APES ON FILM: “If you are betrayed, endure.”—Kinji Fukasaku’s YAKUZA GRAVEYARD

Posted on: May 19th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Tetsuya Watari, Meiko Kaji, Tatsuo Umemiya, Kei Satô, Hideo Murota
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Radiance Films
Region: All
BRD Release Date: May 15, 2023
Audio Formats: Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (27.00 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Run Time: 97 minutes


Post World War II Japanese films, for the most part, either deal with Japan’s response to how that war ended for the country (Kaiju films for example), the nation’s relationship with its history of isolation (period Samurai films), or are heavily influenced by western filmmakers (Kurosawa films). What’s not so accessible are the films that contend with Japan’s more contemporary internal turmoil in the form of the often complicated and always violent yakuza films.

Kuroiwa gets an old friend for a new boss.

At the outset, it’s easy to equate yakuza with what we know about western gangsters and the mafia, but yakuza are a little more complex than those more traditional institutions. Yakuza’s origins date back to the mid-Edo period (1603-1868) and at that time, it was partitioned into two groups: tekiya who often peddled stolen goods, and bakuto who were notorious for their involvement in gambling. Later, the tekiya clans began participating in everyday commerce and would be formally recognized by the Edo government. The bakuto clans that consisted of much lower social classes would become more infamous for their association with illegal gambling.

To comprehend the dynamic of the relationships and unrest between the yakuza and the Japanese authorities in Kinji Fukasaku’s 1976 film YAKUZA GRAVEYARD, it’s important to understand the connection Japan has with these organizations. Yakuza consists mostly of lower financial and social class individuals, many of them of Korean and Chinese descent. Also, the legally gray status enjoyed by yakuza establishes a perplexing foundation that underscores the contentious circumstances amongst clans within the institution itself, its members, and the Japanese administration.

Tatsuo Umemiya as “Iwata.”

Fukasaku’s YAKUZA GRAVEYARD employs the organization’s vast and muddled history to its fullest extent, involving all the aforementioned conflicting elements that make the yakuza a rich, diverse venue for terrific and troubling character studies. While the plot of the film is incredibly dense and nearly impossible to keep up with – moving at a breakneck pace – the story centers on police detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari) who is caught between two warring clans: one in a weakened state and the other with connections to his police bosses. Kuroiwa, who is of Manchurian descent, is also haunted by his past in the form of a prostitute who he’s beholden to after having killed her pimp.

Relationships become even more fluid and problematic when Kuroiwa makes friends with the Nishida clan’s full-blooded Korean, Iwata (Tatsuo Umemiya), and a romantic connection with half-Korean Keiko (Meiko Kaji), a.k.a. Lady Snowblood), the wife of an imprisoned Nishida boss. On the work side of things, Lieutenant Hideaka (Hideo Murota), an old friend of Kuroiwa’s, becomes the detective’s direct supervisor, reporting to the police chief who has ties to the opposing Yamashiro family. Making matters even more volatile, Hideaka applies the pressure to Kuroiwa when it comes to undoing his new Nishida clan friends. All of this occurs inside an hour and a half with an ass-beating happening about every five minutes.

Meiko Kaji as “Keiko” administers drugs to Detective Kuroiwa.

The story is quite a bit to process, but viewers needn’t fret too much about that. This tale is all about the emotional beats. The plot unfolds in the grim, brooding performances of Tetsuya Watari and Meiko Kaji as they react to a world closing in on them with fewer and fewer places to maintain their loyalty. Being outsiders themselves, Kuroiwa and Keiko long to have a place to belong to, but with a police force that betrays not only Kuroiwa himself but also allies with the opposing clan of the one he’s become so close to, and Keiko being rejected by her imprisoned husband, the two find they only have each other to turn to.

YAKUZA GRAVEYARD is less about the mechanics of loyalty and betrayal and the brutal violence begat by those institutions, and ultimately about what allegiance means to a sector of minorities who only ever sought to be part of something. It’s a surprisingly tragic tale of a group of people that have otherwise always been considered interloping and unworthy of inclusion into broader society, and at every turn they take to belong to something—whether it be their job, their family, their marriage, or the very nation they live in—they are once again abandoned.

The violence in Fukasaku’s film arrives at regular intervals and typically in the form of good old fashioned unapologetically unchoreographed beatings that play almost cathartic to the dirty dealings happening between those brutal moments. Fukasaku’s handheld visual approach amplifies the knuckle-busting action and comes across as a release from, and a parallel to the anxiety felt by many of the film’s characters.

The world of the yakuza is familiar turf for director Fukasaku. Just a few years prior to YAKUZA GRAVEYARD, the filmmaker was responsible for the five films that make up the BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY series that chronicles real stories of the yakuza adapted from newspaper articles. Those movies, along with YAKUZA GRAVEYARD, are in the tradition of the “true account” films from Japan that are based on real events.

Tetsuya Watari as “Kuroiwa.”

Radiance Films presents YAKUZA GRAVEYARD in high definition on Blu-ray Disc. This limited edition release includes an interview with Japanese filmmaker Kazuya Shiraishi, The Rage and the Passion—a visual essay by critic Tom Mes, a promotional image gallery, and a 32-page booklet featuring writing from Mika Ko on the representation of Koreans in the yakuza film, and newly translated writing from the film’s screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara.

YAKUZA GRAVEYARD is a difficult story to connect with, not only because of how steeped it is in a very niche sector of modern Japanese urban culture, but also because of the pace at which it’s delivered. Clearly a film made almost exclusively for Japanese audiences, beneath the surface is a fundamental search for belonging that we can all relate to and sympathize with, and to get us there relies on our own understanding of human emotions. Highly recommended.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Apes On Film: Mystics and Phantoms and Creepers, Oh my! — Eureka Entertainment’s CREEPING HORROR Collection

Posted on: May 5th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


CREEPING HORROR – 1933 – 1946
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Randolph Scott, Charlie Ruggles, Rondo Hatton, Bela Lugosi, Dick Foran, Robert Lowery, Virginia Grey, Fay Helm, Leo Carrillo
Director: A. Edward Sutherland, Ford Beebe, George Waggner, Jean Yarbrough
Rated: Not rated
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Region: BBFC: 12
BRD Release Date: April 17, 2023
Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 263 minutes total runtime



You can turn on your TV to just about any channel today and hand pick your brand of depravity. Almost anything goes on basic cable and network TV isn’t far behind. But there was a time in entertainment when torture and wild animals was as shocking as the first bare ass on NYPD Blue. Of course, I’m talking about those rascally edge lords of pre-code Hollywood, where filmmakers worked relatively regulation-free in a cinematic Wild West.

And in the case of Eureka Entertainment’s CREEPING HORROR collection, the first film in the lineup is the pre-code 1933 film MURDERS IN THE ZOO, which opens with a man being hog-tied and having his mouth sewn shut for making out with the wife of wealthy big-game hunter Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill). And when Gorman isn’t grinding an axe over other men making eyes at his wife Evelyn (Kathleen Burke), he’s in the business of being the sole curator of a struggling zoo, bringing in his big game specimens for exhibition.

