Category Archives: Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #349: Objective, Burma! (1945).

Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Errol Flynn, James Brown, William Prince, George Tobias, Henry Hull, Rodd Redwing, Hugh Beaumont

Raoul Walsh’s Objective Burma (1945), starring Errol Flynn, remains one of my favorite war movies — and it’s coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

It’s a hard-hitting picture, loosely based on the exploits of Merrill’s Marauders in the Burma Campaign — which also inspired the 1962 Sam Fuller picture, Merrill’s Marauders. While it might be hard to imagine Flynn as an Army paratrooper, he pulls it off effortlessly (he tried to enlist but was declared unfit due to a medical condition).

Paired up, Walsh and Flynn were a movie-making force of nature (I even like 1948’s Silver River). Get Objective, Burma! on Blu-Ray. That’s an order!

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Errol Flynn, Raoul Walsh, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray Review: Doctor X (1932).

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Robert Tasker & Earl Baldwin
Based on The Terror 1931 play by Howard W. Comstock Allen C. Miller
Photography by Ray Rennahan
Art Director: Anton Grot
Film Editor: George Amy
Music by Vitaphone Orchestra conducted by Leo F. Forbstein

Cast: Lionel Atwill (Dr. Jerry Xavier), Fay Wray (Joanne Xavier), Lee Tracy (Lee Taylor), Preston Foster (Dr. Wells), John Wray (Dr. Haines), Harry Beresford (Dr. Duke), Arthur Edmund Carewe (Dr. Rowitz), Leila Bennett (Mamie), Robert Warwick (Police Commissioner Stevens), George Rosener (Otto)

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Warner Archive has done monster movie fans a huge service with their miraculous restoration of Michael Curtiz’s Doctor X (1932).

The horror movies of the early 30s are a weird, wicked, wonderful lot — with the Pre-Code ones having the added benefit of being able to go a bit further with what we see and what’s hinted at. Doctor X, for instance, has cannibalism as one of its tasteless themes — and while we don’t see any actual people-munching, just a year later, merely mentioning it would’ve given the censors fits.

That’s what makes these old movies appeal to me so. Since they can mention, or allude to, just about anything, that’s exactly what they do. When it comes to the lurid, everything goes, and let the very skanky chips fall where they may. Doctor X touches on all kinds of dreadful things: cannibalism, mutilation, rape, a heart in a jar, prostitution. They just pile ’em all on, and if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, well, that’s OK. Ah, the joys of Pre-Code Horror.

There’s a cannibalistic serial killer working nights in New York City. About all witnesses can offer up is that he’s hideous-looking. The cops turn to Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill) when they see a connection between these nasty killings and his medical academy. The fact that some of the researchers there are studying things like cannibalism and the effects of the moon on the human psyche only adds to their suspicion.

Dr. Xavier gathers these doctors and researchers, along with his daughter (Fay Wray) at his beachside home to try to sort out the killings. A reporter (Lee Tracy) makes his way there, too. This sets up a murder mystery with a little haunted house picture nailed to it, spiced up with as much out-and-out weirdness as they could get away with.

Lionel Atwill is a lot of fun as Dr. X. He’d make a career out of mining the mad doctor vein he created here. Fay Wray is charming, and really lovely in this early Technicolor. Of course, she’s one of cinema’s all-time great screamers. As the spunky reporter, Lee Tracy gets old pretty quickly. And I don’t buy it for a second that Fay Wray would fall for him. 

Art director Anton Grot and cinematographer Ray Rennahan use the two-strip Technicolor’s limited color palette for all it’s worth, creating plenty of mood and some downright weird images — with a decided emphasis on green. These otherworldly hues, coupled with the picture’s sinister, suggestive subject matter, come together to create something truly weird and downright creepy.

Almost a year ago, Warner Archive treated us to a restored Blu-Ray of Warner’s later color horror picture, The Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933). (The success of Doctor X spawned Wax Museum, which was created by many of the same folks.) A couple of well-worn 35mm prints were all they had to work with, and the results were eye-poppingly beautiful. With Doctor X, they faced a similar task, and the results are just as startling. If you can, dig out the old laserdisc (which we all used to oooh and ahhh over), and you’ll see just how much work was done here. It’s easy to focus on the visuals, which are so rich and moody, but the soundtrack has been given a thorough cleaning as well. 

Doctor X was restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Funding was provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. A big thanks to all those associated with this. It’s incredible.

Warner Archive has put together another impressive package for this one. There are two commentaries, a couple documentaries — along with the alternate black and white version, which was shot alongside the color version. There are subtle differences, but most of the takes are the same. 

It’s amazing to think that us movie nuts used to travel sizable distances to see Doctor X in color — any kind of color. And now, for about the price of a pizza, we can have it in our homes looking as good, if not even better, than it did in theaters back in 1932. This one’s as essential as it gets.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Michael Curtiz, Pre-Code, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #334: Doctor X (1932).

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

Warner Archive is following their incredible two-color Technicolor restoration of Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1932) with a similar presentation of Doctor X (1932), coming in April. It will feature a slew of extras, including the alternate black and white version (shot separately).

The success of this one prompted Warner Bros. to bring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray back for Wax Museum.

Both pictures are just plain creepy and weird — and wonderful. This one plays around with cannibalism and voyeurism. Ahh, the joys of Pre-Code Horror. Essential.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray News, Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Pre-Code, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

McQ (1974).

Directed by John Sturges
Written by Lawrence Roman
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Film Editor: William H. Ziegler
Music by Elmer Bernstein

Cast: John Wayne (Det. Lt. Lon “McQ” McHugh), Eddie Albert (Capt. Edward Kosterman), Diana Muldaur (Lois), Colleen Dewhurst (Myra), Clu Gulager (Frank Toms), David Huddleston (“Pinky” Farrell), Jim Watkins (J.C.), Al Lettieri (Manny Santiago), Julie Adams (Elaine), Roger E. Mosley (Rosey)

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For weeks, I had a melody stuck in my head. I knew it was from a film score, probably from the 70s, that was all I could figure out. My first thought was that it might be the work of Lalo Schifrin, or maybe part of David Shire’s score for The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974).

Then, watching an episode of The Rifleman, I saw the credit for the show’s producers, Jules V. Levy and Arthur Gardner. They later teamed up with John Wayne’s Batjac to make McQ (1974) and Brannigan (1975). That jogged my memory — the tune was from Elmer Bernstein’s score for McQ. I promptly pulled out the movie, which I hadn’t seen in at least a decade.

John Wayne in a contemporary cop story is a bit jarring. John Wayne in a contemporary anything is a bit jarring. Seeing him drive around in a Trans Am is odd. So is seeing a tiny snub nose revolver in Duke’s huge hands (he has a Colt Python and a S&W Model 10). That weaponry gives way to something more fitting to the great John Wayne — a MAC-10 submachine gun. But you quickly get used to all this — John Wayne is John Wayne.



They say this picture came about because Wayne turned down Dirty Harry (1971). John Sturges was brought in to direct. Sturges and Wayne working together sounds like a dream come true. It’s a shame it was this late in both their careers. Sturges’s handling of the action scenes is as masterful as ever, but it’s a lot talkier than it needs to be. This was Sturges’s next-to-last film.

John Sturges and John Wayne take a walk on the beach.

Wayne is Lon McHugh, a Seattle cop. A good friend on the force is gunned down, and as he looks into it, Duke discovers there are crooked cops stealing confiscated dope and selling it, with the help of a big-time local smuggler (Al Lettieri). McQ becomes a target of the cops, the crooked cops and the bad guys. That’s not the kind of thing John Wayne approves of, and he gets to the bottom of it as the bodies and wrecked cars pile up. It plays exactly like what it is, a 70s rogue cop movie filtered through John Wayne — which means the anti-hero thing is dialed way back.

One of the picture’s highlights is its cast. Wayne’s terrific. Eddie Albert and Clu Gulager are fine as cops. David Huddelson is cool as a P.I. friend of McQ’s. Julie Adams has a single scene as Wayne’s ex-wife. And Roger E. Moseley is fun as one of Wayne’s informants. 

Al Lettieri makes a swell bad guy, as always. He’d been in The Godfather (1972) and The Getaway (1972), and he’d follow McQ with Mr. Majestyk (1974). Sadly, he’d have a heart attack and pass away the next year. What a shame, he had a lot of movies left in him.

Acting honors go to Colleen Dewhurst as Myra, a waitress and addict Wayne reaches out to for information. She brings a real sadness to the role, and Wayne offering her some cocaine (taken from a smalltime crook) is heartbreaking. If you hate the rest of the movie, her scenes are worth the whole thing. Of course, she’d appeared with Wayne before, in The Cowboys (1972).

There’s a good car chase, with an interesting twist. Wayne’s in a 1973 Brewster Green Pontiac Firebird Trans Am chasing a green and yellow delivery truck. He takes a number of detours and side streets to catch up to the truck, only to spot an identical truck in his rearview mirror. Duke’s reactions and impatient slow burn behind the wheel help make for a very effective sequence.

