Category Archives: 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.

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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).

Written & Directed by Orson Welles
Starring Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich

Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil (1958) is one of my all-time favorite films, one of the damnedest things you’ll ever see on a movie screen — and one of those pictures where you find something completely new each time you see it.

The story of its making, un-making and eventual reconstruction has been told a million times, and Kino Lorber is bringing all three versions to both Blu-Ray and 4K, filled out with all sorts of extras. With its incredible visuals, shot by Russell Metty, if there was ever a film that needed to be in 4K, this is it.

Coming in February. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1958, 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).

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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.

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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!

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

Blu-Ray News #357: Woody Woodpecker – Screwball Collection.

Guess who? Universal is bringing Walter Lantz’s Woody Woodpecker cartoons to Blu-Ray, promising 25 shorts and some extra featurettes and stuff. So far, I haven’t seen a listing of what the 25 shorts will be.

It’s coming in September. 

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

Blu-Ray News #348: Arabesque (1966).

Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Gregory Peck, Sophia Loren

Stanley Donen directed a couple of my favorite films of the 60s, Charade (1963) and Bedazzled (1967). In between, he did Arabesque (1966), a fun piece of Hitchcockian eye candy starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber.

Donen offered the lead to Cary Grant, who’d starred in Charade. Grant turned it down, and the part went to Peck. He’s a hieroglyphics expert who can decode a secret message — and who ends up pursued by sinister agents with Sophia Loren in tow. The story’s slight, but Donen and cinematographer Christopher Challis more than make up for it with all kinds of Technicolor-Panavision loveliness.

Henry Mancini cooked up a great score, which The Ventures covered (only released as a 45). Robert McGinnis did the terrific poster art (up top) between his work for Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967).

Flashy 60s pictures like this are perfect for Blu-Ray, and this one comes highly recommended.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Gregory Peck, Kino Lorber, Robert McGinnis, Sophia Loren, Stanley Donen, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #341: The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946).

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Starring Gale Sondergaard, Brenda Joyce, Kirby Grant, Milburn Stone, Rondo Hatton

Regardless of its title, and even though Gale Sondergaard is in it, The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) is not a sequel to Sherlock Holmes And The Spider Woman (1943). 

A 59-minute horror picture directed by Arthur Lubin — whose usual output was comedies like Buck Privates (1941) and Rhubarb (1951), this was an attempt to launch another Universal Monster series. It didn’t work, and The Spider Woman Strikes Back became a rather overlooked little monster movie from Universal. The studio tried a similar tactic with The Brute Man (1946) starring Rondo Hatton — which they eventually sold to PRC.

The picture was shot by Paul Ivano, whose long career behind the camera runs from Greed (1924) and the silent Ben Hur (1925) to Frankenstein (1931) and Gone With The Wind (1939) to The Frozen Ghost (1945) to hundreds of TV shows. He was under contract at Universal in the mid-40s, and his pictures always look terrific.

Kino Lorber is bringing this goofy little monster movie to Blu-Ray sometime this summer. 

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Filed under Arthur Lubin, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Rondo Hatton, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray News #340: Larceny (1948).

Directed by George Sherman
Starring John Payne, Joan Caulfield, Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters

While I’m a sucker for his Westerns, you can count me in on anything from George Sherman. He was a top-notch “journeyman” or contract director, and please don’t take that as a knock to his prowess. He made some great movies.

Larceny (1948) is built around one of the scuzziest plot points ever — a con man (John Payne) trying to snake a war widow (Joan Caulfield) out of money allegedly for a memorial to her husband. When Payne has second thoughts, and develops a thing for the widow, the boss (Dan Duryea) won’t let him out of it — then Duryea’s moll (Shelley Winters) really louses things up.

Noir works best when it’s kept lean and tight, which makes it perfect for George Sherman. This is a terrific movie, and it’ll be great to see Irving Glassberg’s cinematography in high definition. Coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber in July. Highly recommended.

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Filed under Dan Duryea, DVD/Blu-ray News, George Sherman, John Payne, Kino Lorber, Universal (-International)

Blu-Ray #337: Phantom Of The Air (1933).

Directed by Ray Taylor
Starring Tom Tyler, Gloria Shea, LeRoy Mason, Craig Reynolds, William Desmond, Walter Brennan

VCI’s series of Universal serials on Blu-Ray continues with The Phantom Of The Air (1933), a 12-chapter pre-Code serial filled with Tom Tyler, Gloria Shea, terrific old airplanes and lots and lots of crazy stunts.

There’s a plane named “The Phantom” and an anti-gravity device called the Contragrav, stuff to talk about as they go from stunt to stunt in this “adventure in the sky.” It’s a lot of fun, and it should look just great on Blu-Ray. Coming later this year.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Pre-Code, Ray Taylor, Serial, Universal (-International), VCI