Sunday, June 30, 2024



The 16th volume in the SCRIPTS FROM THE CRYPT series from Bear Manor Media focuses on THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN, Universal's 1942 follow-up to SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. What makes this book particularly noteworthy is that it's nearly 400 pages, a treasure trove of facts, trivia, commentary, analysis, stills, and just plain Monster Kid fun. 

THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN may not be the greatest classic horror film in the world, and it's certainly not one of the longest, clocking in at about 67 minutes. But this book more than makes clear that the film has all sorts of interesting elements to it, including a top cast, excellent production details, and that classic monster movie attitude only Universal of the 1930s-40s could provide. 

The book starts out with an extensive production history of the movie by Greg Mank, and then presents Eric Taylor's original script for the film, which was quite different than what was eventually shot. (I'm thinking about writing a blog post on Taylor's script.) Tom Weaver discusses the Taylor script, and makes a number of observations about the finished film. There's also a reproduction of the movie's pressbook, an analysis of the character of Ludwig Frankenstein by Frank Dello Stritto, and an examination of the various "Igor" types in Frankenstein films by Bill Cooke. 

There's plenty more than that, though......Greg Mank also has chapters on the personal lives of actors Doris Lloyd and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, while Roger Hurlburt presents autographs he has collected from numerous members of THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN's cast & crew. There are also mini-bios of a few of the supporting actors of GHOST, a photo gallery focusing on the film's director, George Waggner, and a rare interview with Lon Chaney Jr. 

Needless to say, you get your money's worth with this book, and most importantly, it's a fun, entertaining read. A movie like THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN shouldn't have a stuffy, dour tome written about it. The Universal Classic Horror films were meant to be can admire and appreciate them without treating them as if they belong on a pedestal. There's a lot of important info in this SCRIPTS FROM THE CRYPT entry, but there's also a lot of laughs and smiles as well. The best way I can describe this book is that while reading it I felt as if I was back at Monster Bash, sitting around listening to my favorite experts on classic monster movies having a great round-table on THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. 

After reading this book I went and re-watched THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. I wouldn't say that my opinion on it has changed considerably, but I did have a new and better appreciation for the film, and the people who were involved in the making of it. SCRIPTS FROM THE CRYPT: THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN is pure Monster Movie Fan catnip, and an enjoyable examination of a movie that will delight and surprise even those who have watched it dozens of times. 

Saturday, June 22, 2024



THE UNKNOWN TERROR (1957) was previously unknown to me. The movie is included in Kino's SCI-FI CHILLERS COLLECTION, a two-disc set containing three films. 

Rich explorer Dan Matthews (John Howard) intends to go searching for the mysterious "Cave of Death", a place where his wife's brother never returned from. Dan and his wife, Gina (Mala Powers) are joined in the quest by Pete Morgan (Paul Richards), a cave expert who has a bum leg due to a climbing accident involving him and Dan. The trio arrive at the native village near the cave, and discover an American doctor named Ramsey (Gerald Milton) who is experimenting with strange fungi. Needless to say, the fungi have gone out of control, affecting the natives and the dangerous cave. 

THE UNKNOWN TERROR is a lackadaisical effort--it takes over half the movie to actually get to the cave, and there's more talk than action. The two leads, John Howard and Paul Richards, are a glum-looking duo lacking in spirit--this movie sorely needed a Richard Denning, Kenneth Tobey, or even a John Agar. (During filming John Howard had to have been wondering how he got from THE PHILADELPHIA STORY to this.) Mala Powers doesn't get much to do as the obligatory pretty female, but she does get a scene where she's chased by one of the fungi-infected natives while she's wearing a nightgown. 

