Category Archives: Mara Corday

Blu-Ray Review: Money From Home (1953).

Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Hal Kanter
Adapted by James Allardice and Hal Kanter
From a story by Damon Runyon
Director Of Photography: Daniel L. Fapp

Cast: Dean Martin (Honey Talk Nelson), Jerry Lewis (Virgil Yokum), Marjie Millar (Phyllis Leigh), Pat Crowley (Autumn Claypool), Richard Haydn (Bertie Searles), Robert Strauss (Seldom Seen Kid), Gerald Mohr (Marshall Preston), Sheldon Leonard (Jumbo Schneider), Jack Kruschen (Short Boy)

__________

From a technical standpoint, Money From Home (1953) was a real landmark for Martin and Lewis. It was their first picture in color — and in some theaters it played in 3-D (and stereo), too. It was one of only two (if memory servces) films shot in both three-strip Technicolor and 3-D, which meant six (!) strips of negative were going through the camera at once.

This was the first Martin and Lewis picture I ever saw, catching it on TV as a kid. I loved it. So while I think the pair made better films (Artists And Models gets my vote for their best), I have a real soft spot for this one.

It’s the 20s. Dean’s a gambler named Honey Talk Nelson who owes a small fortune to bookmaker Jumbo Schneider (Sheldon Leonard). Jumbo will forgive Honey Talk’s stack of IOUs if Dean can keep a certain horse from winning a certain race — with the alternative being a pair of cement boots. So Honey Talk drafts his animal-loving, vet tech cousin Virgil (Lewis) and off they go. This paves the way for the typical crooning and romancing from Martin — of course, he falls for the owner of the horse he’s trying to fix (Marjie Millar), along with the prerequisite stupidity from Lewis — doing the dance of the seven veils, impersonating an English jockey, letting his ant farm loose at a cocktail party, etc. There’s a lot of funny stuff in here, most of it dependent on your personal preference and/or tolerance for Jerry Lewis.

Paramount surrounded Martin and Lewis with some great character actors in this one. Richard Haydn is funny as the drunk jockey Bertie Searles), and Robert Strauss, Sheldon Leonard and Jack Kruschen are great as the mobsters. Oh, and be sure to look for Mara Corday as a waitress.

Dean in front of the Dynoptic camera rig, Jerry with his (16mm?) home movie camera.

Olive Films has gives us a nice, if bare-bones, Blu-Ray of Money From Home. There’s been a lot of squawking about why they didn’t go all out with 3-D, which overlooks just how nice this Blu-Ray really is. (And besides, this isn’t the kinda movie that needs 3-D to work.) It’s sharp as a tack, with near-perfect contrast and color — allowing for some of the inconsistencies you see in a lot of old Technicolor material. That isn’t a complaint at all — it looks every bit like what it is, a polished Paramount studio picture from the early 50s. The audio is nice and clean — it’s a shame the stereo tracks have been lost.

Money From Home is a funny picture, and Olive Films has it looking seriously splendid. It’s easy to recommend this.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 1953, 3-D, Dean Martin, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Marshall, Jerry Lewis, Mara Corday, Olive Films, Paramount

Happy Thanksgiving.

claw0031

It’s not exactly the perfect Thanksgiving photo, but it’s not exactly the perfect special effect, either. It’s the turkey-ish monster from The Giant Claw (1957), produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Fred F. Sears. As you can tell by the still, Katzman’s cost-cutting really hurt this one. But when you’ve got Mara Corday, who cares about the monster?

Have a happy Thanksgiving. And if you’re traveling, especially by air, keep an eye out.

