ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: A Fugitive From the Past (1965)

Director by Tomu Uchida (Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji, The Mad Fox), A Fugitive From the Past came in sixth place in Kinema Junpo magazine’s 1995 poll of the Top Japanese Films of the 20th Century, third in 1999 and sixteenth in their 2009 poll.

As a storm sends a passenger ferry to a watery grave claiming the lives of hundreds of people, three suspects race from a burning pawnshop. Detective Yumisaka (Junzaburo Ban) finds only a burned boat and two bodies which he knows came from the crime and not the sinking of the ferry. Meanwhile, Takichi Inukai (Rentaro Mikuni) and sex worker Yae (Sachiko Hidari) have a brief encounter that will remain in their minds for years.

The case grows cold until Yumisaka is called back by his successor Detective Ajimura (Ken Takakura).

Two new bodies have been found.

Based on Tsutomu Minakami’s Kiga KaikyoA Fugitive From the Past, the story shows how everyone’s lives have been changed by the robbery. Inukai has become a normal businessman named Tarumi. When Yae sees him on the street she thanks him; the money he gave her allowed her to escape her life. He fears she will tell someone even though she kept his secret despite intense police interrogation years before.

Yumisaka resigned from the force as the case obsessed him. It still does. So when Ajimura finds a new clue, his life may have some closure, if only they can solve the mystery.

This is a story of two people — a woman saved by a killer and a police detective destroyed by his crime — that are still looking for him for different reasons. It may be three hours long, but it’s a really intense crime procedural that can now finally be seen in its full beauty here in America.

The Arrow blu ray of this film — the first home video release outside of Japan — has the restored 183-minute-long cut of the film, along with an introduction by writer and curator Jasper Sharp, scene-specific commentaries from leading Japanese film scholars Aaron Gerow, Irene González-López, Erik Homenick, Earl Jackson, Daisuke Miyao and Alexander Zahlten, the original theatrical trailer, an image gallery, a Tomu Uchida filmography, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella and a first pressing limited edition collector’s booklet that has writing on the film by David Baldwin and Inuhiko Yomota. You can buy it from MVD.

The Beast from the Beginning of Time (1965)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.C. Nicholas, who has a sketchy background and hails from parts unknown in Western Pennsylvania, was once a drive-in theater projectionist and disk jockey, Currently, in addition to being a writer, editor, podcaster, and voice-over artist, he contributes to Drive-In Asylum. His first article, “Grindhouse Memories Across the U.S.A.,” was published in issue #23. He’s also written “I Was a Teenage Drive-in Projectionist” and “Emanuelle in Disney World and Other Weird Tales of a Trash Film Lover” for upcoming issues.

I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for regional horror films. After all, some of the all-time masterpieces came from places other than Hollywood: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Bastrop and Round Rock, Texas), Night of the Living Dead (Pittsburgh, of course), and Carnival of Souls (Lawrence, Kansas). And there were oddball regional gems like Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey Pine Barrens), Horror High (Irving, Texas), and Last House on Dead End Street (State University of New York at Oneonta). But until recently, I never knew Wichita, Kansas, had its own 1960s entry in the regional horror market.

When reading about exploitation films, you often see the expression “it had a checkered distribution history” bandied about. You know, that’s the description of an exploitation film that passed from fly-by-night distributor to fly-by-night distributor with multiple title changes along the way before landing in obscurity in the home video market. While I’ve kept up with regional horror films for over 50 years, I’d never heard of The Beast from the Beginning of Time because it didn’t even have a checkered distribution history. It had no distribution history. Although completed in 1965, it was never publicly shown until 1981. Most of what I learned about it, I gleaned from an online copy of a newspaper article in The Wichita Eagle-Beacon dated October 23, 1981.

You see, back in 1965, one Tom Leahy was the KARD-TV Channel 3 in Wichita horror host of Nightmare (he was called, imaginatively enough, “The Host”), as well as Major Astro, beloved host of a kids’ show. (He sounds a lot like the Wichita version of Bill Cardille, who for years hosted Pittsburgh’s Chiller Theater, along with other shows like The 6 O’Clock Hop and Studio Wrestling). One day, Leahy decided it would be cool to make his own horror movie. So using his station’s staff and facilities and about $10,000, he wrote, directed and starred in The Beast from the Beginning of Time.

