"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.

Friday, August 29, 2014

AIR FORCE 1943

 

     One of the best of the "why we need to fight" movies to come out of WWII, 1943's AIR FORCE has always seemed to have taken a backseat to such classics as John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE and Lewis Milestones's THE PURPLE HEART. Directed by Howard Hawks (who refereed to this as "my contribution to the war effort"), it boasts a great ensemble cast including John Garfield, Gig Young, John Ridgely, Harry Carey, Arthur Kennedy, James Brown and George Tobias. Featuring Hawk's trademark snap crackle pop overlaid dialogue, here from a Dudley Nichols screenplay (with uncredited tweaking from William Faulkner) along with some typical neat as heck 1940's Warner war movie model work. 
    Following the historically mythical journey of the B-17 "Mary Ann" as she departs from San Francisco on Dec. 6 1941 arriving in Hawaii during the midst of the attack on Pearl Harbor and then traveling on to Wake Island, the Philippines (picking up a dog named Tripoli along the way) and finally on to Australia, where stopping off in route they help blow up seemingly the entire Japanese Navy. Although as to be expected of a movie of this ilk and time frame it does have it's fair share of hyperbole filled propaganda, but that doesn't distract it from being a wonderfully entertaining 124 min. and watching John Garfield turn from sullen malcontent to gun-ho machine gun blazin' & dog rescuin' ass kicker is worth the price of admission alone.



 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2014 Is The Year Of Pamela Franklin

At least blu-ray wise (and a happy time it is)

    Coming out on Sept. 23 from Criterion is Jack Clayton's marvelously spooky and unsettling Victorian tale of madness tinged supernatural (or perhaps supernatural tinged madness....) THE INNOCENTS from 1962. Featuring mind boggling beautiful b & w cinematography by Freddie Francis, a wonderful Deborah Kerr as a perhaps mentally unstable governess and an 11 year old Pamela Franklin as one half of a pair of siblings who may or not be becoming possessed of malevolent & corrupting spirits.
   Plus tying into a post over at The Hannibal 8 Scream Factory has just released 1973's THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE where a now 21 year Pamela plays a meduim who along with Roddy McDowell, Clive Revill and Gayle Hunnicutt attempt to get to the bottom of things in "the Mount Everest of haunted houses". Scripted by Richard Matheson from his novel HELL HOUSE, its one of greatest haunted house movies ever and one of the best horror films of the 70's (which is really saying something). A nice little extra is a commentary by Pamela where she relates various stories of the filming, her co-stars & director John Hough and the special effects (and admits she doesn't like to watch horror movies, but is proud of her work in them).
  And to top it all off later this year Twilight Time is releasing 1969's THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE in which Pamela plays a student of prim English school teacher Maggie Smith.
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD, WORLD Monday # 1

    


    As evident by the title of this blog, I'm a huge IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD fanatic. To be honest I've lost count of many times it's been watched and unfailing it always makes me smile and laugh out loud at lines that have been memorized for decades.
   The recently released Criterion DVD/Blu-Ray edition reconstructs the 197 min. roadshow version of the film incorporating footage as audio only w/ stills (or footage with no audio), some with burned in Asian subtitles and film stock of varying degrees of quality (some of which was used in the old laser disc edition).
  Although 163 min version (also included) works the best overall (especially for first timers), the reconstruction is fascinating viewing and full of little surprises. One of those cool surprises for me was this sequence (represented by stills with overlaid audio) of Sylvester Marcus (the great Dick Shawn) as he bolts out his tiki and bamboo festooned apt. to join in the race to the "Big W" (and anytime you can get more Dick Shawn, it's a good thing). The fascinating insight here is that Sylvester's seemingly zonked out black bikini clad girlfriend (Barrie Chase) actually speaks (!) and that the car he jumps into (and later destroys - as is practically ever other vehicle involved here) belongs to Barrie's husband and she's been stepping out with Dick Shawn's crazy beach bum on the side.
  Barrie was reportedly unhappy with her appearance in MAD WORLD as she has just given birth and thought her body was not up to be dancing around in a bikini (for which I beg to differ).





Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where's My DVD ?? # 2 - LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY 1970


    Although marketed and promoted as a "motorcycle" film 1970's LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY is actually more of a combination character study & 70's road movie about a couple of guys who happen to race motorcycles, along with at it's core a very moving story concerning friendship. One of the producers was Brad Dexter (yes, that Brad Dexter) and director Sidney J. Furie has a career going back to DR. BLOOD'S COFFIN (1961) - which continues to this day.
   Featuring a career best performance by Robert Redford as Halsy, a 100% SOB that you can't help but root for and Micheal J Pollard (Fauss) in one of his patented portrayals of a somewhat dim bulb loser (who more often then not ends up stealing whatever movie his in). Plus you got Noah Berry Jr. & Lucille Benson as Pollards's parents (who look & sound uncannily just like you'd expect Pollard's parents to be), model Lauren Hutton (in her first role) as a wayward hippie they pick up along the way and some familiar 70's faces including Linda Gaye Scott and Ray Ballard.
  Buried on double & triple drive-in bills upon its release it always been rather hard to see as supposedly Redford hates this movie, because as a result of the success of ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN it began popping up on TV screens and he felt embarrassed by it. The available pan & scan copies floating around "out there"all but destroy cinematographer Ralph Woosley's widescreen desert vista's. Originally released by Paramount, hopefully with Olive's distribution deal with them we'll see a legit release one day.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Release Stuff # 1 - The QUATERMASS XPERIMENT 1955


  On Dec. 2 Kino Studio Classics will release Hammer's THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. Released in the U.S. in 1956 as THE CREEPING UNKNOWN it features a wonderfully creepy & subdued performance by Richard Wordsworth as the sole survivor of a space flight who after returning to earth begins to go through some rather drastic changes. Wordsworth's low key performance is balanced out by Brian Donlevy portrayal as the obsessed (and most likely slightly insane) Prof. Quatermass. 
 Released earlier on DVD through the MGM MOD program Kino's 1.66:1 blu-ray is something to get pretty excited about, as any time we can get some Hammer released on this side of the pond it's a good thing.   



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER 1970

    One of those odd little films that probably only have been made in 70's and when viewing today is also one of those projects that you look at rather unbelievably has having been produced by a major studio. Featuring a career high point performance by Stacy Keach (who's one of those actors that you're periodically reminded of just how good he really is) and a wonderful cast of 70's character actors, it just misses being a bona fide must-see cult classic as it goes off the rails a bit plot-wise toward the middle and probably could have benefited from a tighter editing job.
   Keach plays Jonas Candide an itinerant executioner who travels through the 1918 South in a brightly painted truck with a portable electric chair offering his services to prisons for $100.00 per soul. As he straps them into the chair he gives a darkly comic and strangely moving speech (which in itself is worth watching the movie for) to the condemned about their final destination in "the fields of ambrosia" complete with sunlight fields, "nights just long enough to dream through" and ever willing women "lying naked by the river- just like them French paintings hanging in the museum" all of which leaves them crying for happiness as he dispenses the fatal jolt.
   Things get complicated with his intended victims in the form of brother & sister death row inmates Willy and Gundred Herzallerliebst, especially in the form of  Marianne Hill as the female half. It's here that the movie gets a bit off track as what was a essentially a very dark comedy instead veers off into rather desperate attempts at more broader laughs. The behind the camera talent was bit strange for a project such as this with writer Garrie Bateson only having two other credits on his resume (one episode each of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) and the director Jack Smight did mostly TV work, although he did helm HARPER (1966) and in the 70's would direct AIRPORT 1975, MIDWAY and DAMNATION ALLEY.
   Also featuring M. Emmet Walsh as the warden and one of Bud Cort's typical quirky little performances as Jonas's assistant. Long unavailable on home video it's now been put out as a part of the Warner Archive series.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Evelyn Ankers

    The term "scream queen" has been bandied about a bunch during the past couple of decades, but Evelyn Ankers can surely lay claim to being the original. She was born to British parents in Chile in 1918 and emigrated to the U.S. before the outbreak of WWII. She become a familiar face in Universal horror and thriller movies of the 1940's, appearing in such films as THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR (1942), THE MAD GHOUL (1943), CAPTIVE WILD WOMEN (1943), WEIRD WOMAN (1944), THE INVISIBLE MAN'S REVENGE (1944), THE FROZEN GHOST (1945) and perhaps most famously as the love interest of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) in THE WOLFMAN from 1940.
   She was married to actor Richard Denning (THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED) for 43 years until her death in 1985.





Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where's My DVD ?? # 1 - DEADLINE U.S.A. 1952



   I love old newspaper movies and this is one of the best. Humphrey Bogart plays the crusading editor of THE DAY, a soon to be out of business daily paper. Written & directed by Richard Brooks, it clocks in at a snappy 87 min. (never stopping to catch its breath) and in addition features a cracker jack supporting cast including Kim Hunter, Ed Begley, Paul Stewart, Jim Backus, Warren Stevens and Ethel Barrymore. Also popping up is Joe Sawyer who's mug was a standard fixture in Warner Bros. movies of the 30's and 40's either playing second heavy on the right or the neighborhood cop. Audrey Christie plays the usual tough as nails female reporter who sits on the edge of her desk and snaps off one liners to her male counterparts (and has a wonderful speech in a barroom wake for the closing newspaper). James Dean is rumored to show up in a bit part as a copy boy.


   Bogie and his reporters are out to bust mobster Thomas Rienzi (Martin Gabel) with the kicker being the paper has been sold and only has one night left to stay in business. In this day and age its hard to believe that are still some Bogart movies that have yet to make an appearance on home video but there are (in fact I believe there's a few of them). DEADLINE - U.S.A. showed up briefly on DVD in Italy but other then that has strangely fallen through the cracks. It runs on TCM every year or so and is well worth seeking out (and nobody else can do the bow tie thing like Humphrey Bogart).


Friday, August 15, 2014

35 Years Ago Today....

"Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin' all the way... Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program"



    On August 15 1979 Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW opened on screens across America. I can still remember going to see it with my Dad on opening weekend and later dragging unsuspecting friends to it a couple of times in the coming weeks before it closed. Whether you think its one of the greatest films ever made or a muddled testimony to a filmmaker's ego run amok its still undeniably an awe inspiring piece of cinema and along with Michael Cimino's HEAVEN'S GATE (which to me IS a muddled testimony to a filmmaker's ego), they both forever changed the way Hollywood makes movies as there was no more  "let 'em go off and see what they come back with" mentality in the boardrooms.
   Eleanor Coppola's on the set documentary footage released as HEARTS OF DARKNESS : A FILMMAKER'S APOCALYPSE is one of the more riveting "making of" documentary films that's ever been produced as it charts a descent into madness almost as harrowing as the actual film's fictional voyage up the river to confront Col. Kurtz. In 2001 Copploa re-cut the film adding about 49 minutes worth of footage (some of which works and some of which doesn't) as APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX. Everything is available in a spiffy blu-ray package from Paramount.