Category Archives: Monogram/Allied Artists

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

6a00d83451d04569e2017d3ed668cc970c

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)

__________

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.

4 Comments

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.

8 Comments

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.

3 Comments

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.

7 Comments

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)

__________

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.

Leave a comment

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).

__________

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.

12 Comments

Filed under 1955, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

The Allied Artists Blogathon: Hell To Eternity (1960) By Guest Blogger Blake Lucas.

Hell To Eternity LC2Directed by Phil Karlson
Produced by Irving H. Levin
Screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Walter Roeber Schmidt
Story by Gil Doud
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Art Direction: David Milton
Set Decoration: Joseph Kish
Music: Leith Stevens
Sound: John H. Bury, Jr. and Ralph Butler
Sound editing: Charles Schelling
Film Editing: Ray V. Livingston and George White

Cast: Jeffrey Hunter (Guy Gabaldon), David Janssen (Sgt. Bill Hazen), Vic Damone (Cpl. Pete Lewis), Patricia Owens (Sheila Lincoln), Richard Eyer (Guy as a boy), John Larch (Capt. Schwabe), Bill Williams (Leonard), Michi Kobi (Sono), George Shibata (Kaz Une), Reiko Sato (Famika), Bob Okazai (Papa Une), George Takei (George Une), George Matsui (George as a boy), Miiko Taka (Ester), Tsuro Aoki (Mother Une), Sessue Hayakawa (Gen. Matsui)

__________

A serious and expansive biographical film about World War II hero Guy Gabaldon, this could rightly be considered among Allied Artists’ more prestigious movies were it better known than it is. At the same time, it surely benefitted from being made out of the major studios by non-prestigious AA, as well as from the company’s trust in director Phil Karlson, an important figure in its history. It is not only that the film is so effectively uncompromised, while at the same time mature — in its handling of both violence and sexuality as well as challenging social/historical realities — but, even more significantly that Karlson, working from a screenplay by Ted Sherdeman and Walter Roeber Schmidt, takes the opportunity given by the episodic nature of a biographical subject to draw the cinematic arc more from within the central character than from its narrative events.

So, the movie may be a little difficult to grasp in terms of coming to dramatic points in the ways one expects, though they are there throughout, and if one is just looking for those things it may seem attenuated. From the beginning, the focus is on conflict of cultural identity for Guy, which the War intensifies. Guy is introduced as a boy (Richard Eyer) effectively orphaned in the opening sequences but adopted by the Japanese-American family of his friend George Une (George Matsui; George Takei as an adult) after George’s older brother Kaz (George Shibaro) takes him in hand. Guy (Jeffrey Hunter as an adult) takes his new identity as part of this Nisei family to heart and especially his adopted mother (Tsuro Aoki), who sets the tone for the family’s positive values, stoical when, after Pearl Harbor and the advent of war, the family is relocated to a Japanese-American internment camp (though the brothers are later able to enlist). Bitter and conflicted, Guy is encouraged to take a positive attitude by Mother Une and joins the Marines as an interpreter. With his friends Hazen (David Janssen) and Lewis (Vic Damone), he enjoys a wild night in Honolulu with two free-living Japanese-American women (Michi Kobe and Reiko Sato) and a more reserved white magazine writer from the States (Patricia Owens). After this the second of the movie’s two hours follows the Marines on Saipan, where Guy loses both of those friends and responds to the enemy Japanese in several different ways—drawing them out of caves and coldly executing them after the killing of Hazen, but earlier being caring and protective when he can be (especially in a beautifully realized scene with a young Japanese girl) and later negotiating a surrender of troops with a reticent general (Sessue Hayakawa); the general commits hara-kiri but not before being persuaded by Guy’s eloquence that there is no purpose in his command following him, and so Guy ends up saving far more lives than he has taken, and it’s this for which he is now celebrated as a hero.

HTE 1

The cross-cultural journey of Guy, as much spiritual as external, and his complex relationship to race and racism, hold the film together more than any individual thing that happens. He is seen in relation to Japanese brothers and sisters (real and metaphorical) as well as in relation to important Caucasian characters throughout the movie, from a first boyhood fight on to interaction with the Japanese general and by way of the Honolulu party with the three women. And though the movie ends in a positive moment, with the peaceful taking of all those prisoners on Saipan, it’s not felt his identity conflict is ever fully resolved. But it does not need to be, and that is the movie’s great strength. Instead of taking the character from one definitive point to another, it appreciates that a life may always be made up of and defined by many elements—cultural, social and historical as well as personal—and that an individual may find ways to live with these, hopefully positive though they not always be so, in different ways at different times. As a realized artistic creation based on a real person, Guy believably carries this idea, making the movie individual as well as believable and thoughtful.

