Category Archives: Regis Toomey

The Phantom Creeps, Quite Literally.

Directed by Ford Beebe & Saul A. Goodkind
Starring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith, Edward Van Sloan

VCI has been working on a restoration of The Phantom Creeps (1939), a 12-chapter Universal serial starring Bela Lugosi, for Blu-Ray release.

They’ve recently provided some info on why this thing is taking so long: “When we started working on the restoration early last year, we discovered that six of the 12 chapters, of the original film elements we received from Universal Pictures, had many issues. Some reels were missing, and some were on nitrate film and had deteriorated terribly. Fortunately, we found more complete original film elements stored at the Library of Congress. We have requested access to those film elements, however we were informed that film was actually owned by Sony Pictures (FYI, Sony actually is the owner of Columbia Pictures, who had a license in the 1950’s to distribute several Universal serials via their TV syndication division, Screen Gems, and that’s how they came to have these film elements). Since we discovered this, we have been negotiating with Sony’s legal department to give us permission to access and scan this film, which would allow us to finish our restoration. This process with Sony began last July, and so far, they have been cooperating, but still haven’t given us their permission. We feel confident that Sony will give us permission, but we just can’t say when. This is a very high-priority project to VCI, but unfortunately it is not as important to Sony, so we remain on hold.”

As this frame grab from Chapter 1 shows, this thing is gonna be incredible — and well worth the wait. The Phantom Creeps is a cool serial, put together by some of the very best at making such things: director Beebe, writer George Plympton and DP William Sickner.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next thrilling chapter in this story! When it gets here, it’ll be essential.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Preservation, Regis Toomey, Serial, Universal (-International), VCI

Blu-Ray Review: I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! (1948).

Directed by William Nigh
Screenplay by Steve Fisher
From a novel by Cornell Woolrich
Cinematography: Mack Stengler
Film Editor: Roy V. Livingston
Music by Edward J. Kay

Cast: Don Castle (Tom J. Quinn), Elyse Knox (Ann Quinn), Regis Toomey (Inspector Clint Judd), Charles D. Brown (Inspector Stevens), Rory Mallinson (Harry), Robert Lowell (John L. Kosloff), Steve Darrell (D.A.), Bill Kennedy (Detective), Bill Walker (Prisoner), John Doucette (Prisoner), Ray Teal (Guard)

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There are times when a cheap old movie actually seems to benefit from how cheap it is. Maybe the lack of money demands a more stylized approach to the sets and art direction. Or perhaps the tight schedule calls for long takes, reducing the number of setups to get a scene in the can. Or it could be the opportunity for character actors to get rare lead roles. Or somehow they lucked out and got a really good script. It’s most likely some combination of these. But the takeaway is this: when time and money are tight, moviemakers rely on their creativity and problem-solving skills to get something good on the screen. In other words, with a lack of budget can come a surplus of inspiration and innovation.

When it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes (1948), a once hard-to-see Monogram mini-noir, is one of those those times. It’s a wealth of riches from Hollywood’s Poverty Row. And its release on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive really illustrates just how well it rises above its humble origins.

Don Castle and Elyse Knox play a young couple, dancers, whose lives fall apart when he’s wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to await his turn in the electric chair. Lucky for him, he’s got a wife who’s not willing to give up on him too easily. She keeps working to track down the real killer, with the help of a sympathetic detective (Regis Toomey).

Castle and Knox are fine as the couple. They’re likable and have pretty good chemistry. Elyse Knox had a pretty brief, but interesting, movie career — Sheriff Of Tombstone (1941) with Roy Rogers, The Mummy’s Tomb (1942) starring Lon Chaney and Hit The Ice (1943) with Abbott & Costello. Don Castle made a number of pictures in the 40s, interrupted by Word War II. His last film was a small part in Gunfight At The OK Corral (1957). 

Regis Toomey is terrific here, as always. He was an insanely busy character actor, juggling big pictures like The Big Sleep (1946) and The High And The Mighty (1954) with B movies like this one and The Nebraskan (1953). He was really good in the 1953 John Wayne movie Island In The Sky. In I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes, he somehow manages to be slimy and sympathetic at the same time. That’s quite a trick.

Years and years ago, I went nuts over Columbia’s Whistler movies, mainly because of my infatuation with William Castle. Those movies introduced me to the great crime writer Cornell Woolrich. Two of the Whistler pictures were based on his stories; so were The Leopard Man (1943), Fall Guy (1947), The Window (1949) and Rear Window (1954). His story for I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes is pretty solid.

William Nigh started out in silent movies as an actor, then made the transition to director. He was really prolific, spending a lot of time working on Poverty Row for Monogram and PRC — though he’d do a picture at Republic, RKO or Universal ever once in a while. I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes was one of his last films. 

The picture’s cinematographer, Mack Stengler, started out in the silents and shot a few hundred movies and TV shows during his 30-plus years behind the camera. Stengler spent most of the 40s shooting at Monogram — everything from Kid Dynamite to The Ape Man (both 1943) to Fall Guy (1947) — and a number of Hopalong Cassidy pictures. He made to the move to TV in the 50s, shooting more than 75 episodes of The Lone Ranger and almost 150 episodes of Leave It To Beaver, along with plenty of other shows. He retired in 1962.

Stengler’s solid work on I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes gets a big boost on the Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. This is a rare Monogram picture that doesn’t scream at you how cheap it is. The Blu-Ray is sharp as a tack, with the contrast dialed-in just right. It looks like film, which it should. The sound is clean and clear. 

I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes is a terrific little picture. It, and its treatment on Blu-Ray, are really easy to recommend.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Monogram/Allied Artists, Regis Toomey, Warner Archive, William Nigh

Blu-Ray News #350: I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! (1948).

Directed by William Nigh
Starring Don Castle, Elyse Knox, Regis Toomey, Charles D. Brown, Bill Kennedy, John Doucette, Ray Teal

A Monogram picture making its way to Blu-Ray is always a reason to rejoice. This one, a fairly obscure noir picture based on a Cornell Woolrich story, it’s a really big deal indeed. Thank you, Warner Archive!

I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! (1948) is one of those Poverty Row pictures where everything came together just right, from the lack of money to the chintzy sets to the no-name stars to the great character actors, to create something really memorable. Don Castle plays a dancer who’s convicted of murder (that he didn’t do). Elyse Knox is his wife, who’ll do just about anything to get him off Death Row. I’m not gonna spoil things by going any further.

This was one of director William Nigh’s last pictures. He was a prolific Poverty Row man, and he gave us some real favorites — Mutiny In The Big House (1939), Doomed To Die (194o), The Ape (1940) and Black Dragons (1942, one of “the Monogram Nine”). I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! has the usual Monogram feel, stagy and a bit hurried, but it makes quite an impression. I’m a sucker for DP Mack Stengler, who shot everything from Sagebrush Law and Ghosts On The Loose (both 1943) to episodes of The Lone Ranger and Leave It To Beaver.

I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes! gets a big fat recommendation.

9 Comments

Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Regis Toomey, William Nigh