Category Archives: Mill Creek

Blu-Ray News #323: Peter Falk Comedy Collection (1967-1987).

Mill Creek has scooped up four Peter Falk movies, all done for Columbia, and made a Blu-Ray set out of ’em. Since I love Peter Falk, I see this as a really good thing, even if the movies aren’t his best.

LUV (1967)
Directed by Clive Donner
Starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, Elaine May, Nina Wayne, Harrison Ford

The 60s brought a lot of change to Hollywood, thanks to films like, say, Bonnie And Clyde (1967). It also brought about a lot of weird things like LUV (1967). It’s got Falk and Jack Lemmon in it, and that’s enough.

The Cheap Detective (1978)
Directed by Robert Moore
Written by Neil Simon
Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret

Funny stuff, though I preferred Murder By Death (1976), which clearly inspired this one. While Murder By Death spoofed Agatha Christie mysteries, this one pokes fun at Bogart pictures. Bet Neil Simon had a blast writing these things. Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn — can you really go wrong?


Big Trouble
(1986)
Directed by John Cassavetes
Starring Peter Falk, Alan Arkin, Beverly D’Angelo, Charles Durning, Robert Stack, Richard Libertini

The In-Laws (1979) was wonderful, and a big hit, so Falk and Alan Arkin (and Beverly D’Angelo and Richard Libertini and writer Andrew Bergman) were reunited for this one. Falk’s friend John Cassavetes was brought in to direct — it was his last film. The results are mixed, for sure, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it again. And since I saw it on VHS in the early 90s, I can count on it looking 47,000% better this time around!

Happy New Year (1987)
Starring Peter Falk, Charles Durning, Tom Courtenay

A caper comedy with Falk and Charles Durning, and Falk dresses up in all sorts of disguises. I’ve never seen it, but it sure sounds promising.

Thanks to Mill Creek for putting these kinds of movies out on Blu-Ray. It’s sure appreciated, so keep ’em coming!

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Filed under 1967, 1978, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Lemmon, John Cassavetes, Madeline Kahn, Mill Creek, Peter Falk

DVD Review: William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54).

My copy of the eagerly-awaited Critics’ Choice Collection four-feature, two-DVD William Castle Adventures Collection arrived yesterday. Will have a proper, more in-depth review of one of the titles soon, but thought I’d go ahead and share some thoughts on the collection as a whole.

The four films here are Serpent Of The Nile (1953), The Iron Glove (1954), Charge Of The Lancers (1954) and The Saracen Blade (1954). They were all shot in Technicolor in that crazy transitional period when Hollywood went through all sorts of technical turmoil — Scope, 3D, Eastmancolor, stereophonic sound and a number of spherical aspect ratios. From all that comes the trouble with this set.

The color’s quite nice from one picture to the next. Putting two features on a single DVD may affect the overall picture quality a bit, but I don’t have any complaints there.

Then we get to the aspect ratios, and things get pretty whacked out. Charge Of The Lancers was released in 1.66, and that’s the way it’s presented here. A nice anamorphic transfer — the jewel of this package.

The Iron Glove and The Saracen Blade were both 1.85. That’s how they’re framed here (once you get past the Columbia logo), but they’re not anamorphic. So, as you’re probably aware, that means they appear as a rectangle centered in the middle of our 16×9 TVs. Not ideal, but certainly watchable. (If your TV has a zoom feature, that’ll help.)

The real trouble comes with Serpent Of The Nile. Released in 1953, it was shot full-frame (1.37). Here, it’s cropped for 1.85 (after the titles) and non-anamorphic. There are plenty of heads and titles cut off throughout. It’s a real mess, even though the color is excellent. (There’s currently a decent, properly-framed version on YouTube.)

These goofy little movies from Sam Katzman and William Castle, two my favorite filmmakers, are junk, perhaps, but they’re wonderful junk. Critics’ Choice (and Mill Creek) license these films from Columbia and work with the material the studio provides. Usually, stuff from Columbia is beautiful. In this case, what Critics’ Choice was sent for three of the four films should’ve been sent back. Happy to have this set, but have to admit I’m disappointed.

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Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Mill Creek, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #313: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films (1955-59).

Mill Creek Entertainment has two new Blu-ray sets coming in December: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films and Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films. Here’s a look at the Sci-Fi Vault.

Creature With The Atom Brain (1955)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger

A scientist has figured out how to reanimate dead people and make them obey his commands. A gangster finds out about the discovery and decides he’ll use the dead for his own purposes. Produced by Sam Katzman.

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)
Directed by Robert Gordon
Starring Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis

Kenneth Tobey commands a submarine that is attacked by a giant octopus, cooked up by Ray Harryheusen. Before long, Tobey and Faith Domergue are battling it along the Pacific Coast. Produced by Sam Katzman.

