Category Archives: Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray Review: The Abominable Snowman (Of The Himalayas) (1957).

Directed by Val Guest
Written by Nigel Kneale
Based on his 1955 TV play The Creature
Cinematographer: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Bill Linney
Music by Humphrey Searle

Cast: Forrest Tucker (Tom Friend), Peter Cushing (Dr. John Rollason), Arnold Marlé (The Lhama), Maureen Connell (Helen Rollason), Richard Wattis (Peter Fox), Robert Brown (Ed Shelley), Michael Brill (Andrew McNee)

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The Western part of North Carolina certainly gets its share of Sasquatch sightings. So many, in fact, that a small town (Marion) held its second Bigfoot Festival back in September. With all the talk of Sasquatch/Yeti/Bigfoot going on around here, Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray of Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (1957) seems almost topical.

It’s a movie I’ve loved since I was a kid, and the chance to see Arthur Grant’s B&W Regalscope cinematography in high definition is a huge deal.

Stanley Baker and Peter Cushing in The Creature, live on BBC TV in January 1955.

The Abominable Snowman began as a live TV program from the BBC, The Creature, written by Nigel Kneale — drawing on recent Yeti sightings and Mount Everest expeditions for inspiration. It starred Stanley Baker as Tom Friend and Peter Cushing as John Rollason. Two performances were aired live in January 1955 — neither were recorded. What a drag.

Hammer Films had turned a Kneale TV serial, The Quatermass Xperiment, into a successful film in 1955 (they’d do the same with its TV sequel), and they bought the movie rights for The Creature. Val Guest, who’d directed the Quatermass feature was brought back. Peter Cushing, who’d not only starred in The Creature, but had begun an association with Hammer with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), was also put on the payroll. Forrest Tucker was cast as Tom Friend, making the explorer/entrepreneur an American.

Nigel Kneale turned his own teleplay into a screenplay, calling it The Snow Creature — until someone realized there already was a picture with that title. (The Snow Creature is a cheap piece of junk from 1954, with the distinction of being the first Bigfoot movie.) Hammer eventually settled on The Abominable Snowman. In the States, the title was extended to The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. Kneale gets solo credit for the script, but Val Guest did a rewrite cutting back on a lot of the dialogue.

The production kicked off with a small crew doing some location shooting in the French Pyrenees in mid-January 1957. None of the cast made the trip; they used doubles. Some of the impressive mountain scenes used a helicopter, others were snagged from a cable car. Principal photography ran from January 28th to March 5th at Bray and Pinewood studios. The monastery set was built at Bray (with waiters from local Chinese restaurants playing the monks), while the snowy mountain stuff required the larger space to be found at Pinewood.

The story is pretty simple, at least on the surface. Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) brings an exhibition to a monastery in the Himalayas, where Dr. John Rollason (Peter Cushing) is conducting botany research. Tucker’s after the Yeti, and he convinces Cushing to come along. It would’ve been better for all concerned if they’d stayed home. They do indeed find the Yeti — gentle, intelligent creatures waiting around for us to wipe ourselves out so they can take over.

Tucker and Cushing are perfect for their roles, and they really put this one over. Guest’s direction is quite good — keeping things moving, building tension and doing a great job of cutting together the location and studio stuff — they say he kept a Moviola on the set so he could refer to the mountain footage. This was cinematographer Arthur Grant’s first film for Hammer, and it looks terrific. He’d eventually replace Jack Asher as Hammer’s go-to DP.

I’ve raved about Scream Factory’s previous Hammer Blu-Ray releases, and The Abominable Snowman continues their stellar track record. When they received the HD material, they found it five minutes short. That footage has been reinstated from an (upscaled) SD source, though you can watch the shorter, all-HD version if you prefer. Either way, it looks terrific (go with the complete one), with the B&W ‘Scope a real knockout. The sound’s good, giving real power to the windy sound effects and Humphrey Searle’s score. There are plenty of extras, too — commentary, trailer, Joe Dante’s Trailers From Hell piece, etc. A nice package all-around.

​In the UK, ​The Abominable Snowman was often paired with Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. Now that was a nice night at the movies. I highly recommend The Abominable Snowman Of The Himalayas. It’s still the best movie ever made about Bigfoot (to be honest, it doesn’t have much competition) — and this Blu-Ray is the perfect way to see it (especially if you’ve got a big TV).

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Filed under 1957, 20th Century-Fox, Arthur Grant, Forrest Tucker, Hammer Films, Lippert/Regal/API, Mamie Van Doren, Peter Cushing, Shout/Scream Factory, Val Guest

Blu-Rays News #270: How To Make A Monster (1958).