The zoo’s press agent Peter Yates (Charlie Ruggles) collaborates with Gorman to host a fundraising dinner where the local money can come and dine in the zoo surrounded by exhibits. The zoo’s new highly venomous mamba specimen is all the talk and works out conveniently for Gorman as he plots the murder of his wife’s latest fling, rich guy Roger Hewitt (John Lodge). Gorman secretly acquires the deadly mamba venom from zoo veterinarian Dr. Jack Woodford (Randolph Scott), and when Roger turns up dead at the fundraiser with a leg full of mamba venom, not a soul is the wiser; that is until Evelyn discovers the weird snakehead device in her husband’s office that leads Dr. Woodford to perform some astute detective work. It’s not long before everyone starts putting the pieces together about poor Mr. Hewitt’s demise.

The film clips along at a feverish pace, never really giving anyone time to ponder for very long about exactly how Gorman used his little snakehead device to kill Hewitt. Instead, MURDERS IN THE ZOO is more occupied with being wrapped up in its frantic narrative that will have hearts racing up to the feature’s final moments. The film’s pre-code tendencies also amp up the excitement, subverting any ideas we have about the quaintness of early filmmaking.

Randolph Scott’s Dr. Woodford is basically the hero of the film, but he’s about as much fun as a snakebite. However, very little could ever compete with Atwill’s abusive and squirmy performance as “third rail” guy Eric Gorman.

Pre-code Hollywood films always deliver some grisly goods typically with some violating sexual tension up to and including brief nudity as well as most likely the unethical use of exotic animals. It makes for some damn thrilling entertainment and not necessarily for what’s happening narratively, but in a “hold my beer” kind of way. The titillation of pre-code movies is in the unsavory things that would eventually come to be censored. If you cut out the horrific opening, Gorman’s lack of “Me Too” awareness, and the alligator feeding that drives the plot along, you don’t have much of a movie left.

MURDERS IN THE ZOO has just enough of a humorous streak to keep things light, and just enough shock to feel dangerous, making for easy thrills that let you go on about your day.



Italian giallo films are some of the very best instances of the old red herring trope. When they’re done right, you’ll never guess who the killer is, and the killer is almost always the person sitting in a wheelchair for the entire film. Throw in a lecherous, hulking limo driver, a creepy butler, a ghoulish gatekeeper, and a Middle Eastern mystic who can telepathically teleport dead bodies from the other side of the world, and the line between Universal horror and Italian giallo gets a little fuzzy. The difference here in Ford Beebe’s 1942 film NIGHT MONSTER is, it’s learned doctors who are turning up dead instead of pretty Italian girls.

NIGHT MONSTER packs a gothic estate full of colorful characters in what essentially amounts to a remake of the 1932 Warner Bros. horror classic DOCTOR X. In the film, the affluent and paraplegic Curt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) invites his team of doctors to his home to demonstrate a new exotic treatment that could allow him to walk once again. These unconventional methods are performed by the mysterious Agar Singh (Nils Asther) who falls into a trance and conjures a skeleton from a grave on the far side of the world. Singh suggests Ingston could employ these methods to eventually cure his paralysis.

In the meantime, Ingston’s nutty sister Margaret (Fay Helm) is seeing blood all over the house and blaming it all on unpleasant housekeeper Miss Judd (Doris Lloyd) while dead bodies are showing up at the nearby swamp; the scenario is not a good look for butler Rolf (Bela Lugosi) who spends most of his time slinking around the house and being nasty to the rest of the staff.

NIGHT MONSTER is a story that can’t help but be disjointed as it becomes a victim of its own convoluted plot. It may be hard to follow, but it’s important to trust your instincts—in spite of what it tries to tell you, you’ve likely guessed the killer by the second act. But regardless of its numerous characters and rambling structure, the film is soberly self-aware, making it the most fascinating and entertaining film in this set.

Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill get top billing, but don’t be fooled—their roles are mostly incidental and only briefly divert our suspicions. The cast overall seems charged with an angry, paranoid energy that goes against the fact that we’ve already guessed the killer at this point, but they fulfill their roles implicitly, holding true to the film’s spirit of mystery.

Films like this are always a pleasant surprise, and being one of the lesser Universal horror films, there’s no time like the present for audiences to discover or rediscover NIGHT MONSTER in all its deranged glory.



The old saying goes that a one-legged man knows the shortest distance between two places, and it’s peg-legged Tobias Clump (Leo Carrillo) who is the key to the fastest way between sailor Bill Martin (Dick Foran) and a twenty-million-dollar treasure in George Waggner’s 194 film HORROR ISLAND.

 Clump is rescued from drowning by Martin and his business partner “Stuff” Oliver (Fuzzy Knight) after being shoved into the ocean by a man known as The Phantom (Foy Van Dolsen) who’s been lurking about the local docks. Clump is in possession of a portion of a map that possibly leads to a hidden fortune that once belonged to notorious buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan. And Morgan’s treasure just so happens to be located in a castle on an island inherited by Martin, called “Morgan’s Island.”

After rejecting a twenty thousand dollar offer from his cousin George (John Eldredge) to purchase the island, Martin exercises his entrepreneurial spirit and concocts a plan to assemble an ensemble of treasure hunters at fifty bucks a pop to buy in to venture to the island and uncover Morgan’s riches. The Phantom man in tow becomes public enemy number one as bodies begin piling up upon arrival to Martin’s abandoned gothic abode.

The story culminates into the typical “old dark house” scenario as cast members begin dropping like flies leaving those who remain scratching their heads. Obviously The Phantom is the prime suspect, but no one really gets more than a glimpse of him. Just because a guy wants to run around in a black cloak and wide-brimmed hat may just make him stylish. It’s important to take stock of everyone’s reasons for being there in the first place: dirty pirate treasure. A number of red herrings throw Martin and company off the trail; including a sleepwalking professor and peg-leg tracks out in the yard that divert murderous blame to other members of the group.

HORROR ISLAND is certainly an exciting film, especially executed so efficiently within a brisk sixty-minute window, but the excitement falls tepid as reactions to dead bodies are consistently met with about as much concern as someone might have to finding a dead mouse. The lack of fright from the characters don’t exactly instill much fear in the rest of us murder mongers.

The big reveal comes as a bit of a surprise, but at that point, we’re no longer worried about anyone, and we’re just glad to be closing in on that sixty-minute mark.

Writers Maurice Tombragel and Victor McLeod inject a good amount of humor into the film, imbuing the narrative with a sense of farce that plays to the actors’ chemistries but there is almost no foreboding presence about the film. People are murdered and everyone goes about the business at hand.

HORROR ISLAND is no-pressure, light-hearted fun that borrows horror tropes to do almost nothing with them. While enjoyable and energetic, audiences shouldn’t expect anything more than sub-par Abbott and Costello business.



Eureka’s final film in the CREEPING HOROR set is arguably the most ambitious in terms of attempting to stake a claim amongst the likes of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN. Jean Yarbrough’s 1946 feature film HOUSE OF HORRORS sets up Rondo Hatton as The Creeper in what was supposed to be the character’s introduction for a series of films to fall in line with Universal’s legacy horror figures.

In the film, sculptor Marcel De Lange (Martin Kosleck) discovers Hatton’s Creeper floating in a river as the artist contemplates suicide upon having his recent expressionistic work coldly rejected by the big-time newspaper art critic F. Holmes Harmon (Alan Napier). De Lange laments to The Creeper about being at the mercy of critics like Harmon and expresses his desire to see the man be forced off this mortal coil. De Lange is also so taken with Hatton’s strangely striking visage, and commits to creating a larger than life-sized sculpt of the afflicted man. And as any murderous art subject is wont to do, The Creeper returns the favor by exacting De Lange’s death wishes on the local art critics that have made the lives of artists like himself and advertising creator Steve Morrow’s (Robert Lowery) a living hell.

From here, the film is basically a whodunit that the audience knows the answer to. Viewers will likely find the most thrills in the suspense of “who’s next” along with the thoughtful, confounding question of the muddled motives of The Creeper himself. Not to mention, Hatton cuts an alarming form, stealing every scene he’s in.

Sassy newspaper reporter Joan Medford (Virginia Grey) goes about sticking her nose in a lot of business to not only try to help out her pals De Lange and Morrow, but eventually to aid in apprehending the creeping killer who’s running all over town snapping the spines of art critics and pretty girls.

The film ends as troubling as one might expect. But the real tragedy is that The Creeper never had the chance to make his way in the Universal horror realm. Hatton previously portrayed The Creeper in Universal’s Sherlock Holmes picture THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944). It wasn’t until his appearance in HOUSE OF HORRORS that The Creeper was the star of the show. Hatton appeared as The Creeper once more in THE BRUTE MAN, released the same year as HOUSE OF HORRORS, but sadly passed away due to complications of his disfiguring condition, known as acromegaly, before either film saw the light of a projector bulb.

Hatton’s Creeper is certainly something to behold on screen. The laconic character’s stoic, stalking disposition is quite chilling, but the use of deformity as genre entertainment raises ethical concerns that today’s more sensitive audiences would find disapproving.

Screenwriter George Bricker moves the story along at an efficient pace, peppering the film’s vibrant characters with refreshingly florid, crackling dialogue, especially when compared to other Universal B-pictures of the day. After reporter Joan Medford defends her pal, artist Steve Morrow, F. Holmes Harmon rather eloquently and unpleasantly expresses his distaste for the man’s work while also berating the rest of society: “Unfortunately, the general public’s appreciation of art is limited to billboards and magazine covers. The morons wallow in a sea of girls, girls, unbelievably beautiful and well-proportioned girls.” We may cut The Creeper a little slack for offing this guy.

HOUSE OF HORRORS is also atypical of the early B-horror film because it seems to suggest a subtext regarding the contentious relationship between artists and their critics. The entire narrative is predicated on F. Holmes Harmon rejecting De Lange’s art. From there, art critics become the antagonist’s antagonist. It’s hard to call anyone besides Joan Medford a protagonist. Artist Steve Morrow seems to fit that role too along with the obligatory police detective, but Morrow is really only collaterally involved. The main characters, De Lange and The Creeper, have no morally redeemable motives whatsoever. The film is truly a psychotic, anti-hero story; De Lange is just a different version of a mad scientist with a “monster” at his disposal to help exact his every whim.

This film is a fascinating glimpse at a new Universal legacy character that never really had the chance to fully explore its potential. HOUSE OF HORRORS works as a different kind of horror tale that borrows a template from those that came before, but also attempts something even more chilling than the usual monster film. The Creeper is genuinely terrifying beyond his malformed appearance. He’s something that cannot be reasoned with and arguably one of the most menacing creations of the period.

Eureka Entertainment presents these four creepy classics on high-definition Blu-Ray in its two-disc CREEPING HORROR collection. Special features include trailers for each film and a limited-edition booklet with writing by Craig Ian Mann and Jon Towlson. Film author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman provide commentaries for NIGHT MONSTER and HOUSE OF HORRORS. And film historians Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby offer commentaries for MURDERS IN THE ZOO and HORROR ISLAND. The set is packaged in a limited-edition slipcover.

Universal sought relentlessly to recapture the spirit of horror so prevalent in films like FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA in the years following those films, and did so with varying degrees of success. Eureka’s CREEPING HORROR collection is a refreshing sampling of films that endure within the Universal horror legacy.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: (UN)Faithfull Traveler – Adorable Nihilism in THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE

Posted on: Apr 13th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Alain Delon , Marianne Faithfull , Roger Mutton , Marius Goring
Director: Jack Cardiff
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: 12/13/2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 1595 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz /16-bit
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD from new 4K Master
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 91 minutes


Stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place – i.e., after the French cinema verité/new wave filmmaking swept cinema and before the auteur revolution became popularized by the success of EASY RIDER (1969), Jack Cardiff’s THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE seems a wan, “also ran” exercise in youth-oriented filmmaking from someone who had little understanding of the culture he was attempting to portray. Cardiff began his career in the camera department and became a top level cinematographer with films like THE RED SHOES, THE BRAVE ONE, and DEATH ON THE NILE. His transition to directing yielded several gems like SONS AND LOVERS and DARK OF THE SUN. This film was (by Cardiff’s own admission) hatchet-ed by the American censors, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole story, as the 54-year-old-at-the-time director clearly made some bad decisions himself in shooting it.

Rebecca (Faithfull) is a young, petulant newlywed who simply cannot stand the passiveness of her husband Raymond (Mutton) for a moment longer and decides to leave him for her older lover Daniel (Delon), a rogue of a literary professor with whom she’s been having a torrid affair since before her marriage. Daniel is a man damaged by a past relationship who acts out his anger with Rebecca, and cares not a whit for her otherwise. Traveling between her home in Orleans and Daniel’s in Heidelberg on the powerful motorcycle that Daniel gave her as a wedding present, Rebecca reflects on the journey that brought her to leave Raymond and forsake her life of reasonable comfort for what she knows will be an ecstasy of pain with Daniel.

My problems with the film are myriad; there’s no protagonist. It’s really hard to care about a character who is a self-described “silly bitch,” and revels in rubbing her husband’s face in her affair with another man who loathes her. Raymond is a cuckold, Daniel a narcissist. With whom should the viewers identify? Someone should have told Cardiff that there’s no such thing as adorable nihilism. Throughout the film, Rebecca engages in fantasies, flashbacks, and dreams which include circus horse acrobatics, strenuous snow skiing, and motorcycle riding – all potentially dangerous but thrilling pursuits – yet we only ever see Faithfull in a small handful of shots actually doing any of this herself. She’s either being photographed on a camera tow car, in process shots, rear projection, or a stunt double is used. This is an analog for Rebecca; she wants an exciting, danger-filled life but is too much of a coward to actually commit to the experiences. She internalizes all of her loathing and desire throughout the film, shared with the viewer via voiceovers. Another gripe: the sex (and some dream sequence) scenes shift into low resolution solarized posterization visual effects, doubtless in order to hide the more explicit nature of the shots. This effect was contextually current for the time, but became a cliché almost immediately and now just seems quaint.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray presentation of THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE is sourced from a brand new 4K scan, and looks very good for the most part. There are some issues with the solarized effects as stated – they seem lower resolution and have more artifacts than the rest of the picture. Some detail is soft in scenes, but this may be the intent of the cinematographer. Audio is reasonable, well mixed, and robust for the musical score if not the whole film. Dialog was certainly dubbed in post-production, and a bit distracting occasionally. Extras on the disc include a legacy commentary from director Cardiff with a lot of very interesting reminiscences of making the film and the challenges he faced in conveying Rebecca’s stream of consciousness. A new commentary from author and film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas delves more into the nuances of feminism and the biker film genre. Both are worth a listen. Also included is the theatrical trailer and several others.