The Ymir and Ray Harryheusen. Ray’s the one on the right.

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia

When a spaceship crashes on its way back from Venus, some eggs brought back as a souvenir get lost. Soon a really cool, quickly-growing monster from Ray Harryheusen is running loose.

The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock (1959)
Directed by Sidney Miller
Starring Lou Costello, Dorothy Provine, Gale Gordon

Lou Costello’s fiancé Dorothy Provine is exposed to radiation and grows really big. This was Costello’s only solo film after he and Bud Abbott parted ways. Lou died before it was released.

Columbia’s transfers are always top-notch, so expect these pictures to look fabulous. 

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Filed under 1955, 1957, 1959, Abbott & Costello, Angela Stevens, Columbia, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey, Mill Creek, Nathan Juran, Ray Harryhausen, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #312: Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films.

Mill Creek Entertainment has two new Blu-ray sets coming in December: Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films and Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films. Today, we’ll take a look at the horror one.

The Black Room (1935)
Directed by Roy William Neill
Starring Boris Karloff, Marian Marsh, Robert Allen, Thurston Hall

What’s better than a movie with Boris Karloff in it? Two Karloffs in the same film! He’s Anton and Gregor, sons born to the Baron de Berghman. One brother has some sinister plans for the other.

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox
This set gives you Karloff’s “Mad Doctor Cycle” in high definition. This one is the first. Karloff invents an artificial heart, and after he’s unjustly hung, he uses it to exact his revenge.

Before I Hang (1940)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff, Evelyn Keyes, Bruce Bennett, Edward Van Sloan
Karloff’s anti-aging serum works with one deadly side effect — he used the blood of a homicidal maniac, which sends him on a killing spree.

The Man With Nine Lives (1940)
Directed by Nick Grinde
Starring Boris Karloff,

Karloff has been trapped in a block of ice for 10 years. When he’s thawed out, he uses his enemy’s to continue his “chilling” experiments.

The Devil Commands (1941)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Starring Boris Karloff, Richard Fiske, Amanda Duff

Karloff’s experiments capture the brain waves of his dead wife. All he needs is a body to put them in.

The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Max Rosenbloom

The fifth, and last of Karloff’s Columbia pictures plays like a spoof of the earlier ones. He’s a mad scientist, of course, trying to create a race of superhumans (for the war effort) in the basement of an old inn.

The Return Of The Vampire (1943)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Bela Lugosi, Frieda Inescort, Nina Foch

This time, Bela Lugosi is brought back to life when a German bomb hits his grave and cemetery workers yank the stake out of his heart.

Five (1951)
Produced, Written & Directed by Arch Oboler
Starring William Phipps, Susan Douglas Rubeš, James Anderson

Five people survive an atomic blast and try to figure out how to carry on. This post-apocalyptic story was shot at a number of LA locations, including director Oboler’s own Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The Black Room and the Karloff mad doctor pictures are all great — and will be a real treat in hi-def. The Return Of The Vampire is also a lot of fun. Looking forward to Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films.

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Filed under 30s Horror, Arch Oboler, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Dmytryk, Lew Landers, Mill Creek, Nick Grinde, Peter Lorre, Roy William Neill

DVD News #408: Samuel Fuller Collection (1943 – 1960).

There’s so much written about Samuel Fuller (above, with John Ford). My suggestion is just watch his films — they’ll tell you about all you need to know — and maybe read his autobiography A Third Face. Watching his movies is a little easier thanks to a cool little set coming later this month from Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek. He didn’t direct all these films, but his fingerprints are on ’em for sure.

Power Of The Press (1943)
Directed by Lew Landers
Story by Samuel Fuller
Starring Guy Kibbee, Gloria Dickson, Lee Tracy, Otto Kruger, Victor Jory
A corrupt New York newspaperman murders his partner over his pro-war stance. A small town journalist gets to the bottom of things.

Scandal Sheet (1951)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller
Starring Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek, Rosemary DeCamp, Henry Morgan, James Millican
A newspaperman tries to bury a murder story since, uh, he’s the murderer!

The Crimson Kimono (1959)
Written & Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw, Anna Lee
Two cops — Korean War veterans and friends — wind up in a love triangle with a witness to the murder of a stripper. Into this sordid tale, Fuller deftly weaves a message of racial tolerance. One of his best.

Underworld, USA (1960)
Produced, Written & Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay
A young man infiltrates the mob to get the mobsters who murdered his father.

I’m really looking forward to this. Highly recommended if you don’t have ’em elsewhere.

