Category Archives: Lesley Selander

Blu-Ray Review: Flight To Mars (1951).

Directed by Lesley Selander
Screenplay by Arthur Strawn
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: Richard V. Heermance
Music by Marlin Skiles

Cast: Marguerite Chapman (Alita), Cameron Mitchell (Steve Abbott), Arthur Franz (Dr. Jim Barker), Virginia Huston (Carol Stafford), John Litel (Dr. Lane), Morris Ankrum (Ikron)

__________

If there’s a recipe for cooking up a perfect 50s B movie, you can bet it was used to whip up Flight To Mars (1951). Let’s see. You’ve got the great B director Lesley Selander. There’s Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz and Morris Ankrum in the cast. There’s the lovely Martian maiden (Marguerite Chapman) in her interstellar miniskirt. And it’s all in Cinecolor from the fine folks at Monogram Pictures.

A team of American scientists, accompanied by a newspaperman (Cameron Mitchell), take a rocket ride to Mars. (Mitchell smokes through much of the flight.) Once they crash on the Red Planet, the seemingly-friendly people of Mars start plotting to imprison the Earthlings and use their damaged rocket to plan the Martian migration to Earth. You see, Mars is running low on the crucial element Corium…

There’s an element of hope in 50s science fiction that find very attractive, and Flight To Mars has it in spades. In movies like this, you can “trust the science” (and scientists) without a trace of irony or sarcasm. 

Note that they had to do some retouching to Marguerite Chapman’s outfit.

Flight To Mars, with its “Mars N Miniskirts” theme (Marguerite Chapman looks great in her Martian attire), is part of a rich cinema heritage. There’s also Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953, with Marie Windsor), Devil Girl From Mars (1954), World Without End (1955),  Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1956), Queen Of Outer Space (1957) and Invasion Of The Star Creatures (1962). That’d make a helluva weekend retrospective, wouldn’t it?

There’s a strong tie between Flight To Mars and both World Without End and Queen Of Outer Space — both use rocket footage from this one, severely cropped for CinemaScope. All three were released by Monogram or Allied Artisits — same company, different names.

Producer Walter Mirisch was trying to take things up a notch at Monogram, and it’s obvious they splurged a bit (relatively speaking) on Flight To Mars.

A Martian clock, made in Zeeland, Michigan.

There are the effects and Cinecolor, of course. A cast with a few name actors in it. Some interesting sets for the underground Martian city, complete with a Herman Miller ball clock (designed by George Nelson). And a handful of nice matte paintings (certainly inspired by 1936’s Things To Come).

But you’ll still see some of the usual Poverty Row tricks — the cast is tiny, the sets are often reconfigured to create new spaces, and for a movie about space flight, there’s very little space actually seen. And it was all shot in just five days!

The Film Detective treated Flight To Mars to a 4K restoration from the picture’s original 35mm Cinecolor separation negatives. On the whole, it looks wonderful. The Cinecolor is terrific, given the process’s odd, limited color palette. Some scenes are sharper than others, with the Mars portion of the movie looking best. The grain’s a bit clunky in some scenes, but I’m so glad nobody tried to process it away. Never thought I’d see it look like this. The sound is quite nice, with more range than you’d expect. There are a couple of nice documentaries from Ballyhoo, a commentary from Justin Humphreys and an essay by Don Stradley. 

I adore Monogram Pictures Corporation and have a real soft spot for many of their movies, no matter how good they actually are. I love Flight To Mars — and what The Film Detective has done with it. Highly, highly recommended.

11 Comments

Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Lesley Selander, Monogram/Allied Artists, Morris Ankrum, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #343: Silver Screams Cinema Collection (1945 – 1957).

Imprint has announced their upcoming Silver Screams Cinema Collection, six pictures (complete with extras) on three Blu-Ray discs. You might dismiss this as a bit of a random, grab bag assortment of old horror movies. But that downplays all the cool stuff that’s in here — some Republic stuff, one of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine and a couple of Regalscope pictures. You get:

The Phantom Speaks (1945)
Directed by John English
Starring Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers

The Vampire’s Ghost (1945)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring John Abbott, Charles Gordon, Peggy Stewart, Grant Withers, Emmett Vogan, Adele Mara

Valley Of The Zombies (1946)
Directed by Philip Ford
Starring Robert Livingston, Lorna Gray, Ian Keith, Thomas E. Jackson

Return Of The Ape Man (1946)
Directed by Philip Rosen
Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco, Frank Moran, Judith Gibson

She Devil (1957)
Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Mari Blanchard, Jack Kelly, Albert Dekker

Unknown Terror (1957)
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring John Howard, Mala Powers, Paul Richards, May Wynn

To me, the real jewel here is the last film, Unknown Terror, a pretty solid Regalscope picture. You won’t find this one in widescreen anywhere else, and having it in high definition is an added treat. It’s a pretty good example of the ultra-cheap Regal films. It concerns mutants and rampant fungus — and has a good part for the lovely Mala Powers.

Imprint always does really nice work, so you can count on this set being top-notch. Recommended.

10 Comments

Filed under 1957, Bela Lugosi, Charles Marquis Warren, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Zucco, Imprint Films, John Carradine, Lesley Selander, Lippert/Regal/API, Mala Powers, Mari Blanchard, Monogram/Allied Artists, Republic Pictures, Sam Katzman, The Monogram Nine

Blu-Ray News #339: Flight To Mars (1951).

Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston, John Litel, Morris Ankrum

The same year (1951) that Kenneth Tobey and Margaret Sheridan locked horns with The Thing From Another World, Cameron Mitchell went on a Flight To Mars and discovered chicks in shiny mini skirts. Which vision of life from other planets would you prefer?

Before you answer that, consider that in Flight To Mars, once the American scientists land on the Red Planet, the seemingly-friendly people of Mars start plotting to imprison the Earthlings and use their ship to plan their migration to Earth. You see, Mars is running low on the crucial element Corium…

All you need to know in order to put this one atop your Want List is that it’s from Lesley Selander and Monogram, there are the usual Martian women in the aforementioned mini skirts (in Cinecolor!) and that Morris Ankrum is a Martian leader named Ikorn. You’re all set to pre-order this little jewel, aren’t you?

Oh, and remember that Monogram (now called Allied Artists) would crop the spaceship effects for ‘Scope for World Without End (1956). That picture would add mutants and giant spiders to the Mars-and-miniskirts plot.

Warner Archive brought us a beautiful (and complete) restoration of The Thing a couple years ago. And now The Film Detective is giving Flight To Mars similar treatment. We’ve got to wait till July, but they’re promising a 4K restoration from original 35mm Cinecolor Separation Negatives — and a healthy batch of extras. From the two-color Technicolor of The Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933) to some of the Trucolor Republics from Kino Lorber, we’ve seen some amazing results from these cheaper, more limited color processes. Flight To Mars should look otherworldly. This is my kind of mind-rotting nonsense! Highly recommended.

5 Comments

Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kenneth Tobey, Lesley Selander, Monogram/Allied Artists, Morris Ankrum, The Film Detective

DVD/Blu-Ray News #146: The Vampire’s Ghost (1945).

Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring John Abbott, Charles Gordon, Grant Withers, Peggy Stewart, Adele Mara

Neither Republic Pictures nor director Lesley Selander made many horror movies. Which makes The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) something worth seeking out. Add to that the fact that it’s got both Peggy Stewart and Adele Mara in it, with a story from the great Leigh Brackett, and it’s not to be missed.

The Vampire’s Ghost is making it way to DVD and Blu-Ray thanks to Olive Films in time for Halloween.

1 Comment

Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lesley Selander, Olive Films, Republic Pictures

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Blackmail (1947) By Guest Blogger John Knight.

Blackmail 47 TC

Directed by Lesley Selander
Screen Play by Royal K. Cole
Original Story by Robert Leslie Bellem
Additional Dialogue by Albert DeMond
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: William Marshall (Dan Turner), Adele Mara (Sylvia Duane), Ricardo Cortez (Ziggy Cranston), Grant Withers (Inspector Donaldson), Stephanie Bachelor (Carla), Richard Fraser (Antoine le Blanc), Roy Barcroft (Spice Kellaway), George J. Lewis (Blue Chip Winslow), Robert J. Wilke

__________

Republic blogathon badgeThis is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

For starters, in this quirky, fun Noir we get not one but two Femme Fatales: slinky, mysterious Stephanie Batchelor and Republic’s regular sweetie Adele Mara.

