Friday, February 10, 2017

Happy Birthday Remembrance For Hazel Court

  
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      A very special birthday remembrance needs to go out today for actress Hazel Court. Most famous for her roles in 1950's and 60's British horror films, she seemed particularly well suited to Gothic period pieces such as Hammer's CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) and THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959) where she would always bring a touch of class (along with a heaving bosom) to her roles.
     My personal favorite Hazel role is Juliana in Roger Corman's MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964). Playing the wife to to Vincent Price's Prince Prospero), she wonderfully projects an air of sexual evilness that comes to the fore in a satanic ritual that one of the highlights of the A.I.P. "Poe" series.  
     After meeting actor Don Taylor (BATTLEGROUND) on an episode of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS in 1961 they were married and she retired from acting in 1964. Moving to California she later appeared in a couple of TV shows in the 70's and had a small role in OMEN III in 1981. Hazel passed away in 2008 and will always be a vital (and very lovely) icon from the golden age of British horror.  


Roger, Hazel and Jane Asher on the set of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

EXTERMINATOR 2 From Shout Factory

      
     In a sort of surprising announcement Shout Factory is going to release this 1984 sequel to director James Glickenhaus' 1980 urban revenge classic on Blu-ray. Directed and produced by the original films producer Mark Buntzman, its while admittedly not as entertaining as the first, it is on the other hand not as bad as its reputation would warrant.
    It features some solid work by the always reliable Ginty (whose even more stoic here then in the first one) and he does get to break out the flamethrower and helmet attire that was featured on the 1980 poster art - but never in the actual movie
   Returning as Vietnam vet John Eastman (seemingly free & clear of the CIA plot from the previous film), Ginty fires up the flamethrower to help out a soldier buddy who has a run in with a gang led by Mario Van Pebbles. A troubled production, Cannon was unhappy with Buntzman's initial cut and re-shot a good chuck of the movie in Los Angeles with William Sachs directing the new footage. The budget ballooned to $3,000,000 as a NYC garbage truck had to be brought in to match existing footage and the studio began a protracted job of editing everything together with the initial cut garnering an "X" rating before the violence was toned down a bit for an "R".  
    As to be expected the finished product has a definite "Frankenseined" feel to it, but is helped by the presence of Ginty and the violence while trimmed still packs a wallop.
    Shout had previously released this as part of their DVD "4 Packs" and will drop this new Blu-ray on  April 25. Aside from a p[previously released commentary by Buntzman and Van Peebles, no word yet on any more on extras or restored footage. The trailer makes extensive use of footage that does not appear in the released version.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. On Blu-Ray

     



     Watching Hammer's 1,000,000 YEARS BC for the first as a child (for me at least) was one of those movie touchstone events that forever turned me into a movie geek. I saw it at the drive-in with my father probably in 1967 on a forgotten double bill that of which I most likely fell asleep during the second feature. Watching it on the big screen (and even later on TV) was an awe inspiring spectacle as the film had a truly epic majestic look to it, as if we were watching the Lawrence of Arabia of prehistoric caveman/dinosaur movies.
     Billed as Hammers "100th Production" (it wasn't) and fueled by the double shot of Raquel Welch in her fur bikini and Ray Harryhausen's stop motion prehistoric beasts, it arrived on a wave of publicity in 1966 and was both Hammer's most expensive (£422,000) and the highest grossing production as it raked up $8,000,000 in the U.S. alone. Directed by Don Chaffey (JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS), it was shot on location in the Canary Islands (with interior stuff at Elstree) and has a wide open spacious look to it unlike the set bound Gothic horrors that Hammer was known for. Producer (and writer) Michael Carreras smartly hired both a director and cinematographer (Wilke Cooper) who had both worked with Harryhausen before.




      Anybody whose reading this is hopefully familiar with the basic plot as Tumak (John Richardson BLACK SUNDAY) is banished from his violent tribe of "rock people" and upon wondering through a barren landscape comes across Luna (Raquel Welch FANTASTIC VOYAGE) along with her proto-hippie "shell people" who show him a gentler way of life. Welch who was under contract to Fox at the time was about to loaned out to MGM for the role of Domino in THUNDERBALL when Fox changed their mind, casting her in FANTASTIC VOYAGE and then setting her off to London for a role and look that would pass into mid 60's cultural history. How many adolescent boys ordered that poster out of Famous Monsters and had it hanging in their bedroom ?
     Originally clocking in at 100 minutes Fox cut it down to 91 minute for U.S. release losing some blood, violence, hints of cannibalism along with a bit of wild cave woman dancing by Martine Beswick (most likely it was also probably cut a bit for better double feature compatibility). In a really bizarre move Fox edited some of Harryhausen's stop-motion animation work including bits of the Allosaurus attack which is one of his greatest creations.




