"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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Remembering Al Mulock 1926 - 1968

      

     A short post for actor Al Mulock, who was born on this day in 1926 in Montreal, Canada. He worked in British TV during the early 60's, but is probably best known for his short (but highly memorably) roles in two Sergio Leone westerns - 1966's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST from 1968. In the former his unforgettable face filled Leon's widescreen vista in the film's opening moments and in the latter he's one of a trio of gunfighters (along with Woody Strode & Jack Elam) who are waiting for Charles Bronson at a train station in the opening sequence. Leon clearly loved Mulock's craggy expressionistic face and his opening close up in THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY is one of the most iconic moments in the spaghetti western genre.
     During the filming on ONCE UPON TIME IN THE WEST he committed suicide by jumping out of his hotel window in Guadix, Spain.
 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

DODGE CITY on Blu

 
  

    Warner has just released Michael Curtiz's DODGE CITY from 1939 on blu -ray. Keeping with its western setting it features mostly a brown & ochre color scheme (although some of those neckerchiefs, gingham shirts & dance hall costumes really pop out), but none the less its a ravishing example of early technicolor and hopefully this will usher some Errol Flynn classics on blu-ray
   The first (and best IMO) of Flynn's westerns DODGE CITY with its technicolor, railroads & cattle drives has a sweeping almost epic feel to it and is a perfect example of the studio system firing on all cylinders. Along the teaming of Flynn and De Havilland (their fifth of eight movies together) it features the cream of Warner Bros. stock company including Ann Sheridan (with a bit to much time given over to her saloon numbers), Bruce Cabot, Frank McHugh, Alan Hale (one of 13 films he shared with Flynn), John Litel, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Victor Jory & Douglas Fowley.




   The somewhat simple plot (all around cowboy/adventurer Flynn is gradually goaded into cleaning up lawless frontier town) is fleshed out with various colorful characters as Flynn gradually perks the romantic interest of de Havilland while going against evil town boss Cabot. Flynn looks a bit uncomfortable in his western gear (he wears his gun like a child would a toy gun) but his charisma and overall likable cocky attitude more then make up for his western persona deficiencies (its always amusing in these how they insert into the plot the story of his round about trip from New Zealand or some such place to the American west).
    The movies features one of the all time great western saloon brawls, a burning runaway train climax and the scene where a befuddled Alan Hale goes to the temperance meeting is classic.





Monday, June 8, 2015

Richard Johnson July 30 1927 - June 6 2015

  

     English actor Richard Johnson passed this past Sat. at the age 87. With a career spanning 60 years he appeared in pretty much every genre and was producer Albert Broccoli's first choice for James Bond, but turned it down as he didn't want to be tied into a potential series. He did however appear in one my favorite James Bond homages - 1967's DEADLIER THEN THE MALE (which was just released this past week on blu-ray).
    Along with appearing in one of the greatest haunted house movies ever (THE HAUNTING from 1963) he also found a niche appearing in Italian horror moves in the 1970's such as the THE EXORCIST inspired BEYOND THE DOOR (1974), Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979) and THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979).
 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE 1945

 

    For some strange reason MGM has allowed 1945's THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE to languish in OOP purgatory for several years now. A DVD was released back in 2005, after which it disappeared surprisingly quick and now it goes for pretty outrageous prices on the secondary markets (this is one of the last laser discs I've held onto).
   An outstanding RKO "Hitchcockian" like thriller it stars Dorothy McGuire, George Brent and Ethel Barrymore (along with a scene stealing Elsa Lanchester), an eerie theremin score by Roy Webb and direction by Robert Siodmak in full German Expressionism overdrive. McGuire plays a deaf mute domestic servant in a creepy Victorian mansion (that's almost a character unto itself) while a serial killer lurks about the vicinity killing women suffering from physical afflictions.
  A triumph of set design, mood and atmosphere, its come to be regraded as a precursor to the Italian giallo thrillers of the 1970's (Dario Argento has mentioned it as one of his influences). Hopefully MGM will get off their collective butts and remedy this situation soon. At the very least licence it someone like Criterion, who's released in the past couple of years a growing collection of classic Hollywood films such as THE UNINVITED, I MARRIED A WITCH & SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Bruce Dern

   

   Very Happy Birthday wishes to Bruce Dern who was born 79 years today. A very unique and quirky actor who never fails to make in an impression no matter what the role is. He's had (which continues to this day) a pretty amazing career starting off in early 60's TV. moving on to A.I.P. stuff ( THE WILD ANGELS & PSYCH OUT), westerns (THE WAR WAGON, WILL PENNY & HANG "EM HIGH - where he invariably seemed to killed and/or had the crap kicked out of him by the likes John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in the 2nd or 3rd reel) and off beat 70's features such as KING OF MARVIN GARDENS, SILENT RUNNING and THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN.
   One of my favorite roles of his was in John Frankenheimer's under appreciated 1977 thriller BLACK SUNDAY. Playing a psychotic ex-navy blimp pilot, he's recruited by a terrorist organization to use the Goodyear blimp to explode thousands of steel darts into the Super Bowl. Dern (who's always at his best playing characters of questionable mental stability) plays the role alternating between an almost child like giddiness and scary psychopath. Also starring Robert Shaw as an Israeli intelligence agent and a terrific turn by Marta Keller as Dern's operative and handler, who while all the time realizing Dern is bat-shit crazy must alternately coddle and cajole him.



Monday, June 1, 2015

NAVAJO JOE Coming on Blu


    Kino Lorber has announced this Sergio Corbucci 1966 spaghetti western for release this Aug. Previously available in Germany on blu, this is one of the better "2nd tier" spaghetti westerns. Navajo Indian Burt Reynolds (with a really bad wig) vows revenge on a gang of outlaws who massacred his tribe and embarks on a one man killing spree all the while accompanied by a great Ennio Morricone score (one of my favorites of his).
   Allegedly Burt signed for this under the impression that this was to be a Sergio Leone project and tried to back out once he discovered it was Corbucci (oops -wrong Sergio). Producer Dino De Laurentiis was hoping to replicate the success of Leon's "Dollar" movies, so he hired another former American TV western actor and originally titled the film A DOLLAR A HEAD. Burt has often made fun of the movie, but its actually pretty good - its got Fernando Rey, the very beautiful Franca Polesello (who was also in the great Italian heist film GANGSTERS '70 from 1968) along with lots of killing, bloodshed (and Ennio Morricone !).