"Well, most people like it and I like it, and I'm working hard and trying to keep the cost down"

J. Russell Finch CEO & President
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Company
Fresno, CA.

Monday, March 26, 2018

DARK OF THE SUN From Warner Archive On Blu !!!!

  

     After wishing for it a couple posts down Warner Archive has announced a Blu of Jack Cardiff's great sweaty action adventure DARK OF THE SUN from 1968. Announced at Wondercon along with Sergio Leone's THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES ( with a sweaty Rory Calhoun) they will be released later this year.
     Along with the historical interest of being Leone's first credited director film (he did some uncredited work on a couple of early films) THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES is a pretty fun peplum with some terrific miniature work during the climatic earthquake. Rory looks a bit out of place but there's some nifty sequences including a sword fight on the massive statue of the title (with Rory crawling out the ear!) and Lea Massari as the heroine is pretty easy on the eyes. Great stuff and these make for a terrific double feature.



  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

DRAGNET 1968 : THE STARLET

Season 2
Episode 20

Original Air Date Feb. 1 1968

"We've seen her stills"
"Not these kind...."



"It was Wed, May 9th. It was warm in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Division"
"The boss is Capt. Morris"


     By the second season of Webb's late 60's Dragnet revival it began to fall into a pattern of a light-hearted episode followed by a couple more serious minded which were usually dire warnings of succumbing to vice or the horrors inflicted on society by the counterculture. Running at 9:30PM EST on Thur it did well in ratings and NBC was probably pleased with the shows low production cost with Webb's use of stock and/or previously used footage and his quick no-nonsense approach to filming. 
    Proceeded by one of the series more comedic episodes The Big Amateur, it's follow-up The Starlet remains one of the darker ones and one of the few times a dead body was shown. Sharp-eyed viewers will also spot the same group of Sunset Blvd. footage that was used in The LSD Story and there's some great views of the LAPD's porn stash at Parker Center. 
   Working out of Juvenile Division again Friday and Gannon are altered to the presence of a 16-year old runaway from Medford, OR. who came to L.A. to break into movies. The young girl named Patty Lee Bundy is reported missing by her aunt (played by character actress Amzie Strickland who passed away in 2006 with 268 (!!) acting credits to her name) and Friday and Gannon are told she's been seen in "one of those psychedelic places" (or psychopathic as the Aunt says) on Sunset. Heading over to The Flower Pot (a hippie espresso shop) they question Jo-Elle, a young hippie girl played by a cute as heck JoAnne Harris (THE BEGUILED and ACT OF VENGEANCE) in one of her first speaking roles.



    Getting a tip from Jo-Elle that Patty Lee "has fallen into a thing... you know a movie thing.." the trail leads them to part-time actress Eva Graham (Susan Seaforth - who was on THE GUIDING LIGHT for about sixty years) which in turn leads them to the discovery that the Bundy girl has fallen into the porno movie racket. Along the way we visit Off. Shaidell & Sgt. Zabel (Webb regulars Leonard Stone & Robert Patten) of Vice who fill Friday and Gannon in on all the ins and outs of the smut racket ("You name it...We got it... Books, magazines, Tijuana bibles, films, stills, devices...") and meet up with a porn director played by 40's "B" leading man Lyle Talbot.
   Climaxing with discovery of the young girl's body at a seedy rooming house (with more hippies wondering about) they learn she OD'd on reds while listening to jazz music on a phonograph. As mentioned this is one of the more downbeat episodes of the color series and makes a nice companion the shows B&W episode The Big Producer with future ADAM-12 star Martin Milner pushing dirty books at his high school.



Porn evidence room !!


Lyle Talbot as shifty porn director. You can tell he's slimy by the garish tie.



