Two Of Those Pictures Of Terror… LA LLORONA (1933) and THE PHANTOM OF THE MONASTERY (1934) Reviewed

La Llorona. BD. Indicator. Region Free. 12. 

The Phantom Of The Monastery. Region Free. PG.

In the roaring but cinematically silent ’20s, Hollywood studios could ship their products pretty much anywhere. Then Al Jolson had to open his big mouth. The advent of talkies saw Universal, in an attempt to maintain their grip on Latin American markets, releasing Hispanophone variations on some of their productions, shot during the graveyard shift on the same sets as the more widely seen English language “originals”. George Melford, for example, cranked out La Voluntad Del Muerto (“The Will Of The Dead”), an alternate Spanish speaking version of Rupert Julian’s The Cat Creeps, in 1930 (both pictures are now presumed lost) and performed similar feats on three subsequent occasions. Most famously, as soon as Tod Browning, his cast and crew had called it a day, every day, on the shoot of the following year’s Dracula, Melford (who had been sitting and watching Browning work) would move his cast and crew onto the set and work up the Spanish language release, starring Carlos Villarias in place of Bela Lugosi. With the one exception of that piece of casting, the Spanish version has often been claimed as superior to Browning’s. Whatever, it didn’t go over that well with the intended audience, who would seemingly have preferred to engage with a Horror mythos more attuned to their own cultural heritage… specifically “Macabre Legends of the Colonial Era”. Cue the very first Mexican Horror Film…

Ramón Peón’s La Llorona (“The Wailing Woman”, 1933) begins with a bloke expiring on the street, apparently frightened to death on an account of a run in with the eponymous banshee. Having concluded the autopsy, Dr Ricardo de Acuna (Ramó Pereda) scoffs at his credulous assistants for attributing some supernatural significance to what he regards as an open and shut cardiac infarction. He doesn’t go as far as the sceptical police commissioner from René Cardona’s Night Of The Bloody Apes (1969), in alleging: “It’s more probable that of late, more and more, you’re watching on your television many of those pictures of terror” but I imagine the only thing that gave him pause was the fact that not many Mexicans owned TV sets in 1933. Back in the bosom of his bourgeoise family, the doc’s attempts to celebrate his little son’s birthday are thwarted by repeated warnings from gnarly old father-in-law Don Fernando de Moncada (Paco Martinez) that the weeping witch is indeed stalking his heir. 

As evidence we get not one but two flashbacks to dodgy family history. The first involves Marina (Maria Luisa Zea), an Indian woman who was rejected by her Spanish lover (also played by Pereda) when he contracted an advantageous marriage to the “proper” sort of girl. When he tried to claim their son, Marina took the boy’s life and then her own rather than submit to this injustice, at which point she became the vengeful, child killing spirit, La Llorona. As if this commentary on the racial fault lines in the Mexican class system weren’t clear enough, the second flashback concerns the historical figure of La Malinche (Zea again), the Indian woman who was personally used and abused by Cortes while he was figuratively fucking over her compatriots. Dr Ricardo takes all this with a pinch of salt but when his lad is dragged off by a hooded figure, clutching a ritual dagger, to an Aztec altar in the cellar (gee, who knew that was there?) he changes his tune. The doc reverts to his default rationalism during a denouement which suggests a pretty prosaic resolution to the preceding events… but there’s one more twist to come.

Conceived in the very infancy of the Mexican film industry, La Lorona stands comfortable comparison with contemporary American offerings. Peón is at least as good a director as Tod Browning and performances from the principals are all strong. Writers A. Guzman Aguilera, Carlos Noriega Hope, Fernando de Fuentes arguably pack the proceedings with one too many flashbacks but you never feel your attention waning and there are plenty of incidental elements (some charming little edits, for example) to take pleasure in. Although the story is particularly well suited to its 20th Century Mexican setting, Peon’s film draws much of its power from the age old story of Lilith (Adam’s first wife, written out of the Bible by patriarchal diktat). In addition to the stand it takes on race and class, it anticipates James Whale’s Bride Of Frankenstein as some kind of feminist statement by a good two years. René Cardona’s La Llorona (1960) is a virtual remake and adaptations have continued to come thick and fast, as recently as Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona (2019) and Patricia Harris Seeley’s La Llorona (2022)… a virtual Llorona virus!

Co-writer Fernando de Fuentes directed Mexico’s second Horror Film, El Fantasma Del Convento (“The Phantom Of The Monastery”), the following year. This one lays off the injustices of Colonialism but still delivers a meaningful kick in the jodhpurs to middle class Mexican complacency. It’s never exactly explained what the well heeled trio of Eduardo (Carlos Villatoro), his wife Cristina (Marta Roel) and friend Alfonso (Enrique Del Campo) are doing wandering around in the wilderness at night but it soon becomes apparent that significant sparks are flying between the latter two. Encountering a mysterious dude and his dog, they are directed to a tumbledown monastery and taken in by the Brothers of Silence, a perversely talkative chapter of Trappists. In particular, the main Monk seems particularly keen on bringing them up to speed regarding the cautionary tale of Brother Rodrigo, who disgraced the brethren by giving into his carnal desires. Sex pot Cristina simmers away in her sepulchral surroundings, while the boys notice that their hosts seem unusually boney beneath their robes… well, they do seem to subsist on a diet of dust!

Concocted by Fuentes with Jorge Pezet and Juan Bustillo Oro, this shaggy dog story has a long pedigree and an eminently guessable denouement, which is conspicuously telegraphed at several points in the proceedings. The cellar duly disgorges its coffin-loads of Mummies but they’re not Aztec remnants, nor is there a masked wrestler in sight. There’d be plenty of time for those in the subsequent annals of Taco Terror…

Atmospheric lighting comes courtesy of American import Ross Fisher and the camera moves around way more fluidly than was apparent in La Llorona. It’s difficult to take your eyes off Marta Roel, one very hot tamale indeed… disappointing to learn that she had only three subsequent credits, spread across the ’40s and ’50s. Some of the film’s sly anti-clerical imagery suggests a familiarity with Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or (1930) and it’s really no surprise that Bunuel found the Mexican film industry such a convivial refuge after Franco’s Civil War victory obliged him to get out of Spain.

Both pictures have benefited from extensive restoration work for their world premieres on Blu-ray, La Llorona from the only surviving film element by the Cinema Preservation Alliance, El Fantasma (in 4K from the original negative) under the auspices of George Lucas, no less. Both come with lively, conversational commentary tracks teaming Kim Newman with Stephen Jones. The limited (to 4,000 units for UK and US release) editions of each come complete with illustrated collectors’ booklets. Abraham Castillo Flores, head programmer of Mexico’s Mórbido Film Fest, contributes a learned introduction to each of the tiles. The extras on La Llorona are rounded out by a short compilation of the source print’s distinctive cue marks (removed during the restoration) and Ghosts of the Past, a lovely short documentary by Viviana García Besné, the producer’s great granddaughter, conveying a touchingly personal take on the film.

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A Maze Of Death… THE DEVIL’S MEN Reviewed

BD. Indicator. Region Free. 15.

Ovid, Philostratus and Apollodorus, among other ancient authorities, tell of that miscegenated man / bull monster The Minotaur and how heroic Theseus braved the maze of Cretan King Minos to slay it. They should have tried telling Baron Corofax (Peter Cushing), who has reinstated worship of and sacrifice to the beast on a remote Greek Island in “the present day” (i.e. 1976) for Kostas Karagiannis’s The Devil’s Men.

Cushing originally signed up to play the Baron’s nemesis Father Roche, but swapped roles with Donald Pleasence, who was apparently a bit villained out at this point. Perhaps Cushing was himself tired of playing amoral barons, but it’s generally accepted that Pleasence was then wielding more clout over such matters, his international screen profile significantly higher than that of Cushing, who had rarely ventured outside the British Isles before his wife’s death in 1971. Whatever, PC was obviously no slouch at playing fanatical bad guys. Arguably the darkness lurking beneath his urbane facade is revealed a tad too early in the proceedings ( i.e. right at the start of the film!) but what were you expecting from prolific director Karagiannis (a kind of Hellenic answer answer to Jess Franco, who racked up 178 credits over three decades, among them the 1974 brace Rape Killer and Tango of Perversion) and his screenwriter, American TV stalwart Arthur Rowe… subtlety?

More Moussaka, anyone?

Meanwhile Pleasance has a ball as Father Roche, indulging his penchant (which would attain its zenith a decade later in Argento’s Phenomena) for unconvincing Celtic accents, dishing out the moussaka and ouzo with great gusto to a succession of busty blondes (whether high-heeled and-hot panted hippy drifters or lady archeologists who dress with similarly scant regard for modesty or practicality) and their hirsute boyfriends, all of whom he and grey haired sidekick Milo (Kostas Karagiorgis… not to be confused with director Kostas Karagiannis) struggle to prevent from being sacrificed to the Minotaur by Corofax and his colourfully robed acolytes.

Though immobile, the Minotaur makes for a pretty impressive spectacle, popping out of a trap door in Corofax’s underground grotto (a nifty bit of set design by Petros Kapouralis), with front hooves raised as if ready to ravish any fruity female archeologist foolish enough to cross its path, breathing fire through its nostrils and issuing portentous (apparently ventriloquised) pronouncements. You can’t beat a bit of bully…

… speaking of statuesque physiques, prominent among Father Roche’s buxotic blonde fan club (as “Laurie”) is Luan Peters… Crossroads, Coro, Dr Who and Hammer alumna, survivor of more than one Pete Walker outrage, aspiring pop poppet and – probably most famously – the girl inadvertently felt up by Basi in the “Psychiatrist” episode of Fawlty Towers.

The bringing to light of further Greek Horror and Giallo artefacts (especially as the extant evidence strongly suggests that the latter run along the sleazy lines laid down by the likes of Giallo In Venice and Strip Nude For Your Killer) would be welcomed by all excavators of Exotic Cinema, those who wear hot pants and high heels, plus those of us who choose not to (except during the weekend and on “special occasions”…)

For its world HD premiere, The Devil’s Men looks and sounds decidedly spanky in a new 2K restoration from the original negative. As well as the 94 minute original cut, you get the shorter (by some eight minutes) US theatrical version Land of the Minotaur, which omits much of the nudity and violence along with the rousing psych rock title song which was supposed to conclude the picture (on first hearing this punchy chews sounds like it could be the work of Aphrodite’s Child, which would have been entirely appropriate, but it actually comes courtesy of Soft Machine’s Karl Jenkins… ooh, I nearly forget to mention that the rest of the OST is courtesy of a certain Brian Eno). Commentary wise, the redoubtable duo of David Flint and Adrian J Smith talk and walk us through the wrinkles of Karagiannis’s cinematic labyrinth in characteristically exhaustive, engaging and entertaining style. In a short featurette, producer Frixos Constantine looks back on the making of the film. There’s also an archival recording of The John Player Lecture from 1973, in which Cushing is interviewed by David Castell at the National Film Theatre, London, US trailer and TV spot for “Land Of The Minotaur” and an image gallery of promotional and publicity material. The on disc extras are interestingly rounded out by a feature-length (rather than the more usual filleted highlights) Super 8 version of the main feature. The Limited (to 2,000 units for the UK / 4,000 international) Edition contains an exclusive 36-page booklet comprising new essay by Andrew Graves, an archival interview with Pleasence, extracts from original promotional materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses and full film credits.

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Love Is A Battlefield… THE BRUTE Reviewed

BD. Indicator. Region Free. 18.

To the casual observer, Diane Shepherd (Sarah Douglas) has got it made in the shade. She’s an in-demand model, married to Teddy (Julian Glover), an apparently successful business man. They live in a big house in the country and send their son to a private school… but what’s with the welts and bruises photographer Mark (Bruce Robinson) discovers on her body? She attributes them, improbably, to a minor fender bender, but in the opening scene we’ve been privy to Teddy eschewing the more customary cup of tea to wake Diane up by lashing her with his belt… and that’s not the half of it!

Domestic violence has been with us since the first cave man bashed his spouse over the head with a club and the fact that such iconography remains a cliched “comedy” trope tells you all you need to know about how far the human race has evolved, if at all, since shedding its bearskins. Suffice to say, Society took a long time to start addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves and a cursory glance at the news on any given day will confirm that there’s still a long way to go. Erin Pizzey opened the first British battered women’s refuge, Chiswick Women’s Aid, as recently as 1971 and it was another six years before veteran director Gerry O’Hara attempted a sober cinematic treatment of the subject. It’s a brave attempt, though Kim Newman is right (in his commentary track with Douglas) when he describes The Brute as “straddling education and exploitation”. O’Hara had form in both milieus, having directed Ministry of Education shorts but also, e.g. the titillating VD exposé That Kind Of Girl (1963). At no point in The Brute did I sense that he was trying to make wife beating “sexy” but there are shots which linger (presumably at the insistence of producers / distributors) rather more than is narratively necessary on Douglas’s (admittedly splendid) naked physique… . I guess the union of commerce and conviction is as awkward a marriage as any. 

Another tricky angle to any such undertaking is that to be believable, it must to some extent explain (or at least hint at some kind of explanation for) the abuser’s behaviour, without justifying it. Glover (in common with the rest of the excellent cast) turns in a convincing, compelling portrayal of his character, despite some of Teddy’s antics owing more to Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club than the commonplace sordid brutalities recorded in so many court cases. It’s suggested in some of the supplementary materials that he’s gambled his money away, though this doesn’t really come across from watching the film. Whatever, the possibility that he’s buttressing his compromised sense of social adequacy / masculinity is given an intriguing extra twist when Diane discovers him, ranting as usual about her wifely failings, in full drag. This startling spectacle is seemingly staged to ridicule her femininity, but other interpretations are only too apparent. 

Alternative title The Brute Syndrome is perhaps the more apposite one, given that Teddy’s not the only wife beater in the film. While staying at a women’s refuge, Diane befriends Millie (Jenny Twigge) whose personal ordeal seems to have been connected with her ex-military husband Alan (Sylvester Morand)’s inability to cope with life on civvy street. In many ways it’s the character played by Bruce Robinson (later celebrated as the writer / director of Withnail & I, among others) who’s the most intriguing. Mark is a conscienceless cad and if not actually a rapist, somebody for whom consent isn’t the primary priority during his lightning fast and… er, energetic seduction of Diane. During this he suggests to her that the reason she stays with Teddy (something we’ve been wondering about too… presumably she doesn’t want to lose custody of her son) is because she “likes it rough”… and alarmingly, she agrees! Disregarding Mark’s role in ultimately bringing Teddy to book, Kim Newman identifies his only good character trait as his abstention from hitting women, though one wonders if this would still hold good, were his cocky self confidence ever to take a serious knock. Jeez, what a bleak vision of masculinity (and indeed femininity) from O’Hara (who wrote as well as directing The Brute). Elsewhere the coppers Diane calls in are clueless and even sympathetic male characters (a psychotherapist, a solicitor) have to level with her about the limitations on their power to assist. 

Throw in some casual, low level racist and homophobic slurs typical of its time and The Brute emerges as a problematic step in the right direction, if hardly the “glossy piece of pornography, pretentiously packaged and sold under the guise of a social document” identified by Monthly Film Bulletin in April 1977. Any doubts about O’Hara being on the side of the angels should be dispelled by the heart warming scene in which Mark’s feisty albeit long suffering girlfriend Carrie (Suzanne Stone) administers a good kicking to the repulsive Alan, this well deserved duffing up choreographed, for good measure, by female fight arranger Roberta Gibbs.

Indicator have restored The Brute from a 4K scan of the original negative for this, its international BD debut. The main feature is presented in two distinct versions, the 89 minute uncensored UK cut (under pre-release title The Brute Syndrome) plus the export variant, lasting a minute longer and with the dubious substitution of “racier” takes for certain scenes. Gerry O’Hara discusses the origins of the project, its making and the run-ins he had over it with the nascent Women’s Liberation movement. You also get the UK theatrical prologue in which “a psychiatrist” contextualises the film’s troubling themes. There are trailers and an image gallery of promotional and publicity material, plus a Central Office of Information short in which Erin Pizzey is interviewed and O’Hara’s 1976 short The Sea Can Kill, made for the Royal Navy. The limited (to 2,000 copies for the UK / 4,000 world) edition is accompanied by an exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, an interview with Roberta Gibbs, a look at the lively public response to the film’s screening and overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on The Sea Can Kill and full film credits.

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Most Viewed Postings, 2021 & All Time…

(last year’s placing follow in round brackets)

2021

01] Irene Miracle interviewed (01)

02] Me Me Lay profiled (04)

03] David Warbeck interviewed (02)

04] Francoise Pascal interviewed (05)

05] Babara Bouchet interviewed (03)

06] Ovidio Assonitis interviewed (new entry)

07] Magdalena – Possessed By The Devil reviewed (new entry)

08] Spaghetti Exorcist Knock-Offs surveyed (re-entry)

09] Fred Williamson interviewed (re-entry)

10] Barbara Steele interviewed (08)

The following postings dropped out of our annual Top 10, for the time being…

Eaten Alive reviewed

Howling 2 reviewed

My Lunch With Lucio Fulci

Argento Autobiography reviewed

All time ratings …

01] Irene Miracle interviewed (01)

02] David Warbeck interviewed (02)

03] Me Me Lay profiled (03)

04] My Lunch With Lucio Fulci (05)

05] Howling 2 reviewed (04)

06] Suspiria 4K Restoration reviewed (06)

07] Babara Bouchet interviewed (07)

08] Francoise Pascal interviewed (re-entry)

09] Spaghetti Exorcist Knock-Offs surveyed (10)

10] My Breakfast with Joe D’Amato (9)

Farewell, for the moment, to

Eaten Alive reviewed

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Blurred Police Lines… FREE HAND FOR A TOUGH COP Reviewed.

BD. Fractured Visions. Region Free. 15.

By 1976 Umberto Lenzi was already a seasoned director of poliziotteschi, confidently cocky enough to kick off Free Hand For A Tough Cop with Spaghetti Western vistas of Monument Valley (an appropriate overture to a plot with more than a whiff of John Ford’s The Searchers about it, though you’re actually watching out takes from Damiano Damiani’s Nobody’s The Greatest, 1975) before the camera pulls back to plonk us squarely in an audience of rowdy prison inmates… way to go, Umberto. The fourth wall is even more definitively shattered for flamboyant, fag filching con Monnezza (“Garbage Can”, played by Tomas Milian) when eponymous tough cop Sarti (Claudio Cassinelli) sneaks into the jail, knocks him out and drives off with him as a prelude to enlisting his aid in the search for a kidnapped munchkin, desperately in need of medical attention.

A typical saga of moral ambiguity from Italy’s Years of Lead, concocted by Lenzi in conjunction with veteran spaghetti exploitation scripted Dardano Sacchetti, FHFATC also sets the unacknowledged template for Walter Hill’s 48 Hours (1982), though Sarti gets more bang for his buck than Nick Nolte ever managed, as the wily Monnezza recruits a posse of criminal confederates (a veritable Who’s Who of stalwart spaghetti heavies), each nursing their own grudge against Brescianelli (Henry Silva), the gangster who’s holding the little girl to ransom. Cue the expected but always satisfying concoction of double crosses, manly gurning, climactic shoot outs and high speed car chases.

Having driven through that fourth wall, Lenzi regularly reminds the viewer that they’re watching a genre film with regular sightings of posters for other Italian B movies… for example, two punks stick up a terza visione cinema showing Tinto Brass’s Salon Kitty. Playing up the crime slime conventions, he also makes much of the parallels between conflicting underworld priorities and the bureaucratic hurdles that must he surmounted by Sarti (who, in truth, isn’t given that much of a free hand by his PR savvy superiors). Whether constrained by his brief or by Cassinelli’s less than galvanising performance, Sarti makes little impact in a film named for him. What was Maurizio Merli doing when Lenzi shot this (apart from appearing in several other crime flicks)? As ever, it’s impossible to take your eyes off Henry Silva (I had to laugh at the suggestion that his face was a product of plastic surgery… were that possible, everybody would be getting one!) but he doesn’t spend anything like as much time on screen as one would.

No surprise, then, that Milian steals the show as the irrepressible Monnezza, whose singular fashion statements incorporate jump suit, flip-flops, fright wig, bushy beard and enough eye liner to re-tarmac the M1. If anybody can save the girl, stick it to the (really) bad guys (the ones even worse than him) and run off with Sarti’s wallet… Garbage Can can! Rather like Franco Nero’s Django, Monnezza only officially appeared in two films (this and Stelvio Massi’s La Banda Del Trucido, the following year) but was subsequently conflated with several of the Cuban actor’s sartorially challenging, picaresque characters. It’s recommended that you watch Free Hand For Tough Cop with the Italian audio option and (if necessary) English subtitles, because the English dub lands Milian with an irritating voice which detracts significantly from the impact of his balls-to-the-wall performance. Kudos, while we’re at it, to Bruno Canfora, one of Italy’s less celebrated soundtrack craftsmen, for some nice work here.

Looking spanky in a new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, the main feature is nicely complimented by a raft of rousing bonus materials. You can access, as you see fit, audio commentaries from Troy Howarth / Nathaniel Thompson and the always amusing Mike Martinez. There’s the mandatory trailer. Interviews wise, Ugo Tucci spills the beans on producing exploitation all’Italiana and Corrado Solari reflects on a career of character parts in Italian genre cinema. DP Nino Celeste (who was replaced by Luigi Kuveiller two weeks before the conclusion of the FHFATC shoot) remembers the ups and downs of working with Lenzi, throwing in a few gratuitous comments about Lucio Fulci being (you guessed) completely crackers. Antonella Fulci often crops up on these things talking about her Dad and it’s always great to hear what she has to say, but on this disc Alessandra Lenzi takes a welcome step out of the shadows to talk engagingly about growing up, on and off set, with her own mercurial father and his associates. If you were entertaining any doubt, more than one interviewee brings up what a “difficult” man Tomas Milian was. There’s also some discussion of Lenzi’s career sideline as a crime novelist (something else he beat Quentin Tarantino to!) If you buy early enough to cop the limited (to 3,000 units) edition, you’ll also be taking home a collector’s edition slipcase, six art cards and a special Collector’s Booklet with new writing by Austin Fisher and Francesco Massaccesi plus Eugenio Ercolani’s interview with Umberto Lenzi.

One minor quibble… that main menu seems to go on for at least as long as The Years Of Lead before you’re allowed to choose anything from it.

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Bargain Basement Beasts Of The Apocalypse… COLD WAR CREATURES: FOUR FILMS FROM SAM KATZMAN Reviewed.

Sam Katzman (far right), hangin’ with the Presleys and “Colonel” Tom Parker (in characteristically understated ensemble).

BD. Arrow. Region B. 12.

CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (Directed by Edward L. Cahn, 1955).
THE WEREWOLF (Directed by Fred F. Sears, 1956).
ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (Directed by Edward L. Cahn, 1957).
THE GIANT CLAW (Directed by Fred F. Sears, 1957).

“A picture that makes money is a good picture, whether it is artistically good or bad. I’m in the five and dime business and not in the Tiffany business. I make pictures for the little theaters around the country”. Sam Katzman.

In an excellent feature length overview of producer Sam Katzman’s long and prolific career to be found on this limited edition box set, Stephen R. Bissette observes that today’s Superhero blockbusters are the direct descendants of Katzman’s cliff hanging serials from the 1940’s. He’s quite right, of course, though the gulf in respective production values might well obscure that connection. It’s also instructive to think of “Jungle Sam” (a soubriquet he picked up from his involvement in countless Johnny Weissmuller vehicles) as the spiritual ancestor of more celebrated figures such as Roger Corman. Beginning his movie career as a 13 year old prop boy, Katzman worked his way up, learning the film biz inside out in the process. His time cranking out B movies for skid row studios like Monogram instilled an appreciation of, er, thrift. Katzman pictures were always delivered on time and rarely lost a dime…

… which is what recommended our man to the mighty Columbia Pictures, for whom Katzman was happy to tackled whatever exploitable subject got thrown his way, including such youthsploitation milestones as the 1956 brace Rock Around The Clock and Don’t Knock The Rock (during the production of which he allegedly coined the term “beatnik”). The endearing collection of Katzmania assembled here, however, concentrates on four of Sam’s choicer contributions, as producer, to Columbia’s paranoid ’50s Sci-Fi output.

In Creature With The Atom Brian mobster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) employs former Nazi scientist Dr Wilhelm Stiegg (Gregory Gaye) to raise an army of radiation powered zombies in pursuit of his gangland ambitions. Inevitably things get out of hand, with every geiger counter in a ten mile radius going into overdrive as the forces of Law and Order square up to those irradiated deadsters during a climactic showdown which eerily foreshadows certain scenes in Nightmare City (1980), whose director Umberto Lenzi was a self proclaimed avid consumer of American B Movies from this period.