Directed by Herbert L. Strock
Produced & Written by Herman Cohen
Starring Robert H. Harris, Paul Brinegar, Gary Conway, Gary Clarke, John Ashley, Morris Ankrum

This news is like Christmas is coming early this year. Scream Factory is not only promising Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended (1955) on Blu-Ray, but How To Make A Monster (1958), too!

When it’s announced that American International Studios is going to quit making horror movies and focus on musicals and comedies, the makeup man (Robert H. Harris) who created the creatures that made the studio successful vows to get revenge.

This sets us up for a very contrived (they had no studio) look at the inner workings of AIP. It’s cool to see Paul Blaisdell’s masks and stuff sitting around, and the crossover from I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and I Was A Teenage Werewolf (both 1957) is terrific.

If all that wasn’t wonderful enough, the last reel was shot in color. When I saw How To Make A Monster on TV in the 70s, the color wasn’t color anymore — the print was B&W all the way, and I felt so cheated. I’m sure that won’t be a problem when this arrives on Blu-Ray next year. Scream Factory will certainly have it all in tip-top shape. Highly recommended.

As a kid, I completely agreed that ditching monster movies for musicals should be a capital offense.

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Filed under 1958, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Herman Cohen, John Ashley, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #269: Day The World Ended (1955).

Produced & Directed by Roger Corman
Starring Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, Mike Connors, Paul Birch, Jonathan Haze, Paul Blaisdell

Scream Factory just keeps coming up with the gold! They’ve announced a March Blu-Ray release of Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended (1955). It’s got Corman directing — his fourth time at bat. It’s got a perfect B-picture cast — Denning and Nelson are both veterans of the Creature movies and Adele Jergens is always terrific. Plus, it’s got a great Paul Blaisdell monster, which he plays. What more could you want?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: seeing these cheap movies get the white-glove treatment on Blu-Ray makes my heart feel good. Glad there’s enough demand to make such efforts worthwhile — wish 50s Westerns had a fanbase of the same size (or, no offense, willingness to part with their money).

Not sure what the extras will be, but given Scream Factory’s track record, it’ll be quite a haul. And it’ll be a treat (maybe a grainy one) to see it in its original Superscope framing. Highly, highly recommended.

UPDATE: Evidently, that March date was announced too soon. No official release date has been given, but it’s coming — and that’s good news indeed!

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Filed under 1955, Adele Jergens, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Paul Birch, Paul Blaisdell, Richard Denning, Roger Corman, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #264: Rasputin – The Mad Monk (1966).

Directed by Don Sharp
Starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco

Just last night, I checked out Scream Factory’s new Blu-Ray of The Devil Rides Out (1968). It’s one of the best-looking Hammer pictures I’ve seen in high definition. Really something else. (A review is in the works.)

So, with that fresh in my mind, I was really stoked to see today’s announcement of Hammer’s Rasputin – The Mad Monk (1966) and X: The Unknown (1956). Scream Factory’s Hammer series shows just how nice these old horror movies can be on video. They’re all stellar.

Rasputin stars Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley and is one of the few Hammer films in ‘Scope, actual CinemaScope this time. X: The Unkn0wn was to be Hammer’s second Quatermass film, but Nigel Kneale wouldn’t give them the rights to the character. It plays like a Quatermass movie (Joseph Losey directed some of it before he was replaced by Leslie Norman) and is very good.

These movies, and what I’m sure Scream Factory will do with the Blu-Rays, come highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, 20th Century-Fox, Barbara Shelley, Christopher Lee, Don Sharp, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Joseph Losey, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #260: The Mummy’s Shroud (1967).

Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, David Buck, John Phillips, Maggie Kimberly, Elizabeth Sellars, Michael Ripper, Eddie Powell

What is it about The Mummy? Both Universal and Hammer created masterpieces with their first Mummy movies, but had trouble keeping things going with the sequels.

The Mummy’s Shroud (1967) was the third of Hammer’s four Mummy films, though it’s the last one to actually feature a resuscitated mummy walking around. Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) wisely did not wrap Valerie Leon in bandages.

Director John Gilling had just done The Plague Of The Zombies and The Reptile (both 1966) for Hammer and stepped right into this one. He also wrote the script. Gilling and cinematographer Arthur Grant came up with a great-looking movie, which makes the upcoming Blu-Ray (early 2020) from Scream Factory so exciting. That and the sarcophagus full of extras we’ve come to expect from Scream Factory’s Hammer series. Looking forward to this one!

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Filed under 1967, Arthur Grant, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Michael Ripper, Shout/Scream Factory, Valerie Leon

Blu-Ray Review: Quatermass And The Pit (1968).