Is THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE a classic or a misstep? It’s lovely to look at, as is its star, Marianne Faithfull. I can say that it’s certainly provocative, and a film that any viewer will hold a strong opinion about. Whether that opinion is positive or negative is subjective, of course.




Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Retro Fan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: One Million Dollars an Hour—The High Price of Living in THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE

Posted on: Mar 30th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman
Director: Joseph Sargent
Rated: R
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Region: Region Free 4K Ultra HD disc, Region A Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: December 20, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit); English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Run Time: 104 minutes


There’s a remarkable efficiency to the traditional hijack film; everyday people going about their everyday business, suddenly find themselves at the mercy of a few greedy, entitled, weaponized maniacs. This scenario presents a most basic and human conflict that requires little backstory or explanation of motives. It’s a thrill of disruption we can all relate to and hopefully only ever view from a vicarious stance. Joseph Sargent’s 1974 feature THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE is textbook hijacking that tasks one of the world’s largest transportation authorities with the simple job of coughing up a million bucks for eighteen lives.

Based on the novel by John Godey (aka Morton Freedgood), the plot is as basic as a hijacking plot needs to be: Robert Shaw’s Mr. Blue and his three blandly color-coded partners descend upon a New York City subway train, dressed alike and armed with machine guns, ready to bill the City a million in cash for an hour of their time at the cost of a handful of voters lest the money be delivered one minute past the time allotted; then it’s one body per minute until the bounty arrives. The MTA savvy Mr. Green (Balsam) is essential in helping facilitate communications and mechanics while hot-headed Mr. Gray (Elizondo) and quiet Mr. Brown (Hindman) run crowd control on the single car of eighteen people the men have separated from the rest of the train. Between telling people to “shyaaad-up” back at NYC Transit Police Headquarters, Lieutenant Zachary Garber (Matthau) does his damnedest to negotiate with the inflexible Mr. Blue and his very specific demands.

What plays out is not only the rescue of eighteen innocent people but evidence of the power a handful of thugs can have over one of the biggest cities in the world. The math doesn’t add up. The problem isn’t gun-toting ruffians with dollar signs in their eyes (those types are forever ubiquitous); the problem is a city on the brink with major money troubles and a crumbling infrastructure. All it takes is four armed men to bring the entire town to its knees.

New York City is its own worst enemy in this film. City authorities are complacent, lazy, and in the case of the mayor (Lee Wallace) who is sick in bed, downright fearful. Mr. Blue and Mr. Green are pulling the city’s strings, while Mayor “Mr. Yellow”—wrapped in yellow blankets and pajamas—frets over a paltry million dollars (a little over six million in 2023 dollars) as he watches game shows from his bedroom in Gracie Mansion. Meanwhile the Transit Police remain nonplussed by the subterranean standoff, and lest we forget the undercover officer on the train who only reveals himself at the last minute, even then of little help. It’s the bureaucratic stranglehold of civic duty that results in the singular heroic act of the film from motorman Caz Dolowicz (Tom Pedi) who charges headlong into the fray, and pays the ultimate price for a city who can’t get its act together. Its gross mismanagement demands a different set of priorities from its servants making Dolowicz indifferent to the hijacking. “I’m warnin’ you, mister, that’s city property you’re fooling around with!” Dolowicz shouts to Mr. Gray. “Why didn’t you go grab a goddamn airplane like everybody else?”

Heroics aside, it’s the fear of a teeming, displeased public at large that scares the mayor into finally handing over the ransom money. Desperate more for acceptance than a solution, the mayor’s wife eloquently puts things in perspective for him by noting that paying the ransom ultimately means “18 sure votes.” And as the mayor agonizes over marginal votes and petty cash, Police are gathered at subway entrances to not only aid in apprehending the hijackers, but to control the angry crowds for when the mayor finally arrives on scene.

Cooler heads prevail… sort of. While Misters Blue, Green, Grey, and Brown cripple the entire city, Lieutenant Garber is literally all colors as indicated by his multicolored plaid shirt. And while also a byproduct of poor city management—note the obnoxious yellow tie around his neck—he eventually casts his bureaucratic nature asunder and realizes a few simple lies to the hijackers will buy everyone a little more time.

New York City administration fumbles its way through the entire movie. Even as the cash is being delivered, police are subject to the city’s natural disorder and must contend with traffic issues and car accidents. They get no dispensation for being the authority. The police are as much at the mercy of the city as the city is at the mercy of Mr. Blue and his cohorts.

You won’t find a cast of such grizzled performers anywhere else so perfect for 1970s New York. Shaw, Matthau and company have been through the wars and are the brutal sages from the days when old men still ran barber shops. They don’t make ‘em like those guys anymore.

And how can we forget that pounding, iconic David Shire score that is New York itself transformed into sound. Shire evokes structure amongst chaos with a jazzy funk that echoes the turbulent city we see on film. The singular riff that bangs out the credits almost sings to us, “ONE, TWO, THREE.”

Kino Lorber presents THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE on 4K UHD disc. The 4K features a brand new commentary from film historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson. This single new supplement is also included on the Blu-ray Disc in the set which contains the original bonus features from Kino’s 2016 home video release.

The film bets big on the entertainment value of regular people in trouble who are counting on an unreliable system to bail them out. It’s a visceral conceit that transcends crazy people, loaded weapons, and irresponsible civics, and appeals to the simple desire of going about our business and the power that authorities have to ensure that freedom. An amazing film, a great presentation. Recommended!




When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Ne me quitte pas — Maneaters and the Men Who Love Them in Kino Lorber’s FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION

Posted on: Mar 16th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


4 out of 5 Bananas
: Jean Gabin, Marcel Bozzuffi, Annie Giradot, Gérard Oury, Jeanne Moreau, Philippe Nicaud, Lino Ventura, Franco Fabrizi, Sandra Milo
: Gilles Grangier, Édouard Molinaro
: Not rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: November 29, 2022
Audio Formats: French: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1, 1.37:1, 1.33:1
Run Time:  300 minutes total


Noir flicks are usually good for scratching a moody itch. Style is the name of the game, typically supplemented by some oozy shadows, a girl in trouble, and a private detective who says stuff like, “dame” and “broad.” Take all that and put a French spin on it, and you’ll be surprised at how unsettling the combo can be. The folks at Kino Lorber put this mix to the test with their new FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION featuring three parables of unsavory deeds that’ll exploit your emotions and reveal your own darkest allegiances in the face of infidelity.