The film, about rival archeologists uncovering the remains of a preserved prehistoric man who comes back to life and goes on a killing spree, was filmed in black-and-white with interiors shot at the TV station and at a local farm standing in for the archeological dig. It wound up barely feature length at 58 minutes and looks and sounds for all the world like a 1960s shot-on-16mm remote news report. Even with that short running, it’s a dull affair, certainly no lost gem, enlivened only by scenes of gore that were somewhat surprising for the time. If it had been released back in the day, though, it probably would’ve caused at least a minor sensation among the denizens of Wichita, who would’ve enjoyed spotting their favorite local broadcasters in a theatrical film.

But alas, that was not meant to be. The film was never exhibited and forgotten until KARD unearthed it for a late-night broadcast as a Halloween special on October 30, 1981. The station even got NBC’s resident critic at the time, Gene Shalit (he of the bushy hair and mustache and pithy quip), to give it a bad review in an ill-fated attempt to enhance its camp appeal. Leahy, recognizing the poor quality of his film, apparently thought he could position it as a local cult item, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But alas, that also was not meant to be.

And thus, the history of The Beast from the Beginning of Time proved to be more interesting than the film itself. But you gotta love the chutzpah of those scrappy folks from Wichita. Regional filmmaking forever!

You can catch the Beast in all his regional glory on Tubi.

ARROW BOX SET RELEASE: Giallo Essentials: Red Edition

Did you know I liked giallo? Oh, that Letterbox list of three hundred plus movies let you know? Well, whether you’re new to the genre or have loved these black gloved killer movies for decades, Arrow Video’s Giallo Essentials: Red Edition is perfect with its new 2K restorations of the film from the original camera negative for The Possessed, The Fifth Cord and The Pyjama Girl Case.

The Possessed (1965): The Possessed is based on one of Italy’s most notorious crimes, The Alleghe killings, and adapted from the book by acclaimed literary figure Giovanni Comisso. It seems like a giallo, but it’s way closer to a film noir. Or maybe an art film. Often, people say that a movie feels like it’s inside a dream, but so much of this movie feels like one long evening of interconnected night terrors.

Also known as The Lady of the Lake, this films was written by Giulio Questi (Death Laid an Egg) and co-directed by Franco Rossellini (who would later produce Caligula) and  Luigi Bazzoni (The Fifth Cord, Footprints on the Moon).

Bernard (Peter Baldwin) is a novelist who has given up on life, despite his growing fame. Last summer, he fell in love with a maid named Tilde and hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind. As time goes on, despite the friendly way everyone at the inn treats him, he grows more and more worried about the conspiracy within this small town. That’s because while he was gone, Tilde committed suicide. And she may not have been the perfect woman that his creativity made her out to be.

Much like the giallo protagonist — a stranger on a strange who is often an untrustworthy narrator who must now investigate a crime that they themselves are implicated in — Bernard learns more about how his vacation getaway also isn’t the heaven that he dreamed that it was.

Thanks to the recent Arrow Video releases, I’ve done a deep dive on the films Bazzoni and wish that he had made more than the three giallo-esque films on his resume. Each of them subverts the form while working within it, offering challenging narratives and films that refuse to simply be background noise.

I’d never heard of this film before they announced it and am pleased to say that it’s moved up on the list of my favorite films. Consider this my highest recommendation.

The Fifth Cord (1971): Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage has scores of imitators that rose in the wake of its success. There were scores of gorgeous women being murdered, jazzy soundtracks blaring and movies with animals in their titles. And then, every once in a while, there’s a giallo that rises beyond the pack and asserts itself as a true work of art.

Giornata Nera per L’Ariete, or Black Day for the Ram, may appear to be an animal title, but it really refers to astrology (which kind of gives away some of the film). It’s better known as The Fifth Cord.

Director Luigi Bazzoni doesn’t have a huge list of films to his credit, but between this film, The Possessed and Footprints on the Moon, his take on the giallo form is unlike anyone else’s. This is more than a murder mystery. It’s a complex take on alienation and isolation at the end of the last century.

Based on David McDonald Devine’s novel — but based in Italy, not Scotland as in the book — The Fifth Cord starts with a man barely surviving a vicious attack on the way home from a New Year’s Eve party. We even get to hear the words of the killer:

“I am going to commit murder. I am going to kill another human being. How easy it is to say, already I feel like a criminal. I’ve been thinking it over for weeks, but now that I’ve giving voice to my evil intention I feel comfortably relaxed. Perhaps the deed itself will be an anti-climax, but I think not.”

Writer Andrea Bild (Franco Nero!) is assigned to report on the case and to put it bluntly, he’s a mess. Ever since his separation, he’s been drowning his life in whiskey and women.

Soon, the attacker strikes again and this time, whomever it is succeeds and leaves behind a black glove with a finger missing (Evil FIngers is an alternate title). That one finger missing turns into two, then three and comes with evil phone calls. Andrea has to take on the giallo role of the investigator before he becomes either the fifth victim or is arrested by the police — it turns out that he was at that very same New Year’s party, as was every single one of the victims.

The story itself is rather basic, but the way that it’s told is anything but. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography places The Fifth Cord in an industrialized Rome that’s rarely seen in giallo, eschewing the historic architecture we’re used to seeing. I’d say that it’s a less flashy Tenebre, but this was made a decade before that movie.

If you come to these movies for the fashions, well, you may be slightly disappointed. But if you love the decor, look out. I’ve never seen more spiral staircases in one movie ever before. The house with the giant fireplace was also used for Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, but looks so much more impressive here. And I loved how the modern architecture gives little room to run in the closing moments.

This movie has never looked better than on its recent Arrow Video release. It’s jaw-dropping how gorgeous the film appears and the Ennio Morricone soundtrack positively emerges from the speakers. I expect great things from this company, but they continually surprise and delight me at every turn.

The Pyjama Girl Case (1977): The Girl in the Yellow Pyjamas AKA The Pyjama Girl Case is more than just a giallo. It’s based on a true story, the 1934 Australian cold case that concerns the murder of Linda Agostini. Born Florence Linda Platt in a suburb of South East London, she left the UK behind for New Zealand after a broken romance, then went to Australia where she worked at a cinema and lived in a boardinghouse. Post-murder gossip claimed that she was a heavy drinker, a jazz baby and someone who entertained plenty of much younger men, which became an issue when she married the Italian expatriate Antonio Agostini. He moved her to Melbourne to try and get away from the bad influences that he felt existed in Sydney, but four years later she disappeared.

Her body was found inside a burning grain sack left behind on the beach. Her head was wrapped in a towel, her body was badly beaten and she had been shot in the neck. But what defined the case were her intricate silk pajamas, complete with a Chinese dragon design, a look that was not the type of clothing favored by your average Australian housewife.

Her body was kept in a formaldehyde bath for a decade and the public was invited to attempt to identify the body. In 1944, dental records proved that the girl in the yellow pajamas was Agostini. Meanwhile, her husband had been in an internment camp for four years during World War II due to his Italian heritage and sympathies toward the Axis. When he returned and was questioned by police commissioner William MacKay — a man he had once waited on — he immediately confessed to killing his wife.

There’s still some controversy over whether or not he actually confessed. There’s just as much as to who the pajama girl was. Regardless, her husband only served three years on manslaughter, as he claimed the shooting was an accident, and was extradited to Italy. Historian Richard Evans wrote The Pyjama Girl Mystery: A True Story of Murder, Obsession and Lies in 2004 and claims that police corruption meant that the case needed to be solved as quickly as possible, as the public sentiment had turned against the cops.

The giallo that is based on the case is really well made and has an intriguing split narrative. On one hand, we have the retired Inspector Thompson (Ray Milland) investigating the case and dealing with his own mortality. Meanwhile, we see Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro, Frankenstein 80, the monster’s bride in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, the headmistress in Phenomena, perhaps the other woman in Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren’s marriage) struggle with the relationships in her life, including her husband Antonio Attolini, her lover Ray Conner (Howard Ross, The New York Ripper) and her mentor Professor Henry Douglas (Mel Ferrer). As the relationship with her husband starts to fall apart, she drifts into prostitution and in a harrowing scene, makes love to two men while one’s teenage nephew tries to not make eye contact with her.

Other than the Riz Ortolani score — Amanda Lear sings on two of them! — this isn’t a fashion-filled bit of fun. This is a dark and dreary journey through the end of a woman’s life and the elderly man devoted to finding out the answers to who and why, even if he knows that discovering that truth won’t change the fact that he’s closer to the end of his story than the beginning. At least he cares more than the modern police, who simply embalm her nude body, put it on display and allow people to stare at it.

I read the other day that giallo films were meant for the people outside of Rome, for provincial tastes that demanded a morality play. I’m not certain that’s entirely true, but this movie aspires to art and a heartbreaking moment as we reach the close and realize that the two stories are truly connected in the bleakest of ways.

Arrow Video’s Giallo Essentials: Red Collection has all three films in a rigid box packaging with newly designed artwork by Adam Rabalais in a windowed Giallo Essentials Collection slipcover.

The Possessed special features include new audio commentary by writer and critic Tim Lucas, a video appreciation by Richard Dyer,  interviews with the film’s makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi, award-winning assistant art director Dante Ferretti and actor/director Francesco Barilli, a close friend of Luigi and Camillo Bazzoni. It also has the original trailers and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips.

The Fifth Cord has new audio commentary by critic Travis Crawford, a video essay on the film’s use of architecture and space by critic Rachael Nisbet, interviews with author and critic Michael Mackenzie, Franco Nero and film editor Eugenio Alabiso. Plus, there’s a rare, previously unseen deleted sequence restored from the original negative, the original Italian and English theatrical trailers, an image gallery and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love.

The Pyjama Girl Case has new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, plus interviews with author and critic Michael Mackenzie, Howard Ross, editor Alberto Tagliavia and composer Riz Ortolani. Plus, you get an image gallery the Italian theatrical trailer and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon.

You can get it from MVD.

KINO LORBER BLU RAY RELEASE: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on September 7, 2020 but now with the blu ray release of this movie from Kino Lorber, this gives me a chance to update it and expand on it.

You can get the new Kino Lorber blu ray directly from the Kino Lorber site. In addition to a new 2K master, there’s new commentary by Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, as well as another commentary by Tim Lucas. You also get alternate music score highlights, the original Italian opening credits, two Trailers from Hell episodes (Joe Dante and Josh Olson) and the original theatrical trailer.

American-International Pictures had made some money in the U.S. with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and Black Sabbath. It just made sene for Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson to gain more control by producing the films themselves instead of just buying the rights.

Working with Italian International Film and Spain’s Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica, AIP provided the services of writer Ib Melchior (The Angry Red Planet) to create the American version of this movie, which was based on Renato Pestriniero’s short story “One Night of 21 Hours.”


This movie was quite literally the Tower of Babel, as each major cast member performed in their respective languages: Barry Sullivan spoke English, Norma Bengell spoke Portuguese, Ángel Aranda Spanish and Evi Marandi Italian. And the low budget would have made a cheap-looking movie with any other director, but Bava was the master of in-camera effects and flooding his sets with color and fog. In a Fangoria article, he would say, “Do you know what that unknown planet was made of? A couple of plastic rocks — yes, two: one and one! — left over from a mythological movie made at Cinecittà! To assist the illusion, I filled the set with smoke.”

When 1979’s Alien came out, those that had been exposed to Bava’s work would let people know that many of the ideas in that film came directly from this modest film with its $200,000 budget — I know Joe Bob, everyone lies about budgets. While Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon would claim for years that they had never seen this movie before, the writer would later say, “I stole the giant skeleton from the Planet of the Vampires.”

Want to know how I know those claims are true? From the very start of this film, two large ships — the Galliott and the Argos — in deep space respond to an SOS call and are lured to a planet where alien beings either take their bodies over or murder them. The crew of the Argos instantly begins murdering one another — with only Captain Markary (Sullivan) able to pull his crew out of madness. When they arrive at the other ship, everyone is already dead, including Markary’s brother.

Soon, the bodies of the dead are walking as if alive, the ships are damaged beyond repair, and crew members are getting wiped out (look for a young Ivan Rassimov — later of the giallos The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and All the Colors of the Dark, and the Star Wars clone The Humanoid — as one of them!).

While this film is 55 years old, I have no interest in ruining the ending for you. Instead, I want you to sit and bask in its colorful glow, awash in fog and mystery, with pulpy science fiction heroes running around in fetishy costumes and discovering skeletons that could in no way be human. It is everything that is magic about film.

Atlas — the comic company that tried to challenge Marvel and DC in the 1970’s — combined I Am Legend with this film to create the comic Planet of the Vampires. Much like all of their books, it only ran three issues, but the first one boasts a cover with pencils by Pat Broderick with Neal Adams-inks and other issues have great work by Russ Heath. The first issue was also written by future G.I. Joe mastermind Larry Hama. I have no doubt that Atlas did not pay AIP for the rights to this.

Check out these pieces on Ten films that rip off Alien and Ten Bava Films for more.

Curse of the Stone Hand (1965)

Alright, I know this isn’t a Mexican movie, it’s American, but it was a remix and reedit by Jerry Warren, who brought so many South of the Border movies to America. He shot new footage with John Carradine — who else? — and Katherine Victor to freshen up two twenty-year-old Chilean films, La Casa está Vacía (The House is Empty) and La Dama de la Muerte (The Lady of Death).

Seeing as how it’s two films, Warren decided to turn this into an anthology, if two stories can really be an anthology. The same house is supposed to be the setting for both stories, one in which a gambler finds a set of stone hands in the cursed house and uses them to play curses before joining a suicide club. This is La Dama de la Muerte (The Lady of Death), as that movie was an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Suicide Club. The second story has another owner’s son finding the hands — this is La Casa está Vacía (The House is Empty) — and using them to hypnotize his brother’s fiancee.

This is the closest that Warren would stay to his source material and therefore lacks the utter drug-induced insanity of his Mexican remake remixes. The dubbing is horrible, yet we can directly trace Godfrey Ho and the wildness that he dropped on us several decades later to the way that Warren could take any movie and chop it to pieces.

Warren once said, ” “I’d shoot one day on this stuff and throw it together. I was in the business to make money. I never ever tried in any way to compete or to make something worthwhile. I only did enough to get by, so they would buy it, so it would play, and so I’d get a few dollars. It’s not very fair to the public, I guess, but that was my attitude. You didn’t have to go all out and make a really good picture.”

Know what you’re getting into before you watch this!

Warren’s American Distributors Productions, Inc. teamed this up with another of his mixtape wonders, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, which is Mexican and is also two movies in one — La Casa del Terror and La Momia Azteca.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 15: The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

The Greatest Story Ever Told started as a radio series in 1947 written by Henry Denker and a 1949 novel by Fulton Oursler, a senior editor at Reader’s Digest. 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck acquired the film rights and Denker wrote a script, but when Zanuck left the studio in 1956, it was forgotten.

Fast forward two years and George Stevens, fresh off The Diary of Anne Frank, learned that Fox had the rights to the story — I mean, The Bible is public domain, so I have no idea what was different about the property other than the title and this was a decade after the radio show — and he got $10 million ($90 million in today’s cash) to make this movie.

Before the movie was even made, it was already busting its budget. Stevens spent two years writing the script along with Ivan Moffat, James Lee Barrett and even poet Carl Sandburg, as well as commissioning French artist André Girard to prepare 352 oil paintings of Biblical scenes to use as storyboards, which is quite the extravagance. Then, as no movie had been even started by 1959, Denker sued Fox to reclaim the rights and for $2.5 million of damages.

Two years after that, Fox withdrew from the project as $2.3 million had been spent without any footage being shot. Stevens was given two years to find another studio or 20th Century Fox would reclaim its rights, so he moved to United Artists.

Once filming finally started, Stevens shot each scene — often with hundreds of extras — dozens of times. Instead of going to the Holy Land, he also made sets throughout the U.S., being so full of art to say, “I wanted to get an effect of grandeur as a background to Christ, and none of the Holy Land areas shape up with the excitement of the American southwest. I know that Colorado is not the Jordan, nor is Southern Utah Palestine. But our intention is to romanticize the area, and it can be done better here.”

The major difference between Arizona and the Holy Land? It snows in the winter in Arizona.

By the time he was done, Stevens had shot 1,136 miles — miles! — worth of film. Before editing and promotion, he’d already spent $20 million or $180 million in 2022.

It made back $8 million dollars.

It ran for 4 hours and 20 minutes.

And man, it’s something else.

Balthazar (Mark Lenard, Spock’s dad), Melchior (Cyril Delevanti, a character actor and acting coach) and Gaspar (Frank Silvera, who was in another money loser, Ché!), the three wise men, are westward leading, still proceeding, seeking the King who will be born and meet King Herod (Claude Rains in his last role), who sneakily sends them to watch the Child emerge in Bethelem, but secretly he just wants to kill all the firstborn because whoever was born that night will take his throne. And he has Michael Ansara — who can be Native American or Arabic depending on the role — is ready to do the murdering.

They discover Mary (Dorothy McGuire) and Joseph (Robert Loggia!) in a manger, surrounded by animals, and they give the Son of God gold, frankincense and myrrh as an angel warns Joseph that they must escape to Egypt, where they stay until Herod dies. As they return to Nazareth, a pro-Israel rebellion rises against Herod’s son, Herod Antipas (José Ferrer), which is quickly stopped, but shows the Romans that the Messiah could be trouble.

