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Archive for May, 2012

The Big Heat (1953) Blu-Ray Review

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The Big Heat (1953) Blu-Ray

Stars: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Jocelyn Brando Alexander Scourby

Director: Fritz Lang

Released by Twilight Time
Limited edition of 3,000
Available exclusively through Screenarchives.com

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

When Film Noir entered the fifties it changed. Gone was trenchcoat, the snappy dialogue
and the slick look. The good guys had more than a shade of gray. Some of them did things that were unforgivable. The bad guys and gals could have more than that single streak of goodness running through them. Not only did this new characterization get cloudy but there was also a new realm of brutality. Characters didn’t hold their stomach grimace and fall to the floor to utter some famous last words anymore. The level of violence and sadism had escalated. When the new psychological trappings that were so popular then made their way into the neighborhood where Film Noir lived they fit in with the tortured leading men who could no longer be considered simple heroes. Fritz Lang had been making films in America for quite some time by 1953 when he did The Big Heat. Lang had fled Nazi Germany packing so much psychological baggage, talent and attitude that he fit right in. His film M with Peter Lorre as the child murderer set up much of the look of Film Noir. The contrasted shadowy style had become very popular. But now, now he could revel in the complex and twisted characters that populated some of the more lurid fifties films. Many consider his film Scarlet Street (1945) with Edward G. Robinson to be his best. That was one of the most desolate tales of a man swirling helplessly in a whirpool of lust and cruel fate. The Big Heat is one that others claim to be his best. Collectors are very fortunate that such quality Blu-Ray editions have come out recently on both titles.

Glenn Ford plays tough cop, Sergeant Dave Bannion. He works homicide cases and everything is clear. He catches a case of an obvious suicide by a high-ranking police officer. He consoles the widow and goes home to his loving wife. She drinks out of his glass of scotch, takes drags from his cigarette and even will split a beer with him. They’ve got an adorable little girl. The case starts to get complicated. It’s not a suicide. Dave gets chewed out by his superiors for looking too far into it. He keeps pushing it; he’s that kind of cop. We see Lee Marvin very briefly as the right hand of the big boss Lagana played by Alexander Scourby. Lang wisely keeps Marvin on ice till later on in the picture. This was Marvin’s first big role after a few westerns. The build up is worth it.

 

The investigation moves on and as Bannion keeps pushing it his wife gets a threatening call at home. Bannion comes home, tries to help his kid build a tower of building block but instead topples the whole thing to the ground. Shortly thereafter the film takes a drastic turn. Bannion’s wife is killed, blown up in his car in an explosion that was meant for him. Bannion is thrown off the case and even thrown off the police force in a pre-Dirty Harry moment where he throws his badge on the police commissioner’s desk yet keeps his gun. “It’s mine, bought it with my own money.” He leaves his kid with relatives and literally empties his house out. Now the shackles are off. He has loosened the reins of a civilized family man and is no longer governed by the rules that a cop must play by. Bannion is now a primal force out for revenge.

No one Bannion talks to tells the truth. Everyone lies. The bartender at The Retreat played wonderfully by Sid Clute even picks up the phone to brag to his boss about it. The only ones who help Ford along the way are broken women. An older crippled woman who works in a dirty garage hobbles out to talk with him through a chain link fence after he leaves. She can barely stand. She can barely talk and yet she feels compelled to do the right thing. The first time Ford meets Marvin he is grinding his cigarette out on the hand of an unfortunate lady. They are up in each others’ faces but each cools off and leaves. Gloria Grahame runs after Ford on the street. She goes back to his hotel room but he think she is just using him to piss off Marvin. He’s right but she senses something. It’s interesting that both Ford and Graham mouth off to their respective bosses and know the real score beneath the surface. She risks everything to help him. She’s an emotional wreck who admits she’ll put up with an awful lot of abuse to get the good times a gangster like Lee Marvin can show her. “ I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.”

Everyone we see is always grabbing things, fidgeting with their hands. People grab handfuls of peanuts at the bar. They constantly light and stub out cigarettes. The guy in the garage that Bannion interviews is busy slurping soda out of a pop bottle with a straw. As Bannion leaves he grabs another one and we notice he’s got several empties on his desk.  So many ashtrays are crammed with piles of buts. When we first meet Gloria Graham she’s making a cocktail. Not one, but a whole pitcher. This just adds to the level of nervousness that builds. The investigation throttles to its crescendo and hinges on an invitation to murder. In a wicked but of true Film Noir style, it becomes clear that in order to bring justice to the criminals like Lagana and Lee Marvin someone must die. The scales of justice will only swing right again if someone will commit the absolute sin.

Glenn Ford seems to get tagged with the straight arrow all the time and yet he plays this part very well. Lee Marvin arrives here as a force of nature to be reckoned with. He seems to play his scenes as if he could care less. He has a natural swagger. Marvin can also seem so sloppy and lazy that you’re not sure if it is an act or not. The man can build to an explosion like few others and always feels like a threat on screen. He is such a menace you can’t take your eyes off him. The real turn here though is done by Gloria Grahame’s character Debby. She’s much smarter than the typical B girls she masquerades as. She knows the score and at any given moment is the smartest person in the room. Grahame pulls all this off and covers it with a shawl of smoldering sexuality. She is gorgeous and has a neat trick of always turning to give you her best side, her best look. She gives a line to a crooked cop’s even more crooked wife, “We’re sisters under the mink” that sticks like a poison dart with it’s truthfulness. Her performance here is totally captivating. She owns every scene she is in. She also brings Glenn Ford to a boil that looks very real indeed.

Lastly the violence in this film was something that Lang had flirted with but nothing before had come this far. The sadistic transgressions were shocking at the time and will still get you if you don’t know they’re coming. Maybe they still do. The man-to-man fighting was brutal as expected but the way that Lee Marvin’s Vince Stone abuses women is something that goes beyond boundaries. The fact that one realizes Vince Stone does this all the time to all the women he knows makes you really root for his downfall. Fritz Lang very consciously stacked the deck and asked us, is it ok to go too far as long as the people you are doing it to deserve it. The last line in the film says there will always be jerks like Vince Stone. “Keep the coffee hot”

This is a stunning treatment of a great movie that comes with the highest of recommendations. Film Noir may be known for its stylish photography and cool snappy dialogue. Yet there are characters to be found that are so compelling particularly the ones that blur the line between good and bad. Robert Ryan played a cop in On Dangerous Ground (1951) that was so bad, so out of control that he was sent to a snow covered town far away to work on a case. Another cop that may have gone too far, at least until Ida Lupino showed him the way. That one was directed by Gloria Grahame’s husband at the time, Nicholas Ray. When you mix the good and the bad in with actors like these you get a very strong cocktail. Have a glass or just take a swig out of the bottle. Fifties Film Noir has its own kick to it and The Big Heat is an adult portion.

Video -
1.33:1 in 1080p HD, B & W.
This is a very satisfying transfer, even stunning. The grain and natural look of the print is retained however there’s a clarity and depth of detail through the 90 minute running time.
Charles Lang delivers a pretty straightforward lensing that while it sports good use of shadow and contrast is not your typical Film Noir look. Instead he lingers on faces. We see how gorgeous Gloria Grahame is as she frequently gazes at her image in a mirror. We see Lee Marvin begin his slow boil and get more and more unkempt, out of control. He lets us read the angst and indecision written all over Glenn Ford’s face. He shows us people lying in close up, not batting an eyelash as they trample the truth. The faces are what stand out from this film. The publicity pictures do not reflect the quality of the  Blu-Ray disc.

Audio –
English mono track presented in DTS-HD mono. SDH subtitles in English.
This is a beautiful track. All dialogue is clear and resonant. Orchestrations are rich
and full. In one of the first scenes when Mr. Lagana is woken up in his plush bed you can hear the rustle of the sheets and the adjusting of the bed frame as he moves. Even better is that classic scene where Marvin suspects Grahame of spilling info to Ford, he calls her a pig and is so out of control he can barely contain himself. He stares at her and then you can distinctly hear the coffee boiling in the pot. He hears it too and looks to the pot. There are some other subtle touches in the track that can be heard here. When Ford confronts Marvin in The Retreat bar, after he burns Carolyn Jones (Morticia Adams), right before they get face to face all the sound drops out making for a very powerful moment. One can also hear that the band in that bar is playing the catchy tune, “Put the Blame on Mame” from Ford’s well-known film, Gilda (1946).

Extras -
Isolated Music Score, Original theatrical trailer (though it says re-release on it).
Booklet with essay by Julie Kirgo with a super cool graphic on the cover.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Classic

Roger Corman Cult Classics – The Nurses Collection DVD Review

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Roger Corman Cult Classic – The Nurses Collection (1971-1974)

Stars: Candice Rialson, Robin Mattson, Alana Collins, Patty Byrne, Dick Miller

Directors – Jonathan Kaplan, George Armitage, Alan Holleb, and Clint Kimbrough

Released by Shout Factory

 

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

 

Disc One Candy Stripe Nurses (1974) Night Call Nurses (1972)

Disc Two Private Duty Nurses (1971) The Young Nurses (1973)

 

Roger Corman’s hand is apparent in every single one of these films. The basic ingredients are carefully controlled. His style of producing and supervising is very different than any other studio that comes to mind. People constantly refer to his company as a training ground, a university for young filmmakers to get their start. The names that went on to become famous directors get most of the attention, however his influence can be felt in all aspects of these pictures. It’s almost as if just as the movie starts he is sitting next to you and assuring you that you’ll enjoy this one. He has a tremendous appeal to aspiring filmmakers and those who have a good understanding of the business. The average moviegoer may not be aware of or notice any of this, but there’s a friendly invitation to join in on the fun in almost every New World Picture. Many producers have a heavy hand and micro-manage everything. Roger has a laundry list for each film but also encourages the kind of freedom and creativity that most of those young filmmakers will never encounter again in the business. Corman’s got an uncanny eye for how to get things done, too. His advice on the set and in preparation for each production is solidly practical, pragmatic and often makes for very amusing anecdotes. Make no mistake about it he knows exactly what he is doing. When one watches these films, there’s an appreciation that goes beyond the storyline.


Night Call Nurses, directed by Jonathan Kaplan opens with a spaced out blonde on a rooftop. She begins to unbutton her dress. She is carrying a doll. She gets to the edge of the roof. A quick cut to someone running up the stairs. The blonde is moving closer to the edge. She is going to jump. The person on the stairs gets there too late. When she jumps what we actually see is the doll falling. It smashes to pieces on the ground. Very artful. Yes. But also very cheap. Much cheaper than hiring a stunt crew and doing the camera set-ups to capture the high rise fall.


Each Nurse film stars three girls. Each one gets their story arc told in a series of short episodes. They are all beautiful and some can act. In each of the four nurse films, the minority actress gets involved with various social and political causes. The commitment to helping the community is very timely. Is Corman doing that because he is hip to the new wave of politics and grass roots caring that had crept into the youth movement in the seventies? Or is he just making sure he gets more of those 16 to 25 year olds buying movie tickets that weekend. He never seems to miss a trend. The war protest movement, black power, and the rise of feminism all had a tremendous impact on society. That element figured into these films not only as a way to keep current with the times but as a natural expression of what both Roger Corman and Julie Corman sensed around them. That’s the mark of a true low budget exploitation studio. Anything that was popular culture was fair game. The opening of, Private Duty Nurses feels just like the latest Aaron Spelling TV series. Each girl gets a montage of gorgeous beauty shots, a few action poses and then we see her name as her smiling face is held in freeze frame. The Nurse series has that melodramatic TV movie feeling to them unlike  most of the more genre oriented New World fare. It is such a dichotomy in these films to see that each of the three female leads is given a strong character that stands up for herself, will confront injustice and wrong doing and yet has to get in their share of the nudity quotient.


