Category Archives: Monogram/Allied Artists

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner

Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)

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When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.

On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.

Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.

If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”

What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.

Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”

Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.

Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: World Without End (1956).

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Directed by Edward Bernds
Story & Screenplay by Edward Bernds
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Original Music Leith Stevens

Cast: Hugh Marlowe (John Bordon), Nancy Gates (Garnet), Nelson Leigh (Dr. Eldon Galbraithe), Rod Taylor (Herbert Ellis), Shawn Smith (Elaine), Lisa Montell (Deena), Christopher Dark (Hank Jaffe), Booth Colman (Mories), Everett Glass (Timmek)

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Allied Artists’ ads for World Without End (1956) bragged that it was the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope and Technicolor. Its writer and director Edward Bernds called it “A-picture mounting for a B-budgeted picture.”*

And what a B picture it is! A team of intrepid U.S. astronauts — including Hugh Marlowe and a very young Rod Taylor — returns to Earth from their trip to Mars. Somehow they wind up in the 26th century, finding their home planet reduced to a hostile, post-Apocalyptic world teeming with mutants (that’s one to the left), giant spiders, underground cities, weird old men wearing kooky hats and beautiful girls in mini skirts. You’re starting to get a feel for how terrific this is, aren’t you?

You know how these things work. Before long, the astronauts are killing the spiders, duking it out with the mutants and romancing the ladies. And people wonder why I love these old things so much.

Allied Artists sprang for Technicolor and Scope for World Without End, but that doesn’t mean Bernds had a blank check. Not by a long shot. The spaceship footage — leaving Mars’ orbit and crash-landing back on Earth — was lifted from Monogram’s Flight To Mars (1951) and severely cropped for CinemaScope (from 1.33 down to 2.55). Of course, Allied Artists used to be Monogram, so it’s easy to understand why the footage was cheap.

Walter Mirisch of Allied Artists and Edward Bernds

Bernds: “It’s strange how some producers, at least at that time, got hooked on the idea of saving money by using stock film… You could duplicate those stock shots for a few thousand dollars — are you going to make a $400,000 picture on the basis of saving a few bucks?”*

Another sign of cost-consciousness (one that you see in a lot of these 50s sci-fi flicks): post-Apocalyptic Earth looks a whole lot like the Iverson Ranch.

Edward Bernds wanted Sterling Hayden for the lead, but Allied Artists went with the much cheaper Hugh Marlowe. He’s a little bland, maybe, but fine. Marlowe would have a pretty good run in 50s science fiction. He started out in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), and he’d follow World Without End with Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956).

Lisa Montell plays Deena, one of the lovely women of our planet’s grim future. As she describes it, “That film was a lot of fun… Part of the fun was that my character was related to the ‘Mutates’ and I got to speak in Mutate talk, which I just made up as I went along.”*

Nancy Gates falls for Hugh Marlowe, and Rod Taylor winds up shirtless. Gates’ career was going a mile a minute at this time, working steadily in movies and TV. Taylor had only been in the States a couple years when he was cast in this; he’d appear in Giant (1956) the same year.

Pin-up artist Alberto Vargas (the pressbook called him an “internationally known painter of curvaceous femininity”) did sketches for the film, focusing on the women’s costumes. These were used to promote the picture, and I’m sure they were effective. A six-sheet was available with each of the ladies 5′ 6″ tall.

Director of photography Ellsworth Fredericks did a ton of stuff for Allied Artists around this time, everything from At Gunpoint (1955) to Friendly Persuasion (1956). Wow, from Gary Cooper as a Quaker to rubber spiders. He shot Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers the same year.

Warner Archive has done us all a huge favor by bringing this glorious bit of nonsense to Blu-Ray, gloriously. Fredericks uses the Scope frame really well, and it’s great to have the CinemaScope presented in high definition. Every plastic rocket, every fake spider, every skimpy costume is as sharp as a tack. The color’s perfectly saturated, and the sound’s clear as a bell.

There are certainly better movies than this, but this has become one of my favorite Blu-Rays. It’s a marvel to look at and a real hoot of a movie. Highly, highly recommended.

Read somewhere that Joe Dante saw World Without End and Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) as a double bill some Saturday afternoon when he was a kid. He loved it so much, he sat through it twice — and when he got home, his parents had called the police!

*Sources: The Edward Bernds quotes are from Tim Weaver interviews; Lisa Montell’s quote comes from the Treasures Of Wonderment website.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Hugh Marlowe, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #119: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Starring Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer, Suzanne Ridgeway

From Hell It Came (1957) is a really terrible movie with laughable special effects. I love it and can’t wait to see it in high-definition. It’s coming from Warner Archive — 2017 is really gonna be some year for old movies on Blu-Ray.

The monster was originally designed by Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios. It looks every bit as ridiculous as you’d imagine a walking tree to look.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #110: World Without End (1956).

world-without-end-hs

Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor

Allied Artists bragged that with World Without End (1956), they’d given the world the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope. And Warner Archive is about to give it to us on Blu-Ray.

So, these astronauts return to Earth from a trip to Mars. Somehow they end up in the 26th century, to find a post-Apocalyptic world (actually, the Iverson Ranch) of mutants, monsters and girls in mini skirts. I love this kinda stuff.

world-without-end

Director Edward Bernds  had a most interesting career, going from The Three Stooges to The Bowery Boys to Westerns like The Storm Rider (1957) to a string of sci-fi movies — World Without End, Queen Of Outer Space (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Valley Of The Dragons (1961). He wrote or co-wrote all of these. Oh, and Sam Peckinpah was the dialogue director. So far, there is no specific release date.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Sam Peckinpah, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #80: Invisible Ghost (1941).

invisible-ghost

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, Clarence Muse

The first of nine films Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures, Invisible Ghost (1941) was directed by the great, and greatly underappreciated, Joseph H. Lewis.

You’ll find a strong sense of style throughout Lewis’ work, whether it’s a Randolph Scott picture, the terrific Gun Crazy (1949), an episode of The Rifleman or a cheap horror movie like Invisible Ghost. For that reason alone, Invisible Ghost stands out among the other films Lugosi made on Poverty Row. But it’s got more going for it than that, as we can all see when Kino Lorber releases it on Blu-ray in 2017.

Really looking forward to this one. It’s good to see someone making the effort to bring public domain pictures like this to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joseph H. Lewis, Kino Lorber, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman

DVD Review: Not Of This Earth (1957).

Not Of This Earth TC

Produced and Directed by Roger Corman
Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna
Photographed by John Mescall
Music by Ronald Stein
Titles by Paul Julian

Cast: Paul Birch (Paul Johnson), Beverly Garland (Nadine Storey), Morgan Jones (Harry Sherbourne), William Roerick (Dr. Rochelle), Jonathan Haze (Jeremy Perrin), Dick Miller (Joe Piper)

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Beverly Garland is one of my favorite actresses, thanks to terrific performances in movies like this. Sure, she was capable of much, much more, as she proved later. But Beverly was such a pro, and so good, she can pick up a cheap picture like Gunslinger (1956) or The Alligator People (1959) and carry it on her back for 60-plus minutes. In Not Of This Earth (1957), Paul Birch is on hand to help out, and the two of them helped Roger Corman knock out what is probably the best of his early monster movies.

Not Of The Earth LCPaul Johnson (Birch) requires a lot of medical care, so he hires a nurse (Garland) to tend to his ongoing need for transfusions. Turns out, he’s from the planet Davanna, whose populace is dying of a blood disease, and he’s come to check out the earth as a possible supply.

Of course, this is pretty silly stuff, but Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna’s script really works, the cast puts the dialogue over (Birch somehow makes the alien’s stilted lines feel natural), location shooting in real homes and around Griffith Park add some production value, and it leaves us with a genuinely creepy ending. Good stuff.

Then there’s Paul Julian’s titles. He was a world-class background artist for Warner Bros. cartoons, and his work for Corman really classes things up. They’re so cool, so simple and so effective. Also worth noting is the beautiful advertising art by Albert Kallis — one of my favorite posters ever.