As for the weird Dr. Ramsey, he's one of the most mediocre mad scientists in low budget sci-fi/horror history. (The big, beefy, and bald Gerald Milton looks more like a truck driver than a scheming mad doctor.) Why Ramsey is hiding out in a remote jungle location and experimenting with fungi is never made entirely clear. The doc explains to the protagonists that due to his medical knowledge he's become something of a god to the locals, and he's even married to a beautiful native maiden (May Wynn). This comely lass appears to develop an interest in Pete, but like every plot element in this tale, this idea isn't developed enough. 

Something else that isn't developed enough is where, exactly, the "Cave of Death" is. Some reviews of the film suggest that it's in South America, others in Mexico. There's a sense that the cave and the village are on an island--maybe the West Indies?? At the beginning of the film, Dan Matthews holds a party at his home where calypso singer Sir Lancelot performs a folk tune about how a person must suffer before being born again. Matthews believes that this song somehow establishes the validity of the "Cave of Death", although, once again, it's never explained why this is. (Sir Lancelot, of course, will be familiar to classic horror fans for his appearances in the RKO Val Lewton series of films. He even gets special billing on the poster above, although I doubt people went to see this film specifically for him.) 

When the out-of-control fungus is finally revealed, the viewer is shocked to discover that it resembles--giant soap suds! (While watching the climax of THE UNKNOWN TERROR, I couldn't help thinking about that episode of THE BRADY BUNCH where Bobby caused the washing machine to go crazy.) The soapy suds have caused a few of the natives to turn into grotesque monsters (unfortunately we don't get much of a look at their special makeup). At the very last minute, Dr. Ramsey reveals that if the fungus isn't stopped, it will take over the world! (Couldn't the authorities have used a bunch of thick towels to dry the suds up??) 

This ending doesn't exactly get the viewer's heart racing, and along with the generic fake jungle sets, "natives" who are obviously white Americans, and stodgy acting and dialogue, THE UNKNOWN TERROR winds up near the bottom of the 1950s low-budget sci-fi/horror cycle. 

The film was directed by Charles Marquis Warren, who is much better known for his work in Westerns. The movie was shot in Regalscope, a 2.35:1 widescreen process that a story like this doesn't deserve. The widescreen isn't used in a particularly engaging way, and, if anything, it makes the movie's production design look cheaper. 

The soap suds of THE UNKNOWN TERROR won't terrify anyone--unless you're Pig Pen from the "Peanuts" comic strip. 

Sunday, June 16, 2024



The final film in the Kino Philo Vance Collection Blu-ray release is THE BENSON MURDER CASE (1930). It was the third Vance film made by Paramount starring William Powell, but it was based on the very first Vance novel written by S.S. Van Dine. 

After the Wall Street crash of 1929, plenty of folks have reason to be angry at stockbroker Anthony Benson (Richard Tucker). A handful of those folks happen to be at the country house of Benson on a dark and stormy night. Also at the residence is the upper-class amateur sleuth Philo Vance (William Powell), and Benson winds up dead, due to a gunshot wound. With the body of the murder victim literally falling down the stairs right in front of him, Vance can't help but try and solve the case. 

THE BENSON MURDER CASE comes off more like a stage play instead of a feature film. Most of the scenes are covered by a master shot, with very little editing and multiple characters engaging in dialogue exchanges. The dialogue is hard to make out at times, and despite the fact that this is the shortest film in the set, the pace drags. The lack of background music certainly doesn't help matters. Frank Tuttle returns as director, but his main concern here seems to have been to get the shooting done as fast as possible. 

Among the suspects are a shady big-shot (William "Stage" Boyd), a nervous gigolo (Paul Lukas), a golddigger (Natalie Moorhead), and a shifty servant (Mischa Auer). Eugene Pallette returns as Sgt. Heath, but even he's hard-pressed to bring some life to the proceedings. 

I have actually read the novel of THE BENSON MURDER CASE, and the film version makes several changes to the book (not for the better, in my opinion). In the book Benson is found murdered in his downtown New York City dwelling, and the reader never gets to encounter the man while he is alive. The movie version obviously went for the "all the suspects are in a rambling home when the murder happens" scenario. The film also has Vance gather everyone up and bring them back to the scene of the crime in time-honored fashion. 

THE BENSON MURDER CASE looks and sounds decent enough on this Kino Blu-ray (the audio difficulties on the film are due to the technology of the early talkie era). The audio commentary for this movie features Jason A. Ney, who goes into the transition between silent and sound Hollywood films, the background and legacy of S.S. Van Dine, and how William Powell became a major star. Ney also goes over all twenty of the rules S.S. Van Dine laid out for successful detective fiction, and how they correspond with the film. (Needless to say, this takes up a bit of time.) 

When it comes to the overall Philo Vance Kino set, by far the best film out of the three is THE GREENE MURDER CASE. I believe this is a set that will appeal more to film buffs than the general public--the three films each have a not quite silent, not quite talkie offbeat quality about them. William Powell fans will certainly appreciate this collection, although he doesn't really get a chance to show how effective he could be. The three audio commentaries on this disc are all worth listening to, and give the viewer plenty of info on the movies and on the character of Philo Vance. 

William Powell would later do a comedic cameo as Vance in the variety revue PARAMOUNT ON PARADE (Eugene Pallette would also appear alongside him as Sgt. Heath). Powell would play Vance "officially" one more time in Warners' 1933 THE KENNEL MURDER CASE, which is considered by many to be the best overall Philo Vance picture. 

The character of Vance would be played by many other actors in many other films. If Vance is remembered or mentioned by anyone at all these days, it's usually in conjunction with William Powell. Ironically Powell's portrayal of Vance is very different from how the character comes off in the S.S. Van Dine novels. The literary Vance is foppish, vain, and misanthropic. I personally feel that the actor who could have best presented the Philo Vance as portrayed in the novels would have been Clifton Webb--but would anyone have wanted to spend so much time with such a snobbish person?? 

The three films in this Philo Vance Blu-ray Collection may not be major cinematic efforts, but Kino deserves plenty of credit for making them available for a modern audience. 

Saturday, June 15, 2024



DEATH ON THE DIAMOND is a 1934 MGM mystery-comedy that stands out for mixing murder with Major League Baseball. The story follows the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, which is fighting for the National League pennant. 

The team's fortunes are of great concern to the manager/owner, Pop Clark (David Landau). Pop has had to invest everything he has to keep the Cardinals running, and if the team falters, he'll have to sell it. One of Pop's main investments for the new season is the contract of a promising pitcher from the Texas League named Larry Kelly (Robert Young). The somewhat cocky rookie becomes a star, and even starts dating Pop's daughter Frances (Madge Evans), who is the club secretary. The Cardinals start to rise in the standings, but a number of shady characters are hanging around the club, and an attempt is made on Larry's life. As the end of the season nears, and the Cardinals are closing in on the pennant, players actually wind up being murdered, while Larry and the police try to find the culprit. 

One thing that must be said about DEATH ON THE DIAMOND is that it isn't the most realistic movie in the world. The thing is, it moves along so fast, and is so entertaining, that even a hardcore baseball buff like myself doesn't mind. The murders are quite grotesque--one player is shot by a sniper while heading for home plate, and another is killed after eating a hot dog covered with poisoned mustard! Another player is strangled while in the clubhouse, and his body is stuffed in a locker--and when the locker is opened, the corpse falls right toward the camera, much in the same manner as the famous shot in THE CAT AND THE CANARY. 

This grotesqueness, however, is matched by a snappy comic sensibility, no doubt provided by director Edward Sedgwick, who had experience with fast-moving humor. There's so much sarcastic dialogue, and so many smart aleck characters, that this film feels more like it was made by Warner Bros. than MGM. Among the scene stealers are Nat Pendleton as a dopey Cardinal, Ted Healy as a goofy umpire, Edward Brophy as a dull-witted cop, and Paul Kelly as a snoopy sportswriter. There's also C. Edward Gordon as a shady gambler, and Mickey Rooney as a clubhouse boy. Playing bit parts are Walter Brennan and Ward Bond. 

Robert Young is effective enough in the starring role, and his pitching motion is acceptable enough, although it must be said he probably couldn't break a pane of glass with his throws. Madge Evans is cute and perky as the obligatory love interest, and David Landau does very well with the role of Pop. (By the way, the situation of Pop needing the team to win the pennant in order to keep control of it is very much like the plot of the film of THE NATURAL--where the name of Wilford Brimley's manager/owner was also Pop! Also remember that in THE NATURAL a player dies on the field as well.) 

Madge Evans. Robert Young, and David Landau

One thing baseball geeks will love about DEATH ON THE DIAMOND is getting to see the accurate 1934 uniforms of the teams shown in the film, and the footage taken at Sportsman's Park, the Cardinals' home field at the time. What baseball geeks may not appreciate is the climax of the film. The pennant race is going down to the wire, and the Cardinals are in the thick of it--but, despite players actually being murdered on the field and at the park, the games are allowed to continue! There's even a meeting at the league offices, where a Commissioner Landis-type figure called "The Judge" is talked out of canceling the remaining games by Pop and Frances. (Their excuse is that it will be detrimental to America if the season was stopped!) 

The final game, in which the Cardinals must win, has police stationed all over the park, in the hope that the murderer will show himself. It naturally falls to Larry to not only discover and stop the killer but to also save the Cardinals season. How this is accomplished is by an astounding series of events that even Babe Ruth and Shohei Ohtani combined couldn't even pull off. You'll just have to see it yourself to believe it. (I honestly did guess who the killer turned out to be, going by the old movie adage "it's the least likeliest suspect". But when you do find out who the killer is, you start to realize how much more improbable the murders really were.) 

DEATH ON THE DIAMOND is pretty ridiculous, but it's so fast-moving and fun that the viewer won't mind. I might as well mention that the real 1934 St. Louis Cardinals not only won the National League pennant...they also won the World Series. Obviously DEATH ON THE DIAMOND didn't jinx the actual Cardinals, and obviously some MGM executive picked the right team to feature in a full-length film. 

Sunday, June 9, 2024



LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is a 1971 Euro Western starring Franco Nero and Eli Wallach, and directed by Duccio Tessari, the man behind the original Ringo films. The movie's Italian title is VIVA LA MUERTE...TUA! and it is also known as DON"T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK! 

The movie is part of a sub-genre of spaghetti westerns that deal with the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s. It is reminiscent of such films as THE MERCENARY and COMPANEROS, and it has elements of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (the character that Eli Wallach plays is essentially an alternate version of Tuco) and A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE. 

Franco Nero is a Russian Prince named Orlowsky, who for some reason roams the American West making his living as a bandit. The Prince stumbles across some information about a buried treasure in Mexico, and he springs from jail another bandit called Lozoya (Eli Wallach). Lozoya knows the rest of the info about where the treasure is at, so he and the Prince form the typical Euro Western back and forth uneasy partnership to get the money. Along the way Lozoya is mistaken for a legendary Mexican revolutionary called El Salvador, and an Irish reporter named Mary O'Donnell (Lynn Redgrave) wants to use this situation to inspire the peasants to fight the Federal troops, and get a story she can use. The Prince, Lozoya, and Mary spend plenty of time double-crossing one another, while the Federal authorities and a determined sheriff (Horst Janson) are hot on their trail. 

LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is an entertaining story, but it has a very inconsistent tone. Much of the movie is quite comedic, with Eli Wallach and even Franco Nero hamming it up and acting silly. Much of the action has an almost Three Stooges feel to it (if you've ever wanted to see a member of the Redgrave acting family engage in a slapstick fistfight with multiple soldiers, here's your chance). A main plot point is that directions to the buried treasure are written on the rear ends of different men (this explains the DON'T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK! title). Among all the goofiness, however, is a sub-plot dealing with Lozoya's sister and nephew, who suffer a horrid fate from Federal troops. This element sits very uneasily with all the other antics, and because of that doesn't make the impact that it should. The climatic battle between the rebels and the Federals has some resemblance to the final sequence to TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, and an attempt is made to have Lozoya temporarily change his greedy ways, but Nero and Wallach remain con artists all the way to the end. 

The character played by Lynn Redgrave deserves some discussion. She's supposedly all about helping the common folk overcome their cruel masters, but she's also made out to be an annoying fool (the fact that she's a journalist also causes most people in the film to mistrust her). Redgrave broadly overplays Mary, and she and the handsome Nero do not wind up together. Ironically, in real life Franco was involved in a relationship with Lynn Redgrave's sister Vanessa, a woman known for her left-wing political activism. Maybe I'm reading too much into the casting, but I wonder if the character of Mary was meant to be a satire of celebrities of the time like Redgrave and Jane Fonda who took an interest in Third World problems. 

There's always a very strange character (or more) in most Euro Westerns, and the one that sticks out in this picture is the corrupt sheriff played by Horst Janson (CAPTAIN KRONOS). The sheriff is apparently a cousin to Nero's Russian Prince (a backstory that isn't explained), and he wears a steel corset strapped around his torso. Eduardo Fajardo, the main villain of DJANGO, plays a Mexican general, but here he's more silly than dangerous. 

LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is worth watching--Duccio Tessari keeps things hopping--but the Trinity-style elements keep it from being one of the better spaghetti westerns dealing with the Mexican revolution. A bit more attention should have been paid to the idea of outsiders involving themselves in foreign revolutions and what "help" these interlopers actually offer. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024



THE PHANTOM SPEAKS (1945) is one of four films included in Kino's two-disc Blu-ray REPUBLIC PICTURES HORROR COLLECTION set. Two of the films--THE LADY AND THE MONSTER and VALLEY OF THE ZOMBIES--I've written blog posts about in the past few years. I covered THE CATMAN OF PARIS a few days ago. 

THE PHANTOM SPEAKS may have been new to me, but its plot elements are awfully familiar. A psychic scientist named Dr. Paul Renwick (Stanley Ridges) is convinced that the spirit of a person can exist after physical death, if that person's willpower is strong enough. Renwick believes he has found such a person in the form of Harvey Bogardus (Tom Powers), a gangster sentenced to die in the electric chair. Renwick visits Bogardus an hour before the murderer's execution, and impresses upon him the fantastical theory. A few days later Renwick makes contact with the spirit of Bogardus, and the criminal's will is so great he's soon able to take over the doctor and make him kill those responsible for his conviction. Renwick tries to resist, but Bogardus' power grows stronger and stronger. 

Stanley Ridges had already played a medical man taken over by the essence of a dead gangster in Universal's BLACK FRIDAY, a film THE PHANTOM SPEAKS has a lot in common with. PHANTOM also has a lot of similarities with THE LADY AND THE MONSTER, a movie Republic had made just the year before (Richard Arlen appears in both). Ridges does a good job, but it's hard to believe that the mild-mannered Renwick would be able to convince the hard-bitten killer Bogardus that if he just puts his mind to it, his spirit will live on. (Bogardus' "comeback" is accomplished so easily one wonders why all sorts of folks haven't done this already.) 

The idea of gangsters involved with people living on after death also reminds one of the Boris Karloff entries of the 1930s like THE WALKING DEAD and THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG. In his great book POVERTY ROW HORRORS!, Tom Weaver also makes a comparison of THE PHANTOM SPEAKS to SUPERNATURAL, a 1933 Paramount film that had Carole Lombard possessed by a female serial killer. This picture could also be called an ancestor to INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN, where Lon Chaney Jr. plays an executed killer who is revived to sow more havoc. All these movies are a lot more interesting than THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, which plods along most of the time. 

The main thing that makes THE PHANTOM SPEAKS stick out is the big-city crime element, although that's more fitting for the Pre-Code era. The ending is also notable for the fact that it is rather ambiguous, and might even be looked upon as a way to get around the Production Code. 

Richard Arlen plays the annoying newspaper reporter investigating the case (another element more fitting for a movie made in the early 30s). Arlen's character happens to be romancing Dr. Renwick's daughter, played by Lynne Roberts. This is a situation that one would think would offer some possibilities, but they never happen. Tom Powers does well as Bogardus, in a generic tough-guy sort of way. Marion Martin, who played all sorts of blonde showgirls in her acting career, plays another here as Bogardus' treacherous widow, but she doesn't get much screen time. 

Thinking about the supporting cast reminds me of something else Tom Weaver pointed out in the POVERTY ROW HORRORS! book--the fact that in the Republic horror film of the 1940s, the actors used in them, while competent enough, weren't nearly as notable or interesting as the performers who showed up in even the lesser Universal thrillers of the same decade. (Can you imagine, if, say Bela Lugosi played Dr. Renwick, or someone like Skelton Knaggs was an associate of Bogardus?) 

And that's the thing about the films in the REPUBLIC PICTURES HORROR COLLECTION. They're all decent enough, but they seem to lack something when compared to the Universal or even Monogram and PRC genre movies made during the same period. There's a few unique ideas scattered among the four films in the set, but they are not given the proper development. Republic just wasn't the studio for the type of material dealt with in movies like THE PHANTOM SPEAKS. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024



THE CATMAN OF PARIS (1946) is included on Kino's REPUBLIC PICTURES HORROR COLLECTION Blu-ray set. I plan on eventually writing a blog on the overall set, but as of right now I'm just going to focus on this particular movie, one I had never seen before. 

The most notable thing about THE CATMAN OF PARIS is how much it reminds the viewer of other 1940s horror films, such as THE WOLF MAN, CAT PEOPLE, the Spencer Tracy DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, THE LODGER, and HANGOVER SQUARE. CATMAN, however, is nowhere near in the same league as the pictures it tries to imitate. 

In 1895 Paris, writer Charles Regnier (Carl Esmond) has gained a reputation for authoring a book criticizing the French justice system. Regnier also suffers from periodic headaches and blackouts, and he can't remember what has happened to him when he regains his senses. A killer referred to as The Catman has been terrorizing the city, and Regnier fears that he may be the culprit. The police suspect the writer as well, but his love interest Marie (Lenore Aubert) stands by him. The final revelation of The Catman's true identity also establishes the killer's supernatural powers. 

THE CATMAN OF PARIS is a slow-moving tale, and whatever qualities it might have had are ruined by Lesley Selander's lackluster direction. When it came to low-budget horror pictures, Republic was no Universal--the latter studio would have put something into the production to generate some sort of interest. 

The story's setting isn't taken advantage of (other than Lenore Aubert, no one in the cast comes off as even remotely Parisian). There is a can-can sequence, but it's presented in a dull fashion and goes on too long. There's also a cafe brawl and a carriage chase--it's as if because this is a Republic movie there had to be some cowboy elements in it. 

The cafe brawl has Charles beat up four louts who think he is The Catman--a rather unlikely premise, considering that the man is supposed to be an esteemed writer. What makes it even more unlikely is that Carl Esmond isn't very charismatic as Charles. Because Charles is the leading man, and all the main evidence points directly to him, you know he just can't be the killer. When the killer is revealed, the viewer realizes that a different actor played The Catman than the one who is found out to be guilty--a huge cheat, in my opinion. (The Catman, in his cloak, fancy dress, and top hat, is a striking figure, but like just about everything else in this film, he's not used properly.) 

Something else about The Catman is revealed at the end--the creature apparently has been reincarnated over and over again throughout the centuries, and he has the ability to control a person's mind and actions! (One wonders, with those types of powers, why is he wasting his time being a serial killer? And why does it only take one bullet to stop him?)

The supporting cast has standbys like Douglas Dumbrille and Gerald Mohr. On the female side Lenore Aubert and Adele Mara look great in their 19th Century costumes, but they don't have much to do (Mara gets killed off very shortly after her first scene). Aubert had a much greater chance to make an impression in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. 

THE CATMAN OF PARIS has been released on Blu-ray before, but it belongs in a set with multiple movies--I don't think it's worth getting on its own.  

Sunday, June 2, 2024

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES On Blu-ray From Radiance


About ten years ago, Kino Lorber came out with a special edition of one of my favorite movies, Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. I thought so much of this release that I believe I even put it on my Top 5 Blu-rays of the Year list. 

So why did I buy PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES on Blu-ray again?? 

A British company called Radiance Films has now released this movie on a Region Free disc, with plenty of extras. The main reason to get this disc is that it contains the Italian version of the film, with an Italian voice track (along with English subtitles). 

The Italian version of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is about a minute or so longer than the American cut, but from my point of view there are no major significant differences. The dialogue is also basically the same between the two versions. The Italian version has different beginning and end titles. 

Radiance states that this release features a 4K scan from the original negative, and it was supervised by Lamberto Bava, Mario's son (and assistant director on the actual film). The colors on the Italian version are a bit deeper, and the sound design comes off a bit bolder at times. From my perspective, the Italian version looks a bit better than the American cut, but both versions now have excellent picture & sound quality. 

The many extras on this disc include a 41 minute featurette called "Transmissions From A Haunted World", in which various genre aficionados discuss the film, and how it blends Gothic and science fiction elements. It's a decent look at Bava's career up to the point of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and the film itself, although it rambles at times. (I must admit I was not familiar with any of the main speakers on this program.)

There is also a 13 minute interview with Lamberto Bava, who goes out of his way to state that the DP on the film, Antonio Rinaldi, truly was in charge of the camerawork. He also mentions that his grandfather (and Mario Bava's father) Eugenio created the spacecraft model used for the movie. 

A "reconstruction" of the Super 8 version of the film is also here (this is essentially just a 17 minute cut of the story). There's also a couple of "Trailers From Hell" programs featuring Joe Dante and Josh Olsen, along with a photo gallery and the film's original American trailer. Tim Lucas' excellent audio commentary from the 2014 Blu-ray release is carried over here, and on the American cut of the film, one can choose to listen to a music score by Kendall Schmidt, which was created for a VHS release. (The original music score by Gino Marinuzzi is much more effective.)

The disc sleeve has reversible artwork on each side, and included in the disc case are six postcards, each with images of various posters for the film. There's also a booklet that contains the entire short story that PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES was based on--"One Night of 21 Hours". The story is translated into English. 

And...(if that isn't enough)....there's an 80 page illustrated booklet, that has five different essays on the film, along with cast, crew, and disc credits. The essays are interesting, but once again I have to admit I was unfamiliar with the writers who penned them. (One thing that all the extras seem obligated to mention is that ALIEN has a lot in common with PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES.) The disc case and the booklet come in a special sleeve with new artwork. 

This is a very impressive package, and if you are a super fan of this film (as I am), you'll want to pick this up, even if you already have it on Blu-ray. I must point out that the extras lack the heavy-hitter names film geeks expect to encounter on these types of special releases, but there's plenty to dive into here. 


Saturday, June 1, 2024



THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK (1958) is included in a three-film Blu-ray set from Kino entitled SCI-FI CHILLERS. The black & white movie produced by Paramount involves many genre veterans: Otto Kruger (DRACULA'S DAUGHTER), Robert Hutton (THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE), Ross Martin (THE WILD, WILD WEST), Charles Herbert (THE FLY), producer William Alland (THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) and director Eugene Lourie (GORGO). 

After returning from Europe, where he was awarded an international peace prize, brilliant scientist Jeremy Spensser (Ross Martin) is killed in a traffic accident. His father (Otto Kruger), who happens to be a brilliant surgeon, removes Jeremy's brain and keeps it alive, and then goads his other son, another brilliant scientist named Henry (John Baragrey) into building a giant metallic humanoid body to house the organ. The plan works--but while Jeremy is still "alive", he's also cut off from all humanity, including his wife (Mala Powers) and his young son (Charles Herbert), who think he is still dead. As Jeremy's anger at his situation increases, so does his power--and his father and brother find themselves unable to stop him. 

I had never seen THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK before. The story has a number of intriguing ideas and concepts, but it doesn't fully explore them. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you'll know I'm always complaining about movies being too long. This is an example of a movie being too short. At only 70 minutes, there's not enough time to explore all the elements the scenario presents. We are just introduced to Jeremy's character before he's killed right off the bat, and before we can find out for ourselves how brilliant a scientist he supposedly is. While in his robotic body, Jeremy begins to develop all sorts of fantastic powers, but there's no real explanation why he's suddenly able to do these things. The ending is supposed to be a slam-bang climax at the United Nations, but it comes off as haphazard and underwhelming, negating any feeling the audience may have for Jeremy and his plight (the film's low budget is very much in evidence during this sequence). 

The movie treads very heavily into DONOVAN'S BRAIN and FRANKENSTEIN territory--at one point we see Jeremy's brain in a tank, hooked up to all sorts of equipment, and Otto Kruger's statements about how wasteful it is to have genius brains tied to fragile bodies sound exactly like the type of dialogue Peter Cushing would intone during his time as the Baron in the Hammer Frankenstein series. 

The appearance of The Colossus is quite striking (see picture below). But why would Henry and his father build such a clunky, outlandish contraption for Jeremy's brain to reside in? There's a subplot that has Henry jealous over Jeremy, and desirous of his widow. One wonders if Henry made such a creation to assure that his brother would be distraught over his condition--but why, then, did he give Jeremy the power and capability to destroy anyone he wanted, including Henry?? (Robert Hutton plays Jeremy's best friend, who also has feelings for the widow, but this is another element that isn't fully developed.) 

My verdict on THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK is that it needed a longer running time and a bigger budget. Every science-fiction movie produced by William Alland does feature thought-provoking concepts, and this one does as well, but more should have been made out of them. The film does provide a showcase for Ross Martin's voice talents as the "re-born" Jeremy. 

Kino's release of THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK has excellent picture and sound quality, and its original trailer is included. It has a brand new audio commentary with Tom Weaver, who brings his usual unique attitude to the proceedings. Weaver gives a lot of attention to the original script for the film, and he allows Larry Blamire to offer up a few comments. Another guest star on the commentary is Ron Adams, the man behind the annual Monster Bash Conference held in western Pennsylvania (an event at which I'm a regular attendee). Charles Herbert was a special guest at Monster Bash multiple times, and Adams, who got to know the former actor, provides info about the man's life and personal troubles (like a lot of child performers, Herbert had problems as he got older). 

There's also what is called a "sidebar"--an hour-long discussion on the film with Tim Lucas and Stephen R. Bissette. The duo talk about various aspects of the production. It's a fun program, and I like the idea of these sidebars, which Kino is also presenting in their Republic Pictures Horror Collection. I believe this format allows the participants a chance to loosen up and not be constrained by the actual film, as they would be on a commentary. 

Kino's SCI-FI CHILLERS set also has THE UNKNOWN TERROR and DESTINATION INNER SPACE. These, along with THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, are not the greatest sci-fi movies in the world, but it's to Kino's credit that they have released them with special extras. 

Charles Herbert and THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK