Category Archives: United Artists

Blu-Ray News #344: Masquerade (1965).

Directed by Basil Dearden
Starring Cliff Robertson, Jack Hawkins, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Bill Fraser, Charles Gray

Kino Lorber has announced that they’re bringing Basil Deardon’s spy comedy Masquerade (1965) to Blu-Ray in September.

Cliff Robertson replaced Rex Harrison in the lead, and the script was revised by William Goldman to add an American spin on Robertson’s dialogue. For fans of Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968) Maris Mell has a great part here. There were so many of these types of things playing theaters in the mid-60s as Bond-mania spread across the globe not unlike the coronavirus.

Shot in Spain by the great Otto Heller (The Ladykillers, Peeping Tom, The Ipcress File), this will be a real piece of eye candy in high definition. Recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Hawkins, Kino Lorber, Marisa Mell, United Artists

Dialogue Of The Day: It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).

Benjy Benjamin (Buddy Hackett): Look! We’ve figured it seventeen different ways, and every time we figured it, it was no good, because no matter how we figured it, somebody don’t like the way we figured it! So now, there’s only one way to figure it. And that is, every man, including the old bag, for himself!

For Mr. Richard Vincent.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1963, Buddy Hackett, Dialogue Of The Day, Mickey Rooney, United Artists

A Night At The Movies, June 1955.

Hartford, Connecticut. By the way, Devil Take Us (1955) is an Oscar-nominated documentary short shot by the great Floyd Crosby.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1955, A Night At The Movies, Bel-Air, Broderick Crawford, Charles Bronson, Coleen Gray, Dennis O'Keefe, Floyd Crosby, Howard W. Koch, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Ralph Meeker, Sidney Salkow, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #335: Rollerball (1975).

Produced and directed by Norman Jewison
Starring James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck, Moses Gunn, Sir Ralph Richardson

I love Rollerball (1975). It’s one of my favorite science fiction films of the 70s, coming from the glorious period when James Cann was knocking one movie out of the park after another. (That’s just my opinion, mind you.)

It’s one of those pessimistic future things where the world is run by corporations and people’s pent-up anger is channelled into the sport rollerball, a deadly combination of hockey, football, motocross and roller derby. When Houston’s Jonathan E (James Caan) becomes a superstar with more power than the corporations are comfortable with, they try all sorts of tricks to encourage him to retire — including rule changes to make rollerball more dangerous than ever. But that makes people love Jonathan even more. (The world being lorded over by giant corporations used to be science fiction, but it’s getting less science fiction-y by the day.)

James Caan and the Houston rollerball team.

It’s also one of those have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too movies that pushed its anti-violence message by being really, really violent. Here, it kinda works. And man, it sure is rough along the way.

Caan is terrific, John Houseman is really creepy, Sir Ralph Richardson has a short, very weird scene, but the great Moses Gunn almost steals the movie as Caan’s trainer and friend. They say the actors and stunt men had a good time shooting the rollerball scenes and actually continued playing between takes!

Rollerball is coming to Blu-Ray from Scorpion Releasing later this month, and I’m really excited about it. It’ll have a killer lineup of interviews, commentaries, trailers, etc. But the star player will be a new 4K restoration, something I think the film richly deserves. (My old DVD was terrible.) Highly, highly recommended. Jonathan! Jonathan! Jonathan!

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Caan, Norman Jewison, Scorpion Releasing, United Artists

The Good, The Bad And The Urine.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to watch The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) again. It’s been quite a while since I’ve sat down with it, and my daughter has never seen it. So I dug out my Blu-Ray — and was instantly reminded why it’s been so long since I’ve seen it. I don’t have anything worth watching. 

There’s plenty out there on the internet about what’s wrong with every single version of the film available on video. The old laserdisc from 1993, which was sourced from an actual print, came the closest to what US audiences saw back in 1967. Everything since has a list of problems a mile long, from missing stuff to badly added stuff to a botched surround mix to color that turns everything the color of urine, even the sky. Of course, that sickly yellow has become the color of choice for film transfers these days, rendering them all unwatchable. Even The Searchers isn’t immune to it.

What’s really troubling about a film like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is that so many of us have seen it a million times, we know what it’s supposed to look, and sound, like. They can’t pull one over on us so easily. We’re onto them. Why is everything so yellow? That’s not what the guns are supposed to sound like. When the 16mm print I used to check out of the library looks and sounds better than the latest 4K “restoration,” something ain’t right.

There are old prints of Leone’s masterpiece out there. The IB Tech ones won’t fade — they’re the perfect color reference, no matter how scratched or spliced up they might be. Hell, I’d prefer a decent scan from one of those prints to what’s out there now. 

This is a time when even the smallest of movies are coming to Blu-Ray with startling results. Giant From The Unknown (1958) is a good example. Doesn’t one of the biggest deserve at last as good?

Evidently so, since there’s yet another The Good, The Bad And The Ugly on the way from Kino Lorber. We’re promised the original theatrical cut, in glorious mono, with a 1967 IB Tech print used as a guide and occasional source. It’ll be both 4K and Blu-Ray, I believe. This sounds promising, but I’ll wait and see how this one shakes out before I lay down my fistful of dollars.

8 Comments

Filed under 1966, Clint Eastwood, Kino Lorber, Lee Van Cleef, Sergio Leone, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #316: The Train (1964).

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, Jeanne Moreau

The Train (1965) is a terrific action picture – and though it takes place in the later days of World War II, it’s not a war movie in the usual sense. It was shot on location in France, blowing up real stuff and wrecking real trains, with Burt Lancaster doing his own stunts. 

Lancaster is a railroad worker and part of the French Resistance, near the end of the war in Europe, trying to keep the Nazis from leaving France with a train loaded with plundered artwork. He spends most of the film doing all he can to delay the train — knowing the Allies will arrive soon. Whether he’s wrecking trains, running around with a German MP 40 machine gun, or just standing around smoking, Lancaster is unbelievably cool in this movie.

Lancaster, Frankenheimer and The Train.

Arthur Penn was to direct, but he was fired after a few days. John Frankenheimer was brought in — and he stopped everything to rethink the picture a bit. As much as I like Arthur Penn, I think The Train was better suited to Frankenheimer. It’s a top-notch suspense film.

The B&W cinematography from Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz is really something — so is the editing by David Bretherton. If the Kino Lorber Blu-Ray (coming in January) looks like the previous Twilight Time release, it’ll be stunning. Highly, highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1964, Arthur Penn, Burt Lancaster, DVD/Blu-ray News, John Frankenheimer, Kino Lorber, United Artists

Blu-Ray Review: Africa Screams (1949).

Directed by Charles Barton
Original Story and Screenplay by Earl Baldwin
Music by Walter Schumann
Cinematography: Charles Van Enger
Film Editor: Frank Gross
Music by Walter Schumann

Cast: Bud Abbott (Buzz Johnson), Lou Costello (Stanley Livington), Clyde Beatty (himself), Frank Buck (himself), Max Baer (Grappler McCoy), Buddy Baer (Boots Wilson), Hillary Brooke (Diana Emerson), Shemp Howard (Gunner), Joe Besser (Harry), Burton Wenland (Bobo), Charles Gemora (The Ape)

__________

Back in December, we were given the opportunity to help The 3-D Film Archive restore Africa Screams (1949) for Blu-Ray. If you were one of those that did, you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself right now. And you should, because the results of that Kickstarter campaign, and the painstaking work it funded, are really something to see.

The new Africa Screams Blu-Ray, available from ClassicFlix, shows what a little money — coupled with a whole lot of love, dedication and technical knowhow — can accomplish. One of Abbott & Costello’s funnier movies, an independent production, Africa Screams has been rescued from the PD slag heap and allowed to shine every bit as bright as its richer cousins from Universal. And that’s quite a feat indeed.

Robert Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is the author (with Ron Palumbo) of one of my all-time favorite film books, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood. This is not Bob’s first time working with this movie — he put together a terrific, extras-packed laserdisc back in the pre-HD late 80s. (That’s it on the left.) My love of Africa Screams came from watching that disc many, many times. For Blu-Ray, Bob had to start all over. The 35mm camera negative and a fine grain positive, both on nitrate stock, were scanned in 4K, and those scans were given a painstaking clean-up. The results are staggering at times.

Africa Screams (1949) was an independent production from Nassour Studios. It offered a chance for more dough for Bud & Lou, so they were pretty stoked for this one. The team was riding high — they’d just done Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), both one of their best pictures and one of their biggest hits.

Charles Barton, who directed A&C Meet Frankenstein, was hired on, along with Charles Van Enger, who shot it, and Frank Gross, who cut it. Bud & Lou also brought in friends like Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Max and Buddy Baer. So they both stacked the deck and made sure they’d have a good time doing it.

Africa Screams is a spoof of jungle pictures, complete with appearances by Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck. Costello works in the adventure books section of a department store (he even wears a safari outfit). He and Abbott end up joining an expedition to search for a giant ape. It’s really a bunch of crooks after a secret diamond mine. A map to the mine was printed in an old book, which Costello claims to remember. They end up not only battling the bad guys, but being captured by cannibals and coming face to face with Charles Gemora in one of his great gorilla costumes.

The picture has plenty of opportunities for Costello’s classic scared routine (the gorilla, a crocodile, etc.) and Abbott’s abuse of his chubby friend. Shemp Howard is terrific as a near-sighted big game hunter and Hillary Brooke is as perfect as she ever is when dealing with Bud & Lou. Of course, it’s all very silly — and at times, extremely funny. 

Now back to the Blu-Ray. Black and white movies really benefit from high definition, and Africa Screams is a sterling example. The sharpness, the deep, rich shadows and the expanded contrast levels help create a sense of depth that can be really effective at times. You see it in film noir quite a bit, and in this picture, it makes the scenes shot on the jungle set really come alive (though you never, ever think it’s an actual jungle). This restoration was probably an uphill battle, but you’d never know if from looking at the results. Every frame is perfection.

It’s loaded with special features, too — trailers, outtakes, stills, a TV appearance, some old interviews, a 3-D comic book (with glasses even!) and a wonderful commentary from Ron Palumbo, Furmanek’s co-author on Abbott & Costello In Hollywood.

Africa Screams is one of Abbott & Costello’s best pictures (I’d put it at #2). This is certainly the best presentation any of their films has received on Blu-Ray — and if you’ve seen the Shout Factory box, you know just how high the bar is. Highly, highly recommend.

2 Comments

Filed under Abbott & Costello, Charles Barton, ClassicFlix, Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, The 3-D Film Archive, United Artists

Hot Cars (1956).

Directed by Don McDougall
Produced by Howard W. Koch
Screenplay by Don Martin & Richard Landau
Based on a novel by H. Haile Chace
Photography by William Margulies
Edited by George A. Gittens, ACE
Music by Les Baxter

John Bromfield (Nick Dunn), Joi Lansing (Karen Winter), Mark Dana (Smiley Ward), Carol Shannon (Jane Dunn), Markel (Arthur Markel), Dabbs Greer (Detective Davenport)

__________

Every once in a while, you need a 50s crime picture. Nothing else will do. I recently landed on Hot Cars (1956), a Bel-Air picture produced by Howard W. Koch. Look at that poster — the title, the cast, Joi Lansing as a “stop-at-nothing blonde,” the guy falling off the rollercoaster. Consider that it was shot mostly on location around Santa Monica and it’s only 60 minutes long, and you just know it’s gonna be great.

Nick Dunn (John Bromfield) and his wife Jane (Carol Shannon) are in a bad way financially when their son gets sick and needs an operation, so against his better judgement (and to their quick regret), Nick takes a job at a used car lot run by Markel (Ralph Clanton), Karen (Joi Lansing) and their sinister flunky Smiley Ward (Mark Dana).

Hard to decide which is prettier — Joi Lansing or the 1955 Mercedes 190 SL.

They turn out to be a pretty shifty bunch — they’re selling the hot cars of the title, and before you know it, a cop looking into the operation (Dabbs Greer) turns up dead. I probably don’t need to mention that Karen puts the moves on Nick — and that he’s suspecting of rubbing out the cop.

Hot Cars makes use of Jack’s At The Beach (#17) and the rollercoaster at Pacific Ocean Park.*

The big finish takes place on the rollercoaster at Pacific Ocean Park (POP) in Santa Monica, with some great POV stuff on the old attraction as Nick and Smiley duke it out. The picture’s location shooting is probably its strong suit, featuring a couple of cool Culver City car dealers (Big John’s and Johnny O’Toole’s) and Jack’s At The Beach, a Santa Monica restaurant near POP that you might recognize from The Rockford Files.

Koch and Bel-Air excelled at these low-budget, lurid little crime pictures — Shield For Murder (1954), Big House USA (1955), Three Bad Sisters (1956), Untamed Youth (1957, with Mamie Van Doren and Eddie Cochran!) and so on. A few of my favorite 50s movies came from Bel-Air.

John Bromfield made quite a few cool B movies, stuff like The Black Dakotas (1954) and Revenge Of The Creature (1955). He starred in the TV series The Sheriff Of Cochise, which was also called US Marshal. He retired in 1960 when the show was cancelled and became a commercial fisherman. He’s quite good in Hot Cars, appearing in about every scene. Joi Lansing does what’ she normally does in movies like this — stand around and look sultry. She’s really good at it.

Director Don McDougall stayed plenty busy doing TV, from the 50s well into the 80s. Lots of cool shows, from The Roy Rogers Show to Bonanza and from M Squad to The Night Stalker. He also did the Star Trek episode “The Squire Of Gothos.” Hot Cars is one of only a handful of features he directed, and while it’s nothing flashy, he and DP William Margulies avoid the studio-bound staginess of a lot of cheap movies from the period. They must’ve had a blast manning those cameras on the rollercoaster! Margulies spent the bulk of his career at Universal, where he shot tons of TV, Gunpoint (1966) with Audie Murphy and the great Ghost And Mr. Chicken (1966).

Hot Cars also boasts an ultra-cool jazzy score from Les Baxter. Baxter composed music for quite a few Bel-Air movies, and some Regalscope pictures, before hitting his stride at American International. Of course, at the same time, he was making great records like 1958’s Space Escapade. Wouldn’t you love a big fat CD boxed set of Baxter’s 50s an 60s movie work?

Truth be told, Hot Cars is cooler than it is good, and its appeal might be limited largely to fans of cheap noir. But if you fall into that group, you’ll find it quite a thing. You can get Hot Cars on DVD as part of MGM’s MOD program. It’s full-frame, but it looks pretty good. A Blu-Ray would be terrific.

* This map post-dates Hot Cars.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1956, Bel-Air, Dabbs Greer, Howard W. Koch, John Bromfield, Joi Lansing, Les Baxter, United Artists

Blu-Ray News #268: Some Girls Do (1969).

Directed by Ralph Thomas
Starring Richard Johnson, Daliah Lavi, Beba Loncar, Robert Morley

Network Releasing in the UK has announced their upcoming (February) Blu-Ray release of Some Girls Do (1969). The second picture with Richard Johnson as a revamped Bulldog Drummond, coming after Deadlier Than The Male (1967), Some Girls Do is a fun, lively 60s spy movie.

Some of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios at the same time as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) — Joanna Lumley and Virginia North appear in both. And by the way, Terence Young wanted Richard Johnson to play James Bond when he directed Dr. No (1962).

Leave a comment

Filed under 1969, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Bond, Network Releasing, Richard Johnson, United Artists

Help Save Africa Screams!

Robert Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is the author (with Ron Palumbo) of one of my all-time favorite film books, Abbott & Costello In Hollywood. He recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to restore one of Bud and Lou’s funniest films, their independently-produced Africa Screams (1949). It’s one of the team’s absolute best, released right after Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). They were really on a roll.

My love of this movie stems from Bob’s terrific, extras-packed laserdisc from the late 80s. I played that thing about a million times. And I’m really stoked about the opportunity to take a part in this restoration.

The existing 35mm material (camera negative and fine grain positive) is on nitrate stock, which is difficult, dangerous and expensive to work with, but can make for stunning results. The plan is to do 4K scans of these reels, then do a thorough clean-up for a DVD and Blu-Ray release. When I checked, Bob was over halfway to his goal of $7,500, and we have till the end of December to help make this happen. Click on the image up top to do your part.

Not sure what’s more exciting about this — being able to help preserve a movie I adore, or the thought of seeing it look like a million bucks on Blu-Ray.

unnamed-1UPDATE: In a little over a day, the goal has been met. Thanks to everyone who pledged to bring Africa Screams to Blu-Ray.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abbott & Costello, Charles Barton, Film Preservation, Hillary Brooke, Shemp Howard, The 3-D Film Archive, United Artists