Ed Cahn would subsequently direct two two seminal Sci-Fi efforts whose influence was felt way beyond the confines of Umberto Lenzi’s cranium… 1958’s It! The Terror From Beyond Space (whose plot Ridley Scott casually recycled for Alien) and the following year’s Invisible Invaders, to which George Romero’s epochal Night Of The Living Dead is in no small way indebted. CWTAB bills itself, unreliably, as “Terror true to science, based on laboratory experiments described in national magazines!” but is actually the er, brainchild of writer Curt Siodmak, who clearly had a thing for grey matter, having penned the much-adapted (including by himself) 1942 novel Donovan’s Brain. Despite that and his various contributions to the great Universal Horror cycle and collaboration with Val Lewton (on I Walked With A Zombie, 1943), Siodmak will always be best remembered for writing George Waggner’s The Wolf Man (1941)…

… I wonder what he made of Fred F. Sears’ The Werewolf. This one begins with a dishevelled amnesiac (Steven Ritch) rolling into the remote town of Mountaincrest and being sized up as likely mark by a local n’er do well. Sadly for said n’er do well, his intended victim is a werewolf, his lycanthropy (like his memory loss) an unfortunate side effect of the serum with which he was injected by a couple of hubristic scientists seeking to accelerate human evolution to a point where mankind will be better able to withstand the hazards of the atomic age. As the werewolf victims begin to pile up, the deranged doctors, seeking to cover their tracks, join the cops and hunters on the trail of their unfortunate and unwilling patient. With some impressive location work making up for the predictably shonky lap-dissolve transformation scenes, this one exemplifies the swing that the Science-Fiction boom was then taking back to Horror, foreshadowing e.g. Hammer’s Change from The Quatermass Experiment (1955) to The Curse Of Frankenstein (19657) and everything entailed by that.

Zombies Of Mora Taura (Mora Taura being an African country which appears to have no black people in it!) continues that return to Universal Horror basics, its title creatures being a 19th Century ship’s crew cursed to living death after pilfering some ancient Egyptian jewels. Looking forwards, this one possibly initiated the zombie movie trope by which living death is transferred from biter to bitten, providing ample subsequent grist to the movie-making mill of George Romero and his imitators… in Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Lucio Fulci picks up on an underwater hint from Cahn’s film for one of its most audacious set pieces. Some of the spookiest scenes in John Carpenter ‘s The Fog (1980) seem to have drawn much inspiration from just the graphics in ZOMT’s title sequence… all this, plus Allison (50 Foot Woman) Hayes!

The Giant Claw lurches alarmingly back into paranoid Sci-fi territory, with an alien avian (constructed from anti-matter… or something) roosting on and demolishing the Empire State and United Nations Buildings (thankfully leaving Barrow-in-Furness bus station to the dinosaur in that Chewits commercial). Sounds like a job for Ray Harryhausen (who had previously collaborated with Katzman on It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955) and Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), but in a cost-cutting exercise too far, Jungle Sam dispensed with Harryhausen’s dynamated services in favour of… well, nobody has ever exactly been in a rush to claim the “credit” for TGC’s not-so special (as in dismal) effects, suffice to say that Columbia’s publicity department took pains to ensure that the title creature’s gormless visage was conspicuous by its absence from their campaign (don’t laugh, if current supply chain problems persist, you might find something like this looking back at you from your plate on 25th December!)

In addition to the aforementioned Stephen Bissette documentary, each film comes with a characteristically witty and thought provoking introduction from Kim Newman and commentary tracks by the likes of Russell Dyball, Lee Gambin and Kat Ellinger, with Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard subjecting The Giant Claw to an audio basting. In visual essays, Michael White examines the Cold War context of these pictures, Josh Hurtado highlights their juxtaposition of rational science with Monster Movie iconography and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas assesses the way they deploy their female characters. You also get abridged Super 8mm versions of them, trailers and image galleries. Complimenting the expected fully illustrated collector’s booklet (comprising extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper) there’s an 80-page art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by Bissette. All this plus two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin, who also contributes the newly commissioned sleeve artwork option.

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Do Pod People Count Electric Sheep? INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS Reviewed.

BD. BFI. Region B. PG.

Generally recognised as the finest flowering of the paranoid ’50s Science Fiction movie boom, Don Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) simultaneously sticks out like an atypical sore thumb from the rest of that cycle, its refusal to conform to convention neatly mirroring its own plotting. There are no flying saucers, nor elaborate effects here… no messianic aliens with their sidekick automata and cosmic ultimata… no Mu-tant Invaders From Mars or Frankenstein-domed Metallunians… there’s a throwaway line about the potentially malign effects of radiation, but absolutely zero giant irradiated insects. The sinister vegetable dopplegangers usurping the identities of Santa Mira’s citizens as they sleep arguably bear some kind of kinship to James Arness’s vampire carrot in that other superior slice of 50’s SF Cinema, Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World (1951), though in every perceivable way (once they’ve emerged from their pods) they’re just like us… just like everybody else.

Many column inches and much commentary track time has been expended and wasted on whether the Pod People represent International Communism or the McCarthyite response to that (largely notional) threat to Eisenhower-era America. Although Siegel apparently took to referring to obstructive studio execs as “Pods”, his initial attraction to Jack Finney’s story (published in instalments in Colliers magazine, November – December 1954) was apparently its echoes of his own struggles with chronic insomnia. Whatever, there’s no doubt as to the film’s over-arching theme, that old chestnut of the Individual vs the Herd. Eschewing the lurid Technicolor of many of its contemporaries for the Noirish chiaroscuro of DP Ellsworth Fredericks, Siegel mounts IOTBS in a similar style to the hard boiled crime flicks he’d already directed and would subsequently direct. Also worth noting in this connection is the fact that Finney (a refugee from Madison Avenue with a bee in his bonnet about “authenticity”) had already authored the short story on which Phil Karlson’s 5 Against The House (1955) was based, even more so that Daniel Mainwaring, who adapted Finney’s The Body Snatchers to the screen, also wrote the screenplay for Jacques Tourneur’s Out Off The Past aka Build My Gallows High (1947). While we’re handing out the plaudits, let’s not forget producer Walter Wanger, busting a here nut to elevate the Allied Artists studio above its origins in the dreaded Monogram Pictures.

Siegel’s film is typically tight and taut, clocking in at a sparse 80 minutes. Beautifully paced and framed, suspensefully staged, it’s also perfectly cast and immaculately performed by its non-starry ensemble (from pod-cross’d lover leads Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, right down to briefly glimpsed meter reader Charlie… having Sam Peckinpah turn up, rooting around in your basement is about as unsettling as discovering Dario Argento playing a “reassuring” paramedic in John Landis’s Innocent Blood!) Preview audiences were famously not taken with IOTBS’s down beat vibe, so wraparound scenes and a voice over narration were added, suggesting a glimmer of hope for McCarthy and the rest of the human race, though this tampering only marginally dulls the film’s impact, if at all.

Could the fourth remake that’s apparently in the works, whatever its possible merits, register anywhere near as forcefully with today’s audiences? Siegel’s film posits a sinister underside to the facade of the 1950’s “I like Ike” social consensus… if indeed such a thing ever exactly existed. What consensus is there to disturb in Twenty-first Century America (and beyond), in which society seems polarised around just about every significant issue? This welcome rewatch assured me that Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is still as scary as hell… fresh (to quote an old Birds Eye ad campaign) as the moment when the pod went pop!

Scanned and remastered at 4K resolution by Paramount Pictures from an original 35mm fine grain duplicating positive, Siegel’s SF milestone looks great here in its UK BD debut and comes with the expected slew of extras. There’s a new audio commentary from Jim Hemphill, complimenting the 50th Anniversary track in which Joe Dante moderates the reminisces of McCarthy and Winter. The stars (who we lost in 2010 and 2011, respectively) were on fine form in 2006, on this commentary track and associated featurettes. In Sleep No More, a look at the film’s production history, they’re joined by John Landis, Mick Garris and science fiction historian Bob Burns. The Fear And The Fiction examines IOTB’s themes and the divergent critical interpretations that have been applied to them. What’s In A Name? is a short video presentation about the various alternative titles that were rehearsed but then dropped for this film… how would you have been grabbed, for instance, by a plain old The Body Snatchers (which needed an Invasion adding to distinguish it from the 1945 Val Lewton / Robert Wise picture The Body Snatcher)? Sleep No More? They Come From Another World? Evil In The Night? Better Off Dead? A World In Danger? It Could Happen? Out Of The Darkness? Or even, the immortal… A Fall Of Small Frogs(?!?) A suite of interconnecting micro featurettes detail how the archetypal and completely mythical small Califonian town of Santa Mira was compiled from varied locations and studio sets. There’s an audio recording of our old pal Baron Normy… er, Barry Norman interviewing director Siegel in a 1973 John Player lecture, plus original theatrical trailer with optional commentary from Joe Dante.

A selection of complementary archive films comprises two groundbreaking botanical documentary shorts by F Percy Smith, Battle Of The Plants (1926) and (co-directed by Mary Field) Magic Mixies (1931). Door Step To Communism (1948) is a predictably skewed, not to mention hysterical missive from Tory central office which attempts to depict Clem Attlee’s long overdue post-war social reforms as the thin end of a Bolshevik wedge that will inevitably deliver collective farms and a network of gulags across old England’s green and pleasant land (voice over highlights including “Czechoslovakia was the second victim of The Nazi Snatch…” and “… we don’t want that sort of thing here!”) With the first pressing only you get an illustrated 40 page collectors’ booklet with new writing by Dr Deborah Allison, Charlie Bligh and Katy McGahan, plus an archive piece by J Hoberman.

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Rug Rat Rampage… THE MONSTER (aka I DON’T WANT TO BE BORN, et al) Reviewed.

BD. Network. Region B. 15.

The Carlesis seem to have it made. Gino (Ralph Bates) is a high powered businessman. His wife Lucy (Joan Collins) is an exotic dancer in a seedy nightclub, her act also involving a vertically-challenged sidekick named Hercules (George Claydon)… seems to work for them, but Gino and Lucy’s unconventional domestic idyll is shattered by the arrival of their son Nicholas, who weighs in at an eye-watering 12lb. The delivery proves so difficult that obstetrician Dr Finch (Donald Pleasance) comments (to nurse Floella Benjamin) on the kid’s apparent reluctance to be born. Nor does Lucy get much chance to recover from her ordeal in the maternity suite, as the baby commences to wreck his new nursery, gouge chunks out of any adult unwise enough to attempt a cuddle and make two attempts (the second one successful) at drowning his nanny. Lucy seeks solace from her exotic dancing colleague Mandy (Caroline Munro, whose act, unfortunately, we never get to see… nor do we hear her voice, as she’s been dubbed by Liz Frazer) and Gino’s sister Albana (Eileen Atkins), a nun who does some kind of unspecified work with lab animals (reminding me of that priest in Joe D’Amato’s Absurd who “serves God with bio-chemistry instead of ritual”… and remember how that turned out!) After witnessing young Nick’s christening degenerate into a near riot, she becomes convinced that the baby is demonically possessed. Dr Finch (when he’s not trying to chat Albana up) insists on a more rational explanation, though Lucy remembers how Hercules cursed her after she rejected his short-arsed advances.

Further complicating the issue, she had a one night stand with slimy strip club proprietor Tommy Morris (John Steiner) nine months before the birth. Out in the Carlesis’ back garden, the Doc is decapitated then Gino’s hanged and stuffed under the patio. Housekeeper Mrs Hyde (!), played by Hilary Mason from Don’t Look Now, shakes her head disapprovingly and tut tuts a lot (never more so than when a dead mouse turns up in her cup of tea). After Lucy’s been stabbed to death, Sister Albana gets her exorcism kit together and goes toe to toe with the maleficent munchkin…

If The Dark Eyes Of London (another current Network release) represents Universal Horror’s gothic chickens coming home to roost in the land of Bram Stoker and Edgar Wallace, then Peter Sasdy’s I Don’t Want To Be Born (released here as The Monster but also known as Sharon’s Baby among innumerable other aliases) is the Satanic gospel according to William Peter Blatty, transplanted from downtown Georgetown to 1975 London. It’s probably most useful to bracket it with the Spaghetti Exorcism cycle kicked off by Ovidio Assonitis’s Chi Sei? (1974), both multi-titled films having been released as “The Devil Within Her” at some point. The vague Italianate aroma of Sasdy’s overheated concoction is enhanced by the conspicuous miscasting of Bates and Atkins as Latins (complete with dodgy accents) and the presence of pasta exploitation stalwarts such as Pleasence, Steiner and Munro in its cast, also a writing credit for the mysterious Nato De Angeles.

Sasdy had previously been responsible for such solid efforts as Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970), Countess Dracula and Hands Of The Ripper (both 171) plus the 1972 brace Doomwatch and The Stone Tape so it’s difficult to figure out if he was actually going for serious results here (and failing badly) or archly attempting some kind of camp / kitsch / cult item. A few of the kill scenes are imaginatively staged but all are compromised by the problem of involving an obviously inoffensive babe-in-arms, necessitating such spectacles as a grown up hand protruding from the sleeve of an outsized romper suit) and there are further giggles to be had at the intervening, interminable footage of characters walking around London, shopping (at certain points, bewildered bystanders are clearly nudging and muttering to each other about the presence of Joan Collins and a camera crew). Only the most committed poker face will fail to crack during the climactic exorcism and the discouraging effect it has on Hercules, in the middle of doing whatever it is he does during one of those sexy dance routines… priceless stuff!

Despite their impeccable academic credentials, Second Features podcast team Laura Mayne and Adrian Smith quickly abandon any attempt at extracting some shred of “significance” from the farrago unfolding before their startled eyes and just surrender to the silliness. Smith also contributes the contents of a limited edition booklet. Network’s BD transfer is as nifty as ever. Along with the expected trailer and image galleries, you get the alternative I Don’t Want To Be Born title sequence and new interviews with director Peter Sasdy, editor Keith Palmer, wardrobe supervisor Brenda Dabbs and decidedly bohemian continuity girl Renée Glynne, who reveals that while working as a runner on this production, her son developed a serious crush on Caroline Munro. Well, why wouldn’t he?

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Dial “H” For Ham… THE DARK EYES OF LONDON (1939) Reviewed

BD. Indicator. Region B. PG

In stark contrast to today’s thinning supermarket shelves and fractured fuel and food supply chains, there was a time when UK producers had no difficulty whatsoever importing ripe old ham. Case in point, Bela Lugosi, who had already appeared in Hammer’s The Mystery Of The Marie Celeste (1935) and whom we find here, several years removed from his career pinnacle as Dracula (1931) but still a staple of the great Universal Horror cycle (during 1939 he also starred alongside Karloff in Son Of Frankenstein), with the indignities of Monogram, Ed Wood and Old Mother Riley yet to come.

Directed by Walter Summers, Dark Eyes Of London is a solid adaptation (by Summers and co-writer Patrick Kirwan) of the Edgar Wallace novel of that title (quite possibly better known to readers of this blog from Alfred Vohrer’s 1961 “krimi” rendition, as Dead Eyes Of London, starring Klaus Kinski, above). Bela stars as Dr Feodor Orloff (Jesus, there’s a good name) an insurance broker and seeming philanthropist who’s actually using his connections with a home for blind derelicts to bump off various well-to-do gentlemen, having wangled himself into the position of benefiting from their demises. These guys are turning up floating in The Thames at such an alarming rate that Scotland Yard call in American cop O’Reilly (Edmon Ryan) to assist Detective Inspector Holt (Hugh Williams) in his investigation of this rum state of affairs.

Much is made of their contrasting styles (respectively two guns blazing and dogged detection) and presumably this helped sell tickets in both US and UK cinemas, though in truth they spend a collective eternity closing the net around Dr O, the obvious culprit… in fact he seals his own fate when he crosses his murderous blind henchman Jake (Wilfred Walter, whose make up and diction are clearly intended to suggest a Karloffian presence). More importantly, it’s Holt who ultimately wins the heart of Diana Stuart (Greta Gynt, the plucky daughter of one of Orloff’s most recent victims). Lugosi’s performance turns on extremes rather than nuances, though he does manage to pull off the surprise of playing both Orloff and (it is revealed at the death)… well, that would fall into the category of serious Spoiler. Though it look a bit hokey, viewed through contemporary eyes, Dark Eyes Of London was the first film to be landed with the BBFC’s “H” (for Horrific) certificate.

Much is heard (and justifiably so) about the quality of the restorations undertaken by certain other labels, but Network are rarely given sufficient credit in this regard (see their beautiful restoration of Sidney Hayers’ Assault). The pricing of their releases is also refreshingly competitive. Dark Eyes Of London looks particularly spanky for a film of its vintage and comes with the following extras. Kim Newman and Stephen Jones contribute a new audio commentary and also a featurette where they discuss the film and
Lugosi’s other UK credits from (where better?) London’s Edgar Wallace pub. There’s the US titles sequence and trailer, an image gallery and limited edition booklet with new writing by Adrian Smith. Purchases of the limited edition also get a slip case and postcards.

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Watching The Detectives (& The Goddam Commies)… Indicator’s Fourth COLUMBIA NOIR Box Reviewed.

BD. Powerhouse. Region B. 12.

WALK A CROOKED MILE (Gordon Douglas, 1948)
WALK EAST ON BEACON! (Alfred Werker, 1952)
PUSHOVER (Richard Quine, 1954)
A BULLET IS WAITING (John Farrow, 1954)
CHICAGO SYNDICATE (Fred F Sears, 1955)
THE BROTHERS RICO (Phil Karlson, 1957)

And still they keep on coming… Indicator’s fourth sampling of Film Noir according to Harry Cohen’s Columbia kicks in at the point where the genre (though as previously discussed, there those who would dispute that “Noir” is a genre) became contaminated with Cold War paranoia (scant years after Hollywood was lionising Uncle Joe and our Russian allies in the War against Fascism). Shoring up an older alliance, as if in compensation, Walk A Crooked Mile prioritises America’s allegedly special relationship with the Brits, importing Scotland Yard man Philip “Scotty” Greyson (Louis Hayward) to help Federal Bureau Investigator Daniel F. O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe) nail the source of atomic secrets leaking from the Lakeview Research Centre. Danny Boy (pictured above with Scotty and screaming broad) probably needs all the help he can get, given that one of his agents discounts one suspect as a possible spy / murderer because he was wearing a dog collar when bumping off one of their leads. Surely they can’t miss perpetual hovering heavy Raymond Burr in his cute little Lenin beard, though…

