Category Archives: Fred F. Sears

Forgotten Filmcast #167: The Night The World Exploded (1957).

A while back, Todd Liebenow was the guest on my podcast, The Carbon Arc. We talked about The Great Race (1965).

Now I’m the guest on his terrific podcast, The Forgotten Filmcast. Todd’s up to 167 of these things, quite an accomplishment! We talk about Fred F. Sears’ The Night The World Exploded (1957), an hour-long sci-fi thing from Sam Katzman. Click on the half-sheet above to listen in.

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Filed under 1957, Columbia, Fred F. Sears, Podcasts, Sam Katzman

DVD News #403: The William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54)

We can all use some good news these days, and this is good news indeed. Critics Choice has announced a DVD set featuring four adventure pictures from William Castle and Sam Katzman — The William Castle Adventures Collection — coming in September.

All four films were shot in Technicolor (none were in 3-D). The transfers should be terrific. The 1954 films should be widescreen, either 1.66 or 1.85.

Sam Katzman, Rhonda Fleming & William Castle. Fleming holds the Serpent Of The Nile.

Serpent Of The Nile (1953)
Starring Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Michael Ansara, Julie Newmar

Castle’s first film for Katzman (he’d been at Columbia in the 40s), it’s an epic done on the cheap (as you might expect). Rhonda Fleming is Cleopatra, wandering around on sets left over from Columbia’s much bigger (but not nearly as much fun) Salome (1953). Another director from Katzman’s unit, Fred F. Sears, serves as narrator.

The Iron Glove (1954)
Starring Robert Stack, Ursula Thiess, Richard Stapley, Alan Hale Jr.

In this two-week swashbuckler, the Columbia backlot doubles as Scotland. Robert Stack would soon do The High And The Mighty (1954), which would give his career a boost. Katzman wanted Cornel Wilde in the lead, and at one point the title was to have been The Kiss And The Sword.

Charge Of The Lancers (1954)
Starring Paulette Goddard, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Karin Booth

Castle and Katzman raid the costume department again, this time going for the Crimean War of the 1850s (don’t expect any actual historic accuracy). One of Paulette Goddard’s last films. 

The Saracen Blade (1954)
Starring Ricardo Montalbán, Betta St. John, Rick Jason, Carolyn Jones

This was the last of Katzman and Castle’s pictures like this, and this one takes on the Crusades. There was talk of filming this in Italy, but it was probably just that, talk. In his wonderful book Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare The Pants Off America, Castle wrote that for “three years I had been up to my ass in queens, kings and jokers.” He’d also been making plenty of Westerns for Katzman, and in 1958, he’d go independent and make his own series of gimmicky horror pictures, most of which Columbia would release.

These cheap and tacky little movies are a lot of fun. I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Thanks to John Hall for the tip!

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Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #361: Blood Of The Vampire (1958).

Directed by Henry Cass
Starring Donald Wolfit, Barbara Shelley, Vincent Ball, Victor Maddern

Blood Of The Vampire (1958) is often mistaken for a Hammer film, with its subject matter, use of color, Barbary Shelley in the cast and a script from Jimmy Sangster.

But it was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who’d give us Jack The Ripper a year later. Of course, they were clearly inspired by the success of Hammer’s Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958) — and they serve up lots of Eastmancolor blood.

What’s interesting about the picture is that despite its Transylvania setting, Sangster goes for a more science-fiction approach to the whole blood-drinking thing, and this doesn’t play much like a vampire movie at all. Paul Landres’ The Vampire had taken a similar approach a year earlier — and Fred F. Sears’ The Werewolf went a similar route in ’56.

Nucleus Films in the UK is bringing Blood Of The Vampire to Blu-Ray, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’ve always wanted a nice clean copy of this, with all its lurid color lovingly preserved. Here’s hoping that’s what we get!

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Filed under 1958, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Paul Landres, Universal (-International)

Happy Birthday, Sam Katzman.

Sam Katzman
(July 7, 1901 – August 4, 1973)

The great B-movie producer Sam Katzman was born 120 years ago today.

In the photo above, Sam’s on the right with (L-R) Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker). This was taken while Kissin’ Cousins (1964) was in production. Katzman produced two Elvis movies, this one and Harum Scarum (1965).

Incidentally, today is also Fred F. Sears’ birthday. He was one of the directors in Katzman’s unit at Columbia. Just recorded a commentary for the Katzman/Sears crime picture Chicago Syndicate (1955). Watch for it coming from Powerhouse in a few months.

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Filed under 1964, Elvis Presley, Fred F. Sears, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #353: Cold War Creatures – Four Films From Sam Katzman (1955-57).

Some days, the world seems so rotten and godforsaken, it’s hard to get out of bed. Then along come four Sam Katzman movies on Blu-Ray.

