Category Archives: Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #302: Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970).

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine

Kino Lorber has announced an October Blu-Ray release of Don Siegel’s Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970), his second picture with Clint Eastwood (from a story by Budd Boetticher).

Kino Lorber has promised 4K restorations of both the US cut and the longer international version, along with a host of extras.

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Filed under 1970, Budd Boetticher, Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray Review: Hollywood Story (1951).

Directed by William Castle
Produced by Leonard Goldstein
Story and Screenplay by Frederick Kohner and Fred Brady
Cinematography: Carl E. Guthrie
Film Editor: Virgil Vogel

Cast: Richard Conte (Larry O’Brien), Julie Adams (Sally/Amanda Rousseauz), Richard Egan (Police Lt. Bud Lennox), Henry Hull (Vincent St. Clair), Fred Clark (Sam Collyer), Jim Backus (Mitch Davis), Houseley Stevenson (John Miller), Paul Cavanagh (Roland Paul), Katherline Meskill (Mary), Louis Lettieri (Jimmy Davis), Francis X. Bushman, Betty Blythe, William Farnum, Helen Gibson, Joel McCrea

__________

Art imitates life here. Hollywood Story (1951) concerns a producer (Richard Conte) solving an old Hollywood murder mystery, while prepping a movie about that mystery. It was based on the actual 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor. This scandalous crime, which created a media circus and plenty of completely fabricated news stories, was never solved.

Conte buys an old movie studio and learns of the murder that took place there. Intrigued, he decides to use it as the basis for his next picture, and he reaches out to a number of people who were working at the studio at the time — from a writer (Henry Hull) to the daughter of one of the studio’s biggest stars (Julie Adams). With that framework, the picture manages to follow the Taylor case fairly closely as Conte pieces together what happened.

L-R: Richard Conte, Francis X. Bushman, Helen Gibson, William Farnum, Betty Blythe.

William Castle directed several entries in Columbia’s The Whistler series, moody mini-noirs starring Richard Dix. They were excellent, and Castle’s same no-nonsense approach can be found here. Hollywood Story was done before Castle went gimmick crazy with his late 5os horror movies, but there’s a gimmick anyway, bringing in a few silent stars — Betty Blythe, Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum and Helen Gibson. Their parts mean nothing to the movie, but their names look good in the ads. (They were paid peanuts.)

This was one of a handful of pictures Castle did at Universal International. He did some cool stuff there — this one, Undertow (1949) and Cave Of Outlaws (1951) — before returning to Columbia, where he’d start working for producer Sam Katzman.

Hollywood Story gives us a great look at early 50s moviemaking, particularly at Universal International. Joel McCrea has a cameo in one of the on-the-set scenes. Judging from his costume, he might’ve been shooting Frenchie (1950) when his brief scene was done. We also visit a number of Hollywood points of interest — such as Jack’s At The Beach, Ciro’s, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Ocean Park Pier and the old Chaplin Studio (as the scene of the crime).

The cinematography from Carl E. Guthrie is terrific, adding plenty of mood when it’s needed and playing up the bright lights of Hollywood. Universal’s movies from the 50s, whether they were in Technicolor or black and white, have a real sparkle to them, thanks to masters like Guthrie. And that’s what makes this Blu-Ray such a great thing. It presents Guthrie’s work flawlessly. It’s much better than the old DVD. Brighter, with better contrast. It adds a level of depth you don’t see very often, which is really effective in the darker, scenes. 

Hollywood Story is a solid movie, and it’s been given a sterling transfer for Blu-Ray. Mill Creek has paired it with Castle’s New Orleans Uncensored (1955). It looks great, too, and since each picture is on its own disc, the bit rates are quite high. They’re priced right, too. For William Castle fans, this set is an absolute must. More, please!

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, Mill Creek, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #299: Universal Horror Collection, Volume 6.

I’m really excited about this one, as Shout Factory’s Universal Horror Blu-Ray series moves into the 50s. This is announced for release on August 25.

The Black Castle (1952)
Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, Stephen McNally, Rita Corday, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Hoyt, Michael Pate
You could say this was the last of the true Universal-type horror movies, with all the trapping and a few of the actors we associate with such things. It was Nathan Juran’s first time as director. He was on the film as art director, but was moved into the director’s chair when Joseph Pevney walked.

Cult Of The Cobra (1955)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Starring Faith Domergue, Richard Long, Kathleen Hughes, Marshall Thompson, Jack Kelly, William Reynolds, David Janssen
This story of a cult of snake worshippers, a deadly curse and the beautiful, deadly snake goddess (Faith Domergue) making their way to New York went out as the second feature behind Revenge Of The Creature (1955).

The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
Directed by Will Cowan
Starring William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Jeffrey Stone, Carolyn Kearney
Running just 69 minutes, shot by the great Russell Metty and with terrific poster art from Reynold Brown (up top), this played with Hamer’s Horror Of Dracula (1958) in the States. It’s about a telepathic head that’s discovered in a box at a dude ranch.

The Shadow Of The Cat (1961)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring André Morell, Barbara Shelley, William Lucas, Fred Jackson
A cat witnesses a murder, then helps both solve it and bring the culprits to their just rewards. Shot in black & white by Hammer’s ace cameraman Arthur Grant.

Scream Factory has come up with some real gold in this one, and it’s good to see these more obscure Universal horror pictures get a chance to shine. They’ll be seen in their original widescreen aspect ratio, with the exception of The Black Castle, which predates the shift to widescreen. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1952, 1955, 1958, 1961, Arthur Grant, Barbara Shelley, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Faith Domergue, Hammer Films, John Gilling, Lon Chaney Jr., Marshall Thompson, Nathan Juran, Reynold Brown, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #292: The Ipcress File (1965).

Ipcress File US LC 1

Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Starring Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Stanley Meadows

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of the third, and last, Harry Palmer film, Billion Dollar Brain(1967), was very nice. And I’m so glad to hear they’re coming through with the first one, The Ipcress File (1965). I love this film.

I was 10 and had just gotten my first pair of eyeglasses when I came across The Ipcress File, and a smartass secret agent with glasses and a machine gun (and Sue Lloyd) gave me hope. Maybe it was going to be OK after all.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Harry Palmer, Kino Lorber, Michael Caine, Sidney J. Furie, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #284: Inner Sanctum Mysteries: The Complete Film Series.

Until the DVD set came out years ago, I’d only seen one of the Inner Sanctum pictures. Boy, had I been missing out.

These cheap little mysteries are terrific, the kind of spooky hokum Universal specialized in back in the 40s. Now the series, all six of ’em, are getting a Blu-Ray upgrade from Mill Creek.

Calling Dr. Death (1943)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Patricia Morison, J. Carrol Naish, David Bruce

Weird Woman (1944)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Anne Gwynne, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Morgan

Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Lon Chaney, Acquanetta (“as Tonya, sister of Satan!”), Jean Parker, Paul Kelly, Thomas Gomez

The Frozen Ghost (1945)
Directed by Harold Young
Starring Lon Chaney, Elena Verdugo, Evelyn Ankers, Tala Birell, Martin Kosleck

Strange Confession (1945, re-released as The Missing Head)
Directed by John Hoffman
Starring Lon Chaney, Brenda Joyce, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges

Pillow Of Death (1945)
Directed by Wallace Fox
Starring Lon Chaney, Brenda Joyce, J. Edward Bromberg, Rosalind Ivan, Clara Blandick

What’s striking about these movies, to me, is that though they were seen as cheap little pictures with Universal’s lower-level talent, there’s a real craft to them that shines through. Can’t wait to see them in high-definition.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr., Mill Creek, Reginald Le Borg, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #283: Hollywood Story (1951) And New Orleans Uncensored (1955).

Mill Creek has another William Castle hi-def double bill on the way. This one’s got a couple of his noir pictures. If you’re like me, anything Mr. Castle touched is worthwhile.

Hollywood Story (1951)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Richard Conte, Julia Adams, Henry Hull, Fred Clark, Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum

William Castle spent a few years working as a contract director at Universal-International, directing cool pictures like Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), Cave Of Outlaws (1951) and this one, Hollywood Story (1951). It’s based on the murder of the silent director William Desmond Taylor and features a handful of silent stars in tiny parts (probably done as a promo stunt more than anything else). It was shot by the underrated cinematographer Carl E. Guthrie.