HTE 3

As Phil Karlson is rightly celebrated for earlier genre movies, especially his crime films that are usually experienced as taut and concise, one might on first reflection not expect this kind of treatment from him. But it can be dangerous to type a director too much, even if it’s meant in a positive way, and the evidence is plainly there, and not only in this film, that his artistic impulses always cut in a number of directions, depending on the opportunities. He evidently cared a lot about this project, and not only because of strong social convictions (cinematic references to Japanese-American internment camps, one of the dark pages in American history, are easy to find in later movies but at this point in time, Hell To Eternity had to be at least close to alone in its acknowledgement and makes it a central event for the evolving consciousness of its hero).

HTE 2Stylistic inflection that I would expect from him in present, for example, in forceful still moments that follow in the wake of drama, an early example being a beautiful high angle shot of Guy at his family’s home after they have left to be relocated in the camps, powerful in its simplicity, and a more sustained series of shots after the brutal first battle on Saipan, with dialogue absent for more than several minutes as the soldiers quietly regroup in the aftermath and gravely absorb all the death. Anyone who remembers something like the end of the middle part of The Brothers Rico (1957), with James Darren quietly walking out of his house to face his killers in extreme high angle long shot, will know Karlson’s mastery with these kinds of moments, and his gift for absorbing violence into an imposing calm.

But in Hell To Eternity, I find even more striking the unexpected ways in which scenes may be stretched out, taking on a very modernist feel at one with currents of world cinema that are important throughout the 1960s, so it’s one more Hollywood production (there are a fair number) prescient in this respect. A striking example is the erotically charged party with Reiko Sato’s practiced Famika stripping and then, unexpectedly, Patricia Owens’ Sheila stripping with even more abandon, glad to feel the effects of the liquor and the erotic pull of the moment that at last has shattered her reserve and finally set up an end to the sequence (not really an end—as the end is clear, it simply stops). Instead of being concerned about what an episode like this contributes to balance or coherence of narrative, it becomes interesting to consider what it contributes to tone of the whole—and the early scenes in East L.A. and the longer, richly developed ones on Saipan may be considered in the same way.

HTE 9.jpgAn insightful overview of Karlson by Bill Krohn for a Cinematheque Francaise retrospective in 2014* addresses several things about this—that Karlson liked for a movie to have three acts (Krohn uses Hell To Eternity  as an example of these three acts all being different, and indeed the Honolulu sequence seems to come in almost as something self-contained, even though we know the characters, and makes the first and third parts seem that way too) and that his relationship with actors may be almost documentary-like (as Shelia, Patricia Owens—who excelled in a fair number of fetching films, most famously as the desperate heroine of The Fly, 1958 —first projects the customary poise and ladylike reserve her beauty had always carried and seems liberated by the overt sexuality she then projects). With directors this gifted, it’s important not just to acknowledge their genre expertise but to observe and appreciate inflections of sensibility that are all their own, apart from whatever place they may have carved out in the cinema of their time and place.

HTE 6

There’s a lot to appreciate in Hell To Eternity and surely more than I’ve made note of here. Hopefully touching on things that are aesthetically interesting about it as well as what’s emotionally moving in realization of the subject are at least a start, and surely those things are related too. Guy’s divided cultural identity as seen in the film may be something Karlson personally responded to (the director was half Jewish and half Irish) and may be one reason why he treats this with such sensitivity throughout while also being related to his embrace of the freer structure and the personal flow that comes with this. Karlson also cared enough about visual tone to borrow cinematographer Burnett Guffey from Columbia, where they had worked on key films before—Guffey was a master of sharp images in bold black and white as here—and gave his usual attention to actors, including an ideally cast Jeffrey Hunter as Guy, believably earnest and intense as in all his best roles, a more extroverted David Janssen before his indelible TV lead in The Fugitive, John Larch (whose career as he came into features, often as the heavy for which his looks suited him, was helped immeasurably by Karlson) as a sympathetic commander, and most of all, Tsuro Aoki as the deeply knowing adoptive mother. It may not be the most perfect or polished film, but at the same time has so much, and those positive things are the ones that deserve attention, make it steadily absorbing, and give it its character.

HTE 8For Phil Karlson and Allied Artists, the movie was the end of a long relationship that began with the director’s first films for Monogram. When the company began to go beyond its B films as AA (for about five years Monogram and AA continued to exist together), Karlson made the first of those movies (Black Gold, 1947) and he returned during his Columbia years for another important work The Phenix City Story (1955) before finishing with them with this movie. It would be hard to imagine him apart from Monogram/Allied Artists history, and just as hard to imagine that company without him.

*archived in Kinoslang as “Phil Karlson Confidential”

Blake Lucas is a writer and film critic living in Los Angeles.

8 Comments

Filed under 1960, Monogram/Allied Artists, Phil Karlson