Category Archives: Warner Archive

DVD News #245: Best Of Pete Smith Specialties, Vol. 1.

I haven’t seen the exact contents of this first volume of the Pete Smith Specialty shorts, but I know there’s gonna be some really funny stuff in there.

Movie Pests (1944) is hysterical — of course, people being a drag at the movies is timeless (unfortunately). Sure hope it’s in there.

No matter. For whatever cinema silliness it contains (75 shorts on four discs), I am truly grateful to the fine folks at Warner Archive — and to a Smith names Pete. Highly recommended.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive

DVD Review: The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954).

Directed by Edward Bernds
Produced by Ben Schwalb
Written by Edward Bernds and Elwood Ullman
Music by Marlin Skiles
Cinematography: Harry Neumann
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Leo Gorcey (Terrance Aloysius ‘Slip’ Mahoney), Huntz Hall (Horace Debussy ‘Sach’ Jones), David Gorcey (Chuck Anderson), Bennie Bartlett (Butch Williams), Bernard Gorcey (Louie Dumbrowski), Lloyd Corrigan (Anton Gravesend), Ellen Corby (Amelia Gravesend), John Dehner (Dr. Derek Gravesend), Laura Mason (Francine Gravesend), Paul Wexler (Grissom), Steve Calvert (Gorilla)

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This post is dedicated to my friend Dan Conway. A while back, he and I got to talking about The Bowery Boys, which prompted me to task myself with a series of posts on the Boys and their movies. This is the first.

The basic plot point of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — that Dracula needs a simple, pliable brain to put in the head of the Frankenstein monster, so naturally he’s after Costello — is pure genius. Wish I’d come up with it. Evidently, so did the folks behind The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters (1954), because they took that idea and ran with it. If one monster after a brain was funny, how about a bunch of monsters after a couple of brains?

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters goes like this. Slip and Sach wind up at the creepy old mansion of the Gravesend family. Turns out each Gravesend is in need of a brain or body. A brain that’ll fit inside a gorilla’s head. Another brain for a robot. Some meat for a carnivorous tree. And, of course, somebody always needs some fresh blood. The boys are encouraged to stay at Chez Gravesend, and the chase begins — with the rest of the Boys coming to the rescue.

The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters comes from the back end of the Boys’ filmography, when everyone was getting a little tired. But if you find this stuff funny, you’ll find something to laugh at here. Everything you expect is in place: Slip’s butchering of the English language, Louie’s Sweet Shop, some kind of chase, and so on. The addition of monsters and the typical old-dark-house stuff — and yet another guy (Steve Calvert ) in a gorilla suit — add a certain something. You’ve got the usual folks behind the camera — Edward Bernds directed from a script he wrote with Elwood Ullman. Harry Neumann shot it, obviously in a hurry, but he was always dependable. Great character actors like Lloyd Corrigan, Ellen Corby and John Dehner do a lot for this movie, and it looks like they were having fun.

Let’s talk about the gorilla. Steve Calvert, a bartender at Ciro’s, bought Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s ape suits and turned monkeying around into a career. He was in several of the Jungle Jim pictures with Johnny Weissmuller, starting with the first one, along with Road To Bali (1952), Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952) and the late-in-the-game Republic serial Panther Girl Of The Congo (1955). I love these gorilla suit guys. Luckily, someone interviewed Calvert before he passed away.

Of course, every frame of this movie is stupid. Which is a good thing. The Bowery Boys Meet The Monsters is included in Warner Archive’s The Bowery Boys, Volume Two. This terrific four-volume series packs 12 movies on four discs in each set. They look terrific — Meet The Monsters is even presented widescreen! — and if you’re a fan of this stuff, they’re absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1954, Bela Lugosi, Bowery Boys, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Bernds, Gorilla suit guys, Johnny Weissmuller, Jungle Jim, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #241: None But The Brave (1965).

Directed by Frank Sinatra
Starring Frank Sinatra, Clint Walker, Tommy Sands, Brad Dexter, Tony Bill, Tatsuya Mihashi

None But The Brave (1965) is usually shrugged off as simply “the only picture Frank Sinatra directed,” which it is. But it’s also a pretty solid war movie, a lot better than reviews at the time would have you expecting. Two groups of soldiers, one Japanese and one American, are stranded on the same little Pacific island. They establish a pretty shaky truce in order to survive.

It was shot in Hawaii, and during production, Brad Dexter saved Sinatra (and Ruth Koch, the wife of producer Howard W. Koch) from drowning after getting caught in a riptide. In Japan, it was distributed by Toho, the Godzilla movie people. And Tommy Sands was Sinatra’s son-in-law at the time, and he’d divorce Nancy the same year.

It’s got great Panavision cinematography by Harold Lipstein. Sinatra had cinematographer William H. Daniels working as a producer, and with those two master craftsmen on board, how could it not look great? And that, for me, is why I’m so happy Warner Archive is bringing None But The Brave to Blu-Ray. It’s out next week, I think. Recommended.

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Filed under 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Sinatra, Toho, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #182 UPDATE: Jonny Quest: The Complete Original Series (1964-65).

Warner Archive has put a July release date on their complete, unedited set of Jonny Quest cartoons. “All 26 episodes… are yours in a 3-disc set, as originally first broadcast in prime-time on ABC-TV during the 1964-65 season.”

There are people scattered across the Free World going absolutely nuts about this piece of news. I’m not that far gone by a long shot, but I’m plenty stoked.

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Filed under 1964, 1965, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #232: The Golden Arrow (1962).

Directed by Antonio Margheriti
Starring Tab Hunter, Rossana Podestà, Umberto Melnati, Mario Feliciani, Dominique Boschero, Renato Baldini

The only time I’ve ever run into The Golden Arrow (1964) was back in the 70s on the afternoon movie. You can imagine how badly the Technirama was butchered to shoehorn it onto TV. So I’m really stoked to see it coming on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

This Italian epic comes from director Antonio Margheriti, who made a string of wonderfully delirious science fiction movies (the Gamma 1 saga) a few years after this picture — The Wild, Wild Planet (1966) is probably my favorite of the bunch. He’d already done a few Barbara Steele and peplum movies, too. Then there’s his 60s spy movie Lightning Bolt (1966). If your taste in movies runs toward 60s Italian weirdness, Margheriti’s your man.

Tab Hunter seems to be having a blast in this, though it’s a shame he didn’t get to supply his own voice. His leading lady Rossana Podestà made all kinds of cool Italian movies, and I’d really love to see her 7 Golden Men (1966) make it to DVD. It’s an ultra-stylish caper picture with a liberal dose of that 60s Italian weirdness I just mentioned. The Golden Arrow is scheduled for a May release.

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Filed under 1964, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Tab Hunter, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #228: Frankenstein 1970 (1958).

Directed by Howard W. Koch
Starring Boris Karloff, Tom Duggan, Jana Lund, Donald Barry, Charlotte Austin

Thanks to Warner Archive, in about a month, we’ll be able to recreate this terrific twin bill in high definition in our own living rooms, as they add Frankenstein 1970 (1958) to their list of terrific Allied Artists ‘Scope monster movies on Blu-Ray.

Frankenstein 1970 is one I like a lot — in spite of itself in a few spots. I really dig Queen Of Outer Space (1958), too.

Black & white CinemaScope is such a cool thing on Blu-Ray, I can’t wait for this!

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Filed under 1958, Boris Karloff, DVD/Blu-ray News, Howard W. Koch, Monogram/Allied Artists, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Dark Of The Sun (1968).

dark-of-the-sun-ad

Directed by Jack Cardiff
Produced by George Englund
Screenplay by Ranald MacDougall (as Quentin Werty) and Adrien Spies
Based on the novel by Wilbur Smith
Cinematography: Edward Scaife, Jack Cardiff (uncredited)
Film Editor: Ernest Walter
Music: Jacques Loussier

Cast: Rod Taylor (Captain Curry), Yvette Mimieux (Claire), Jim Brown (Sgt. Ruffo), Kenneth More (Dr. Wreid), Peter Carsten (Captain Henlein), Calvin Lockhart (President Ubi)

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This post was about halfway written when Rod Taylor died, and I decided not to toss it out there in the middle of the usual celebrity death news cycle. The Warner Archive Blu-Ray seemed like the perfect time to finish it up.

The Congo Chainsaw Massacre?

Put as simply as I can put it, Jack Cardiff’s Dark Of The Sun (1968) is one of the damnedest movies I’ve ever seen. Stunningly brutal, ruthlessly suspenseful and surprisingly intelligent, it’s like no action movie of its period — or any period, really. It quickly becomes obvious that all the Movie Rules have been thrown out the window, especially as they existed in 1968. We normally trust our filmmakers to get the characters, and the audience, to the end of the picture safely. And much like Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), once you get the feeling that anyone could get killed at any minute, the suspense becomes all the more powerful.

Dark As The Sun breaks a couple of other action movie rules: it gives us real characters and somehow works a very humanist message into the whole thing without seeming hypocritical — and without slowing the bloodletting even the slightest bit.

The Congo is going to hell. A mercenary (Rod Taylor) leads a strike force deep into Simba territory to bring back $50 million in diamonds that the government desperately needs. Of course, the dangerous mission goes wrong — almost everything goes wrong, and the way home becomes a real struggle to survive.

Jack Cardiff: “When I made the film, I thought that it would have been too awful for words to make it like the real violence, but it had to have violence in it… I could only say to those that I met that my film was nothing like the real thing — it was a quarter, a fifth, a sixteenth of the violence that really happened. None the less, it had the reputation as a violent film.”

Make no mistake about it, it is a violent film. Cardiff has an incredible way of insinuating far more violence, mayhem and depravity than we get to actually see.

A lot of that comes from the performances. Rod Taylor has never been better as Bruce Curry, a burned-out mercenary who’s clearly seen too much and been through too much. Jim Brown plays against Taylor well as a soldier whose morals and ideals are still intact.

Yvette Mimieux doesn’t have a lot to do as a woman they rescue along the way. Kenneth Moore is terrific as a drunken doctor who sees this mission as a way to redemption. And Peter Carsten is as evil as it gets as Captain Henlein, an ex-Nazi they reluctantly add to their team (some unfortunate dubbing hurts his performance a bit). The inevitable conflict between Curry and Henlein takes over the movie’s last reel or so as it speeds towards its bloody climax.

The cinematography of Dark Of The Sun by Edward Scaife and an uncredited Jack Cardiff is top-notch, though with Cardiff at the helm, you’d expect nothing less. The editing is very tight, making this picture a unrelenting, exhausting and ultimately haunting film.

Frank McCarthy’s original poster art.

The new Blu-Ray from Warner Archive really adds to that overall experience. It’s incredibly sharp and the color is superb — who knew Metrocolor could look like this? A batch of extras round it out nicely. They’ve really gone the extra mile for this movie, and it deserves it. Essential.

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Filed under 1968, Jack Cardiff, Jim Brown, MGM, Rod Taylor, Warner Archive