Hollywood Story was often paired with Huge Fregonse’s Apache Drums (1951).

New Orleans Uncensored (1955)
Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Starring Arthur Franz, Beverly Garland, Helene Stanton, Michael Ansara, Stacy Harris, Mike Mazurki

After those years at U-I, Castle moved to Columbia and made a slew of movies in Sam Katzman’s unit. This one has a dream cast — Beverly Garland, Stacy Harris, Mike Mazurki, it’s in widescreen B&W, and it runs a brisk 76 minutes. My kind of movie!

This single-disc set comes highly, highly recommended. Let’s hope Mill Creek has more like this on the way!

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Filed under 1951, 1955, Beverly Garland, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Julie Adams, Mill Creek, Sam Katzman, Universal (-International), William Castle

Blu-Ray News #281: Jungle Queen (1945).

Directed by Ray Taylor & Lewis D. Collins
Starring Edward Norris, Eddie Quillan, Douglass Dumbrille, Lois Collier, Ruth Roman, Tala Birell, Clarence Muse

Anything with Douglass Dumbrille as a Nazi, Ruth Roman as the Jungle Queen and Clarence Muse as anything is worth a few hours of your time. And since the Universal serials VCI has been bringing to Blu-Ray lately are absolutely beautiful, I’m really looking forward to this one.

It’s 1939, and the Nazis are trying to take over Africa. They’re looking for the fabled Sword Of Tongu, which will help them win over the natives and have them join the fight against the British. It’s up to a couple of Americans (Edward Norris and Eddie Quillan), a British agent/archeologist (Lois Collier) and the beautiful, mysterious Jungle Queen, Lothel (Ruth Roman), to stop them.

Directors Ray Taylor and Lewis D. Collins did a ton of serials, and Collins went on to direct a few of the terrific William Elliott B Westerns at Monogram and Allied Artists. Universal’s serials boast better production values than other studio’s chapter plays, though this one is a bit talky and makes liberal use of stock footage.

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Filed under Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lewis D. Collins, Ray Taylor, Ruth Roman, Serial, Universal (-International), VCI

Blu-Ray News #280: Munster, Go Home! (1966).

Directed by Earl Bellamy
Starring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Butch Patrick, Debbie Watson, Terry-Thomas, John Carradine

Shout Factory is bringing Munster, Go Home! (1966) to Blu-Ray in March.

The picture gave us a chance to see TV’s Munster family on the big screen in eye-popping Technicolor. It played one of those summer matinee series when I was a kid, and I can still remember the incredible color of that battered 35mm print. And though the DVD of the picture is quite nice, it’ll be great to have it in high-definition.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International)

Making Movies: King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).

I absolutely love behind the scenes photos from Toho’s kaiju movies. Here’s a batch from King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962).

Eiji Tsuburaya was the special effects genius on the early movies. Here he is with the picture’s leads.

Godzilla, Kong and Tsuburaya on the Mount Fuji set.

King Kong floats above the studio. Next, Godzilla and Kong among various bits of rubble.

Haruo Nakajima played Godzilla and Shoichi Hirose portrayed King Kong. Of course, the picture was directed by Ishirō Honda.

The US Blu-Ray of King Kong Vs. Godzilla is lovely, by the way.

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Filed under 1962, Eiji Tsuburaya, Ishirō Honda, Kaiju Movies, Making Movies, Toho, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #272: Kitten With A Whip (1964).

Directed by Douglas Heyes
Starring Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Peter Brown, Patricia Barry, Richard Anderson, Audrey Dalton, Leo Gordon

Universal has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of their exploitation/psychological horror/JD picture Kitten With A Whip (1964). It’s hard to describe this thing, so I’ll just encourage you to see it when the Blu-Ray comes out in late January. Ann-Margret is great (and great-looking) as the horrible Jody Dvorak, who seems set to destroy everything, and everyone, she comes across.

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Filed under 1964, Ann-Margret, DVD/Blu-ray News, Leo Gordon, Universal (-International)