Category Archives: Nathan Juran

Blu-Ray News #314: Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman (1958).

Directed by Nathan H. Juran (as Nathan Hertz)
Starring Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers

Warner Archive has announced Nathan Juran’s Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman (1958) as one of their December releases. I’m sure there are some folks out there asking, “Why?” If you don’t get it, I don’t think I could ever explain.

No one has ever accused this of being a good movie. The director Nathan Juran even decided to use a pseudonym, Nathan Hertz, the same name he used for Brain From Planet Arous. And like Arous, 50 Ft. Woman is a hoot, its entertainment value is in no way related to its budget (just $88,000, they say) or its quality as a film. Me, I’ll watch anything with Allison Hayes in it, from Chicago Syndicate (1955) and Gunslinger (1956) to Zombies Of Mora Tau (1957) and The High Powered Rifle (1960). Oh, and Tickle Me (1965) with Elvis.

Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman was originally released as half of an Allied Artists twin bill with Roger Corman’s War Of The Satellites (1958) starring Dick Miller. Must’ve been a fun afternoon at the movies. By the way, this was remade in 1993, starring Darryl Hannah.

Haven’t seen any specs for the Blu-Ray, but I’m sure it’ll be widescreen and will look terrific. Hope they keep the commentary by Yvette Vickers and Tom Weaver that was on the old DVD. It was cool to listen to Ms. Vickers.

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Filed under 1958, Allison Hayes, Dick Miller, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Nathan Juran, Roger Corman, Warner Archive, Yvette Vickers

Blu-Ray News #313: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films (1955-59).

Mill Creek Entertainment has two new Blu-ray sets coming in December: Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films and Thrillers From The Vault: 8 Classic Horror Films. Here’s a look at the Sci-Fi Vault.

Creature With The Atom Brain (1955)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger

A scientist has figured out how to reanimate dead people and make them obey his commands. A gangster finds out about the discovery and decides he’ll use the dead for his own purposes. Produced by Sam Katzman.

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)
Directed by Robert Gordon
Starring Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis

Kenneth Tobey commands a submarine that is attacked by a giant octopus, cooked up by Ray Harryheusen. Before long, Tobey and Faith Domergue are battling it along the Pacific Coast. Produced by Sam Katzman.

The Ymir and Ray Harryheusen. Ray’s the one on the right.

20 Million Miles To Earth (1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia

When a spaceship crashes on its way back from Venus, some eggs brought back as a souvenir get lost. Soon a really cool, quickly-growing monster from Ray Harryheusen is running loose.

The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock (1959)
Directed by Sidney Miller
Starring Lou Costello, Dorothy Provine, Gale Gordon

Lou Costello’s fiancé Dorothy Provine is exposed to radiation and grows really big. This was Costello’s only solo film after he and Bud Abbott parted ways. Lou died before it was released.

Columbia’s transfers are always top-notch, so expect these pictures to look fabulous. 

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Filed under 1955, 1957, 1959, Abbott & Costello, Angela Stevens, Columbia, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward L. Cahn, Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey, Mill Creek, Nathan Juran, Ray Harryhausen, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray Review: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957).

Directed by Nathan Hertz (Nathan Juran)
Produced by Jacques Marquette
Written by Ray Buffum
Director Of Photography: Jacques Marquette
Supervising Film Editor: Irving Schoenberg
Music by Walter Greene

Cast: John Agar (Steve March), Joyce Meadows (Sally Fallon), Robert Fuller (Dan Murphy), Thomas Browne Henry (John Fallon), Kenneth Terrell (Colonel), Henry Travis (Colonel Frogley), E. Leslie Thomas (General Brown), Tim Graham (Sheriff Wiley Pane), Bill Giorgio (Russian), Dale Tate (voices of Gor and Vol)


Many 50s science fiction movies were plagued by paltry budgets and skimpy schedules. But seen today, there’s a charm to them money just can’t buy. The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), a cheesy gem from Nathan Juran starring John Agar, is a perfect example of this.

In the early 50s, the owners of two independent cinema chains — with theaters spread across Virginia, North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi* — got together and entered the production side of things as Howco International. They knew the kind of pictures that worked in cinemas like theirs, and that’s exactly what they made. One of their offerings was The Brain From Planet Arous.

According to just about every criteria used to size up a movie — production values, effects, writing, acting, etc. — this picture comes up lacking. But it might be a better movie, or at least a more enjoyable one, because of it.

Steve March (John Agar), a scientist, and Dan (Robert Fuller), his assistant, head to Mystery Mountain to investigate a “hot burst of gamma.” Deep in Bronson Caves, Steve and Dan are confronted by a floating brain-monster named Gor from the planet Arous. Dan shoots at Gor and is promptly burned to a crisp, while Steve’s body is possessed by the sinister brain. “I need your body as a dwelling place.” 

Through Agar, Gor announces that he’s going to take over the earth, and he’ll wipe out the capital of any country that doesn’t play along. Help arrives when Vol, a friendly brain from planet Arous, shows up and inhabits the body of George, a dog belonging to March’s fiancee Sally (Joyce Meadows). Turns out, Gor is Public Enemy Number One back on Arous. 

It also turns out that Gor has a thing for earth ladies, and while dwelling in Agar, he puts the moves on Joyce Meadows. “She appeals to me.”

By the last reel, the fate of the world depends on Sally and her alien-possessed dog. What does Sally do? Get out the encyclopedia, of course.

One of the best things about The Brain From Planet Arous is that it’s absolutely, completely nuts, in a way we wouldn’t really see until Hollywood’s open-border policy for whacked-out Mexican and Italian monster movies came along in the early 60s. The story comes from a short story cameraman and producer Jacques Marquette liked as a kid. Screenplay duties went to Ray Buffum, who also wrote the film’s “co-hit” Teenage Monster.

