Category Archives: The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #394: The Tarzan Vault Collection (1918-1935).

In August, The Film Detective is dragging three early Tarzan pictures out of the deep, dark video jungle and giving them new life on Blu-Ray.

Tarzan Of The Apes (1918)
Directed by Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Enid Markey, George B. French, Gordon Griffith, Eugene Pallette

The first Tarzan film ever made. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel of the same name was published in 1912, and this is still held up as the most faithful film version of the character. The swamps of Louisiana doubled for the jungles of Africa. The film was a hit, and Elmo Lincoln would continue as Tarzan.

Adventures Of Tarzan (1921)
Directed by Robert F. Hill & Scott Sidney
Starring Elmo Lincoln, Louise Lorraine, Scott Pembroke, Frank Whitson, Lillian Worth

This 15-chapter serial was Elmo Lincoln’s third, and final, time as the Lord Of The Jungle, though he’d have small parts in a couple of the 40s Tarzan pictures.

The New Adventures Of Tarzan (1935)
Directed by Edward Kull & Wilbur F. McGaugh
Starring Herman Brix, Ula Holt, Ashton Dearholt, Frank Baker, Lewis Sargent

This 12-chapter serial was filmed on location in Guatemala, which brought with it a ton of problems, from financial and romantic woes to disease and impassible roads — and interference from MGM, which by this time was in the middle of their Johnny Weissmuller series. (Read up on this one sometime — it’s got quite a production history.)

Herman Brix made a name for himself at the 1928 Olympics, and they say he was considered by MGM before they cast Weissmuller in 1932’s Tarzan The Ape Man. Brix would later go by the name Bruce Bennett and he had a long, successful film career.

You can count on The Film Detective to make things things look as good as possible — and to load ’em up with extras. There are commentaries, documentaries and more. This is gonna be a good one, folks!

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Filed under Bruce Bennett, DVD/Blu-ray News, Johnny Weissmuller, MGM, Serial, Tarzan, The Film Detective

Assignment: Outer Space (1960, AKA Space-Men).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Screenplay by Antonio Margheriti & Ennio De Concini
Cinematography: Marcello Masciocchi
Music by Lelio Luttazzi

Cast: Rik Van Nutter (Ray Peterson, IZ41), Gabriella Farinon (Lucy, Y13), David Montresor (George the Commander), Archie Savage (Al, X15), Alain Dijon (Archie, Y16), Franco Fantasia (Sullivan)


Antonio Margheriti worked on documentaries, did special effects work and wrote screenplays before directing his first feature, Assignment: Outer Space (1960). This kicked off a career that went from whacked-out Italian science fiction and spaghetti westerns to peplum and horror movies to spy movies and action films.

When you crank out more than 50 fad-chasing genre pictures, it’s understood that quite a few of them will be less than great. But Margheriti had a real knack for no-budget special effects — and he loved science fiction. He certainly knew how to get a movie done quickly and efficiently — using multiple cameras to get everything from master shots to closeups at the same time. With the Gamma One series, for instance, he shot four films simultaneously, using the same actors, props and sets — shooting scenes from four color-coded screenplays each day. Margheriti’s ingenuity and love of cinema is baked into most of his films, especially the ones from the 60s, and it helps put a lot of them over.

Space-Men — or Assignment: Outer Space, as it’s known in the States — is a picture with more ideas and scope than its budget could bankroll, but Margheriti manages to make it work. The story is pretty basic — a broken-down spaceship is on a collision course with Earth, and the team on a single space station are mankind’s only hope. The special effects are passable, nothing more. And its pacing is pretty leisurely for a story with so much natural suspense.

But these liabilities become assets in Margheriti’s hands. The story serves as a framework for some imaginative sequences that may, or may not, advance the story. Margheriti devotes lots of screen time to showing us the (speculative) ins and outs of space travel, in a way that plays a bit like a precursor to Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968) — with a waking-up-from-suspended-animation scene that was clearly an influence on Alien (1979). The special effects are quaint, cool, surreal and charming — especially for those of use who consider CGI a nail in cinema’s coffin. (Larger models would’ve made a big difference, no pun intended.) It’s a very visual experience throughout, which makes it a real shame that it looks so consistently, and internationally, lousy on video.