Not Of This Earth is available as part of Shout Factory’s Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Triple Feature. The other two pictures are Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957) and War Of The Satellites (1958). We get crisp anamorphic transfers for Earth and Attack, while Satellites is full-frame — but nice and sharp. You’ll never pull these movies out to show off your spiffy new TV, but Shout Factory has ’em looking better than you ever thought they would.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 3.48.38 PM

Allied Artists sent out Attack Of The Crab Monsters and Not Of This Earth as a double feature. Watch them back to back — it’s only a little over two hours. Recommended.

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Filed under 1957, Beverly Garland, Dick Miller, Monogram/Allied Artists, Roger Corman

The Allied Artists Blogathon: Dial Red “O” (1955) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

Dial Red O HSWritten and Directed by Daniel B. Ullman
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Director of Photography: Ellsworth Fredricks, ASC
Music by Marlin Skiles
Jazz Sequences by Shorty Rogers And His Giants
Supervising Film Editor: Lester A. Sansom
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE
Dialogue Supervisor: Sam Peckinpah

CAST: Bill Elliott (Lt. Andy Flynn), Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), Helene Stanley (Connie Wyatt), Paul Picerni (Norman Roper), Jack Kruschen (Lloyd Lavalle), Elaine Riley (Gloria), Robert Bice (Sgt. Colombo), Rick Vallin (Deputy Clark), George Eldredge (Major), Regina Gleason (Mrs. Roper), Rankin Mansfield (Doctor), Mort Mills (Photographer).

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I am delighted to be able to take part in The Allied Artists Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Formed by Monogram Pictures in 1946, Allied Artists Pictures Corp. set about building a catalogue of entertaining films, perhaps mostly westerns and crime melos. They tend to stand up today very well for those of us who read these blogs and some of my favourite or even just ‘comfort’ pictures were produced by AA. They even tried their hand at some pretty big-scale films in the mid-50s like Friendly Persuasion.

s-l1600-3Their No.1 cowboy star in the 50s had been Wild Bill Elliott and when he rode his last trail for them in 1954, due to changing tastes, or more likely changing fortunes in series western film-making, they put him in a series of five detective pics through 1957. Now Bill Elliott has been a big favourite of mine for decades as a Western star and I know I have to make no apology for this on these blogs (Wild Bill Rules!!!). He actually made the leap to being a detective surprisingly well really and, whilst these five films are not works of art they are good, well-made and solid entertainment.

f6-01-0121The film was directed by Daniel B. Ullman who also wrote the screenplay. This is the story of a WW2 and Korean War veteran who has been suffering (maybe) from what we might today term PTSD. He escapes from veterans’ hospital in Los Angeles because that day he has been served with final divorce papers and wants to confront his wife and perhaps persuade her to change her mind. She is what might be described as a bit of a ‘tramp’ (is it permitted to say that today? – well, there we are – I’ve said it) and has been having an affair with a married real estate agent and wants to marry him. But he (naughty boy) has been merely using her for sex and has no intention of any commitment to her. Furious row ensues in which she is killed by judo chops. Meanwhile hubbie is having no luck tracking her down and only finds out she is dead when he is arrested by the sheriff’s dept. (led by Bill Elliott). He works out that his ‘friend’ from WW2 (who also had been trained in judo) has been lying to him and sets out after him. It is a race against time as to who gets to him first – hubbie or the police.

It is very noticeable how styles have changed in these ‘B’ ‘tec dramas from a decade and more earlier where the tone would be light, the cops a bit dumb and love would prevail in the last reel. Here the tone is quite dark and to-the-point. I enjoy both styles in their different ways but it is all part of a new reality after the horrors of WW2.

Dial-Red-0-02Nice lensing of L.A. locations by Ellsworth Fredericks, some tasty jazz by Shorty Rogers And The Giants in the score and a host of familiar faces, apart from Elliott, in the cast. Many of these would have been seen regularly in the studio’s westerns, such as Mort Mills, Keith Larsen, Bill Tannen, John Hart, Mike Ragan etc. Even Elaine Riley has a good role as an undercover cop. She was married to Richard ‘Chito’ Martin and only died recently, aged 98.

For folks who like a good 50s police procedural with a good cast, this film and the other four would get my recommendation. It is readily available on DVD thanks to Warner Archive putting them all together in one great set.

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Filed under 1955, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive