Blu-Ray News #142: Valdez Is Coming (1971).

Directed by Edwin Sherin
Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Jon Cypher, Barton Heyman, Richard Jordan, Frank Silvera, Hector Elizondo

Kino Lorber has announced that Valdez Is Coming (1971) is coming to Blu-Ray. It’s the second of three Westerns Burt Lancaster made in the early 70s, the other two being Lawman (1971) and Robert Aldrich’s Ulzana’s Raid (1972).

It’s based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, and at one point there was talk of Marlon Brando playing Valdez, Lancaster taking the part that went to Jon Cypher and Sydney Pollack directing. What a different movie that would’ve been.

No details from Kino Lorber yet, and the release date is simply later this year.

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Filed under 1971, Burt Lancaster, DVD/Blu-ray News, Elmore Leonard, Kino Lorber, Marlon Brando, Robert Aldrich, Sydney Pollack

Blu-Ray News #141: Twilight People (1972).

Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Pam Grier

VCI has announced a Blu-Ray release of Twilight People (1972) for later this year.  Eddie Romero directed this Filipino-American take on H.G. Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau — with a little of Romero’s previous Terror Is A Man (1959) thrown in for good measure.

Star John Ashley was one of the producers. He and Eddie Romero became quite successful with their cheap horror movies, stuff like Brides Of Blood (1968), Beast Of Blood (1970) and The Woman Hunt (1972, yet another version of The Most Dangerous Game). Their films were often done for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, with budgets of around $125,000.

In Lumberton, NC, Gone With The Wind got bumped by Twilight People!

John Ashley had a fascinating career, going from AIP to TV shows like The Beverly Hillbillies to the wonderfully awful AIP TV movie The Eye Creatures (1965) to these Filipino movies to consulting on Apocalypse Now (1979, shot in the Philippines) to producing The A-Team and Walker, Texas Ranger. Wish he’d written his memoirs before passing away in 1997.

VCI put Twilight People out on VHS back in the day, and their eventual DVD was pretty good. I’m really looking forward to seeing this crazy movie again.

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Filed under 1972, AIP, DVD/Blu-ray News, Eddie Romero, John Ashley, New World, Pam Grier, Roger Corman, VCI

Blu-Ray News #140: Barry Lyndon (1976).

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Gay Hamilton, Hardy Krüger, Leonard Rossiter

The Criterion Collection has announced Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon (1976) for an October release.

I didn’t know what to make of this when I first saw it, but like a lot of people, now think it’s absolutely mesmerizing. The Blu-Ray from Warner Bros. was gorgeous, and I’m eager to see how much better Criterion will have it looking. There’s a new 4K transfer and 5.1 surround mix. Of course, you can bet their extras — documentaries, interviews (new and old), etc. — will be terrific. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1976, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ryan O'Neal, Stanley Kubrick, The Criterion Collection

Coming Back: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977).

Written and Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Francois Truffaut

CE3K truckSteven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) is 40 years old, which for some of us serves as a reminder of just how old we are. Yikes.

In a sci-fi movie year that had already given us Star Wars, Spielberg’s followup to Jaws (1975) was a big, big deal. We all went a little UFO-happy, just like we’d gotten collectively spooked by the ocean a couple years before.

For those of us who want to relive those days (to “make contact again,” as the trailer says) or give our kids a little taste of ’em, Close Encounters (Spielberg’s Director’s Cut) will play theaters for a week in September, with a new 4K and Blu-Ray release coming a couple weeks later. I’m getting stoked.

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Filed under 1977, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Richard Dreyfuss, Screenings, Steven Spielberg

Blu-Ray News #139: The Green Slime (1968).

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 PlanetWar Of The PlanetsWar Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).

Green Slime 45.jpg

If you have one of these, please consider leaving it to me in your will.

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.

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Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray News #138: Freebie And The Bean (1974).

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).

Laszlo Kovacs (behind camera) shooting Arkin and Caan on a construction crane.

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.

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Filed under 1974, Alan Arkin, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Caan, Laszlo Kovacs, Richard Rush, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: From Hell It Came (1957).

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.

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Filed under 1957, Allison Hayes, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Lon Chaney Jr., Monogram/Allied Artists, Paul Blaisdell, Warner Archive