DVD News #313: The Whistler Film Noir Collection (1944-48).

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Columbia’s The Whistler series. Some of the best cheap movies ever made. Some of William Castle’s finest work. And now one of the greatest DVD sets to come out in a long, long time.

Castle’s second film as director, The Whistler (1944) is a tight little mini-noir that put him on the B-movie map. It was a hit for Columbia Pictures and spawned an eight-picture series that’s been on collectors’ Want Lists for decades. They were available through Sony’s on-demand program, but $20 each was pretty steep.

The Whistler (1944)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Richard Dix, J. Carrol Naish, Gloria Stuart

The Power Of The Whistler (1945)
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Richard Dix, Janis Carter

Voice Of The Whistler (1945)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Richard Dix, Lynn Merrick

Mysterious Intruder (1946)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Richard Dix, Nina Vale

Secret Of The Whistler (1946)
Directed by George Sherman
Starring Richard Dix, Leslie Brooks

The Thirteenth Hour (1947)
Directed by William Clemens
Starring Richard Dix, Karen Morley

The Return Of The Whistler (1948)
Directed by Ross Lederman
Starring Michael Duane, Lenore Aubert, Dick Lane

Based on the popular CBS radio program, each Whistler movie is a stand-alone story, with Richard Dix starring in all but the last one. He’s a different character every time — sometimes a good guy, sometimes a bad guy.

This Critics’ Choice Collection gives you all of the series, except for Mark Of The Whistler (1944), the second picture in the series. Hate this it’s missing, but this is essential, people!

Thanks to Kevin Deany for the news.

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Filed under Columbia, Critics' Choice Collection, DVD/Blu-ray News, J. Carrol Naish, Lew Landers, Richard Dix, William Castle

Blu-Ray News #312: Rage (1967).

Directed by Gilberto Gazcón
Starring Glenn Ford, Stella Stevens, David Reynoso, Armando Silvestre, Jose Elias Moreno, Dacia Gonzalez, David Silva

Imprint out of Australia has brought out some terrific stuff in recent months, and they’re shining a light on Rage (1967), a film that’s spent way too much time stuck in the dark. This Blu-Ray will be a worldwide first.

Rage is a solid suspense picture. Glenn Ford’s a doctor in a remote construction camp in Mexico. He’s bitten by a rabid dog and has to race to a hospital for the vaccine. Ford is as good as ever, and Stella Stevens is terrific as an “entertainer” who comes to the camp and takes a liking to the doctor. David Reynoso and Jose Elias Moreno are both excellent.

Rage (it was called El Mal in Mexico) was the first true Mexican-American co-production. It was shot entirely in Mexico, in English. And it was one of the first handful of pictures to wear the “Suggested For Mature Audiences” badge in its advertising.

The Blu-Ray has a release date of December 30, 2020.

Special Features:
• Audio Commentary by film historian Toby Roan
• “Stella” a visual essay on Stella Stevens by Critic Kat Ellinger
• Theatrical Trailer
• Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1,500 copies

It’d been decades since I’d seen Rage, and I was really knocked out by it. Recommended.

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Filed under 1967, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Glenn Ford, Imprint Films, Stella Stevens

Coming Soon: The Marie Windsor Blogathon.

Some of us have been going back and forth about this for over a year. Well, now’s the time to make it official. Marie Windsor, my all-time favorite actress, gets a blogathon. It kicks off on her birthday, December 11, over at fiftieswesterns.com.

If you’re interested in playing along, email me at fiftieswesterns@gmail.com with the Marie Windsor movie you want to cover. I’ll be keeping a list to try to avoid too much duplication. More info will come as the event gets closer.

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Filed under Blogathon, Marie Windsor

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.

This Is Orson Welles — Four Hours Of Him.

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Someone tipped me off that, on the internet, you can find some of the interviews Peter Bogdanovich did with Orson Welles — the material that became the essential book This Is Orson Welles.

Click on the photo of Welles and Bogdanovich at the grocery store, and you can feast on four hours of Orson sharing one fascinating story after another.

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Filed under Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich

Blu-Ray News #310: Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

Loved these back in the day, and I thought the comic books were even better. So I’m super-stoked about Warner Archive’s upcoming Blu-Ray Space Ghost And Dino Boy – The Complete Series (1966-68).

This was before Space Ghost was shanghai’d by Cartoon Network for Space Ghost Coast To Coast. Space Ghost was created by comic artist Alex Toth. The voice talent was top-notch: Gary Owens (as Space Ghost), Tim Matheson, Keye Luke, Ted Cassidy, Paul Frees and Vic Perrin. Coming October 13.

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Filed under 1966, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hanna-Barbera, Paul Frees, Television, Warner Archive

RIP, Diana Rigg.

Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg DBE
(July 20, 1938 – September 10, 2020)

Diana Rigg has passed away at 82. She was a great actress, doing fabulous work on stage, on TV and on film.

What always impressed me about her was that she went after good work — from Shakespeare to The Avengers to a James Bond movie to Theatre Of Blood (1973) — nothing seemed to be beneath her if she found it interesting. And she was always terrific.

Here she is with George Lazenby working on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Note the banner for Corgi toys, the company that made those great die-cast James Bond toys.

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Filed under 1969, Diana Rigg, George Lazenby, James Bond

Blu-Ray News #309: He Came From The Swamp – The William Grefé Collection.