Cool shot of a pre-restored Hollywood Sign  


 This establishing shot of Parker Center showed up in about every episode 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

DARK OF THE SUN 1968



    If there was ever a movie that needs a Blu-ray upgrade, it's the 1968 balls-to-the-walls DARK OF THE SUN. Directed by Academy Award winning cinematographer Jack Cardiff (BLACK NARCISSUS) it features Rod Taylor as a mercenary in the war torn Congo of the 1960's. Playing Capt. Curry who along with his buddy/comrade Sgt. Ruffo (Jim Brown) he's hired to rescue a group of stranded Europeans who are caught behind the lines. Jacking up the tension considerably is the real motive behind the "rescue"- $50,000,000 worth of diamonds held in a bank there.
   Gathering together a group of mercenaries including Peter Carsten as a sadistic Nazi they travel by train to their destination. Hardly ever pausing to catch its breath during the 100 minute run time the film came under intense scrutiny for it's violence. Although not as shocking as it was once the it still packs a wallop in particular a prolonged massacre sequence and fight with chainsaws.
    Taylor has never been better and plus there's Kenneth More, Andre Morrell (from Hammer's THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES) and Yvette Mimieux. There is a hinted it/maybe burgeoning  between Taylor and Mimieux, but love interests and soap opera stuff is kept in the background (or thankfully non-existent) the film moves from one sweaty action sequence to another. Brown and Taylor have an excellent chemistry together and you really feel for Taylor's character during his climatic pursuit and brutal fight with his protagonist.
    Available as a MOD DVD from Warner Archive (along with some repertory screening in 35mm) hopefully Warner will revisit it soon in a fresh new HD release. It's certainly long overdue!









Monday, March 12, 2018

THE WHIP HAND 1951


 

      Starting production in 1951 as THE MAN HE FOUND in which Nazi's along with a still living Hitler set up shop in post war New England and attempt to unleash germ war fare upon the United States. Taking over RKO Howard Hughes having decided that Nazi's were out and commies in ordered a re-write/re-shoot changing the villains to communists (still working with a Nazi scientist & germ warfare) and moved the setting to rural Minnesota.
    Directed by William Cameron Menzies as to be expected it's a visual feast and despite it's convoluted production history it remains a solid little thriller mixing in elements of film-noir, espionage and cold war paranoia. A box office failure upon release it's since stoked a small cult following and was one of the first motion pictures to actively discuss germ warfare.  
   Magazine writer Matt Corbin (Elliott Reid SON OF FLUBBER) during his vacation heads up to Lake Winnego, MN for the trout fishing. Hurting himself in a fall during a rainstorm he ends up in the small town of Winnego where bemoaning the lack of trout he's informed that all the fish are dead due to an unknown virus.



   The locals headed up by hotel owner Raymond Burr (in full on creepy blond-haired Raymond Burr mode) while initially seeming friendly are soon shown to be hiding something. There's a mysterious "lodge" on the other side of the lake that Corbin is warned to stay away from (being owned by a "local eccentric") and he learns from a friendly shop keeper that most of the town is comprised of newcomers who bought property cheap after the fish drought kicked in.
    Finding another friendly face in the form of the local Doctor's daughter (Carla Balenda OUTLAW WOMEN) he begins investigating the strange happenings about town. Now discovering that he cannot leave town as his car mysteriously breaks down and he is unable to use the phone he begins to suspect that the local eccentric is a wanted Nazi scientist working on germ warfare.



    Menzie's sense of style is on in full force here with combined with the cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca (OUT OF THE PAST) they create a world of deep shadows and strange disorientating compositions. In the lead role Reid's transformation from a vacationing fisherman to almost all-out secret agent is a bit implausible, but he does convey the sense of an everyman who gets caught up in something bigger than ever imagined. 
   The townspeople are composed of gang of familiar character faces including Edgar Barrier, Michael Steele, Lauren Tuttle and a nice turn by Olive Carey in an unexpected role. Otto Waldis who spent almost his entire career playing evil Germans of one kind or another shows up (naturally) as the Nazi scientist. Burr, here seemingly to be in dry run for REAR WINDOW is particularly menacing laughing at the most inopportune times and making for one creepy innkeeper. The basement full of Waldis's failed experiments nudges the film ever so slightly into horror/sci-fi realm.
    Long missing on home video, THE WHIP HAND is available through Warner Archive.





Friday, March 9, 2018

Happy 100th Birthday Mickey Spillane !!




     A big 100th Birthday remembrance today for hard bitten tough guy crime novelist Mickey Spillane. Famous for creating Mike Hammer, Spillane himself would portray his fictional P.I. in 1963's THE GIRL HUNTERS (which I always thought was kind of cool). Directed by Roy Rowland (THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T), it was filmed in England and features a pre-GOLDFINGER Shirley Eaton.
    Probably my favorite big screen Mike Hammer is Robert Aldrich's 1956 atomic tinged take on KISS ME DEADLY. Featuring a brutal almost sub-human performance by Ralph Meeker in the lead it contains still startling violence and great B&W cinematography by Ernest Laszlo (mostly in and around the Bunker Hill area of the Los Angeles). 


   

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

DRAGNET 1967 : THE LSD STORY

Season 1
Episode 1

Original Air Date Jan. 12 1967

"Your pretty high and far out. What kind of kick on you on, son ?"



"It was Tuesday March 15th. It was fair in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Narcotics"
"The boss is Capt. Richie" 


    In 1966 Jack Webb relaunched DRAGNET for NBC television and a featured length movie was produced as a pilot which did not air until 1969. The series proper premiered on Jan. 12, 1967 with this episode which has become of the best loved for fans of the series. Playing its seems constantly in reruns somewhere during the 70's and beyond the newer color episodes unfortunately have become more readily available the series classic B&W run. Plus, with the color Webb's never changing wardrobe of dark slakes and grey sport jacket stand out along with the brown smog drenched opening shot of Los Angeles ("This is the city...")
   Now produced in color Webb decided it was time for the TV version LAPD and Sgt. Friday to confront the exploding counter culture moment and the associated drug use which in turn accounted for some the more entertaining episodes of the series (including next seasons THE BIG PROPHET and the infamous THE BIG HIGH). One more major change for the series revival was a new partner in the form of Webb's old friend Harry Morgan as officer Bill Gannon. Morgan was a perfect foil for Webb's portrayal of the ramrod straight Friday and their interactions became highlights of the new episodes (you see Webb trying his best to stifle laughter during some sequences).  
   Sometimes known as the "Blue Boy" episode this initial show of the resurrected DRAGNET took the no-nonsense Joe Friday crashing headlong into the world of psychedelics, Sunset Blvd. and hippies. It takes place in the historical time frame before the outlaw of LSD on 10/6/1966 - which the episode takes note of.



  Working out of the Juvenile Division Friday & Gannon resound to a call concerning strangely behaving teenager Benjie Carver (child actor Michael Burns) in vacant lot with his head buried in the dirt. Popping out of the ground he utters such classic lines as "I'm green I'm a tree" and proclaims himself to be "Blue Boy!"
  Arresting him and bringing him back to station the officers face the wrath of the boy's parents who being obviously upper class start throwing their weight & money around ("Are saying my son is a drug addict !?"). We get a trip to forensic chemist Ray Murray (Webb regular Olan Soule - and probably my favorite actor in the Dragnet universe) where he relates the history and effects of LSD with chilling  asides concerning it harmful effects.



   With Benji let off with probation Friday & Gannon begin coming across various kids who become involved with LSD, but are set straight with Friday sternly explaining how a simple experiment with marijuana can lead to LSD. The story ends with the expected tragic outcome and along the way we get some great footage of the Sunset Strip (used in later episodes) including Pandora's Box and The Trip - complete with a Marquee for The Ted Neeley Five. Neeley later played Jesus in the original Broadway production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.
    Also on board is soon to be series regulars Alfred Shelly (usually playing secondary Sgts or detectives), busy TV character Arthur Knapp as the pushy father and Art Balinger (usually as here playing the stern captain).





Sunday, September 3, 2017

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE on Blu-Ray


     Kino Lorber have confirmed the future release of this much requested Robert Siodmak 1946 thriller. Long OOP on DVD this is a gorgeous exercise in Gothic opulence and can be looked upon as proto-giallo (Dario Argento has cited this as an influence).
    Dorothy Mcguire plays a  young mute girl who is hired as a caregiver for an elderly matron (a wonderful Ethel Barrymore) while at the same time a killer is stalking the area whose targeting woman with physical afflictions. Also with George Brent as Barrymore's son and Val Lewton vet Kent Smith as a kindly local doctor.
    As a director of several excellent film noirs Siodmak along with art director Albert S. D'Agostino & cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca combine to create a visual feast of B&W eye candy. Complete with thunderstorms, a spooky Victorian mansion, lots of shadows (and of course a spiral staircase) it makes for prefect nighttime (or anytime) viewing.
    No release date has been confirmed but hopefully it will be sooner rather then later.