Category Archives: MGM

Blu-Ray News #174: Village Of The Damned (1960).

Directed by Wolf Rilla
Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn

Warner Archive is bringing one the creepiest movies ever made to Blu-Ray — Village Of The Damned (1960). I’m not gonna go into any detail on this — there might be someone out there who hasn’t seen it, its 1964 sequel (Children Of The Damned) or its (why?) remake.

One quick thing: MGM was gonna shoot this in the States with Ronald Colman, but due to complaints from religious groups, it was shelved. Eventually, the studio brought it back to life as a British picture starring George Sanders (who’s perfect). So glad they made it in the UK.

Warner Archive has scheduled this trip to Creepsville for release later this summer. Can’t wait to see how good this thing’ll look in high-def. Essential.

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Filed under 1960, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Sanders, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #161: The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961).

Directed by Sergio Leone
Starring Rory Calhoun, Lea Massari, Georges Marchal, Angel Aranda

Warner Archive is bringing Sergio Leone’s first picture as director, The Colossus Of Rhodes (1961), to Blu-Ray. Rory Calhoun stars, replacing a fired John Derek.

It’s certainly a notch above the usual Italian sword-and-sandal stuff of the period, with the well-orchestrated battle scenes you’d expect from Leone. And while it has its stylistic quirks here and there, they just hint at what the director would put into the Eastwood pictures. Of course, Leone’s use of the wide screen, called SuperTotalscope here, is incredible. And the statue, the colossus of the title, is very cool.

Some will see this as little more than a curio, a glimpse at Leone’s development as a director. Mistake. Others will see it as the usual peplum stuff with a bigger budget and better director. But it’s a very unusual, stylish movie with some terrific sequences — and an interesting performance from Rory Calhoun. Recommended.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Rory Calhoun, Sergio Leone, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #160: Dark Of The Sun (1968).

Frank McCarthy’s original poster art.

Directed by Jack Cardiff
Starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Brown, Kenneth More

Warner Archive has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of one of the damnedest movies I’ve ever seen, Jack Cardiff’s Dark Of The Sun (1968). Easily one of the darkest, most jaw-dropping-ly over-the-top action movies of the 60s, if you haven’t seen this, you’re in for a real treat.

Rod Taylor’s performance, like so much other stuff in this thing, has to be seen to be believed. If there was ever a movie that deserved re-discovery, it’s this one, Highly, highly recommended.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news. It made my day.

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Filed under 1968, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Rod Taylor, Warner Archive

Dear Santa.

Just saw that the original Robbie The Robot suit/custume/prop from Forbidden Planet (1956) will be auctioned off by Bonham’s next week.

Robby The Robot: “If you do not speak English, I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues.”

The prop, built by MGM at a then-huge cost of $125,000, does not actually speak 188 languages. Keep that in mind as you consider a bid.

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Filed under 1956, MGM

Blu-Ray Review: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by William Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair

Cast: Robert Horton (Commander Jack Rankin), Richard Jaeckel (Commander Vince Elliott), Luciana Paluzzi (Dr. Lisa Benson), Bud Widom (Gen. Jonathan B. Thompson)

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A group of intrepid astronauts, lead by Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel, visit an asteroid (and destroy it before it collides with Earth). One of them returns to space station Gamma 3 with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into dozens of nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton): “Wait a minute — are you telling me that this thing reproduced itself inside the decontamination chamber? And, as we stepped up the current, it just… it just grew?”

The men and women (including Luciana Paluzzi of Thunderball and Muscle Beach Party) stationed on Gamma 3 soon find themselves in a battle to the death with these wretched things — all in Panavision and Metrocolor. (It’s a little embarrassing to admit that, as a kid, I was genuinely frightened by the scenes on the asteroid, as the titular green slime attached itself to the astronauts and their equipment.)

Filmed in Japan, with a Japanese crew and American cast, The Green Slime is slightly related to the four sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti about space station Gamma 1 — Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The Planets, War Between The Planets (all 1966) and Snow Devils (1967). Those films, which share some of the same screenwriters as The Green Slime, were produced by MGM as TV movies but sent to theaters instead. Margheriti made all four in just three months! (Maybe it’s time to cover the entire Gamma 1 saga. Three of the four are available from Warner Archive.)

Thanks to 2001: a space odyssey (1968), The Green Slime oozed into theaters woefully behind in the special effects race. That’s not a complaint, as I’m a big fan of spotty practical effects, rubber monsters and cheesy miniatures. Fact is, everything in this movie is absolutely perfect for what it is. Writing, acting, sets, effects, music — they all suit each other. I love that the lighting rig is clearly reflected in the space helmets as our heroes explore the surface of the asteroid. I would’ve been disappointed if a wire wasn’t visible on a spaceship somewhere along the way. If the monsters were something other than Japanese guys in rubber suits, well, that would’ve ruined it for me. And the terrific theme song — from Richard Delvy of the surf band The Challengers — is the cherry on top of the whole gooey mess.

The green slime doesn’t show up green in this faded old 35mm publicity slide.

Believe it or not, I was a little concerned that the improved detail, contrast, color, etc. of the Warner Archive Blu-Ray would take away from the cheesy enjoyment packed into every frame of The Green Slime. But I was wrong. The silver-painted plywood grain of the space station is clearer than ever. The wires on the space ships are easier to spot. And the colors really pop, though I think the tint was a little truer on the old DVD. The audio’s clean and crisp — and there’s an original trailer to marvel at.

The movie’s a gas, and the Blu-Ray’s a real beauty. Essential to those who dig this kinda stuff.

One last thing. Given the perils of Gamma 3 and considering the giant slug hiding in the asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), there’s an important lesson to be learned: stay the hell away from asteroids.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #139: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Starring Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi

With Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968), MGM took science fiction, and filmmaking in general, a huge leap forward. With The Green Slime, later that same year, they took it backwards just as far. The result, a wonderfully cheesy Japanese/US co-production, is coming to Blu-Ray from our intergalactic friends at Warner Archive later this year.

Some astronauts visit an asteroid (and destroy it), and one of them comes back with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Filmed in Japan by a Japanese crew, with an American cast (and script), it’s slightly related to a series of sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The PlanetsWar Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).

Green Slime 45.jpg

If you have one of these, please consider leaving it to me in your will.

The title tune is terrific. And if all that doesn’t promise an hour-and-a-half of cheesy goodness, note that it features Luciana Paluzzi, an actress with one of the greatest 60s and 70s filmographies of them all: Bonanza, Muscle Beach Party (1964), Thunderball (1965), Hawaii Five-O and more.

The Green Slime announced for Blu-Ray — this is a red-letter day.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive

DVD Review: The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932).

karloff-as-fu-manchu

Directed by Charles Brabin and Charles Vidor (uncredited)
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Screenplay: Irene Kuhn, Edgar Allan Woolf and John Willard
Based on the novel The Mask of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Film Editor: Ben Lewis

Cast: Boris Karloff (Dr. Fu Manchu), Lewis Stone (Nayland Smith), Karen Morley (Sheila Barton), Charles Starrett (Terrence Granville), Myrna Loy (Fah Lo See); Jean Hersholt (Von Berg), Lawrence Grant (Sir Lionel Barton), David Torrence (McLeod).

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If someone tells you they don’t see what the big deal is about pre-Code movies, show ’em The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932). If its script has been floating around just a couple years later, it wouldn’t have been made.

The Mask Of Fu Manchu is a fever dream of an adventure story — or maybe a Chinese-food-stomach-ache adventure story, the kind of movie you get when writers and directors are fired, production is halted for a while, rewrites arrive minutes before scenes are shot, etc.

Boris Karloff: “It was a shambles, it really was — it was simply ridiculous.”

This chaos is evident on the screen. Characters come and go. There is little, if anything, in the way of character development. The plot simply doesn’t make sense. There’s no real flow from one scene to the next. And if you’re easily offended, well you’ll be easily offended.

But it’s absolutely fascinating from the MGM lion to the final fadeout. The evil Dr. Fu Manchu has kidnapped a noted archaeologist who claims to have found the tomb of Genghis Khan. Fu Manchu seeks the power contained in the Mongol emperor’s mask and sword. Torture, death and all sorts of mayhem ensue.

futorture

Fu Manchu (Karloff): “This serum, distilled from dragon’s blood, my own blood, the organs of different reptiles, and mixed with the magic brew of the sacred seven herbs, will temporarily change you into the living instrument of my will. You will do as I command!”

karloff-and-loy

The entire cast is terrific, with Karloff and Myrna Loy (as Fu Manchu’s freaky daughter) giving it their all. Lewis Stone makes a great Nayland Smith, while Sheila Barton and Charles Starrett are fine as the damsel in distress and her rescuer. The set design is incredible, combining over-the-top Chinese influence with 30s art deco and a bit of Frankenstein’s lab (Kenneth Strickfaden, who made the equipment for Frankenstein, decked out Fu Manchu’s laboratory). It’s as lavish as it is crazy.

The Mask Of Fu Manchu is one of six Pre-Code horror pictures in Warner Archive’s Hollywood Legends Of Horror Collection. It’s a MOD re-issue of the 2006 collection, and it’s great to have it available again. The Mask Of Fu Manchu is my favorite of the bunch, and it looks great — and it’s completely uncut (it was softened a bit a few decades ago). The other films — Doctor X (1932), The Return of Doctor X (1939), Mark Of The Vampire (1935), Mad Love (AKA The Hands Of Orlac, 1935) and The Devil-Doll (1936) — look just as good. All the commentaries and trailers from the original release have been retained. For monsters nuts or fans of Pre-Code Hollywood, this is essential stuff — and a steal at $29.95.

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Filed under Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, MGM, Pre-Code, Warner Archive