Produced & Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford, Beau Bridges, Joy Harmon, Robert Random, Tisha Sterling, Toni Basil, Ron Howard, The Beau Brummels
Another movie about big stuff from Bert I. Gordon. This one marries Gordon’s typical size-related theme to a Beach Party atmosphere. It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber later this year.
A group of teenager eats some stuff called Goo and “zoom to supersize.” The gang of 30-foot-tall juvenile delinquents then terrorize the small town of Hainesville. It’s mostly played for laughs, adding in cool elements like The Beau Brummels, music by Jack Nitzsche, Ed Roth’s Surfite and the worst fake giant legs you’ve ever seen. Some of Village Of The Giants was shot at Universal on the same town square set we know from It Came From Outer Space (1953), Gremlins (1984) and Back To The Future (1985).
The whole thing is a lot of dumb fun. Recommended.
Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren
Stanley Donen directed a couple of my favorite films of the 60s, Charade (1963) and Bedazzled (1967). In between, he did Arabesque (1966), a fun piece of Hitchcockian eye candy starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.
Donen offered the lead to Cary Grant, who’d starred in Charade. Grant turned it down, and the part went to Peck. He’s a hieroglyphics expert who can decode a secret message — and who ends up pursued by sinister agents with Sophia Loren in tow. The story’s slight, but Donen and cinematographer Christopher Challis more than make up for it with all kinds of Technicolor-Panavision loveliness.
Henry Mancini cooked up a great score, which The Ventures covered (only released as a 45). Robert McGinnis did the terrific poster art (up top) between his work for Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967).
Flashy 60s pictures like this are perfect for Blu-Ray, and this one comes highly recommended.
Directed by Basil Dearden
Starring Cliff Robertson, Jack Hawkins, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Bill Fraser, Charles Gray
Kino Lorber has announced that they’re bringing Basil Deardon’s spy comedy Masquerade (1965) to Blu-Ray in September.
Cliff Robertson replaced Rex Harrison in the lead, and the script was revised by William Goldman to add an American spin on Robertson’s dialogue. For fans of Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968) Maris Mell has a great part here. There were so many of these types of things playing theaters in the mid-60s as Bond-mania spread across the globe not unlike the coronavirus.
Shot in Spain by the great Otto Heller (The Ladykillers, Peeping Tom, The Ipcress File), this will be a real piece of eye candy in high definition. Recommended.
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Starring Gale Sondergaard, Brenda Joyce, Kirby Grant, Milburn Stone, Rondo Hatton
Regardless of its title, and even though Gale Sondergaard is in it, The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) is not a sequel to Sherlock Holmes And The Spider Woman (1943).
A 59-minute horror picture directed by Arthur Lubin — whose usual output was comedies like Buck Privates (1941) and Rhubarb (1951), this was an attempt to launch another Universal Monster series. It didn’t work, and The Spider Woman Strikes Back became a rather overlooked little monster movie from Universal. The studio tried a similar tactic with The Brute Man (1946) starring Rondo Hatton — which they eventually sold to PRC.
The picture was shot by Paul Ivano, whose long career behind the camera runs from Greed (1924) and the silent Ben Hur (1925) to Frankenstein (1931) and Gone With The Wind (1939) to The Frozen Ghost (1945) to hundreds of TV shows. He was under contract at Universal in the mid-40s, and his pictures always look terrific.
Kino Lorber is bringing this goofy little monster movie to Blu-Ray sometime this summer.
Directed by George Sherman
Starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters
While I’m a sucker for his Westerns, you can count me in on anything from George Sherman. He was a top-notch “journeyman” or contract director, and please don’t take that as a knock to his prowess. He made some great movies.
Larceny (1948) is built around one of the scuzziest plot points ever — a con man (John Payne) trying to snake a war widow (Joan Caulfield) out of money allegedly for a memorial to her husband. When Payne has second thoughts, and develops a thing for the widow, the boss (Dan Duryea) won’t let him out of it — then Duryea’s moll (Shelley Winters) really louses things up.
Noir works best when it’s kept lean and tight, which makes it perfect for George Sherman. This is a terrific movie, and it’ll be great to see Irving Glassberg’s cinematography in high definition. Coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber in July. Highly recommended.
Directed by George Sherman
Starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters
George Sherman was at Universal-International from 1948 to 1956. He directed a lot of Westerns, along with some crime/noir pictures and adventure things. Not a lot of ’em have made their way to DVD, much less Blu-Ray. So Larceny (1948), a cool noir with John Payne and Dan Duryea, coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber is big news.
We should see it turn up this summer.
Lately, I’ve been wanting to watch The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) again. It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down with it, and my daughter has never seen it. So I dug out my Blu-Ray — and was instantly reminded why it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I don’t have anything worth watching.
There’s plenty out there on the internet about what’s wrong with every single version of the film available on video. The old laserdisc from 1993, which was sourced from an actual print, came the closest to what US audiences saw back in 1967. Everything since has a list of problems a mile long, from missing stuff to badly added stuff to a botched surround mix to color that turns everything the color of urine, even the sky. Of course, that sickly yellow has become the color of choice for film transfers these days, rendering them all unwatchable. Even The Searchers isn’t immune to it.
What’s really troubling about a film like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is that so many of us have seen it a million times, we know what it’s supposed to look, and sound, like. They can’t pull one over on us so easily. We’re onto them. Why is everything so yellow? That’s not what the guns are supposed to sound like. When the 16mm print I used to check out of the library looks and sounds better than the latest 4K “restoration,” something ain’t right.
There are old prints of Leone’s masterpiece out there. The IB Tech ones won’t fade — they’re the perfect color reference, no matter how scratched or spliced up they might be. Hell, I’d prefer a decent scan from one of those prints to what’s out there now.
This is a time when even the smallest of movies are coming to Blu-Ray with startling results. Giant From The Unknown (1958) is a good example. Doesn’t one of the biggest deserve at last as good?
Evidently so, since there’s yet another The Good, The Bad And The Ugly on the way from Kino Lorber. We’re promised the original theatrical cut, in glorious mono, with a 1967 IB Tech print used as a guide and occasional source. It’ll be both 4K and Blu-Ray, I believe. This sounds promising, but I’ll wait and see how this one shakes out before I lay down my fistful of dollars.
Directed by Ib Melchior
Starring Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders, John Hoyt, Joan Woodbury, Delores Welles, Forrest Ackerman
Who can resist a picture from American International in 1964 that gives you a Playboy Playmate (Delores Welles, June 1960), hideous mutants and Forrest J. Ackerman and promises to let you “SEE women use the Love Machine to allay the male shortage!”
Merry Anders and Delores Welles dig the future.
Ib Melchior’s ideas were too big for his budget, but he still managed to pull off a pretty big-looking sci-fi flick. This thing just oozes mid-century, early 60s cool — from the costumes and hairstyles to the sets and the tacky Pathécolor (shot by the great Vilmos Zsigmond).
Scorpion Releasing is bringing this crazy thing to Blu-Ray, distributed by Kino Lorber, in April. Highly recommended.
Directed by Charles B. Pierce
Starring Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde, Mel Ferrer, Jack Elam, Susie Coelho, Christopher Connelly, Jimmy Clem, Deacon Jones
When it comes to costume films, I tend to prefer the cheap, cheesy exploitation pictures to the serious epic ones. And they don’t come much cheesier than the gloriously stupid The Norseman (1978) starring Lee Majors.
The premise is pretty simple: the Six Million Dollar Man is a Viking who comes to North America about 500 years before Columbus got here — and has to fight it out with the Indians. And in a subplot that’s never fleshed out, the Viking Jack Elam must’ve fraternized with the Native American ladies, since his wild-eyed bloodline turns up in lots of Westerns in the 1950s.
Lee Majors did The Norseman between The Six Million Dollar Man and The Fall Guy. He got half a million bucks and a percentage. Cornel Wilde and Mel Ferrer round out the cast. Charles B. Pierce (The Legend Of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) wrote, produced and directed it, and American International handled the distribution. It’s pretty terrible, but that’s of little consequence here.
I love to see anything bearing an AIP logo make it to Blu-Ray, and Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing are bringing The Norseman to the format in February of 2021. See, once we get out of 2020, things are gonna get better.
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau
The Train (1965) is a terrific action picture – and though it takes place in the later days of World War II, it’s not a war movie in the usual sense. It was shot on location in France, blowing up real stuff and wrecking real trains, with Burt Lancaster doing his own stunts.
Lancaster is a railroad worker and part of the French Resistance, near the end of the war in Europe, trying to keep the Nazis from leaving France with a train loaded with plundered artwork. He spends most of the film doing all he can to delay the train — knowing the Allies will arrive soon. Whether he’s wrecking trains, running around with a German MP 40 machine gun, or just standing around smoking, Lancaster is unbelievably cool in this movie.
Lancaster, Frankenheimer and The Train.
Arthur Penn was to direct, but he was fired after a few days. John Frankenheimer was brought in — and he stopped everything to rethink the picture a bit. As much as I like Arthur Penn, I think The Train was better suited to Frankenheimer. It’s a top-notch suspense film.
The B&W cinematography from Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz is really something — so is the editing by David Bretherton. If the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray (coming in January) looks like the previous Twilight Time release, it’ll be stunning. Highly, highly recommended.