Category Archives: Rhonda Fleming

DVD News #403: The William Castle Adventures Collection (1953-54)

We can all use some good news these days, and this is good news indeed. Critics Choice has announced a DVD set featuring four adventure pictures from William Castle and Sam Katzman — The William Castle Adventures Collection — coming in September.

All four films were shot in Technicolor (none were in 3-D). The transfers should be terrific. The 1954 films should be widescreen, either 1.66 or 1.85.

Sam Katzman, Rhonda Fleming & William Castle. Fleming holds the Serpent Of The Nile.

Serpent Of The Nile (1953)
Starring Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Michael Ansara, Julie Newmar

Castle’s first film for Katzman (he’d been at Columbia in the 40s), it’s an epic done on the cheap (as you might expect). Rhonda Fleming is Cleopatra, wandering around on sets left over from Columbia’s much bigger (but not nearly as much fun) Salome (1953). Another director from Katzman’s unit, Fred F. Sears, serves as narrator.

The Iron Glove (1954)
Starring Robert Stack, Ursula Thiess, Richard Stapley, Alan Hale Jr.

In this two-week swashbuckler, the Columbia backlot doubles as Scotland. Robert Stack would soon do The High And The Mighty (1954), which would give his career a boost. Katzman wanted Cornel Wilde in the lead, and at one point the title was to have been The Kiss And The Sword.

Charge Of The Lancers (1954)
Starring Paulette Goddard, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Karin Booth

Castle and Katzman raid the costume department again, this time going for the Crimean War of the 1850s (don’t expect any actual historic accuracy). One of Paulette Goddard’s last films. 

The Saracen Blade (1954)
Starring Ricardo Montalbán, Betta St. John, Rick Jason, Carolyn Jones

This was the last of Katzman and Castle’s pictures like this, and this one takes on the Crusades. There was talk of filming this in Italy, but it was probably just that, talk. In his wonderful book Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare The Pants Off America, Castle wrote that for “three years I had been up to my ass in queens, kings and jokers.” He’d also been making plenty of Westerns for Katzman, and in 1958, he’d go independent and make his own series of gimmicky horror pictures, most of which Columbia would release.

These cheap and tacky little movies are a lot of fun. I cannot recommend this set highly enough. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Thanks to John Hall for the tip!

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Filed under 1953, 1954, Carolyn Jones, Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Julie Newmar, Karin Booth, Rhonda Fleming, Sam Katzman, William Castle

Blu-Ray Review: The Killer Is Loose (1956).


Directed by Budd Boetticher
Screenplay by Harold Medford
From a story by John Hawkins and Ward Hawkins
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Music by Lionel Newman
Film Editor: George Gittens

Cast: Joseph Cotten (Det. Sam Wagner), Rhonda Fleming (Lila Wagner), Wendell Corey (Leon Poole), Alan Hale (Denny), Michael Pate (Det. Chris Gillespie), John Larch (Otto Flanders), Dee J. Thompson (Grace Flanders)

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To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a little movie that pays off big. And Budd Boetticher’s The Killer Is Loose (1956) is that in spades.

Detective Joseph Cotton accidentally shoots Wendell Corey’s wife while arresting him for bank robbery. On his way to prison, Corey swears he’ll get his revenge. And when he escapes, his only thought is to put Cotton through the same pain he suffered: the loss of his wife.

Where do you begin with this thing? From Lucien Ballard’s cinematography to Budd Boetticher’s crisp direction to the editing by George Gittens to the terrific cast, this movie knocks everything out of the park. Wendell Corey was never better than he is here as the milquetoast banker turned robber and murderer. You somehow feel sorry for him, even as you wish they’d hurry up and blow him away. Rhonda Fleming is quite good as Cotton’s wife, Corey’s target. It’s a part that’s pretty unlikable — she hates her husband being a cop, forcing Cotton to not only search for Corey, but conceal the fact that Fleming is who he’s after. Then there’s the great use of LA locations and the decision to set some of the film’s tensest scenes in the most mundane of places (kitchens, suburban neighborhoods, lettuce fields, etc.).

1956 was a great year for movies, and many of the folks behind The Killer Is Loose were on a roll. Boetticher was about to begin his superb Ranown Cycle with Randolph Scott — Seven Men From Now would arrive in a few short months. Rhonda Fleming’s next picture was Allan Dwan’s Slightly Scarlet (1956). And Lucien Ballard would continue working with Boetticher on the Ranown pictures and shoot The Killing (1956) for Stanley Kubrick.

Ballard (beside camera with scarf) and Boetticher (in front of Ballard) shooting on an LA bus.

Ballard’s camerawork not only sets this movie apart, it allows the new Blu-Ray from ClassicFlix to really shine. This is exactly how a black and white film should look in high definition. Film grain is present throughout, in a good way. Contrast levels are near-perfect, the blacks are very true and the proper 1.85 aspect ratio is preserved (the full-frame DVD looks awful clunky in comparison). And the lossless audio is rock solid.

The Killer Is Loose is a picture I’ve been lifting up for years, and this Blu-Ray is just as easy to recommend. Trust me, you need this.

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Filed under 1956, Allan Dwan, Budd Boetticher, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joseph Cotton, Rhonda Fleming, Stanley Kubrick, United Artists, Wendell Corey