Category Archives: John Agar

DVD/Blu-Ray News #85: Dimension 5 And Cyborg 2087 (Both 1966).

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Dimension 5 (1965)
Directed byFranklin Adreon
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Starring Jeffrey Hunter, France Nuyen, Harold Sakata

United Pictures Corporation produced nine films between 1966 and 1968, with the idea that they’d quickly make their way to TV, where they’d be attractive thanks to name actors (even if past their prime) and color photography. Two of those nine UPC pictures, Dimension 5 and Cyborg 2087 (both 1966) have been announced for DVD and Blu-Ray release early next year.

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Cyborg 2087 (1966)
Directed byFranklin Adreon
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Starring Michael Rennie, Wendell Corey, Warren Stevens, Eduard Franz, Harry Carey, Jr.

Both films were directed by Franklin Adreon from time-traveling scripts by Arthur C. Pierce. Pierce wrote a slew of low-budget sci-fi pictures: The Cosmic Man (1959), Beyond The Time Barrier (1960), Women Of The Prehistoric Planet (1966) and more. A weekend retrospective of his work would be a real hoot — and would allow you to spend time with the likes of John Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Scott Brady and John Carradine.

1966 was quite a year. You had Pet Sounds, Revolver and Blonde On Blonde to listen to and cheeseball movies like these to watch. Those were the days.

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Filed under 1966, John Agar, John Carradine, Kino Lorber, Television, The Beatles

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 Koch, John Agar, Kino Lorber, Uncategorized, William Schallert

Blu-ray News #59: Invisible Invaders (1959).

invisible_invaders_poster_02Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring John Agar, Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, Robert Hutton, John Carradine

These 50s sci-fi movies are really well-represented on Blu-ray. (It’s a shame the new Japanese Blu-ray of The Thing turned out to be the 81-minute re-release version.) Well, here’s another one — Edward Cahn’s Invisible Invaders (1959), a very cheap, quite short and surprisingly effective bit of hokum — with a bit of anti-nuke stuff tossed into the mix.

Invisible Invaders LC7John Agar’s a scientist. John Carradine is conked out in a lab explosion. And the producers were certainly glad the aliens turned out to be invisible. Maury Gertzman, who shot some great stuff for Universal in the 40s and early 50s, makes this thing look far better than it should. Can’t wait to see it in anamorphic high-definition this June. All 67 minutes of it.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, John Agar, John Carradine, Kino Lorber, Uncategorized

Blu-Ray News #41: Journey To The Seventh Planet (1962).

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Produced and Directed by Sidney Pink
Starring John Agar, Greta Thyssen, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heinrich

Kino Lorber has promised some more glorious junk from AIP for 2016 Blu-ray release — Sidney Pink’s Journey To The Seventh Planet (1962).

John Agar headed to Denmark to star in this tale of a United Nations expedition to the planet Uranus (cut the jokes). Before long, a giant pulsating brain is reading the astronauts’ thoughts and presenting them as hallucinations. Hence, all the girls seen in the lobby card below.

Sidney Pink has already produced The Angry Red Planet (1969), which I always liked, and Reptilicus (1961), which even at eight I thought was pretty crummy. If you know those films, you probably know what to expect here.

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Filed under 1962, AIP, John Agar, Kino Lorber

Blu-ray News #29: Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

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Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva

I keep hearing all these good things about the German Blu-rays of the Universal horror pictures from Koch Media, especially Tarantula (1955). And now, Koch has announced Revenge Of The Creature (1955), the second Creature movie, for Blu-ray release in August. This time, the 3D will be the red-green anaglyph kind in standard definition, making this not a true 3D Blu-ray. But to me, the appeal comes for the film itself in high-def and framed in its original 1.85.

Revenge Of The Creature is a good one — and a thousand times better than the one that came after it, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).

Thanks to Dick Vincent for relaying the news. Isn’t that Reynold Brown artwork great?

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Filed under 1955, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Nestor Paiva

DVD Review: Hand Of Death (1962).

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Directed by Gene Nelson
Written and Produced by Eugene Ling
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Music Composed and Conducted by Sonny Burke

Cast: John Agar (Alex Marsh), Paula Raymond (Carol Wilson), Stephen Dunne (Tom Holland), Roy Gordon (Dr. Frederick Ramsey), John Alonzo (Carlos), Jack Younger (Mike), Joe Besser (Gas station attendent), Butch Patrick (Davey)

You know you’re having a good day when a black-and-white CinemaScope monster movie starring John Agar that you’ve never seen shows up in your mailbox. In my case, such a day came courtesy of Hand Of Death (1962), a 60-minute cheeseball masterpiece from Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc. It’s a picture that’s been almost impossible to see over the last few decades, especially in something resembling its original CinemaScope.

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Working in a desert laboratory, research scientist Alex Marsh (John Agar) develops a powerful nerve gas. Accidentally exposed to it, he becomes a hideous, burned, swollen monster — and anyone he touches dies. The last half of the picture finds Agar driving around L.A. in a Chrysler station wagon, killing a cab driver, and eventually winding up in Malibu where he terrifies his girlfriend (Paula Raymond) in a beach house before the cops catch up with him.

Hand Of Death gave musical actor Gene Nelson his first directing credit. He’d go on to direct the two Elvis movies Sam Katzman produced, Kissin’ Cousins (1964) and Harum Scarum (1965).

John Agar: “Hand Of Death was [Gene Nelson’s] first shot at directing, and I thought he did a very good job for his first go at it.”

Nelson was mentored along the way by Maury Dexter, who seemed to be cranking out one of these API features about every week. Nelson’s job was no doubt made even easier by having master cameraman Floyd Crosby on hand. This was around the time Crosby was collaborating with Roger Corman on pictures like Pit And The Pendulum (1961), working wonders on a low budget. Carlos, Agar’s lab assistant, is played by John Alonzo, who’d leave acting to become a cinematographer (his work on Chinatown is beautiful). Wonder if watching Crosby at work influenced Alonzo’s career change?

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Bob Mark, a veteran makeup man who spent years at Republic Pictures, handled Agar’s bloated, crusty head and hands — which resemble The Thing from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four comics.

John Agar: “First they got some long johns and padded ’em to make me look like I weighed about 400 pounds. Then they had this grotesque mask — a complete hood — and very large hands, to make me look burned… It wasn’t that bad — except at the very end, when I finally died. We went out to Malibu for a scene where I run into the ocean trying to get away from the police, and they shoot me. When I fell, the waves started knocking me around, and with that mask over my face I didn’t know where I was! My eyes were set way back and the mask was sticking way out in front, and the only thing I could see was just directly straight out. I couldn’t see the waves coming — that water was crashin’ on me, and I was flopping around, supposed to be dead! That was quite an experience.”

The monster getup is pretty impressive. It doesn’t let Agar get very expressive, but since all he’s called to do is grunt and get mad and bust stuff, it’s fine. Of course, by the early 60s, Agar had been in a slew of these movies, from great ones like Tarantula (1955) to The Brain From Planet Arous (1957). He’s pretty good here, delivering the typical pseudo-science dialogue with authority. Paula Raymond is able to make her role a bit more than the usual screaming girlfriend.

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The picture also benefits from Sonny Burke’s jazzy score, which mixes organ, theremin and bongos to great effect. It gives the picture a little extra snap, and I’d give my right arm for a soundtrack LP. (I knew Burke from my Frank Sinatra records and his work on 1969’s The Wild Bunch.)

Hand Of Death is a cheap monster movie. You could even say very cheap. Agar becoming a monster isn’t a cosmic punishment — he simply knocks over a flask and gets the stuff on his hands, so it doesn’t have the Beware Of Science message you find in so many of these things. It doesn’t build to a Big Finish, though it has its moments (usually when someone first sees Agar’s deflicted* head). But for some reason, it all comes together — the cast, the cinematography, the music, the makeup — into something I love.

There have been complaints about a few of the transfers from Fox’s Cinema Archives collection, namely pan-and-scan versions of Scope pictures. But I can’t imagine how Hand Of Death could look any better than it does. It’s clean and crisp, with contrast, grain and framing the way they should be. This isn’t the kind of movie you’re likely to see turn up on Blu-ray, and since this DVD-R (available from major online retailers) looks so good, that isn’t a problem.

For Hand Of Death to go from practically lost to looking like this, is wonderful. Is this a good movie? No. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Source: On The Good Ship Hollywood: The John Agar Story by John Agar and L.C. Van Savage.

* Deflicted is a Frank Zappa word, not a real word.

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Filed under 1962, 20th Century-Fox, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Agar, Lippert/Regal/API

DVD News #26: The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1962).

Day Mars Invaded Earth HS

Produced and directed by Maury Dexter
Starring Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, William Mims, Lowell Brown

In the late 50s, Lippert Pictures made a slew of low-budget, black-and-white, widescreen films for 20th Century-Fox — released under the name Regal Films, with CinemaScope renamed Regalscope. The arrangement continued into the 60s under the name Associated Producers, Inc.

The Day Mars Invaded The Earth (1962) is one of the better ones, I think. Made on a shoestring, Maury Dexter makes sure we see more on the Scope screen than the budget would have you expect, thanks largely to the use of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. It’s an odd take on the whole alien invasion thing, with some creepy moments that continue to haunt those of us who saw it as a kid.

Maury Dexter (in Tim Weaver’s I Talked With A Zombie): “…On this one I was keenly aware of wanting to try to get… a weird feel, if that’s the right word. Something a little different, a little eerie.”

Dexter got what he was aiming for. It’s a creepy little movie. And we can get it April 7 from Fox’s Cinema Archives collection. Released the same day is API’s Hand Of Death (1962) starring John Agar.

I recommend another one of Dexter’s API films, House Of The Damned (1963), which also makes good use of Greystone Mansion.

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Filed under 1962, 1963, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Agar, Lippert/Regal/API, Marie Windsor, Maury Dexter, Robert Lippert