1 Comment

Filed under 1957, Fred F. Sears, Mara Corday, Sam Katzman

DVD Review: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Black Scorpion 6 sheet cropped

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Produced by Jack Dietz and Frank Melford
Screenplay by Robert Blees and David Duncan
Story by Paul Yawitz
Director Of Photography: Lionel Lindon
Special Effects by Willis H. O’Brien and Pete Peterson
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Music by Paul Sawtell

Cast: Richard Denning (Hank Scott), Mara Corday (Teresa), Carlos Rivas (Arturo Ramos), Mario Navarro (Juanito), Carlos Muzquiz (Dr. Velazco), Pascual Garcia Pena (Jose de la Cruz)

When you look at the big-bug movies of the 50s, the good-to-bad ratio is surprisingly good. Them! (1954), about giant ants, is terrific. Tarantula (1955) is excellent, too, thanks in large part to Jack Arnold’s snappy direction. The Deadly Mantis (1957) sticks the mantis in the Manhattan Tunnel for a cool last reel. Then there’s The Black Scorpion (1957), with Warner Bros. hoping to scare up another batch of Them!-like profits, which doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Black Scorpion Mex LC

WRAL here in Raleigh used to have a Saturday morning movie thing called Sunrise Theater. My best friend James and I would stay at one of our houses Friday night, sleep on the living room floor, set an alarm, and get up to watch whatever monster flick was on that week. We usually had SpaghettiOs for breakfast. I think that’s how I first saw The Black Scorpion.

A once-dormant volcano erupts, wreaking all sorts of havoc in Mexico. Geologists Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) come to investigate, meeting the lovely Teresa (Mara Corday) — and discovering a nest of giant scorpions living in the caverns beneath the volcano.

black_scorpion still cropped

These aren’t just any giant scorpions. They’re the work of the great Willis O’Brian and his assistant Pete Peterson. A master of stop-motion animation and one of the true pioneers of movie effects, O’Brien gave us The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and others. His career was winding down by the time he took on The Black Scorpion, and even though working with a small budget (setting up shop in tiny studio space and his own garage, the story goes), he made sure the movie delivered the goods. (As a kid, I measured the quality of movies like this according to how much screen time the monsters had.) In the shots where you see two or three scorpions, imagine animating all those legs! A sequence with a train attacked by one of the scorpions is just incredible.

Lionel Lindon’s cinematography is top-notch, using deep shadows and limited lighting to create a creepy mood, especially in the caverns. (Be sure to see his stunning work on 1957’s The Lonely Man.) He won an Oscar for Around The World In 80 Days (1956).

Black Scorpion LC 2

Richard Denning and Mara Corday were old hands at this kinda stuff. He’d already dealt with The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and she’d come up against Tarantula. They do exactly what a movie like this asks of them: look scared, be brave and deliver some whacky pseudo-science to fool audiences into almost believing it for 80 minutes or so.

I’ve had the old DVD since it came out, and I was happy with it. The transfer was nice, but full-frame. The extras were terrific, gathering up some of O’Brien’s tests, clips, trailers and other goodies. Warner Archive was wise to keep those for their new release, but for me, the true extra is the restoration of its 1.85 framing. Every setup looks so much better, from the dialogue scenes to the monster footage. Widescreen films like this, regardless of their age, can look pretty clunky when seen full-frame, and I thank Warner Archive for this upgrade on The Black Scorpion. It’s sharp as a tack and the audio’s clean, down to the sound effects borrowed from Them!. If you don’t have The Black Scorpion, and you’re into this sort of thing, I recommend it highly. If you have the old DVD, well, this new one’s worth the re-purchase.

And if I remember right, it goes well with SpaghettiOs.

2 Comments

Filed under 1954, 1955, 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Mara Corday, Warner Archive

DVD News #13: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Black Scorpion LC

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Director Of Photography: Lionel Lindon

I’m really excited about this one. Right after mentioning Tarantuta! (1955), we get The Black Scorpion (1957). Another big-bug movie, another Mara Corday picture. And that, my friends, is always a good thing. Richard Denning c0-stars, and Edward Ludwig also directed Wake Of The Red Witch (1948).

The old DVD was OK, but it was full-frame. And that really, well, bugged me. But now Warner Archive’s got it, and they’re offering it up widescreen. Place your orders with confidence. You won’t get stung. (Couldn’t resist all the bug puns — blame it on too many issues of Famous Monsters.)

