Category Archives: Monogram/Allied Artists

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

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This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Jungle Jim.

I’ve been wanting to dive into Sam Katzman’s Jungle Jim series, but have been waiting for someone to put out a set of all 16 pictures (released from 1948 to 1955) and the single-season TV show. That hasn’t happened, and the single discs are way too expensive and take up way too much shelf space.

Figure this summer is a good time to take em on, along with the Bowery Boys. First will be Johnny Weissmuller in either Cannibal Attack (1954) or Jungle Moon Men (1955), a couple of the later ones.

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Filed under Bowery Boys, Columbia, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Lew Landers, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman, Spencer Gordon Bennett

Blu-Ray News #228: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

Directed by Howard W. Koch
Starring Boris Karloff, Tom Duggan, Jana Lund, Donald Barry, Charlotte Austin

Thanks to Warner Archive, in about a month, we’ll be able to recreate this terrific twin bill in high definition in our own living rooms, as they add Frankenstein 1970 (1958) to their list of terrific Allied Artists ‘Scope monster movies on Blu-Ray.

Frankenstein 1970 is one I like a lot — in spite of itself in a few spots. I really dig Queen Of Outer Space (1958), too.

Black & white CinemaScope is such a cool thing on Blu-Ray, I can’t wait for this!

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Filed under 1958, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard W. Koch, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

DVD News #211: The Giant Behemoth (1957).

Directed by Eugène Lourié & Douglas Hickox
Starring Gene Evans, André Morell, John Turner, Leigh Madison, Jack MacGowran

Lately, Warner Archive has really become Monsterville USA, turning old horror and sci-fi pictures into their main industry. An industry we should all support to the best of our financial ability.

Their latest announcement for Blu-Ray is The Giant Behemoth, an UK-USA tag team monster movie from 1959. It’s a complete ripoff of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953), done by some of the same people. The actors were shot in England, and the stop-motion dinosaur stuff was overseen in LA by none other than the great Willis O’Brien. O’Brien was a technical genius, of course, but he was evidently a terrible negotiator — for his later films, the arrangements he worked under were ridiculous. For The Giant Behemoth, there was little money to work with, and some of the effects works was contracted out, limiting O’Brien’s actual influence on the finished product.

But for lovers of these old things, that hardly matters. It’s got a stop-motion monster tearing things up — presented in high definition B&W widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive, Willis O'Brien

Blu-Ray Review: Queen Of Outer Space (1957).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Screenplay by Charles Beaumont
From a story by Ben Hecht
Cinematography: William P. Whitley
Music by Marlin Skiles
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Zsa Zsa Gabor (Talleah), Eric Fleming (Capt. Neal Patterson), Dave Willock (Lt. Mike Cruze), Laurie Mitchell (Queen Yllana), Lisa Davis (Motiya), Paul Birch (Prof. Konrad), Patrick Waltz (Lt. Larry Turner), Barbara Darrow (Kaeel), Marilyn Buferd (Odeena), Lynn Cartwright

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Some movies are labelled art, others are considered simply entertainment. A select few can actually be both, while unfortunately, some are neither. While film critics and scholars like to decide what falls into which category, we all get to call ’em as they see ’em. For me, Queen Of Outer Space (1958) — which is a real hoot, is a helluva lot better movie than, say, The English Patient (1996).

A team of astronauts, led by Eric Fleming of Rawhide, is drawn to Venus, where they find the planet populated by beautiful women in miniskirts with ray guns — except for a few who wear masks to cover ghastly radiation burns. Zsa Zsa Gabor plays a Venusian scientist — and the only human on the planet with a Hungarian accent. All that, plus a giant rubber spider.

It all started with a 10-page story idea (called Queen Of The Universe) by the great screenwriter Ben Hecht. It had been sitting around Allied Artists for a few years when Ben Schwalb, who was producing The Bowery Boys movies, ended up with it. He handed it off to writer Charles Beaumont. Beaumont’s script was then fiddled with by Ellwood Ullman, who’d written for The Three Stooges. Edward Bernds, another Stooge veteran, directed — just as he’d done with AA’s previous sci-fi picture, World Without End (1956).

Don’t let the DeLuxe color and CinemaScope fool you — Queen Of Outer Space is a pretty cheap affair. You might recognize the spacemen’s uniforms and some of the ladies’ costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). There are models, sets and footage from World Without End (1956) — which featured rocket footage lifted from Flight To Mars (1951). And the rubber spider is the same one seen in World Without End (1956).

Bud and Lou with Mari Blanchard

Of course, others had boldly gone after the planet-of-women plot-line before. Take a look at Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953, above), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953) and Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1955). But with Queen Of Outer Space, they got the mix of chicks, chills and cheese just right. (Okay, I’m stretching it a bit with the chills part.)

Speaking of just right, the Warner Archive Blu-Ray is a great example of bringing an old movie to high-definition. It’s sharp as a tack, with the color dialed in perfectly. This is maybe the best-looking DeLuxe color I’ve seen on Blu-Ray — and a big improvement over the nice-looking DVD. The audio is clean. And the commentary from that DVD has been retained.

For some of us, and we know who we are, owning this is an absolute necessity. For others, it’s a complete waste of time, money and pixels. If you’re in the former group, you won’t be disappointed.

One last thing: In some lucky cities, Queen Of Outer Space was paired with Howard W. Koch’s Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Those were the days.

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Filed under 1958, Abbott & Costello, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

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

A Night At The Movies, June 1965.

Back in 1965, Young Dillinger (1965) played as a twin-bill with Mario Bava’s Blood And Black Lace (1964). This ad’s for the opening in L.A., but they played everywhere this way — even drive-ins not far from where I’m sitting here in North Carolina. Man, what a “blazing double-blast of thrills and shocks” this must’ve been.

One’s in gorgeous black and white, the other in eye-popping Technicolor. One is a cinematic love letter to the Tommy Gun, while the other favors all sorts of things with blades. Both are lurid, violent masterpieces — the stuff that makes early 60s genre movies so wonderful.

Incidentally, and the reason I came across this, both of these pictures have seen some recent video activity. Young Dillinger was just made available on DVD by our friends at Warner Archive (the movie’s terrific and the disc looks great), and VCI is prepping Blood And Black Lace for a Blu-Ray due in October.

So, with a little coordinated eCommerce, you can recreate June 9, 1965 in the privacy of your own home.

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Filed under 1965, A Night At The Movies, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Ashley, Monogram/Allied Artists, Nick Adams, VCI, Warner Archive