Category Archives: Republic Pictures

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

DVD/Blu-Ray News #97: The Man Who Died Twice (1958).

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Directed by Joe Kane
Starring Rod Cameron, Vera Ralston, Mike Mazurki, Don Hagggerty, Paul Picerni, Luana Anders

Naturama was Republic’s widescreen process, and Vera Ralston was the figure-skater girlfriend/wife of Republic’s president, Herbert J. Yates. Guys like Rod Cameron, Sterling Hayden and even John Wayne appeared with her, grudgingly. And when Republic shut down, do did Ralston’s career.

That said, she made some pretty cool movies, and The Man Who Died Twice (1958) is one of them. In fact, it was her last — the studio tanked that year (it’s also the last Republic Joe Kane directed). It’s a low-budget crime/noir thing. Rod Cameron’s cool in it, Luana Anders plays a heroin addict, and Jack Marta shot it in black & white widescreen. Sounds terrific, don’t it?

Kino Lorber has announced The Man Who Died Twice as an upcoming DVD/Blu-Ray release. Seeing these widescreen Republic movies in their original aspect ratio has been almost impossible, so this will be a real treat. I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joe Kane, Kino Lorber, Republic Pictures, Rod Cameron, Vera Ralston

DVD/Blu-Ray News #92: Adventures Of Captain Marvel (1941).

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Directed by William Witney and John English
Starring Tom Tyler, Frank Coghlin, Jr., William Benedict, Louise Currie

Republic’s Adventures Of Captain Marvel (1941), maybe the greatest serial of them all, is coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber in early 2017. Shazam!

Across its 12 chapters, Howard and Theodore Lydecker, two of my all-time movie heroes, give us all kinds of tremendous special effects — Captain Marvel’s flight, typhoons, volcanoes, explosions, ships and on and on. William Witney and Republic’s team of stuntmen work their usual magic in a number of great fights. This thing really delivers the goods.

I can’t imagine a serial fan who hasn’t seen this one, so I don’t really need to recommend it. You know how absolutely essential it is.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Lydecker Brothers, Republic Pictures

DVD/Blu-ray News #74: Daredevils Of The Red Circle (1939).

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Directed by William Witney and John English
Starring Charles Quigley, Bruce Bennett, David Sharpe, Carole Landis, Miles Mander, Charles Middleton, C. Montague Shaw

Boy, the new releases are coming fast and furious these days. Here’s another, and it’s a really good one — Republic’s 12-chapter serial Daredevils Of The Red Circle (1939) is coming from Kino Lorber (not sure on the date).

Serial nuts often list this as a favorite, and for good reason. It’s terrific.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Lydecker Brothers, Republic Pictures, William Witney

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Radar Men From The Moon (1952).

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Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Written by Ronald Davidson
Director Of Photography: John MacBurnie
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

Cast: George Wallace (Commando Cody), Aline Towne (Joan Gilbert), Roy Barcroft (Retik), William Bakewell (Ted Richards), Clayton Moore (Graber), Peter Brocco (Krog), Tom Steele

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Republic blogathon badgeThis is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy. No one signed on for a Republic serial, and I wanted to make sure they were represented.

One of the last Republic serials, Radar Men From The Moon (1952) is a real hoot. It leans heavily on stock footage from previous Republic pictures and recycles the flying suit from King Of The Rocket Men (1949). It introduces a new character — Commando Cody, played by George Wallace — and features Clayton Moore, between stints on The Lone Ranger, as a bad guy.

Clayton Moore: “Even though I had been gone for about three years, things hadn’t changed much at Republic. Directors still had to scrape every bit of footage together for the lowest possible budget. Freddy Brannon padded Radar Men From The Moon with footage from King Of The Rocket Men, Darkest Africa (1936) and The Purple Monster Strikes (1945).”

This serial features one of my all-time favorite movie plot points: aliens enlisting American gangsters to help with their plot to conquer the earth. Moore is one of those gangsters.

Graber (Clayton Moore): “There’s a man in a flying suit chasing us. Step on it.”

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Retik (Roy Barcroft), ruler of the moon, is using an “atomic ray” to destroy strategic locations in the United States. Commando Cody (George Wallace), an inventor-adventurer with a spaceship and a flying suit, heads to the moon to investigate. Soon, he and his cohorts are battling Retik and Krog — and gangsters like Graber (Clayton Moore), both on the moon and around L.A.

There are 12 chapters of this crazy stuff, and it’s goofy, delirious fun. Maybe not so much fun for the cast and crew, however.

"Commando Cody, the Sky Marshal of the Universe," aka, George Wallace, appears to defy the laws of gravity, for a moment at least, as he lands in the arms of a prop man during production of the film " Radar Men from the Moon," at Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, 80 miles northeast of Hollywood, Calif., Dec. 12, 1951. Gravity may be defied in some the new movie serials based on the fantasies science fiction, but what goes up still comes down, even if the film wont let you see it. (AP Photo)

George Wallace: “Roy Barcroft had been well known as a Western heavy for so many years, and he was a big, lovable bear, a sweetheart of a guy. And Clayton was just fine, except in one of the fight scenes, he broke my nose accidentally! It was a good group… Up in Red Rock Canyon, it was 112 degrees in the day, and running around in that hot weather with the heavy leather jacket and all this other stuff on, you sweated quite a bit. We had to stay out there all week to shoot. We’d start first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun came up, and work until the sun went down that night… we stayed in some dinky motel right alongside of a freight yard.”

Other locations include Vasquez Rocks, the Iverson Ranch and the train station in Chatsworth (which I assume was close to Iverson).

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Republic’s frantic pace of production didn’t even slow down when Moore broke Wallace’s nose. A few minutes after returning from the ER, Wallace was back in front of the camera, a bloody towel waiting just out of the shot.

Dialogue scenes have a first-take quality to them. The actors don’t seem comfortable with the words coming out of their mouths. But they keep it moving from action scene to action scene, and from chapter to chapter — and that, of course, is what a Republic serial is all about.

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The Lydeckers’ model spaceship for Radar Men From The Moon.

For me, one of the appeals of any Republic serial is the promise of some first-class model work from Howard and Theodore Lydecker. Here, we’ve seen a lot of their stuff before. But we get some great rocket shots, Cody’s flying scenes and the awesome moon tank.

Cody Moon Tank

Radar Men From The Moon wouldn’t be the last of Commando Cody. A second serial, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal Of The Universe, followed. It was originally produced as a TV show, with 12 25-minute episodes — in sequence but with no cliffhangers. Union rules required that it go to theaters first. Again, it features a lot of stock footage. This time, Cody is not played by George Wallace.

sr9_radarmen-adTo be honest, Radar Men From The Moon can’t hold a candle to some of the great, early Republic serials. But it’s so fast — all 12 chapters run just a bit over two-and-a-half hours — and so much fun, I’ve always found it irresistible. What’s more, it’s readily available on DVD from various sources, though a Blu-ray would be appreciated (as a hi-def Lydecker Bros. demo reel, if nothing else).

Sources: I Was That Masked Man by Clayton Moore; Double Feature Creature Attack by Tom Weaver

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Filed under 1952, Clayton Moore, Lydecker Brothers, Republic Pictures, Roy Barcroft

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Hoodlum Empire (1952) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

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Associate Producer – Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play byBruce Manning and Bob Considine
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Sen. Bill Stephens), Claire Trevor (Connie Williams), Forrest Tucker (Charley Pignatalli), Vera Ralston (Marte Dufour), Luther Adler (Nick Mancani), John Russell (Joe Gray), Gene Lockhart, Grant Withers, Taylor Holmes, Richard Jaeckel, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert

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Republic blogathon badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in a “Republic Pictures Blogathon” and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having been formed from a merger of several small film companies in 1935, Republic Pictures hit the ground running, immediately scoring huge success with their Gene Autry Western series. They followed this success with The Three Mesquiteers the next year and into the 40s with popular series heroes Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, Rocky Lane and, especially, Roy Rogers.

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Right from the start, Republic were making a cross-section of film types even though their specialty was the Western.

1950-51 saw the Kefauver Committee set up in the U.S. Senate to tackle organised crime all across the U.S. To reflect this, Republic filmed Hoodlum Empire (1952), though naturally names were changed. Journalist and author Bob Considine wrote the story on which the screenplay was adapted by Bruce Manning and Considine.

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The background to the story is the testifying to a Senate committee of various figures known as underworld leaders. Brian Donlevy plays the leader of the committee, determined to go after these crime lords, led here by Luther Adler and his vicious No. 2, Forrest Tucker. However, although he is listed sixth in the cast, the real central figure is John Russell, who is Adler’s nephew and had been heavily involved in crime pre-WW2. His wartime experiences have turned him around, however, and since 1945 he has been running a legit business. Adler and co. are determined to implicate him in criminal activity and thereby fade their own (real) involvement into obscurity. In the end, they do not succeed.

This is, of course, far away from the Western and yet the central theme is John Russell’s redemption (with the help of a good woman) — a strong Western motif, particularly throughout the 50s. Also, the director is Joseph Kane, Republic’s No. 1 go-to man for action, having by this point helmed countless Autry and Rogers films.

I even recognised the house used as John Russell’s family home as being “The Duchess’ Ranch” from the 1944-46 Red Ryder series, now tarted up with ‘modern’ frills like a picket fence and trees.

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I found the script to be both literate and adult, and the cast just fine at putting it over. Claire Trevor in particular showing a vulnerable woman beneath her tough and wisecracking front, something she was skilful at doing. Grant Withers, also in the supporting cast, came across very well. He and Roy Barcroft appear, both regular Republic Western baddies, as well as Douglas Kennedy and John Pickard (both uncredited). So… a lot of familiar and welcome faces in the quite large cast. Seeing John Russell here again makes me wonder why he didn’t achieve greater stardom than he did.

For folks who like a good gritty crime drama with a great cast, this film would get my recommendation. It’s readily available on DVD in the US and elsewhere. That is regrettably not true of all too many of Republic’s crime dramas (they didn’t do ‘noir’ so much) which are locked away in the vaults and kept from film fans hungry to see them.

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry, but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Filed under 1952, Forrest Tucker, Joe Kane, Republic Pictures, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Blackmail (1947) By Guest Blogger John Knight.

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Screen Play by Royal K. Cole
Original Story by Robert Leslie Bellem
Additional Dialogue by Albert DeMond
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: William Marshall (Dan Turner), Adele Mara (Sylvia Duane), Ricardo Cortez (Ziggy Cranston), Grant Withers (Inspector Donaldson), Stephanie Bachelor (Carla), Richard Fraser (Antoine le Blanc), Roy Barcroft (Spice Kellaway), George J. Lewis (Blue Chip Winslow), Robert J. Wilke

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Republic blogathon badgeThis is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

For starters, in this quirky, fun Noir we get not one but two Femme Fatales: slinky, mysterious Stephanie Batchelor and Republic’s regular sweetie Adele Mara.

L.A showbiz tycoon (Ricardo Cortez) with a gambling addiction, is slipped a Shanghai-ball by a tomato (as the script would have it) and becomes involved in a shakedown, murder and blackmail.

To sort out this mess, he hires a New York gumshoe (William Marshall, who certainly puts the “hard” in hard-nosed). No sooner has Marshall arrived on the scene when Cortez is framed for another murder. Marshall not only has to contend with gambling syndicate goons, but also a police chief (Grant Withers) who resents this East Coast interloper on his patch.

Stylishly shot by Reggie Lanning, we get a barrage of one-liners from serial expert Royal Cole. The fast pacing is what we’ve come to expect from Lesley Selander. There is a car chase and three slug-fests….the final one is a real doozy. With the constant flow of hardboiled dialogue, the audience is given another mystery to decipher: was the film intended as a parody of private eye flicks? The cast plays it pretty much straight.

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My favorite one-liners:
Withers (on first encountering Adele Mara): “Who’s this bright young tomato”
Marshall: “She’s this years entry for mis-information.”

It gets better:
Withers (after Marshall bursts into his office): “I have a desk clerk to announce visitors, that includes shamuses and other vermin.”
Marshall:” Is this a bureau of homicide or insecticide?”

Marshall’s favorite tipple is a dry Martini without the olive… it takes up too much room in the glass. He’s endearingly unlikeable in this film, but apparently was not too likable in real life. According to imdb, when Marshall was directing Adventures Of Captain Fabian (1951), Errol Flynn got so fed up with Marshall’s bombastic attitude, he stormed off the set. Marshall had to complete the film using Flynn’s stunt double. The picture was a critical and commercial flop, and Marshall didn’t directed another film until The Phantom Planet (1961), a cult favorite. Marshall was married several times. Three of his wives were actresses: Michele Morgan, Micheline Presle and Ginger Rogers.

The_Bakersfield_Californian_Mon__Jul_5__1948_Oddly enough, Lesley Selander never directed a Republic A movie, while other Republic B directors — such as Joseph Kane, R.G. Springsteen and William Witney — moved up to A Westerns starring the likes of Rod Cameron, Forrest Tucker, William Elliott, John Payne, Sterling Hayden and John Derek. Joseph Kane was more than Republic’s top contract director; he was their “rock.” When bona fide A list stars were enticed over to Republic, Kane directed their vehicles: Fred MacMurray in Fair Wind To Java (1953) and Barbara Stanwyk in The Maverick Queen (1956). At that time, Selander also moved up to higher budgets, mainly for Allied Artists and Bel-Air — who released their films through United Artists. Selander also got the occasional major studio gig — he did The Raiders (1952) for Universal and Tall Man Riding (1955) for Warner Brothers. As the Fifties moved on, Republic struggled and reverted more or less to a B Movie outfit. Trucolor was more or less dispensed with and fewer Westerns were made. They made more and more B Crime Thrillers and the then popular J.D.Movies. From Kane we got fare like The Man Who Died Twice (1958) and The Crooked Circle (1957). Springsteen gave us I Cover The Underworld (1955) and When Gangland Strikes (1956), and Witney contributed City Of Shadows (1955), Juvenile Jungle (1958) and Young And Wild (1958). Selander returned to the fold for a couple of these later quickies: Taming Sutton’s Gal and The Wayward Girl (both 1957).
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Most of these later Republics had the attraction of being filmed in widescreen Naturama. They’re impossible to see in that ratio today. Even sadder, no-one seems interested in releasing them. Those final Republic B’s (which included several good Westerns like The Lawless Eighties and Hell’s Crossroads) are trapped in the vaults, along with most of the other great titles in the Republic catalog. How long these films will remain unreleased remains to be seen.
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John Knight calls himself “a ‘Muswell Hillbilly’ by birth, now retired and living on the Isle Of Wight. A lifelong film fanatic, my ‘education’ on film was mainly gained in the fleapits of London and many visits to the National Film Theatre on London’s Southbank.”

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Filed under Adele Mara, Lesley Selander, Republic Pictures