If you look at my blogs with any regularity, you probably know that Sam Katzman is one of my all-time favorite humans. His cheap movies, from The Bowery Boys to Jungle Jim and from Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954) to Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) and from Hootenanny Hoot (1963) to Harum Scarum (1965), are a complete and utter joy. Arrow has gathered up four of his best 50s sci-fi/horror pictures for Blu-Ray, giving us a high-def version of Columbia’s Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman DVD set — now loaded with extras.

Creature With The Atom Brain (1955)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye, Linda Bennett

An ex-Nazi scientist has created a gang of radio-controlled zombies. Unfortunately, the experiments were funded by a gangster who wants to use the zombies for his own purposes. Cheesy and a bit creepy at times.

The Werewolf (1956)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Eleanore Tanin, Kim Charney, Harry Lauter, Steven Ritch 

An interesting rethinking of how the whole werewolf thing works, with solid direction from Fred F. Sears and excellent performances across the board, especially from Steven Ritch as the werewolf. One of the best werewolf movies ever made, if you ask me.

The Giant Claw (1957)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday

A perfectly respectable 50s sci-fi movie is destroyed by maybe the worst monster in cinema history. Katzman’s attempts to save a buck backfired on him with this one. Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday take on what looks like a marionette of a turkey with a skin condition.

Zombies Of Mora Tau (1957)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russel

The best thing Zombies Of Mora Tau has going for it is the lovely Allison Hayes, which for most men with a pulse is more than worth 69 minutes of your precious time. Along with Ms. Hayes, there are diamonds, a sunken ship and — oh, yeah — some zombies.

Arrow’s making the world a better place with this terrific set in September. Absolutely essential!

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1955, 1956, 1957, Allison Hayes, Angela Stevens, Arrow Video, Benjamin H. Kline, Edward L. Cahn, Edward Linden, Fred F. Sears, Mara Corday, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

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

Happy Birthday, Sam Katzman.

Sam Katzman
(July 7, 1901 – August 4, 1973)

Here’s producer Sam Katzman with Little Richard on the set of Don’t Knock The Rock (1956). It’s a Rock N Roll picture directed by Fred F. Sears. Little Richard does “Long Tall Sally” and “Tutti-Frutti” in it. You need to see it.

Click it make it legible.

Sam Katzman was born on this day back in 1901. As a little kid, I noticed that his name turned up in the credits of a whole lot of movies I really liked. And for all the joy his cheap little pictures have given the world — everything from the Batman serial to the Jungle Jim movies to The Werewolf (1956) to Harum Scarum (1965) with Elvis, he should have a postage stamp, a national holiday, something. He sure made my world a better place.

Incidentally, today is Fred F. Sears’ birthday, too. Wonder if a great big birthday cake was ever shared on the Columbia lot?

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Filed under 1956, Elvis Presley, Fred F. Sears, Jungle Jim, Sam Katzman

One Quick Thing.

The second volume of Kit Parker’s Noir Archive series showed up yesterday. In a year filled with really great stuff coming out on Blu-Ray, this might be my favorite so far.

Four of my favorite B directors are here: William Castle, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson and Fred F. Sears. Some of my favorite actors, too — John Agar, Robert Blake, Mari Blanchard, Timothy Carey, Richard Denning, Faith Domergue, Vince Edwards, Beverly Garland, Brian Keith, Guy Madison, Kim Novack and more.

All nine pictures look terrific — the Columbia transfers are almost flawless. Proper reviews will follow, but I can’t recommend Noir Archives Volume 2: 1954-1956 highly enough.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, Beverly Garland, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Fred F. Sears, John Agar, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman, Timothy Carey, William Castle

Blu-Ray Review: The Miami Story (1954).

Directed by Fred F. Sears
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screenplay by Robert E. Kent
Director Of Photography​: ​Henry Freulich
Film Edit​or: ​Viola Lawrence

Cast: Barry Sullivan (Mick Flagg AKA Mike Pierce), Luther Adler (Tony Brill), John Baer (Ted Delacorte), Adele Jergens (Gwen Abbott), Beverly Garland (Holly Abbott), Dan Riss (Frank Alton), Damian O’Flynn (Police Chief Martin Belman), Chris Alcaide (Robert Bishop), Gene Darcy (Johnny Loker)

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Here’s looking at a solid little noir/crime picture from producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears — The Miami Story (1954). It’s featured in Noir Archive, Volume 1 (1944-1954), a nine-movie, three-disc Blue-Ray set Kit Parker Films.

The Miami Story has ex-mobster Mick Flagg (Barry Sullivan) lured out of retirement (he’s now a farmer) to help snag some of his old “co-workers” in Miami. Flagg’s approach to his task isn’t hampered by the kinds of things cops or the Feds have to contend with, and he turns out to be very effective at stirring up the hoods. Along the way, he gets to threaten, beat up or at least talk smack to about everybody else in the cast. A couple of examples —

Teddy (John Baer): How much of this am I supposed to swallow?

