Category Archives: Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #126: Seven Days In May (1964).

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Balsam

Warner Archive has announced a summer Blu-Ray release of the John Frankenheimer suspense/paranoia classic Seven Days In May (1964) — with Burt Lancaster as a general leading a plot to overthrow the President (whose talks of disarmament has some in the military fearing a Russian attack). The cast is outstanding — Fredric March (as the President), Kirk Douglas (as a general who uncovers the plot), Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Balsam, Andrew Duggan and on and on. Rod Serling’s script is a masterpiece — this is an idea that remains topical and will probably never be handled better.

Black and white really looks terrific in high definition, and director of photography Ellsworth Fredricks’ work here certainly deserves the boost in clarity. Good stuff.

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Filed under 1964, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Edmond O'Brien, Hugh Marlowe, John Frankenheimer, Paramount, Rod Serling, Warner Archive, Whit Bissell

Blu-Ray Review: World Without End (1956).

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Directed by Edward Bernds
Story & Screenplay by Edward Bernds
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Original Music Leith Stevens

Cast: Hugh Marlowe (John Bordon), Nancy Gates (Garnet), Nelson Leigh (Dr. Eldon Galbraithe), Rod Taylor (Herbert Ellis), Shawn Smith (Elaine), Lisa Montell (Deena), Christopher Dark (Hank Jaffe), Booth Colman (Mories), Everett Glass (Timmek)

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Allied Artists’ ads for World Without End (1956) bragged that it was the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope and Technicolor. Its writer and director Edward Bernds called it “A-picture mounting for a B-budgeted picture.”*

And what a B picture it is! A team of intrepid U.S. astronauts — including Hugh Marlowe and a very young Rod Taylor — returns to Earth from their trip to Mars. Somehow they wind up in the 26th century, finding their home planet reduced to a hostile, post-Apocalyptic world teeming with mutants (that’s one to the left), giant spiders, underground cities, weird old men wearing kooky hats and beautiful girls in mini skirts. You’re starting to get a feel for how terrific this is, aren’t you?

You know how these things work. Before long, the astronauts are killing the spiders, duking it out with the mutants and romancing the ladies. And people wonder why I love these old things so much.

Allied Artists sprang for Technicolor and Scope for World Without End, but that doesn’t mean Bernds had a blank check. Not by a long shot. The spaceship footage — leaving Mars’ orbit and crash-landing back on Earth — was lifted from Monogram’s Flight To Mars (1951) and severely cropped for CinemaScope (from 1.33 down to 2.55). Of course, Allied Artists used to be Monogram, so it’s easy to understand why the footage was cheap.

Walter Mirisch of Allied Artists and Edward Bernds

Bernds: “It’s strange how some producers, at least at that time, got hooked on the idea of saving money by using stock film… You could duplicate those stock shots for a few thousand dollars — are you going to make a $400,000 picture on the basis of saving a few bucks?”*

Another sign of cost-consciousness (one that you see in a lot of these 50s sci-fi flicks): post-Apocalyptic Earth looks a whole lot like the Iverson Ranch.

Edward Bernds wanted Sterling Hayden for the lead, but Allied Artists went with the much cheaper Hugh Marlowe. He’s a little bland, maybe, but fine. Marlowe would have a pretty good run in 50s science fiction. He started out in The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), and he’d follow World Without End with Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956).

Lisa Montell plays Deena, one of the lovely women of our planet’s grim future. As she describes it, “That film was a lot of fun… Part of the fun was that my character was related to the ‘Mutates’ and I got to speak in Mutate talk, which I just made up as I went along.”*

Nancy Gates falls for Hugh Marlowe, and Rod Taylor winds up shirtless. Gates’ career was going a mile a minute at this time, working steadily in movies and TV. Taylor had only been in the States a couple years when he was cast in this; he’d appear in Giant (1956) the same year.

Pin-up artist Alberto Vargas (the pressbook called him an “internationally known painter of curvaceous femininity”) did sketches for the film, focusing on the women’s costumes. These were used to promote the picture, and I’m sure they were effective. A six-sheet was available with each of the ladies 5′ 6″ tall.

Director of photography Ellsworth Fredericks did a ton of stuff for Allied Artists around this time, everything from At Gunpoint (1955) to Friendly Persuasion (1956). Wow, from Gary Cooper as a Quaker to rubber spiders. He shot Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers the same year.

Warner Archive has done us all a huge favor by bringing this glorious bit of nonsense to Blu-Ray, gloriously. Fredericks uses the Scope frame really well, and it’s great to have the CinemaScope presented in high definition. Every plastic rocket, every fake spider, every skimpy costume is as sharp as a tack. The color’s perfectly saturated, and the sound’s clear as a bell.

There are certainly better movies than this, but this has become one of my favorite Blu-Rays. It’s a marvel to look at and a real hoot of a movie. Highly, highly recommended.

Read somewhere that Joe Dante saw World Without End and Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955) as a double bill some Saturday afternoon when he was a kid. He loved it so much, he sat through it twice — and when he got home, his parents had called the police!

*Sources: The Edward Bernds quotes are from Tim Weaver interviews; Lisa Montell’s quote comes from the Treasures Of Wonderment website.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Hugh Marlowe, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #119: From Hell It Came (1957).

Directed by Dan Milner
Starring Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer, Suzanne Ridgeway

From Hell It Came (1957) is a really terrible movie with laughable special effects. I love it and can’t wait to see it in high-definition. It’s coming from Warner Archive — 2017 is really gonna be some year for old movies on Blu-Ray.

The monster was originally designed by Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios. It looks every bit as ridiculous as you’d imagine a walking tree to look.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #111: The Valley Of Gwangi (1969).

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Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Starring James Franciscus, Richard Carlson, Gila Golan

The incredible stop-motion creature effects of Ray Harryhausen seem made for high-definition. So it’s always good news when some of his work is announced for Blu-Ray. The latest is The Valley Of Gwangi (1969) from Warner Archive.

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The cowboys vs. dinosaurs storyline, with a good bit of King Kong (1933) worked in, came from Ray Harryhausen’s mentor Willis O’Brien. It had been brought to the screen as The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956). The effects in Gwangi are incredible, some of the master’s finest. And while the movie wasn’t a hit back in ’69, Harryhausen’s legion of fans have always dug it. Warner Archive haven’t put a date on it yet, but it’s coming.

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Filed under 1969, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ray Harryhausen, Richarld Carlson, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #110: World Without End (1956).

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Directed by Edward Bernds
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor

Allied Artists bragged that with World Without End (1956), they’d given the world the first sci-fi movie in CinemaScope. And Warner Archive is about to give it to us on Blu-Ray.

So, these astronauts return to Earth from a trip to Mars. Somehow they end up in the 26th century, to find a post-Apocalyptic world (actually, the Iverson Ranch) of mutants, monsters and girls in mini skirts. I love this kinda stuff.

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Director Edward Bernds  had a most interesting career, going from The Three Stooges to The Bowery Boys to Westerns like The Storm Rider (1957) to a string of sci-fi movies — World Without End, Queen Of Outer Space (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Valley Of The Dragons (1961). He wrote or co-wrote all of these. Oh, and Sam Peckinpah was the dialogue director. So far, there is no specific release date.

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Filed under 1956, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edward Bernds, Monogram/Allied Artists, Rod Taylor, Sam Peckinpah, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #107: The Blood Of Fu Manchu (1968) And The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969).

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Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Christopher Lee, Richard Greene

The Blood Of Fu Manchu (1968, AKA Kiss And Kill) and The Castle Of Fu Manchu (1969) — the last two pictures in producer Harry Alan Towers’ series based on Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, star Christopher Lee, Richard Greene and the Law Of Diminishing Returns.

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Directed by the Spanish cult director Jess Franco, they have their fans — and they’ll be happy to know that Blue Underground is bringing them to Blu-Ray some time this year. The previous DVD release had a lot of extras, which will make their way to the Blu-Ray set.