Gilles Grangier’s LE ROUGE EST MIS (1957) (a.k.a. SPEAKING OF MURDER) is a pretty standard caper at the outset. It’s got the usual set of heavies, their hideouts, stashes of guns, and getaway cars. Louis Bertain (Jean Gabin) and his crew know their business to a T: get in, get the money, get out, change the plates on the car, hide the guns, etc. Louis even has a garage business that works as a great cover and gives him access to any number of vehicles. And while Louis may be a hulking, middle-aged grumpy gut, he still lives with his mother (who may or may not be around the same age), and he’s incensed to learn that his cuckold brother Pierre (Marcel Bozzuffi) is still fooling around with two-timing floozy Hélène (Annie Girardot) the hairdresser who is only interested in him for his promise of fur coats and all that entails.

Les Rouge Est Mis (1957)

Sure there’s another caper to be had in this film, but the story is Louis’ intervening in his brother’s relationship. Louis goes out of his way to woo Hélène away from work to not only vet her gold-digging tendencies, but to also threaten her to keep away from his baby brother. But should Pierre find out that Louis is spooking his girl, Pierre may turn out to be the authorities’ best informant regarding a string of robberies happening in and around Paris.

If it wasn’t written by French crime novelist Auguste Le Breton (Rififi), Le Rouge Est Mis — which translates directly as The Red Light is On — could easily be a bedroom farce or an episode of Frasier. This film is wildly entertaining from start to finish, and the rate at which the narrative unfolds is atypical of what most would consider “film noir.” Cinematographer Louis Page doesn’t go all-in for the noir look, but presents the film the only way the story will allow — quick and to-the-point, never exhibiting any of the usual noir flair involving deep shadows, dark alleyways, and convenient window treatments.

Beyond lacking the usual noir tropes, the heart of this movie is less interested in thrilling with swashbuckling robberies and daring-do, but is rather more compelled to appeal to audiences’ frustrations regarding family business — as in not minding one’s own. Louis’ inevitable downfall doesn’t necessarily occur by way of mouthy informant, but by his need to protect his brother from the dangers of a bloodsucking Jezebel. The thieving and murdering and evading the cops suddenly doesn’t seem so bad and it’s the business with Hélène that sticks in your craw. The opportunistic hussy is where the noir lives in this film, and it’s the distraction included that throws Louis off his game that causes him to miss the rat right under his nose.

Louis Bertain may be good at what he does, but even the best crooks are susceptible to complications beyond simply being chased by the cops. Any expectations for a moody noir thriller are swept away with Italian-esque expediency to reveal a narratively infuriating denouement where the only score to be had is made of astrakhan.

Le Dos Au Mur (1958)

Few things are as satisfying as witnessing a man execute an elaborate blackmailing scheme on his cheating spouse. In Édouard Molinaro’s 1958 film LE DOS AU MUR (BACK TO THE WALL), Jacques Decrey (rard Oury) plays a vengeful long game against his wife Gloria (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover Yves (Philippe Nicaud) after quietly busting them being more than friends upon his early arrival home from a hunting trip. Jacques proceeds to squeeze the bedswerving pair for money (some of it his own) posing as one of his former employees, and does it all while keeping a straight face at home. He may come across as a cuckold to some, but Jacques has balls of steel, and his endgame isn’t what you think.

Jacques’ resolve appears obvious at the beginning of the film as he is seen silently and meticulously disposing of a man’s body by encasing it inside a concrete wall being constructed at the factory he runs. What proceeds is the events leading up to this macabre scenario told in flashback.

What LE ROUGE EST MIS lacked in noir stylings, LE DOS AU MUR more than makes up for, at times leaning into the gothic with thick inky shadows, dense fog, and an unexplained, but strikingly poetic, voice-over narration. Based on his novel, co-writer Frédéric Dard’s blackmailing plot gets pretty confusing later in the film, but at that point, it’s less about the journey and more about the destination. And with a story so well-executed, viewers can trust that a satisfying (though tragic) resolution is on the way.

There are secrets and then there’s confidentiality, and it’s important to know the difference. Jacques goes the distance when it comes to confidentiality — he never has to explain what he’s up to, and it’s what keeps his covert deeds somewhat redeemable. He’s simply not talking. But as far as adulterous lovers go, secrets are essential, especially when you’re hawking your own jewelry to keep your blackmailer’s mouth shut. Ultimately, silence is where it’s at, and it’s imbedded into this film right from the start as the opening credits roll over a hushed car ride to the apartment where Jacques has located Gloria’s classified companion. Ironically, even silence has devastating consequences as eventually confidentiality and secrets are revealed without anyone ever uttering a word.

Director Édouard Molinaro’s noir stylings return in this set’s final film, UN TEMOIN DANS LA VILLE (1959) (WITNESS IN THE CITY), and infidelity is the catalyst for murder yet again, except this time the situation is exacerbated by a rejected cab ride.

Un Temoin Dans La Ville (1959)

The film begins with a woman being thrown from a train. We soon learn she was ejected from the speeding locomotive by her lover Pierre (Jacques Berthier) who is acquitted of the murder minutes into the film. Authorities are led to believe the woman committed suicide and Pierre walks home a free man; waiting for him there to settle the score is his lover’s husband Ancelin (Lino Ventura) who is all set to exact the perfect murder when the cab Pierre called moments before, arrives to find no Pierre. From this point on a relentless blood hunt ensues as Ancelin prowls the streets of Paris tracking down the cabbie Lambert (Franco Fabrizi) who may suspect his foul play.

The film goes big on the usual noir tropes, exchanging voice-over narrative for a cool jazzy score. And much of the story takes place at night and on many a wild car chase through dim-lit Parisian streets. The camaraderie amongst the cab crew is infectious exposition. The hardscrabble gang of chauffeurs becomes a lovable union of pals we’re all rooting for by the end as they rally to stop the maniacal Ancelin. At that point Ancelin has shown his true colors and we care less about his getting away with a revenge killing and more about seeing Lambert and his girl Lilliane (Sandra Milo) run off and get married.

Molinaro’s film successfully manipulates the viewer’s emotions, at first convincing the audience of a satisfying revenge killing that eventually shifts our allegiance from the murderer to a pair of lovebirds who dominate the tale. And as Ancelin reveals his bloodthirsty ways, some may even begin to question how sordid the film’s opening really was, becoming unsure of what they truly witnessed, and dubious of any feelings about the vindictive murder that Ancelin was set to get away with.

Kino Lorber presents these three films in its FRENCH NOIR COLLECTION on high-definition Blu-ray Disc. Trailers for each of the films are the only special features. It’s a crime that the extras are so scant in this set; these films are rich enough in style and theme to at least be worthy of a few commentaries if only for insightful observation.

The prospect of French film noir may summon some snoozy reactions, but these movies are anything but. From bombastic robberies and their daring getaways to cuckolded husbands and their nefarious labyrinthine schemes of revenge, Kino’s collection is a surprise trio of refreshingly twisted and thoughtful tales of crimes of the heart.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Dreams of Midnight Men — The Expressionism and Influence of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI

Posted on: Feb 28th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.