To beef up the production values various photogenic sporting activities are woven into each film. We are treated to hand gliding in azure blue skies over the ocean. There is thrilling motorcycle racing, sailboat racing, boat rides, water skiing, sky diving and even some kinky kite flying. Sure it’s padding, but it looks good. Speaking of padding, each of these pictures sports the obligatory Dick Miller appearance. Dick Miller chews scenery like few other character actors. He gets the job done and has fun doing it. Loving Dick Miller and spotting him in New World films, and in most Joe Dante productions, is a cult merit badge that’s easy to earn. Wear it proudly.


Candy Stripe Nurses has a successful blend of all these exploitation elements as well as a nice dose of humor. Director Alan Holleb managed to get some very natural performances from Candice Rialson and his leading ladies while bumping up the fun factor from the supporting cast. This one and Jonathan Kaplan’s Night Call Nurses stood out from the other two. Look for the future Mrs. Rod Stewart, Alana Collins in this one. There are cameos in Young Nurse by Sally Kirkland, Alan Arbus and famed blusterous movie director Sam Fuller. George Armitage who would go on to more action oriented classics like Miami Blues and Grosse Point Blank wrote and directed Private Duty Nurses. There is a lot of time spent in the bar listening to a band called Sky, whose leader went on to form the Knack.

Video
1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen. Considering the disheveled look these films have had in previous editions, Shout gets it done right. Aspect ratios all appear correct. There is ample grain particularly in the darker scenes, which can be a little tough to make out. All four are entirely watchable and while American Cinematographer Magazine will not be profiling these titles you’ll have a good time with them. In the brightly lit scenes it is obvious decent source prints have been used.

Audio
The sound is mono presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 English. No subtitles. On one of the films just after that old school “R” rating there was a distinct sound pop. That was nice to hear with these. The tracks are okay and dialogue is clear. The mix sometimes gets out of hand with the music but that’s down to the way it was originally done.

Extras
Anatomy of a Nurse Film (14:00) with directors Jonathan Kaplan and Allan Holleb
Paging Dr. Corman (12:25) with Roger and Julie Corman. These are both excellent pieces that give good insight into the Roger Corman school of filmmaking at New World. Kaplan has a very funny story about Roger’s advice when he can’t get an actress to perform a nude scene. He’s a good storyteller. Holleb comes off very well, here. He only made one other film many years later. Roger and Julie are always fascinating and interesting to listen to.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

DVDs – Good

Movies – Candy Stripe Nurses – Good, Night Call Nurses – Fair/Good,
Private Duty Nurses – Fair, The Young Nurses – Fair

Walking Tall Trilogy DVD Review

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Walking Tall Trilogy (1973, 1975, 1977)

Stars: Joe Don Baker, Bo Svenson, Elizabeth Hartman, Bruce Glover, Forrest Tucker
Directors:  Phil Karlson, Earl Bellamy, Jack Starrett

Released by Shout Factory

 

Reviewed By Steven Ruskin
When Walking Tall came out in 1973 it was a huge hit. One of the advertising lines claimed that audiences stood up and cheered. The TV trailer showed people actually standing up in the movie theater and applauding. Truth be told, that did happen. There was something in the air just beginning to brew and Walking Tall tapped right into it. It was partially an update on the old western movie staple of the town tamer. It also blended in a strong dose of the vigilante as hero theme, that would later become a juggernaut for Charles Bronson thanks to Brian Garfield’s 1972 novel, Death Wish. It was among the first to ride the resurgence of interest in the American South that what would become an entire subgenre unto itself. Deep fried southern films like Macon County Line, Buster and Bille, Jackson County Jail and The Great Texas Dynamite Chase all revved onto screens starting in 1974. Walking Tall even beat the terrific Burt Reynolds vehicle, White Lightning out of the gate by a few months. What’s more this was based on a true story.


The exploits of real life Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser struck a nerve with the country. This man took no crap, carried a big stick and was not afraid to use it. He cleaned up a corrupt and decadent rural county almost single handedly. Walking Tall also tapped into that model that Billy Jack established in 1971. This was a people’s picture. Though this one was not aimed at the hippies. Walking Tall proudly played to the core middle American values that had had it with crooked politicians. It may have driven down the same roads as Robert Mitchum’s moonshine runner in Thunder Road, only this time the moonshiners were the bag guys and they had to go! This was for the balcony, the cheap seats, the drive-ins and the real people. It was populist entertainment that aimed to please. Who wouldn’t want to see a film about this big tall sheriff who actually busted up moonshine stills and threw crocked politicians out on their ass.


The man who directed this was Phil Karlson. Karlson had made a string of tough as nails crime and film noir pictures in the fifties that all packed a whallop featuring some of the most brutal action sequences to date. He had a down and dirty no nonsense style that was a perfect match for this rural vigilante tale. Joe Don Baker was also the kind of tough tight-lipped laconic actor that he made shine on the screen. He’d also made a very similar movie before with The Phenix City Story (1955). That was based on another true story of a corrupt rural town that elects a man to office who has to defeat the sleazy politicians and clean up the gambling in a series of bloody confrontations. This was his most popular film and he delivers a good strong action picture.  Joe Don Baker has the formidable look that fits the character. He’s very affable on screen and easy to like. He needs to carry what is essentially a pretty low budget picture. Sets are dressed with a minimal look. The gambling infested clubs have cement floors, cheap tables and chairs and a few rock posters on the wall. There are a few pool tables and juke boxes. Any offices seem thrown together in minutes. This truly has the feel of a cheap exploitation picture. It’s heavy on the action and strong on tough confrontations. That style suits the material and drives the film very well. Occasionally the sentimentality gets out of hand. The overly melodramatic scenes are plentiful and don’t always fit well. Poor Buford is always getting beat up, sliced up and shot up. It does get a bit much when his nine-year-old son totes his birthday rifle into the hospital to stand guard over his dad as he brushes back tears. There are plenty of recognizable characters actors to be spotted like Gene Evans (Giant Behemoth), Kenneth Tobey (the Thing, Billy Jack), Judo Gene LeBell, Bruce Glover (Diamonds are Forever, Chinatown) and future teen idol Leif Garrett as Buford’s son (the one with the rifle).


At 125 minutes, Walking Tall does overstay its welcome. There is repetitiveness to the sheriff being left for dead and making miraculous recoveries more than a few times. The last one leaves Buford in a cast that covers him from the eyes down with little holes for his ears and mouth. He spends a lot of time in that get up and when you think the film is over there is yet another epilogue followed by a coda. Forgiving that, Joe Don Baker walks tall here and you’ve got a pretty solid southern action film. While it never quite makes up its mind whether it wants to be an exploitation, action or Hallmark TV movie style biopic, there is more than enough here to enjoy and have a great time with.

Walking Tall Part Two (1975) Watching these three back to back is a little like watching the same movie over and over again, only it gets worse each time. This one is easily the worst of the bunch. There is a paucity of action this time around. The film picks up where the first one ended and kind of tells the same story over again. We see the same streets, sets and many of the same exact cars. Grandpa and Grandma and the kids are back for the sequel, only this time Buford is played by Bo Svenson. Bo is one huge guy, who looks pretty tough, only he can’t act all that well. Much of the film has to ride on his shoulders and they are not up to it. The other two are rated R and this one is only PG that means the even balance between exploitation and wholesomeness rests maybe too far in the wrong direction this time out. It’s a dull outing with nothing much to recommend about it.

