Category Archives: Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-Ray News #399: Gang Busters (1942).

Directed by Noel M. Smith & Ray Taylor
Starring Kent Taylor, Irene Hervey, Ralph Morgan, Robert Armstrong

VCI has brought the Universal serial Gang Busters (1942) to DVD and Blu-Ray, restored from fine-grain material from Universal.

“Fellow citizens, you are listening to the voice of death.”

Based on the popular radio show, the bad guys are crooks brought back from the dead (The League Of Murdered Men) by the mysterious Professor Mortis—quite a stretch from the more authentic crime-busting featured on radio. The action’s top-notch throughout. 

This has always been one of my favorite serials. Can’t wait to see this thing on Blu-Ray. Highly, highly recommended!

2 Comments

Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Serial, Universal (-International)

DVD/Blu-Ray News #395: Congo Crossing (1956).

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Starring Virginia Mayo, George Nader, Peter Lorre, Michael Pate, Rex Ingram, Raymond Bailey

Explosive Media has a great run of Universal International 50s Westerns coming out throughout the summer, and now they’ve announced Congo Crossing (1956), a U-I jungle picture with a great cast (including Mr. Drysdale himself, Raymond Bailey), Russell Metty cinematography (shot for 2.0) and the Arboretum and Botanic Garden in LA doubling for Africa. This is one I’ve never seen, and I can’t wait!

Thanks to John Knight for the tip!

1 Comment

Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, Explosive Media, Joseph Pevney, Peter Lorre, Universal (-International), Virginia Mayo

Making Movies: Don Siegel At Work.

Don Siegel’s films are scattered throughout my list of all-time favorites — if I was to ever sit down and make such a list. Here are some photos I’ve come across while researching him for various things (some of these images have appeared on this blog before, but are worth repeating).

Up top, there’s Siegel directing Clint Eastwood in Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970). The original screenplay was by Budd Boetticher, who was supposed to direct (he ended up with only a story credit). Budd not happy with the finished film, which co-starred Shirley MacLaine. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the picture “a solidly entertaining film that provides Clint Eastwood with his best, most substantial role to date; in it he is far better than he has ever been. In director Don Siegel, Eastwood has found what John Wayne found in John Ford and what Gary Cooper found in Frank Capra.” They’d make five movies together.

Here he is with Ronald Reagan and Vinveca Lindfors (Mrs. Siegel at the time) shooting Night Unto Night (1949).

Neville Brand and Dabbs Greer (?) get direction from Siegel on Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954).

Nick Adams and Siegel go over the script for Hell Is For Heroes (1962).

Siegel, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins and John Cassavettes (back of his head) on the set of The Killers (1964).

With Eastwood on the set of Coogan’s Bluff (1968), their first picture together.

Andy Robinson goes over the script with Siegel on Dirty Harry (1971).

Siegel and Walter Matthau having a laugh on Charley Varrick (1973). I think Don’s wearing the same hat he has on in the photo from The Killers.

Eastwood and Siegel on location for Escape From Alcatraz (1979).

I was trying to find a picture of Siegel working on Baby Face Nelson (1957), one of his best, but had no luck. It’s highly underrated, probably because it’s almost impossible to see.

3 Comments

Filed under 1954, 1957, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1979, Angie Dickinson, Budd Boetticher, Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel, Nick Adams, Steve McQueen, Universal (-International), Walter Matthau

The Phantom Creeps, Quite Literally.

Directed by Ford Beebe & Saul A. Goodkind
Starring Bela Lugosi, Robert Kent, Dorothy Arnold, Edwin Stanley, Regis Toomey, Jack C. Smith, Edward Van Sloan

VCI has been working on a restoration of The Phantom Creeps (1939), a 12-chapter Universal serial starring Bela Lugosi, for Blu-Ray release.

They’ve recently provided some info on why this thing is taking so long: “When we started working on the restoration early last year, we discovered that six of the 12 chapters, of the original film elements we received from Universal Pictures, had many issues. Some reels were missing, and some were on nitrate film and had deteriorated terribly. Fortunately, we found more complete original film elements stored at the Library of Congress. We have requested access to those film elements, however we were informed that film was actually owned by Sony Pictures (FYI, Sony actually is the owner of Columbia Pictures, who had a license in the 1950’s to distribute several Universal serials via their TV syndication division, Screen Gems, and that’s how they came to have these film elements). Since we discovered this, we have been negotiating with Sony’s legal department to give us permission to access and scan this film, which would allow us to finish our restoration. This process with Sony began last July, and so far, they have been cooperating, but still haven’t given us their permission. We feel confident that Sony will give us permission, but we just can’t say when. This is a very high-priority project to VCI, but unfortunately it is not as important to Sony, so we remain on hold.”

As this frame grab from Chapter 1 shows, this thing is gonna be incredible — and well worth the wait. The Phantom Creeps is a cool serial, put together by some of the very best at making such things: director Beebe, writer George Plympton and DP William Sickner.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next thrilling chapter in this story! When it gets here, it’ll be essential.

3 Comments

Filed under Bela Lugosi, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Preservation, Regis Toomey, Serial, Universal (-International), VCI

Screening: Smokey And The Bandit (1977).

Directed by Hal Needham
Starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason, Sally Field, Jerry Reed

TCM and Fathom Events are bringing Smokey And The Bandit (1977) back to theaters for its 45th anniversary — May 29, June 1 and 2. Click the ad to find a time and place in your area.