The picture’s big finish features another car chase, this time with the crooks chasing Wayne on the beach at speeds of around 75 miles an hour, ending with an incredible car-flip stunt. Hal Needham, the stunt man who’d later turn director (Smokey And The Bandit, etc.), broke his back developing the stunt. To quote Car And Driver, “the cop flick also contains the debut of the McQ Cannon, as it has become known. Created by Hal Needham and still in use today, it allows a car to be barrel rolled without a ramp by basically fitting explosives to its undercarriage. The test run on a dry lake almost killed Needham, so the film’s spectacular beach rollover was performed by Gary McLarty.” It’s quite a scene.

Elmer Bernstein’s score is a perfect blend of 70s’ jazz-funk crime picture music and the kind of score Bernstein had written for previous Wayne movies like The Sons Of Katie Elder (1965). Bernstein has also scored Sturges pictures like The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). The composer’s work for McQ works really well for the film and (in my case at least) gets stuck in your head with ease. A CD of the complete score was released by Film Score Monthly.

During the shooting of the beach sequence, the cast and crew stayed at The Polynesian Motel in Oceans Shores. Wayne stayed on his yacht, The Wild Goose, and sailed around the area on weekends.

McQ is no Rio Bravo (1959), and it’s no Dirty Harry (1971). But it’s got a lot going for it, mainly Wayne himself. He could carry a picture without breaking a sweat. The cast is terrific and the action scenes are exceedingly well done. What more do you need?

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Filed under 1974, John Sturges, John Wayne, Julie Adams, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray Review: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Hinds
Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster
Based on the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Director Of Photography: Jack Asher
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Makeup Artist: Phil Leakey
Music by James Bernard
Film Editor: James Needs

Cast: Peter Cushing (Baron Victor Frankenstein), Melvyn Hayes (Young Victor), Robert Urquhart (Paul Krempe), Hazel Court (Elizabeth), Sally Walsh (Young Elizabeth), Christopher Lee (The Creature), Valerie Gaunt (Justine), Noel Hood (Aunt Sophia), Paul Hardtmuth (Professor Bernstein)

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With its first color film, and first foray into Gothic horror, Hammer Films created a brand that would change their direction, launch the horror careers of a couple of iconic actors, and ultimately change the horror movie itself. That’s accomplishing quite a bit, especially when you’re talking about a little company in the UK with a $250,000 monster movie — and working out of a house, not a proper studio.

Of course, we’re talking about is The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957) starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. And it’s just been given an incredible restoration and Blu-Ray release by Warner Archive.

While it varies quite a bit from the Shelley novel, it’s right in line with the cinematic Frankenstein story. A brilliant, obsessed doctor (Peter Cushing) assembles a man (Christopher Lee) from parts of dead bodies and brings it to life — with less than the desired result.

Seen today, it’s still a nasty little movie. Victor Frankenstein isn’t just an overly-driven medical researcher, he’s a manipulative lech. Actresses seem to have been chosen, and costumes designed, to highlight the female form. And every gruesome opportunity to dwell upon a lopped-off head, a severed hand or an eye in a jar is taken with relish. And remember, this is the first time audiences had ever seen such gore in color!

But what’s really important, and what makes this new Blu-Ray so essential, is we get to see the level of craft that went into Curse Of Frankenstein. Bernard Robinson’s sets are incredible, especially when you consider he was working in such tight spaces. Jack Asher’s cinematography, his first time working in color, uses shadow and light to draw  the eye to exactly what he wanted us to see and making those tiny sets look as big, as opulent, as possible. His experiments with color and light would continue with each film, making watching these early Hammer horror pictures in order of release a fun exercise.

Phil Leakey touches up Christopher Lee’s hairdo.

For Christopher Lee’s Creature, the makeup had to steer clear of the classic Universal/Karloff look, and Phil Leakey went in an effective stitched-up, patchwork direction. The Blu-Ray’s restored color really aids our appreciation of the look of the Creature, and we can see that Lee’s wounds seem to “heal” as the film goes on. 

James Bernard’s score is kinetic and dynamic, creating a signature sound (with an obviously small orchestra) that instantly IDs a Hammer film. A friend and I had dinner with Mr. Bernard in the early 90s. What a nice, charming man — and so humble.

Terence Fisher, Hazel Court and Peter Cushing on the set.

Terence Fisher’s direction brings all these elements together, beginning to set the tone for what Hammer would make into the mid-60s. He gets pitch-perfect performances from his cast. His camera rarely moves, but when it does, it’s always to great effect. But what probably makes the biggest difference is that he makes sure no one, from the cast to the cameraman to the caterer, looks down on the material. That made all the difference.