Black Scorpion LC 2

3 Comments

Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Mara Corday, Warner Archive

Screening: Tarantula! (1955) and The Fly (1958).

Tarantula_LC

Jack Arnold’s Tarantula! (1955) and Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958) will infest The Carolina Theater this Friday, December 5.

Tarantula! is one of the best of the big-bug movies of the 50s — I’d give the top slot to Them! (1954). The Fly put Vincent Price on the path to becoming a horror icon. If nothing else, we should appreciate it for that. But there’s so much more to it than that. As most of you probably know, they’re both absolutely essential.

7 Comments

Filed under 1955, 1958, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Mara Corday, Screenings, Vincent Price

The Gauntlet (1977).

the-gauntlet
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Robert Daley
Written by Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack
Director Of Photography: Rexford Metz
Film Editors: Ferris Webster and Joel Cox
Music by Jerry Fielding

Cast:  Clint Eastwood (Ben Shockley), Sondra Locke (Augustina “Gus” Mally), Pat Hingle (Josephson),  William Prince (Blakelock), Bill McKinney (Constable), Michael Cavanaugh (Feyderspiel), Carole Cock (Waitress), Mara Corday (Jail Matron), Douglas McGrath (Bookie), Jeff Morris (Desk Sergeant)

__________

The very idea of a guilty pleasure makes me mad — it’s a concept built on snobbery. You either like something or you don’t.

I don’t know why I like Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet (1977) so much. But I do. Sure, the plot’s got more holes than all the stuff that’s shot up in its 109 bullet-riddled minutes. But it plays like a road movie/cop picture hybrid (two of my favorite genres), with a little It Happened One Night (1934) thrown in for good measure. Frank Capra with a foul mouth and lots of bullets.

gauntlet-eastwood-in-vegas

Like so many movies of the 70s, The Gauntlet was passed from star to star in an odd game of developmental hot potato. The first pairing was Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand. Brando said no, and it went on to Steve McQueen. Streisand nixed McQueen and suggested Eastwood. He was game, and set to direct, but she eventually passed. It became a Malpaso film, with Sondra Locke as Clint’s costar. (Try imagining the movies that might’ve been sometime. Brando driving the bus coulda been pretty cool, and he woulda been great at getting pounded by the bikers, but the rest of it seems just plain weird.)

Eastwood directing Gauntlet

Clint Eastwood: “It was written by Dennis Shryack and Michael Butler. It was in very good shape. There was a minor amount of rewriting, a lot if it deletions; I did it myself… A cop starts out to fly an extradited witness from Vegas back to Phoenix for trial. Everything goes wrong — there’s this group of people who don’t want him to get back. She’s a hooker, and he’s a cop who hates hookers, but they grow together as they go — via car, via foot, via motorcycle, via train, via bus, you name it. They’re just on the run.”

There’s an interesting subplot: Ben Shockley (Eastwood) was chosen for the job because he’s a washed-up drunk, fully expected to fail. Bookies in Vegas are even taking bets on it. Naturally, this awakens something in Shockley, and with his new-found determination and a beautiful Swiss & Wesson Model 66, he and his prisoner, Gus Malley (Sondra Locke), hit the road.

37-clint-eastwood-filmography
Like any road movie, The Gauntlet is episodic. Once Shockley and Malley are underway, action sequences pile up like spent shellcasings: they see their rental car explode, steal an ambulance and are chased by hoods, flee as her home is destroyed, kidnap a constable (Bill McKinney) who is machine-gunned by the bad guys, commondeer a chopper from a biker gang, are chased by a helicopter, hop a freight train only to be attacked by the chopper-less bikers, and finally hijack a bus for the final run to City Hall.

Some of these set pieces have a decidedly exaggerated quality to them — a house is shot so many times it collapses, Eastwood drives an armored bus for his climactic ride as the entire Phoenix police force opens fire on him (this is the gauntlet of the title). The Gauntlet requires a suspension of disbelief some people simply aren’t capable of.

Michael Butler: “The recurrent visual motif of over-the-top destructiveness in Gauntlet was entirely Clint’s idea and appears in no script. My initial reaction to it — the incessant fusillades that destroy the house, the cars — was dismay.”

6a00e54fdb30b98834017d423d44c8970c-800wi
As the bus makes its way through the streets of Phoenix and hundreds of cops riddle it with thousands of bullet holes, you can’t help but wonder why they don’t just shoot the tires. Well, that was in the original script — the tires give out but Shockley plows ahead, the rubber-less wheels of the bus chewing up the asphalt as it approaches City Hall. But the City of Phoenix didn’t want their downtown streets mutilated, not even for Clint Eastwood. So the city kept its pavement, and The Gauntlet lost a good deal of it plausibility. (Certainly, even in pre-CGI 1977, the asphalt-munching rims could’ve been accomplished through insert shots, careful framing and skilled editing. And just imagine the grinding, screeching sound design.)

Clint Eastwood: “It was kind of outrageous — the overkill aspect I played up a little more than it was in the script — but it was a nice two-people story and had that old-fashioned adventure, of two people of opposite philosophies and styles forced  to travel together… The African Queen and that kind of thing.”

Some of the dialogue scenes between Eastwood and Locke work well. They’ve both been kicked around, and we pull for them — thanks to some real chemistry between the leads. They’d done The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) together and became an item while shooting The Gauntlet. Their bickering is fun at times, and their slowly-building respect for each other feels real. (The scene on the train, with Eastwood beaten and Locke assaulted by bikers, is hard to take.) But about two thirds of the way through the film, they go from adversaries to sweethearts all too abruptly — in a way, it’s as hard to swallow as the bulletproof tires.

large the gauntlet blu-ray2
The cast is excellent. William Prince is chilling as the bad guy. Bill McKinney is good as the hick constable. Pat Hingle from Hang ‘Em High (1968) is terrific, as always, as the one cop Eastwood can trust. And it’s great to see Mara Corday (above, who appeared with Eastwood in Tarantula back in 1955) in a small part.

Jerry Fielding’s jazz score for The Gauntlet features soloists Art Petter and Jon Faddis. It’s one of the film’s strong points, and I wish it’d been bumped up a bit in the mix. Fielding has a tough time competing with helicopters, motorcycles and thousands upon thousands of gunshots. The soundtrack LP, which I played to death, was reissued on CD a few years ago by Perseverance Records.

This post started off telling you how much I like this film, then spent paragraph after paragraph picking it apart. I think my inconsistency is a testament to how well Eastwood brings all these pieces together. He gives us likable characters, puts them in a series of exciting situations, and does it all at a pace that creates its own knucklehead logic. If we groan at how ridiculous one sequence is, we’re still eagerly awaiting the next amped-up obstacle in their journey. In that way, with The Gauntlet, Eastwood predicted what popular filmmaking would become 20 years in the future. If only I liked those movies as much as this one.

Gauntlet HS sized
I remember Frank Frazetta’s great poster for The Gauntlet hanging in the lobby of the South Hills Twin in Cary, North Carolina, around Thanksgiving of 1977 (it opened at Christmas). So tough, so cool, so pulp-y. I was sold instantly, and it remains one of my favorite movie posters. Why Warner Bros. removed it from the Blu-ray package in favor of a generic close-up of Eastwood, I’ll never know. (When I upgrade this one from DVD to Blu-ray, I’ll do my shopping on eBay, where Frazetta-jacketed copies still turn up.)

Even with its over-the-top gunplay, turbocharged heroics and bad language, The Gauntlet seems almost quaint and restrained today. Time has been kind to it. I find it a pleasure. Without the slightest trace of guilt.

Sources: Clint: The Life And Legend by Patrick McGilligan; Conversations With Clint, edited by Kevin Avery

9 Comments

Filed under 1977, Clint Eastwood, Mara Corday