They say that while Margheriti was shooting Assignment: Outer Space, Mario Bava was hard at work on Black Sunday (1960) on the soundstage next door at Scalera Film studios. One thing I found brilliant was the use of letters and numbers on the characters’ uniforms and space suits, so we know who’s who in longer shots — much like numbers on a baseball jersey. And one more thing: Rik Van Nutter would go on to play Felix Leiter in Thunderball (1965) — and was married to Anita Ekberg.

Antonio Margheriti would follow this with Battle Of The Worlds (1961), which is on its way to Blu-Ray from The Film Detective, and a few years later would come the Gamma One pictures (available from Warner Archive). In between, some spaghetti westerns and gothic horror — all of it worth your time. And though his work from the 70s and 80s doesn’t have the same ingenuity and creativity, it’s a real shame that Margheriti isn’t better known, and appreciated. 

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Filed under 1960, Antonio Margheriti, Mario Bava, The Film Detective, Warner Archive

The Carbon Arc Podcast Episode 1: Phil Hopkins, The Film Detective.

The first episode of The Carbon Arc Podcast is up and running — with Mr. Phil Hopkins of The Film Detective as our guest.

You can click on the thing up top to hear/see it on YouTube, or you can find it on podcast-y corral things like Podomatic.

Hope you enjoy it.

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Filed under AIP, Film Preservation, John Agar, The Carbon Arc Podcast, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #392: The Bat (1959).

Directed by Crane Wilbur
Starring Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, John Sutton

The Film Detective comes through with another one. Coming in September is The Bat (1959), a mystery thriller that Allied Artists promoted much like House On Haunted Hill (1959). People expected horror and didn’t get it, and that has hurt the picture’s reputation over the years. 

Price is as good as ever and Agnes Moorehead is terrific. This The Bat was the fourth film based on the stageplay by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood, based on a novel by Rinehart.

The Film Detective has done incredible work over the last couple years, dragging cool movies like this from the depths of PD, dollar-bin DVD hell— and giving them new life on Blu-Ray. This one is easy to recommend.

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Filed under 1959, Agnes Moorehead, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, The Film Detective, Vincent Price

Blu-Ray News #387: Battle Of The Worlds (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti, 1961).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti (Anthony Dawson)
Starring Claude Rains, Bill Carter, Maya Brent, Umberto Orsini

Antonio Margheriti directed quite a few science fiction and horror movies, spy films, spaghetti westerns and peplum pictures in the 60s and 70s. He rarely had much money to work with, and some of the scripts were lousy, but he had a visual flair that makes his films worthwhile. His whacked-out Wild, Wild Planet (1966) is incredible.

The Film Detective is bringing Margheriti’s second film, Battle Of The Worlds (1961) starring Claude Rains, to Blu-Ray this summer. Distributed in the States by Topaz Film Corp. in 1963, it was often paired with Atom Age Vampire (1960). Battle Of The Worlds is one of those movies that looks pretty terrible whenever it turns up, a situation I’m sure the folks at The Film Detective will rectify. Looking forward to seeing it look like something!

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Filed under 1961, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Film Detective

DVD/Blu-Ray News #385: Girl On A Chain Gang (1966).

Directed by Jerry Gross
Starring William Watson, Julie Ange, Ron Charles, Arlene Farber

The Film Detective is bringing Girl On A Chain Gang (1966) to DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s a drive-in exploitation picture from Jerry Gross, who made a fortune in the 70s with films like I Drink Your Blood (1970), I Eat Your Skin (1971), I Spit On Your Grave (1978) and The Boogey Man (1980). Gross was a big believer in the power of a good title, and that string of pictures kinda proves his point.

Gross wrote, produced and directed Girl On A Chain Gang, so we have no one to blame it on but him. It’s a junky, yet fascinating story of three young people framed, busted and tossed in a hellhole prison by corrupt Southern cops. (It’s always the South, isn’t it?) The 70s would see a bumper crop of pictures like this — crooked cops in the Deep South. Gross was ahead of the curve with this one.

I’m looking forward to seeing this with the level of care we’ve come to expect from The Film Detective. Coming in April.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray Review: Monster From Green Hell (1957).

Directed by Kenneth G. Crane
Produced by Al Zimbalist
Written by Endre Bohem & Louis Vittes
Director Of Photography: Ray Flin
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Jim Davis (Dr. Quent Brady), Robert Griffin (Dan Morgan), Joel Fluellen (Arobi), Barbara Turner (Lorna Lorentz), Eduardo Ciannelli (Mahri), Vladimir Sokoloff (Dr. Lorentz)


A wasp hitches a ride into space on an experimental rocket, grows to mammoth size upon returning to earth and starts chomping on natives near the rocket’s African crash site. A team of scientists lead by Jim Davis heads to the Green Hell region to investigate — and finds a giant queen wasp and her colony.

Monster From Green Hell (1957) is a typical blend of stock footage (from 1939’s Stanley And Livingstone), pseudo-science dialogue, location work at Bronson Caves and decent special effects to create a fun entry in the 50s Big Bug sub-genre. It’s wonderful. (Why do I love movies like this so much?)

Producer Al Zimbalist had already done Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953), Robot Monster (1953) and King Dinosaur (1955). He would later give us Don Siegel’s Baby Face Nelson (1957) and Young Dillinger (1964). My kinda guy.

The giant wasps were built by the great Paul Blaisdell, without credit (or payment, according to Blaisdell). The stop-motion work by Gene Warren is quite good. The miniatures and full-size effects cut together pretty well.

Jim Davis narrates, smokes a lot of cigarettes and figures out how to kill off the great big wasps (while wearing an odd safari outfit to match Spencer Tracy in the Stanley And Livingstone footage), but the picture’s acting honors probably go to Joel Fluellen. Director Kenneth Crane was an editor making a career move here. DP Ray Flin shot hundreds of TV shows — this is one of his few features. And the score by Albert Glasser is up to his usual standards.

Distributed by DCA, Monster From Green Hell played theaters and drive-ins paired with Half-Human (1955), a Toho picture directed by Ishirō Honda. DCA’s American version added footage with John Carradine and Morris Ankrum — would you expect anything else?

The Film Detective folks have done their usual fine work on this one. It looks great, offered up in both the 1.85 and 1.33 aspect ratios. While it would’ve played theaters at 1.85, the 1.33 version gives us a little better peek at the monsters. I really liked seeing a line or two from the original print. They’re never distracting, and they’re gone in a few seconds, but to me that’s part of what film look like.

Monster From Green Hell played in its original run with a tinted climax — about two minutes. Since I’d only seen it on TV and VHS tape, with the ending in B&W, it was great to see the sequence restored here. What was shocking is that while the dying wasp shots are tinted red, the scenes with the actors are in full color! [Glenn Erickson, Robert Furmanek and Jack Theakston get to the bottom of this tinted vs. color business here.]

Of course, The Film Detective never holds back on the extras, and here we get a nice featurette on Jim Davis from C. Courtney Joyner, a commentary by Stephen Bissette and a nice booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

It’s an excellent package all-around. For fans of this kind of thing, it comes highly, highly recommended.


One last thing: They say the wonderful Horrible Hamilton toy from 1964, which gave youngsters giant toy bugs and army men to feed to them, was based on the wasps in Monster From Green Hell. I always wanted one.

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Filed under 1957, Big Bug Movies, DCA, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Carradine, Morris Ankrum, Paul Blaisdell, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #378: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957).

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Robert Fuller

I love The Brain From Planet Arous (1957), and I’m ecstatic that it’s coming to Blu-Ray in June. A big thanks to the folks at The Film Detective. Will add more details as they’re announced. Can’t wait!

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howco International, John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Nathan Juran, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #370: The Capture (1950).



Directed by John Sturges
Starring Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory, Jacqueline White, Jimmy Hunt, Duncan Renaldo

It’s a great day when another obscure noir picture turns up looking like a million bucks. The Film Detective has announced a January 18 Blu-Ray release for John Sturges’ under-seen The Capture (1950), from a 4K scan of 35mm archival material. With its Mexican setting, flashback structure (a confession to a priest), narration and innocent-man-accused-of-something-heinous  plot-line, it checks a lot of the noir boxes.

The Blu-Ray will include featurettes on John Sturges and Teresa Wright, a commentary by C. Courtney Joyner and more. The folks at The Film Detective have done some incredible work recently, so it’s easy to recommend this one.

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Filed under 1950, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Sturges, RKO, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray Review: Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958).

Directed by Richard E. Cunha
Written by H. E. Barrie
Cinematography: Meredith Nicholson
Film Editor: Everett Dodd
Music by Nicholas Carras

Cast: John Ashley (Johnny Bruder), Sandra Knight (Trudy Morton), Donald Murphy (Oliver Frank/Frankenstein), Sally Todd (Suzie Lawler), Harold Lloyd Jr. (Don), Felix Maurice Locher (Carter Morton), Wolfe Barzell (Elsu), John Zaremba (Lt. Boyd), Robert Dix (Det. Bill Dillon), Harry Wilson (The Monster)


With Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958), The Film Detective has topped their exquisite Blu-Ray of Giant From The Unknown. Shot in less than a week in May of 1958 for about $65,000, Frankenstein’s Daughter is a typically glorious, wonderful late-50s junk movie.

Richard Cunha directed a handful of films, including Frankenstein’s Daughter, that I have a real fondness for, regardless of whether they’re any good or not. Caught this one on the late show as a teenager, when I was soaking up as much of this stuff as I could get my hands on.

At the time, I was enticed by stills in some monster movie books and magazines, and by the fact that John Ashley was in it. I’d seen Ashley in Larry Buchanan’s abysmal The Eye Creatures, a 16mm AIP TV movie from 1967 (and a remake of 1957’s Invasion Of The Saucer Men) — and, of course, the Beach Party pictures.

John Ashley: “Frankenstein’s Daughter was really rock bottom. But the people involved were very nice, especially Dick Cunha, the director.”*

Richard E. Cunha was born in Honolulu in 1922. He attended LA’s Art Center School. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, Cunha enlisted in the Air Force and served in their First Motion Picture Unit, making training films at the Hal Roach Studios (nicknamed “Fort Roach” at the time).

After the war, Cunha started his own company, making industrial films and commercials — and he shot some early TV shows. He’d later work as DP on Death Valley Days and Branded.

It was in 1957 that Cunha began his run of low-budget monster movies: Giant From The Unknown, She Demons, Missile To The Moon and Frankenstein’s Daughter. Each were done in about a week for around $65,000. They’re a load of cheeseball fun, with personal favorites being Frankenstein’s Daughter and Missile To The Moon (I’m a sucker for those guys-reach-another-world-and-find-a-society-of-women movies). It’s hard to put your finger on what makes Cunha’s movies somehow better than the other one-week wonders from the same period, but they are. 

But our focus today is on Frankenstein’s Daughter. It’s got yet another member of the Frankenstein family conducting the family business under an assumed name (the very lame Oliver Frank). Oliver is working as a lab assistant and spiking the fruit juice of his boss’s niece Trudy (Sandra Knight) with a secret formula that contains something called Digenerol. While all this is happening, Trudy has recurring dreams of turning into a monster. And if all that’s not enough, Oliver is also assembling a female version of the typical Frankenstein brand of “perfect being.” All that, and it’s got a Playboy Playmate in it (Sally Todd, February 1957). Sounds awesome, don’t it?

On Blu-Ray, this thing looks terrific — nice and clean and sharp, framed the way it should be (1.85), with surprisingly punchy audio. Never thought I’d see it look like this.

Then there’s all the extras, and The Film Detective really piles ’em on. For starters, there’s a commentary from Tom Weaver (who also wrote some stuff for the packaging). Then there are two terrific documentaries: Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker Of The Unknown (complete with some interview footage) and John Ashley: Man From The B’s. I loved ’em both. This is an all-around wonderful release, my favorite so far from The Film Detective.

It’s really easy to recommend this thing, especially to fans of such nonsense. Here’s hoping that The Film Detective gets around to She Demons soon (Missile To The Moon got a pretty solid Blu-Ray release from Snappy Video).

* From Interviews With B Science Fiction & Horror Movie Makers by Tom Weaver

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Filed under 1958, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, John Ashley, Richard Cunha, The Film Detective