L.A showbiz tycoon (Ricardo Cortez) with a gambling addiction, is slipped a Shanghai-ball by a tomato (as the script would have it) and becomes involved in a shakedown, murder and blackmail.

To sort out this mess, he hires a New York gumshoe (William Marshall, who certainly puts the “hard” in hard-nosed). No sooner has Marshall arrived on the scene when Cortez is framed for another murder. Marshall not only has to contend with gambling syndicate goons, but also a police chief (Grant Withers) who resents this East Coast interloper on his patch.

Stylishly shot by Reggie Lanning, we get a barrage of one-liners from serial expert Royal Cole. The fast pacing is what we’ve come to expect from Lesley Selander. There is a car chase and three slug-fests….the final one is a real doozy. With the constant flow of hardboiled dialogue, the audience is given another mystery to decipher: was the film intended as a parody of private eye flicks? The cast plays it pretty much straight.

Blackmail 47 LC3

My favorite one-liners:
Withers (on first encountering Adele Mara): “Who’s this bright young tomato”
Marshall: “She’s this years entry for mis-information.”

It gets better:
Withers (after Marshall bursts into his office): “I have a desk clerk to announce visitors, that includes shamuses and other vermin.”
Marshall:” Is this a bureau of homicide or insecticide?”

Marshall’s favorite tipple is a dry Martini without the olive… it takes up too much room in the glass. He’s endearingly unlikeable in this film, but apparently was not too likable in real life. According to imdb, when Marshall was directing Adventures Of Captain Fabian (1951), Errol Flynn got so fed up with Marshall’s bombastic attitude, he stormed off the set. Marshall had to complete the film using Flynn’s stunt double. The picture was a critical and commercial flop, and Marshall didn’t directed another film until The Phantom Planet (1961), a cult favorite. Marshall was married several times. Three of his wives were actresses: Michele Morgan, Micheline Presle and Ginger Rogers.

The_Bakersfield_Californian_Mon__Jul_5__1948_Oddly enough, Lesley Selander never directed a Republic A movie, while other Republic B directors — such as Joseph Kane, R.G. Springsteen and William Witney — moved up to A Westerns starring the likes of Rod Cameron, Forrest Tucker, William Elliott, John Payne, Sterling Hayden and John Derek. Joseph Kane was more than Republic’s top contract director; he was their “rock.” When bona fide A list stars were enticed over to Republic, Kane directed their vehicles: Fred MacMurray in Fair Wind To Java (1953) and Barbara Stanwyk in The Maverick Queen (1956). At that time, Selander also moved up to higher budgets, mainly for Allied Artists and Bel-Air — who released their films through United Artists. Selander also got the occasional major studio gig — he did The Raiders (1952) for Universal and Tall Man Riding (1955) for Warner Brothers. As the Fifties moved on, Republic struggled and reverted more or less to a B Movie outfit. Trucolor was more or less dispensed with and fewer Westerns were made. They made more and more B Crime Thrillers and the then popular J.D.Movies. From Kane we got fare like The Man Who Died Twice (1958) and The Crooked Circle (1957). Springsteen gave us I Cover The Underworld (1955) and When Gangland Strikes (1956), and Witney contributed City Of Shadows (1955), Juvenile Jungle (1958) and Young And Wild (1958). Selander returned to the fold for a couple of these later quickies: Taming Sutton’s Gal and The Wayward Girl (both 1957).
The_Wilkes_Barre_Record_Wed__Dec_17__1947_
Most of these later Republics had the attraction of being filmed in widescreen Naturama. They’re impossible to see in that ratio today. Even sadder, no-one seems interested in releasing them. Those final Republic B’s (which included several good Westerns like The Lawless Eighties and Hell’s Crossroads) are trapped in the vaults, along with most of the other great titles in the Republic catalog. How long these films will remain unreleased remains to be seen.
__________
John Knight calls himself “a ‘Muswell Hillbilly’ by birth, now retired and living on the Isle Of Wight. A lifelong film fanatic, my ‘education’ on film was mainly gained in the fleapits of London and many visits to the National Film Theatre on London’s Southbank.”

18 Comments

Filed under Adele Mara, Lesley Selander, Republic Pictures