Andrew Borden)

Legend of LB adThe 70s were a Golden Age for TV movies. Duel (1971). Brian’s Song (1971). The Night Stalker (1972). Evil Roy Slade (1972). The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). You could even add Killdozer (1974) to the list, which I loved as a kid.

One that had a huge impact on me — and on the countless kids like me who begged their parents to stay up late on a Monday night, is The Legend Of Lizzie Borden. ABC premiered it on February 10, 1975, and I’ve only seen it once more (on the late show) since that night.

Of course, most of us sitting in front of the TV knew a bit of the Lizzie Borden story — a spinster tried and acquitted for the 1892 hatchet murders of her father and stepmother — and we were waiting for Lizzie to pick up the axe, or hatchet, and get to work. What’s ingenious about William Bast’s script is that he dances all around the actual crime until the end, and by that time the anticipation is incredible. Paul Wendkos’ direction, Robert Hauser’s camerawork (so many odd angles and weird lenses) and John A. Martinelli’s editing come together to create a real sense of claustrophobia, dysfunction and unease. What’s more, we’d never seen such bloodletting on television.

Lizzie B BTS

But even though everyone brought their A game, The Legend Of Lizzie Borden belongs to Elizabeth Montgomery, who’s riveting and sublimely weird as the hatchet-wielding spinster. She always seems to be only half there — with the other half off in some weird, dark place. (It turned out that Montgomery and Borden were distant cousins.) Following Bewitched, Montgomery made a string of TV movies that really showed what she was capable of. One terrific performance after another. And that’s certainly what she turned in for Lizzie Borden, and it landed her an Emmy nomination. (By the way, Montgomery kept the prop hatchet and delighted in her new nickname, Lizzie.)

I’ve been pining for The Legend Of Lizzie Borden on DVD since the format was introduced. And with it on the way, I wondered how well it’d hold up. There was no need to worry. It’s still disturbing, and it’s easy to see why it made such a huge impression on me 40 years ago. It’s wonderfully creepy, fairly accurate and incredibly well made. Not only that, but it looks excellent on DVD from New Video Group. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1975, Elizabeth Montgomery, Television