5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover
Director: Robert Wiene
Rated: Not rated
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Region: Region Free
BRD Release Date: December 5, 2022
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, LPCM 2.0
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 78 minutes


In the last decade, it seems like anything in film that’s a little weird or unsettling gets slapped with the label of being “Lynchian,” as in David Lynchian. But if you do your homework, you’ll find out that what those people really mean to say is “expressionistic,” which not only sounds less like someone trying to be the coolest person in the room, but is also closer to the actual truth.

While German Expressionism only has a short tenure in the timeline of art history (lasting from around 1910 until the mid-1920s), filmmakers continue to refer to it today, constantly finding new and exciting ways to disturb us. The reality is that anything in film that’s given us the wim-wams in the past century or so most likely has the psychological frustration of a socio-economically battered war-torn country to thank. And those films that so adequately evoke troubling nightmarish moods are particularly indebted to Robert Wiene’s 1920 expressionist masterpiece, named by Roger Ebert as the first horror film, DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI (THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI).

What Caligari (Werner Krauss) is a doctor of, we don’t really know at first. His title suggests a level of expertise beyond the common man that permits him to do things like set up at the local fair with his somnambulist sideshow partner Cesare (Conrad Veidt) and solicit people to ask the sleepwalker spooky questions like “How long will I live?” only to receive frightening answers like, “Till the break of dawn.” According to Caligari, Cesare is twenty-three years old and has been asleep for his entire life, awakened only in short spells to exhibit his clairvoyant proclivities to the morbidly curious masses. Oddly enough, Caligari and Cesare’s arrival in the German town of Holstenwall, where our story takes place, conveniently coincides with a string of mysterious murders that include one victim who had been particularly inquisitive about his own fate.

The story unravels in a bit of a cat-and-mouse fashion that culminates in the lead character Franzis (Friedrich Feher) following Caligari to an insane asylum where it is revealed that the doctor is a madman executing a grand experiment in murder. Or is he? The narrative is made all the more refreshingly grim by the framing story that sets up Franzis as the narrator, subsequently suggesting that the account of Dr. Caligari is Franzis’ own mad ravings. This insinuation is fortified by the wild, dreamlike sets and makeup that form the world Franzis speaks of, tying the film up with a big expressionistic bow.

Franzis may be the one telling the story, but it’s Caligari who is in charge of what happens. Whether Caligari is the maniacal mad scientist experimenting with the extremely pliable will of a somnambulist, or the seemingly benevolent asylum director, the film’s conclusion belongs to the doctor either way. And whatever audiences choose to believe about the movie’s final seconds, the doctor — and in this case, the authority — is never held accountable for the actions of which he is accused. Although film scholars throughout history theorize that THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is a reflection and a comment on the authoritarianism that ran rampant in Germany through World War I, screenwriters Carl Mayer and Hans Janowitz claimed no conscious parallel was made to the context of the sociopolitical state of Germany at that time.

Whatever the contextual case may be, a kind of statement on the abuse of authority is apparent, imparting upon audiences the dire consequences inflicted upon those in its wake — in this case, a state of unbalance and disorder as reflected in the movie’s expressionistic style. The people are at the mercy of their leadership, and some are “Cesares” that are manipulated into enacting the questionable will of those in charge, and some are “Alans” and “Franzises” who wind up dead or insane as a result of unhinged corruption and desire for control.

When Franzis is first seen telling his account of Dr. Caligari, his audience is an elderly man who appears half awake as his eyelids droop and his eyes roll back in his head. A case can be made that the story we see unfold in the expressionistic realm isn’t from inside Franzis’ head but rather the dreams of the man to which he’s telling the story. The thematic implications are the same, but the idea that the story seen could be from either man’s mind provides the audience with a maddened experience shared with the characters in the film. We are as baffled by how the story is told as by the story itself. The entire narrative becomes fluid by the end of the movie, as multiple resolutions from multiple perspectives become possible. It is pure subjectivity, and the experience is as unsettling as the imagery of the film itself. And of all art movements, expressionism arguably relies the most on the subjectivity of its participants.

The film’s striking imagery and unnerving narrative combine in a moment of ghastly perfection when Cesare eerily creeps into the home of Jane Olsen (Lil Dagover) — Franzis’ love interest — as she sleeps. Cesare, in a strange bit of action with his gaunt, ghostlike performance, removes part of Jane’s windowpane and stalks through her bedroom with a knife in his hand, intent on murdering her as she sleeps. The sequence plays out at an ominous and lengthy pace, and is the most haunting and immediately threatening moment in the film. The scene is a sublime instance of the beauty and beast dynamic that will drive the motivations of monsters for decades to come.

Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema imprint presents THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI on 4K UHD. This presentation is the same as the Blu-ray release from 2014, with a few notable new features. Eureka’s limited-edition set includes a 100-page booklet, exclusive box art, a new commentary by film historians Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons, and a new score by composer Uwe Dierksen and Hermann Kretzschmar. And for anyone needing a crash course in Weimar Era art history, look no further than the 52-minute documentary “Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War” included in this set. Other features include a video essay by film critic David Cairns and an interview with film critic and author Kim Newman.

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI is so influential, and continues to be, that to see it for the first time now presents nothing “new.” It’s tropes and imagery have been referenced for over a century in films. And whether filmmakers realize they’re cribbing this movie or borrowing from some other influence, the truth is that all roads lead to CALIGARI. Expressionism, Impressionism, post punk, goth, Lynchian, whatever you want to call it, this film is more than the result of an art movement, it is a movement in and of itself inspiring multiple genres across generations. It is ground zero for filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and David Lynch, and punk rock would be remiss to not acknowledge appropriating elements of its disjointed, gloomy aesthetic.

CALIGARI’s timeless effect is the result of our response to it. It burrows into our brains and knows right where to hit us. It knows how to trick us in the ways we want to be tricked without ever cannibalizing its narrative. CALIGARI, rather grows its narrative with the questions it conjures within us. It knows unanimously what gives us the willies, suggesting its moral superiority, and alleging our own proclivities for depravity. It never tells us what to think, but rather infers what we might. Through its audience, the film perpetuates its own existence, and over a hundred years later, we remain astounded by its purity and perplexed by its moral accuracy.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

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APES ON FILM: Restored Martians Invade!

Posted on: Feb 15th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.




4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Helena Carter , Arthur Franz , Jimmy Hunt , Leif Erickson , Morris Ankrum
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Ignite Films
Region: A
BRD Release Date: December 16, 2022 – Also available on 4K UHD
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 78 minutes


In 1953, the “Red Scare” was in full swing and Hollywood got busy processing the zeitgeist through filters of monster attacks, giant bug infestations, and alien invasions on film. Anti-communist sentiment was seeping into every aspect of life, and the cold war mentality became de rigeur for Americans of all ages. One thing we could all depend on was that the government, police, military, and especially our parents had our best interests in mind and stood ready to protect us from all comers, right? Right?

Not in INVADERS FROM MARS. Director William Cameron Menzies’ take on mid-century anti-commie allegory scared the bejesus out of every kid that sat through a film house matinee on a Saturday, saw it on television years later, and even – I have to admit – watched a high definition restored Blu-ray of it as an adult.

