Category Archives: Kit Parker

Blu-Ray Review: The Crooked Web (1955).

Directed by Nathan Hertz Juran
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screenplay by Lou Breslow
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant

Cast: Frank Lovejoy (Stanley Fabian), Mari Blanchard (Joanie Daniel), Richard Denning (Frank Daniel), John Mylong (Herr Koenig), Harry Lauter (Sgt. Mike Jancoweizc), Steven Ritch (Ramon ‘Ray’ Torres), Lou Merrill (Herr Schmitt)

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With some movies, you can smell the next plot point, or even the rest of the picture, a mile away. The experience is then reduced to just waiting around to see if you were right — unless you just give up on the whole thing. Then there are movies that make a point of not only zigging when you expect them to zag, but doing it so frequently you can’t possibly get ahead of them. The Crooked Web (1955) is one of those movies.

As a favor, you’re not going to get much of a synopsis out of me. Stan (Frank Lovejoy) owns a drive-in restaurant and he’s sweet on Joanie (Mari Blanchard), one of his carhops. One afternoon, Joanie’s brother Frank (Richard Denning) pulls up to say hello.

The Crooked Web makes great use of Stan’s Drive-In at the corner of Sunset and Highland in Hollywood. Giving Mark Lovejoy’s character the name Stan lets them show us all that wonderful signage. As soon as the movie was over, I hopped online to see if Stan’s was still around. Sadly, it’s not.

All these twists and turns are the work of Lou Breslow, who gets credit for both the story and screenplay. He takes this one way beyond what you expect from Sam Katzman’s unit. Breslow’s credits stretch back to the silents and he worked on pictures like W.C. Field’s masterpiece It’s A Gift (1934), Charlie Chan At The Race Track (1936), Mr. Moto Takes A Chance (1938), Shooting High with Gene Autry (1940), Blondie Goes To College (1942), Abbott & Costello In Hollywood (1945) and My Favorite Spy (1951). The Crooked Web was his last feature, though he did lots of TV.

Before trying his hand at directing, Nathan Juran was an art director — one of the gaggle of geniuses behind the Oscar-winning designs for John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941). Juran directed a handful of pictures, mostly Westerns at Universal-International, before taking on The Crooked Web. He found his sweet spot in horror/sci-fi/fantasy stuff, and he’d go on to do 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958). His Western Good Day For A Hanging (1958) starring Fred MacMurray is really terrific.

A picture like The Crooked Web can’t really work if its cast isn’t up to snuff. And the three leads here are top-notch — pros going about their business. Beginning with Lovejoy being head over heels for Blanchard, everybody’s believable enough to escort us from one plot twist to another. Frank Lovejoy is excellent in this one. Richard Denning was so good as a creep in both Hangman’s Knot (1952) and Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) that I have a hard time seeing him as anything else.

I’ve always liked Mari Blanchard, especially in Rails Into Laramie (1954) and Stagecoach To Fury (1957). She’s very good here, though she was probably hired primarily for her eye-candy-ness. She had a pretty incredible life, overcoming polio as a child — look her up sometime. Her last feature was McLintock! (1963). Cancer took her in 1970.

The Crooked Web is part of Kit Parker’s Noir Archive, Volume 2 (1954-1955), a nine-movie, three-disc Blue-Ray set. It looks terrific — all nine pictures do. I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating: seeing B movies like this on Blu-Ray can be a real revelation. The craft that went into these things has been obscured by washed-out TV prints and sorry-looking VHS tapes. People like cinematographer Henry Freulich certainly deserve to have their work seen in the best possible condition. And that’s exactly how you see The Crooked Web here. The movie comes highly recommended — and the Blu-Ray set, well, it’s essential.

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Filed under 1955, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Nathan Juran, Richard Denning, 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 Review: Escape In The Fog (1945).

