Category Archives: Paramount

Blu-Ray Review: Jack The Ripper (1959).

Produced, Directed & Photographed by Robert S. Baker & Monty Berman
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Music by Stanley Black (UK); Jimmy McHugh & Pete Rugolo (US)
Film Editor: Peter Bezencenet

Cast: Lee Patterson (Sam Lowry), Eddie Byrne (Inspector O’Neill), Betty McDowall (Anne Ford), Ewen Solon (Sir David Rogers), John Le Mesurier (Dr. Tranter), George Rose (Clarke), Philip Leaver (Music Hall Manager), Barbara Burke (Kitty Knowles), Anne Sharp (Helen), Denis Shaw (Simes), Jack Allen (Assistant Commissioner Hodges), Jane Taylor (Hazel), Dorinda Stevens as (Margaret), Hal Osmond (Snakey), Paul Frees (narrator, US version)

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I’m sure I’m not the only kid who caught Jack The Ripper (1959) on TV and has had a fascination with the murders ever since. Back then, researching a subject wasn’t as simple as typing a few words into Wikipedia, and I’ve got a stack of Ripper books to prove it.

Since Jack The Ripper was never caught, a book or movie or whatever can go wherever it wants, presenting its own theory of what happened — or just using the basic story as a springboard for a bit of violence and sex. This movie sticks to the usual path, and its “solution” is in line with some of the common theories from the “experts.” The Ripper scenes are very well done, and they do a pretty good job of concealing the fact that they walk along the same Whitechapel street set over and over again — the fog machine guy sure worked overtime.

My favorite Ripper picture is Murder By Decree (1978) and this one comes in second. Its Hammer-ish feel — courtesy of writer Jimmy Sangster and producers/directors Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who’d done Blood Of The Vampire the year before — suits the subject matter perfectly.

I’ve never seen Jack The Ripper look good, so I was really eager to see how the Severin Blu-Ray turned out, knowing they’d gone to great lengths to find some nice material to work with. And I was hoping to get a lesson in how the various versions of the picture came to be. And while this isn’t a shining example of everything a Blu-Ray can be, it does show what dedication and hard work can accomplish.

So here’s the back story. Joseph E. Levine made a fortune buying foreign films, sprucing them up for American release, and filling theaters through masterful advertising campaigns. Two of his biggest successes were the US versions of Godzilla, King Of The Monsters (1956) and Hercules (1958). Jack The Ripper was given the same treatment.

Wth the Severin Blu-Ray, you get the British cut of the picture, looking pretty good, but cropped to 1.33. Then there’s the US version in its proper aspect ratio, transferred from a vintage, well-used print found in the Library Of Congress. (Wow, Congress is good for something!) It’s got some lines and splices, and the color insert is there. (I actually like seeing an old movie look like it’s been run a few times — that’s how they usually looked when I first saw them.) In short, Severin did a very nice job with somewhat compromised material.

Of the two, I prefer the US one. The widescreen framing is a huge plus, it’s cool to hear Paul Frees over the Paramount logo, and the music is the score I know from the soundtrack LP.

There was a third version — a cut for the rest of Europe with some extra violence and a bit of nudity tossed in for good measure. Some of those scenes are included in the supplemental stuff. You also get a nice little documentary, the US trailer, an expert interview and a still gallery. A nice package.

But for me, however, the real treat is bringing this Ripper out of the fog after all these years. For that, I’m certainly grateful. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Paramount, Severin Films

DVD/Blu-Ray News #204: Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 1.

Well blow me down! The DVD sets of the Fleischer Popeye cartoons have been crown jewels in my DVD collection for years, and I’ve always wondered if more would ever show up. Our friends at Warner Archive have done it again with their upcoming Popeye the Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 1. And they’ll be available on both DVD and Blu-Ray this time around!

Popeye spinach

Who’d eat any other brand?

By 1943, Max and Dave Fleischer had been forced out of their own cartoon business — 1942’s Baby Wants A Bottleship was their last Popeye picture, and their animation studio became Paramount’s Famous Studios. The whole Fleischer-Paramount-Famous Studios saga is a tragic mess.

But the Popeye The Sailor series stayed afloat — powered by spinach, no doubt, and the cartoons are wonderful. This set includes shorts produced from 1943 to 1945: Her Honor, The Mare; The Marry-Go-Round; We’re On Our Way To Rio; The Anvil Chorus Girl; Spinach Packin’ Popeye; Puppet Love; Pitchin’ Woo At The Zoo; Moving Aweigh; She-Sick Sailors; Pop-Pie A La Mode; Tops In The Big Top; Shape Ahoy; For Better Or Nurse; and Mess Production.

Warner Archive is promising 4K masters from the original nitrate negatives. These’ll look strong to the fin-ich for sure.

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Filed under Cartoons, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paramount, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #177: Sangaree (1953) In 3-D.

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Starring Fernando Lamas, Arlene Dahl, Patricia Medina, Francis L. Sullivan, Charles Korvin

Kino Lorber Studio Classics and the 3-D Film Archive have announced the upcoming 3-D Blu-Ray release of Sangaree (1953).

Sangaree was to be another Pine-Thomas picture, but Paramount picked it to be their first 3-D production. Shooting was underway when the 3-D decision was made, so some scenes had to be re-shot. Be sure to read all about it here and watch for the Blu-Ray in September.

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Ludwig, Kino Lorber, Paramount, Pine-Thomas

RIP, D.J. Fontana.

Dominic Joseph “D.J.” Fontana
(March 15, 1931 – June 13, 2018)

Elvis’ drummer D.J. Fontana has passed away at 87. He was the last of the Blue Moon Boys.

Here’s (above, L-R) Scotty Moore, D.J., Elvis and Bill Black in Loving You (1957), Elvis’ second movie — and certainly one of his best.

To see these guys tearing it up in Technicolor and VistaVision (shot by the great Charles Lang, Jr.) is really something to behold. Elvis even drives a really cool 1929 Ford hot rod (mounted on a ’32 frame). This movie’s got everything.

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Filed under 1957, Elvis Presley, Paramount

Blu-Ray News #151: Jack The Ripper (1958).

Directed by Robert Baker and Monty Berman
Starring Lee Patterson, Eddie Byrne, Betty McDowall

Our friends at Severin Films have put together a killer Blu-Ray edition of the 1959 exploitation classic Jack The Ripper (1959) — that includes three versions of the movie: the British Version from a 1080 telecine, the U.S. Version from a 2K scan of an archival print, and on a bonus DVD, the European Version pieced together from the British Version and the only known tape source of the racier/gorier scenes (the original film elements have evidently been lost).

There’s also a slew of extras. Oh, that bonus DVD is part of a limited (1,500 copies) Black Friday edition, so put down the Thanksgiving leftovers, stay away from the mall, and be sure to order one before they’re gone. David Gregory has been working on this title for quite a while, and it’s gonna be terrific.

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Filed under 1959, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paramount, Severin Films

Blu-Ray Review: Money From Home (1953).

Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Hal Kanter
Adapted by James Allardice and Hal Kanter
From a story by Damon Runyon
Director Of Photography: Daniel L. Fapp

Cast: Dean Martin (Honey Talk Nelson), Jerry Lewis (Virgil Yokum), Marjie Millar (Phyllis Leigh), Pat Crowley (Autumn Claypool), Richard Haydn (Bertie Searles), Robert Strauss (Seldom Seen Kid), Gerald Mohr (Marshall Preston), Sheldon Leonard (Jumbo Schneider), Jack Kruschen (Short Boy)

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From a technical standpoint, Money From Home (1953) was a real landmark for Martin and Lewis. It was their first picture in color — and in some theaters it played in 3-D (and stereo), too. It was one of only two (if memory servces) films shot in both three-strip Technicolor and 3-D, which meant six (!) strips of negative were going through the camera at once.

This was the first Martin and Lewis picture I ever saw, catching it on TV as a kid. I loved it. So while I think the pair made better films (Artists And Models gets my vote for their best), I have a real soft spot for this one.

It’s the 20s. Dean’s a gambler named Honey Talk Nelson who owes a small fortune to bookmaker Jumbo Schneider (Sheldon Leonard). Jumbo will forgive Honey Talk’s stack of IOUs if Dean can keep a certain horse from winning a certain race — with the alternative being a pair of cement boots. So Honey Talk drafts his animal-loving, vet tech cousin Virgil (Lewis) and off they go. This paves the way for the typical crooning and romancing from Martin — of course, he falls for the owner of the horse he’s trying to fix (Marjie Millar), along with the prerequisite stupidity from Lewis — doing the dance of the seven veils, impersonating an English jockey, letting his ant farm loose at a cocktail party, etc. There’s a lot of funny stuff in here, most of it dependent on your personal preference and/or tolerance for Jerry Lewis.

Paramount surrounded Martin and Lewis with some great character actors in this one. Richard Haydn is funny as the drunk jockey Bertie Searles), and Robert Strauss, Sheldon Leonard and Jack Kruschen are great as the mobsters. Oh, and be sure to look for Mara Corday as a waitress.

Dean in front of the Dynoptic camera rig, Jerry with his (16mm?) home movie camera.

Olive Films has gives us a nice, if bare-bones, Blu-Ray of Money From Home. There’s been a lot of squawking about why they didn’t go all out with 3-D, which overlooks just how nice this Blu-Ray really is. (And besides, this isn’t the kinda movie that needs 3-D to work.) It’s sharp as a tack, with near-perfect contrast and color — allowing for some of the inconsistencies you see in a lot of old Technicolor material. That isn’t a complaint at all — it looks every bit like what it is, a polished Paramount studio picture from the early 50s. The audio is nice and clean — it’s a shame the stereo tracks have been lost.

Money From Home is a funny picture, and Olive Films has it looking seriously splendid. It’s easy to recommend this.

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, Dean Martin, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Marshall, Jerry Lewis, Mara Corday, Olive Films, Paramount

Blu-Ray News #126: Seven Days In May (1964).

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Balsam

Warner Archive has announced a summer Blu-Ray release of the John Frankenheimer suspense/paranoia classic Seven Days In May (1964) — with Burt Lancaster as a general leading a plot to overthrow the President (whose talks of disarmament has some in the military fearing a Russian attack). The cast is outstanding — Fredric March (as the President), Kirk Douglas (as a general who uncovers the plot), Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Balsam, Andrew Duggan and on and on. Rod Serling’s script is a masterpiece — this is an idea that remains topical and will probably never be handled better.

Black and white really looks terrific in high definition, and director of photography Ellsworth Fredricks’ work here certainly deserves the boost in clarity. Good stuff.

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Filed under 1964, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Edmond O'Brien, Hugh Marlowe, John Frankenheimer, Paramount, Rod Serling, Warner Archive, Whit Bissell