Monday, July 29, 2013

A Bunch of Characters

Bruce Cabot, Kent Taylor, William Bendix, Barton MacLane, Richard Arlen and Lon Chaney, Jr, all great character actors, together here in one film, LAW OF THE LAWLESS, a sixties western. Producer AC Lyles had a habit for piecing together wonderful casts of veterans.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scarlet Street

Edward G. Robinson and Dan Duryea were two of my Dad's favorite actors. As he grew older, he even became a bit of a lookalike of Robinson to the point where a woman on a bus once actually thought he WAS him!

Growing up in the sixties and seventies, I knew Edward G as the bearded old guy on various movies and TV shows including a memorable episode of NIGHT GALLERY, THE CINCINNATI KID, THE OLD MAN WHO CRIED WOLF and, of course, SOYLENT GREEN.

But by the eighties I had never seen prime Robinson. And Duryea I only knew from an early TWILIGHT ZONE. Then one local station picked up a package with lots of Robinson pictures, the first of which I saw was Fritz Lang's 1945 masterpiece, SCARLET STREET.

SCARLET STREET was not my first film noir (that was THE DARK CORNER with Lucille Ball) but it was a bit of a revelation as to how adult movies could get back in the old days when they really wanted to!

The plot features married, middle-aged, mid-life crisis painter Robinson rescuing and falling for a young woman of the streets played by later DARK SHADOWS matriarch Joan Bennett. His efforts to impress her lead to her "boyfriend" Duryea cutting in on what looks to be a cushy first.

Great directing and photography, brilliant, adult acting and brilliant performances. Many years later they'd even name a magazine after this movie.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My First FM

My friend Terry had been buying FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND for nearly a year before I picked up my first issue, # 64, at Woolworth's on a Saturday afternoon in early 1970. I can't overestimate just how much of an influence this magazine would become on me as a burgeoning film buff. 

In retrospect, it may have been the STAR TREK article that attracted me as that series was already in reruns which was where I really became  aTrekkie. 

I had no real idea that 3-D films had been a regular ting at some point. I thought the 2 or 3 I'd seen as a kid--Russian fairy tale movies I believe--were just a passing novelty...especially since I couldn't--and still can't--see 3-D.

As stated in the previous post, we got the commercials but we never saw hide nor hair of DESTROY ALL MONSTERS locally. That didn't stop me from memorizing this article about it!

I remember distinctly that I had never heard of Bela Lugosi until I saw this issue's article on MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. I didn't know what a "rue" was either. Hey, I was 11!

I knew this guy from TV.

Karloff I knew! I grew up thinking of him as the grandfather figure I never had. In fact, in the early days of the Internet, Ia actually emailed his daughter Sara, seen here, and told her that and she replied that she'd actually heard it a lot!

Girls were something I was just discovering, being in the early stages of puberty already by that point. At this point, I didn't pay much attention to VAMPIRELLA but soon that would change.

I never saw the next issue on the stands or the one after that. But when I did finally see another issue of FM, I bought it and I continued to buy it for years afterwards, every issue a deceptively amusing bunch of silliness that offered subtle lessons on film history and introduced me to the Chaneys, Perter Lorre, John Carradine, Ray Harryhausen, Conrad Veidt, Ed Wood and dozens more who would remain lifelong favorites. Not to mention Zandor Vorkov!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Top Ten Godzillas

Those of you who followed my 1970's high school journal blogs know that I never missed a Godzilla film! I had discovered the Big G when CREATURE FEATURE on WXIX aired GODZILLA VS THE THING circa 1968. Even though that proved to be my least favorite of the films in the long run, it was enough to pull me in. I had the Aurora model on my desk--the same one I'm sitting at now, actually!--through most of the seventies and eighties.

My friend Michael Schlesinger was the American producer of GODZILLA 2000, supervising the dubbing with actual Asian actors for a change! He does the DVD commentary. He did a great job, making this comeback film--after the dreadful US reboot-- my absolute favorite. 

This was also a comeback film, from 1993, updating the series for the first time in nearly a decade and giving it a major budget! Oddly it was not released in US theaters at the time, possibly due to its WWII flashback scenes telling the origin of Godzilla.

The original has a wholly different vibe than any of the others and makes the point that we ourselves led to the destruction by playing with atoms.

Perhaps the most ambitious of the nineties films, GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILA II is most entertaining and the formerly cardboard looking robot Godzilla now looks awesome!

I saw this one advertised when it came out and I waited and waited but it never opened anywhere near me! I didn't see it until VHS in the eighties. By the time my son was 4 in 200 it was his favorite film and I saw it a zillion times...a DAY!

When this double feature opened at Cincinnati's International '70 theater, I thought MONSTER ZERO might be a retitled DESTROY ALL MONSTERS but it wasn't. In fact it had come out first.

I really liked Ghidrah in all the films so, of course, this minster fest makes my list!

This was actually GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, the original fifties first sequel and, again, a whole different vibe.

Probably one of the worst, really, and certainly the most dated, but my friend Terry and I saw it two days in a row at Covington's Madison theater so it's also the most nostalgic one for me!

And finally...seriously. What's not to like here?


Friday, July 19, 2013


Yes, I was a bat-kid. I remember all the hype leading up to the series. On the night it premiered in January of 1966, I managed to be at my friend Jeff's house. Jeff's family had a color TV whereas mine did not. I was immediately hooked for life on the series with its magical, colorful, indefinable "camp" that worked so well here by accident that the producers were never able to duplicate it on purpose. With Batmania peaking by the end of the series' abbreviated first season, a big budget movie was quickly rushed into production. It was produced, directed, edited and released before the end of the year. It's surprising that it's any good at all!

But it is! Taking the most popular villains of the TV series and teaming them up was a smart move, even though Julie Newmar's Catwoman was replaced  by Lee Meriwether due to the suddenness of the production. Lee plays her as a very different sort of character and it's clear Batman has never before seen her without a mask. So it's sort of an "else worlds" thing, really. 

The producers wisely used the bigger movie budget in order to get props such as the Batboat, Batcycle and the Batcopter with the intent of reusing them in the series itself. Oddly, they rarely turned up there. In some cases, not at all in fact. 

For some reason, various foreign versions of the poster often colored Batman in red and black. It's a look but...

By the time it opened, I was, of course, even at age 7, begging to see it. Oddly enough, it opened locally as part of a "bat" double feature with Hammer's DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS! When I convinced my babysitter to take me one day whilst my parents were at work, we arrived just as the Christopher Lee opus was beginning. It was my very first encounter with vampires and, in particular, with Count Dracula. A bit too explicitly violent to have been tied to what was ostensibly a kids film, though!

Although the TV series has yet to surface as a legal release, this movie was released on DVD a while back (and several times since) with a fun running commentary by Adam West and Burt Ward themselves. 

The poster below clearly ripped off its art from Adam West's famous LIFE magazine cover of ear;ier in the year.

This was one of two BATMAN novels of the time written by William Woolfolk as "Winston Lyon." The first one featured a team-up of three villains. This one naturally followed up with four as an adaptation of the film's script.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Top 10 Carry Ons

The CARRY ON films are definitely an acquired taste but one that I have, in fact, acquired over the years. The advent of DVD's and the Internet have helped me eventually see them all. The delightful and often naughty ensemble cast of the films is what makes them work more often than not, whatever the setting. Sid James, Bernard Bresslaw, Kenneth Williams. Charles Hawtrey, Kenneth Connor, Hattie Jacques, Joan Sims, Barbara Windsor, Peter Butterworth, Jack Douglas, Terry Scott, Jim Dale, Frankie Howerd, Bernard Cribbens and guests like Juliet Mills, Phil Silvers, Jon Pertwee and Harry H. Corbett. Many folks never get the taste for CARRY ON pictures but with more than 15 years worth of them, you must assume that SOMEbody liked them. I sure do.