Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Demented Double Feature From TCM

Both of these have been eagerly awaited and heavily bootlegged throughout the decades...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rest In Peace Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

Photo taken backstage at the 1990 Fangoria Convention in NYC where Mr. Lee was promoting GREMLINS 2.

Some of my personal memories and a fuller tribute will follow soon.

Monday, May 11, 2015

First Look At IT!

Head on over to the beaver for a gander at the new IT! THE TERROR FROM OUTER SPACE blu ray from Olive Films.  It streets next week and I'll provide a full review when I get my hands on a copy...


It's interesting that the reviewer points out the shadowy, obscured way that the alien monster is photographed as one of the film's weaknesses.  That's exactly the opposite of how I feel.  I think director Cahn shot a cool but ultimately absurd looking rubber suit in the best way possible.  The stark, backlit, smokey images are forever burned and branded into my brain since my original multiple viewings on early 60s TV!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


D: Arthur Ripley.  Robert Mitchum is Doolin, a cool cat war veteran who returns home to his rural homestead to become a moonshine runner for his father and the other local distillers.  Events get revved up and increasingly deadly when a city gangster, Kogan (Jacques Aubuchon of Disney's THE SHAGGY DOG), tries to sabotage and dominate the moonshiners while the Feds are coming down on all of them.  Hard-headed Doolin, partly due to his marine training, stands up and goes into full-on combat mode to defy Kogan and the Revenue agents led by Barrett (Gene Barry of WAR OF THE WORLDS, TVs BAT MASTERSON) in a series of  high-speed cat and mouse close encounters.  Meanwhile, Kogan's dad, mom and two worshipping femmes (Louie Prima's main squeeze Keely Smith and Sandra Knight of BLOOD OF DRACULA and THE TERROR) beg him to give up the losing battle.  To add to all the mounting chaos, Doolin has to deal with his younger brother (played by his older son Jim!) who gets suckered into illegal hooch trafficking by one of Kogan's goons (Peter Breck of SHOCK CORRIDOR).  Ignoring all the sane advice and pleading, Doolin goes on his final kamikaze run in his hopped up tanker car with the gangsters and T-men hot on his tail.  Ultimately, Doolin goes out in a blaze of glory with predictably explosive results. The climactic stunning stunt car somersault was so spectuacular that it was recycled as stock footage many times over in movies and TV shows such as INVISIBLE INVADERS (1959), THEY SAVED HITLER'S BRAIN (1964) and even a TWILIGHT ZONE episode.

The script contains a few opportunities for Bob to slip in some personal jabs reflecting his own heartfelt anti-government philosophy.  Although produced with the cooperation of the IRS, the story treats the revenue men somewhat ambiguouly and lamely attempts to make them heroic at the film's last few moments.  In fact, the Moonshine Wars were an ill-thought government overreach program not unlike prohibition era and the current drug war where there is a vague, blurred line between the so-called good guys and bad guys.  The actual Moonshine Wars was most intense in post-Civil War Georgia among Irish/Scottish immigrants up until about 1965.  Violence and death resulted from the armed IRS spooks snooping around the rustic backwood cabins to search and destroy the evi, rickety, make-shift distilleries!  The ultra-potent booze itself was legal but it was the blatant tax evasion that really set the Feds off and seemed to justify the fatalities on both sides.  The real life back road car chases supposedly led to the creation of the NASCAR competition!

The film packs a visceral punch despite the strangely pedestrian direction and photography.  There are many static mundane dialog scenes where participants sit at tables and a few long telephone monologues.  But if you are enraptured by Mitchum (like I am!), even these plodding scenes attain a warped, surreal kind of greatness that makes some of the awkward dialog memorable.   In short, Mitchum is his usual killer screen persona- half asleep, smirking and super low-key with his hair practically dripping and glistening.  It seems like the film's motor oil budget went to lube the four-wheel vehicles as well as the oil-slicked coifs of the male cast members.  The car chases are exciting but blunted by the unconvincing rear screen work. The muscle cars are rad and Doolin's jalopy sports twin oil slick sprayers well before 007 did in GOLDFINGER.  There is a consistent mismatch of polished studio production values and rear projection and the obvious grittier location shot scenes.  The HD format really exposes the film's tech uneveness with the optical zooms and constant post image cropping resulting in wildy inconsistent grain structure and focus issues.  When the shots are sharp, they are razor sharp and when they are cropped in, they are soft and super grainy.  This gives the film the look of a cruder regional indie shoot.  Sadly the disc's only extra is a blurry standard def trailer. This iconic Robert Mitchum film is available as a blu-ray/DVD package courtesy of Shout Factory's Timeless imprint as an overpriced sublicensed title from the massive MGM library.  Originally a United Artists release, THUNDER ROAD comes off as a decidely B picture for Mitchum but one that he had a pronounced personal stake in.  His own DRM production company co-produced the film based on his orignal story.  He also wrote two songs featured in the film.  Oddly, the title song, Ballad of Thunder Road, is not sung by Mitch during the main title sequence but he did later release his own rendition as a single.  You get a fragment of Mitchum's superior version looped over the disc's main menu.  It's also heard on the jukebox in Tarantino's DEATH PROOF (2007).

Click the link above to hear Mitchum croon!

Amazingly, the film struck a deep chord with southern audiences and continued to be a staple of deep south drive-ins through the 80's.  From the director of THE CHASE (1946).  Ripley was a silent comedy gag writer for Mack Sennett and Harry Langdon and helmed THUNDER ROAD toward the end of his career, a few years before his death in 1961.

Friday, April 10, 2015

THUNDER ROAD barrels onto the blu ray highway!

THUNDER ROAD (1958) is an iconic film for Robert Mitchum and a more than welcome addition to the HD format.  Mitchum is a moonshine runner outrunning and gunning the Feds in a film that gained almost mythic status in the South where it was still playing drive-ins into the late '80s.  I know because I was booking theaters and couldn't believe that the film was regularly playing on double and triple bills!  Mitchum also wrote the badass theme song but doesn't sing it over the main titles.  He did later release his own recorded single version.  This quirky film has memorable, cool dialog and contains a still inspiring socio-political message.  The Mitch even gives a stirring speech on liberty that was probably very close to his heart.  Oddly, his son Jim plays his brother and there's a weird reference to hanging mobiles for no good reason.  A must for Mitchum fans (aren't we all?) and the proto-type for SMOKEY & THE BANDIT style good ol' boys/car chase movies that came back into vogue in the 70's and 80s and still enjoying popularity with the FAST & FURIOUS franchise.

Nail your copy fairly priced at Amazon!  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

IT! The Terror Attacks Blu-Ray!

Finally, this 1958 low budget sci-fi gem from director Eddie Cahn makes its way to blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films.  As per usual with Olive, this will be priced high with little or no extras and restoration.  Hopefully, the MGM HD master will do justice to this beautifully starkly shot, atmospheric black-and-white sci-fi noir.  It always looked decent on DVD.  According to the specs, the film will presented in academy ratio 1.33 whereas the MGM HD channel version was zoomed into 16x9.  I assume that the original theatrical exhibition was probably at 1.85?  Whatever...  Here's how to pre-order:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grisly Grabs From Bava Restoration!

Arrow Films has unveiled some frame grabs from their new BLOOD & BLACK LACE 4K restoration.  I wasn't able to attend the recent Alamo Drafthouse screening in New York due to blizzard like weather conditions but I'm losing sleep over the arrival of the blu-ray release!  Click here and feast your eyes!