Category Archives: Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray Review: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Produced by Sam Katzman & Jack Dietz
Story & Screenplay by Robert Charles
Cinematography: Marcel Le Picard

Cast: Bela Lugosi (Professor Dexter), John Carradine (Professor John Gilmore), George Zucco (Ape Man – credits only), Frank Moran (Ape Man), Teala Loring (Anne Gilmore), Tod Andrews (Steve Rogers), Mary Currier (Mrs. Hilda Gilmore), Ernie Adams (Willie The Weasel)

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The Monogram Nine, a handful of low-budget pictures Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures in the mid-40s, are nobody’s idea of quality cinema, but they’re certainly entertaining. Some say Return Of The Ape Man (1944) is one of the worst of the bunch, but so what — it’s a blast.

Bela Lugosi is Professor Dexter, a noted scientist messing around with freezing people. He and his assistant, Professor John Gilmore (John Carradine), thaw out a bum they’ve had frozen in the basement for four months. To prove that people can be kept frozen for extended periods of time, then thawed out safely, Dexter and Gilmore travel to the Arctic in search of a frozen prehistoric man to defrost. They finally find one and bring it back to Lugosi’s basement/laboratory.

They’re able to revive him — after Lugosi thaws him out with a blowtorch, but soon realize he’s an “unmanageable brute” (I’m lifting a Lugosi line from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein). Lugosi’s solution is to transplant a certain portion of a modern man’s brain into the Ape Man’s skull. From here, Lugosi’s plans go completely off the rails and lead to the kind of supreme mayhem the Poverty Row studios were so good at cooking up.

I love Return Of The Ape Man. It’s so ridiculous, so cheap and so short — what’s not to like? Lugosi’s terrific. He always had a way of making the non-logic of these things almost work. Almost. Once John Carradine questions Lugosi’s methods, we just know he’s a goner — but he’s great at doing his John Carradine thing in the meantime. John Moran is a hoot as the Ape Man — bending bars, breaking stuff, choking people, etc. George Zucco was originally given the part, but he got ill and Moran took over. Why Zucco still gets third billing is anybody’s guess. Some say he’s actually in a shot or two (on the table when the Ape Man is first thawed out). Others say it was in his contract. My theory is having three low-budget horror stars in one movie was too good a thing to pass up. Wonder if Zucco was paid for his name on the poster? Philip Rosen’s direction is clunky, for lack of a better word, at least party due to the tight schedule and budget.

I’ve never seen Return Of The Ape Man looking good. And while this Olive Blu-Ray leaves plenty to be desired, this is far and away the nicest version I’ve come across. The contrast and grain are inconsistent, there’s some damage here and there, and it’s a bit soft in places — 16mm, maybe? — but that’s all part of the experience. A movie like this is supposed to look a little ragged, in my opinion, and I’m so glad Olive Films didn’t hold out for better material. It might’ve never happened, and that would be a real shame. This way, every magnificent flaw is preserved in high-definition, which is the way I like it.

Recommended, along with the rest of the Monogram Nine. By this way, this is not a sequel to the previous Lugosi/Monogram picture, The Ape Man (1943).

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Zucco, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

DVD/Blu-Ray News #147: Return Of The Ape Man (1944).

Directed by Phil Rosen
Starring Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, George Zucco

More Poverty Row horror makes its way to Blu-Ray — Return Of The Ape Man (1944), one of the infamous Monogram 9.

The nine pictures Lugosi made for Sam Katzman at Monogram between 1941 and 1944 are filled to the brim with cheesy goodness. To have them turn up in high definition is a dream come true — thanks, Olive! For fans of this kind of stuff, this is absolutely essential.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Carradine, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Olive Films, Sam Katzman

It Came From Beneath The Sea (1957).

Here’s a cool comic-style ad for It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955). This one has it all: Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Ray Harryhausen and Sam Katzman. Click on the ad and you can see it much bigger.

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Filed under 1955, Columbia, Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey, Ray Harryhausen, Sam Katzman

Blu-Ray News #80: Invisible Ghost (1941).

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Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, Clarence Muse

The first of nine films Bela Lugosi made for Sam Katzman and Monogram Pictures, Invisible Ghost (1941) was directed by the great, and greatly underappreciated, Joseph H. Lewis.

You’ll find a strong sense of style throughout Lewis’ work, whether it’s a Randolph Scott picture, the terrific Gun Crazy (1949), an episode of The Rifleman or a cheap horror movie like Invisible Ghost. For that reason alone, Invisible Ghost stands out among the other films Lugosi made on Poverty Row. But it’s got more going for it than that, as we can all see when Kino Lorber releases it on Blu-ray in 2017.