Released the same year as Jules Dassin’s The Naked City, Walk A Crooked Mile makes similarly telling use of its (San Francisco rather than New York) locations and also deploys a voice over narrator (in this case Reed Hadley) and “cast study”approach , devices that feature again in Walk East On Beacon! (and what better trajectory to take after you’ve walked that crooked mile?) The Commie sleeper cell in this one (who’ve kidnapped the son of missile scientist Finlay Currie) is located in Boston and Jim Belden (George Murphy) is the Fed charged with busting their nefarious activities wide open. The performances here are a little more pedestrian and veteran Alfred Werker’s direction is, er, workmanlike throughout (which is to say that his picture is a significantly less compelling proposition than Gordon Douglas’s) and over reliant on endless voice over / caption reminders that J. Edgar Hoover is the only thing standing between law abiding American patriots and the Reds under their beds. We even get stock footage of Hoover thrown in at apposite moments. Maybe it’s not Werker’s fault… I mean, who wrote this thing? (* checks IMDB *)… Jeez, Hoover even gets a co-writing credit. Maybe the filmmakers figured that, like LBJ, they’d be happier with ol’ J. Edgar “inside the tent pissing out rather than outside, pissing in”.

We’re back on more familiar, indeed textbook Noir turf with Pushover… nary a Bolshevik in sight but Kim Novak (in her first credited screen role, as Lona McLane) provides more than adequate recompense. Fred MacMurray has been here before, of course (in Billy Wilder’s classic Double Indemnity, 1944) but obviously didn’t learn his lesson… a pushover indeed, once again embarking upon the primrose path to perdition at the behest of a femme fatale. Oh what a tangled web Fred’s Detective Paul Sheridan weaves as he tries to make off with both Lona and the proceeds of a bungled bank heist. Philip Carey plays Rick McAllister, the cop colleague on his case. Moral ambiguity has always fuelled the finest Noir and Pushover provides it in spades. Roy Huggins’ screenplay was fashioned from two separate novels (Thomas Walsh’s The Night Watch and Bill S. Ballinger’s Rafferty) so hey, they didn’t even require any script input from J Edgar Hoover on this one.

The boundaries of Noir are again being tested in A Bullet Is Waiting, a film that deviates from the classic template in terms of its plotting, rural setting and most disoreintatingly, Franz Planer’s colour cinematography. We’re thrown straight into the action, the aftermath of a plane crash which strands Sheriff Munson (Stephen McNally) and Ed Stone (Rory Calhoun), the alleged murderer he was transporting to custody, in a remote wilderness. There they encounter sassy, androgynous Cally Canham (Jean Simmons), whose father David (absent for much of the picture but played, when he does turn up, by Brian Aherne) has brought her out here on some kind of Walden Pond kick. As the plot thickens, Cally’s struggle to work out whose side she should be on coincides with her blossoming from tom boy into beautiful young woman… you really couldn’t get away with stuff like that these days!

Things are firmly back in the Noir groove with Chicago Syndicate, with its hectoring voice over and city locations transplanted from The Naked City to the Windy City. Dennis O’Keefe is back (but this time with no plucky Limey sidekick) as mild mannered account Barry Amsterdam (!), whom the Feds want to help them bring down crime kingpin Arnie Valent in the same way they got Al Capone. Though initially reluctant, Bazza takes to his dangerous mission like a duck to water… I guess you can’t help being dynamic, growing up with a name like Barry Amsterdam! Allison (Fifty Foot Woman) Hayes and exotic nightclub chanteuse Abbe Lane (fronting Xavier Cugat’s hot mambo combo) keep things simmering nicely and Joseph Hoffman’s dialogue frequently crackles. If you think Jimmy Cagney’s Cody Jarrett in White Heat (1949) is the final cinematic word on mother-fixated gangsters, watch the climax of this one and think again. All it’s missing is Al Jolson singing Mammy…

Just two years later, director Fred Sears would be making The Giant Claw!

Richard Conte’s Eddie Rico (above, left) is another mob accountant (or formerly was), now living the straight life, only to be drawn back in by the exploits of his brothers Gino and Johnny (Paul Picerni and James Darren, above) in The Brothers Rico. It’s easy to see how the moral shadings of this one (its story courtesy of Georges “Maigret” Simenon) appealed so much to Martin Scorsese (who provides a brief introduction to the picture), also fascinating to observe how Karlson’s direction pushes at the limits of the Hays Code with its depictions of both violence and Eddie’s passion for his wife Alice (Dianne Foster)… conducted across separate beds! The film’s “happy”, righteous ending seems to indicate that Hays had the upper hand for the time being, though Otto Preminger was already in the process of demolishing it. Ace Noir cinematographer Burnett Guffey shot The Brothers Rico.

All the films look and sound just spanky in their remastered World BD premieres. With the exception of Walk A Crooked Mile, they come with commentary tracks (from Frank Krutnik, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas / Josh Nelson, Barry Forshaw / Kim Newman, Toby Roan and Jason Ney respectively). Douglas’s film is complimented with the 1946 short Routine Job: A Story Of Scotland Yard (1946) and March of Time episodes have also been selected for their thematic links with the main features. Likewise the Three Stooges shorts that we have now come to expect in this series. If you’ve ever struggled to get your head around the concept of Fake Shempery, check out here how 1949s Dunked in the Deep mutated into Commotion On The Ocean, seven years later (makes those “Bela Lugosi” scenes in Plan Nine From Outer Space look like a smooth piece of work!) All of the films are complimented by image galleries and half of them (Pushover, A Bullet Is Waiting and The Brothers Rico) with their original theatrical trailers. In further featurettes, Glenn Kenny examines the collaborations of director Richard Quine and Kim Novak,
Josephine Botting discusses Jean Simmons’ transition from British actress to Hollywood Star and Nick Pinkerton appraises the two-fisted directorial style of Phil Karlson. The limited (to 6,000 numbered units) edition of this box packs an exclusive 120-page collector’s book comprising new essays by Beth Ann Gallagher, Bob Herzberg, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Omar Ahmed, Jen Johans, Monica Castillo and Jeff Billington, archival articles and interviews plus full film credits.

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