     Often unfairly labeled and mocked (sure its popcorn, but its GREAT popcorn),it was obviously taken seriously by all involved and watching the film today its pretty amazing how dark and grim it is through the first sequence with Tumak's rock people and how other worldly the film looks in terms of scenery. Shot entirely without dialogue (just some grunts & a few verbal commands from the shell folk), it's  Mario Nascimbene's (he's credited with "music and special music sound effects") score that carries the film's audio side which combines sound effects, wind and sometimes even the mixing of two different pieces of soundtrack music along with choral passages to create a score that alternates between disjointed primitive soundscapes along with sweeping grandeur.
    Kino Lorber's spectacular new blu ray shares the same 4k restoration that Studio Canel released last year of the longer British cut while adding a second disc with the same restoration of the 91 minute U.S. version.  Extras include interviews with Martine and Raquel (who at 75 looks like she could still climb into that fur bikini with no problem), a vintage interview with Ray Harryhausen, still gallery & trailers and a full length fact packed commentary by Tim Lucas on the long cut.




  


All above screen Caps Are From The Kino Lorber Blu-Ray





No better way to watch a Hammer dbl. feature then if your "scientifically cool" !


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Remembering John Agar On His Birthday

    

     One of my favorite "big bug" 1950's movies is 1955's TARANTULA. It's got a cool giant bug in the form of the title beast stomping around plus there Jack Arnold's usual tight and taught direction with his small town desert setting, the gorgeous Mara Corday and best of all John Agar who was born of this day in 1921.
    After starting out in major Hollywood productions such as John Ford's FT. APACHE and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON along with SANDS OF TWO JIMA he moved on to what werre considered "B" pictures in the 1950's and found a niche for himself in the horror/sci-fi boom which that decade produced.
    John made bunches of these and he always be counted on for bringing a calming sense of professionalism to the plot no matter how ludicrous or poverty driven there were and I've spent countless hours watching him save the day throughout my life.
   In the early 90's at one of the great old Fanex shows in Baltimore I got the chance to meet him and it could not have more gracious or kind to all the fans there. I think this was one of the first convention he'd ever done and he seemed immensely touched by the outpouring of attention shown to him.




Some Joan Collins Late Night Cable Trashy Sleaze Is Coming.....

     


     After the massive success of ABC's prime time soaper DYNASTY Joan Collins pretty much disowned her entire pre-1980 career. With acting credits stretching all the way back  to 1951 there are some real gems lurking in there including the alternately grim & daffy REVENGE from 1970 along with 1975's ROSEMARY'S BABY inspired I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN in which stripper Joan is cursed into giving birth to the spawn of Satan after spurring the advances of a lecherous dwarf and Bert I. Gordon's 1977 EMPIRE OF THE ANTS as shady real estate mogul Joan tries to sell some condos that unfortunately are infested by the title creatures.
    Just before prime time TV turned into America's favorite slutty rich bitch she appeared in these two screen adaptations based upon novels by her sister Jackie where she played basically the same slutty rich bitch character only more amped as far as bare skin and sex are concerned.
   Back in the early 80's these were staples of late night cable TV and now thanks to Kino Lorber you'll be able to enjoy them any hour of the day starting on March 14. Both will feature audio commentaries by David Del Valle and Nick Redmond along with interviews with cast members (however without the participation of Joan I'm fairly certain).
   Filled with (unintentionally) hilarious dialogue and set pieces (who could ever forgot that swing in THE STUD) these both are icons of trash cinema and great guilty pleasures.
         


Monday, January 30, 2017

THE KLANSMAN Is Coming


    Another one of those "we're never getting a legit release of this" bites the proverbial dust on Feb. 24 as Olive Films is releasing Terence Young's 1974 exploitation classic on blu-ray and DVD. Starring Lee Marvin and Richard Burton (you can practically smell the bourbon wafting off the screen) and Cameron Mitchell, Lola Falana, Luciana Paluzzi (reunited with director Young from THUNDERBALL) along with Linda Evans, O.J. Simpson and David Huddleston as the local Klan leader.
    Based upon a 1967 novel by William Bradford Huie (THE EXECUTION OF PVT. SLOVIK) it was originally a Sam Fuller project with Lee Marvin as a Klan leader along with John Cassevetes as his second in command.  After Paramount insisted on re-writing his script (which they deemed too violent) Fuller quit and/or was fired and Young came on. The final screenplay had Marvin as the town sheriff, Burton as an the local matriarch/ landowner and O.J as a vengeance seeking sniper all of whom get caught up in the aftermath of an attack upon local girl Linda Evans.
    Bearing little relation to the source novel (or Fuller's script) its a fascinating train-wreak of a movie for lovers of "what we they thinking when they made this" style of cinema. Filmed outside of Sacramento, CA., Burton was allegedly so drunk on the set that most of his scenes had to filmed with him sitting or laying down as he couldn't stand. Because of his rumored affair with a young local girl Liz Taylor appeared on the set to keep on eye on him and the pair had some highly destructive arguments in their rented house.
    
 



       

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Exhumed Films Present Legends OF Italian Horror

   


  On July 31st Exhumed Films will present a special program titled Masters Of Italian Horror at the International House Theater in Philadelphia, PA. starting at 12:00 noon.
  Featuring 35mm (!) prints of  SUSPIRIA (1977), Umberto Lenzi's EYEBALL (1975), Fulci's THE BLACK CAT (1981), Bava's BARON BLOOD (1972) and lastly Sergio Martino's violent giallo TORSO from 1973.
   Being a U.S. print you will see the infamous "breathing flesh" title card on SUSPIRIA card that was added by the American distributor. Fun Stuff ! -and I hope to make it up someday to one of their screening festivals.