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

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

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: 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.

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

APES ON FILM: Dr. Jekyll, The Original Mad Scientist!

Posted on: Jun 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!

JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE – 1941
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Spencer Tracy , Ingrid Bergman , Lana Turner
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: May 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 113 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s treatise on the duality of man, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was born in London in 1886.  Like Dracula eleven years later, the novella has permeated the groundwater of our culture and stands as a landmark of gothic horror literature. The term “Jekyll and Hyde” has punctuated our vernacular and has come to be shorthand for someone who presents a friendly face but harbors private evil. There have been over 120 stage and film adaptations of the story since its publication, and today’s column features the 1941 film version from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But let’s back up 10 years to set the scene for this movie.

Paramount Pictures made what many consider to be the definitive version of the film in 1931, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March, who won the Academy Award™ for Best Actor for his performance.  The film was a box office and critical success, and has stood the test of time with classic film fans. Ten years later, MGM created as literal a remake of the Paramount film as they could, with slight changes to Samuel Hoffenstein‘s and Percy Heath‘s 1931 screenplay made to satisfy the Hays Code, enacted in 1934. This code regulated the film industry in matters of “moral decency” in what was presented to the public for exhibition. The result, while quite watchable, is an inferior film.

There was no need to remake a 10 year old film – barring the fact that there was little chance to see the original, as television, home video, and streaming services were still science fiction at the time – but MGM bought the rights to a filmable script, had bankable stars to populate the film, and in order to avoid lackluster comparisons, did everything they could to hide the Mamoulian version away, causing it to become mired in legal restrictions which kept it out of the public eye for many years.

The trio of Tracy, Turner, and Bergman are certainly enticement to see the film, but Fleming’s direction seems uneven and meanders through a story that should be taut, and fast paced. The majority of the heavy lifting acting-wise is handled with aplomb by Bergman, who was originally cast in Turner’s role. She begged Fleming to switch the actresses’ places as she was tired of playing saintly women (as she would in JOAN OF ARC, 1948) and longed to be the bad girl in the film. Tracy acquits himself decently in the title roles, but his appearance as Hyde is not nearly as effective as Fredric March’s in the original. In fact, he winds up looking a bit like George Hamilton after a serious bender in many scenes. Lana Turner does as much as she can with her role, and she and Ingrid Bergman look fabulous throughout…a definite point in the movie’s favor.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation of the film reveals an enormous amount of detail unseen on previous home video releases. The studio’s restoration creates a much-improved viewing experience both in sharpness and accuracy of contrast levels. The sound quality is consistent with a film of this era, and presents Franz Waxman’s original score well. Unfortunately, the only supplementary feature on this disc is the film’s original trailer.

I wish I liked this movie more, but I won’t recommend you skip it. However, Warner Archive is set to release the 1931 version on BRD in October. Don’t miss that disc.

 

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

 

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

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APES ON FILM: To Frankenstein… A Daughter!

Posted on: May 4th, 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!

 

FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER – 1958
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: John Ashley , Sandra Knight , Donald Murphy , Felix Locher
Director: Richard E. Cunha 
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B, C
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

There’s a lot to unpack about a movie called FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER. Made for a measly $60 thousand at the behest of a third-rate distributor who merely supplied a title and a budget of $80 thousand. Director Richard Cunha and producer Marc Frederic hired an anonymous soap opera writer to craft a script and shot the film in six days. They had no illusions that they would be making art, they only cared to make a competent product. What they wound up with met the criteria of Astor Pictures and was released to the public in 1958. The pair pocketed the $20 thousand surplus and moved on to their next project.

So, how’s the film? Calling it a mixed bag would be generous. On the positive side, the cinematography, effects make up, and musical score are pretty good. Several performances are better than the script (which is the real villain here) deserve. John Zaremba as a chatty police lieutenant stands out, and Donald Murphy as the titular descendent of the original Frankenstein is smarmy and competently menacing in most scenes. Sandra Knight makes the most of a poorly developed character, as does Sally Todd .

On to the negatives, mainly the script, which might as well have been called “Frankenstein’s Date Rapes.” The pseudonymous writer H.E. Barrie delivers a stinker of a story that barely makes sense and focuses on Murphy’s Oliver Frank character roofie-ing Knight’s Trudy Morton repeatedly, turning her into a walking fright-wig with googly eyes in an effort to impart everlasting life on a cobbled-together corpse he’s putting together in her uncle’s basement laboratory. Eventually, he murders Todd’s character to supply the monster with a brain who subsequently terrorizes the neighborhood, but politely knocks at front doors rather than simply barging through them. The script endlessly echoes the action on screen, with characters describing what viewers are already seeing. What makes all of this worse is Harold Lloyd’s son, Harold Jr., monkeying about making broad attempts to chew the scenery which he’s clearly not talented enough to digest. Seriously, “cringeworthy” barely begins to cover his sins.

The best part of the whole viewing experience is The Film Detective’s presentation. Sourced from a newly restored 4K print grabbed from the original 35mm film elements, the picture is a vast improvement over the previous DVD release. The audio tracks are also quite improved, and the company put real care into creating this disc, though a few mistakes were made in identifying special features. For example, Larry Blamire does not provide a full commentary track as advertised on the package. Instead, he contributes some characterization to Tom Weaver’s track. Weaver himself is misidentified on the menu as “Jason A. Ney.” Nonetheless, Weaver’s contributions to this disc make the whole thing worth a purchase. Between his commentary and the interview video with Cunha forming the bulk of the bonus features documentary on the director, there’s little doubt that this is the most “special” special edition this film will be getting.

Speaking of bonus features, they include the aforementioned full commentary track with author/ historian Tom Weaver; full color booklet with original essay by Weaver; a new career retrospective from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featuring an archival interview with director Richard E. Cunha (“Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown”); and, a new career retrospective featuring film historian C. Courtney Joyner (“John Ashley: Man from the B’s”).

Don’t expect any revelations from the film on this disc, but there are plenty in the bonus features and in the new presentation. Worth a watch on a Sunday afternoon.

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

 

 

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

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APES ON FILM: Grimm Tales of Cinerama

Posted on: Apr 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!

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM – 1962
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Claire Bloom, Walter Slezak, Barbara Eden
Director: Henry Levin, George Pal
Rated: G
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: March 29, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1 – Original aspect ratio: 2.59:1
Run Time: 140 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The Cinerama process was developed in the 1950s as a way to help draw television viewers back to the movies. Utilizing a process whereby three synchronized camera images are projected onto a large, curved screen made of individual vertical strips of standard perforated screen material, Cinerama delivered an amazing viewing experience in which the viewer could be enveloped by the motion picture. My personal experiences at the (now sadly gone) Columbia Theatre in midtown Atlanta include some of my favorite memories of being at the movies.

Producer/director George Pal, ever a showman, turned to Cinerama to make his 1962 production of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, an unforgettable experience for moviegoers. Following the success of his production of H.G. WellsTHE TIME MACHINE, Pal wanted to expand his horizons as a filmmaker and deliver the viewing experience of a lifetime. The film was one of only two narrative movies shot in the original Cinerama process (the other being HOW THE WEST WAS WON) before it was replaced by the single strip Super Panavision 70-millimeter process.

Though very little restoration was needed to prepare HOW THE WEST WAS WON for high-definition release, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM was a totally different story. The original negatives had deteriorated and suffered major damage from a flooding accident in storage, making an analog restoration too costly to even consider. Digital restoration technology finally rose to the level where such an undertaking was possible, and the results are spectacular indeed. The process is detailed on disc two of Warner Archive Collection’s new special edition of the film in the featurette documentary, “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic.” I highly recommend watching this before viewing the film. A comparison video of before and after restoration is available HERE.

Pal’s movie itself is a relic of its time; the wraparound story about the Brothers Grimm themselves is little more than a feel-good bio with little historical accuracy, made to envelop the fairy tale segments based on the duo’s books. These segments are blustery, color-saturated, over-the-top presentations of the stories The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. While the story is pedestrian, the visuals and music create an unforgettable spectacle as Pal intended, and are absolutely worth the time investment for viewing. Pal even takes the director’s reins himself for some stop-motion sequences.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation includes two viewing options; the letterbox aspect ratio, and the Smilebox® aspect ratio, which more accurately recreates the original Cinerama viewing experience. I chose the Smilebox® option (so named because the ratio actually resembles an enormous, wide mouthed smile) and was glad – by squeezing the mid screen and flaring the edges outward, the film keeps a more realistic view of the action. The letterboxes flat version seems stretched and optically crazed near the edges in certain shots, at least to me.

This release will most certainly get my vote for Best Restoration of the Year, and you should definitely own it. Warner Archive has again proven that someone there at the studio does still care about classic films and restoring them, as well as releasing them on physical media. Thanks, whoever you are!

 

Special Features
•    Rescuing a Fantasy Classic-Documentary (HD) New
•    The Epic Art of The Brothers Grimm (HD) New
•    The Wonderful Career of George Pal (HD) New
•    Trailers and more

Technical Specs
•    New 2022 1080p HD Masters from the 4K restoration of original Cinerama Camera Negatives
•    Two Disc Deluxe Special Edition
•    2-BD50s
•    Disc 1-Restored Cinerama image letterboxed
•    Disc 2-Restored Cinerama image in SMILEBOX® format, to approximate the curved theater screen experience in the home
•    Disc 1-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89 Letterbox
•    Disc 2-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89Smilebox®
•    140 Minutes-Roadshow presentation with Overture, Intermission, Entr’acte, and Exit Music.

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

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

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APES ON FILM: Get Your Folk Horror Fix with THE EYE OF THE DEVIL!

Posted on: Mar 13th, 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!

 

EYE OF THE DEVIL – 1966
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Deborah Kerr , David Niven, Donald Pleasence, Edward Mulhare , Sharon Tate , David Hemmings
Director: J. Lee Thompson 
Rated: NR
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 – Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 96 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Anticipating the wave of folk horror films to come in the early 1970s, producer Martin Ransohoff’s EYE OF THE DEVIL is an entertaining amalgamation of tropes associated with several genres that readers (and viewers of the cinematic adaptations) of James George Frazer, Daphne Du Maurier, Henry James, and Dennis Wheatley will embrace, delivered by a fantastic cast.

David Niven portrays Philippe de Montfaucon, the Marquis de Bellenac, a wealthy French nobleman called back to his ancestral home to remedy the blight on his town’s vineyard. As in THE WICKER MAN, caretaking the wellbeing of the harvest is directly the responsibility of the local lord, and Philippe feels the heavy weight as he returns to shoulder the burden of more than a thousand years of tradition – he must make a sacrifice to ensure the bounty of the community returns. And the price is high.

Deborah Kerr, as Philippe’s wife Catherine, follows him to Bellenac despite his urges to stay in Paris after their son Jacques has a dream in which his father needs him. Packing Jacques and sister Antoinette, they arrive at Chateau de Montfaucon (the exquisite Château de Hautefort in the Dordogne) to find local creepy archer Christian de Caray (David Hemmings) shooting doves out of the sky and his sister Odile (Sharon Tate) turning frogs into doves and hypnotizing the children. This is only a prelude to the weirdness ahead for Catherine, as she slowly peels back the mystery of her husband’s ancestral home and family history, and what’s to become of all of them.

The troubled production – Kim Novak filmed all but a handful of scenes before being injured on set and having her part recast (and re-shot) by Kerr when she was unable to return – features outstanding performances by Tate in her first speaking film role, Hemmings just before he blew up in Michelangelo Antonioni‘s BLOW-UP, and Donald Pleasence perfecting the creepy stare he would put to good use in so many later roles. Niven and Kerr also acquit themselves well, but it’s the supporting cast that does much of the heavy lifting.

Tate was a discovery of Ransohoff’s, who was the producer of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. He met Tate when she auditioned for PETTICOAT JUNCTION and he signed her to a seven-year contract on the spot. But he had bigger plans for her than a sitcom, which is clearly seen in in EYE OF THE DEVIL. She gives an amazing performance as Odile, and her commitment to her craft really shines. Hemming also creates a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts, and may be the reason the film was eventually released after Novak’s accident and the reshoots. Stuck in limbo for more than a year, his popularity after the release of BLOW-UP seems to have given the studio a reason to refocus on EYE OF THE DEVIL and complete it, finally releasing the film in 1967 in the U.S. and 1968 in the U.K.

Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is visually stunning, sourced from a new 4K scan of the original film elements. The picture is crisp and secure, and Erwin Hillier ’s monochrome cinematography is a joy to behold. The audio is less effective, but it’s sourced from a half-century old mono track and performs within expectations. The only extra included on the disc is the theatrical trailer.

This film flopped in the U.S. and has stayed under the radar which is a shame. It’s well worth a watch and might just wind up becoming a new favorite. Recommended.

 

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

 

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

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

APES ON FILM: By The Pricking of My Thumbs…

Posted on: Feb 16th, 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!

 

RAY BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES – 1983
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd , Pam Grier
Director: Jack Clayton 
Rated: PG
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: September 7, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 95 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Ray Bradbury is arguably the greatest American writer of all time. He wrote a short story and/or worked on a novel every day of his adult life, leaving a rich legacy of unforgettable narratives that have been adapted, adopted, re-interpreted, and spread throughout the ground water of worldwide culture for more than seventy years. Though Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical memoir is Dandelion Wine, the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes conveys the true essence of the man – his experiences, his beliefs, his philosophies – like no other of his works. It has been strip-mined by no less than the likes of Stephen King repeatedly to good effect in books like Salem’s Lot, Needful Things, and Doctor Sleep, and its influence has never been diminished.

The 1983 film adaptation of the novel by Disney has many positive facets. The casting of Jason Robards and Jonathon Pryce was inspired, the screenplay by Bradbury himself is a wonderful adaptation without being pedantic in honoring the source material, and many of the supporting performances are fine. Ultimately, it fails as good film due to limitations of technology and lack of vision on the part of the studio in post-production, as well as a lackluster job by director Jack Clayton.

Clayton, the director of 1961’s THE INNOCENTS, certainly seemed a good candidate for the job. One would surmise then that he would be a good choice to helm a film based on a beloved classic book about two boys who beat back the coming of a weird, malevolent carnival and its proprietors, saving their hometown and righting the wrongs done by black magic. But he wasn’t. Yes, there are wonderful sequences within the movie – the library showdown between Pryce’s Mr. Dark and Robards’ Charlie Halloway is brilliant – but the bulk of the film falls flat on multiple levels.

Performances by young leads Vidal Peterson  and Shawn Carson are inconsistent. The whole story hinges on viewers believing that the pair are blood brothers in dire circumstances – afraid, but heroes at their core; neither delivers this, unfortunately. Besides Robards and Pryce, other standouts are Pam Grier as the Dust Witch, Royal Dano as Tom Fury, and Bruce M. Fischer  as Mr. Coogar. Angelo Rossitto  has a good moment or two as a demonic barker at the carnival.

Disney’s culpability comes in what I can only assume was a surfeit of oversight. The studio spent a year re-shooting, editing, and generally misunderstanding how to complete the movie. In an era where independent shops like Boss Films or Stan Winston Studios were creating excellent visual effects on reasonable budgets, Disney opted to keep optical effects in-house, resulting in a lot of shaky, underexposed traveling mattes, THAT DARN CAT!level animation overlays, and a lot of film grain bloom from poorly executed optical film printer composite shots. The most egregious wrong done to this film is that the color timing is all over the pace. The lack of a consistent color palette for such a metaphorically rich film is a crime, and it’s hard to figure out where to point the finger of blame – director or producers? The movie comes across as way too much Disney, not enough Bradbury. What it needs is a remake by Guillermo Del Toro, frankly.

Disney Movie Club’s Blu-ray presentation is a bare bones release, and exclusive to members only. No extras of any kind are included, which seems like a missed opportunity. The picture is dusty and spotty, with scratches and pops throughout, most noticeably in the opening scenes. The enhanced definition here also serves to reveal that the film was clearly shot on the backlot and in Burbank sound stages, resulting in an unenhanced visual environment for home viewing. DMC even bumped the original aspect ratio of 1.75.1 up to 1.85.1 – it seems just to thumb their nose at purists. Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

I wish I could recommend this disc, but truly cannot. It’s not worth the hassle of the Disney Movie Club format (reminiscent of the Columbia House Record Club, you have to opt out of a monthly shipment at a premium price) to get such lackluster presentations for home viewing, especially for films with marginal viewing value.

Let’s hope Guillermo is reading and has an AHA! moment.

An expanded version of this review appears in issue 40 of Screem Magazine.

 

 

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

 

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

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

APES ON FILM: Who is THE AMAZING MR.X?

Posted on: Jan 26th, 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 AMAZING MR. X – 1948
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Turhan Bey , Lynn Bari , Cathy O’Donnell , Richard Carlson
Director: Bernard Vorhaus
Rated: NR
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 78 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Fans of Guillermo Del Toro’s recent remake of NIGHTMARE ALLEY should enjoy THE AMAZING MR. X, which explores similar territory (spiritualism and con men, but without the carny trappings) painted in the same film noir brush strokes.

Universal Studios’ stalwart Turhan Bey (THE MUMMY’S TOMB) stars as “Alexis, Psychic Consultant” – code for con man – who’s set his sights on Lynn Bari’s (THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY) Christine, a not-too-recent rich widow who’s being haunted by the spirit of her dead husband, Paul (Donald Curtis). Richard Carlson (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) intervenes as her sensible and skeptical lawyer/suitor. Martin and Cathy O’Donnell (THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES) plays younger sister Janet, who wants nothing more than for Christine to forget the past and move on to a happy future with Martin. As much a character in the drama as any of the actors is the cinematography of John Alton, who creates dream-like misty and sometimes even downright fog-laden environments that enhance the lighting and lens choices he makes. Shot in a gothic, film noir style, the camera’s eye is used as a narrator rather than simply as a passive window.

Bey’s inside accomplice (Christine’s housekeeper Virginia Gregg) feeds him enough information to dazzle her and point her towards him as a solution to her problem as it begins to spin out of control. Alexis remains a smooth operator until the moment Martin holds him to a seance table and dead husband Paul appears without any pre-arranged special effects. From then on, the fake spiritualist is in over his head and unable to find a way out.

The Film Detective’s release of THE AMAZING MR. X is sourced from a 4K restoration of Bey’s own print of the film, and a definite improvement over earlier home video releases. As much of the film is set at night, there are some very grainy segments, but for the most part the picture is as crisp or as sharp as the cinematographer and director decided it should be. Other artifacts pop up occasionally – there are some shots with slight lens doubling effects that stem from the original film elements. Audio is consistent with the technology of 1948, sweetened a bit for modern tastes. It’s no distraction from the imagery, but could have been more of an enhancement.

Special Features include a commentary by professor and film scholar Jason A. New; MYSTERIES EXPOSED: INSIDE THE CINEMATIC WORLD OF SPIRITUALISM, an original documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featuring author Lisa Morton and writer/producer C. Courtney Joiner, and a full color booklet with an essay, The Amazing Mr. Bey, by Dan Stradley.

If you’ve never seen this movie, or seen it only in a diminished format sourced from a bad public domain print, don’t hesitate to buy this disc. Well worth the price!

 

 

 

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*WatcHDog, and more.

 

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

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

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