Saw this on opening day (May 27) at the Mission Valley Cinema in Raleigh, North Carolina. (That’s the ad up top.) My daughter loves this thing, it’s a load of fun, and we’ll be at one of these screenings for sure.

3 Comments

Filed under 1977, Burt Reynolds, Screenings, TCM, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #367: Two Psycho Rip-Offs From Hammer Films And Freddie Francis.

In the early 60s, Hammer invested heavily in the Psycho ripoff industry. And while those investments didn’t pay off like their Dracula or Frankenstein pictures did, they were pretty solid movies. Scream Factory is bringing a couple of them to Blu-Ray soon (each is a standalone release). Both were written and produced by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Freddie Francis. 

Paranoiac (1963)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Alexander Davion

His older brother dead, his sister declared insane, Oliver Reed is all set to have the family fortune all to himself. Then, the brother turns up again. Or is an imposter? 

Nightmare (1964)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring David Knight, Moira Redmond, Jennie Linden

Technically, this is probably more of a riff on Diaboliques (1955) than Psycho (1960). A girl witnesses her mother kill her father. Mom is sent to an asylum, while years later, at a finishing school, the daughter starts having nightmares of stabbings. But are they dreams, or are the bodies really piling up?

In both the UK and the US, Nightmare played theaters with Evil Of Frankenstein (1964), also directed by Francis.

These are cool, stylish pictures with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing who’s real, who’s dead and who’s gonna be dead. They were both in black-and-white Scope, which looks terrific in high definition. If these get the usual treatment Scream Factory lavishes on their Hammer releases, with stellar transfers and lots of nice extras, these will be very nice indeed. Highly recommended.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1964, DVD/Blu-ray News, Freddie Francis, Hammer Films, Oliver Reed, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray/4K News #366: Touch Of Evil (1958).

3 Comments

Filed under 1958, Albert Zugsmith, Charlton Heston, DVD/Blu-ray News, Janet Leigh, Kino Lorber, Orson Welles, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #365: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949).

Directed by William Castle
Starring Howard Duff, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Tony Curtis, John McIntire, Gar Moore, Leif Erickson

Kino Lorber is continuing their terrific noir Blu-Ray series Film Noir: The Dark Side Of Cinema with Volumes VI and VII.

Volume VI contains John Brahm’s Singapore (1947), with Fred MacMurray, Ava Gardner and Roland Culver; George Sherman’s The Raging Tide (1951) with Shelley Winters, Richard Conte, Stephen McNally, Charles Bickford, Alex Nicol and John McIntire; and William Castle’s Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949).

In Castle’s picture, Federal agents need Johnny Evans (Dan Duryea), who’s doing time in Alcatraz, to rat on some drug dealers and hit men. Johnny’s not to hip to the idea. It’s a solid effort from Castle. Recommended.

Volume VII will contain Byron Haskin’s The Boss (1956) starring John Payne; Sidney Salkow’s Chicago Confidential (1957) with Brian Keith, Beverly Garland and Dick Foran; and Dana Andrews, Dick Foran and Marilee Earle in Jacques Tourneur’s The Fearmakers (1958).

2 Comments

Filed under 1956, 1957, 1958, Ava Gardner, Beverly Garland, Dan Duryea, Dana Andrews, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Noir, Fred MacMurray, George Sherman, Jacques Tourneur, John Payne, Kino Lorber, Richard Conte, Tony Curtis, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #362: Love-Slaves Of The Amazons (1957).

Written & Directed by Curt Siodmak
Starring Don Taylor, Gianna Segale, Eduardo Ciannelli, Harvey Chalk, Wilson Vianna

Kino Lorber has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release for Curt Siodmak’s Love-Slaves Of The Amazons (1957). It’s a little over 80 minutes of the usual “guys end up someplace (planet/island/jungle) populated entirely by women” thing. Of course, the women want to enslave the men for their own vile purposes.

It’s got some shooting in Brazil, in Eastmancolor, and a poster by the great Reynold Brown (the art’s up top). Is Love-Slaves Of The Amazons terrible? Maybe. Is it wonderful? Absolutely. Coming sometime in early 2022.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1957, Curt Siodmak, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Reynold Brown, Uncategorized, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #361: Blood Of The Vampire (1958).

Directed by Henry Cass
Starring Donald Wolfit, Barbara Shelley, Vincent Ball, Victor Maddern

Blood Of The Vampire (1958) is often mistaken for a Hammer film, with its subject matter, use of color, Barbary Shelley in the cast and a script from Jimmy Sangster.

But it was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, who’d give us Jack The Ripper a year later. Of course, they were clearly inspired by the success of Hammer’s Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror Of Dracula (1958) — and they serve up lots of Eastmancolor blood.

What’s interesting about the picture is that despite its Transylvania setting, Sangster goes for a more science-fiction approach to the whole blood-drinking thing, and this doesn’t play much like a vampire movie at all. Paul Landres’ The Vampire had taken a similar approach a year earlier — and Fred F. Sears’ The Werewolf went a similar route in ’56.

Nucleus Films in the UK is bringing Blood Of The Vampire to Blu-Ray, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I’ve always wanted a nice clean copy of this, with all its lurid color lovingly preserved. Here’s hoping that’s what we get!

7 Comments

Filed under 1958, Barbara Shelley, DVD/Blu-ray News, Fred F. Sears, Paul Landres, Universal (-International)