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Posts Tagged ‘Raquel Welch’

One Million Years BC (1966) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

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Stars – Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Martine Beswick
Director – Don Chaffey

Released by Kino Studio Classics

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Anytime one of Ray Harryhuasen’s film makes it to Blu-Ray it is a cause for celebration.  Touting Ray’s animated dinosaurs and Raquel Welch in a leather bikini the film went on the become the highest grossing picture ever made by Hammer Films. This is a caveman and dinosaur picture with natural dialogue. The tribes speak a minimum of words so what carries the day is the wonderful visuals. There are many long takes of the incredible looking landscapes. Rocky vistas stretch over the desolate hardscrabble grounds. The effects crew use these colorful sulphur bombs to give the impression of volcanic dust wafting in the air. The film opens slowly. We see violent explosions of flame and molten lava under the credits. There is an elongated sequence of a sunrise.

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The film begins with a little narration and then focuses on a tribe of black bearded men and their cowering women. They fight over food. Life is tough. The strongest man rules and takes what he wants. He has a fight with one of his sons and with a few whacks of a stout staff he sends him on his way. John Richardson looks quite good here. Both Martine Beswick and Raquel Welch remark in their interviews that they were stopped in their tracks when they first saw him. Raquel says that next to her he was the real pretty one. Richardson as Tumac makes his way through the barren lands. He eventually finds the ocean. The sight blows him away. Then he sees a group of blonde women fishing and frolicking in the water. This is all too much. Suddenly he is attacked by a giant tortoise. The creature looks great. In this new transfer we can make out all kinds of detail in the skin textures etched into the body by Harryhausen. Anytime one of his models is on screen the picture is fantastic. There is a pretty lengthy battle. I’ve heard Harryhausen say that whenever he has one of his creature enter people usually go after it with a bunch of sticks and poke at it. They sure do here as well.

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Tumac is smitten with Luana the name of Raquel’s character. While all the other women have these scraggly looking one piece costumes she’s got a well crafted leather bikini. She also sports the most fantastic make up with eye shadow and eye liner never out of place. The blonde tribe is more evolved. They seem to cook better. They make better spears with sharpened rocks tied onto the ends of their staffs. While all the black haired tribe seems to do is yell and fight the blondes seem to have more fun. Tumac discovers laughter. When we have had just about enough of this another of Ray’s dinosaurs makes a welcome entrance. The scene with the Allosaurus is a terrific set piece. He’s not that much taller than the cavemen he attacks. The way Haryhausen manages the interaction is a joy to behold. The actors have to shoot the scenes pretending while looking at empty space without anything there. Ray will make a model of one of the people and switch from the real person to a model in peril with his dinosaur. It’s a great effect. The best example of this is when a huge flying pteranodon grabs Ms. Welch and carries her off into the air. That scene features a fight between two flying monsters in mid air. Watching this bit recalls the harpies flying around in Jason and the Argonauts. While comparing the social evolution of the two tribes has its merits it’s the Dino action we are in this for. At times the length between those scenes stretches out a bit too long. I will say though that while watching this new Blu Ray I found those interim portions much easier to take.

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This is a remake of a classic Hal Roach film One Million BC (1940) that stared Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Carole sported a bathing suit like outfit that while fetching enough was not the sensation that Raquel’s became. Posters were popular in the mid sixties. Comic book heroes, comedians, action stars and all kinds of counter culture types were available in these large 27 x 41 sized prints that you could tack to your wall. They were very affordable, too. The photograph taken of Raquel during the filming became a huge sensation. It was everywhere and without a doubt made her the star that she became. It had to have helped put a few more dollars in the Hammer coffers, too. The other woman in the film that had a bikini was Martine Beswick. She did a great fight scene between two Gypsy girls in the James Bond film, From Russia With Love. She gets another fight scene in this one, too. The encounter with Raquel is well choreographed. You can clearly see that the two of them are actually doing all the moves themselves. Martine does mention in her interview that her bikini was not near as well tailored as Raquel’s. This was something she made sure to negotiate for in her next Hammer film.

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It is a real treat to have this Harryhausen film in such good shape. Kino has included both the International cut and the shorter by 9 minute US version. Among the trims were some shots from the Harryhausen effects scenes. Tim Lucas in his commentary finds this completely without cause. This is why everyone came to see this film. Why would you take even a frame away from any of the work he contributed? Tim’s commentary is full of stories and generous details about the film. He has a nice relaxed delivery and apparently is drawing information from a huge trunkful of information about the film. He credits his sources at several times which is a very nice touch. The interviews with Raquel Welch and Martine Beswick are very candid and lot of fun. The best though is hearing Ray Harryhuasen himself talk about his work on the project as he shows off a few of the actual models that he used in One Million Years BC. So yes, the ridiculous dialogue of the cavemen can be over the top and there may be a bit too much of them altogether. However the dinosaurs are the main attraction and they are served up wonderfully here. Highly recommended.

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Video – 1.85:1
The cover boasts a brand new 4K restoration and once you fire up this disc it backs it up.  Both the US and International cut appear to be in terrific shape. Each version gets their own disc. Colors are strong. Black levels are nice and deep without any distortion or noise. Sure you can tell when matte work is in the background or optical effects are being used but this overall picture is outstanding. The landscapes and vistas in the exteriors all look magnificent. There is quite a bit of time between the dinosaur encounters with only the locations and bikini clad merits of Ms. Welch and Beswick on hand to fill the time so be glad the picture looks so good.

Audio – DTS HD 2.0
Not that you really want to hear it but all of that monosyllabic dialogue is easy enough to follow. The music is brash and supports the film well.

Extras – Commentary by film historian Tim Lucas | In the Valley of the Dinosaurs: Interview with Star Raquel Welch | An Interview with SFX Legend Ray Harryhausen | Interview with Actress Martine Beswick | Animated Montage of Posters and Images | Trailers.  On the inside cover there is a reproduction of a controversial publicity picture.  That’s a nice cheeky touch by Kino.

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

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Excellent (Classic for Ray Harryhausen fans)

Tony Rome (1967)/ Lady in Cement (1968) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

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Stars – Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Richard Conte, Simon Oakland, Jill St. John, Dan Blocker, Lainie Kazan, Sue Lyon
Director – Gordon Douglas

Released by Twilight Time
Limited edition of 3,000 Units
Available at Screenarchives.com and Twilighttimemovies.com

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Tony Rome opens with a pop title song written by Lee Hazelwood and sung by Nancy Sinatra the same team that had a hit single the year before with These Boots Are Made For Walking. We know right away that this is a hip film made by friends, pals and relatives of Frank Sinatra. There is this cozy feeling of I’m a friend of Frank’s that permeates the whole picture. The soundtrack is done by Billy May the genius arranger who was responsible for Frank’s hit album Come Fly With Me. Sinatra plays a detective who lives on a house boat. Naturally he used to be a cop so he still has friends on the force. He drives this beat up old Ford convertible around the streets of Miami Beach. The plot is no great shakes. Basically Frank has to find Simon Oakland’s missing daughter. Someone is more than likely after Oakland’s massive fortune but it takes almost two hours to get to the big reveal at the end. Forgot the story though, what makes Tony Rome work is Frank Sinatra.

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The man made a large amount of movies. There was no doubt that he could act and hold his own in a quality drama like Suddenly (1954) and The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), He could play a world weary cop just barely hanging onto the world believably as in The Detective made with the same director in between these two Tony Rome films. But let’s be clear. The Tony Rome films are a holiday. Sinatra played his nightclub gigs at night and made these film during the days with his friends. He even got parts for buddies of his that owned local restaurants. Depending on how much you like Frank and his sixties styled cool and sense of humor will determine how much fun you’ll have with these. There are lots of wisecracks, sexually charged remarks and inside jokes.  Tony Rome begins and ends with a zoom shoot of a lady’s swinging backside as she strolls by. It’s just that kind of film. At ten minutes shy of two hours the film is too long. Some of the light and breezy fun takes a few too many sidetracks to flesh out a plot that is fooling no one in the theater. However the supporting actors are all good. The music swings. The exteriors outside the big hotels and restaurants along the beach look gorgeous. There is an effort to get some of the sordid nature of the Miami low level crime scene into the film that works very well. Sinatra’s Tony Rome goes into his fair share of clip joints and strip clubs.

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Lady in Cement had an advertising campaign that featured a nude women on the ocean floor with her feet stuck in a block of cement. It’s fair to say that the film absolutely delivered on that promise. When Tony Rome discovers the body while scuba diving for treasure we can all see that she is as uncovered as advertised. This was pretty damn risqué for a mainstream film in 1968. There is some discrete seaweed placed in strategic places. Rome circles her body a few times giving everyone a good look at this fetching but dead blond. The movie has several racy sequences that flip by likes the pages of a Playboy magazine from the era. Richard Deacon (Dick Van Dyke Show) is seen as an artist painting a nude model. The lady clings to small towel repeatedly asking for a bathroom break in her scene. When we first see Raquel Welch she hoists herself dripping wet in a skimpy bikini from a swimming pool. It is a helluva entrance and works just like it was designed to. Rome gets to visit a strip club with a bad reputation and a vivacious lady for him to interview played with nice style by Lainie Kazan.

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This one has more action and moves quicker at 93 minutes. Dan Blocker who was a big hit on TV’s Bonanza at the time plays a variation on the Raymond Chandler type of heavy that just lost his vampy girlfriend and can’t seem to find her. He has a catch phrase, “Stay loose” that he tells Rome each time he takes on multiple opponents in a fight. The fights are done well with policemen smashing through car windows and getting thrown across the set. Richard Conte who appeared in so many great film noirs in on hand in both movies as Rome’s contact in the police force. His character has always had it up to here with Rome. Director Douglas also gives us a certain restrained level of sleaze to balance out the good natured humor. There are sordid characters and clubs full of debauchery. He’s got scenes with homosexuals and lesbians that are used like peeking through a taboo curtain. They are done in the typical poor taste of the era. Wherever it came from, the script or studio suggestions, there is a decided effort to push that ratings envelope. It may have been to give the film a more current edge at the box office.

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The Tony Rome pictures are not quite the same kind of fun that Sinatra had with his Rat Pack buddies in films like Oceans 11. The level of cool is very high though. Hugo Montenegro who had a big chart hit with his version of theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly did the soundtrack for Lady in Cement. There are plenty of times in both films when we see frank bombing around town in his Ford with the top down. There is a big stain on one of the doors where the pain has come off. He’s got his hat cocked to one side and a smoke going. The sun is glinting off his sunglasses and he is flashing a wicked grin. The brass section on the track swings as the rhythm hits a groove. It’s a moment in time that may be long outdated but if you can dig it then sit back in your Castro Convertible sofa, kick off those loafers, light up a Winston and have a Gin Martini with the man. How’s your bird?

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Video – 2.35:1
Both films look fine. Colors look good, even very good in the exteriors. The wild pastels and textures in the costumes all come across well. You can even see good detail in the selection of paisley ties that Rocky Graziano offers in one scene. The fancy hotels and grand lobbies look great. Lots of eye candy here.

Audio – DTS HD MA 1.0 in English with subtitles offered in English SDH
All dialogue is easily understandable. You’ve got two very bright and stylish soundtracks on these films. Billy May and Hugo Montenegra exhibit plenty of flashy style. It is very sixties and may remind you of the kind of arrangements that Doc Severinsen would play as Johnny Carson went to a commercial. They are easy to like.

Extras – Twilight Time’s signature isolated score track, Commentary on Tony Rome with film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo, Essay by Julie Kirgo in booklet.

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

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good (more than that if you are a Sinatra fan)