Arrow’s He Came From The Swamp: The William Grefé Collection offers up seven films produced and/or directed (and often written) by William Grefé, all newly restored from the best film elements around:

Sting Of Death (1966)
Starring Joe Morrison, Valerie Hawkins, John Vella, Jack Nagle

Death Curse Of Tartu (1966)
Starring Fred Pinero, Babette Sherrill

The Hooked Generation (1968)
Starring Jeremy Slate, Steve Alaimo

The Psychedelic Priest (1971)
Starring John Darrell, James Coleman, Joe Crane

The Naked Zoo (1971)
Starring Rita Hayworth, Steve Oliver, Fay Spain

The Jaws Of Death (no Mako) played the Forest Drive-In here in Raleigh, NC.

Mako: The Jaws Of Death (1976)
Starring Richard Jaeckel, Jennifer Bishop, Harold Sakata

Whiskey Mountain (1977)
Starring Christopher George, Preston Pierce, Roberta Collins

Mr. Grefé participated in this from one end to the other. Each picture is packed with extras, from commentaries and trailers to director’s cuts and behind-the-scenes footage to photo galleries and a collector’s booklet. Also included is the documentary They Came From The Swamp: The Films Of William Grefé.

Should be a real hoot, and an exhaustive one at that. Coming in November. Recommended.

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Filed under 1966, 1971, 1976, 1977, Arrow Video, Cannon, DVD/Blu-ray News, William Grefé

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.

Blu-Ray Review: Laurel & Hardy – The Definitive Restorations (1929-1942).

Laurel & Hardy boxes from Blackhawk Films, similar to the one on the left, were a real fixture of my youth. Watching Stan and Ollie’s funny, sweet, brilliant films was just something you did — kinda like eating, breathing and going to school, only a lot funnier.It was from watching movies like this that I learned to appreciate how much sharper 16mm was than 8mm, and that Super 8 was a step up from 8 — though I prefer the sound of standard 8 running through a projector. (Come to think of it, it was from these pictures that I learned how to thread a projector in the first place!)Lucky for us, there’s never been a time that these movies weren’t around in some format — film, tape, laserdisc, DVD.And now there’s Blu-Ray. Kit Parker has shepherded a collection called Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations, presenting many of the team’s finest work in absolutely stunning quality. With any film, one of the things we gain from Blu-Ray is texture, and it can really boost the whole experience. First, there’s the grain of the film itself. While it bothers some people, we’re watching movies here — and grain is a big part of it. Accept it, make peace with it, come to love it.Next, there’s the texture of what’s in the film, of maybe an actor’s jacket or an actress’s hair. Seeing these Laurel & Hardy pictures in 16mm, such texture was simply not there, no matter how good the print was. Now, we can see the grain in the wood of the piano crate in The Music Box (1932) or the bristles in the brush glued to Ollie’s chin in Busy Bodies (1933).Then there’s the contrast levels. We’ve had to accept these films over the years with contrast that was all over the place. Washed out and flat in one, blown out in the next. There’s none of that here, they’re almost perfect, and better yet, they’re consistent from one feature or short to the next.The remarkable clarity here, which is where the texture comes from, opens these films up in a terrific way. You can really study the early ’30s Los Angeles behind Stan and Ollie as they drive their old Ford through town. What a beautiful place it was.The sound is better, too. It’s clean, and there’s an actual range to it. The music is as buried in the mix as ever, but since the audio is so much better overall, we can hear it, and appreciate it, so much better.I never thought we’d see these things like this, not in a million years.Beyond the presentation, the films themselves are a real treasure. They’re hysterically funny in spots, and the brilliance of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and everyone who worked on these things has never been more obvious. The cinematography can be studied. The art direction can be fully appreciated. And the subtleties of so many wonderful facial expressions aren’t lost. Hardy’s little looks into the camera are so funny, so perfect, so brilliant. While fans of Laurel & Hardy surely have their individual favorites, many of the team’s most celebrated features and shorts are here. Here’s what you get—Features:
Sons Of The Desert (1933)
Way Out West (1937)Shorts:
The Battle Of The Century (1927)
Berth Marks
(1929, original VitaPhone track)
Berth Marks (1936 re-release track)
Brats (1930, original VitaPhone track)
Brats (1937 re-release track)
Hog Wild (1930)
Come Clean (1931)
One Good Turn (1931)
Helpmates (1932)
The Music Box (1932)
The Chimp (1932)
County Hospital (1932)
Scram! (1932)
Their First Mistake (1932)
Towed In A Hole (1932)
Me And My Pal (1933)
The Midnight Patrol
(1933)
Busy Bodies (1933)
Twice Two (1933)
That’s That (1937)
The Tree In A Test Tube (1942)They all look incredible. A splice here or there doesn’t take away from the brilliance and enjoyment of these movies one bit. And the many extras, from galleries to interviews, offer up all hours and hours of pleasure. I’ve hardly scratched the surface of all the riches here.

One of the things we obsessive movie collectors have to wrestle with is how many times can we be expected to upgrade one movie? When does the format-to-format progression get to be just too much? (For instance, I’ve purchased The French Connection at least eight different times since Magnetic Video Corporation.) When the improvements are as substantial as those here, and they have the incredible affect on the overall experience as these restorations do, then that argument, that number, really means nothing. These wonderful little movies are absolutely essential, in any form. And this upgrade, from whatever you have to Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations, is just as essential. And a big thanks to Kit Parker, Sabucat, the folks at UCLA and everyone else who had a hand in making this set, and these restorations possible. You did us all a huge favor.

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Filed under DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Kit Parker, Laurel & Hardy