Little David (Jimmy Hunt) MacLean wakes up during a storm at night to see an eerie green flying saucer land behind a hill in a field beyond his backyard. Father Leif Erickson goes to investigate and disappears. When he returns, it’s clear he has been… turned. He swats David for back-talking, stares sternly into the middle distance just beyond the camera, and can hardly wait to take his wife out to the field so that she can be turned as well. As David tries to warn his neighbors, the buried saucer, and its alien crew, suck more and more of them under the sand, including the Chief of Police and other authority figures.

Menzie’s dreamy production design (which the film comes by honestly) is a wonder unto itself. Supersaturated colors cast the impressionist sets into a chiaroscuro landscape right out of a Gustave Doré etching. Infinity ceilings and impossibly long hallways accentuate the clutching panic that grows for David as everyone he turns to for help has already become “the enemy.” Eventually, he is believed by social worker Carter and astronomer Franz who rally the troops to assault the alien invaders.

It’s not hard to see the kind of impact this film had on young viewers, many of whom grew into young adults in the mid-1960s and changed the world by questioning authority and speaking truth to power here in America. It may as well have been the seed planted for many members of the counterculture, and if so, Menzies’ powers of suggestion were greater than he ever knew. An illustrator and designer who worked on many classic films with his name above the credits, INVADERS FROM MARS is his master work as a director.

Ignite Films pulled out all the stops for their presentation of the film on Blu-ray (and 4K UHD), starting with a truly impressive restoration from the surviving original film elements and even a few scenes from dupe prints for a new 4K scan. The picture has never looked so good, with saturation and film grain balanced well, and black levels well stabilized. The Master Audio mono sound mix is robust and translates both music, dialog, and sound effects nicely. Supplemental materials are abundant with featurettes on the restoration, interviews with Hunt and others, a round table style discussion with film directors John Landis, Joe Dante, editor Mark Goldblatt , special visual effects artist and two time Oscar Winner Robert Skotak (foremost expert on the film), and enthusiast and film preservationist Scott MacQueen, and much more including a twenty page booklet written by MacQueen. My copy even came with a pin-back button of the head (literally) Martian!

This package elevates Ignite Films to a new level in the pantheon of media distributors. Here’s hoping its success spurs them on to other such projects. INVADERS FROM MARS is my choice for restoration of the year for 2022.



Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.


Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: The Young and the Hunchback: The Role of the Underdog in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME

Posted on: Feb 7th, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.




4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Lon Chaney, Patsy Ruth Miller, Norman Kerry, Branson Hurst, Ernest Torrence
Director: Wallace Worsley
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Region: 2K Blu-Ray: Region B – UK & Ireland
BRD Release Date: October 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA. Silent with musical score
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 100 minutes


Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? And what’s a good underdog story without a little bullying? In most cases, the misfit with the outlying idiosyncrasy is picked on by some equivalent of the captain of the football team, and by the end of the film, the narrative takes a turn, and the hardscrabble hero emerges victorious. You can see it coming a mile a way, but the comeback story is always entertaining because we love to see “losers” win. What does that say about us? Whether they’re a weirdo, an eccentric, a screwball, or a maverick, we somehow relate to the struggles of the odd person out.

The thrill of the underdog narrative has been a staple of storytelling since the beginning of time — see also, the Gospels. It’s hard to pin down when and where this brand of entertainment began at large, but it’d be easy to assume Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris was one of the earliest. Better known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo’s novel originally focused on an array of characters around the famous church, but over time became the more specific story of the deformed cathedral bellringer and his rise to tragic heroism.

Universal Picture’s 1923 film wasn’t the first motion picture adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but it was the first time a film featured Quasimodo (Lon Chaney) as the main character. Despite actor Lon Chaney’s passion and involvement in the making of the feature, the character of the Hunchback still seems to have to fight for top billing amongst a long list of cast members. At its heart, this version The Hunchback of Notre Dame is Esmeralda’s story.

With more plot than you can shake a stick at, Universal’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is the outrageous story of a Romani woman being kidnapped several times by various scheming and incompetent men. The basic premise is along the lines of a really juicy soap opera, falling just short of shocking resurrection (though this film nearly contains a parallel for it when a man thought dead, isn’t).

The story bobs and weaves across a variety of kidnapping attempts behind motives that, aside from the good old fashioned cheating suitor, are never clearly explained. In the end, the only male in the film who performs as anything resembling a hero, is the hunchback bellringer Quasimodo when he rescues Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller) and offers her sanctuary inside Notre Dame as a legion of vagrants mount an attack on the massive cathedral.

The motivation for Quasimodo’s compassion emerges from Esmeralda’s respect for him. She’s the one person who treats him with sympathy and kindness after he’s bullied and lashed before a crowd of people as he’s crowned King of the Fools. Quasimodo’s heroism comes as a refreshing take on the traditional rescue. His motives aren’t steeped in love, lust, or romance, much less any sort of bravado, but rather grounded in kindness.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME premiered in the height of the silent film era. It’s excessive plot requires an amount of patience and attention. The prospect of watching a silent film these days is usually met with a degree of respectful apprehension. One must prepare for the event of watching a silent film. The idea that only music will be present to guide viewers through actually paying attention to the action as the occasional narrative insert moves the story along is an embarrassingly relatable assertion. That said, audiences will be relieved to know that the film clips along at a cracking pace. In fact, its convoluted narrative is almost too much for the mildly toilsome process of watching a silent film. So much happens in such a short amount of time that the story becomes a little confusing to follow, but the execution is a testament to the film’s efficiency.

Audiences will find any other silent film apprehensions swiftly abated upon the appearance of Lon Chaney’s Quasimodo and the enormous, lavish set pieces that dress the film. The Hunchback was a passion project of Chaney’s that he’d sought to get off the ground for several years. His performance as the cathedral chimera evokes a tangible grotesqueness that is as visually off-putting to the audience as it is to the people who seek to abuse him for his deformities. Chaney additionally applied his own makeup and likely acted as director for much of the film. Wallace Worsley is credited as director but only after Chaney’s original choice, Erich von Stroheim, was fired by Universal chief Irving Thalberg before production even started. Some have suggested that Worsley was merely a craftsman who managed production while Chaney directed the performances.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME is presented in high-definition on Blu-ray Disc from Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema imprint. The disc boasts a 4K restoration of a 16mm print, a haunting score by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum and Laura Karpman, and a new audio commentary by author and critic Kim Newman and author Stephen Jones. Two new featurettes with Newman and film historian Jonathan Rigby provide a wealth of insight into the history of The Hunchback on film as well as Universal’s 1923 production.

