MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: The Jackal (1997)

A loose remake of The Day of the Jackal, this was Sidney Poitier’s last movie, which makes me sad, as well as a movie that has an absolutely hilarious scene where Bruce Willis uses a remote controlled machine gun to turn Jack Black into hamburger.

You know who wasn’t pleased by this remake? Just about everyone involved with the original movie, including director Fred Zinnemann, author Frederick Forsyth, actor Edward Fox and producer John Woolf. They hated it so much that they filed an injunction to prevent Universal from using the original name and made the film use an “inspired by” credit.

I mean, how often how we wondered who would win in a fight, Willis or Richard Gere? But seriously, Willis is The Jackal, a killing machine, and Gere is Declan Joseph Mulqueen, an IRA sniper who may be the only man deadlier as an assassin.

Geeks like me went to see this movie because Gere’s lover Isabella Celia Zancona was played by Mathilda May from Lifeforce. Well, I also really liked Michael Caton-Jones’ Scandal, so that brought me in, same as when he made Basic Instinct 2. The script came from Chuck Pfarrer, who wrote Navy SEALsDarkmanHard Target and Barb Wire. All of those movies are more entertaining than this.

When Gere first appears, he has a mustache and goatee. He wanted to switch up his look, which upset  Universal, so that’s why there’s a scene where Gere asks for a razor after accepting the job. This is the absolute dumbest thing I’ve written in some time and I blame this movie.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes Kull the Conqueror, The Cowboy Way and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: The Cowboy Way (1994)

Rodeo riders and ropers Pepper Lewis (Woody Harrelson) and Sonny Gilstrap (Kiefer Sutherland) have traveled from New Mexico to New York City looking for their friend Nacho Salazar (Joaquín Martínez) and staying to find his killer along with police officer Sam “Mad Dog” Shaw (Ernie Hudson).

Directed by Gregg Champion and written by Robert C. Thompson and William D. Wittliff (Legends of the FallThe Perfect StormLonesome Dove‘s TV script), this reminds me of the 90s when high concept buddy movies kept coming out. “So Woody and Kiefer are from Texas and come to the big city and stuff happens! We’ll even have Woody order a steak, you know, because he’s vegan! It’s kind of like Crocodile Dundee.”

Bad guy John Stark (Dylan McDermott) is the reason they’re in town, as Nacho was coming to buy his daughter Teresa’s (Cara Buono) freedom. The outcome is never in doubt, but there is a nice bit of character work as Hudson really wants to be a cowboy, which is supposed to be funny because the movie assumes audiences believe there were no black cowboys when history informs us that up to 25% of all cowboys in the settling days of the west were African American.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes  Kull the Conqueror, The Jackal and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: End of Days (1999)

Peter Hyams is a funny guy.

He once said, “O. J. Simpson was in Capricorn One and Robert Blake was in Busting. I’ve said many times: Some people have AFI Lifetime Achievement awards, some people have multiple Oscars, my bit of trivia is that I’ve made films with two leading men who were subsequently tried for the first-degree murder of their wives.”

He’s also made plenty of decent movies with not much fanfare, like Outland2010Running ScaredTimecopStay Tuned and Sudden Death.

1979: The Pope sends a priest on a mission to protect a newborn baby named Christine York, who will be the one to give birth to Satan’s child after a comet goes over the moon in full view of the Vatican, all while the Vatican knights try to kill her.

1999: Satan has possessed an investment banker (Gabriel Byrne) under the protection of Jericho Cane (Schwarzenegger) and Bobby Chicago (Kevin Pollak). Father Thomas Aquinas (Derrick O’Connor), a tongue-less priest, tries to kill the banker before being arrested.

Between his old boss Marge Francis (CCH Pounder) and Father Kovak (Rod Steiger), Cane starts to realize that something isn’t right with his boss, what with him crucifying Aquinas to the ceiling of his apartment.

Can a man who has given up on God after the death of his wie and daughter find the strength to protect York (Robin Tunney) from the Vatican knights and demons, including his dead partner reanimated after making a deal with Satan? Will the devil crucify Arnold? Do grenades work on Satan?