Go read the Apocrypha and come back.

Pretty wild, huh? I mean, giants born of angel and man?

Start the movie back up again please.

John the Baptist (Charlton Heston, who knows something about Biblical films) is in the desert eating honey and locusts and preaching that someone even better than him will soon arrive. That would be Jesus (Max Von Sydow), who is baptized by John and then ascends a mountain where he’s tempted by the Devil (Donald Pleasence!).

Soon, Jesus promises Judas Iscariot (David McCallum), Andrew (Burt Brinckerhoff), Peter (Gary Raymond) and John (John Considine) that he will make them fishers of men. They soon meet James (well, there’s the younger played by Michael Anderson Jr. and the elder who is David Sheiner) and spend time with Martha (Ina Balin), Mary (Janet Margolin) and Lazarus (Michael Tolan).

After healing a crippled man, Matthew (Roddy McDowall!), Thaddeus (Jamie Farr!), Simon (Robert Blake!) and Thomas (Tom Reese) — the name means twin — all join the apostles as Pontius Pilate (Telly Savalas and there’s an urban legend that he shaved his head for this movie and liked it so much he never had hair again) and the church leaders debate the negative influence of John the Baptist, who is arrested and soon beheaded thanks to the influence of Salome (who of all people is not credited; some say that she was a dancer from Israel). In Capernaum, Jesus meets Mary Magdalene (Joanna Dunham, who got pregnant during the long shooting time and her belly needed to be hidden by clever filming tricks) and heals Shelley Winters, which made me stand up and beat my breast.

Jesus refuses to help a blind name called Aram (Ed Wynn) to see, he’s stoned yet returns to save the man’s sight, only to discover that Lazarus has died. The miracle of raising the dead happens as the leaders of the existing church worry about Jesus.

Intermission time. You know, old movies having a fanfare and an intermission are great, because they care so much about you that they provide moments for you to go to the bathroom. Thanks, old movies.

We come back to Jesus going wild in the temple, throwing tables over and causing mass chaos. We see Dr. Loomis following Judas, who is fated to turn heel on the Son of God and even Peter tries to babyface himself and Jesus shuts him down by saying, “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times” and Peter answers by crying. Game, serve, match, Savior.

Jesus is put on trial and even the man whose sight he saved testifies against him. Nicodemus (Joseph Schildkraut, who was in The Diary of Anne Frank and died before the movie finished) stays out of it and Peter denies Jesus, once as Blofeld watches, another time as Blythe the forger looks on and a third time while Professor John McGregor forces Peter to realize that Jesus was right.

The Pharisees bring Jesus to Pilate, who tells the crowd that he will free him if they want. They ask for Barabbas (Richard Conte) instead, so the Only Begotten Son goes to be crucified alongside Richard Bakalyan (the voice of Dinky in The Fox and the Hound) and Marc Cavell (Frankenstein in The Wild Angels). The only people on his side are Simon of Cyrene (Sidney Poitier)and Joseph of Arimathea (Abraham Sofaer) and then, in the cameo of all cameos, a Roman centurion stands as Jesus expires and says, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Supposedly, Stevens did tons of takes to get this right.

And it’s John Wayne.

The film ends with the angel (Pat Boone!?!) rolling back the stone and Jesus ascending to Heaven.

Man, who did I miss in this parade of stars? How could I miss Victor Buono as Solak? Carroll Baker as Veronica? That’s how many people are in this. I missed Carroll Baker. Oh! There was also Martin Landau as a pharisee leader, Angela Lansbury as Claudia, Sal Mineo as Uriah, Paul Stewart as Questor, John Crawford as Alexander, Frank DeKova as Tormentor, Russell Johnson — the professor! — as a scribe and so many more. There are thousands of people in this movie.

Is it holy luck that this movie has three Blofelds in it with Pleasence in You Only Live Twice, Savalas in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and von Sydow in Never Say Never Again? Isn’t it kind of cool that David Lean took a break between Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago to direct some of this? That Stevens edited von Sydow so that Jesus never blinks?  And how sad is it that cinematographer William C. Mellor dropped dead on the set?

I waited a long time to see this movie, as I first read about it in the Medveds’ The Hollywood Hall of Shame. It’s something else and for once, they weren’t hating on a good movie. It’s bloated and just plain too much, but that makes me love it so much more.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: The Diabolical Dr. Z (1966)

This movie is also called Miss Muerte, which is a great title, and it’s about Dr. Irma Zimmer, the daughter of Dr. Orloff’s student Professor Zimmer, who has made a machine that can make people into zombies. Four of the old man’s colleagues led him to an early death, so Dr. Irma uses the machine to control the firecracker sexual force that is Miss Muerte (Estella Blain), whose chief weapon is her poison-tipped fingernails, cuticles which she’s using to kill anyone connected with the death of Irma’s father.

Let me go back for a second. The movie called The Diabolical Dr. Z starts with Dr. Z dying. Also, in the Franco Cinematic Universe, I have discovered that if you are a doctor with any degree of evil whatsoever, you must know, be friends with or be a pupil of Dr. Orloff.

All of this is set to the notes of jazz, with strange angles and billowing smoke and fog following the same logic as the music playing. Meanwhile, Inspector Tanner and Inspector Green are played by a quite youthful Franco and composer Daniel J. White. This can be seen as a meta exploration of the authority of the director upon the movie or probably more truthfully two guys getting in front of the camera because there isn’t enough money to hire anyone else.

Also the notion of domination, submission and control will soon become even more a part of Franco’s films. You can see many of the themes he’d explore take their first filthy little steps here.

You can watch this on KInoCult.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Mickey One (1965)

I was not ready for this movie.

After angering the mob, a stand-up comic (Warren Beatty) runs away to Chicago, taking the name Mickey One, works in a diner and hides in a flop house. But the lure of the stage is too strong. As he becomes more successful, he worries that each move upward is one closer to his death, as he has no idea who owns him, what he did wrong or how to make it right, so he stays in the spotlight.

Mickey says at one point, “I’m the king of silent movies hiding out till the talkies blow over,” but he’s also standing firmly within the genre of French New Wave in the middle of America. It’s like jazz on film, a movie about a comedian who never seems to be funny, a man standing against the blazing and blinding spotlight unsure if he’s in the crosshairs.

Penn and Beatty fought throughout the making of this movie, with the actor saying, “We had a lot of trouble on that film, because I didn’t know what the hell Arthur was trying to do and I tried to find out. I’m not sure that he knew himself.”  Somehow they got along enough to make the movie that would be a breakthrough for both, Bonnie and Clyde.

A must-see and the most interesting film — next to Lilith — on Mill Creek’s Through the Decades: 1960s Collection.

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 FallLilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Genghis Khan (1965)

Henry Levin made the Eurospy films Kiss the Girls and Make Them DieThe Ambushers and Murderers’ Row, as well as Journey to the Center of the EarthThe Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and Where the Boys Are.

It tells the story of how Temujin (Omar Sharif) — joined by Geen (Michael Hordern) and Sengal (Woody Strode) — goes from a prisoner to Genghis Khan, the Prince of Conquerors. He falls for Bortei (French actress Françoise Dorléac), but loses her to Jamunga (Stephen Boyd) — the man who had imprisoned Temujin before — who assaults her and captures her for his own.

Plus, you get appearances by Eli Wallach, Telly Savalas (and his brother George), James Mason and Yvonne Mitchell. Shot in Yugoslavia, it looks gorgeous, cost a ton and really plays loose with history — and whitewashing — which is how movies were made in 1965.

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, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.

Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection: Baby the Rain Must Fall (1965)

While the first few films on the Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1960s Collection were light comedy, this one made me sit up and pay attention to its rough drama.

Based on the 1954 play The Traveling Lady, which was also written by this movie’s director and writer Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies).

Georgette Thomas (Lee Remick) has brought her six-year-old daughter Margaret Rose to meet her husband Henry Thomas (Steve McQueen). He’s never met her and may not even have known that she exists, as all he cares about is being a singer. He’s spent. the last few years in jail after stabbing a man and has been working for Kate Dawson, the woman who raised him — and beat him repeatedly — after his parents died. Her abuse has broken him, as the night after her death, he steals her silver, wrecks his car into the cemetery gates and howls into the night as he stabs her grave, all while his wife watches from the shadows.

Obviously, Henry is no father. But it takes Georgette the entire film to realize that she has to get her daughter away from him if they ever want to live a peaceful life.

Shot on location in Columbus, Texas, this is a dusty and dark exploration of love not being enough.

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, Mickey One, Lilith, Genghis Khan, Luv, Who Was That Lady? and Hook, Line and Sinker. You can get it from Deep Discount.