APES ON FILM: It Never Pours, But It RAINS!

Posted on: Nov 29th, 2022 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.

 

 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti) – 1961
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Claude Rains , Bill Carter , Umberto Orsini , Maya Brent
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A
BRD Release Date: August 9, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (29.28 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Antonio Margheriti worked as a model maker and special effects artist while making the transition to Director, and his talent for creating dynamic space battles is on display in BATTLE OF THE WORLDS. In his second outing in the big chair, Margheriti delivers a film high on concept but low on coherent storytelling; his directing skills were still being honed, and it shows. With a penchant for working with maquette and models, his lack of experience with actors is obvious – especially in relation to his star, Claude Rains.

Rains had recently starred as Prof. Challenger in Irwin Allen‘s production of  THE LOST WORLD, but was nearing the end of his career. An over-the-top personality, Rains was set loose on a cast of Italian actors and English-speaking bit players and literally chews them up and spits them out all over the screen. It’s like watching a lawnmower approaching a litter of puppies in some scenes. Both director and actor had brighter days ahead; Rains was yet to appear in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, and Margheriti had better fish to fry in films like THE WILD, WILD PLANET, TAKE A HARD RIDE, and WEB OF THE SPIDER, just to name a few.

The “Outsider,” an interstellar satellite on a collision course with Earth, proves to be a planetoid-sized mothership filled with hostile flying saucers bent on destroying our defense forces so that the alien controllers can colonize our planet. Dr. Benson (Rains) has plans to stop them, but will only share them if he is given complete control of the task force charged with combatting the invasion. It’s all highly melodramatic and the conclusion is a bit disappointing to all involved, but there are definitely entertaining moments in the film. The art direction by Umberta Cesarano —on a shoestring budget— is colorful and appealing, as might be expected in an Italian sci-fi film of the era. Music by Mario Migliardi  is atonal and unsettling, which works some of the time and annoys just as often.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a definite improvement in terms of picture and sound quality than previous releases, but is problematic on other fronts. Approximately nine minutes that was included in a previous DVD release from Reel Vault seems to be missing and, to be honest, this Blu-ray is rife with jump cuts throughout. Though created from a new 4K scan of the source material, the source was a 35mm print that itself needed restoration, though provided the best quality elements that could be found. Though the packaging claims it is “newly restored”, there are numerous analog artifacts present from the original source. I suspect that The Film Detective did in fact do some audio restoration to smooth the dialog during the jump cuts, and possibly ran the new master through several A.I. filters for stabilization purposes.

While I do understand their dilemma regarding a full restoration- which should include new color timing to correct a visible red shift due to the source print’s Eastman-color film stock, as well as a total audio remix – is there enough of an audience for this film to make the cost of restoration commercially viable? It’s hard to say. Should the film be preserved? Absolutely. But as a less than classic offering in the genre, does it warrant a stem-to-stern restoration? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The disc also includes a new featurette from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti” (HD; 30:38) with historian and critic Tim Lucas discussing the director’s oeuvre, as well as a new feature length commentary from author Justin Humphreys. Both are well put together and informative, and worth viewing.

 

 

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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APES ON FILM: Meek Are the Children in ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS

Posted on: Nov 2nd, 2022 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.

 

 

 

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS – 1964
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Celia Kaye, George Kennedy, Carlos Romero, Larry Domasin, and Junior
Director: James B. Clark
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Kino Lorber & Scorpion Releasing
Region: 2K Blu-Ray, Region A
BRD Release Date: October 18, 2022
Audio Formats: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1:85:1
Run Time: 93 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Ask any kid in a Steven Spielberg movie and they will tell you that grown-ups are terrible people. But long before Spielberg was torturing children with dinosaurs, aliens, ghosts, and death, movies like ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS were around to introduce kids to the very grown-up institution of suffering at an early age.

Based on author Scott O’Dell’s young adult novel, which is based on a true story, the film tells the account of Karana (Celia Kaye), a young Native American girl living alone on San Nicholas Island off the coast of California, it doesn’t seem so horrible at the outset. In fact, the Chumash tribe as portrayed in James B. Clark’s (FLIPPER,MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN) 1964 film live a rather idyllic existence on the California Channel Islands. That is until the day a white sea captain (George Kennedy) and a group of Aleut natives swing by to round up a few otter skins and renege on the promise to exchange the otter hunt for iron knives and harpoons. Instead, Chief Chowig (Carlos Romero) — Karana’s father — takes a couple of fatal rounds to the chest, eventually forcing the tribe to seek refuge on the mainland with a group of Spanish missionaries. In a rush to escape the island, Karana’s brother Ramo (Larry Domasin) is left behind. Being the only family Ramo has left, Karana swims back to the island to be with him.

In the spirit of suffering, things do not get easier for Karana as the story progresses, and she continues to endure one hardship after another. Considering the limited population on the island after her tribe leaves, it’s easy to deduce that Ramo’s fate is sealed early in the film. Viewers needn’t sweat these early plot twists; the movie isn’t as concerned with storytelling mechanics so much as it is with character development and Karana’s singular journey.

At the heart of the film is Karana’s relationship with the Aleut dog that’s left behind. Karana’s kinship with the dog she calls Rontu (Junior) — meaning “fox eyes” — is rather ironic, and becomes a comment on grief, forgiveness, compassion, and ultimately companionship. While most audiences will grapple with how to reconcile their feelings for Rontu considering his alliance with the wild dogs on the island and ultimately his fatal attack on Ramo, Karana becomes the example of benevolence out of simple kindness or loneliness, or little of both. Karana does reluctantly attempt to kill Rontu out of revenge at first, but the dog survives and then never leaves her side, forging a nearly inseparable bond between the two. Later in the film, Rontu disappears for a time leaving Karana alone to build arguably less meaningful relationships with other animals. Between his attack on Ramo and his penchant for disappearing, it can be a bit difficult for the audience to have a consistent fondness for Rontu. When Rontu eventually passes (we all saw it coming, right?) our hearts break for Karana’s loss and not necessarily for Rontu.

