Category Archives: Nathan Juran

One Quick Thing.

The second volume of Kit Parker’s Noir Archive series showed up yesterday. In a year filled with really great stuff coming out on Blu-Ray, this might be my favorite so far.

Four of my favorite B directors are here: William Castle, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson and Fred F. Sears. Some of my favorite actors, too — John Agar, Robert Blake, Mari Blanchard, Timothy Carey, Richard Denning, Faith Domergue, Vince Edwards, Beverly Garland, Brian Keith, Guy Madison, Kim Novack and more.

All nine pictures look terrific — the Columbia transfers are almost flawless. Proper reviews will follow, but I can’t recommend Noir Archives Volume 2: 1954-1956 highly enough.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, Beverly Garland, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Fred F. Sears, John Agar, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman, Timothy Carey, William Castle

Blu-Ray Review: The Deadly Mantis (1957).

Directed by Nathan Juran
Produced by William Alland
Screenplay by Martin Berkeley
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: Chester W. Schaeffer

Cast: Craig Stevens (Col. Joe Parkman), William Hopper (Dr. Nedrick Jackson), Alix Talton (Marge Blaine), Donald Randolph (Maj. Gen. Mark Ford), Pat Conway (Sgt. Pete Allen) and Florenz Ames (Prof. Anton Gunther)

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The 50s Big Bug movies are all terrific. Some are better than others, of course, but there’s something about them I love. They’re just so damn entertaining! The Deadly Mantis (1957) is one of the later ones, and while it’s certainly no Them! (1954), it’s got plenty going for it.

A volcano eruption sets off a chain reaction — an iceberg melts, releasing a giant praying mantis that’s been frozen for eons. It attacks polar military outposts, an airplane and an eskimo village, all through the liberal use of stock footage (this film might have the most stock of any movie I’ve ever seen). It’s up to a scientist (William Hopper), an Air Force CO (Craig Stevens) and a reporter (Alix Talton) to sort it all out.

While it has the mandatory pseudo-science and military propaganda, what sets The Deadly Mantis apart are the monster scenes. There are the usual teases — a claw here, a shadow there, some buzzing from time to time — before the big reveal, and it’s all handled well. The bug models are pretty well done — especially in the final scenes in the Manhattan Tunnel. (They’re a bit like the final scene in Them! deep in LA’s drain system, but still very cool.)

Real bug, fake monument.

Then there’s the Washington Monument. They took a real praying mantis and let it do a slow, graceful, creepy crawl up a (very) miniature monument. It might be the best single shot in the movie.

The mantis stuck in traffic is effective, too. These are images forever seared into my brain as a kid — who cares how good the rest of the movie is? The strength of these images might be attributed to director Nathan Juran. Before trying his hand at directing, he was an art director — one of the geniuses behind the Oscar-winning designs for John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941). Juran directed a handful of pictures, including several Audie Murphy movies, before The Deadly Mantis. This was his first horror/sci-fi/fantasy movie, and he’d go on to do stuff like 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958). Those last two he did under the name Nathan Hertz. His Western Good Day For A Hanging (1958) is really good. (Shout Factory has announced a Blu-Ray release of Juran’s Law And Order from 1953.)

Another Reynold Brown masterpiece.

Scream Factory has brought The Deadly Mantis to Blu-Ray in grand fashion. It looks terrific — the contrast is near-perfect and all the dust and scratches you see are from the original stock footage. The audio is quite strong and there are so nice extras — commentary, trailer and the episode of MST3000 that pokes fun at the picture. (They were wise to keep Reynold Brown’s original poster art for their packaging.)

I have a soft spot for this movie bigger than the deadly mantis itself, and I’m so stoked to see this type of thing get this level of TLC. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #229: Noir Archive Volume 2: 1954-1956.

The first nine-film, three-disc volume in Kit Parker’s awesome assemblage of hi-def Film Noir hasn’t hit the street yet, and now the second’s been announced. These are coming in July, and it’s another great lineup.

Bait (1954)
Directed by Hugo Haas
Starring Cleo Moore, Hugo Haas, John Agar

Hugo Haas directs himself, Cleo Moore and John Agar in a love triangle involving a lost gold mine.

The Crooked Web (1955)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Frank Lovejoy, Mari Blanchard, Richard Denning

Nathan Juran directed lots of cool stuff, but this is the only one with Mari Blanchard as a waitress. This one involves gold, too, but it’s a stash of Nazi gold. Nathan Juran did some cool stuff — from The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1957) to Good Day For A Hanging (1958).

The Night Holds Terror (1955)
Directed by Andrew Stone
Starring Jack Kelly, Hildy Parks, Vince Edwards, John Cassavetes, David Cross, Jonathan Hale

Sort of a combination of The Hitch-Hiker and The Desperate Hours, with John Cassavetes one of the crooks.

Footsteps In The Fog (1955)
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Starring Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Bill Travers, Ronald Squire

The only picture in the set in color, this one has Stewart Granger as a killer who chooses the wrong victim, literally.

Cell_2455_Death_Row LC

Cell 2455, Death Row (1955)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring William Campbell, Marian Carr, Kathryn Grant, Harvey Stephens, Vince Edwards

Based on the true story by Caryl Chessman. Director Fred F. Sears is a real favorite of mine.

5 Against The House (1955)
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Kim Novack, Alvy Moore, William Conrad, Kerwin Mathews

A team of Army buddies snag a camper trailer and head to Reno to rob the casinos. Phil Karlson keeps things tough and tight. Terrific movie.

New Orleans Uncensored (1955)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Arthur Franz, Beverly Garland, Helene Stanton, Mike Mazurki

William Castle working for Sam Katzman. Beverly Garland. Black and white widescreen. Why haven’t you pre-ordered one already?

Spin A Dark Web (1955)
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Starring Faith Domergue, Lee Patterson, Rona Anderson, Martin Benson

A boxer gets sucked into the London mob, with a little help from Faith Domergue. Vernon Sewell directed lots of B movies in the UK, and this is a cool one.

Rumble On The Docks (1956)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring James Darren, Laurie Carrol, Michael Granger, Robert Blake, Timothy Carey

Fred F. Sears, Robert Blake and Timothy Carey all working on a Sam Katzman movie — and the results are every bit as wonderful as you might be imagining.

To have these nine pictures, in their original aspect ration and high definition, is a real treat. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1956, Beverly Garland, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Fred F. Sears, John Agar, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Mill Creek, Nathan Juran, Phil Karlson, Richard Denning, Timothy Carey, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #206: The Deadly Mantis (1957).

Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Craig Stevens, Alix Talton, William Hopper, Florenz Ames

Just this morning, a co-worker told me a great holiday story. A few years ago, her family bought a locally-grown Christmas tree (we’re in North Carolina), got it home, decorated it and sat their infant son in front of it for a first-Christmas photo. Then, suddenly, hundreds of tiny praying mantises began cascading out of the tree.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, first, it’s a cool story. And second, Scream Factory has just announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Universal’s big-bug classic The Deadly Mantis (1957). It’s not the masterpiece Them! (1954) is, and it’s not quite as cool as Tarantula (1955). But scenes near the end of the picture with the (deadly) mantis atop the Washington Monument and stuck in the Manhattan Tunnel have been seared in my brain since I was about eight. One complaint: where’s Nestor Paiva?

The Deadly Mantis won’t hatch until March 2019. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Nathan Juran, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-Ray News #168: Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961).

Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Starring Kieron Moore, Hazel Court, Ian Hunter

This one slipped by me — it’s available now. Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961) is an English zombie picture that was very influential in how movie zombies work. These are resurrected corpses, not the voodoo-type zombies of I Walked With A Zombie (1943).

Nathan Juran came up with the story, and its setting was moved from the US to the UK. Sidney J. Furie does a solid job on a 10-day schedule, demonstrating some of the stylistics that he’d let run rampant on The Ipcress File (1965).

Doctor Blood’s Coffin is a pretty cool movie, and I’m so glad it’s received the white-glove Scream Factory treatment. Previous versions have never been all that great. By the way, this Eastmancolor picture played some US theaters in black and white.

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Filed under 1961, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hazel Court, Nathan Juran, Shout/Scream Factory, Sidney J. Furie

Blu-Ray News #143: Highway Dragnet (1954).

Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Richard Conte, Joan Bennett, Wanda Hendrix, Reed Hadley, Mary Beth Hughes, Iris Adrian

Highway Dragnet (1954) is a tough little Allied Artists noir picture, from a story co-written by Roger Corman. I’ve been waiting for this one to make it to DVD and/or Blu-Ray for quite some time. It’s terrific — and it’s on its way from Kino Lorber, with a 4K restoration prepared by Paramount.

Richard Conte is a Korean War vet wanted for murder, after a woman he meets in a bar winds up very dead. On the lamb, he ends bumming a ride from a fashion photographer (Joan Bennett) and model (Wanda Hendrix).

Nathan Juran started out as an art director and became a director after World War II. He did a number of picture I really love: Law And Order (1953), The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) and so on. Highway Dragnet was a pretty early credit for him, and he does a great job with this one, keeping things cooking as it winds its way to a pretty cool wrap-up. Watch for it early next year. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Monogram/Allied Artists, Nathan Juran, Richard Conte, Roger Corman