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Filed under 1951, 1959, 1960, Broderick Crawford, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Harry Morgan, John Ford, Mill Creek, Phil Karlson, Sam Fuller

DVD Review: Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

Directed by Lee Sholem
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screen Play by Samuel Newman
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Johnny Weissmuller (Jungle Jim), Karin Booth (Dr. Bonnie Crandall), Richard Wyler (Inspector Jeffrey Bernard), Bernie Hamilton (Zuwaba), Gregory Gaye (Leroux), Lester Matthews (Commissioner Kingston), Paul Thompson (Zulu), Vince Townsend, Jr. (Chief Boganda), Louise Franklin (N’Gala), Tamba

__________

Critics’ Choice and Mill Creek have released a six-movie set of Jungle Jim movies (there are 16 of ’em, 1948 – 1955), pulled from the middle to the end of series (’50-’55). The next-to-last picture in the set is Jungle Man-Eaters (1954).

The later Jungle Jim movies look even cheaper than the early ones, with a very heavy reliance on stock footage. Even some of the Johnny Weissmuller shots look like footage from previous entries, given away by the new 1.85 framing. In this one, Jungle Jim (Weissmuller) gets involved in a war between tribes largely orchestrated by Leroux, a French diamond smuggler. Pretty Kari Booth (I’ve always liked her) is a doctor along for the ride, and she gets caught up in the birth of the son of one of the warring tribes’ leader. Tamba dresses up like a doctor, torments Karin Booth, does plenty of flips and eats a lot of bananas.

Despite the title and ads, there are cannibals, no man is eaten (“human banquet”) and Karin Booth’s legs are never threatened by fire.

While there are three more pictures in the series, this is the last one where Weissmuller is actually called Jungle Jim. Producer Sam Katzman has Weissmuller use his own name for the rest of the run, probably because Screen Gems had signed with King Features to use the character in a TV series, again with Weissmuller. It debuted about the time the last feature, Devil Goddess, hit theaters in October 1955.

Jungle Man-Eaters features the work of the couple of guys who toiled quite a bit on Katzman pictures: director Lee Sholem and cinematographer Henry Freulich.

Sholem was known as “Roll ‘Em Sholem” for how quickly he worked. He directed over 1,300 features and TV shows over the course of four decades. They say he never went over schedule. One of his masterworks is Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

Henry Freulich had been behind the camera since the Silents. He was a cameraman on The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1922). He was at Columbia for years and years, shooting everything from It Happened One Night (1934) to over a hundred Three Stooges shorts to all sorts of wonderful things in the 50s — pictures like William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954), It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Fred F. Sears’s Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955) and George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956).

Freulich’s work on Jungle Man-Eaters looks terrific on DVD in this set. In fact, all six boast the gorgeous transfers we’ve come to expect of cheap Columbia movies from this period. A lot of us have been waiting quite a while for Jungle Jim to make his way out of the jungle and onto DVD. This collection is worth the wait — and hopefully the first of several volumes. Recommened.

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Filed under 1954, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Karin Booth, Lee Sholem, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #331: The Hellfighters (1968).

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Jim Hutton, Vera Miles, Jay C. Flippen, Bruce Cabot

Mill Creek has announced the May Blu-Ray release of The Hellfighters (1968) Based (at least in part) on oil well firefighter Red Adair, it’s a pretty good later John Wayne movie (watch for something on 1974’s McQ in the next day or so).

This has always looked good on laserdisc or DVD, so I imagine the Blu-Ray will look terrific.

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Filed under 1968, Andrew V. McLaglen, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Wayne, Mill Creek, Uncategorized, Universal (-International), Vera Miles

Blu-Ray News #308: Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection (1958-1971).

I’ve been really impressed with Mill Creek’s Hammer releases. They don’t have the extras we get from someone like Scream Factory, but they look good, they’re often in double bills or sets (with us DVD/Blu-Ray collectors, shelf space is always a concern), and the price is certainly right. 

Mill Creek’s newest Hammer project is the 20-picture Hammer Films – The Ultimate Collection. It’s got some great stuff — some are repeats from previous MC releases, some not. It focuses on Hammer films that were distributed by Columbia in the States. Here’s the lineup:

The Revenge Of Frankenstein (1958)
The Snorkel (1958)
The Camp On Blood Island (1958)
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959)
The Two Faces Of Dr. Jekyll (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)

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The Stranglers Of Bombay (1960)
Cash On Demand (1961)
Scream Of Fear (1961)
Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961)

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The Terror Of The Tongs (1961)
The Pirates Of Blood River (1962)
These Are The Damned (1962)
The Old Dark House (1963)
The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1963)
Maniac (1963)
The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

The Gorgon (1964)
Die! Die! My Darling (1965)
Creatures The World Forgot (1971)

I can’t wait to get my hands on this thing. These films are essential stuff. A few of these I haven’t seen in quite a while — and never on Blu-Ray. It’s coming in November.