Final Chapter: Walking Tall (1977) Bo Svenson, Grandma and the kids are back but there are a couple of changes this time out. Forrest Tucker (F Troop, Crawling Eye) plays Grandpa and he is very good, as always. We get to see Buford do a bit more sheriffing around town. The film’s rating is back up to an R rating which provides another uneasy mix of sadism and sentiment. At one point a hooker who is suspected of aiding the sheriff is stripped, tied to a chair and shocked to death with car battery cables. That tough sordid scene never balances with the family values tone that permeates most of the picture. One interesting aspect in this one is that we get to see how the fame from the first film affects Buford the person in the rest of his life. There is a movie premier right in town and Hollywood is set to star Buford in the sequel. He dies in a very suspicious car accident. That this one has a bit more punch than its predecessor is likely down to director Jack Starrett who did the Cleopatra Jones films and the Warren Oates devils in the dessert flick, Race with the Devil. For those fans of the hops, the first two films are loaded with cans of Miller. There are hundreds of them in the first one alone. In the last installment, only one paltry can of Bud stands out on the bar.

Video
All Three films are 1.78:1 and look excellent. Shout has done a fine job here. Earlier editions have been chopped into full frame or cropped in the wrong ratio. Walking Tall gets a striking upgrade and is likely the best the film has ever looked. The sequels look fine, too. Grain is present and all three still look like films. None of these will ever be a candidate for best looking film of the era, however if you are going to look this is by far your best bet. There are no chapter stops. Each film gets its own disc.

Audio
All three sport a mono track in English with no subtitles. While dialogue is always clear the mix on each varies. Music is sometimes overwrought but never that distracting. It gets the job done.

Extras
Vintage featurette for The Final Chapter, trailers and TV spots. The TV spots show people standing and applauding the screen. Definitely worth a look. The featurette is dull. There is a booklet with poster reproductions.

The main extra here, Walking Tall, The Buford Pusser Story is on the second disc though it has much more to do with the first film. It is pretty useless. We see several members of the cast taking turns all basically saying the same thing. No matter who they are asked about the answer is, “He was great to work with, a sweetheart. We still keep in touch.” Joe Don Baker, though not seen, does a very stiff reading of his thoughts about the film. Phil Karlson is not mentioned once. For shame.

On a scale of Poor, fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

DVDs – Good/Excellent

Movies – Walking Tall – Good, Walking Tall part 2 – Poor, Final Chapter: Walking Tall – Fair

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-Ray

Stars: Pat Boone, James Mason, Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker, Thayer David and Gertrude
Director: Henry Levin
Composer: Bernard Herrmann

Released by Twilight Time
Limited Edition of 3,000 units
Available exclusively through www.screenarchives.com

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

In an age where technology moves as fast as the wind it’s refreshing to spend a few hours with scientists who set out on an expedition driven by such an innocent and wholesome sense of adventure. We’re taken to a prestigious University in Victorian times in an age of enlightenment and invention. The thirst for discovery is palpable and the competitive drive to get there first is powerful. Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of those early tales of science fiction written near the turn of the century. Long before Tolkien thought of Hobbits and Middle Earth, Jules Verne spun an amazing tale of a journey deep within the bowels of our world. His other books include Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Mysterious Island. Arthur Conan Doyle known for his Sherlock Holmes stories published The Lost World. H.G. Wells contributed First Men in the Moon and The Time Machine. All of these tales have inspired many motion pictures from the silents to the recent 3-D craze. They all stimulate a youthful sense of wonder and adventure. They all have a journey, an odyssey and a triumphant return. There was a time, not too long ago, when students would rush to a series of upscale comic books to get them through book reports. Classics Illustrated was the Criterion of the comic books then. All of these can be found in those glorious collections of abbreviated text and tantalizingly drawn panels. What is it about these stories that have brought them back again and again? They contain the classic search for what is out there? What is deep under the sea, beyond the stars, in the future, buried in the past or at the center of the earth .

One of the neatest things a movie can do is take you somewhere you have never been before. Journey to the Center of the Earth first takes us back in time to get us properly in that mood. We begin at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as geology professor Oliver Lindenbrook has just been knighted. James Mason plays him with an impassioned combination of grumbling impatience and eccentric wanderlust. He couldn’t care less about knighthood and is off on an expedition at the drop of a hat. The choosing of the crew for the expedition and the assembling of the proper equipment has become a ritual in these kinds of films. The professor’s top student is Pat Boone who sings, too. Arlene Dahl is the love interest and the woman’s perspective. The heavy lifting is done by Peter Ronson as Hans who insists on bringing along Gertrude the Duck. There is a scene where James Mason shows off the state of the art in special lamps designed for miners. You wind them up and they can conceivably put out light forever. Once equipped, we see them spread out along the horizon line all in silhouette. They gaze down into a crater looking for a sign. As the journey starts Pat Boone breaks out the concertina and they engage in a four-part harmony as they trek ever downward. That someone had been there before and left signs to follow was an intriguing plot device. However having a cunning descendant of that person skulking in the shadows to be glimpsed almost as a ghost on the way down was inspired. Thayer David as Count Saknussem is pure evil. He’s got these long sideburns, deep-set eyes and is frequently seen half covered in shadows. It’s worth noting that he went on to appear in both House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows


This imaginative film is blessed with the tremendous cinematography of Leo Tover (Day The Earth Stood Still). This Blu-Ray is in love with his work here. Colors pop with a vengeance. The mushroom garden they encounter is right out of Alice in Wonderland. The purple of Arlene Dahl’s skirt is bold as can be. The textures of the walls and stalagmites are reach out and touch them detailed. The set design is wildly creative and yet mixes well with the Carlsbad Caverns where many of the scenes were shot. This has got to be the best use of fins glued onto the back of a lizard in any movie. The “dimetrodons” here easily best Irwin Allen’s sailboat lizards in The Lost World the year after in 1960 and the ones that Victor Mature dodged in One Million BC (1940). The film was nominated for three Academy Awards including art direction and special effects.


Video –
1080 P, 2.35:1 This Cinemascope presentation is a simply stunning experience. If one was pressed to nit pick there was one emulsional scratch spotted when Count Saknussem gets his first close up in the caverns. There is grain apparent but it is friendly grain. There is a great measure of detail to be appreciated. The deep wools that Pat Boone wears in the beginning practically make you itch just to look at them. The color palate in the costumes is perfectly rendered as are the panoply of colors that sparkle in the underground caves. The art direction here will often stop you in your tracks.  The publicity shots here do not reflect the quality of the Blu-Ray disc.
Audio –
English 4.0 DTS-HD. No Subtitles are offered
So much of Bernard Hermann’s wonderful score lives in the lower regions of the mid range speakers and nestles comfortably in the bowels of your subwoofer. Hermann uses a two chord descending riff that just reverberates through you. It sounds like deep reeds, bass clarinets, saxophones, a church organ and a horn section that come from well below the knees. He then sprinkles glissandos from a harp over this. It’s got a magically captivating sound. Watching this on TV or VHS there was no hope of recreating the theatrical experience. Twilight has produced a track that a good home system will gulp down with a smile. The new 4.0 track on this disc is powerful and lustrous. Hermann, well known for his work on Alfred Hitchock and Ray Harryhausen pictures, has chosen a blend of wind driven instruments to carry the soundtrack. The organs, reeds, and horns seem perfectly matched to the currents of air that cascade down the otherworldly crevices and crannies the cast crawl through. When we finally reach the ocean at the middle of the earth he’ll stand your hair on end. Play this one loud.

Extras –

Isolated Score Track. American and Spanish trailers. Booklet with
artwork and an essay. The isolated track is a very nice addition.

On a scale of Poor, fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Excellent