Directed by Oscar (Budd) Boetticher, Jr.
Screenplay by Aubrey Wisberg
Cinematography: George Meehan
Film Editor: Jerome Thoms

Cast: Otto Kruger (Paul Devon), Nina Foch (Eileen Carr), William Wright (Barry Malcolm), Konstantin Shayne (Schiller), Ivan Triesault (Hausmer, Schiller’s Henchman), Ernie Adams (George Smith)

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Escape In The Fog (1945) is one of the pictures featured in Noir Archive, Volume 1 (1944-1954), a nine-movie, three-disc Blue-Ray set from Mill Creek, “curated” by Kit Parker. Now folks, we all owe Mr. Parker and the gang at Mill Creek a big fat thank you, because there are two more of these wonderful sets on the way, each one offering a wealth of deep, dark, cynical, noir-y riches. Some are A pictures, but most of Bs — a ratio I like a whole lot.

The B movie units at Columbia churned out some really cool movies in the 40s and 50s, some of my all-time favorites — from noir/mystery/crime stuff like The Whistler series to Westerns like The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954) to horror stuff like The Devil Commands (1941). A few of the guys who directed these things went on to bigger things, such as Mr. Budd Boetticher. In Escape In The Fog, you won’t see the stylistic and thematic stuff that makes Boetticher’s later Westerns the masterworks that they are. But you will see the economy, efficiency and pacing that all his pictures benefit from, along with a real skill at building tension, something he’d put to terrific use in The Killer Is Loose (1956).

Nina Foch is a Navy nurse who has a vivid dream of a man being attacked on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge. That dream becomes a reality, she becomes involved with the guy getting pounded in her dream (William Wright) and they’re soon wrapped up in wartime espionage involving federal agents, Otto Kruger and Nazi spies. It all comes together pretty well, making for a solid 63 minutes.

Budd Boetticher’s movies remind me of Anthony Mann pictures in that the location often plays as big a role in the story as the people — Lone Pine is almost as important as Randolph Scott. There’s none of that here, but the frame totally filled with fog is quite effective — not only adding to the atmosphere, but concealing just how cheap this 12-day picture really is.

Columbia has always done a great job of keeping their material in tip-top shape, and this set, all nine movies, look fresh and crisp and sharp. Of course, some look a little better than others, but across the board they’re stunning. In spite of their often tiny budgets, the craftspeople who worked on these things made sure they looked good — and time hasn’t changed that one bit. If anything, high-definition might accentuate the incredible look of these films.

Escape In The Fog is a neat little movie. And this set is essential stuff — for fans of noir, of B moviemaking or of any of the casts and crews represented here. So, thank you Mr. Parker and the folks at Mill Creek. Looking forward to the next one!

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Filed under Budd Boetticher, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kit Parker, Mill Creek

Blu-Ray News #233: Noir Archive Volume 3: 1956-1960.

I’ve been making my way through the first glorious volume of this terrific series from Kit Parker and Mill Creek Entertainment, and now they’ve announced the third. There’s another great lineup on the way (no pun intended).

The Shadow On The Window (1956)
Directed by William Asher
Starring Phil Carey, Betty Garrett, John Barrymore, Jr., Jerry Mathers

Jerry Mathers goes into shock after seeing his mom hassled by a group of thugs, then helps his dad (Phil Carey) and the cops rescue her. The Beaver is really good in this.

The Long Haul (1957)
Directed by Ken Hughes
Starring Victor Mature, Diana Dors

A British noir picture with Mature all tangled up in the shifty trucking industry — and a hood’s girlfriend.

Pickup Alley 6S

Pickup Alley (1957, UK Title: Interpol)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Victor Mature, Anita Ekberg, Trevor Howard

Victor Mature and Anita Ekberg in a B&W Scope picture about dope smugglers — directed by the guy who did The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)! Where’s this movie been all my life?

The Tijuana Story (1957)
Directed by Leslie Kardos
Starring Rodolfo Acosta, James Darren, Jean Willes

Another lurid geography lesson from the great Sam Katzman. I love Rodolfo Acosta — his tiny part in One-Eyed Jacks includes one of the coolest single shots in all of Cinema, if you ask me (which you didn’t). Here, he’s got the lead!