The role of the underdog is a thankless one. In the case of Quasimodo, it’s quite tragic. And in what is otherwise a pretty kooky plot, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME not only appeals to our need to see the bullies get what’s coming to them, but doubly satisfies with terrific spectacle and charismatic performances.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM: Mars Ain’t the Kinda Place…

Posted on: Jan 24th, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Faye Dunaway , Tommy Lee Jones , Brad Dourif , Rene Auberjonois , Raul Julia
Director: Irvin Kershner
Rated: R
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: October 18, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 103 minutes


With a screenplay by John Carpenter and David Zelag Goodman  and a cast featuring one recent and one future Academy Award™ winner as well as several multiple-time nominees, EYES OF LAURA MARS should be a classic of the thriller genre, a notable pin on the map of suspense films. So why isn’t it? Producer Jon Peters and director Irvin Kershner. This is a film made by a hairdresser with a big-shot girlfriend and his yes man, and it shows.

Which is not to say that either of them never improved or did better work; on the contrary. Peters went on to produce many great films, and Kershner went on to direct better films. Eyes was Peters’ second film as producer, after mega-hit A STAR IS BORN (1976), so he might be forgiven a bit of brash egotism after being given carte blanche by the studio for his next effort. As he matured into the role of executive producer, his work improved and includes AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), RAIN MAN (1988), and BATMAN (1989). Kershner was at the beginning of a string of films for which he was hired specifically for his reputation for pliability and his willingness to let strong-willed producers take the reins. His follow-ups for this picture were STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for George Lucas and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN for Kevin McClory. He spent the final years of his career directing television and the lackluster ROBOCOP 2 (1990).

The duo’s faults are evident in self-indulgent story choices, stilted performances from a stellar cast, ham-fisted attempts at creating suspense, endless exposition scenes, and a hand-wave of a plot device – Mars “sees” murders of her friends and colleagues through the eyes of the killer, psychically – that’s never questioned nor explained. I’m certain the screenplay was a taut thriller and it might have been done justice by a more experienced producer and a director like Brian De Palma, at the height of his powers in 1978. As it stands, what we get is a soggy mess of a disco era mystery that mystifies the viewer, with protagonists who are far less interesting than the supporting characters. The most watchable and entertaining people in the film are Rene Auberjonois as Mars’ manager Donald, and Darlanne Fluegel  as doomed model Lulu. The photographic tableaus by Helmut Newton are dazzling as well.

Kino Lorber’s presentation of the movie on Blu-ray seems a bit of shovel-ware, to be honest. Sourced from an existing master that’s been released twice already by competitors, the picture has some issues with color and contrast balance, especially in darker scenes. Film grain bloom is distractingly evident. The single audio track is quite good, and in fact seems better than the one included on the disc released by Mill Creek Entertainment in 2019. Though listed as a “Special Edition” on the Kino website, the only special features on this single disc are a legacy commentary by Kershner (natch, as he passed away in 2010), a making-of featurette from 1978, a featurette with commentary on the photographs in the film, and trailers. Not a very special edition at all.

EYES OF LAURA MARS has a pedigree that should have delivered a better viewing experience, and Kino Lorber has a reputation for releasing better product than this. It’s hard not to be disappointed on all levels by this presentation. Give it a pass.




Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.


Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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Mischief Managed! Harry Potter: The Exhibition Brought This Muggle Back to the Magical Days of Young Adulthood

Posted on: Jan 17th, 2023 By:

Peek into the magical world of Hogwarts in immersive exhibits such as the entrancing Divination chamber at Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Photo by Randi Tucker.

Review by Randi Tucker
Contributing Writer

For adults who loved the Harry Potter books in the 1990s and were spellbound by the movies in the 2000s (and for their kids who are getting to know them now), HARRY POTTER: THE EXHIBITION is a must-see-and-do experience in Atlanta. But hurry, the magic only happens through February 28, and starting January 17, take advantage of buy-one, get-one-free tickets on Tuesdays.

Billed as “a groundbreaking touring exhibition that celebrates the iconic moments, characters, settings, and beasts as seen in the Harry Potter™ film series and the Wizarding World,” HARRY POTTER THE EXHIBITION was even more magical than this reviewer imagined. Equal parts museum (original costumes and props from the Harry Potter and FANTASTIC BEASTS movies, as well as the HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD play, are on display behind glass cases) and interactive technological experience, the exhibition offers fun for both longtime Harry Potter fans and newer generation guests.

Upon entry, choose your favorite house, wand, and patronus, and enter your identification information to go with it. This will all be important later, so don’t skip this step! A guide takes you into the exhibit and begins the experience with a brief quiz. Here you get a chance to see your name on the Marauder’s Map. Mischief Managed!

Next, take a self-guided tour of the remainder of the exhibit. There are rooms and rooms and more rooms (did I mention many rooms?) of artifacts, information and interactive activities to see and do. Just when you think you’ve come to an end, you turn a corner and the exhibit keeps on going. Conservatively, I’d say you need a few hours to really experience everything. As a huge Harry Potter fan myself, I seriously could have used a half-day here, but my family had other ideas.

Great Hall at Hogwarts in Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Photo by Randi Tucker.

For an extra fee, an audio tour is available as a complement to signs posted throughout the exhibit, and I recommend it for people who have time to linger in each room as it plays. For those who are time-crunched, much of the info can be read quickly on the posted signs.

The exhibit is filled with interesting details in every nook and cranny, so keep your eyes peeled for these details. Holes labeled “Look Here” are not to be looked over. Pro tip: look up and down, not just around (i.e. take note of the floors and ceilings). In addition to marveling at the movie memorabilia, you get a chance to earn points for your house when you practice spells, brew a potion, plant a mandrake, read your future in a crystal ball and hone your quidditch skills. Don’t miss any of these interactive experiences! They are hands-on fun for all ages.

Prepare to be spellbound at Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Photo by Randi Tucker.

Also, there are so many Instagram-able areas of the exhibition. Sit in Hagrid’s massive chair in his hut, perch behind Professor Umbridge’s desk in her puke-inducing pink office, pop out of Newt Scamander’s case of fantastic beasts, place a call in the Ministry of Magic telephone booth entrance and even lie back in Harry’s cramped cupboard under the stairs, for the picture-perfect pose. Take time to also make the magic happen with the elder wand and see yourself in the pensieve. You’ll need someone to capture these extra moments for you, as a selfie won’t do.

Definitely take a look at your professional photos that the staff took of your group at the entrance. Though you might not want to shell out extra dough for the photos on the spot, you will be instructed on how to view the photos later online, and you can also purchase them at that time. Remember that identification information I said would be important later? This is when you’ll need it.

Don’t miss the gift shop and café! In addition to limited-edition, exhibition-specific merchandise, the gift shop offers loads of fan-favorite merch and even bottled butter beer. The café is a great spot to sit a spell and sip on a signature drink (mocktails and cocktails available) and enjoy a meal or snack. There are fun things to read and see in the café as well, so don’t skip it, even if you aren’t hungry or thirsty.

Sip on magical mocktails at Harry Potter: The Exhibition. Photo by Randi Tucker.

Suffice it to say, visiting HARRY POTTER THE EXHIBITION made this muggle’s day!

HARRY POTTER: THE EXHIBITION is located in the 200 Peachtree Building at 155 Carnegie Way NW. More information and tickets are available here. Choose general admission, VIP or flextime tickets for adults, children and groups, based on the day and time of your visit. Prices will vary; and starting January 17, take advantage of buy-one, get-one-free tickets on Tuesdays.

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