Friday, February 10, 2017

Happy Birthday Remembrance For Hazel Court

      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



     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" !