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.

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: 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

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

APES ON FILM: A Little Sci-Fi, A Little Bourgeois: The Cool Lakes of Mars

Posted on: Sep 14th, 2021 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!

 

FLIGHT TO MARS – 1951
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston
Director: Lesley Selander
Rated: NR
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B
BRD Release Date: July 20th, 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: 72 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

To have produced amazing films such as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), WEST SIDE STORY (1961), THE PINK PANTHER (1963), IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971), Walter Mirisch started at the bottom of the film industry, working for one of the lowest of low budget companies on Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” – Monogram. The company subsisted by cranking out sensationalistic crime melodramas, program westerns, and mostly yawn-inducing horror films, with the inherited-from-Fox Charlie Chan series remaining as their claim to fame.

FLIGHT TO MARS is clearly aimed at the grown-up crowd, but would have been better off treated as fodder for Saturday kids’ matinees by the studio. As an adult drama, it’s unbelievably silly and offensively misogynistic, casting women in a variety of stereotypical roles with little to do but look pretty or be bitchy – or both. As science fiction, it’s an insulting blend of self-righteous ignorance of science and an affront to fiction as the screenplay by Barry Conners and Philip Klein never misses a chance to land squarely on the nose of whatever trope they’re appropriating at the moment. The miniature and effects work is poorly rendered when compared to higher budget studio fare of the time, unsurprisingly. Honestly, there’s little to recommend about the movie itself.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a different matter, however. Gleaned from a new 4K scan of the original source materials, the film looks and sounds very good. The color isn’t on par with three strip technicolor, but it’s bright and well-saturated, and the sound is unobtrusively well-mixed. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys, “Walter Mirisch: From Bomba to Body Snatchers,” a new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema’s First Space Race,” a new documentary short with celebrated science fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate also from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and a full color insert booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

I wish I could recommend this film, but I fear it’s for the completist only. If you decide to buy it, enjoy the featurettes, commentary, and booklet–they’re definitely more fun than the movie.

 

 

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH – 1982
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Renée Soutendijk, Erik van ‘t Wout, Derek de Lint, Adriaan Olree
Directed By: Nouchka van Brakel
Studio: Cult Epics
BRD Release Date: May 11, 2021
Region: A, B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: TBA
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC from 4K Restoration
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Run Time: 125 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH contains a tour de force performance by Renée Soutendijk as a woman who goes from insufferably naive to outright insane, and finally arrives at an uneasy peace. Soutendijk is possibly mostly well-known to American filmgoers from her next film, Paul Verhoeven‘s THE 4TH MAN (1983) in which she co-starred with Jeroen Krabbé. Both men became fixtures in American films while Soutendijk continued to add to her impressive resume in Europe and her native Holland, which is shameful – she’s impossible not to watch when onscreen and at least as talented as either one of them.

She plays Hetty, a young lady who misunderstands all that happens to her, skewing her view of the world in ways that her suitor, husband, and lover simply can’t fathom; she’s a code with no key, to herself and to all around her including the viewer. Eventually her naivety gives way to sheer negligence that ends in tragedy, the aftermath of which is truly difficult to watch, a credit to both director and performer. The end credits roll over a shot of Soutendijk glancing sideways at the camera, with a slight smile. Whatever happens to Hetty in the end, this is the only clue director Nouchka van Brakel left for us. All of this takes place inside the lush visuals of cinematographer Theo van de Sande, who has clearly been influenced by John Alcott‘s work on Stanley Kubrick ’s BARRY LYNDON (1975).

Cult Epics’ presentation of the film is a revelation, as the disc is culled from a new restoration and 4K transfer from the original negative. I don’t recall it looking this good in the theater in 1982. Sound is good, and well balanced with no stentorian volume shifts between scenes.  Bonus features include a Polygoon Journal Newsreel (1982, HD), poster and photo gallery, theatrical trailers and Ltd. Edition Packaging featuring original and newly designed art. Audio is in original Dutch (with English interspersed) with English subtitles. 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

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

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