This movie also has Udo Keir and Marc Lawrence, somehow appearing yet again in a movie where Satan wants a woman, much like The Nightmare Never Ends but with a much larger budget.

End of Days was Arnold’s first movie since Batman & Robin and a series of heart issues. Studios were anxious about whether or not they could insure him. The insurance people and executives from Universal came to the set just to watch him for the first week of shooting, but Arnold had returned to peak condition.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes Kull the Conqueror, The Jackal and The Cowboy Way. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

It’s difficult to review this movie in 2023 instead of 1997, knowing what I know about Kevin Sorbo today. Regardless, I’m going to try and be impartial and just discuss how this movie isn’t very good based on its own lack of merits and leave my politics out of it.

Originally intended to be the third Conan film, Conan the Conqueror, this movie made the switch to another Robert E. Howard character when Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped out and Sorbo came on. He didn’t want to be a character already played by someone else — I mean, there’s no way you would come out on top no matter who you are when compared to Arnold as Conan — so the character was changed to Kull, even though the story is based on the Conan story “The Phoenix on the Sword” and the novel The Hour of the Dragon, as well as the Kull story “By This Axe I Rule!” which was rewritten as “The Phoenix on the Sword.”

Screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue (Psycho IIIDragonheartThe Fly) told IGN, “Both Dragonheart and Kull the Conqueror fell far short of where I had originally intended them to go. Two lauded scripts that were diminished in the long process that it took to get them to the screen. Dragonheart is a disappointment. Kull is a disaster. Both lost their poetry, panache and power.”

Kull — as per “Shadows of the Skull” a direct descendent of Conan and an enemy of Thulsa Doom, who was the character played by James Earl Jones in Conan the Barbarian — fights several soldiers to prove himself and be given the ability to join Valusia’s elite Dragon Legion. Then, General Taligaro (Thomas Ian Griffith) informs him that because he’s just a simple barbarian from Atlantis, he can never join a noble legion. That said, seeing as how King Borna (if you can’t get Arnold, get one of his best friends, Sven-Ole Thorsen) is going mad and killing all of his heirs, Taligaro rides back home with Kull following. Instead of the long road from gladiator to mercenary and civil war in the books, the King is quickly killed by Kull and with his dying words, makes the outsider the king.

Kull has a whole harem of women now, including the fortuneteller Zareta (Karina Lombard), who once told him he would be king. He tries to win her over and sleep with her, but she reminds him that she’s a slave and he must command her to do that. This kind of disgusts Kull, who decides that he’s going to get rid of slaves and this ends up making all the nobles mad.

Meanwhile, Taligaro works with the necromancer Enaros (Edward Tudor-Pole) to bring back Sorceress Queen and demon goddess Akivasha (Tia Carrere) and have her place Kull into a coma, which is blamed on Zareta, then taking over the kingdom. Luckily, Kull is saved by Valkan priest Ascalante (Gary Davis), who just so happens to be Zareta’s brother. Taking the ship of slaver Juba (Harvey Fierstein, who shut my mind off being in this), he travels to find the Breath of Valka, the only thing that can stop this demon in the force of french kissing it into her mouth.

So yeah. That’s the movie.

At least it has a role for Pat Roach, who always shows up as henchmen, like the flying wing mechanic Indiana Jones punches into a propeller and General Kael in Willow. He also appeared as Lord Brytag in Red Sonja and Thoth-Amon in Conan the Destroyer, so he knows Howard movies.

John Nicolella mainly directed TV — nine episodes of Miami Vice — before coming on to this movie. It’s mind numbingly bad and this is coming from someone who savors Italian sword and sorcery films like The Throne of Fire and Ironmaster. Kull never does anything to let you know why you should care about him, literally stumbling into being king, instantly having it taken from him and having nearly his entire crew get killed around him. It’s, as they say, a mess.

The Mill Creek Epic Showdowns – 4 Action Movies set includes The Cowboy Way, The Jackal and End of Days. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK SCI-FI FROM THE VAULT: The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock (1959)

The only movie — outside of when he was a bit player and stuntman — that Lou Costello starred in without Bud Abbott, this movie was based on an original screenplay titled The Secret Bride of Candy Rock Mountain. Directed by Sidney Miller (who started as an actor and also wrote songs for musicals like Moonlight in Vermont) and written by Rowland Barber and Arthur Ross, it was released in theaters five months after Costello died from the result of a decade plus fight with rheumatic fever (but not before enjoying the best strawberry malted ever).

Costello is inventor and junk collction Artie Pinsetter, who is engaged to Emmy Lou Raven (Dorothy Provine,  It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), who is quickly exposed to radiation and turned into the titular gigantic woman. They live in the small desert town of Candy Rock, which is owned by Emmy’s rich uncle Rossiter (Gale Gordon, who would be Lucille Ball’s antagonist in many shows).

This movie almost had Liberace in it, which would make this goofy movie even stranger.

The Mill Creek Sci-Fi from the Vault set also has Creature With the Atom Brain, It Came From Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth. There’s a commentary track for The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock from Larry Strothe, Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan and James Goni from The Monster Party Podcast, plus two featurettes, They Came from Beyond and Fantastic Features. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK SCI-FI FROM THE VAULT: 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)

The first of three collaborations between producer Charles H. Schneer, director Nathan Juran and special effects master Ray Harryhausen, this movie jump starts the space program past the moon and takes it to Venus, as a manned trip — the XY-21 — crashes into the Mediterranean sea off the coast of Italy. Only one astronaut survives — Colonel Bob Calder (William Hopper) — as a disease caught in space killed off the entire crew.

There’s also an egg.

That egg hatches and the real star of this movie, the ymir, emerges and begins to grow at an amazing rate. He also was the only thing I cared about in this movie as a child. Who cares if Marisa Leonardo (Joan Taylor) has a crush on Calder? I just wanted to watch this big lizard man destroy Rome and forget all those soldiers who wanted to stop it. It didn’t ask to come to Earth.

This movie was so important that the February 1966 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland had 12 pages on it. Monster kids had to have been losing their minds.

I love that this was to be set in Chicago and then before he sent in his idea, Harryhausen changed it to Rome, because he always wanted to go to Italy but could never afford it. It’s not all made there, as a lot of the movie is shot on the Warner Brothers Ranch. Keep an eye out for the Friends fountain.

The Mill Creek Sci-Fi from the Vault set also has Creature With the Atom Brain, It Came From Beneath the Sea and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. It also has two featurettes, They Came from Beyond and Fantastic Features. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK SCI-FI FROM THE VAULT: It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)

Directed by Robert Gordon and written by Hal Smith and George Worthing Yates, the real star of this movie is the stop motion animation special effects of Ray Harryhausen. It gave me a childhood fear of octopuses as this movie is all about radiation making one of them gigantic and attacking San Francisco after nuclear testing decimates its prey in the Mindanao Deep.

This movie had such a low budget that it led to some innovation, as scenes were shot with handheld cameras inside a real submarine and the beach scenes are all a Columbia soundstage covered with sand and a rear projected ocean. To keep things on schedule, Sam Katzman tore an entire love scene from the script. And money was so tight that Harryhausen only made six tentacles for the monster. You never see all eight.

There was one major issue: the filmmakers weren’t given permission to shoot on the Golden Gate Bridge because the city didn’t want people to think the bridge could sink. So producer Charles H. Schneer put a camera crew in the back of a bakery truck and kept driving it back and forth over the San Francisco landmark.

The Mill Creek Sci-Fi from the Vault set also has 20 Million Miles to Earth, Creature With the Atom Brain and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. It also has commentary tracks on select films — It Came from Beneath the Sea has Justin Humphreys and C. Courtney Joyner — talking about this film — and two featurettes, They Came from Beyond and Fantastic Features. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK SCI-FI FROM THE VAULT: Creature With the Atom Brain (1955)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a past article about this film when it was released as part of Arrow Video’s Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman.

Director Edward L. Cahn started by directing Our Gang shorts but made some of the most important science fiction movies of the 50s, including Invasion of the Saucer Men and It! The Terror from Beyond Space. It was written by Curt Siodmak (The Wolf ManFrankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, I Walked With a Zombie and Donovan’s Brain.

Gangster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) has taken advantage of Operation Paperclip by getting Nazi scientist Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye) in his employ and using the man to bring back people from the dead with atomic radiation so that they can kill for him. They leave behind atomic fingerprints and how amazing is that?

Made by Sam Katzman’s Clover Productions for Columbia, this was one of the first movies to use squibs. Cahn would make pretty much the same movie all over again as Invisible Invaders.

This movie is memorable to me because it’s the inspiration for the Roky Erickson song of the same name:

Creature with the atom brainCreature with the atom brainWhy is he acting so strangeDo you think he’s one of them?
Threw the doll right downRipped it’s guts offAnd threw it on the groundCreature with the atom brain

The Mill Creek Sci-Fi from the Vault set also has 20 Million Miles to Earth, It Came From Beneath the Sea and The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. It also has commentary tracks on select films — Creature from the Atom Brain has Phoef Sutton and Mark Jordan Legon talking about this film — and two featurettes, They Came from Beyond and Fantastic Features. You can get it from Deep Discount.


Arch Oboler was a key innovator of radio drama, as well as someone with a big personality and the ego to match. Starting his career with a spec script called The Futuristics and getting into trouble with his first show where he made fun of sponsor American Tobacco, this set the tone for Oboler’s writing career. But after three years of working on scripts he probably hated, Oboler’s script for Rich Kid was picked up by Rudy Vallée which led to a great job writing scripts for Don Ameche on The Chase and Sanborn Hour.

After Wyllis Cooper left the show Lights Out to work in Hollywood (he wrote Son of Frankenstein), the show was given to Oboler. Already a series known for its violence, the new writer upset listeners with his very first episode which ended with a young girl being buried alive and not rescued. Playing at midnight with no sponsor, Lights Out was still under the watchful eye of censors, yet Cooper worked in anti-fascist messages and created episodes like “Chicken Heart,” in which a chicken heart grows so large it destroys the planet. More controversy would follow when he wrote an Adam and Eve script for Ameche and Mae West where West was an Eve that wanted to lose her virginity and voluntarily leave the Garden of Eden. Between that story airing on The Chase and Sanborn Hour on a Sunday and West later trading suggestive back and forth bon mots with Edgar Bergen’s dummy Charlie McCarthy — she said, “Come on home with me, honey. I’ll let you play in my wood pile.” — West was barred from radio until 1950.

Meanwhile, Ameche, Bergen and Oboler got away with it. In fact, Oboler soon started his own NBC radio show Arch Oboler’s Plays. West, who once said “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it,” went on to great success on stage, in Vegas and in the movies. She invested her money in real estate so well that she could pretty much do anything she wanted after this. For example, when one of her boyfriends, boxer William Jones, was denied entry to her Ravenswood apartment building because of a ban on African-Americans, West bought the whole building and changed the rules.

But I digress.

Oboler’s show went up against Jack Benny, but he was also able to adapt stories like Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. The show ended up being successful and got Proctor and Gamble as a sponsor, coming back as Everyman’s Theatre. Oboloer hated that the sponsors had an ad in the middle of his show and was out of radio for a year before coming back for the World War II propaganda show Plays For Americans. He lost that show when he made a speech at the Radio Institute at Ohio State. Oboler believed that his show should instill hatred of the enemy in the listener, which some took as he was just as bad as the enemy.

After bringing back Lights Out and creating several other propaganda radio shows, there was only one place left for Oboler. Like Orson Welles before him, he went to Hollywood. Some of his better films include Strange Holiday and Bewtitched, as well as the 3D films he innovated like Bwana Devil and The Bubble. He also created the TV series Oboler’s Comedy Theatre, had plays made of his work, published several books and was still writing radio dramas for Mutual Radio Theater as late as 1980. His writing inspired — obviously — Rod Serling as well as Don Coscarelli, who has spoken of how much the Oboler movie The Twonky frightened him as a kid.

I told you all that to tell you about Five, a movie that stands out on the Mill Creek Thrillers from the Vault set because while everything else is comedic or harmless, Five is absolutely brutal.

The only survivors of a nuclear bomb are the Five: Roseanne Rogers (Susan Douglas Rubeš), Michael (William Phipps), Oliver P. Barnstaple (Earl Lee), Charles (Charles Lampkin) and Eric (James Anderson). Roseanne is pregnant, which is the only thing that stops Michael from assaulting her. Oliver is an old man who quickly dies after meeting the group. And Eric is a racist who can’t work with Charles, a black man.

Eric is the reason why so much goes wrong: he destroys the crops of the group, murders Charles and sneaks off Roseanne and her newly born son after she wonders if she can ever find her missing husband. By the end of the film, Eric has shown signs of radiation poisoning and runs off to die, while Roseanne makes the long walk back to Michael with her child dying on the way. All they can do is tend to the soil and make it one more day together.

One of the first movies to show what the atomic bomb would do, Five pulls no punches, killing people with no concern of age or race.

Speaking of race, having an African-American lead was a big idea in 1951. Obolor saw Lampkin read the James Weldon Johnson poem “The Creation” on a local Los Angeles TV show and it’s the speech that the actor reads in Five. It was possible the first time many in the U.S., Latin America and Europe would have heard African-American poetry.

Even the setting of Five is unique. It was shot in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Cliff House on the Eaglefeather ranch that Oboloer owned. It was not without tragedy in real life, as on April 7, 1958, Oboler’s six-year-old son Peter drowned in rainwater. During the 2018 Woolsey Fire, the Cliff House burned to the ground.

Made for just $75,000 — Oboler used recent graduates from the University of Southern California film school and unknown actors — this was sold to Columbia for a profit. This would not be the last end of the world movie; in fact, Planet of the Apes ends on the same beach where Eric washes ashore. It is, however, one of the most somber ones.

Mill Creek’s Thrillers from the Vault set also includes The Black Room, The Man They Could Not HangBefore I HangThe Devil Commands, The Man With Nine Lives, The Boogie Man Will Get You and The Return of the Vampire. There’s also a commentary track from Tom Waver and Larry Blamire and a documentary, Madness and Mayhem: Horror in the 30s and 40s. You can get it from Deep Discount.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Thrillers from the Vault

Mill Creek’s Thrillers from the Vault set includes The Black Room, The Man They Could Not HangBefore I HangThe Devil Commands, The Man With Nine Lives, The Boogie Man Will Get YouThe Return of the Vampire and Five, all movies that came from Columbia. They look great in blu ray form and you also get a documentary, Madness and Mayhem: Horror in the 30s and 40s.

Here’s an overview of each of the films:

The Black RoomTwin brothers are born to a ruling family. One twin inherits a castle and becomes infamous for his sadistic behavior and murders the other twin, assuming his identity. This has a commentary track by Dr. Steve Hoberman.

The Man They Could Not HangA doctor working on experiments to restore life to the dead is hanged for murder. Brought back to life by his assistant, he sets about murdering the jury that convicted him. Commentary track by C. Courtney Joyner and Heath Holland.

Before I HangSentenced to die for a mercy death, a doctor spends his final days on his experiments. Before his end, he injects himself with serum from a maniac’s blood to deadly effect.

The Man With Nine LivesA scientist seeks a cure for cancer by freezing bodies in suspended animation, eventually freezing himself. Thawed 10 years later, he continues his research using his enemies.

The Devil CommandsA scientist obsessed with communication beyond the grave registers brain activity in a corpse. When he escalates his work taking desperate measures, the bodies begin to pile up. There’s also a commentary track by Tom Weaver.

The Boogie Man Will Get YouAn addled scientist and a conniving huckster attempt scientific experiments in the basement of a hotel, leaving bodies piling up in the cellar in this comedic thriller. This has a commentary track by Larry Strothe, Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan and James Gonis from Monster Party Podcast.

The Return of the VampireA 200-year-old vampire prowls the countryside feeding on villagers until a railroad spike is driven through his heart. He is entombed for decades until a German bomb releases him.

FiveA woman and four men survive a nuclear explosion and seek shelter in a house. They must work together, but their clashing visions of the future could lead to their destruction. Includes a commentary track from Tom Waver and Larry Blamire.

This is a great set that has so many of the Columbia films that were part of the Son of Shock Theater TV package, along with Five, which may not thematically fit in with the light horror on this, but is still a worthwhile movie.

You can get Mill Creek’s Thrillers from the Vault from Deep Discount.