Category Archives: Monogram/Allied Artists

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

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 #189: Queen Of Outer Space (1958).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, Dave Willock, Laurie Mitchell, Lisa Davis, Paul Birch

Back when Warner Archive brought World Without End (1956) to Blu-Ray, I wondered if they’d get around to Edward Bernds’ other Allied Artists chicks-in-outer-space picture Queen Of Outer Space (1958). Well, it’s on its way.

The story’s nothing new. Ever seen Abbott & Costello Go To Mars (1953), Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953) or Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1955)? You might recognize props and costumes from Forbidden Planet (1956). And you’re sure to notice some special effects from World Without End (1956), which are actually stock footage from Flight To Mars (1951) cropped and blown up for CinemaScope. But what Queen Of Outer Space has that all the others don’t is Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was supposedly a real pain on the set. She can’t act and her accent is totally over the top. She’s perfect.

Sure, it’s terrible. But it’s also wonderful, and I can’t wait to see it in high definition. Highly recommended to those who appreciate junk like this.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive