KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment is astounding because it makes me consider how we view actors based on where we arrive in reality. For me, Fred McMurray is the kind Steve Douglas from TV’s My Three Sons. For those born before 1960, they probably saw him on that show and wondered how the heel from Double Indemnity and The Caine Mutiny could be trusted around three growing children.

In Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, he’s Jeff Sheldrake, a man who uses everyone he meets, like lonely C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) for his apartment and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) for her body, uncaring when he pushes both of their to the pit of depression and even a suicide attempt by Fran.

Bud is willing to let the rest of the world see him as the villain, as every executive — Ray Walston is one of them  — uses his home to have dalliances with his secret lovers while he drinks in bars, dreaming of taking home a married woman when all he really wants is the kind of secure love that allows you to sit happily on the couch next to one another and play cards.

There’s also a genuine sadness at the heart of this movie, as Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond based the film on reality, as high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger’s wife Joan Bennett. Lang had used a low-level employee’s apartment for the affair, just like the film. Diamond also contributed something that had happened to a friend, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to discover that she had committed suicide in his bed.

Back to McMurray. After this was released, women yelled at him in the street, complaining that he had made a filthy movie. One even hit him with her purse. I guess that was the Twitter of 1960.

This may be the best awarded movie we’ve talked about on this site, as it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing at the 1960 Oscars. Jack Lemmon may not have won Best Actor, but when Kevin Spacey won that award in 1999 for American Beauty, he dedicated his Oscar to him, as Sam Mendes had the cast watch this movie for inspiration.

Since then, The Apartment has been remade as a musical (Promises, Promises, which played in 1972 and was revived in 2010) and as two Bollywood movies, Raaste Kaa Patthar and Life in a… Metro.

The amazing thing is that 62 years after this movie was made, it reduced me to tears. It pulled me in and made me care about every single character, even the villain, and the closing scene — and that last line! — absolutely devastated me.

You can get The Apartment from Kino Lorber either on blu ray or 4K UHD. You’ll also get two different audio commentary tracks, one by Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge and the other by film historian Bruce Block. There’s also a documentary about the making of the film and another about the art of Jack Lemmon, plus a trailer.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Who Was That Lady? (1960)

Ann Wilson (Janet Leigh) has caught her chemistry professor husband David Wilson (Tony Curtis) kissing one of his transfer students. He thinks it was innocent, she wants a divorce. So instead of working through their issues, David gets his friend Michael Haney (Dean Martin) to come up with a story to get out of it. And that story? David is a secret agent.

Ann falls for it and this enables Michael to get what he’s always wanted, which is his wingman back, so he makes a date with the Coogle sisters (Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing, both rivals of Marilyn Monroe).

As for Ann, she can’t stop bragging about her husband being a secret agent, which means that the real FBI, CIA and even KGB all get involved. There’s a great cameo by Jack Benney, as Michael is a TV writer, and Cicely Tyson shows up in a very early role. And beyond Larry Storch being in this, so is Emil Sitka.

Director George Sidney is probably best known for Pal JoeyShow Boat and Bye, Bye Birdie. He lends a great touch to this film, which is really worth seeing for its three leads. Martin seems to be having a great time in every scene he’s in.

There’s some irony in that when True Lies, a movie with a similar concept, was made years later, the wife was played by Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection has twelve movies: How to Ruin a Marriage and Save Your Life, The Notorious Landlady, Under the Yum Yum Tree, The Chase, Good Neighbor Sam, Baby the Rain Must Fall, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Blood and Roses (1960)

Carmilla has been made so many times — VampyrDracula’s Daughter, Crypt of the VampireThe Vampire Lovers, The Blood Spattered Bride — but the Roger Vadim-directed movie moves the setting to Italy in the 20th century.

Carmilla (Annette Stroyberg, Vadim’s wife at the time) is torn apart by the engagement of her friend Georgia (Elsa Martinelli, The Tenth Victim) to her cousin Leopoldo (Mel Ferrer, Nightmare CityThe Visitor, both versions of Eaten Alive (with and without the exclamation mark), The Antichrist and dude, Mel Ferrer has been in so many movies I love, even The Norseman) and she has no idea who she loves more. Yet she’s also found a dress that belonged to a vampiric forebearer and gone into her grave and nothing good is going to come of that.

And yes, Leopoldo is Count Karnstein, which would make him from the same family as the vampire in Twins of Evil and the rest of Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy (we already mentioned the other two films, the third is Lust for a Vampire). The role was originally intended for Christopher Lee, which makes sense.

This is the artier side of vampire films when so much of this week has been wallowing in the mire and muck. See, sometimes we can be classy when we share a lesbian vampire movie.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally featured this movie on September 15, 2021, but now that Arrow has released an astounding blu ray of this movie, it’s time that we go back and add some content so that this disk gets the recognition that it demands.

Director Giorgio Ferroni’s career ended when he went deaf in 1972. Before that, he worked in many of the genres of the Italian exploitation film world, from peplum like Hercules vs. Moloch to westerns like Fort Yuma Gold and Eurospy like Secret Agent Super Dragon. His last major directing efforts would be The Night of the Devils, which is an adaption of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s The Family of the Vourdalak (which also inspired Viy and Black Sabbath) and a 1975 comedy Who Breaks…Pays.

The first Italian film shot in color, this movie takes us to an island in Holland that houses a sculpture of several women created by art professor and sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl. Hans van Arnhim has traveled here to learn what the statues mean, but he’s also found love in the form of Wahl’s sickly daughter Elfie.

Now go with me on the plot. It turns out that the sculptor has hired a doctor to keep his daughter alive. Together, they run a secret lab where Elfie receives blood transfusions from kidnapped female victims who posthumously become part of the stone art of the professor. So — House of WaxEyes Without a FaceMill of the Stone Women.

Still, 60’s Eurohorror is, as they say, where it’s at. There’s so much to love in this movie and I love the doomed heroine and the just as damned hero who cannot help but to remain in love with her. This also has the interesting formula of gothic horror + science fiction + the magic of Technicolor.

The Arrow limited edition release of this movie is exactly the type of blu ray package that you expect from this powerhouse company. On its two disks, it includes more special features than you’d think can fit as well as limited edition packaging witha reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais; an illustrated collectors book with writing by Roberto Curti, an in-depth comparison of the different versions by Brad Stevens and a selection of contemporary reviews; a fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais and six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards

Beyond the new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, there are four different versions of the film: the original 96-minute Italian and English export versions, the 90-minute French version and the 95-minute US version. Plus, the Tim Lucas commentary — the author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark — is great. I learned so much information just in the first five minutes.

You also get features and interviews with the actors, the UK Drops of Blood title, the German title, U.S. and German trailers and a visual essay by Kat Ellinger.

Obviously, this release is a must-buy. You can get it from MVD and Diabolik DVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Peeping Tom (1960)

Michael Powell made The Red Shoes, which is about dedication to ballet, and also made this, which is one of the first movies to have a slasher POV shot and it nearly ruined his career and I can appreciate that duality.

Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is never seen without his camera, which allows him to capture life, but is really an instrument of death, recording the last minutes of the lives of several ladies of the evening. It doesn’t seem that Mark gets any delight out of these kills, only watching them, planning them, covering up his involvement and doing it again. He’s spent most of his life being a constantly recorded live test subject for his recently deceased father, teaching dear old dad the psychological impact of fear on the nervous system.

When he meets Helen, who is writing a children’s book about a magic camera, he spies on her from afar but she rewards his shyness and oddities with kindness. It’s an alien tongue to Mark, who is used to dealing with women who exchange cash for intimacy and are repaid with death.

Predating Psycho by two months, slasher films find some of their start here. Yet this film goes beyond the codified must-haves of the form to present a killer that we start to empathize with, as strange as that sounds. Mark has never had a chance, never had anyone who cared about him more than as a test subject. He was even recorded as he struggled at his mother’s death bed.

When released in puritanical Britain, this movie was savaged and Powell’s career never recovered. There’s a theory that this reaction is why Hitchcock never screened Psycho for critics and wet directly to the common people with it. He was worried that a film with similar beats would be seen in the same light. It would be years until the film was praised as much as it deserved.

Scorcese went so far to recommend this movie that he claimed that a filmmaker could study only Fellini’s and this and learn all there was to know about filmmaking; they “…say everything that can be said about film-making, about the process of dealing with film, the objectivity and subjectivity of it and the confusion between the two. captures the glamour and enjoyment of film-making, while Peeping Tom shows the aggression of it, how the camera violates. From studying them you can discover everything about people who make films, or at least people who express themselves through films.”

You can watch this on Tubi.

Midnight Lace (1960)

HOLLYWOOD GIALLO (+ ITS OTHERS), the awesome IMDB list by Schwenkstar, described this nascent giallo as “Stalker disguises his voice in a creepy manner to hide his identity, a multitude of red herrings keep you guessing, and a shock reveal.”

What it did not tell me was that Midnight Lace starts Doris Day — of all people — as American heiress Kit Preston, a young girl who is one day threatened by an unseen voice inside the fog that threatens to kill her, keeps gaslighting her and makes her think that she’s going insane.

Day vowed to never make another thriller after this movie, as she said it so emotionally drained her. She stayed true to her word. Perhaps the reason why she was so mentally destroyed by this picture was that in order to be properly inspired to be afraid, she called upon a memory of her first husband dragging her out of bed and throwing her into a wall.

Midnight Lace is pretty much like a cover version of a Hitchcock thriller. Beyond having so many of his stars — Day was in The Man Who Knew Too Much, John Williams was a cop in Dial M for Murder* and To Catch a Thief, as well as John Gavin being in Psycho, this feels like, well, Dial M as a telephone is how the killer goes after our heroine who has a husband named Tony.

That said, the ending, which finds Day trying to escape through the scaffolding of her house after the reveal of who the villain really is — well, that’s the whole reason to watch this.

*Anthony Dawson and Herbert Marshall were also Dial M and this movie.

Mill of the Stone Women (1960)

Director Giorgio Ferroni’s career ended when he went deaf in 1972. Before that, he worked in many of the genres of the Italian exploitation film world, from peplum like Hercules vs. Moloch to westerns like Fort Yuma Gold and Eurospy like Secret Agent Super Dragon. His last major directing efforts would be The Night of the Devils, which is an adaption of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy’s The Family of the Vourdalak (which also inspired Viy and Black Sabbath) and a 1975 comedy Who Breaks…Pays.

The first Italian film shot in color, this movie takes us to an island in Holland that houses a sculpture of several women created by art professor and sculptor Professor Gregorious Wahl. Hans van Arnhim has traveled here to learn what the statues mean, but he’s also found love in the form of Wahl’s sickly daughter Elfie.

Now go with me on the plot. It turns out that the sculptor has hired a doctor to keep his daughter alive. Together, they run a secret lab where Elfie receives blood-transfusions from kidnapped female victims who posthumously become part of the stone art of the professor. So — House of WaxEyes Without a FaceMill of the Stone Women.

Still, 60’s Eurohorror is, as they say, where it’s at. There’s so much to love in this movie and I love the doomed heroine and the just as damned hero who cannot help but to remain in love with her. This also has the interesting formula of gothic horror + science fiction + the magic of Technicolor.

The Leech Woman (1960)

A few years before Mondo Cane would popularize the use of tribal footage, The Leech Woman takes scenes of African wildlife and tribal dances from the 1954 adventure movie Tanganyika to spice up its tale of a middle aged woman becoming young again by, well, becoming a leech woman.

It starts off promising — a mysterious old woman named Malla (Estelle Hemsley, who was an early African-American star) claims to have been brought to America as a slave nearly 140 years ago and wants to be beauitiful and young for one more night, but only in her home country of Africa. To pay for the trip, she promises to teach endocrinologist Dr. Paul Talbot the secret of how she has stayed alive for so many years.

Dr. Paul is the kind of jerk given to saying things like “Old women give me the creeps.” Too bad that he’s married to a woman ten years older than him. But after a trip to Africa, in which he witnesses a ritual in which a man is killed and his pineal gland secretions harvested and mixed with orchid pollen.

His wife turns the tables and kills off Dr. Paul, using his glands to become young again — yet gets older every time it wears off — murdering people under the secret identity of her niece Terry Hart. She falls for a lawyer and tries to use the glands of his girlfriend, but it doesn’t work, so she does what we all would: throws herself to a window, leaving behind a husk.

Director Edward Dein also made Curse of the Undead. This movie was made so that Universal-International would have a movie to play with Hammer’s Brides of Blood. That movie is magic. This perhaps not so much.

Pollyanna (1960)

Based on the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, this story had already been adapted into a movie with Mary Pickford in 1920. By the late 1950s, the book was still selling 35,000 copies per year, so Walt Disney bought the rights and got the biggest cast he’d ever used for one of his movies, with people like Jane Wyman, Richard Egan and Karl Malden, who is absolutely fabulous as the town’s preacher.

The heroine of this story is, of course, 12-year-old Pollyanna, the orphaned daughter of missionaries who has come to Harrington to live with her very rich and very strict aunt, Polly. Pollyanna’s greatest skill is that nothing brings her down; she’s so optimistic that people may get upset with just how cheerful she is about life.

You know who doesn’t love life, despite pretty much owning the town and ruling the people? Her aunt. In fact, her aunt is such a horrible person that it takes Pollyanna falling off a ledge and becoming paralyzed to make her realize just how salty she can be.

Roy O. Disney, the studio business head and Walt’s brother, made thousands of Pollyanna photo locket necklaces to sell in Disney gift shops. They had the quote “When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.” inside, which was attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Finding one of these necklaces on vacation with his family, writer and director David Swift asked the studio to recall this product. Lincoln never said that quote and Swift had made it up.

This was Hayley Mills’ first Disney film and she’d pair up with Swift again for The Parent Trap.

House of Usher (1960)

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” this was the first of eight Poe adaptions by Roger Corman, often working with writer Richard Mattheson. Shot in fifteen days, it was a big gamble for American-International Pictures, who had mostly done black and white double features. This was a color movie with a big budget by AIP’s standards.

The most important thing to know is that the Usher family are all cursed to grow mad and that horrible portent has spread to the very home they live in, which is crumbling around them and even destroying the very ground that it sits upon.

Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon, Black Sabbath) thas traveled to the House of Usher to take his fiancee Madeline, which is opposed by her brother Roderick (Vincent Price), who is determined to see his family’s bloodline end with this generation. This leads to an argument so brutal that Madeline’s catalepsy is triggered, making her appear dead and when she’s buried alive, she fully gives in to the madness within the Usher family, bringing the entire home down in flames all around everyone but our hero, who leaves with nothing.

Although Corman and Lou Rusoff are the people usually given credit for the AIP Poe cycle of films, Damon spoke up on a Black Sabbath commentary track, claiming he gave Corman the idea and was even allowed to direct The Pit and the Pendulum. This story hasn’t been confirmed, as here are several images of Corman directing that movie.

The success of this movie led to not only many more films with Corman and Price working together, but also the same sets and special effects being used over again. You can spot the Usher house set ablaze in more than one movie. It was really a barn scheduled to be demolished.