Category Archives: Reynold Brown

Blu-Ray Review: The Deadly Mantis (1957).

Directed by Nathan Juran
Produced by William Alland
Screenplay by Martin Berkeley
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: Chester W. Schaeffer

Cast: Craig Stevens (Col. Joe Parkman), William Hopper (Dr. Nedrick Jackson), Alix Talton (Marge Blaine), Donald Randolph (Maj. Gen. Mark Ford), Pat Conway (Sgt. Pete Allen) and Florenz Ames (Prof. Anton Gunther)

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The 50s Big Bug movies are all terrific. Some are better than others, of course, but there’s something about them I love. They’re just so damn entertaining! The Deadly Mantis (1957) is one of the later ones, and while it’s certainly no Them! (1954), it’s got plenty going for it.

A volcano eruption sets off a chain reaction — an iceberg melts, releasing a giant praying mantis that’s been frozen for eons. It attacks polar military outposts, an airplane and an eskimo village, all through the liberal use of stock footage (this film might have the most stock of any movie I’ve ever seen). It’s up to a scientist (William Hopper), an Air Force CO (Craig Stevens) and a reporter (Alix Talton) to sort it all out.

While it has the mandatory pseudo-science and military propaganda, what sets The Deadly Mantis apart are the monster scenes. There are the usual teases — a claw here, a shadow there, some buzzing from time to time — before the big reveal, and it’s all handled well. The bug models are pretty well done — especially in the final scenes in the Manhattan Tunnel. (They’re a bit like the final scene in Them! deep in LA’s drain system, but still very cool.)

Real bug, fake monument.

Then there’s the Washington Monument. They took a real praying mantis and let it do a slow, graceful, creepy crawl up a (very) miniature monument. It might be the best single shot in the movie.

The mantis stuck in traffic is effective, too. These are images forever seared into my brain as a kid — who cares how good the rest of the movie is? The strength of these images might be attributed to director Nathan Juran. Before trying his hand at directing, he was an art director — one of the geniuses behind the Oscar-winning designs for John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941). Juran directed a handful of pictures, including several Audie Murphy movies, before The Deadly Mantis. This was his first horror/sci-fi/fantasy movie, and he’d go on to do stuff like 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957), The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad (1958), The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) and Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958). Those last two he did under the name Nathan Hertz. His Western Good Day For A Hanging (1958) is really good. (Shout Factory has announced a Blu-Ray release of Juran’s Law And Order from 1953.)

Another Reynold Brown masterpiece.

Scream Factory has brought The Deadly Mantis to Blu-Ray in grand fashion. It looks terrific — the contrast is near-perfect and all the dust and scratches you see are from the original stock footage. The audio is quite strong and there are so nice extras — commentary, trailer and the episode of MST3000 that pokes fun at the picture. (They were wise to keep Reynold Brown’s original poster art for their packaging.)

I have a soft spot for this movie bigger than the deadly mantis itself, and I’m so stoked to see this type of thing get this level of TLC. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #201: The Mole People (1956).

Directed by Virgil Vogel
Starring John Agar, Cynthia Patrick, Hugh Beaumont, Nestor Paiva, Alan Napier

Boy, the good news keeps on coming. Scream Factory has announced The Mole People (1956), coming to Blu-Ray in February 2019.

This is one a lot of the Universal monster nuts complain about, but I love it as much as an adult as I did as a kid. It’s really stupid, it’s fun, the monsters are cool. It’s got a great cast — you can’t beat John Agar and Nestor Paiva. And Reynold Brown cranked out another masterpiece for the posters. Can’t wait!

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Agar, Nestor Paiva, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #200: The Land Unknown (1957).

Directed by Virgil Vogel
Starring Jock Mahoney,Shawn Smith, William Reynolds, Henry Brandon, Phil Harvey, Douglas Kennedy

A cheesy dinosaur and a model helicopter duke it out in black and white CinemaScope. No wonder I loved this thing so much as a kid (even though Ellis Carter’s CinemaScope photography was butchered on TV), and that I’m so stoked that Kino Lorber’s bringing it to Blu-Ray. It’s set for early 2019.

Reynold Brown’s beautiful poster art promised a lot, and there was no way the movie was gonna be able to deliver any of it. But it has that 50s sci-fi charm to it that makes these things so much fun. What’s left of my nine-year-old self recommends this one very, very highly.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Reynold Brown, Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-ray News #5: Planet Of The Vampires (Terrore Nello Spazio).

Planet of vampires HS sized

Director: Mario Bava

CAST: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda, Evi Marandi

Halloween’s always a great time of year for video-collecting horror and science fiction fans. This year is no exception. Added to a release roster that already includes The Legend Of Hell House (1973) comes Mario Bava’s supremely creepy sci-fi movie Planet Of The Vampires (1965), on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber.

Planet-of-the-Vampires-zombie-alien-vampire

Italian science fiction films, to me anyway, never seem to make any sense. Ever see Wild Wild Planet (1965)? This one, written by Ib Melchior, has a bit more going for it than most, script-wise. But it’s always Bava’s visuals we’re concerned about, and Planet Of The Vampires doesn’t disappoint. This thing’s got enough style and atmosphere (and fog) for 20 movies (and oddly enough, no vampires). I see a lot of this film’s influence in Alien (1979), with a heavy dose of It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1957) thrown in.

VHS copies in the Eighties replaced the original score with some dreadful synthesizer stuff. The MGM DVD restored the original music featured in the Italian and AIP versions. Can’t wait to see what Kino Lorber offers up. Highly recommended.

Don’t you love that Reynold Brown poster art?

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Filed under AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Mario Bava, Reynold Brown