Unlike the adults in the film, Karana’s motivation is frequently driven by compassion. It’s Karana who goes back to be with her stranded brother, not the grown-ups. Karana forgives Rontu for killing Ramo. Karana pardons the Aleuts enough to make friends with one of their own when they return for more otters. Karana’s isolation gives her the freedom to make any choice she wants, and at every turn she chooses empathy and kindness. Meanwhile, the adults in the film routinely choose greed, betrayal, and cowardice.

Celia Kaye — the future ex-Mrs. John Milius — is simply adorable as the lovable Karana. Her spirited performance not only exhibits her resilience during the tough times, but guides the viewer’s emotions through the struggles of her lonesome existence.

Audiences familiar with Hollywood dog pedigrees may recognize Rontu’s (Junior) resemblance to his father Spike who famously portrayed the ill-fated OLD YELLER in the 1957 Disney film. Unlike Rontu’s fair-weather disposition, Junior never left Kaye’s side during the film’s production.

Very little is known about the real Lone Woman of San Nicholas Island, but most of what is known remains true for Clark’s adaptation of O’Dell’s novel. Eventually baptized as Juana Maria after she was brought to the mainland, the Lone Woman’s real name was never known. She belonged to the Nicoleño tribe who had inhabited the islands for 10,000 years, but were indeed forced to seek refuge when an opposing Alaskan tribe made their way down to California to hunt otters. Some accounts say Juana Maria had a son who eventually died, while most contend that she was completely alone until discovered by a fur trapper in 1853. Maria was assumed to be around 50 years old at the time of her discovery and not one member of the Nicoleño tribe remained alive upon her arrival to the mainland.

In the film, Karana is eventually rescued by a group of missionaries. And while suffering is a mainstay throughout the movie, the story ends on a happy note of relief, leaving out the part where the real Juana Maria dies of dysentery seven weeks after her arrival to the mainland. Thankfully, the film doesn’t play out the theme of suffering to its fullest extent.

Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing present ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS in a vibrant 2K high-definition restoration on Blu-ray disc. The only feature to speak of is a fun collection of trailers for young adult movies of the era. And with a briskly paced 93-minute runtime, Karana’s life on film is a historical storybook tale suitable for the whole family.

Written by grown-ups, made by grown-ups, produced by grown-ups, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS presents a family-friendly version of a true tale that’s just troubling enough for children to consider things like death, betrayal, and loneliness as real constants that they must eventually face.

 

 

 

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: Aliens, Vampires, and Italians – Oh, My!

Posted on: Oct 18th, 2022 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.

 

 

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES – 1965
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda , Evi Marandi
Director: Mario Bava
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (locked)
BRD Release Date: July 26, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 88 minutes
5 Disc Set
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Mario Bava is high in the pantheon of admired and revered film directors among film lovers, with good reason. He never failed to create an eminently watchable film, many of which were then copied incessantly by admirers and detractors alike. Starting his career as a cinematographer, Bava applied his unique vision as a colorist and scenarist to the kind of story material that appealed to him, most of which consisted of horror, science fiction, or fantasy. The list of directors and writers that he inspired is long and varied, but for the sake of this review, let’s confine that list to Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, and Ridley Scott, the men behind ALIEN (1979).

The trio were heavily influenced by Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES in which; a spaceship (or two) responds to a distress signal from an uninhabited planet, descends to the surface to find an abandoned alien craft with giant skeletons (an idea Shusett admitted stealing from Bava) and crew members begin to die one by one. Scott denied ever seeing it at the time of ALIEN’s release, and O’Bannon admitted to only seeing part of it many years before writing his screenplay. Somehow, the film seeped into their collective groundwater, as did Edward L. Cahn‘s IT! THE TERROR BEYOND SPACE (1958), in which a malevolent alien stalks the inhabitants of a rocket in space, and several other sources including Clifford Simak’s story Junkyard,” published in the May 1953 edition of GALAXY Magazine.

Bava’s film is seminal and stylish, truly worth the watch whether you’ve seen it before or not. While Scott’s movie provides more character definition and development, Bava achieved incredible visuals without the use of a single optical process shot. All of the special effects were achieved in-camera, and the planetary landscapes and vast interior shots of the ships were achieved with the Schufftan process. The art direction and production design would go on to influence many movies and television programs, especially as U.S. broadcasting moved into the “…IN COLOR!” era. The film’s costumes, sets, and props show a consistence of style that was only equaled by directors like Hitchcock or John Ford at the time.

Kino Lorber’s presentation of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is sourced from an exclusive new 2K master. Color saturation is gratuitous – as it should be here – and picture sharpness is only slightly softer than would be my preference having seen the film on 35mm several times. The single audio track is perfectly adequate and recreates the eerie atmospheric sounds and music of Gino Marinuzzi Jr. (of which I wish there was more) well. Supplemental materials include an exclusive new audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw; an archival audio commentary by critic and Bava biographer Tim Lucas; episodes of Trailers From Hell with Joe Dante and Josh Olson; the original trailer for the film and more.

Planet of the Vampires should be an old favorite for just about anyone with an interest in science fiction, horror, or Italian movies. Bava’s resume is filled with fantastic films that should be on every cineaste’s list; this one is near the top of the heap for me, superseded by both earlier and later works. Add this disc to your collection without hesitation.

 

 

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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APES ON FILM: Hold that Tiger!

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2022 By:

By Chris Herzog
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.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

SAMSON AND THE 7 MIRACLES OF THE WORLD – 1961
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring
: Gordon Scott, Yoko Tani, Hélène Chanel
Director
: Riccardo Freda
Rated
: No rating
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region
: A
BRD Release Date: 8-16-2022
Audio Formats: English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio:  Widescreen (2.35:1)
Run Time: 98/76 Min.
Click Here to Order

 

For decades, the Italian Sword-and-Sandal film (aka the “peplum”) has been an object of frequent ridicule, even among cult cinema afficionados. This is largely because these ‘60s epics have been primarily seen in edited, panned-and-scanned U.S. television cuts with washed out color, damaged prints, and of course, ridiculous dialogue dubbing choices. Such critical external faults can also make internal issues like phony-looking monsters all the more detrimental. Happily, the digital home video era has provided more opportunity to see such films as they were meant to be viewed, in nice looking prints with proper widescreen aspect ratios and sometimes even in the original Italian. While such upgrades don’t exactly cure all of the ills inherent in low-budget fantasy flicks cranked out by the dozen, they can reduce the giggle factor considerably.

This is the case with SAMSON AND THE 7 MIRACLES OF THE WORLD, a 1961 saga helmed by Riccardo Freda, one of Italy’s most highly regarded genre directors. Freda had already enjoyed a 20-year career as a writer/director when he made SAMSON, and would soon go on to direct such favorite gothic horrors as THE GHOST (1963) and THE HORRIBLE DR. HITCHCOCK (1962) with Barbara Steele. Just a few months prior, he had completed work on GIANTS OF THESSALY (1960), widely considered a top-tier peplum. SAMSON is also one of his better efforts, as Kino Lorber’s nice looking new Blu-Ray makes abundantly clear.

Our hero for this one (called “Maciste” in the original Italian version) is played by stoic-and-shredded Gordon Scott, star of arguably the best cycle of TARZAN films after the Johnny Weismuller MGM run. In fact, Scott looks as if he just walked over from the TARZAN set, loincloth-and-all, playing essentially the same character. The biggest differences, really, are that this picture is set in ancient China and that SAMSON has a degree of super strength, at least enough to do things like pushing trees over, tossing boulders around, and showing teams of horses who’s boss. In fact, Samson’s unnatural strength appears to be just about the only truly fantastic element in the picture, which may disappoint those viewers (like me) who prefer a high monster quotient in their pepla. The more papier-mâché dragons and ragged ape suits, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The closest we get here, however, is a wrestling match with a tiger, played by a stuffed tiger in close-ups and an alarmingly drugged tiger in the long shots. Nevertheless, SAMSON proves to be an entertaining experience on its own terms, as a colorful, action-packed historical epic with a smattering of super heroics.

The plot here is the very familiar mixture of court intrigue, evil despots, and enslaved populations that we find in most examples of the genre. Less familiar is the medieval Chinese setting, although it’s well-mounted and could occasionally pass for something the Shaw Brothers cooked up. Samson comes to town to help get rid of the evil Mongol warlord who has usurped the throne, hopefully restoring the rightful royal family to power in the process. Along the way, he fights the above-mentioned tiger, survives the perils of the warlord’s arena, engages in multiple battles and bar fights, and helps foment a revolution. You know the drill. There’s nothing particularly original or surprising here, but there is plenty of spectacle. This one at least looks like it has a higher budget than the average Hercules/Maciste picture, and that’s all that counts. Freda and his colleagues knew how to put every lira of the production budget on the screen, and this film is a great case in point.

Kino’s transfer looks great, with the often-opulent art direction really popping when it needs to and more realistic imagery like surfaces and skin tones registering naturally for the most part. The film is presented in two versions, the 98-minute original Italian cut and the 76-minute AIP cut which was the version commonly seen in the United States. Note that both cuts feature only English-language soundtracks. The chief extra is a commentary track from film historian Tim Lucas which accompanies the AIP cut. Lucas, of course, is a world-class authority on Italian genre cinema, and the track provides a wealth of production information and analysis. It’s difficult to imagine how this commentary could be any better. A sampling of trailers for other fantasy films available from Kino is also included.

 

 

When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

 

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith

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

APES ON FILM: Art For Art’s Sake

Posted on: Sep 6th, 2022 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.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

Night Gallery Season 2 – 1971-’72
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Rod Serling, Leslie Nielsen, Vincent Price, Laurence Harvey, Patty Duke, Elsa Lanchester, Stuart Whitman, Jill Ireland, Bill Bixby, Richard Thomas, Lana Wood
Directors: John Badham, Jeannot Szwarc, Jeff Corey , Jack Laird, John Astin
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (locked)
BRD Release Date: July 26, 2022
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 1164 minutes
5 Disc Set
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Silent Snow

Sigmund Freud famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” but then again sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a painting is just a pretty way to ornament one’s walls, but sometimes, as Rod Serling might say, “Each one captures on a canvas, suspended in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.” This was the premise of Serling’s second television series, Night Gallery.

The series began as a rotating segment in a wheel anthology series called FOUR IN ONE, with series mates McCloud, The Psychiatrist, and SFX (San Francisco International Airport). Only McCloud and Night Gallery made it to a second season, and Night Gallery became a weekly series under the supervision of producer Jack Laird and Serling. But in the case of this series, Laird was the creative show runner and Serling merely a staff writer and on-air host. As such, he had little control over the path the series took, and some of Laird’s choices didn’t sit well with the multiple Emmy winner.

Caterpillar

More a horror anthology than The Twilight Zone, which had been comprised of mainly science fiction tales, Serling was very concerned with providing a continuity of viewer experience throughout each episode that was usually comprised of two or three stories. Laird, on the other hand found the format a suitable showcase for his own personal sense of humor and inserted a series of short “black-out” sketches as time fillers between stories. Only occasionally were these humorous sketches actually funny, unfortunately, and it did certainly break the tension between the horror-based stories in each episode.

Kino Lorber has released the second season of Night Gallery with an embarrassment of riches on the supplemental features department. Suffice it to say that the team who provided commentaries for the first season volume is back with guns blazing. Many special features from the earlier DVD release of the series are included as well, the full list is included below.

You Can’t Get Help

Though the set contains some very memorable episodes – Green Fingers, Class of ’99, Silent Snow, Secret Snow, Sins of The Father, The Caterpillar, and You Just Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore to name but a few – the real reason to buy this set is all of the amazing extras contained within. They do a lot of heavy lifting to fill in gaps in behind-the-scenes and production information and give context to many moments that might otherwise leave some people scratching their heads. As a snapshot of early 1970’s television horror, Night Gallery Season 2 is unsurpassed.

Blu-ray Extras:

– BRAND NEW 2K MASTERS
LOST TALES FROM SEASON 2 (DIE NOW, PAY LATER/ROOM FOR ONE LESS/WITCHES’ FEAST/LITTLE GIRL LOST)
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE BOY WHO PREDICTED EARTHQUAKES/MISS LOVECRAFT SENT ME/THE HAND OF BORGUS WEEMS/PHANTOM OF WHAT OPERA? by Film Historian Craig Beam
– NEW Audio Commentary for DEATH IN THE FAMILY/THE MERCIFUL/CLASS OF ’99/SATISFACTION GUARANTEED by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson
– NEW Audio Commentary for A DEATH IN THE FAMILY/THE MERCIFUL/CLASS OF ’99/SATISFACTION GUARANTEED by Television Music Historian Dr. Reba Wissner
– NEW Audio Commentary for SINCE AUNT ADA CAME TO STAY/WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. HYDE/THE FLIP-SIDE OF SATAN by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for SINCE AUNT ADA CAME TO STAY/WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. HYDE/THE FLIP-SIDE OF SATAN by Television Music Historian Dr. Reba Wissner
– Audio Commentary for A FEAR OF SPIDERS/JUNIOR/MARMALADE WINE/THE ACADEMY by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE PHANTOM FARMHOUSE/SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– Audio Commentary for THE PHANTOM FARMHOUSE/SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– NEW Audio Commentary for A QUESTION OF FEAR/THE DEVIL IS NOT MOCKED by Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Editor Stephen Jones
– NEW Audio Commentary for MIDNIGHT NEVER ENDS/BRENDA by Night Gallery Author/Historian Jim Benson and Actress Laurie Prange (Star of BRENDA)
– NEW Audio Commentary for MIDNIGHT NEVER ENDS/BRENDA by Author/Historian Amanda Reyes
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DIARY/A MATTER OF SEMANTICS/BIG SURPRISE/PROFESSOR PEABODY’S LAST LECTURE by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for HOUSE—WITH GHOST/A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD BLOOD BANK/DR. STRINGFELLOW’S REJUVENATOR/HELL’S BELLS by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DARK BOY/KEEP IN TOUCH – WE’LL THINK OF SOMETHING by Author/Historian Amanda Reyes
– NEW Audio Commentary for PICKMAN’S MODEL/THE DEAR DEPARTED/AN ACT OF CHIVALRY by Actress Louise Sorel (Star of PICKMAN’S MODEL) and Night Gallery Authors/Historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson
– NEW Audio Commentary for PICKMAN’S MODEL/THE DEAR DEPARTED/AN ACT OF CHIVALRY by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– NEW Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Author Mark Dawidziak, Director John Badham and Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– NEW Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Editor Stephen Jones
– Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– Audio Commentary for THE MESSIAH ON MOTT STREET/THE PAINTED MIRROR by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DIFFERENT ONES/TELL DAVID…/LOGODA’S HEADS by Film Historian Craig Beam
– NEW Audio Commentary for GREEN FINGERS/THE FUNERAL/THE TUNE IN DAN’S CAFE by Director John Badham and Night Gallery Author/Historian Scott Skelton
– UPDATED Audio Commentary for LINDEMANN’S CATCH/THE LATE MR. PEDDINGTON/A FEAST OF BLOOD by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO/THE GHOST OF SORWORTH PLACE by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE WAITING ROOM/LAST RITES FOR A DEAD DRUID by Author/Historian David J. Schow
– NEW Audio Commentary for DELIVERIES IN THE REAR/STOP KILLING ME/DEAD WEIGHT by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for I’LL NEVER LEAVE YOU – EVER/THERE AREN’T ANY MORE MACBANES by Author/Historian David J. Schow
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE SINS OF THE FATHERS/YOU CAN’T GET HELP LIKE THAT ANYMORE by Night Gallery Author/Historian Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE SINS OF THE FATHERS/YOU CAN’T GET HELP LIKE THAT ANYMORE by Novelist and Critic Tim Lucas
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE CATERPILLAR/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– Audio Commentary for THE CATERPILLAR/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– Audio Commentary for LOST TALES FROM SEASON 2: DIE NOW, PAY LATER/ROOM FOR ONE LESS/WITCHES’ FEAST/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
Revisiting the Gallery: A Look Back – Featurette with Actors Lindsay Wagner, Pat Boone, Joseph Campanella, Laurie Prange, James Metropole; Directors John Badham, Jeannot Szwarc, William Hale; Composer Gil Mellé; Make-Up Artist Leonard Engelman; Artist Tom Wright; and Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton (29:55)
THE SYNDICATION CONUNDRUM PART 2: A Look at the Show’s Troubled Second Life in Reruns – A Featurette by Film Historian Craig Beam
– Art Gallery: The Paintings – Featurette with Artist Tom Wright (3:28)
– 19 TV Spots (Newly Mastered in HD)
– NBC TV Promos (12:51) – From the 2008 DVD Release
– DVD Easter Eggs
– Optional English Subtitles

 

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 more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM – More Than Just a Monster

Posted on: Aug 30th, 2022 By:

by John Michlig
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.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

 

UNIVERSAL TERROR: Karloff in NIGHT KEY, THE CLIMAX, THE BLACK CASTLE Special Edition 2-Disc BluRay – 1937-1952
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Boris Karloff , Jean Rogers, Turhan Bey, Lon Chaney Jr., Richard Greene
Directors: Lloyd Corrigan, George Waggner, Nathan Juran
Rated: Not rated
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Region: B (UK & Ireland) A, C untested
BRD Release Date: July 18, 2022
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 68 minutes, 86 minutes, 82 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

A confession straight out of the gate: When I first encountered Eureka Entertainment’s new Universal Terror collection featuring Boris Karloff in NIGHT KEY, THE CLIMAX, and THE BLACK CASTLE, my thoughts drifted to the childhood disappointments that invariably arose in a small television market. I grew up in the Midwest, where you were guaranteed good reception of two local channels: CBS WSAW-7 and ABC WAOW-9 (a fortunate few — owners of antennae or with houses perched atop hills — also got NBC WAEO-12). That meant that you consumed that which ABC (9) and CBS (7) provided and were aware of little else.

The CBS affiliate’s weekly creep show entry, 7 CEMETERY ROAD, featured a pretty effective (if low budget) opening featuring eerie music and a graveyard. If you were up that late for some reason, it was a terrific set-up that put visions of Frankenstein, Dracula, and even Kong Kong(!) in your head. These movies aired at 12:30 a.m., which was far, far beyond grade-school bedtime. For some reason the name of the film being shown would rarely appear in advance. The TV Guide listed “Movie,” and even the local newspaper schedule failed us. That meant if you negotiated the ability to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, you had no guarantee whatsoever that you’d be treated to some actual, classic monster-containing horror.

(THE BLACK CASTLE)

For a period of time, the Universal “horror” catalog that went to small markets did not include the “cornerstone classics” of the 30s and 40s. The package featured promising-titled flicks from the 50s like REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, CULT OF THE COBRA, THE PROJECTED MAN, and THE WASP WOMAN—the “close, but no cigar” class of films that caused my 12-year-old self to sigh deeply after negotiating late night viewing based upon reading or hearing a flimsy description that tossed out a reliably iconic horror-genre name in the cast. Occasionally, I would be treated to older films that “starred” familiar horror icons, which brings us to the new UNIVERSAL TERROR collection from Eureka Entertainment.

This collection consists of three films that do indeed feature Boris Karloff — a “trigger name” for young film geeks, to be sure — including two from the 30s and 40s. However, the package title and contents are highly reminiscent of the 7 CEMETERY ROAD formula in that, alas, there are no classic monsters to be seen. And, let’s face it, these are not horror films.  However, they are very, very entertaining. Bear in mind that this set is coded for UK and Ireland viewing, and you’ll need a region-free player to view it in the U.S.

(NIGHT KEY)

NIGHT KEY (1937) features Karloff as the inventor of a high-tech security anti-theft system who is victimized by a nefarious businessman who wants to market his devices and rip off his patents and profits. Facing the onset of blindness, Karloff’s character is then kidnapped by bad guys who want to use his knowledge of the devices to pull off serial robberies. Yes, this does sound like an almost impossibly accurate allegory for, and prediction of, cybercrime, does it not? That being said, Karloff or not, it isn’t “terror.” Watching a late-thirties film predict hackers and viruses in the pre-transistor era is great fun, however.

THE CLIMAX (1944) comes at you in what can very honestly be described as stunning Technicolor (Karloff’s first color film). This is not studio hyperbole; it really is beautifully photographed, and the filmmakers take full advantage of the new visual tool to fill the screen with magic. Sets from 1925’s and 1943’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA are re-used, and revealed in all their glory, throughout the film. (THE CLIMAX was announced as a sequel to the 1943 Phantom, though the final product is only loosely related thematically.)

Again, the film is visually astounding. However, it must be said that motion picture depictions of opera in this era are a bit hard to take. Opera as seen and heard in films of this period did not represent an accurate reproduction of actual staged performances. Rest assured the shrill, “look how high this note is” noise you hear in is not what audiences experienced in live venues. Get used to vocal gymnastics, however; you are treated to four (!) musical numbers in the first 20 minutes.

(THE CLIMAX)

Plot-wise, this is the closest we get to a horror film in the set. Karloff plays the Vienna Royal Theatre’s in-house physician, Dr. Hohner. He is an obsessed and jealous man; he wants his fiancée, a prima donna, to himself and therefor kills her, preserving her in his “chambers.” A decade later, another young singer, Angela, reminds him of his late diva, and he decides she too must sing only for him or die. Pretending to examine Angela’s throat following a performance, he hypnotizes her and commands her never to sing again.

THE BLACK CASTLE (1952) takes place in the 18th century (and all over the Universal Studios back lot, you will notice), so there’s a lot of swordplay, and mid-battle smart-ass comments fly freely from the mouth of our dashing hero, Sir Ronald Burton, a British gentleman played by Richard Greene (who went on to portray Robin Hood). He is investigating the disappearance of two of his friends at the Austrian estate of the sinister Count von Bruno, and nothing — be it sudden swordplay at an inn while trying to have dinner, or the appearance of an alligator pit (in Austria!) — breaks his cool. Sir Ronald, it could be said, was the proto-James Bond (“I can condone bad swordsmanship, but not bad manners…”).

(THE CLIMAX)

In this film, Karloff plays a good guy(!), a doctor who helps the protagonist in his quest for justice. We also see Lon Chaney, Jr. in his last role at Universal (which is, unfortunately, pretty ragged). So, you have Chaney and Karloff, as well as a pretty creepy scene with our protagonists sealed alive in coffins, making this the closest to “horror” of the three. It’s a very entertaining ride, however. Director Nathan Juran went on to work with Ray Harryhausen (and also directed THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS, previously reviewed here).

The audio commentaries provided with these films are absolutely first rate, full of useful information and a solid sense of humor throughout. NIGHT KEY and THE CLIMAX are handled by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby; THE BLACK CASTLE features author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman.

Are these horror movies? Not so much. However, they are solid entertainment — and, unlike childhood visits to 7 Cemetery Road, do not require negotiating with parents to stay up past midnight.

 

 

When he’s not hanging around the top of the Empire State Building, John Michlig spends his time writing books like It Came from Bob’s Basement, KONG: King Of Skull Island, and GI Joe: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action. Read more at The Fully Articulated Newsletter and The Denham Restoration Project.

 

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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

APES ON FILM: Size Matters in THE KILLING

Posted on: Aug 15th, 2022 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.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE KILLING – 1956
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Vince Edwards
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: Region Free UHD
BRD Release Date: 07-26-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Few things in this world are as invincible as the bulletproof bureaucracy surrounding the size regulations of carry-on luggage, specifically designed for your “comfort and safety” while flying the friendly skies. And in a narrative twist too big for an overhead compartment, Sterling Hayden’s Johnny Clay realizes where he went wrong in what was otherwise an airtight plan to knock over a horse track in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 classic, THE KILLING.

If you’ve seen one heist movie, you’ve seen ‘em all, the only difference in most being whether bold bad guy ingenuity leads to a successful getaway, woven together with almost childlike simplicity, or the simplicity of a mistake resulting in 25 to life. Regardless, most heist movies have the same ingredients: a hefty score, a team with a diverse skillset, a little side muscle, and most importantly, a man (or woman) with a vision who can rally the whole thing together with the logistical precision of a SEAL team operation.

At face value, the title The Killing refers to specific deaths that occur later in the film, including the execution of a horse. Metaphorically, The Killing also represents the large sum of cash at stake in a textbook heist orchestrated by ex-con Johnny Clay. If Clay pulls off this heist, he’ll make a killing, a great example of a perfect title.

Fresh off a five year stint in the slammer, Clay is ready to get right back in the mess and run off with his girl Fay (Coleen Gray) and a two million dollar take from the local horse track. The mechanics of the operation are so basic that the film’s non-linear structure hardly has any bearing on the audience’s ability to follow the plot. This story is about the characters and the peculiar morality of their motives.

In spite of looking like a gang of Dick Tracy villains, none of Clay’s conscripts are actual criminals. The corrupt police officer in debt up to his eyeballs (Ted de Corsia) is the closest any of Clay’s crew comes to being morally bankrupt. It’s even difficult to judge the entire operation as malicious especially considering that horse tracks rely on people willing to blow money.

The worst thing that happens to any “victims” in the robbery is Clay waving his gun around, and wrestler Kola Kwariani tossing a few police officers. The highest cost for the job is paid in full by Red Lightning — the racehorse that makes the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of sharpshooter Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey). To Clay’s point, is knocking off a horse even a crime? “…that’s not first-degree murder. In fact, that’s not murder at all. In fact, I don’t know what it is.” And with that, the film has only one criminal and bunch of regular joes that rip off a place that rips off people, all for the legally ambiguous price of a dead horse.

The worst indignities that occur, though, have nothing to do with stealing money, killing horses, or waving guns around, but are rather the crimes of passion exacted by Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor) upon discovering puny husband George (Elisha Cook Jr.) is in on Clay’s deal. George is the horse track window teller tasked with putting Clay in the same room with the money. But Sherry’s mascara isn’t even dry before she’s running her mouth to lover boy Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) who plans to hijack Clay’s operation. This makes Sherry’s sin the deadliest weapon in the film and results in a pretty gnarly climax for Clay’s gang. This, however, doesn’t prevent Clay from making his score, but in a denouement that would make Larry David blush, Johnny Clay seals his own fate when it becomes apparent that he failed to read the fine print for what’s considered an acceptable size for carry-on luggage. “Eh, what’s the difference?” uttered by Clay in the final seconds of the film sums up its themes on morality.

And while the film advances on misguided morality, the key relationships within are equally as strange and circuitous. As George Peatty unloads the details of the horse track job to wife Sherry, she proceeds with putting on makeup, clearly preparing to go out for the evening in spite of feigning a stomachache. George offers no argument about why Sherry’s gettin’ dolled up or where she’s going, and only asks her why she married him. Exasperated, Sherry replies, “Oh, George, when a man has to ask his wife that, well, he just hadn’t better, that’s all.” Why doesn’t Sherry just lay it all out for him instead of waxing poetic? George doesn’t take the hint, and continues trying to win Sherry’s affection with the rented promise of loads of money from Clay’s score.

Another instance of dubious companionship is between Johnny Clay and Marvin Unger (Jay C. Flippen). Unger provides Clay a place to lay low after being released from prison, and shares his sympathy for Clay regarding the tough break he’s had. Unger also claims to think of Clay as a son, but then goes on to confess rather affectionately, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go away, the two of us, and let the old world take a couple of turns, and have a chance to take stock of things?” Sounds a little more romantic than a parental dynamic, doesn’t it? Later, when the gang is holed up waiting for Clay’s return from the job, Unger appears girlishly gleeful when he thinks he hears Clay outside.

If the film’s purply, hard-boiled dialogue — most being rattled off at a whip-crack pace by Sterling Hayden — isn’t fierce enough to get the viewer’s heart rate up, the claustrophobic photography and incessant, pounding score is most certainly anxiety inducing. Though Lucian Ballard is credited as Director of Photography, Kubrick himself set up the shots. Inside Unger’s and the Peatty’s apartments, the visuals are low and crowded, often obstructed by objects and furniture in the foreground, almost as if the audience is eavesdropping while being made privy to the film’s unsavory goings-on.

To add shortness of breath on top of everything else, composer Gerald Fried provides an auditory beating that doesn’t let up for the entire film. Fried would eventually compose the turbulent score to the Kirk and Spock fight-to-the-death scene in the STAR TREK episode “Amok Time.”

A pesky voice-over narration by uncredited Art Gilmore announces the whens and wheres throughout the film for anyone bothering to take notes. Viewers are likely to find it a bit unnecessary as it simply clarifies the film’s non-linear structure. It’s also a bit confounding since the narrator remains unidentified and we’re never told why it’s pertinent within the story.

Kino Lorber presents THE KILLING for the first time in beautiful 4K Ultra High Definition, with film grain intact. Special features include a brand-new commentary by author and film historian Alan K. Rode and a theatrical trailer. The disc comes packaged with reversible sleeve art and an eye-popping slipcover rendered with a rare version film’s original poster art.

For a heist movie that’s not really about the heist, THE KILLING reveals the human, though heightened, backdrop of a big money score, and the fuzzy morality that makes troubled people do bad things. It also makes no bones about the consequences of the decisions its characters make, delivering a fable that’s both thrilling and thoughtful.

 

 

 

 

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: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2022 By:

by Contributing Writer
Chris Herzog

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.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

TERROR CIRCUS-1973
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Andrew Prine, Sherry Alberoni, Gyl Roland
Director: Alan Rudolph
Rated: R
Studio: Kino Lorber/Code Red
Region: A B C
BRD Release Date: 7-12-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio:  Widescreen (1.78:1)
Run Time: 84 Min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Seventies exploitation cinema is chock full of things like TERROR CIRCUS (aka BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD, aka NIGHTMARE CIRCUS), but there is better stuff to start with if you enjoy this sort of thing. This flick’s various titles are a great come-on—I mean, who isn’t curious about what goes on in the Barn of the Naked Dead? And a circus sounds fun anytime. Alas, TERROR CIRCUS is a decidedly hit-and-miss affair. I know it has its fans, but for many, the pic will wear out its welcome, even at less than 90 minutes.

Three showgirls (Manuella Theiss, Sherry Alberoni, and Gyl Roland) are traveling to Vegas for a gig when their car breaks down in the desert. In no time at all, they end up in the clutches of Andre (Prine) who adds them to a menagerie of captive women he keeps in his barn. Viewers who demand some sensibility in their drive-in dreck may wonder how Andre manages to control a group of at least ten women when he is never armed with anything more lethal than a bullwhip—and he doesn’t even have that with him all the time. His main technique seems to be simply grabbing someone by the wrist while she cries and begs, and the other nine women look on anxiously. Something tells me if he tried this in real life, he’d quickly be face down in the straw with ten hippie women making it rain go-go boots on him. Ah, but I guess that’s the magic of the movies.

Turns out that Andre has a circus fetish and likes to dress up like a ringmaster and crack the whip at his captives like they’re a bunch of performing animals. His rather sad collection of real “circus animals” consists of a cougar of some sort and a big snake, both of which he sics on the ladies when the notion strikes him. Sorry no gorillas, clowns, or human oddities in this circus. Well, actually, there is one oddity. Turns out the government used to conduct vaguely described “experiments” involving radiation or atom bombs or something in this neck of the desert back in the day. The radiation took its toll on Andre’s dad, who is now a big, grotesque cannibal creature penned up in a small outbuilding. As you might imagine, he doesn’t stay penned up for long. After an hour or so of circus-themed abuse and murder, the film climaxes with a big escape attempt, as the sheriff and the showgirls’ agent finally figure out what’s going on and all hell breaks loose.

TERROR CIRCUS is nowhere near as explicit or disturbing as it could be. Whether that’s a plus or minus is up to you. There are brief flashes of nudity and a reasonable amount of ketchup-like blood. There are also one or two satisfyingly meaty gore effects, thanks to Byrd Holland, who had recently handled the make-up effects for LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL, a film with comparable budgetary limitations but a more affecting atmosphere. According to Holland in the accompanying featurette, a few frames of gore had to be sacrificed in order to avoid an X-rating. Really, the most transgressive aspect of the film is the domination-of-women theme, which was hardly unique during this era. TERROR CIRCUS never quite gets humorous or even campy, at least not deliberately so, but it also never approaches the grim realism of a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or the relentless intensity of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. True, the picture does achieve, at least at times, an off-kilter eeriness in keeping with the circus milieu. Much of this can be credited to the score by Tommy Vig (THEY CALL ME BRUCE?), which mixes free-form jazz with circus drumroll/oompah flourishes. Sometimes it works quite well, but there are many points in the picture when the score is trying so hard it becomes distracting.

Kino Lorber presents Code Red Video’s sharp, spotless scan with only one notable extra—an archival 24-minute interview featurette with a few members of the cast and crew. Every source seems to give a different time length for this picture. Here, Kino’s packaging gives it as 91 minutes, but the actual disk has an 84-minute cut. TERROR CIRCUS is probably worth a watch for the parts that do work, including the all-in performance from Andrew Prine, the goofy monster make-up and gore, and a certain degree of “let’s put on a show” low budget charm. And if you just like to see hippy chicks being terrorized, this one has a place on your shelf.

 

 

 

When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

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

APES ON FILM: Keep Watching the Skies!

Posted on: Jul 15th, 2022 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.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE UFO INCIDENT – 1975
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons , Barnard Hughes
Director: Richard A. Colla
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: June 14th, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 92 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

In the 1990s and early 2000s, you just weren’t anybody unless you’d been abducted and intimately probed by aliens. Everybody from Harvard professors to carpetbagging novelists published “true” accounts of abduction, creating a culture in which the truly chic were all part of the ET-erati, and if you hadn’t taken the probe you weren’t relevant. It’s easy to laugh at the proliferation of accounts that all read exactly the same from story to story, but what is the genesis of this phenomena? It all started in New Hampshire in 1962, with an account that’s a little harder to shake your head at; the tale of Betty and Barney Hill.

The Hills experienced a lost time episode one night while driving home from Montreal. They saw a UFO coming towards them, got out and watched it until it got a bit too close for comfort, then got back in the car and tried to outrun it. Two hours later, they realized they were almost home and had no memory of how they had gotten there. Unsettling dreams and memories began to surface, and eventually they sought help from Psychiatrist Benjamin Simon, who regressed them via hypnosis and discovered some very unsettling details of their encounter.

THE UFO INCIDENT is a harrowing account of their experience, and includes a tour de force performance by James Earl Jones (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) as Barney Hill. His recollections under hypnosis are both heartbreaking and terrifying, and Jones pushes limits in creating an uncomfortable environment for the viewer. Equally compelling is the performance of Estelle Parsons (BONNIE AND CLYDE) as his wife, Betty. Barnard Hughes (THE LOST BOYS) tries to make sense of what he’s hearing as Simon, but ultimately decides that true or not, the catharsis the couple experiences is the most important aspect of the treatment.

After this movie aired on television, reports of alien abduction to authorities and aerial phenomena research groups jumped from a trickle to a deluge. Almost all of these accounts reported similar details as the Hills, creating a pattern that was to continue to this day. But they were the first; they had no reason to lie, and every reason to avoid the public eye as an interracial couple in the time period when such marriages had only recently become legal. They were both highly intelligent, well educated, and active in their community, advocates for social justice. Barney was a postman and Betty, a social worker. It’s difficult to fathom why they might have made up their account. Truth or fantasy, it’s hard to conceive of this story as an outright lie. The Hills truly believed they were abducted by beings from another planet.

Overall, picture and sound for this film have never looked or sounded better than on this disc. The transfer is from a new 2K restoration, and supplementary materials include a new (and excellent) audio commentary by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani, ROMANTIC MYSTICISM: THE MUSIC OF BILLY GOLDENBERG – a feature length documentary by Gerani, trailers for other films (including FUZZ, directed by Richard Colla), and optional English subtitles. While the supplemental materials are fascinating, it would have been interesting to hear audio from some of the Hills’ original hypnosis sessions as well, and possibly a documentary on their experience.

 

 

 

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 more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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

APES ON FILM: Oh là là! Aroused Brains Attack!

Posted on: Jun 29th, 2022 By:

by John Michlig
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.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS – 1957
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: John Agar , Joyce Meadows , Robert Fuller
Director: Nathan Juran
Rated: Not rated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A
BRD Release Date: 6-21-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Frame (1.33:1)
Run Time: 71 min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Independently produced, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS represents the all-too-common intersection of former A-level talent (in front of and behind the camera) making the most of a frugal situation. Still, there’s a lot to like here in terms of the original film and excellent added features.

The flick opens with a speck of light, under credits, moving over a still image of what we will soon learn is Mystery Mountain (sounds preordained, no?). Next, an indeterminate explosion; what happened? Fear not, because Steve March, a nuclear physicist played by John Agar (A man once married to Shirley Temple!) will soon provide narrative cover as he describes to his lackadaisical colleague, Dr. Dan Murphy (Robert Fuller), that there are indeed some mysterious radioactive readings coming from the area.

(Side note): For the first ten minutes or so of this film, you will swear there is a hamburger sponsorship involved. Steve’s fiancé Sally, as portrayed by Joyce Meadows, is rather firmly focused on making sure the men know how perfect the charcoal was glowing under the grill and how their lives will surely be diminished if they miss her patties. Once the burgers are ingested and properly appreciated, Steve and Dan head out for a “three or four-day” trek into the desert, alone, without notifying any authorities or organization ahead of time, of course. They’re just going to head out with some rifles and take care of business.

(Another side note): I think most sensible people would agree that any trip you take that involves firearms and possible radiation should be explicitly covered in the employee handbook as “Notification required before deployment,” particularly if you apparently work for a government entity.

Here, by the way, is where we are greeted by our first pith helmet.

We know it’s hot out in the desert because our heroes are sweating profusely (and exclusively) from their armpits. We also know that when they encounter a giant, levitating (and bored looking) brain named Gor, John Agar’s character will survive because as noted earlier, he was once married to Shirley Temple. Robert Fuller, on the other hand, went on to star in TV’s Emergency! – not enough to spare his character’s life, alas.

Gor now possesses Steve March, and a great deal of the visual appeal of the film (at substantial cost to Agar; we’ll learn via commentary and featurettes that his silver contacts were quite painful) lay in the periodic “transformations” when Gor takes over March’s body in order to put his Earth-conquering project in place (the prototype, perhaps, for Bill Bixby’s The Incredible Hulk contortions).

While we’re on the topic of silver contacts, the name Jack Pierce jumps out at you in the opening credits, but rest assured there is nothing in terms of interesting or effective makeup effects to be found in this film. There is, however, a fairly epic distortion of Agar’s face as viewed through a water dispenser that beats any and all other visual effects in the film.

One of the interesting wrinkles in The Brain is the fact that the bad-guy brain, Gor, is fairly horny and seems to very much appreciate Steve’s fiancé, Sally Fallon (I SAW WHAT YOU DID’s Joyce Meadows) on a level that seems…odd for a being that consists of brain matter and eyeballs. This, one supposes, ties in with the titular planet Arous sounding like “eros” and looking like “arouse.”

In terms of special features, The Film Detective’s presentation of THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS is a marvelous buffet. Meadows contributes an enthusiastic introduction called Not the Same Old Brain, where she wanders the Bronson Canyon filming location while talking about her experiences making the flick. Tom Weaver ’s commentary track is chock-full of cerebral – and useful – observations, with worthwhile contributions from Larry Blamire and David Schecter. Also, there are two fact-filled featurettes included: The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran, and The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran. On top of all that, Weaver contributes a fact-filled essay booklet that explores the background of producer Jacques Marquette.

All in all, The Film Detective’s THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS package is a multi-level delight – recommended without hesitation.

 

 

 

When he’s not hanging around the top of the Empire State Building, John Michlig spends his time writing books like It Came from Bob’s Basement, KONG: King Of Skull Island, and GI Joe: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action. Read more at The Fully Articulated Newsletter and The Denham Restoration Project.

 

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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