By this time, architect turned art director turned director Nathan Juran had shown himself to be quite adept at sci-fi and fantasy stuff with The Deadly Mantis and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). With this one and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958), he had himself credited as Nathan Hertz. As I see it, there was no need to hide behind a pseudonym. He does a good job with what he had to work with. The performances are fine, across the board — with Agar completely over the top when inhabited by Gor. Marquette’s cinematography is quite good, especially in the cave sequences. It doesn’t look near as cheap as it clearly was. And Irving Schoenberg’s no-frills editing keeps things moving well.

I’ve loved The Brain From Planet Arous since I was a kid, when I was actually frightened by Gor and creeped out by Agar’s chrome-looking contacts. So I was absolutely thrilled to learn it was on its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective. I knew Phil Hopkins and his gang would come through — and did they ever! The movie itself looks terrific, but not perfect. That’s the way I like ’em! The sound is clear as a bell. The extras are nicely done (Ballyhoo’s work here is up to their usual high standards), including an intro featuring Joyce Meadows. 

With movies like The Brain From Planet Arous getting Cadillac Blu-Ray releases like this, this is a wonderful time to be an old sci-fi movie nut. I’m surely not the only one out there with this picture one near the top of their Blu-Ray Want List. Highly, highly recommended.

Oh, and the picture started shooting 65 years ago today.

* This is the kind of stuff that makes me proud to be from the South!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Howco International, John Agar, Nathan Juran, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #378: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957).

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller

I love The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), and I’m ecstatic that it’s coming to Blu-Ray in June. A big thanks to the folks at The Film Detective. Will add more details as they’re announced. Can’t wait!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howco International, John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Nathan Juran, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #299: Universal Horror Collection, Volume 6.

I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.

The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.

Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.

Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, Arthur Grant, Barbara Shelley, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Lon Chaney Jr., Marshall Thompson, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray Review: The Crooked Web (1955).

Directed by Nathan Hertz Juran
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story & Screenplay by Lou Breslow
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Edwin H. Bryant

Cast: Frank Lovejoy (Stanley Fabian), Mari Blanchard (Joanie Daniel), Richard Denning (Frank Daniel), John Mylong (Herr Koenig), Harry Lauter (Sgt. Mike Jancoweizc), Steven Ritch (Ramon ‘Ray’ Torres), Lou Merrill (Herr Schmitt)

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With some movies, you can smell the next plot point, or even the rest of the picture, a mile away. The experience is then reduced to just waiting around to see if you were right — unless you just give up on the whole thing. Then there are movies that make a point of not only zigging when you expect them to zag, but doing it so frequently you can’t possibly get ahead of them. The Crooked Web (1955) is one of those movies.

As a favor, you’re not going to get much of a synopsis out of me. Stan (Frank Lovejoy) owns a drive-in restaurant and he’s sweet on Joanie (Mari Blanchard), one of his carhops. One afternoon, Joanie’s brother Frank (Richard Denning) pulls up to say hello.

The Crooked Web makes great use of Stan’s Drive-In at the corner of Sunset and Highland in Hollywood. Giving Mark Lovejoy’s character the name Stan lets them show us all that wonderful signage. As soon as the movie was over, I hopped online to see if Stan’s was still around. Sadly, it’s not.

All these twists and turns are the work of Lou Breslow, who gets credit for both the story and screenplay. He takes this one way beyond what you expect from Sam Katzman’s unit. Breslow’s credits stretch back to the silents and he worked on pictures like W.C. Field’s masterpiece It’s A Gift (1934), Charlie Chan At The Race Track (1936), Mr. Moto Takes A Chance (1938), Shooting High with Gene Autry (1940), Blondie Goes To College (1942), Abbott & Costello In Hollywood (1945) and My Favorite Spy (1951). The Crooked Web was his last feature, though he did lots of TV.

Before trying his hand at directing, Nathan Juran was an art director — one of the gaggle of geniuses behind the Oscar-winning designs for John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941). Juran directed a handful of pictures, mostly Westerns at Universal-International, before taking on The Crooked Web. He found his sweet spot in horror/sci-fi/fantasy stuff, and he’d go on to do 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). His Western Good Day For A Hanging (1958) starring Fred MacMurray is really terrific.

A picture like The Crooked Web can’t really work if its cast isn’t up to snuff. And the three leads here are top-notch — pros going about their business. Beginning with Lovejoy being head over heels for Blanchard, everybody’s believable enough to escort us from one plot twist to another. Frank Lovejoy is excellent in this one. Richard Denning was so good as a creep in both Hangman’s Knot (1952) and Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) that I have a hard time seeing him as anything else.

I’ve always liked Mari Blanchard, especially in Rails Into Laramie (1954) and Stagecoach To Fury (1957). She’s very good here, though she was probably hired primarily for her eye-candy-ness. She had a pretty incredible life, overcoming polio as a child — look her up sometime. Her last feature was McLintock! (1963). Cancer took her in 1970.

The Crooked Web is part of Kit Parker’s Noir Archive, Volume 2 (1954-1955), a nine-movie, three-disc Blue-Ray set. It looks terrific — all nine pictures do. I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating: seeing B movies like this on Blu-Ray can be a real revelation. The craft that went into these things has been obscured by washed-out TV prints and sorry-looking VHS tapes. People like cinematographer Henry Freulich certainly deserve to have their work seen in the best possible condition. And that’s exactly how you see The Crooked Web here. The movie comes highly recommended — and the Blu-Ray set, well, it’s essential.

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Filed under 1955, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kit Parker, Mari Blanchard, Nathan Juran, Richard Denning, Sam Katzman

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, Big Bug Movies, 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)