Category Archives: Peggie Castle

Invasion, U.S.A. (1952).

Directed by Alfred E. Green
Produced by Robert Smith & Albert Zugsmith
Written by Robert Smith & Franz Shulz
Director Of Photography: John L. Russell
Supervising Editor: W. Donn Hayes
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Gerald Mohr (Vince Potter), Peggie Castle (Carla Sanford), Dan O’Herlihy (Mr. Ohman), Robert Bice (George Sylvester), Tom Kennedy (Tim), Wade Crosby (Arthur V. Harroway), Erik Blythe (Ed Mulfory), Phyllis Coates (Mrs. Mulfory), Aram Katcher, Knox Manning, Edward G. Robinson Jr., Noel Neill, William Schallert


After the news about I, The Jury (1953), I decided to finish up a half-done post on Invasion, U.S.A. (1952). You can’t have too much Peggie Castle.

Invasion U.S.A. is a rather odd Cold War anti-commie picture, the second release from Albert Zugsmith’s American Pictures Corporation. Distributed by Columbia, it grossed over a million dollars, not bad for about a week and budget of $127,000. The liberal use of stock footage no doubt helped keep costs down.

A group of strangers in a New York City bar — including beautiful socialite Peggie Castle, TV newsman Gerald Mohr and the mysterious Mr. Ohman (Dan O’Herlihy) — get to discussing the growing communist threat and the idea of an international draft. Soon, along come reports of “The Enemy” attacking Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. (You don’t have to be an expert on foreign affairs to figure out who “The Enemy” is supposed to be.)

As the invasion plays out largely in stock footage (much of it seen on the bar’s Admiral TV set, “a remote-control view from our portable equipment”), we follow our once-complacent elbow-benders as they leave the bar and head out into the now war-torn New York — where they each learn the hard way that freedom isn’t free.

If you’ve seen the film you know, and after this synopsis, you’ve probably guessed, that Invasion U.S.A. is a cheesy, over-the-top B movie with a pretty whacked-out “Red Scare” message — and plenty of unintentional humor. It certainly means well.

Invasion USA was later re-released with 1000 Years From Now.

But what’s remarkable about it is how effective it is. How watchable it is. Of course, many of us have experienced this before: a junk movie put together by a group of real pros that ends up much better than it has any right to be. This was one of the last pictures from director Alfred E. Green, who’d given us things like Shooting High (1940), Four Faces West (1948) and Sierra (1950). The acting from folks like Mr. Mohr and Ms. Castle comes real close to overcoming the terrible dialogue, while the enemy soldiers often sound like Boris Badenov from The Bullwinkle Show. Phyllis Coates and Noel Neill, TV’s first two Lois Lanes, have tiny parts. The cinematography from John L. Russell looks great, especially if you consider the week-long shoot. (Russell would go on to shoot Psycho.) The special effects are pretty good. And the editing, supervised by W. Donn Hayes, brings together the stock footage and studio stuff surprisingly seamlessly.

Peggie Castle, Noel Neill and a miniature for scenes of bombed-out NYC.

Albert Zugsmith said this is where he learned how movies were made. He went on to give us Star In The Dust, Written On The Wind (both 1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and High School Confidential (1958). Onward and upward!

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Filed under 1952, Albert Zugsmith, Columbia, Peggie Castle, Phyllis Coates, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #390: I, The Jury (1953) In 3-D!

Directed by Harry Essex
Starring Biff Elliot, Preston Foster, Peggie Castle, Margaret Sheridan, Alan Reed, John Qualen, Joe Besser, Elisha Cook, Jr.

Peggie Castle appears in the first film based on one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels — and it’s in 3-D shot by the great John Alton. And to top it all off, the folks at The 3-D Film Archive are getting I, The Jury (1953) ready for Blu-Ray for ClassicFlix.

Will come through with more info as it comes available. Man, I can’t wait!

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elisha Cook, Jr., John Alton, Peggie Castle, United Artists

The Unknown Terror (1957).

Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Produced by Robert Stabler
Written by Kenneth Higgins
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Film Editor: Michael Luciano

Cast: John Howard (Dan Matthews), Mala Powers (Gina Matthews), Paul Richards (Peter Morgan), May Wynn (Concha Ramsey), Gerald Milton (Dr. Ramsey), Charles H. Gray (Jim Wheatley) Gerald Gilden (Raoul Koom)

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By the mid-50s, CinemaScope had done what it was supposed to do — help bring back the audiences lost to television. With TV still black and white and mono, 20th Century-Fox decreed that all their CinemaScope pictures would be in color. B producer Robert Lippert approached Fox with the idea of having his Regal Films, Inc. produce a series of second features for the studio — two black and white CinemaScope pictures a month. Lippert wanted to combine the economy of B&W with the draw of CinemaScope. To get around Fox’s no-color, no-‘Scope policy, and to work around Fox’s fear that these low-budget films would damage the prestige of their CinemaScope process, a new name was cooked up: RegalScope.

RegalScope is black and white CinemaScope, nothing more. Lippert made around 50 RegalScope features between 1956 and 1959 — all of them cheap, many of them Westerns or horror movies.

I absolutely love the RegalScope pictures. But it’s almost impossible to watch them today, since most of what we see, when we can find them at all, are terrible pan-and-scan (or just the middle of the wide image, no panning or scanning) transfers often taken from battered 16mm TV prints. No movie should be seen that way.

The other day, I received a fairly watchable copy of The Unknown Terror (1957), taken from an adapted ‘Scope print. “Adapted ‘Scope” is what we later called letterboxed. These prints don’t give you the entire 2.35 image, but they’re certainly an improvement over the 1.33 versions.

The Unknown Terror follows the typical RegalScope business model. It runs 77 minutes, with minimal sets, a small cast (with character actors getting rare lead roles), long takes and more dialogue than action. When these movies work, it’s usually because someone cleverly wrote around these constraints to tell a solid story — the Western The Quiet Gun (1956) is a terrific example.

In The Unknown Terror, three American explorers (John Howard, Mala Powers and Paul Richards) travel to the Caribbean in search of a friend who went down there to find the Cave Of The Dead — and never came back. This leads them to an American scientist (Gerald Milton) doing fungus research, a gaggle of fungus-infested mutants and lots of fake rocks (AKA the Cave Of The Dead). Eventually, the fast-growing fungus goes completely nuts and covers up pretty much everything — which means the last few minutes feature lots of shots of something like soap suds running down the fake rocks, all set to loud gurgling noises. I loved it.

Unknown Terror stillMala Powers and Paul Richards discover the secret of the fungus and the Cave Of The Dead — and set out to put an end to the whole icky, gooey, deadly mess. They’re terrific at carrying this nonsense through to its conclusion, playing it all completely straight, something 50s character actors became quite adept at. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but who said that was a requirement for a movie like this?

Cinematographer Joseph Biroc handled the B&W ‘Scope, filling the wide frame and doing a good job of concealing how set-bound it is — and how tiny those sets are. I’m sure the last reel was a real drag to shoot, with gallons upon gallons of the “fungus” being poured on everything and everyone — and probably smelling terrible in the heat of Biroc’s lights.

Charles Marquis Warren directed, not long after leaving Gunsmoke. He made another RegalScope horror picture, Back From The Dead starring Peggie Castle that went out with The Unknown Terror as a double bill. Warren did a few RegalScope Westerns, too. Copper Sky (1957) is quite good.

Olive Films released a handful of RegalScope films on DVD and Blu-Ray a few years ago — and they look terrific. The Unknown Terror was not one of them, which is a shame. I’m sure there are plenty of classic horror fans who’d find this one a lot of fun.

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Charles Marquis Warren, Lippert/Regal/API, Mala Powers, Peggie Castle

DVD/Blu-Ray Rumor #145: I, The Jury (1953).

Directed by Harry Essex
Starring Biff Elliot, Preston Foster, Peggie Castle, Margaret Sheridan, John Qualen, Elisha Cook, Jr.

It’s the first film based on a Mickey Spillane/Mike Hammer book. It was in 3-D, shot by the great John Alton. And it’s got a terrific cast: Peggie Castle, Margaret Sheridan (so great in The Thing), Elisha Cook, Jr.

The word on the street is that it’s being prepped for a Blu-Ray release. That’s great news. Wonder if they’ve found the stereo tracks?

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elisha Cook, Jr., Peggie Castle