The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

Based on the play The Man in Half Moon Street, which was already made into a movie in 1945 and a TV movie 18 months before this was released, this Terrence Fisher-directed film was originally going to star Peter Cushing. However, the actor was exhausted following The Hound of the Baskervilles and stepped out six days before filming was to begin.

Hammer threatened him with legal action, but since there was no contract, there wasn’t much they could do. The lead role went to Anton Diffring, who had previously played the part of Dr. Georges Bonnet in the aforementioned TV version of the story that had appeared on the British show Hour of Mystery.

Released in the U.S. by Paramount, it played drive-ins until well into the 1960s, supporting Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as late as 1965.

This is the story of playboy scientist and sculptor Dr. Georges Bonnet, who may look like a vibrant thirtysomething but is truly 104-years-old, staying alive through parathyroid gland transplants every decade. His personal surgeon, Professor Ludwig Weiss, can no longer operate after his stroke, so Bonnet must drink a steaming green drink to get a month of youth at a time. Now, the hunt is on to find a new surgeon to complete his vitality regimen.

The police start catching on to Bonnet, as models go missing every time he needs a transplant. Or maybe they just want to arrest him for obscenity — the European release of the film featured a scene in which Court appeared topless, which is cut from the UK and U.S. prints and has been lost — as he loves sculpting nude ladies like Janine Dubois (Hazel Court, who was my favorite character in The Masque of the Red Death, Julianna).

Of course, our antagonist soon finds himself running out of options and death starts creeping up on him, at which point he starts killing a number of models and surgeons. He also rekindles his romance with Janine, but it’s to no avail. Time comes for all men, even The Man Who Could Cheat Death.

And hey! Christopher Lee is a surgeon in this!

It’s a bit talky, but hey, Hammer is Hammer. It’s definitely a high class operation all the way and you could see how a lesser studio would make this much scummier. There’s always a veneer of class even when topless art models are having their glands harvested when this studio makes the picture.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Repost: Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this third drive-in feature from television director Bernard Kowalksi on January 6, 2020, just because, no Mill Creek inducement required. We’re bringing it back as part of our three day “Bernard Kowalksi Week” tribute. For when you’re dealing with Bernard Kowalksi, you repost reviews of old to make readers aware of his greatness.

Gene Corman broke into the film industry before his brother Roger, working as an agent before becoming vice president of MCA, representing such clients as Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Richard Conte, Harry Belafonte and Ray Milland.

By the late 50’s, he moved to produce his own films before starting his own producing unit at MGM. and then becoming vice-president of 20th Century Fox Television.

This film is directed by Bernard L. Kowalski, who also created Night of the Blood Beast and Sssssss. It was written by Leo Gordon, who had hundreds of roles as an actor, as well as being the author of movies like The Wasp WomanThe Cry Baby Killer and Hot Car Girl.

Did you know that there are larger than human intelligent leeches that live in the Florida Everglades? Yep. There sure are.

Those leeches love nothing more than dragging human beings down into their underwater caves and slowly feeding off their blood.

Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers, who was Playboy‘s July 1959 Playmate of the Month in a centerfold that was photographed by Russ Meyer; she’s also the girl who starts all the trouble by cheating with the husband of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is the first victim. Again, she plays a loose woman who is cheating on her husband, so she and her new man must pay.

Game warden Steve Benton (Ken Clark, who was Dick Malloy in the Agent 077 series of films), his girlfriend Nan Grayson and her doctor father are the heroes here and they deal with the leeches in the way that we all knew they would: they use dynamite to blow them up real good.

So yeah. Giant leeches. Wanton women. Dynamite. Cheap film making.

How cheap? Corman didn’t want to pay the grips the extra money for pushing the camera raft in the water, so at first, the director did it, then his brother and finally Corman himself. The cold water led to Corman getting pneumonia and ending up in the hospital. And yes, that is the same music from Night of the Blood Beast. The exact same music is also in Beast from the Haunted Cave.

This movie had some legs. In 1959, it played a double bill with A Bucket of Blood. Then, a year later, it ran alongside Corman’s brother’s film House of Usher. It was also remade in 2008 by Brett Kelly and written by Jeff O’Brien in a film that starred no one you’ve ever heard of.

You can watch this on Tubi with and without commentary from Mystery Science Theater. It’s in the public domain, so you can also grab it from the Internet Archive and watch it on Amazon Prime.

Rymdinvasion i Lappland (1959)

EDITOR’S NOTE: How about I already watched this back on January 7 of last year? Oh well — this time I went deeper into the original vesion of this movie.

In Sweden, this name’s title translates as Space Invasion of Lapland. Internationally, it was Terror In the Midnight Sun. And in America, after it was purchased by Associated Distributors Productions Inc. — Jerry Warren’s company — it became Invasion of the Animal People.

Warren is legendary to me because sure, he took movies from other countries and sliced and diced them, but many of the foreign movies that he brought to America would have been seen here otherwise.

Mexican (Bullet for Billy the Kid, La Momia Azteca — which became Attack of the Mayan Mummy and Face of the Screaming Werewolf, which also has scenes from La Casa del Terror), La Marca del Muerto which was Warren’s Creature of the Walking Dead), Brazilian (The Violent and the Damned) Swedish, (No Time to Kill, X) and Chilean films (La Casa está Vacía and La Dama de la Muerte edited to make Curse of the Stone Hand) all went through the Warren blender, during which he would cut out the original dialogue, shoot new scenes in which the American actors would give the exposition and also feature scenes of people talking to one another. Somehow, he got to keep making these movies and made some money. Warren even released two singles at this time with his band The Pets, “Streets of Love” and “Monkey Walk.”

Sadly, after The Wild World of Batwoman, Warren would stop making movies for 15 years, coming back to just make one more, Frankenstein Island.

Sure, Warren did movies on his own, but we’re here to discuss his cut and paste career, which starts here. The funny thing is that the original film was shot in English and by all accounts made narrative sense. The remix, however, does not.

There’s an entire framing device that adds twenty minutes to the movie before we get to the UAP that’s flying over Sweden and also John Carradine as your narrator. That’s because according to Swedish producer Bertil Jernberg, his co-producer Gustaf Unger had told him that Paramount was buying their film, then sold it. to Warren and kept all the money.

So yeah — Warren cut the movie down by 18-minutes and still was able to add footage, which I call being really great at math. Now, Diane Wilson has been involved with alien craft before and there are also some ham radio operators who show up, take time away from the main tale and never show up again. Some of the cut footage did, however, come back when this movie was sold to syndication and that footage is a Jerry Warren trademark — people sit around and discuss the action we’ve seen already.

You can download the original version of this movie on the Internet Archive.

Prince of Space (1959)

Planet Prince was a 1958 Japanese tokusatsu made by Toei Films that was made in the wake of the success of Super Giant (Starman in the U.S.) that went from a 49 episode TV series to two theatrical movies — Planet Prince and Planet Prince: The Terrifying Spaceship — released one week apart.

Prince of Space is both of those movies smashed together, edited and dubbed into English. His enemy, the Ambassador Phantom of the Silver Planet, has been renamed Dictator Phantom of the Planet Krankor. To make things even goofier, the American translation of our hero’s real name — Waku-san — is Wally. Hey everyone! Here’s Wally to save the world!

The Dictator Phantom is really pretty great. He looks like a chicken masked Darth Vader and is given to saying things like, “Come on out or we’re gonna kill some children!” and “I will arrive tomorrow night at precisely eight o’clock. At that time I shall make my wishes known to you. You will obey them…or die! Have a pleasant night’s sleep!”

The man who wrote all this, Masaru Igami, was also behind Johnny Sokko and His Flying RobotKamen Rider and Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds.

You can watch this on YouTube.

 

The Rebel Set (1959)

For a movie that promises “The big jolt from Beatsville!” this movie really delivers a pretty standard crime movie, with the owner of a coffee shop (Edward Platt from Get Smart) hiring three of his beatnik customers to be part of a robbery.

Gene Fowler, Jr., who directed this, was mainly known as an editor. Probably his best known work in that endeavor would be It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He also directed a few other movies, including I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Married a Monster from Outer Space. He was also an uncredited director on the 1978 film The Astral Factor.

I. Stanford Jolley, who was the voice of The Crimson Ghost in that famous movie serial, plays a beat poet named King Invader, which is a great name.

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater version of this movie on Tubi or download the original cut from the Internet Archive.

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)

“We are the angel mutants
The streets for us seduction
Our cause unjust and ancient
In this B film born invasion”

The Misfits, “Teenagers from Mars”

Teenagers from Outer Space was written, produced and directed* by its star Tom Graeff, who sold the movie to Warner Brothers and made no money from it. It did play a double bill with Gigantis the Fire Monster, which is really Godzilla Raids Again.

Shortly after making this movie, Graeff decided to change his name to Jesus Christ II, saying that God had shown him truth and love. In his second — His second? — ad in the Los Angeles Times, Graeff even listed semons at churches. However, when he applied to have his name legally changed, the Christian Defense League fought to keep that from happening. He also took out an ad in Variety in 1968 claiming that he’d sold a screenplay for more than anyone in the history of movies. After the ad appeared, he was publicly attacked by LA Times columnist Joyce Haber. Graeff claimed that Robert Wise and Carl Reiner were part of this movie, so Haber outed him as Jesus Christ II. Graeff’s career was over and a few years later, he would kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

It also turned out that Graeff and David Love, who played Derek the alien in this, were lovers in a time where that could destroy careers.

This is somehow a movie about Thor — producer Bryan Grant, who had to sue to get his money for this film — searching for Gargons, a lobster creature that’s a delicacy across the galaxy. He also likes to shoot lasers at dogs. Meanwhile, the alien teen Derek, a member of the underground, escapes and runs wild on Earth.

This is the very definition of a movie made on a budget. Masking tape is used as costume decorations on surplus military uniforms for the aliens, while stock footage takes the place of special effects. The same skeleton is used for every dead body, a toy laser gun and a sound mixer — clearly labeled as a multichannel mixer — shows up as alien equipment and all of the music used comes from library cues. You’ll recognize it from other low budget films like Red Zone CubaThe Killer Shrews and Night of the Living Dead.

Yet Graeff was kind of a genius, as he invented a process called Cinemagraph that allowed him to pre-recorded some of the film’s dialog for several scenes and synch it with the actors reading their lines later.

Sadly, the stress of making this film, its failure and the dissolution of his friendship with the producer caused his decline.

*He also did the cinematography, special effects, and music coordination.

Cuban Rebel Girls (1959)

The last filmed appearance of Errol Flynn was not a major Hollywood movie, but instead a strange piece of B-movie propaganda directed by Barry Mahon and starring Flynn’s lover at the time, Beverly Aadland, who was seventeen at the time that this movie was made. A year after this, her boyfriend William Stanciu died after a struggle between the two of them over a gun and she was made a ward of the state. This would also be her last film, although she did appear in some documentaries made about Flynn.

Errol Flynn plays Errol Flynn, who has arrived in Cuba on behalf of the Hearst Press to write about Castro and the Cuban rebel girls. He then also meets Beverly (Aadland) and Jacqueline, who have raised $50,000 to give to the rebels to purchase weapons.

After the making of this movie, Aadland got into a brawl with Flynn’s second wife, Nora Edington, at her birthday party. Nora claimed that she took exception to Aadland calling the actor elderly. For what it’s worth, he looks exhausted in this movie and would die of a heart attack two months before its release.

So yeah. A pro-pre-Communist Castro Cuban movie with a major star who narrowly beat statutory charges having an underage relationship with one of his co-stars, as directed by the man who would bring us Confessions of a Bad Girl and Run Swinger Run. This is why I have a web site.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners (1959)

In fifth grade, I had a teacher that showed us every movie that our school system had, no matter what it was about. Eventually, he ran out of films and would just show us home movies of his family while he slumped into his chair and drank whiskey from his thermos.

Imagine my surprise when the films he showed me started appearing on the Pee-Wee Herman Show when it aired on HBO!

A young boy named Phil learns from a puppet named Mr. Bungle — yes, that’s where the band got their name — that having the right table manners and acting properly in the lunchroom will get you ahead in life. Yet buried within this nine minute and thirty-two second film is the conformity that so many comedians and creatives would battle against.

Beyond the unable to pigeonhole band, I can point to Raw Footage, a 1977 Roberta Findlay adult film that named a character after Mr. Bungle. And as art also becomes one great flat circle, the band sampled that movie for the segment that plays between “The Girls of Porn” and “My Ass Is On Fire” on their first album.

Amazingly, a YouTube user named Andrew Patrick Ralston edited all the sex out of that movie so that you can just enjoy the amazing dialogue.

I have no idea who wrote or directed Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners, a movie that I have watched hundreds of times. All I know is that Ross L. Allen, Dr.P.H., the Director of Education for the College at Education at Cortland State University of New York, Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation approved this. I can only imagine that Dr. Allen also had a thermos filled with booze and wasn’t shy about sleeping in front of his students either.

Just remember: “You shouldn’t run in the lunchroom. Only Mr. Bungle would do that.”

You can watch this on YouTube.

Carving Magic (1959)

Have you ever wanted to learn how to properly carve the meat from an animal? Any animal? Good news. The fine folks at Swift and Company and their at-home economist Martha Logan are here to show you how to properly carve along the fibers of meat and render any animal into a great tasting cut for your guests’ enjoyment.

But why am I sharing this with you?

Read on…

Hey wait — isn’t that Harvey Corman? And William Kerwin? Surely, this has a much deeper meaning, knowing that that twosome went on to appear in The Living Venus together. They were cast in that movie because David F. Friedman and Herschell Gordon Lewis watched this and said, “Those are our guys.”

This is beyond a meat carving movie. It’s a meat carving movie within a meat carving movie, like a meta turducken, if you will. That said, if you do pay attention to this — and aren’t vegetarian — you’re going to learn plenty about how to ensure that everyone at your table gets the perfect portion.

Man, 1959 was a wild year. You could go to dinner at another couple’s house and those people would dress like they were going to the opera and after a meat-filled meal, they’d pull out a giant movie projector, set up a screen and show you an educational short about the differences between chopping up ham and a leg of lamb. What a time to be alive, right?

El Hombre y El Monstruo (1959)

If I’ve learned anything from watching Mexican films, it’s that you should never make a deal with el diablo.

If you’re like Samuel Magno (Enrique Rambal, The Exterminating Angel), you finally get your dream of being a concert pianist to come true. Then every time you play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, you turn into a monster.

Directed by Rafael Baledón, who acted from 1938 to 1994 as well as directing La Muñeca Perversa, Muñecas Peligrosas and Orlak, El Infierno de Frankenstein, this is 78-minutes of Mexican gothic horror, with the curse only stopped by the protagonist’s demanding mother.

It’s literally FaustDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Werewolf all in one movie, with special effects on par with El Baron del Terror. If you aren’t rushing to find this movie right now, what’s wrong with you?