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Filed under 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1971, Arthur Grant, Christopher Lee, Columbia, Don Sharp, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Kerwin Matthews, Mill Creek, Oliver Reed, Peter Cushing, Stanley Baker, Terence Fisher, Val Guest, William Castle

Blu-Ray Review: Hollywood Story (1951).

Directed by William Castle
Produced by Leonard Goldstein
Story and Screenplay by Frederick Kohner and Fred Brady
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Film Editor: Virgil Vogel

Cast: Richard Conte (Larry O’Brien), Julie Adams (Sally/Amanda Rousseauz), Richard Egan (Police Lt. Bud Lennox), Henry Hull (Vincent St. Clair), Fred Clark (Sam Collyer), Jim Backus (Mitch Davis), Houseley Stevenson (John Miller), Paul Cavanagh (Roland Paul), Katherline Meskill (Mary), Louis Lettieri (Jimmy Davis), Francis X. Bushman, Betty Blythe, William Farnum, Helen Gibson, Joel McCrea

__________

Art imitates life here. Hollywood Story (1951) concerns a producer (Richard Conte) solving an old Hollywood murder mystery, while prepping a movie about that mystery. It was based on the actual 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor. This scandalous crime, which created a media circus and plenty of completely fabricated news stories, was never solved.

Conte buys an old movie studio and learns of the murder that took place there. Intrigued, he decides to use it as the basis for his next picture, and he reaches out to a number of people who were working at the studio at the time — from a writer (Henry Hull) to the daughter of one of the studio’s biggest stars (Julie Adams). With that framework, the picture manages to follow the Taylor case fairly closely as Conte pieces together what happened.

L-R: Richard Conte, Francis X. Bushman, Helen Gibson, William Farnum, Betty Blythe.

William Castle directed several entries in Columbia’s The Whistler series, moody mini-noirs starring Richard Dix. They were excellent, and Castle’s same no-nonsense approach can be found here. Hollywood Story was done before Castle went gimmick crazy with his late 5os horror movies, but there’s a gimmick anyway, bringing in a few silent stars — Betty Blythe, Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum and Helen Gibson. Their parts mean nothing to the movie, but their names look good in the ads. (They were paid peanuts.)

This was one of a handful of pictures Castle did at Universal International. He did some cool stuff there — this one, Undertow (1949) and Cave Of Outlaws (1951) — before returning to Columbia, where he’d start working for producer Sam Katzman.

Hollywood Story gives us a great look at early 50s moviemaking, particularly at Universal International. Joel McCrea has a cameo in one of the on-the-set scenes. Judging from his costume, he might’ve been shooting Frenchie (1950) when his brief scene was done. We also visit a number of Hollywood points of interest — such as Jack’s At The Beach, Ciro’s, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Ocean Park Pier and the old Chaplin Studio (as the scene of the crime).

The cinematography from Carl E. Guthrie is terrific, adding plenty of mood when it’s needed and playing up the bright lights of Hollywood. Universal’s movies from the 50s, whether they were in Technicolor or black and white, have a real sparkle to them, thanks to masters like Guthrie. And that’s what makes this Blu-Ray such a great thing. It presents Guthrie’s work flawlessly. It’s much better than the old DVD. Brighter, with better contrast. It adds a level of depth you don’t see very often, which is really effective in the darker, scenes. 

Hollywood Story is a solid movie, and it’s been given a sterling transfer for Blu-Ray. Mill Creek has paired it with Castle’s New Orleans Uncensored (1955). It looks great, too, and since each picture is on its own disc, the bit rates are quite high. They’re priced right, too. For William Castle fans, this set is an absolute must. More, please!

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, Mill Creek, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #291: The H Man (1958) & Battle In Outer Space (1959).

Mill Creek’s been offering up some really good stuff lately, and this one’s gonna be terrific. Here’s a Blu-Ray twin bill of Toho pictures from director Ishirō Honda — The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959).

The H Man plays like a bit of a Japanese radioactive tiff on The Blob (1958), with some gangsters thrown in for good measure. Columbia cut some of the criminal element out for its US release, making it 8-9 minutes shorter than what Japanese audience saw. Still, it’s a cool movie.

The great Eiji Tsuburaya at work on Battle In Outer Space.

Battle In Outer Space, aside from the English dubbing, Columbia left alone. It’s set in the future, 1965, with Earth being attacked by the planet Natal, which is causing natural disasters and other chaos from afar. Eventually, the UN battles it out with the saucer fleet from Natal. Toho’s special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya had a real field day with this one.

Both pictures were in Eastmancolor and Tohoscope, and they should look great in high-definition. Coming in June. Boy, us grown-up monster kids are getting spoiled these days!

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Filed under 1958, 1959, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Mill Creek, Toho