Warner Archive has done a remarkable job bringing Curse Of Frankenstein back to life. It’s sharp, the color is a huge improvement over anything I’ve seen before. (This one was shot in Eastmancolor.) We also get the original aspect ratio(s) — from the UK’s 1.66 to the 1.85 seen in the US to the 1.33 we saw on TV and videotape. (I recommend the 1.66.) The supplemental stuff is a real home run — a casket-load of commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. I was particularly happy to see James Bernard and Jack Asher singled out, with a short video on each. They’re key to the lasting impact of these films. 

While Horror Of Dracula* (1958) may get a lot of the glory, Curse Of Frankenstein is where it all began. It’s an important film, and a really cool one. As essential as they come, both as a movie and as an upgrade to whatever format you might currently have it in. 

* Also available (and stunning) on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Jack Asher, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #323: Mister Roberts (1955).

Directed by John Ford & Mervyn LeRoy
Starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond, Philip Carey, Nick Adams, Perry Lopez, Ken Curtis

By all accounts, Mister Roberts (1955) was a troubled production, with a feud between star Fonda and director Ford (and a illness/bender taking taking Ford off the picture). Some say Ford’s attempt to turn the play into a John Ford movie was a hindrance, but as most folks see it, the end result is just wonderful. It was a huge hit back in ’55 and is beloved today.

Warner Archive is bringing Mister Roberts to Blu-Ray, and early CinemaScope films are a real treat in high-definition. And given how splendid recent Warner Archive Blu-Rays have looked, this should be a huge upgrade. The old DVD’s commentary from Jack Lemmon (who won an Oscar for playing Ensign Pulver) is being kept, which is good news.

This one’s coming December 15, and I highly recommend it.

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Filed under 1955, DVD/Blu-ray News, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, John Ford, Martin Milner, Nick Adams, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #319: The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957).

Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhardt, Christopher Lee

Boy, this is going to be great! You get The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957), the first of Hammer’s Frankenstein series three different ways (on two discs), restored from preservation separations — the 1.66 UK aspect ratio, 1.85 as it played in the States and 1.37 as we saw it on TV for years and years. There will be commentaries, documentaries and a trailer. And if you’re familiar with what a lot of Warner Archive’s stuff has been looking like lately, you can only imagine how stunning this one would be. Essential!

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Filed under 1957, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Hazel Court, Peter Cushing, Terence Fisher, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Let’s Help Bob With Bud And Lou And Jack!

Robert Furmanek restored one of Abbott & Costello’s funniest films, Africa Screams (1949), for its stunning Blu-Ray release, and he and his are are back with Jack And The Beanstalk (1952).

Working with the only surviving 35mm color camera negative footage, this should be incredible. As before, there will a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the restoration costs — and to let you help make it happen. More details to come!

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Filed under 1952, Abbott & Costello, ClassicFlix, DVD/Blu-ray News, Film Preservation, Jean Yarborough, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #311: The Flintstones – The Complete Series (1960-66).

The Modern Stone Age family comes to high definition. Warner Bros. has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray set The Flintstones – The Complete Series. You get all 166 episodes and the feature The Man Called Flintstone (1966) on 10 discs. It’s coming in October. Between this and the previously announced Space Ghost and the already available Jonny Quest sets, there’a lot of high-def Hannah-Barbara going on.

The image above is from The Flintstones Viewmaster set.

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Filed under Cartoons, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Television, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #282-A: Dragnet (1954).

Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Jack Webb, Ben Alexander, Richard Boone, Ann Robinson, Stacy Harris, Virginia Gregg, Victor Perrin, Georgia Ellis, James Griffith, Dennis Weaver, Dub Taylor

Update: Kino Lorber has announced a November 17 release date for their Blu-Ray of the 1954 Dragnet feature. They’ve also provided some info about what’s coming.

Special Features and Technical Specs:
• NEW 2K RESTORATION 
• TWO PRESENTATIONS OF THE FILM: IN 1.75:1 & 1.37:1 RATIOS
• Audio Commentary by Toby Roan
• Theatrical Trailer
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature

When you do one of these commentaries, of course, you end up going through the movie many, many times. You can get kinda sick of it by the time you’re through. Not with this one. There was always a rant from Jack Webb, a cool LA location or something around the corner to look forward to. It never got old. 

It’s easy to recommend this one, and if you get it, I encourage you to stick to the 1.75 widescreen version. It gives it a fresh, crisp look — and it’s what Webb and DP Edward Colman were going for. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Jack Webb, James H. Griffith, Kino Lorber, Television, Warner Bros.