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The first and third Lee/Fu Manchu pictures, The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965, directed by Don Sharp) and The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967) are available from Warner Archive. (I really like Face.) The second, The Brides Of Fu Manchu (1966), was released several years ago from Warners, paired with Chamber Of Horrors (also 1966). How deep you want to go in this series is a personal thing, but Lee makes a terrific Fu Manchu — and let’s not forget him as Chung King in Hammer’s Terror Of The Tongs (1961).

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Filed under 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, Blue Underground, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Doc Savage – The Man Of Bronze (1975).

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Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by George Pal
Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Film Editor: Thomas J. McCarthy

Cast: Ron Ely (Clark “Doc” Savage Jr.), Paul Gleason (Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts), William Lucking (Col. John “Renny” Renwick), Michael Miller as Lt. Col. Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair), Eldon Quick (Professor William Harper “Johnny” Littlejohn), Darrell Zwerling (Brigadier Gen. Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks), Paul Wexler (Captain Seas), Pamela Hensley (Mona Flores), Bob Corso (Don Rubio Gorro), Federico Roberto (Presidente Don Carlos Avispa), Janice Heiden (Adriana), Robyn Hilton (Karen), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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“Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” Dr. Zaius says that toward the end of Planet Of The Apes (1968). You probably know what the line leads to — one of the great gut-punches in all of film.

Lately, I’ve revisited a number of movies I was drawn to as a kid (they’re turning up on Blu-Ray in droves), and that line keeps coming to mind. “You may not like what you find.” (Does your inner voice speak in movie dialogue?) Nobody wants to discover they had terrible taste as a child, so I’ve sat down with these movies accompanied by a pretty hefty chunk of trepidation. “I haven’t seen this since I was eight.” “Bob (name changed to protect the tasteless) still loves this thing, but he likes a lot of crap.” “Was it the movie I liked, or that it was the first time I went to the theater by myself?” And on and on.

It’s great to be able to say that, for the most part, I’ve been fairing pretty well. The adult me liked The Vampire (1957) much better than the kid me did. King Kong Escapes (1967) is even goofier than I remembered. And over at my Western blog, I’m constantly finding brilliance hiding under the surface of old pictures that have been branded programmers (1957’s Quantez comes to mind). So far, not a bad track record.

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Things are different when it comes to Doc Savage – The Man Of Bronze (1975). As a kid, I absolutely loved it. Not long after it opened in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was scooping up the Bantam paperbacks like a fiend. And while I now see the movie as a fairly botched adaptation of the original pulp novels, I’ve got a soft spot for it that is a much bigger deal than its actual merits as cinema.

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Producer George Pal and director Michael Anderson seem to have been conflicted about what kind of Doc Savage movie they wanted to make. There’s plenty of the ’66 Batman camp thing going on. There are serious attempts to create real excitement and suspense. And there’s a solid effort to establish Doc’s art deco world and aides, the Fabulous Five. From one scene to the next, the movie succeeds at one of those tasks or the other — but the end result is disjointed, leaving us wondering how we should take the thing as a whole.

None of that’s a deal-breaker when you’ve got plenty of nostalgia to draw on. I do, and I still wish they’d made the sequel, Doc Savage – The Arch Enemy Of Evil. But like a lot of movies released in the summer of 1975, a shark killed Doc Savage – The Man Of Bronze. You know the one.

I was so stoked walking out of the theater in 1975.

So now, all these years later, Warner Archive brings us a gorgeous Blu-Ray that has the movie looking better than ever. It still looks a bit like a TV movie, but so what? The color’s great, there’s plenty of circa-1975 film grain and it’s so sharp you can really study Doc’s beautiful Cord Model 810. They did a very nice job with it, and if you’re a fan you’ll be blown away.

So to go back to my original thought, revisiting movies from your childhood at your own peril — how does Doc Savage hold up? It’s not cinematic gold, to be sure. Silver? No. But bronze? Yeah, I’d give it that.

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Filed under 1975, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Pal, Warner Archive