Really looking forward to this one. It’s good to see someone making the effort to bring public domain pictures like this to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joseph H. Lewis, Kino Lorber, Monogram 9, Monogram/Allied Artists, Sam Katzman

Happy Thanksgiving.

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It’s not exactly the perfect Thanksgiving photo, but it’s not exactly the perfect special effect, either. It’s the turkey-ish monster from The Giant Claw (1957), produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Fred F. Sears. As you can tell by the still, Katzman’s cost-cutting really hurt this one. But when you’ve got Mara Corday, who cares about the monster?

Have a happy Thanksgiving. And if you’re traveling, especially by air, keep an eye out.

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Filed under 1957, Fred F. Sears, Mara Corday, Sam Katzman

DVD News #44: Tales From The Prison Yard 6-Film Collection.

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Mill Creek Entertainment and Columbia have done us another big favor, this time assembling a big collection from the big house (for a February 2016 release): Tales From The Prison Yard. It gives us six prison movies, ranging from a Sam Katzman quickie to Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail (1973). For me, the attraction is two more Fred F. Sears pictures to add to my collection.

Convicted (1950)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford, Millard Mitchell, Dorothy Malone, Will Geer

Cell 2455 Death Row (1955)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring William Campbell, Marian Carr, Kathryn Grant, Harvey Stephens, Vince Edwards

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Escape From San Quentin (1957)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Johnny Desmond, Merry Anders, Richard Devon, Roy Engel

City Of Fear (1959)
Directed by Irving Lerner
Starring Vince Edwards, Lyle Talbot, John Archer, Patricia Blair, Steven Ritch

The Valachi Papers (1972)
Directed by Terence Young
Starring Charles Bronson, Lino Ventura, Jill Ireland, Joseph Wiseman

The Last Detail (1973)
Directed by Hal Ashby
Starring Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James, Carol Kane

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Filed under 1950, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1972, 1973, Charles Bronson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman

DVD Review: Creature With The Atom Brain (1955).

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Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screen Play by Curt Siodmak
Cinematography: Fred Jackman Jr.

Cast: Richard Denning (Dr. Chet Walker), Angela Stevens (Joyce Walker), Lane Chandler (Gen. Saunders), Charles Horvath (Creature), Michael Granger (Frank Buchanan), Gregory Gaye (Dr. Wilhelm Steigg), Pierre Watkin (Mayor Bremer), Tristram Coffin (District Attorney McGraw)

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Creature With The Atom Brain (1955) is a sci-fi/horror picture from Sam Katzman. For some of you, that’s all you need to know. I’ve always found it a lot of cheesy fun, with some genuinely creepy moments.

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An ex-Nazi scientist, Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye), has created a gang of radio-controlled zombies — with electrodes in their brains and atomic juice in their veins. Unfortunately, Steigg’s experiments were funded by Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger), a gangster who decides he wants to use the zombies for his own revenge.

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Richard Denning is one of the authorities trying to get to the bottom of the strange killings and kill off the lumbering atomic monsters. (Isn’t he always?) It all climaxes with the atom-brain creatures battling it out with the cops.

Governor (on television): “As Governor, I am declaring a state of emergency. All police facilities have been alerted to prevent any further crimes by so-called atomic creatures.”

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With Creature With The Atom Brain, we get another example of Edward L. Cahn’s solid B-movie work. I don’t think he ever made what would be called a really good movie, but he knew his way around this sort of thing — keeping things moving fast enough to keep you from realizing just how silly it all is. This one goes a step further, thanks to DP Fred Jackman Jr., to include some dark, creepy scenes of the zombies making their way toward their next victim. Cahn worked for Katzman’s unit a lot, and while he didn’t have the touch of Fred F. Sears, another of Katzman’s favorite directors, he made sure fans got plenty of what they came to see.

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The new DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment, billed as a 60th Anniversary Edition, isn’t the picture’s first release. It was part of Columbia’s terrific four-movie Katzman set. This is the same transfer. Sharp as a tack, with superb contrast and clear audio. These movies, dumb as they may be, were made by real pros. Unfortunately, the transfer is full-frame instead of its original 1.85 framing. But it looks so good, and the price is right — so who’s complaining? If you like this kinda thing, I certainly recommend it.

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Filed under 1955, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward L. Cahn, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman