APES ON FILM: Mr. Roberts and The H-Man Battle In Outer Space!

Posted on: Feb 8th, 2021 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.

 

 

 

ISHIRO HONDA DOUBLE FEATURE: THE H-MAN & BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (1958-59)
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Yumi Shirakawa , Kenji Sahara , Akihiko Hirata  / Ryô Ikebe , Kyôko Anzai , Minoru Takada
Director: Ishiro Honda
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Eureka!
Region: B
BRD Release Date: November 16, 2020
Audio Formats: LPCM 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Run Time: 79/90 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

If you’re a fan of giant monsters stomping Japanese cities flat, then you know the name Ishiro Honda, the man who directed GODZILLA, RODAN, MOTHRA, THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, and most of the rest of Toho Companys’ kaiju faire from the 1950s up through the year 2000. Now two of Honda’s other pictures for the studio have gotten the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray release treatment from Eureka! Video in the UK. One is a monster film of a different stripe, the other a sci-fi actioner whose tropes were later refit for a beloved British children’s television series.

THE H-MAN is essentially a proto-psychedelic noir/procedural about radioactive snot monsters invading Tokyo and dissolving the population. Hey, who doesn’t love a good snot monster, am I right? Starting at sea and moving into the city via the sewers, the snot gives the local gendarmes a run for their money but are (of course) defeated in the end. Or are they? This was 1958, before that particular trope was so overused as to have become offensive. I feel that cinematographer Hajime Koizumi’s highly-saturated color motifs may well have influenced Mario Bava, at a nascent point in his directing career but already well-respected as a cinematographer himself. A few of the sequences look as though they might have been shot by Bava himself – an impossibility, of course. Though director Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya were already masters of the visual, the lack of suspense during a slog of a second act brings the film down a notch in comparison to much of their kaiju work.

BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE has much to recommend – Tsubaraya’s effects are front and center from frame one, and rightfully so. Compared to much of the American sci-fi cinema of the time, the model work here is of the highest quality and the recipient of Koizumi’s deep, colorful lighting, making it stand above the pack. Strip-mined for premise as well as art direction by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s CAPTAIN SCARLET AND THE MYSTERONS (1967) television series, the film is honestly a joy visually, but suffers a similar fate as THE H-MAN when the second act unfolds. Both films are stuffed with what author and film commentator David J. Schow calls “shoe leather;” unnecessarily long shots of mundane action, dialog that could easily be excised, etc. Essentially, padding to expand the running time of the film which adds nothing to the viewing experience. BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE does accelerate once the U.N. forces reach the moon and attack the alien base there, however.

I do recommend this set, even though both films would benefit from the editor having a stern talking-to by say, Akira Kurosawa. It comes in an “O” card slipcase for the first 2000 copies and includes both Japanese and English versions of each film, presented across two Blu-ray discs. Other extras include a brand-new audio commentary with authors and Japanese sci-fi historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski on THE H-MAN, as well as one on BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE with film historian and writer David Kalat. Further, included are stills galleries and a collector’s booklet featuring essays by Christopher Stewardson and Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp.

The Masters of Cinema package by Eureka! is definitely worth a pick up if you’re in the UK or Ireland, or have a region-free player.

 

 

MISTER ROBERTS – 1955
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon
Directed By: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
BRD Release Date: December 15, 2020
Region: A, B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 – English (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: New 2020 1080p HD Remaster from 4K Scan of Original Negative
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1-16×9 LETTERBOX
Run Time: 121:00 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Some films are classics because of writing, some because of their performances, or direction, or cinematography. MISTER ROBERTS is a classic for all these reasons and more. Based on the play by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan  (itself based on Heggen’s novel), the film is simply a masterpiece of cinema and of storytelling.

A character study of a man desperate to be a part of something bigger than himself and to make a real difference in the Second World War, the film features Fonda‘s pitch-perfect performance as Lt. (j.g.) Douglas Roberts, stuck aboard a dreary naval cargo ship in a Pacific backwater, far from the fighting. At constant odds with his Captain (Cagney in bravura performance of pure, hilarious evil), Roberts takes solace in his relationship with Powell’s Doc, a sympathetic veteran too tired to complain any longer, and his bunkmate, Ensign Frank Pulver (Lemmon), a braggadocious schemer who never quite follows through on his plans. Executive officer of the boat, Roberts is also popular with the crew for his passive-aggressive war with the Captain, who terrorizes them regularly.

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like on the set of this movie, but man…what an amazing place it must have been. Fonda was on the upper curve of his peak, with 12 ANGRY MEN a mere two years in the future; Lemmon gives his breakthrough performance as Pulver. Powell, Cagney, and Ward Bond  were all on the downward slide and past their leading man days but give wonderful performances…and imagine the tales they had to tell. Rounding it all out is a cadre of young actors playing the ship’s crew, many of whom were on the way to distinguished careers, like Ken Curtis , Tige Andrews , Buck Kartalian, and a wide-eyed and fresh-faced Nick Adams , whose future looked very bright, but would fall short of his expectations and end tragically. Rumor has it that director Ford was replaced after socking Fonda in the jaw during a heated discussion, though it was more likely due to emergency gall bladder surgery.

Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray presentation is absolutely breathtaking. Remastered from a new 4K scan, the picture is truly one of the best I’ve ever seen in this format, with little to no film grain visible throughout, colors balanced and saturated well, and deep blacks supporting a generous midtone range. The only flaws I saw were minimal focus issues near the vertical screen edges occasionally, artifacts of the original CinemaScope projection process most likely. Sound is also above expectation, and a real joy in 24-bit 5.1 surround. Extras include the original theatrical trailer and a scene-specific audio commentary by Jack Lemmon, carried over from a previous release.

Honestly, this is the best restoration I’ve seen all year on a film that I recommend everybody should own. Do yourself a favor and grab it while Warner makes it available. You never know when they might decide to go to an all-streaming model and ditch traditional media sales.

 

 

 

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Retro Review: DIE, MONSTER DIE! Silver Scream Spookshow Invades the Plaza with Mutant Killer Plants and Karloff!

Posted on: Aug 25th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965); Dir: Daniel Haller; Starring Boris Karloff; Sat. Aug. 27;  kids matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Originally released by American International Pictures in 1965 on a double bill with Mario Bava’s  PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, DIE, MONSTER, DIE (aka MONSTER OF TERROR) is another ’60s fright-fest loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft story, in this case “The Color Out of Space.” The movie marks the directorial debut by former art director, Daniel Haller, who worked extensively with Roger Corman in the 50s and 60s, his distinctive design work adding to the atmospherics of  Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960),  THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), THE PREMATURE BURIAL and TALES OF TERROR (both 1962), and a whole slew of other great old Corman/Vincent Price/AIP flicks we love here at ATLRetro.

Like the Corman/Poe films, DIE, MONSTER, DIE! follows the familiar narrative format of a stranger arriving in a strange town – in this case, Lovecraft’s infamous Arkham, transposed to a rural English setting – only to encounter hostility from the locals who shun the inhabitants of the Whitley estate. The stranger in question is Stephen Reinhart (THE GREEN SLIME’s Nick Adams), an American coming to visit his fiancé. Unable to rent even a bicycle to get to the mysterious house, Reinhart notices there’s something wrong with the vegetation the closer he gets to the Whitley place – and discovers a strange crater.

Managing to get into the grounds of the permanently fog-shrouded estate, Reinhart is rebuffed by Whitley patriarch, Nathum (Boris Karloff), but as soon as his daughter (and Reinhart’s love), Susan (Suzan Farmer, who went on to appear in Hammer’s DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK, the following year) learns Stephen has suddenly shown up, the old man agrees to let him stay. Reinhart, it turns out, was summoned to the house by Susan’s mother, Lettia, who is dying a a strange disease which is making her waste away. The mother, played by Freda Jackson, another Hammer veteran (1960’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA), confides that Helga, the housemaid, has disappeared, that there’s something strange growing/lurking in the greenhouse, and, fearing, for her daughter’s safety, begs Stephen to take her away. Of course, he agrees…by deciding to stay for a few days. Big mistake! And what about that mysterious meteorite Nathum has hidden in the basement?

DIE, MONSTER, DIE! is a fun film and a competent debut by Haller. It’s not the best Lovecraft adaptation (Haller’s  1970 THE DUNWICH HORROR is a much better H.P.- inspired film), and it’s not a great Karloff flick, either. But it’s always fantastic to see Uncle Boris on the big screen, especially at The Plaza, and particularly in the presence of Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow gang!

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

© 2021 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress