This is the way I’ve been hoping they’d get around to these wonderful Warner Bros. cartoons — big fat sets in chronological order. And it makes sense that they’d get the ball rolling with Porky Pig, the first of their big “stars.” There will be 101 shorts on five discs, all unedited. Man, I can’t wait.
Category Archives: Warner Archive
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Starring Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi
With Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968), MGM took science fiction, and filmmaking in general, a huge leap forward. With The Green Slime, later that same year, they took it backwards just as far. The result, a wonderfully cheesy Japanese/US co-production, is coming to Blu-Ray from our intergalactic friends at Warner Archive later this year.
Some astronauts visit an asteroid (and destroy it), and one of them comes back with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles.
Filmed in Japan by a Japanese crew, with an American cast (and script), it’s slightly related to a series of sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild Planet; War Of The Planets; War Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).
The title tune is terrific. And if all that doesn’t promise an hour-and-a-half of cheesy goodness, note that it features Luciana Paluzzi, an actress with one of the greatest 60s and 70s filmographies of them all: Bonanza, Muscle Beach Party (1964), Thunderball (1965), Hawaii Five-O and more.
The Green Slime announced for Blu-Ray — this is a red-letter day.
Directed by Richard Rush
Starring Alan Arkin, James Caan, Loretta Swit, Jack Kruschen, Mike Kellin, Paul Koslo, Linda Marsh, Alex Rocco, Valerie Harper
Warner Archive has announced Freebie And The Bean (1974) for an upcoming Blu-Ray release. Some will probably ask why.
This highly un-PC movie, which switches from violent action flick to comedy almost frame by frame, divides film fans more than about movie I can think of (those that even remember it). Many hate it for the reasons I just listed. Me, I love it — partly for those same things.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s a master class in vehicular stunts — they tear up a lot of cars in this thing, and it always looks like actual pedestrians are in real peril. It’s got both Alex Rocco and Paul Koslo in it. Alan Arkin is as good as ever, and James Caan was on a real roll at this time — The Godfather (1972), Slither (1973, a personal favorite), The Gambler (1974), The Godfather: Part II (1972) and Rollerball (1975).
What’s more, the Blu-Ray will give us a chance to really appreciate Laszlo Kovacs’ Panavision San Francisco photography, which takes us to places you don’t see in more scenic SF films like Vertigo (1958), Bullitt (1968) and What’s Up, Doc? (1972). It’s a great-looking, gritty movie. And, in my opinion, it’s a thousand times better than the cop/buddy movies that came later, like those Lethal Weapon things. I can’t wait to see it in high definition.
Directed by Dan Milner
Cinematography: Brydon Baker
Film Editor: Jack Milner
Original Music: Darrell Calker
Written by Richard Bernstein and Dan Milner
Produced by Jack Milner
Cast: Tod Andrews (Dr. William Arnold), Tina Carver (Dr. Terry Mason), John McNamara (Professor Clark), Linda Watkins (Mae Kilgore), Gregg Palmer (Kimo), Grace Mathews (Orchid), Chester Haynes (Tabonga)
When it comes to 50s sci-fi movies, I find that Quality and Entertainment have an often inverse correlation. (I’m tossing the concept of inverse correlation in here to prove I actually paid attention in those economics classes decades ago.) In other words, the more production values you pack in there, the bigger the budget, the less fun they seem to be. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that the super-cheap From Hell It Came (1957) is largely quality-free.
On some South Seas island, a prince is (unjustly) convicted of murder, and he’s executed with a knife in the heart — all orchestrated by the witch doctor. They bury the prince upright in an old tree trunk. Turns out the place is lousy with nuclear fallout, which reanimates the prince as a walking tree with the ceremonial dagger still sticking out of its chest. Called Tabonga, it quickly sprouts and starts killing people.
Some American scientists are on the island studying radiation levels or something. They get to the bottom of it all after spouting page after page of B-movie scientific nonsense — and putting away an awful lot of booze. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s some quicksand in the Big Finish.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this thing is great. It’s a whacked-out mix of the usual 50s science fiction monster trappings, the goofy pseudo-Polynesian aesthetic of the period, and concern about the perils of the Atom Age.
If it all sounds ridiculous, and it does, imagine seeing it on screen — somebody shuffling around in a cheap rubber tree costume. The Tabonga is the work of the great Paul Blaisdell, AIP’s favorite (cheap) monster maker, but constructed by Don Post Studios: “I designed the Tabonga the way I thought it should look in terms of the script, and the people that built it did a damn good job of reproducing a prop that was a nice concept and certainly an original one, but one that was very awkward. My hat goes off to the guy who had to act the part of the walking tree (Chester Haynes). I think he did a helluva good job under the circumstances.”
What’s interesting about From Hell It Came is that in some ways, it looks and plays like a fairly-decent movie. The acting is passable, most of the time. The cinematography, from Brydon Baker, certainly seems professional. The editing’s not bad. It’s the premise itself — a revengeful, walking tree — and the godawful dialogue that sink this one, and make it the hoot that it is.
Back in ’57, From Hell It Came played twin bills with The Disembodied. It’s not any good, either, but it features the always-wonderful Allison Hayes as a “killer-witch of the jungle.”
Quicksand is a terrific cheesy movie thing, and I love it. (Do you know someone who perished by sinking into quicksand? Or someone who’s even seen quicksand?) As a kid, I was always on the lookout for it — after all, South Georgia isn’t all that far from Louisiana, where Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) had reposed in quicksand in The Mummy’s Curse (1944). Later, Christopher Lee’s Hammer The Mummy (1959) took the Scroll Of Life with him into the quicksand. Movies with a quicksand scene get extra credit from me.
Speaking of extra credit, Warner Archive gets high marks from bringing something like From Hell It Came to Blu-Ray period. Then factor in that it’s a stellar presentation, with its incredible clarity and perfect contrast giving us a chance to really study the rubbery goodness of that Tabonga outfit. You also get a trailer. Highly recommended.
Two mid-50s John Wayne pictures are making their way to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. Both were shot in early CinemaScope by William H. Clothier, so an upgrade to high-definition is certainly worthwhile.
The Sea Chase
Directed by John Farrow
Starring John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, John Qualen, Alan Hale, Claude Akins
Wayne’s a German freighter captain trying to make it home from Australia in the early days of World War II. Production in Hawaii was cursed with all sorts of problems: Wayne had a terrible ear infection, Lana Turner hated John Farrow, etc. But it’s hard to beat that cast.
Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Paul Fix, Mike Mazurki, Anita Ekberg
This was to have starred Robert Mitchum, but he and director William Wellman had a falling out. Mitchum was fired and Wayne took his place — it was produced by his Batjac company.
Wayne is an American sailer who’s broken out of a Red Chinese prison by a group of villagers who want him to help them sail away to freedom in Hong Kong. Wellman’s great at this kind of stuff, and Blood Alley is a solid adventure picture with a great cast and terrific Scope photography from William Clothier.
This is the movie Wayne was plugging on I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Ethel stole his footprints from outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
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.
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)
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.
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.