Mick Flagg (Barry Sullivan): You better take a full dose of it, kid, if you wanna stay alive.

Gwen (Adele Jergens): Don’t give me that holier-than-thou stuff, Holly. You could hoof. All I could do was shake on top and wiggle on the bottom in crummy burlesque joints.

Mick Flagg (Barry Sullivan): Big sister just told you there’s no Santa Claus and you’re all beat up about it. Relax, things’ll look a lot worse tomorrow.

The picture is filled with dialogue like this. And Sullivan is terrific at delivering it, as is Adele Jergens. Jergens gives any movie a boost, and this one is no exception. Tired of playing these kinds of tawdry parts, she’d leave the picture business a few after The Miami Story. What a shame. She’s in one of my favorites, Armored Car Robbery (1950), along with Sugarfoot (1951), Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951) and a couple of the Blondie movies.

The performances are solid, to be sure, but I give a lot of credit for The Miami Story‘s success to Fred F. Sears and screenwriter Robert E. Kent. Sears proved himself to be a master craftsman, churning out a string of Katzman pictures like this that are far better than they probably have any right to be. Like Sears, Robert Kent worked a lot for Katzman’s unit at Columbia, churning out scripts for stuff like Fort Ti (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954) and The Werewolf (1956). He also came up with the story for Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947). They made so many pictures, they can’t all be great, but when their best are well worth seeking out.

The Miami Story looks like a million bucks on Blu-Ray. DP Henry Freulich, another craftsman, is well-served here. It’s sharp, with nice-looking grain and solid blacks. As the only picture in the set from 1954, The Miami Story is the only title in 1.85. This movie, and the Blu-Ray collection, come highly recommended. If this becomes your gateway to the joys of Columbia B movies, you’re in for a real treat.

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Filed under 1954, Adele Jergens, Barry Sullivan, Beverly Garland, Columbia, Fred F. Sears, Kit Parker, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #229: Noir Archive Volume 2: 1954-1956.

The first nine-film, three-disc volume in Kit Parker’s awesome assemblage of hi-def Film Noir hasn’t hit the street yet, and now the second’s been announced. These are coming in July, and it’s another great lineup.

Bait (1954)
Directed by Hugo Haas
Starring Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, John Agar

Hugo Haas directs himself, Cleo Moore and John Agar in a love triangle involving a lost gold mine.

The Crooked Web (1955)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Frank Lovejoy, Mari Blanchard, Richard Denning

Nathan Juran directed lots of cool stuff, but this is the only one with Mari Blanchard as a waitress. This one involves gold, too, but it’s a stash of Nazi gold. Nathan Juran did some cool stuff — from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1957) to Good Day For A Hanging (1958).

The Night Holds Terror (1955)
Directed by Andrew Stone
Starring Jack Kelly, Hildy Parks, Vince Edwards, John Cassavetes, David Cross, Jonathan Hale

Sort of a combination of The Hitch-Hiker and The Desperate Hours, with John Cassavetes one of the crooks.

Footsteps In The Fog (1955)
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Starring Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Bill Travers, Ronald Squire

The only picture in the set in color, this one has Stewart Granger as a killer who chooses the wrong victim, literally.

Cell_2455_Death_Row LC

Cell 2455, Death Row (1955)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring William Campbell, Marian Carr, Kathryn Grant, Harvey Stephens, Vince Edwards

Based on the true story by Caryl Chessman. Director Fred F. Sears is a real favorite of mine.

5 Against The House (1955)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Kim Novack, Alvy Moore, William Conrad, Kerwin Mathews

A team of Army buddies snag a camper trailer and head to Reno to rob the casinos. Phil Karlson keeps things tough and tight. Terrific movie.

New Orleans Uncensored (1955)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Arthur Franz, Beverly Garland, Helene Stanton, Mike Mazurki

William Castle working for Sam Katzman. Beverly Garland. Black and white widescreen. Why haven’t you pre-ordered one already?

Spin A Dark Web (1955)
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Starring Faith Domergue, Lee Patterson, Rona Anderson, Martin Benson

A boxer gets sucked into the London mob, with a little help from Faith Domergue. Vernon Sewell directed lots of B movies in the UK, and this is a cool one.

Rumble On The Docks (1956)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring James Darren, Laurie Carrol, Michael Granger, Robert Blake, Timothy Carey

Fred F. Sears, Robert Blake and Timothy Carey all working on a Sam Katzman movie — and the results are every bit as wonderful as you might be imagining.

To have these nine pictures, in their original aspect ration and high definition, is a real treat. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Fred F. Sears, John Agar, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Mill Creek, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson, Richard Denning, Timothy Carey, William Castle