Category Archives: Howard W. Koch

Blu-Ray News #228: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

Directed by Howard W. Koch
Starring Boris Karloff, Tom Duggan, Jana Lund, Donald Barry, Charlotte Austin

Thanks to Warner Archive, in about a month, we’ll be able to recreate this terrific twin bill in high definition in our own living rooms, as they add Frankenstein 1970 (1958) to their list of terrific Allied Artists ‘Scope monster movies on Blu-Ray.

Frankenstein 1970 is one I like a lot — in spite of itself in a few spots. I really dig Queen Of Outer Space (1958), too.

Black & white CinemaScope is such a cool thing on Blu-Ray, I can’t wait for this!

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Filed under 1958, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard W. Koch, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #192: The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection.

Three lurid Mamie Van Doren pictures (did she make any other kind?) in one high-definition package. How cool is that?

The Girl In Black Stockings (1957)
Directed by Howard W. Koch
​Starring Lex Barker, Anne Bancroft, Mamie Van Doren​, John Dehner​, ​Marie Windsor​,​ Stuart Whitman​, ​Dan Blocker

A girl is brutally murdered at a Utah hotel and everybody seems to have some sort of motive. Look at that cast!

Guns, Girls And Gangsters (1959)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Mamie Van Doren, Gerald Mohr, Lee Van Cleef, Paul Fix

Edward L. Cahn directs an armored car robbery picture that has both Mamie Van Doren and Lee Van Cleef in it. How could it miss? It doesn’t.

Vice Raid (1960)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Mame Van Doren, Richard Coogan, Brad Dexter, Carol Nugent

Mamie’s a call girl sent to New York to get an un-corruptible cop in hot water. But when her sister is raped, Mamie has to turn to the framed cop for help.

Due in November, the longest of these movies is 75 minutes. Perfect.

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Filed under 1957, 1959, 1960, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, Howard W. Koch, Kino Lorber, Lee Van Cleef, Mamie Van Doren, Marie Windsor

Blu-Ray Review: Shield For Murder (1954).

Directed by Edmond O’Brien and Howard W. Koch
Screenplay by Richard Alan Simmons and John C. Higgins
Adaptation by Richard Alan Simmons
From a book by William P. McGivern
Music by Paul Dunlap
Photography by Gordon Avil
Film Editor: John F. Schreyer

Cast: Edmond O’Brien (Barney Nolan), Marla English (Patty Winters), John Agar (Mark Brewster), Emile Meyer (Capt. Gunnarson), Carolyn Jones (Girl at bar), Claude Akins (Fat Michaels), Larry Ryle (Laddie O’Neil), Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon, Vito Scotti

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One the best things for any old-movie nut is to come across something new — not new as in released last week, but new in that you’ve never seen it. Well, Shield For Murder (1954) was a new one for me. And I loved every frame of it.

“If ever a picture was crammed with guts — this is it!” Even the ad copy for this movie is great.

Barney Nolan (Edmond O’Brien) is a good cop gone really, really bad. Before the main title even appears, he’s killed a bookie for the $25,000 he’s got on him. Barney does it because he wants to buy a Castle Heights tract home and marry his girlfriend Patty (Marla English). The cops get the idea that Barney might’ve done it, but his best friend on the force (John Agar) refuses to believe. As the evidence mounts (and bodies stack up), we watch Barney get more desperate, more bitter, more violent as things spin out of control. Eventually, of course, Barney’s on the run and there’s nothing left of his hopes for a nice, quiet life in the suburbs with his girl.

O’Brien co-directed Shield For Murder with producer Howard W. Koch. The division of labor worked like this — O’Brien rehearsed the actors, and once the cameras rolled, Koch was at the helm. They gave the picture a sparse, bare-bones, almost documentary feel — with perfectly gritty camerawork from Gordon Avil (who shot the 1930 Billy The Kid in 70mm).

The performances are good across the board. Carolyn Jones really knocked me out here as a girl O’Brien meets in a bar. Claude Akins is great as a thug trying the retrieve the missing $25,000. Here and there, folks like Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon and Vito Scotti turn up. You can’t go wrong with those guys.

But Shield For Murder is Edmond O’Brien’s picture all the way. He’s terrific. Watching Barney slide into the gutter is downright uncomfortable, as his American Dream turns to crap. You cringe with every wrong turn he takes, knowing Fate’s gonna kick in at any minute.

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This movie’s perfect, down to Edmond O’Brien’s loafers.

Researching the commentary for Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of A Strange Adventure (1956) a couple months ago, I got to focus on Marla English and her brief, very interesting career. (Wish I’d been able to do a commentary for this one!) Marla was a teenage beauty queen and swimsuit model from San Diego who signed to Paramount in 1952. They put her in a few little parts — she’s one of the partygoers in Rear Window (1954). But when she turned down a role in The Mountain with Spencer Tracy, Paramount dumped her. She was soon doing independent pictures for Bel-Air, Republic, AIP and the like. And as we all know, that’s when things usually get interesting. Marla’s in stuff like Runaway Daughters, The She Creature — she’s the She Creature, Flesh And The Spur with John Agar (all 1956) and Voodoo Woman (1957) with Mike Connors. She gave up on acting after Voodoo Woman. Though she was in a few pictures before Shield For Murder (she was only 19 when it was released), she gets an “introducing” credit in it.

Shield For Murder was a first for both of our co-directors. O’Brien would only direct a few more things, but Koch kept at it. His next picture, Big House, USA (1955), is a B Movie masterpiece. And he gave us jewels like Untamed Youth (1957), Violent Road (1958) and Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Koch also produced a string of very successful A pictures — things like The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Odd Couple (1968) and Airplane! (1980).

From a Castle Heights subdivision to West Hollywood alleys to a great public pool, Shield For Murder makes excellent use of LA locations. It’s perfectly rough around the edges and captured by Gordon Avil in all its gritty, appropriately grainy glory. And all of that’s perfectly preserved on the Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edmond O'Brien, Howard W. Koch, John Agar, Kino Lorber, Marla English, United Artists, William Schallert

Blu-ray News #61: Shield For Murder (1954).

shield-for-murder-movie-poster-1954-1020416538Directed byEdmond O’Brien and Howard W. Koch
Starring Edmond O’Brien, John Agar, Marla English, Emile Meyer, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon, Vito Scotti

Howard W. Koch directed one of my all-time favorite sleazeball crime pictures, Big House, USA (1955). He preceded it with Shield For Murder (1954), starring Edmond O’Brien (who co-directed).

O’Brien’s a detective who kills a bookie for the cash he’s carrying. When he finds out there was a witness, guess it’s time for more killing. O’Brien is joined by a dream cast that includes John Agar, Marla English, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, William Schallert, Richard Deacon and Vito Scotti.

Where has this movie been all my life? Lucky for us all, it’s coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Man, I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edmond O'Brien, Howard W. Koch, John Agar, Kino Lorber, Uncategorized, William Schallert

DVD Review: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

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Directed by Howard W. Koch
Produced by Aubrey Schenck
Screenplay by Richard Landau and George Worthing Yates
Story by Charles A. Moses and Aubrey Schenck
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Music: Paul A. Dunlap
Film Editor: John A. Bushelman

Cast: Boris Karloff (Baron Victor Von Frankenstein), Tom Duggan (Mike Shaw), Jana Lund (Carolyn Hayes), Donald Barry (Douglas Row), Charlotte Austin (Judy Stevens), Irwin Berke (Inspector Raab), Rudolph Anders (Wilhelm Gottfried), Norbert Schiller (Shuter), John Dennis (Morgan Haley), Mike Lane (Hans Himmler/The Monster)

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The last member of the Frankenstein family has fallen on hard times. To keep things afloat, namely his experiments, Baron Victor Von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has rented his castle out for a horror movie shoot. He’s eager for them to wrap and get out, then he realizes the cast and crew offer up a sizable supply of body parts.

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Director Howard W. Koch on the set with Boris Karloff.

Frankenstein 1970 (1958) takes this terrific film-within-a-film premise — an American film crew making a Frankenstein movie in the real Frankenstein castle, while the real monster reposes in the lab below — and puts almost none of its potential on the screen. Another thought-provoking idea, that Frankenstein was tortured by the Nazis — in other words, he got a bit of his own medicine, is brought up and dropped. And what could’ve been made of Karloff’s “real” monster meeting its cheesy movie namesake?

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I’d been wanting to see Frankenstein 1970 since I was a kid, thanks to some lurid stills — and the fact that it was in black-and-white CinemaScope. And for an eight-day Allied Artists monster picture, it has its moments. The opening’s well done, with a young woman chased through a foggy swamp by a deformed monster, only to have it revealed as part of the movie. And a scene where Karloff, convinced to appear in the film project, goes off script as he tells the story of his ancestors’ work — is a hoot. Both demonstrate the plot-line gold that was waiting to be mined. Cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie does a terrific job, as always, and I’ve always liked long takes in CinemaScope movies (I’m sure they were used more for efficiency than aesthetics on this one). If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching cheap movies of the late 50s, there were some real pros doing excellent work on these crummy things.

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Guthrie’s craft is well-presented in the Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics DVD set. It also includes The Walking Dead (1936), You’ll Find Out (1940) and Zombies On Broadway (1945). The films themselves aren’t always stellar, but they sure look good. Recommended.

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Filed under 1958, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howard W. Koch, Monogram/Allied Artists

Blu-Ray News #24: Big House, U.S.A. (1955).

Big House USA TC

Directed by Howard W. Koch
Starring Broderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Reed Hadley, William Talman, Lon Chaney Jr., Felicia Farr, Charles Bronson

Part crime picture, part prison movie, Big House, U.S.A. (1955) is one of the most incredible films I’ve ever seen — so vile, so nasty, so mean. Let’s see. A kid is chucked off a cliff. A guy is trapped inside a giant boiler — and steamed like a lobster tail. One of the leads has his face and fingertips seared off with a blowtorch to conceal his identity. And that’s the short list.

Big House USA LC

Howard W. Koch will never make a list of the Great Directors. But with this one, he serves up a solid exploitation film — and gives a dream-team cast of 50s movie bad guys a real field day. With all these heavies working on the same film, did the rest of Hollywood have to shut down?

Kino Lorber is bringing Big House, U.S.A. to your house on Blu-ray this August. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1955, Bel-Air, Charles Bronson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard W. Koch, Kino Lorber, Lon Chaney Jr., United Artists, William Talman