APES ON FILM: Size Matters in THE KILLING

Posted on: Aug 15th, 2022 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems, and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE KILLING – 1956
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Vince Edwards
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: Region Free UHD
BRD Release Date: 07-26-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Few things in this world are as invincible as the bulletproof bureaucracy surrounding the size regulations of carry-on luggage, specifically designed for your “comfort and safety” while flying the friendly skies. And in a narrative twist too big for an overhead compartment, Sterling Hayden’s Johnny Clay realizes where he went wrong in what was otherwise an airtight plan to knock over a horse track in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 classic, THE KILLING.

If you’ve seen one heist movie, you’ve seen ‘em all, the only difference in most being whether bold bad guy ingenuity leads to a successful getaway, woven together with almost childlike simplicity, or the simplicity of a mistake resulting in 25 to life. Regardless, most heist movies have the same ingredients: a hefty score, a team with a diverse skillset, a little side muscle, and most importantly, a man (or woman) with a vision who can rally the whole thing together with the logistical precision of a SEAL team operation.

At face value, the title The Killing refers to specific deaths that occur later in the film, including the execution of a horse. Metaphorically, The Killing also represents the large sum of cash at stake in a textbook heist orchestrated by ex-con Johnny Clay. If Clay pulls off this heist, he’ll make a killing, a great example of a perfect title.

Fresh off a five year stint in the slammer, Clay is ready to get right back in the mess and run off with his girl Fay (Coleen Gray) and a two million dollar take from the local horse track. The mechanics of the operation are so basic that the film’s non-linear structure hardly has any bearing on the audience’s ability to follow the plot. This story is about the characters and the peculiar morality of their motives.

In spite of looking like a gang of Dick Tracy villains, none of Clay’s conscripts are actual criminals. The corrupt police officer in debt up to his eyeballs (Ted de Corsia) is the closest any of Clay’s crew comes to being morally bankrupt. It’s even difficult to judge the entire operation as malicious especially considering that horse tracks rely on people willing to blow money.

The worst thing that happens to any “victims” in the robbery is Clay waving his gun around, and wrestler Kola Kwariani tossing a few police officers. The highest cost for the job is paid in full by Red Lightning — the racehorse that makes the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of sharpshooter Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey). To Clay’s point, is knocking off a horse even a crime? “…that’s not first-degree murder. In fact, that’s not murder at all. In fact, I don’t know what it is.” And with that, the film has only one criminal and bunch of regular joes that rip off a place that rips off people, all for the legally ambiguous price of a dead horse.

The worst indignities that occur, though, have nothing to do with stealing money, killing horses, or waving guns around, but are rather the crimes of passion exacted by Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor) upon discovering puny husband George (Elisha Cook Jr.) is in on Clay’s deal. George is the horse track window teller tasked with putting Clay in the same room with the money. But Sherry’s mascara isn’t even dry before she’s running her mouth to lover boy Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) who plans to hijack Clay’s operation. This makes Sherry’s sin the deadliest weapon in the film and results in a pretty gnarly climax for Clay’s gang. This, however, doesn’t prevent Clay from making his score, but in a denouement that would make Larry David blush, Johnny Clay seals his own fate when it becomes apparent that he failed to read the fine print for what’s considered an acceptable size for carry-on luggage. “Eh, what’s the difference?” uttered by Clay in the final seconds of the film sums up its themes on morality.

And while the film advances on misguided morality, the key relationships within are equally as strange and circuitous. As George Peatty unloads the details of the horse track job to wife Sherry, she proceeds with putting on makeup, clearly preparing to go out for the evening in spite of feigning a stomachache. George offers no argument about why Sherry’s gettin’ dolled up or where she’s going, and only asks her why she married him. Exasperated, Sherry replies, “Oh, George, when a man has to ask his wife that, well, he just hadn’t better, that’s all.” Why doesn’t Sherry just lay it all out for him instead of waxing poetic? George doesn’t take the hint, and continues trying to win Sherry’s affection with the rented promise of loads of money from Clay’s score.

Another instance of dubious companionship is between Johnny Clay and Marvin Unger (Jay C. Flippen). Unger provides Clay a place to lay low after being released from prison, and shares his sympathy for Clay regarding the tough break he’s had. Unger also claims to think of Clay as a son, but then goes on to confess rather affectionately, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go away, the two of us, and let the old world take a couple of turns, and have a chance to take stock of things?” Sounds a little more romantic than a parental dynamic, doesn’t it? Later, when the gang is holed up waiting for Clay’s return from the job, Unger appears girlishly gleeful when he thinks he hears Clay outside.

If the film’s purply, hard-boiled dialogue — most being rattled off at a whip-crack pace by Sterling Hayden — isn’t fierce enough to get the viewer’s heart rate up, the claustrophobic photography and incessant, pounding score is most certainly anxiety inducing. Though Lucian Ballard is credited as Director of Photography, Kubrick himself set up the shots. Inside Unger’s and the Peatty’s apartments, the visuals are low and crowded, often obstructed by objects and furniture in the foreground, almost as if the audience is eavesdropping while being made privy to the film’s unsavory goings-on.

To add shortness of breath on top of everything else, composer Gerald Fried provides an auditory beating that doesn’t let up for the entire film. Fried would eventually compose the turbulent score to the Kirk and Spock fight-to-the-death scene in the STAR TREK episode “Amok Time.”

A pesky voice-over narration by uncredited Art Gilmore announces the whens and wheres throughout the film for anyone bothering to take notes. Viewers are likely to find it a bit unnecessary as it simply clarifies the film’s non-linear structure. It’s also a bit confounding since the narrator remains unidentified and we’re never told why it’s pertinent within the story.

Kino Lorber presents THE KILLING for the first time in beautiful 4K Ultra High Definition, with film grain intact. Special features include a brand-new commentary by author and film historian Alan K. Rode and a theatrical trailer. The disc comes packaged with reversible sleeve art and an eye-popping slipcover rendered with a rare version film’s original poster art.

For a heist movie that’s not really about the heist, THE KILLING reveals the human, though heightened, backdrop of a big money score, and the fuzzy morality that makes troubled people do bad things. It also makes no bones about the consequences of the decisions its characters make, delivering a fable that’s both thrilling and thoughtful.

 

 

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2022 By:

by Contributing Writer
Chris Herzog

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

TERROR CIRCUS-1973
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Andrew Prine, Sherry Alberoni, Gyl Roland
Director: Alan Rudolph
Rated: R
Studio: Kino Lorber/Code Red
Region: A B C
BRD Release Date: 7-12-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio:  Widescreen (1.78:1)
Run Time: 84 Min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Seventies exploitation cinema is chock full of things like TERROR CIRCUS (aka BARN OF THE NAKED DEAD, aka NIGHTMARE CIRCUS), but there is better stuff to start with if you enjoy this sort of thing. This flick’s various titles are a great come-on—I mean, who isn’t curious about what goes on in the Barn of the Naked Dead? And a circus sounds fun anytime. Alas, TERROR CIRCUS is a decidedly hit-and-miss affair. I know it has its fans, but for many, the pic will wear out its welcome, even at less than 90 minutes.

Three showgirls (Manuella Theiss, Sherry Alberoni, and Gyl Roland) are traveling to Vegas for a gig when their car breaks down in the desert. In no time at all, they end up in the clutches of Andre (Prine) who adds them to a menagerie of captive women he keeps in his barn. Viewers who demand some sensibility in their drive-in dreck may wonder how Andre manages to control a group of at least ten women when he is never armed with anything more lethal than a bullwhip—and he doesn’t even have that with him all the time. His main technique seems to be simply grabbing someone by the wrist while she cries and begs, and the other nine women look on anxiously. Something tells me if he tried this in real life, he’d quickly be face down in the straw with ten hippie women making it rain go-go boots on him. Ah, but I guess that’s the magic of the movies.

Turns out that Andre has a circus fetish and likes to dress up like a ringmaster and crack the whip at his captives like they’re a bunch of performing animals. His rather sad collection of real “circus animals” consists of a cougar of some sort and a big snake, both of which he sics on the ladies when the notion strikes him. Sorry no gorillas, clowns, or human oddities in this circus. Well, actually, there is one oddity. Turns out the government used to conduct vaguely described “experiments” involving radiation or atom bombs or something in this neck of the desert back in the day. The radiation took its toll on Andre’s dad, who is now a big, grotesque cannibal creature penned up in a small outbuilding. As you might imagine, he doesn’t stay penned up for long. After an hour or so of circus-themed abuse and murder, the film climaxes with a big escape attempt, as the sheriff and the showgirls’ agent finally figure out what’s going on and all hell breaks loose.

TERROR CIRCUS is nowhere near as explicit or disturbing as it could be. Whether that’s a plus or minus is up to you. There are brief flashes of nudity and a reasonable amount of ketchup-like blood. There are also one or two satisfyingly meaty gore effects, thanks to Byrd Holland, who had recently handled the make-up effects for LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL, a film with comparable budgetary limitations but a more affecting atmosphere. According to Holland in the accompanying featurette, a few frames of gore had to be sacrificed in order to avoid an X-rating. Really, the most transgressive aspect of the film is the domination-of-women theme, which was hardly unique during this era. TERROR CIRCUS never quite gets humorous or even campy, at least not deliberately so, but it also never approaches the grim realism of a LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or the relentless intensity of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. True, the picture does achieve, at least at times, an off-kilter eeriness in keeping with the circus milieu. Much of this can be credited to the score by Tommy Vig (THEY CALL ME BRUCE?), which mixes free-form jazz with circus drumroll/oompah flourishes. Sometimes it works quite well, but there are many points in the picture when the score is trying so hard it becomes distracting.

Kino Lorber presents Code Red Video’s sharp, spotless scan with only one notable extra—an archival 24-minute interview featurette with a few members of the cast and crew. Every source seems to give a different time length for this picture. Here, Kino’s packaging gives it as 91 minutes, but the actual disk has an 84-minute cut. TERROR CIRCUS is probably worth a watch for the parts that do work, including the all-in performance from Andrew Prine, the goofy monster make-up and gore, and a certain degree of “let’s put on a show” low budget charm. And if you just like to see hippy chicks being terrorized, this one has a place on your shelf.

 

 

 

When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

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APES ON FILM: Keep Watching the Skies!

Posted on: Jul 15th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE UFO INCIDENT – 1975
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons , Barnard Hughes
Director: Richard A. Colla
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: June 14th, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 92 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

In the 1990s and early 2000s, you just weren’t anybody unless you’d been abducted and intimately probed by aliens. Everybody from Harvard professors to carpetbagging novelists published “true” accounts of abduction, creating a culture in which the truly chic were all part of the ET-erati, and if you hadn’t taken the probe you weren’t relevant. It’s easy to laugh at the proliferation of accounts that all read exactly the same from story to story, but what is the genesis of this phenomena? It all started in New Hampshire in 1962, with an account that’s a little harder to shake your head at; the tale of Betty and Barney Hill.

The Hills experienced a lost time episode one night while driving home from Montreal. They saw a UFO coming towards them, got out and watched it until it got a bit too close for comfort, then got back in the car and tried to outrun it. Two hours later, they realized they were almost home and had no memory of how they had gotten there. Unsettling dreams and memories began to surface, and eventually they sought help from Psychiatrist Benjamin Simon, who regressed them via hypnosis and discovered some very unsettling details of their encounter.

THE UFO INCIDENT is a harrowing account of their experience, and includes a tour de force performance by James Earl Jones (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) as Barney Hill. His recollections under hypnosis are both heartbreaking and terrifying, and Jones pushes limits in creating an uncomfortable environment for the viewer. Equally compelling is the performance of Estelle Parsons (BONNIE AND CLYDE) as his wife, Betty. Barnard Hughes (THE LOST BOYS) tries to make sense of what he’s hearing as Simon, but ultimately decides that true or not, the catharsis the couple experiences is the most important aspect of the treatment.

After this movie aired on television, reports of alien abduction to authorities and aerial phenomena research groups jumped from a trickle to a deluge. Almost all of these accounts reported similar details as the Hills, creating a pattern that was to continue to this day. But they were the first; they had no reason to lie, and every reason to avoid the public eye as an interracial couple in the time period when such marriages had only recently become legal. They were both highly intelligent, well educated, and active in their community, advocates for social justice. Barney was a postman and Betty, a social worker. It’s difficult to fathom why they might have made up their account. Truth or fantasy, it’s hard to conceive of this story as an outright lie. The Hills truly believed they were abducted by beings from another planet.

Overall, picture and sound for this film have never looked or sounded better than on this disc. The transfer is from a new 2K restoration, and supplementary materials include a new (and excellent) audio commentary by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani, ROMANTIC MYSTICISM: THE MUSIC OF BILLY GOLDENBERG – a feature length documentary by Gerani, trailers for other films (including FUZZ, directed by Richard Colla), and optional English subtitles. While the supplemental materials are fascinating, it would have been interesting to hear audio from some of the Hills’ original hypnosis sessions as well, and possibly a documentary on their experience.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM: Oh là là! Aroused Brains Attack!

Posted on: Jun 29th, 2022 By:

by John Michlig
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS – 1957
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: John Agar , Joyce Meadows , Robert Fuller
Director: Nathan Juran
Rated: Not rated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A
BRD Release Date: 6-21-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (1.85:1) and Full Frame (1.33:1)
Run Time: 71 min.
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Independently produced, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS represents the all-too-common intersection of former A-level talent (in front of and behind the camera) making the most of a frugal situation. Still, there’s a lot to like here in terms of the original film and excellent added features.

The flick opens with a speck of light, under credits, moving over a still image of what we will soon learn is Mystery Mountain (sounds preordained, no?). Next, an indeterminate explosion; what happened? Fear not, because Steve March, a nuclear physicist played by John Agar (A man once married to Shirley Temple!) will soon provide narrative cover as he describes to his lackadaisical colleague, Dr. Dan Murphy (Robert Fuller), that there are indeed some mysterious radioactive readings coming from the area.

(Side note): For the first ten minutes or so of this film, you will swear there is a hamburger sponsorship involved. Steve’s fiancé Sally, as portrayed by Joyce Meadows, is rather firmly focused on making sure the men know how perfect the charcoal was glowing under the grill and how their lives will surely be diminished if they miss her patties. Once the burgers are ingested and properly appreciated, Steve and Dan head out for a “three or four-day” trek into the desert, alone, without notifying any authorities or organization ahead of time, of course. They’re just going to head out with some rifles and take care of business.

(Another side note): I think most sensible people would agree that any trip you take that involves firearms and possible radiation should be explicitly covered in the employee handbook as “Notification required before deployment,” particularly if you apparently work for a government entity.

Here, by the way, is where we are greeted by our first pith helmet.

We know it’s hot out in the desert because our heroes are sweating profusely (and exclusively) from their armpits. We also know that when they encounter a giant, levitating (and bored looking) brain named Gor, John Agar’s character will survive because as noted earlier, he was once married to Shirley Temple. Robert Fuller, on the other hand, went on to star in TV’s Emergency! – not enough to spare his character’s life, alas.

Gor now possesses Steve March, and a great deal of the visual appeal of the film (at substantial cost to Agar; we’ll learn via commentary and featurettes that his silver contacts were quite painful) lay in the periodic “transformations” when Gor takes over March’s body in order to put his Earth-conquering project in place (the prototype, perhaps, for Bill Bixby’s The Incredible Hulk contortions).

While we’re on the topic of silver contacts, the name Jack Pierce jumps out at you in the opening credits, but rest assured there is nothing in terms of interesting or effective makeup effects to be found in this film. There is, however, a fairly epic distortion of Agar’s face as viewed through a water dispenser that beats any and all other visual effects in the film.

One of the interesting wrinkles in The Brain is the fact that the bad-guy brain, Gor, is fairly horny and seems to very much appreciate Steve’s fiancé, Sally Fallon (I SAW WHAT YOU DID’s Joyce Meadows) on a level that seems…odd for a being that consists of brain matter and eyeballs. This, one supposes, ties in with the titular planet Arous sounding like “eros” and looking like “arouse.”

In terms of special features, The Film Detective’s presentation of THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS is a marvelous buffet. Meadows contributes an enthusiastic introduction called Not the Same Old Brain, where she wanders the Bronson Canyon filming location while talking about her experiences making the flick. Tom Weaver ’s commentary track is chock-full of cerebral – and useful – observations, with worthwhile contributions from Larry Blamire and David Schecter. Also, there are two fact-filled featurettes included: The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran, and The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran. On top of all that, Weaver contributes a fact-filled essay booklet that explores the background of producer Jacques Marquette.

All in all, The Film Detective’s THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS package is a multi-level delight – recommended without hesitation.

 

 

 

When he’s not hanging around the top of the Empire State Building, John Michlig spends his time writing books like It Came from Bob’s Basement, KONG: King Of Skull Island, and GI Joe: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action. Read more at The Fully Articulated Newsletter and The Denham Restoration Project.

 

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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APES ON FILM: Dr. Jekyll, The Original Mad Scientist!

Posted on: Jun 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE – 1941
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Spencer Tracy , Ingrid Bergman , Lana Turner
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: May 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 113 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s treatise on the duality of man, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was born in London in 1886.  Like Dracula eleven years later, the novella has permeated the groundwater of our culture and stands as a landmark of gothic horror literature. The term “Jekyll and Hyde” has punctuated our vernacular and has come to be shorthand for someone who presents a friendly face but harbors private evil. There have been over 120 stage and film adaptations of the story since its publication, and today’s column features the 1941 film version from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But let’s back up 10 years to set the scene for this movie.

Paramount Pictures made what many consider to be the definitive version of the film in 1931, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March, who won the Academy Award™ for Best Actor for his performance.  The film was a box office and critical success, and has stood the test of time with classic film fans. Ten years later, MGM created as literal a remake of the Paramount film as they could, with slight changes to Samuel Hoffenstein‘s and Percy Heath‘s 1931 screenplay made to satisfy the Hays Code, enacted in 1934. This code regulated the film industry in matters of “moral decency” in what was presented to the public for exhibition. The result, while quite watchable, is an inferior film.

There was no need to remake a 10 year old film – barring the fact that there was little chance to see the original, as television, home video, and streaming services were still science fiction at the time – but MGM bought the rights to a filmable script, had bankable stars to populate the film, and in order to avoid lackluster comparisons, did everything they could to hide the Mamoulian version away, causing it to become mired in legal restrictions which kept it out of the public eye for many years.

The trio of Tracy, Turner, and Bergman are certainly enticement to see the film, but Fleming’s direction seems uneven and meanders through a story that should be taut, and fast paced. The majority of the heavy lifting acting-wise is handled with aplomb by Bergman, who was originally cast in Turner’s role. She begged Fleming to switch the actresses’ places as she was tired of playing saintly women (as she would in JOAN OF ARC, 1948) and longed to be the bad girl in the film. Tracy acquits himself decently in the title roles, but his appearance as Hyde is not nearly as effective as Fredric March’s in the original. In fact, he winds up looking a bit like George Hamilton after a serious bender in many scenes. Lana Turner does as much as she can with her role, and she and Ingrid Bergman look fabulous throughout…a definite point in the movie’s favor.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation of the film reveals an enormous amount of detail unseen on previous home video releases. The studio’s restoration creates a much-improved viewing experience both in sharpness and accuracy of contrast levels. The sound quality is consistent with a film of this era, and presents Franz Waxman’s original score well. Unfortunately, the only supplementary feature on this disc is the film’s original trailer.

I wish I liked this movie more, but I won’t recommend you skip it. However, Warner Archive is set to release the 1931 version on BRD in October. Don’t miss that disc.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: To Frankenstein… A Daughter!

Posted on: May 4th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER – 1958
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: John Ashley , Sandra Knight , Donald Murphy , Felix Locher
Director: Richard E. Cunha 
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B, C
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

There’s a lot to unpack about a movie called FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER. Made for a measly $60 thousand at the behest of a third-rate distributor who merely supplied a title and a budget of $80 thousand. Director Richard Cunha and producer Marc Frederic hired an anonymous soap opera writer to craft a script and shot the film in six days. They had no illusions that they would be making art, they only cared to make a competent product. What they wound up with met the criteria of Astor Pictures and was released to the public in 1958. The pair pocketed the $20 thousand surplus and moved on to their next project.

So, how’s the film? Calling it a mixed bag would be generous. On the positive side, the cinematography, effects make up, and musical score are pretty good. Several performances are better than the script (which is the real villain here) deserve. John Zaremba as a chatty police lieutenant stands out, and Donald Murphy as the titular descendent of the original Frankenstein is smarmy and competently menacing in most scenes. Sandra Knight makes the most of a poorly developed character, as does Sally Todd .

On to the negatives, mainly the script, which might as well have been called “Frankenstein’s Date Rapes.” The pseudonymous writer H.E. Barrie delivers a stinker of a story that barely makes sense and focuses on Murphy’s Oliver Frank character roofie-ing Knight’s Trudy Morton repeatedly, turning her into a walking fright-wig with googly eyes in an effort to impart everlasting life on a cobbled-together corpse he’s putting together in her uncle’s basement laboratory. Eventually, he murders Todd’s character to supply the monster with a brain who subsequently terrorizes the neighborhood, but politely knocks at front doors rather than simply barging through them. The script endlessly echoes the action on screen, with characters describing what viewers are already seeing. What makes all of this worse is Harold Lloyd’s son, Harold Jr., monkeying about making broad attempts to chew the scenery which he’s clearly not talented enough to digest. Seriously, “cringeworthy” barely begins to cover his sins.

The best part of the whole viewing experience is The Film Detective’s presentation. Sourced from a newly restored 4K print grabbed from the original 35mm film elements, the picture is a vast improvement over the previous DVD release. The audio tracks are also quite improved, and the company put real care into creating this disc, though a few mistakes were made in identifying special features. For example, Larry Blamire does not provide a full commentary track as advertised on the package. Instead, he contributes some characterization to Tom Weaver’s track. Weaver himself is misidentified on the menu as “Jason A. Ney.” Nonetheless, Weaver’s contributions to this disc make the whole thing worth a purchase. Between his commentary and the interview video with Cunha forming the bulk of the bonus features documentary on the director, there’s little doubt that this is the most “special” special edition this film will be getting.

Speaking of bonus features, they include the aforementioned full commentary track with author/ historian Tom Weaver; full color booklet with original essay by Weaver; a new career retrospective from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featuring an archival interview with director Richard E. Cunha (“Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown”); and, a new career retrospective featuring film historian C. Courtney Joyner (“John Ashley: Man from the B’s”).

Don’t expect any revelations from the film on this disc, but there are plenty in the bonus features and in the new presentation. Worth a watch on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM: Grimm Tales of Cinerama

Posted on: Apr 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

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THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM – 1962
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Claire Bloom, Walter Slezak, Barbara Eden
Director: Henry Levin, George Pal
Rated: G
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: March 29, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1 – Original aspect ratio: 2.59:1
Run Time: 140 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The Cinerama process was developed in the 1950s as a way to help draw television viewers back to the movies. Utilizing a process whereby three synchronized camera images are projected onto a large, curved screen made of individual vertical strips of standard perforated screen material, Cinerama delivered an amazing viewing experience in which the viewer could be enveloped by the motion picture. My personal experiences at the (now sadly gone) Columbia Theatre in midtown Atlanta include some of my favorite memories of being at the movies.

Producer/director George Pal, ever a showman, turned to Cinerama to make his 1962 production of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, an unforgettable experience for moviegoers. Following the success of his production of H.G. WellsTHE TIME MACHINE, Pal wanted to expand his horizons as a filmmaker and deliver the viewing experience of a lifetime. The film was one of only two narrative movies shot in the original Cinerama process (the other being HOW THE WEST WAS WON) before it was replaced by the single strip Super Panavision 70-millimeter process.

Though very little restoration was needed to prepare HOW THE WEST WAS WON for high-definition release, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM was a totally different story. The original negatives had deteriorated and suffered major damage from a flooding accident in storage, making an analog restoration too costly to even consider. Digital restoration technology finally rose to the level where such an undertaking was possible, and the results are spectacular indeed. The process is detailed on disc two of Warner Archive Collection’s new special edition of the film in the featurette documentary, “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic.” I highly recommend watching this before viewing the film. A comparison video of before and after restoration is available HERE.

Pal’s movie itself is a relic of its time; the wraparound story about the Brothers Grimm themselves is little more than a feel-good bio with little historical accuracy, made to envelop the fairy tale segments based on the duo’s books. These segments are blustery, color-saturated, over-the-top presentations of the stories The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. While the story is pedestrian, the visuals and music create an unforgettable spectacle as Pal intended, and are absolutely worth the time investment for viewing. Pal even takes the director’s reins himself for some stop-motion sequences.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation includes two viewing options; the letterbox aspect ratio, and the Smilebox® aspect ratio, which more accurately recreates the original Cinerama viewing experience. I chose the Smilebox® option (so named because the ratio actually resembles an enormous, wide mouthed smile) and was glad – by squeezing the mid screen and flaring the edges outward, the film keeps a more realistic view of the action. The letterboxes flat version seems stretched and optically crazed near the edges in certain shots, at least to me.

This release will most certainly get my vote for Best Restoration of the Year, and you should definitely own it. Warner Archive has again proven that someone there at the studio does still care about classic films and restoring them, as well as releasing them on physical media. Thanks, whoever you are!

 

Special Features
•    Rescuing a Fantasy Classic-Documentary (HD) New
•    The Epic Art of The Brothers Grimm (HD) New
•    The Wonderful Career of George Pal (HD) New
•    Trailers and more

Technical Specs
•    New 2022 1080p HD Masters from the 4K restoration of original Cinerama Camera Negatives
•    Two Disc Deluxe Special Edition
•    2-BD50s
•    Disc 1-Restored Cinerama image letterboxed
•    Disc 2-Restored Cinerama image in SMILEBOX® format, to approximate the curved theater screen experience in the home
•    Disc 1-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89 Letterbox
•    Disc 2-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89Smilebox®
•    140 Minutes-Roadshow presentation with Overture, Intermission, Entr’acte, and Exit Music.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM: Get Your Folk Horror Fix with THE EYE OF THE DEVIL!

Posted on: Mar 13th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

EYE OF THE DEVIL – 1966
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Deborah Kerr , David Niven, Donald Pleasence, Edward Mulhare , Sharon Tate , David Hemmings
Director: J. Lee Thompson 
Rated: NR
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 – Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 96 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Anticipating the wave of folk horror films to come in the early 1970s, producer Martin Ransohoff’s EYE OF THE DEVIL is an entertaining amalgamation of tropes associated with several genres that readers (and viewers of the cinematic adaptations) of James George Frazer, Daphne Du Maurier, Henry James, and Dennis Wheatley will embrace, delivered by a fantastic cast.

David Niven portrays Philippe de Montfaucon, the Marquis de Bellenac, a wealthy French nobleman called back to his ancestral home to remedy the blight on his town’s vineyard. As in THE WICKER MAN, caretaking the wellbeing of the harvest is directly the responsibility of the local lord, and Philippe feels the heavy weight as he returns to shoulder the burden of more than a thousand years of tradition – he must make a sacrifice to ensure the bounty of the community returns. And the price is high.

Deborah Kerr, as Philippe’s wife Catherine, follows him to Bellenac despite his urges to stay in Paris after their son Jacques has a dream in which his father needs him. Packing Jacques and sister Antoinette, they arrive at Chateau de Montfaucon (the exquisite Château de Hautefort in the Dordogne) to find local creepy archer Christian de Caray (David Hemmings) shooting doves out of the sky and his sister Odile (Sharon Tate) turning frogs into doves and hypnotizing the children. This is only a prelude to the weirdness ahead for Catherine, as she slowly peels back the mystery of her husband’s ancestral home and family history, and what’s to become of all of them.

The troubled production – Kim Novak filmed all but a handful of scenes before being injured on set and having her part recast (and re-shot) by Kerr when she was unable to return – features outstanding performances by Tate in her first speaking film role, Hemmings just before he blew up in Michelangelo Antonioni‘s BLOW-UP, and Donald Pleasence perfecting the creepy stare he would put to good use in so many later roles. Niven and Kerr also acquit themselves well, but it’s the supporting cast that does much of the heavy lifting.

Tate was a discovery of Ransohoff’s, who was the producer of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. He met Tate when she auditioned for PETTICOAT JUNCTION and he signed her to a seven-year contract on the spot. But he had bigger plans for her than a sitcom, which is clearly seen in in EYE OF THE DEVIL. She gives an amazing performance as Odile, and her commitment to her craft really shines. Hemming also creates a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts, and may be the reason the film was eventually released after Novak’s accident and the reshoots. Stuck in limbo for more than a year, his popularity after the release of BLOW-UP seems to have given the studio a reason to refocus on EYE OF THE DEVIL and complete it, finally releasing the film in 1967 in the U.S. and 1968 in the U.K.

Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is visually stunning, sourced from a new 4K scan of the original film elements. The picture is crisp and secure, and Erwin Hillier ’s monochrome cinematography is a joy to behold. The audio is less effective, but it’s sourced from a half-century old mono track and performs within expectations. The only extra included on the disc is the theatrical trailer.

This film flopped in the U.S. and has stayed under the radar which is a shame. It’s well worth a watch and might just wind up becoming a new favorite. Recommended.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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APES ON FILM: By The Pricking of My Thumbs…

Posted on: Feb 16th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

RAY BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES – 1983
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd , Pam Grier
Director: Jack Clayton 
Rated: PG
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: September 7, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 95 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Ray Bradbury is arguably the greatest American writer of all time. He wrote a short story and/or worked on a novel every day of his adult life, leaving a rich legacy of unforgettable narratives that have been adapted, adopted, re-interpreted, and spread throughout the ground water of worldwide culture for more than seventy years. Though Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical memoir is Dandelion Wine, the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes conveys the true essence of the man – his experiences, his beliefs, his philosophies – like no other of his works. It has been strip-mined by no less than the likes of Stephen King repeatedly to good effect in books like Salem’s Lot, Needful Things, and Doctor Sleep, and its influence has never been diminished.

The 1983 film adaptation of the novel by Disney has many positive facets. The casting of Jason Robards and Jonathon Pryce was inspired, the screenplay by Bradbury himself is a wonderful adaptation without being pedantic in honoring the source material, and many of the supporting performances are fine. Ultimately, it fails as good film due to limitations of technology and lack of vision on the part of the studio in post-production, as well as a lackluster job by director Jack Clayton.

Clayton, the director of 1961’s THE INNOCENTS, certainly seemed a good candidate for the job. One would surmise then that he would be a good choice to helm a film based on a beloved classic book about two boys who beat back the coming of a weird, malevolent carnival and its proprietors, saving their hometown and righting the wrongs done by black magic. But he wasn’t. Yes, there are wonderful sequences within the movie – the library showdown between Pryce’s Mr. Dark and Robards’ Charlie Halloway is brilliant – but the bulk of the film falls flat on multiple levels.

Performances by young leads Vidal Peterson  and Shawn Carson are inconsistent. The whole story hinges on viewers believing that the pair are blood brothers in dire circumstances – afraid, but heroes at their core; neither delivers this, unfortunately. Besides Robards and Pryce, other standouts are Pam Grier as the Dust Witch, Royal Dano as Tom Fury, and Bruce M. Fischer  as Mr. Coogar. Angelo Rossitto  has a good moment or two as a demonic barker at the carnival.

Disney’s culpability comes in what I can only assume was a surfeit of oversight. The studio spent a year re-shooting, editing, and generally misunderstanding how to complete the movie. In an era where independent shops like Boss Films or Stan Winston Studios were creating excellent visual effects on reasonable budgets, Disney opted to keep optical effects in-house, resulting in a lot of shaky, underexposed traveling mattes, THAT DARN CAT!level animation overlays, and a lot of film grain bloom from poorly executed optical film printer composite shots. The most egregious wrong done to this film is that the color timing is all over the pace. The lack of a consistent color palette for such a metaphorically rich film is a crime, and it’s hard to figure out where to point the finger of blame – director or producers? The movie comes across as way too much Disney, not enough Bradbury. What it needs is a remake by Guillermo Del Toro, frankly.

Disney Movie Club’s Blu-ray presentation is a bare bones release, and exclusive to members only. No extras of any kind are included, which seems like a missed opportunity. The picture is dusty and spotty, with scratches and pops throughout, most noticeably in the opening scenes. The enhanced definition here also serves to reveal that the film was clearly shot on the backlot and in Burbank sound stages, resulting in an unenhanced visual environment for home viewing. DMC even bumped the original aspect ratio of 1.75.1 up to 1.85.1 – it seems just to thumb their nose at purists. Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

I wish I could recommend this disc, but truly cannot. It’s not worth the hassle of the Disney Movie Club format (reminiscent of the Columbia House Record Club, you have to opt out of a monthly shipment at a premium price) to get such lackluster presentations for home viewing, especially for films with marginal viewing value.

Let’s hope Guillermo is reading and has an AHA! moment.

An expanded version of this review appears in issue 40 of Screem Magazine.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Who is THE AMAZING MR.X?

Posted on: Jan 26th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

 

 

THE AMAZING MR. X – 1948
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Turhan Bey , Lynn Bari , Cathy O’Donnell , Richard Carlson
Director: Bernard Vorhaus
Rated: NR
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 78 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Fans of Guillermo Del Toro’s recent remake of NIGHTMARE ALLEY should enjoy THE AMAZING MR. X, which explores similar territory (spiritualism and con men, but without the carny trappings) painted in the same film noir brush strokes.

Universal Studios’ stalwart Turhan Bey (THE MUMMY’S TOMB) stars as “Alexis, Psychic Consultant” – code for con man – who’s set his sights on Lynn Bari’s (THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY) Christine, a not-too-recent rich widow who’s being haunted by the spirit of her dead husband, Paul (Donald Curtis). Richard Carlson (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) intervenes as her sensible and skeptical lawyer/suitor. Martin and Cathy O’Donnell (THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES) plays younger sister Janet, who wants nothing more than for Christine to forget the past and move on to a happy future with Martin. As much a character in the drama as any of the actors is the cinematography of John Alton, who creates dream-like misty and sometimes even downright fog-laden environments that enhance the lighting and lens choices he makes. Shot in a gothic, film noir style, the camera’s eye is used as a narrator rather than simply as a passive window.

Bey’s inside accomplice (Christine’s housekeeper Virginia Gregg) feeds him enough information to dazzle her and point her towards him as a solution to her problem as it begins to spin out of control. Alexis remains a smooth operator until the moment Martin holds him to a seance table and dead husband Paul appears without any pre-arranged special effects. From then on, the fake spiritualist is in over his head and unable to find a way out.

The Film Detective’s release of THE AMAZING MR. X is sourced from a 4K restoration of Bey’s own print of the film, and a definite improvement over earlier home video releases. As much of the film is set at night, there are some very grainy segments, but for the most part the picture is as crisp or as sharp as the cinematographer and director decided it should be. Other artifacts pop up occasionally – there are some shots with slight lens doubling effects that stem from the original film elements. Audio is consistent with the technology of 1948, sweetened a bit for modern tastes. It’s no distraction from the imagery, but could have been more of an enhancement.

Special Features include a commentary by professor and film scholar Jason A. New; MYSTERIES EXPOSED: INSIDE THE CINEMATIC WORLD OF SPIRITUALISM, an original documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featuring author Lisa Morton and writer/producer C. Courtney Joiner, and a full color booklet with an essay, The Amazing Mr. Bey, by Dan Stradley.

If you’ve never seen this movie, or seen it only in a diminished format sourced from a bad public domain print, don’t hesitate to buy this disc. Well worth the price!

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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