Category Archives: Phyllis Coates

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

DVD/Blu-Ray News #101: Panther Girl Of The Kongo (1955).

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Directed by Franklin Adreon
Starring Phyllis Coates, Myron Healey, Arthur Space, John Day

The next-to-last Republic serial, Panther Girl Of The Kongo (1955), is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray from Olive Films.

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Stock footage was the order of the day in the final years of Republic serials, and this one lifts liberally from Jungle Girl (1941) starring Frances Gifford. What really sets Panther Girl Of The Kongo apart are the always-terrific Phyllis Coates and the really cool giant crayfish (here in North Carolina, we call them crawdads). I guess Hollywood’s big bug trend (Them!, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis, The Black Scorpion) infested the Republic lot — and it’s all brought to life by the genius of Howard and Theodore Lydecker. They built scale jungle “sets” and turned real crayfish loose on them.

It all makes for a really fun serial that comes highly recommended.

UPDATE 2/10/17: Amazon has this available for pre-order at just $12.99!

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Filed under 1955, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lydecker Brothers, Olive Films, Phyllis Coates, Republic Pictures

Superman And The Mole Men (1951).

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Directed by Lee Sholem
Original Screenplay by Richard Fielding
Cameraman: Clark Ramsey

Cast: George Reeves (Clark Kent/Superman), Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane), Jeff Corey (Luke Benson), Walter Reed (Bill Corrigan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Pop Sheridan), Stanley Andrews (The Sheriff)

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Judging from what little I’ve seen of them, the comic book movies they churn out these days aren’t my cup of tea. Far from it. Superman And The Mole Men (1951) is more to my taste. (For what it’s worth, my other favorite comic book/strip movies are the first Blondie feature, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome,  The Lone Ranger with Clayton Moore, the 1966 Batman feature, Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik and The Rocketeer.)

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Clark Kent and Lois Lane travel from Metropolis to Silsby to do a story on the world’s deepest oil well. Out of that hole come the mole men, a group of maybe-radioactive midgets in furry suits and bald wigs who live in the center of the earth. The frightened townspeople, led by Jeff Corey (who’d soon be blacklisted), try to get rid of them, but Superman saves the day (along with the mole men).

Superman: “You’re not going to shoot those little creatures. In the first place, they haven’t done you any harm. In the second place, they may be radioactive.”

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Superman And The Mole Men kinda served as a pilot for the Superman TV series — and it would be split in half to create a two-part episode to wrap up the show’s first season. The movie’s the first time we see George Reeves as Clark Kent and Superman, and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. Shot (in a hurry) on the RKO-Pathé lot, it made use of some oil derricks down the street. Lippert Pictures released the feature, and the TV show would go into production not long after. Director Lee Sholem did a number of the episodes, too.

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It’s a cheap affair, to be sure. The mole men’s weapon appears to be a vacuum cleaner (Electrolux, perhaps?) with a funnel attached to one end. Superman doesn’t have all that much screen time, with much of the picture’s 58 minutes devoted to a couple of mole men trying to outrun the citizens of Silsby. But, Superman And The Mole Men has the distinction of being the first feature film based on a DC comic book. (I’m not counting the Batman and Superman serials.) And there’s a ragged charm to it you’ll never see in the big-budget, computer-effects-laden movies of today.

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On DVD, Warner Bros. added Superman And The Mole Men to the first season of the Adventures Of Superman TV show, which also includes the two-episode version. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1951, George Reeves, Lee Sholem, Lippert/Regal/API, Phyllis Coates, Television