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Produced by Anthony Nelson Keyes
Screenplay by Nigel Kneale
Director Of Photography: Arthur Grant
Film Editor: Spencer Reeve

Cast: James Donald (Dr. Roney), Andrew Keir (Quatermass), Barbara Shelley (Barbara Judd), Julian Glover (Colonel Breen), Duncan Lamont (Sladden), Bryan Marshall (Captain Potter), Peter Copley (Howell)

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When I was a kid, there was a Sony Trinitron in the guest room. It was a great television, able to pick up out-of-town stations our other TVs couldn’t touch.

At 10 years old, armed with that television, the TV Guide and a Radio Shack earphone (with a 15-foot cord), I began the clandestine, full-scale rotting of my brain on old monster movies at all hours of the night. (If they have Internet service in Heaven, I sure hope my mom doesn’t see this!*)

One of the films I discovered late one night using that Sony/Radio Shack rig was Hammer’s Five Million Miles To Earth (1968). It scared me to death, and I’m sure I was totally useless at school the next day.

In the UK, Five Million Years To Earth went by the same title as the BBC TV serial it was based on, Quatermass And The Pit — which is how it’s billed everywhere nowadays. This movie doesn’t waste a second, plunging immediately into its story. A crew is digging in a London Underground station. They find a fossilized skull, followed by an entire skeleton. Dr. Roney (James Donald) is brought in, accompanied by his fellow scientist Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley). As they dig, they find what is believed to be an unexploded bomb. At this point, the military and the brilliant Dr. Quatermass (the brilliant Andrew Kier) get involved.

More and more stuff is ingeniously added to the plot as things get weirder, darker and a bit supernatural. The bomb isn’t a bomb after all, it’s an ancient spacecraft that seems to have brought grasshopper-looking creatures to earth millions of years ago (there’s the Five Million Years To Earth.) And those interstellar insects, well, they’ve been responsible for all sorts of evil havoc in this part of London for generations.

There are a few things about Quatermass And The Pit that have stuck with me for more than 40 years. To this day, I can’t see a grasshopper without thinking of this film. The scene where the rotting insects are dissected, as green “blood” oozes out and everyone complains about the smell, never ceases to give me the willies. And Barbara Shelley in her 60s plaid skirt has to be one of the loveliest women to ever grace the motion picture screen.

At 97 minutes, Quatermass And The Pit is one of the longer Hammer films, but it moves like a runaway train — thanks to director Roy Ward Baker, editor Spencer Reeve and writer Nigel Kneale — as it piles one plot point on top of another. To prove my point, the first skull is found before the movie’s two minutes in — and that includes the main titles. It maintains that pace throughout until all hell breaks loose in the last reel — as Quatermass and Dr. Roney save the world from heinous evil from another world.

Andrew Kier is just terrific as Quatermass, as is James Donald as Dr. Roney. Julian Glover is perfectly hatable as the military man who refuses to believe what Roney and Quatermass tell him is happening. And Barbara Shelley is great as the young scientist with a strange attachment to those weird grasshoppers from Mars. This is one of those movies were everybody brought their A game. As preposterous as it all sounds, the movie snatches you up and carries you along with its own logic.

Now, back to that Sony Trinitron and the earphone. Arthur Grant’s subtle, very effective use of color was completely lost on the late show (and on a faded 16mm print run at a convention in the 90s), but it shines like a jewel on this Blu-Ray from Shout Factory. It’s beautiful. The audio, which includes all kinds of noises, sirens and screams is clear as a bell. And there’s all sorts of extras: commentary, interviews, stills, trailers, even an episode of World Of Hammer. It’s another terrific Hammer Blu-Ray from Scream Factory — they’ve been knocking these out of the park since they started this series. Highly, highly recommended.

* If they had Internet access in Heaven, Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven, would it?

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Filed under 1968, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Roy Ward Baker, Shout/Scream Factory

Blu-Ray News #255: Circus Of Horrors (1960).

Directed by Sidney Hayers
Starring Anton Diffring, Erika Remberg, Yvonne Monlaur, Donald Pleasence

A plastic surgeon (Anton Diffring) takes over a circus, transforming unfortunate women into great beauties who work under the big top — and are killed in terrible accidents when the decide to leave.

Caught this thing on TV about 10,000 times as a kid. It’s every bit as nasty as its makers’ previous picture, Horrors Of The Black Museum (1959). And it’s coming to Blu-Ray from Scream Factory in September. Can’t wait to experience this thing in high definition!

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Filed under 1960, AIP, Donald Pleasence, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory