Category Archives: John Agar

Blu-Ray News #172: Creature From the Black Lagoon: Complete Legacy Collection (1954-1956).

Universal has announced that their Creature From The Black Lagoon – Complete Legacy Collection set is coming to Blu-Ray. It includes Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge Of The Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). The first two were in 3-D and directed by the great Jack Arnold (and feature Nestor Paiva).

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Revenge is finally making its way to Blu-Ray in 3-D. For me, the great benefit of this set will be having all three pictures in their original 1.85 aspect ratio. While the first two are among my all-time favorite films — and I’ve got a pile of Creature toys to prove it, Walks Among Us is a mess. But I’m looking forward to revisiting it in high definition. This stuff is essential, folks.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, 3-D, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Julie Adams, Nestor Paiva, Richard Carlson, Universal (-International)

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

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 W. 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