Category Archives: Lon Chaney Jr.

Blu-Ray News #220: The Alligator People (1959).

Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane

Scream Factory has just announced a Blu-Ray release of The Alligator People (1959) from 20th Century-Fox and Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.

This is one of those 50s monster movies that is 100% carried by its cast. Beverly Garland, one of my favorite actresses, is terrific here — as she always was in these things. This kind of hokum needs just the right touch to really work, and Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney and George Macready are on hand to help pull the whole thing of. Garland’s new husband (Richard Crane) suddenly disappears during their honeymoon. It takes her a couple years, but she tracks him down to his family’s Southern estate, where a botched medical treatment has turned him into an alligator.

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It’s clearly inspired by The Fly (1958), and it’s a load of fun. 20th Century-Fox proudly boasted that The Alligator People (and its co-feature The Return Of The Fly) were in CinemaScope, no longer releasing their black-and-white Scope pictures under the Regalscope banner. Scream Factory has done a great job with their old monster movies, and I can’t wait to see this in hi-def — backed by an alligator purse full of extras.

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Filed under 1959, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lippert/Regal/API, Lon Chaney Jr., Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray Review: The Cyclops (1957).

Written, Produced & Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Cinematography: Ira Morgan
Music by Albert Glasser
Film Editor: Carlo Lodato
Special Voice Effects: Paul Frees

Cast: James Craig (Russ Bradford), Gloria Talbott (Susan Winter), Lon Chaney (Martin ‘Marty’ Melville), Tom Drake (Lee Brand), Duncan Parkin (The Cyclops, Bruce Barton), Vincent Padula (The Governor)

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The Cyclops (1957) is 66 minutes of one-eyed wonderful-ness. It was the first in a string of pictures from writer/producer/director Bert I. Gordon where regular-sized people became very big, (oftentimes) very ugly, and ultimately very destructive. His other big pictures include The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), War Of The Colossal Beast (1958), Village Of The Giants (1965) and Food Of The Gods (1976). How does all that and Gordon’s initials, B.I.G., figure into the whole auteur theory thing? Of course, let’s not forget his change of pace, Attack Of The Puppet People (1958), where some folks (including John Agar) get smaller rather than larger.

The Cyclops goes something like this. Susan Winter (Gloria Talbott) and a group of three “adventurers” head to Mexico to locate her fiancée, Bruce Barton (Duncan Parkin), who went missing three years ago. They crash their plane in a jungle valley with very high levels of radiation where, you guessed it, all the animals are really, really big. Birds, bugs, snakes, lizards — all huge. Then, along comes a giant bald guy with a really messed-up face and a voice that sounds exactly like Paul Frees grunting and groaning.

The special effects (also by Gordon), well, they ain’t so special. The cyclops and other monsters are often oddly transparent, and it looks like very little thought went into keeping the scale of the creatures consistent from one shot to the next. A papier-mâché rock seems to dress up the oft-used entrance to Bronson Caves, but it actually provides something to superimpose the cyclops behind. (It’s weird to think that the climax of a masterpiece like The Searchers and a slew of movies like The Cyclops were shot in the exact same spot.)

All that, and it’s got Lon Chaney, Jr. in it!

The Cyclops is terrible in all the best ways. There’s a charm to it the movies will never be able to recapture. As Hollywood goes for the bigger, I’m drawn to the smaller (and older). That said, Warner Archive has The Cyclops livin’ large on Blu-Ray. It looks better than I ever thought this cheap picture would ever look. It’s sharp, the contrast and grain are absolutely perfect, and the audio is as clear as it can be. I’m so glad movies like this are getting this level of attention.

In short, The Cyclops on Blu-Ray is easy on the eye (sorry, couldn’t resist) — and highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Bert I. Gordon, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Frees, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #190: The Cyclops (1957).

Written, produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring James Craig, Lon Chaney, Gloria Talbott, Duncan Parkin

Does my eye deceive me? Could it be that Warner Archive is bringing The Cyclops (1957) to Blu-Ray?

It’s hard for me to decide which I love more, this or War Of The Colossal Beast (1958, the sequel to 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man) — both of which feature Duncan Parkin as a giant mutant freak in a loin cloth. The main point of difference is that he has just one eye in The Cyclops, naturally, and his loin cloth is more tattered.

I cannot wait to experience the splendor of this in high definition with my own eye(s). No date is set, but I hope it’s soon!

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Filed under 1957, Bert I. Gordon, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #188: Universal Classic Monsters – Complete 30-Film Collection (1931-1956).

If in its glory days, Universal made a movie about Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man or The Creature From The Black Lagoon, it’s in this box — in high definition. What more do I have to tell you?

Here’s what you get: Dracula / Drácula (Spanish version) / Frankenstein / The Mummy / The Invisible Man / Werewolf Of London / Bride Of Frankenstein / Dracula’s Daughter / Son Of Frankenstein / The Invisible Man Returns / The Mummy’s Hand / The Invisible Woman / The Wolf Man / The Mummy’s Tomb / Ghost Of Frankenstein / Invisible Agent / Son Of Dracula / Phantom Of The Opera / Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man / The Mummy’s Ghost / House Of Frankenstein / The Mummy’s Curse / The Invisible Man’s Revenge / House Of Dracula / She-Wolf Of London / Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein / Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man / Creature From The Black Lagoon / Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy / Revenge Of The Creature / The Creature Walks Among Us

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Thirty movies in all, and only one in color (Phantom Of The Opera). The Creature movies and Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy are 1.85.

a-and-c-meet-dr-jekyllJust wondering: where’s Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1953)? Guess Jekyll/Hyde’s outside their normal monster cycle.

This is a great thing, and it’s coming next week.

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Filed under 3-D, 30s Horror, Abbott & Costello, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Arnold, Jack Pierce, James Whale, John Carradine, Julie Adams, Lon Chaney Jr., Marie Windsor, Nestor Paiva, Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Tod Browning, Universal (-International), Vincent Price, Whit Bissell

DVD/Blu-Ray News #134-A: One Million BC (1940) Update.

Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hubbard

UPDATE: One Million B.C. (1940) is on its way to DVD and Blu-Ray from VCI, from the materials at UCLA. Not exactly sure what the full list of extras will be, but I do know there’ll be a commentary (by yours truly) and (I think) a still gallery. The release date is mid-October.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lon Chaney Jr., VCI

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)

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When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.

On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.

Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.

If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”

What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.

Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”

Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.

Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #134: One Million BC (1940).

Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.
Starring Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hubbard

One Million B.C. (1940) has dinosaurs that are real lizards with fins and stuff glued on. It’s got a guy in a pretty primitive Godzilla-type suit. It’s got Lon Chaney Jr. as a caveman. Some of it was shot at the Iverson Ranch. Oh, and the beautiful, tragic Carole Landis is in it. And even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve no doubt seen stock footage from it in something.

One Million B.C. is one of those movies that’s suffered the horrible injustice of having been available in all sorts of shoddy tapes and discs over the years. VCI Entertainment seems to be about to change all that with an upcoming Blu-Ray transferred the 35mm negative. Hopefully, come July, they’ll have pre-history looking brand new.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Lon Chaney Jr., VCI