She Played With Fire (1957, UK Title: Fortune Is A Woman)
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
Starring Jack Hawkins, ArleneDahl, DennisPrice, ChristopherLee
More UK noir, this one about a painting and insurance fraud.

The Lineup (1958)
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Eli Wallach, Robert Keith, Warner Anderson, Richard Jaeckel

The TV series is turned into a typically tough and tight Don Siegel film. Siegel’s San Francisco movies (this and Dirty Harry) really get in the way of the city’s whole peace and love/hippie vibe. This time, it’s a town crawling with dope, crooks and killers. This set’s worth it for this one alone!

The Case Against Brooklyn (1958)
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Starring Darren McGavin, Maggie Hayes, Warren Stevens, Nestor Paiva, Brian G. Hutton

A documentary-style, true-story crooked cop picture starring Darren McGaven. Paul Wendkos also did The Legend Of Lizzie Borden (1975). Produced by Charles H. Schneer in-between Harryhausen movies. Oh, and Nestor Paiva’s in it.

The Crimson Kimono (1959)
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw

On the surface, it’s a detective story, but that’s never how a Fuller movie works, is it? Fuller understood that the best way to tackle an issue/message in a picture was to wrap it up in something else like a cop story or a Western. He also knew that if you stuck to B movies, the suits didn’t pay much attention and left you alone to do what you wanted. This one’s terrific.

Man On A String (1960)
Directed by Andre De Toth
Starring Ernest Borgnine, Kerwin Mathews, Alexander Scourby, Colleen Dewhurst, Glenn Corbett, Ted Knight, Seymour Cassel

Ernest Borgnine stars in this 1960 spy picture based on the life (and autobiography, Ten Years A Counterspy) of Boris Morros, a Russian-born musical director in Hollywood (John Ford’s Stagecoach, 1939) who was first a Russian spy, then a counterspy for the FBI. Andre de Toth focuses on the double-crosses that stack up like cordwood.

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Filed under 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, Andre de Toth, Christopher Lee, Columbia, Darren McGavin, Diana Dors, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ernest Borgnine, John Gilling, Kit Parker, Mill Creek, Nestor Paiva, Sam Fuller, Sam Katzman, William Asher

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

Blu-Ray News #208: Noir Archive 1944-1954, Volume 1.

I am so stoked to report on this one. Kit Parker has put together the nine-film, three-disc Blu-Ray set Noir Archive 1944-1954, Volume 1. These are pictures from Columbia and Eagle Lion, and they’ll hit the streets in April.

Address Unknown (1944)
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Starring Paul Lukas, Carl Esmond, Peter Van Eyck

Escape In The Fog (1945)
Directed by Oscar (Budd) Boetticher
Starring Otto Kruger, Nina Foch, William Wright

The Guilt Of Janet James (1947)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Rosalind Russell, Melvyn Douglas, Sid Caesar

The Black Book (aka The Reign Of Terror) (1949)
Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring Robert Cummings, Richard Basehart, Arlene Dahl

Johnny Allegro (1949)
Directed by Ted Tetzlaff
Starring George Raft, Nina Foch, George Macready

711 Ocean Drive (1950)
Directed by Joseph M. Newman
Starring Edmond O’Brien, Joanne Dru, Otto Kruger

The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)
Directed by Earl McEvoy
Starring Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, William Bishop

Assignment Paris (1952)
Directed by Earl McEvoy
Starring Dana Andrews, Marta Toren, George Sanders

The Miami Story (1954)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Barry Sullivan, Luther Adler, John Baer

Look at those casts! And those directors — Mann, Boetticher, Sears! This is going to be a great set, with the promise of more. I urge you to pick one of these up — the success of this one will lead to more!

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Filed under 1950, 1952, 1954, Anthony Mann, Barry Sullivan, Budd Boetticher, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eagle Lion, Edmond O'Brien, Fred F. Sears, George Sanders, Joseph M. Newman, Kit Parker, Richard Basehart, Sam Katzman