MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: I Dream of Jeannie The Complete Series

I Dream of Jeannie was created and produced by Sidney Sheldon* and it seems like for a long time, he was the only person that believed in it. He originally wanted the first season to film in color — it was one of only two shows on NBC at the time not in color, but special photographic effects employed to achieve Jeannie’s magic weren’t technologically advanced enough to be in a full range of colors yet — but NBC did not want to pay it.

It was $400 an episode.

The network and Screen Gems didn’t think the show would make it to a second season. But Sheldon saw that ABC’s Bewitched was a success and bet on the show.

He was right. It was in the top 30 shows for almost every year that it was on before becoming a syndication powerhouse.

In the pilot episode, “The Lady in the Bottle”, astronaut USAF Captain Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) lands his one-man capsule Stardust One on a deserted island in the South Pacific. While wandering the beach, Tony notices a strange bottle** that moves by itself. When he rubs it, smoke and a genie (Barbara Eden) pop out.

Tony’s first wish is to be able to understand her, then for a helicopter to rescue him. Jeannie, who has been trapped in the bottle for 2,000 years, falls in love with him and follows Tony back home where she soon breaks up his engagement with his commanding general’s daughter, Melissa. It seems like this was a storyline being set up for the long game, but Sheldon realized that this romantic triangle didn’t have much rope.

Tony keeps Jeannie in her bottle until he realizes she needs a life of her own, which is mostly her using her genie powers to try and make his life better. He worries that if anyone finds out that she exists that he won’t get to be part of NASA, but his worries lead him to being investigated by psychiatrist U.S. Air Force Colonel Dr. Alfred Bellows (Hayden Rorke) with the only person — at first — that knows his secret being Major Roger Healey (Bill Daly).

Unlike many of the sitcoms of the era, I Dream of Jeannie had multipart story arcs (which were created to serve as backgrounds for national contests). For example, nobody knew when Jeannie’s birthday was and the guessing game led to a contest, with the answer being April 1. There was also a four-episode event where Jeannie was locked in a safe on the moon and fans had to guess the combination to save her and another where Tony was replaced and had to be found. But there are also several long storylines, like Jeannie’s evil sister also named Jeannie, Jeannie’s ever-changing origin story which includes Eden’s first husband Michael Ansara as the Blue Djinn, Jeannie taking over the crown of her home country Basenji and so many more.

Supposedly, Hagman was so hard to work with that the producers seriously considered replacing him with Darren McGavin. They even wrote out a story with Tony losing Jeannie and McGavin finding her, but it never ended up happening. In her 2011 book Jeannie Out of the Bottle, Eden wrote, “Larry himself has made no secret about the fact he was taking drugs and drinking too much through many of the I Dream of Jeannie years and that he has regrets about how that impacted him.”

When there were two TV movies in the 80s, Hagman didn’t return. In I Dream of Jeannie… Fifteen Years Later his role was played by Wayne Rogers and as he’s on a space mission in I Still Dream of Jeannie, he’s simply written out and Hagman’s Dallas co-star Ken Kercheval took over as Jeannie’s master. There was also a cartoon called Jeannie that aired from 1973 to 1975 that had Julie McWhirter (who in addition to being the voice in so many cartoons is also the wife of Rick Dees) play Jeannie, “Curly” Joe Besser as Babu a genie in training and Mark Hamill as Corey Anders, a high school student.

Eden has also gone on the record as saying that she never connected with another actor in the same way as she did with Hagman. They’d reunite for the 1971 TV movie A Howling in the Woods.

Why did the show end? It was still near the top thirty after all. Well, Eden believes that there were enough episodes for syndication already and the ratings had gone down after Jeannie and Nelson got married in season 5. No one except for the network wanted that and it eliminated the romantic tension of the show.

I grew up watching this show multiple times a day, often paired with its one-time rival Bewitched. Just going back through these — the original 8 episodes with Paul Frees narration instead of the theme song are a revelation — has made the end of the year doldrums so much better.

You can get all 139 episodes on the Mill Creek  I Dream of Jeannie The Complete Series blu ray set. You’ll get hours and hours of fun for a really great price at Deep Discount.

*Sheldon was inspired by the movie The Brass Bottle, which has Tony Randall’s character get a genie played by Burl Ives. Randall’s girlfriend was played by Eden.

**The bottle is actually a special Christmas 1964 Jim Beam liquor decanter containing “Beam’s Choice” bourbon whiskey. How weird is that?

Adam Adamant Lives! (1966-67)

Before Austin Powers was a thing — way before — Edwardian adventurer and gentleman Adam Adamant woke up from a long sleep in 1966 and joined Georgina Jones on a series of adventures. That said, this series also has a dandy gentleman with a hidden sword and a gorgeous and capable female partner three years after The Avengers, but hey — it’s still pretty awesome.

Lured into a trap in the hopes of rescuing the love of his life Louise, The Face had finally trapped his nemesis in a gigantic block of ice. Hiding his identity behind a leather mask and a sinister whisper of a voice, The Face gave Adam one last wish. Ever the gentleman, he asked to see Louise before death. Imagine how he felt when he learned that she was really in league with his archenemy! The last words that he hears — and that haunt him every time he’s unconscious in the episodes — is “So clever, but oh so vulnerable.”

Sixty-four years later — hmm, I wonder if there’s a synchronistic Beatles reference afoot — the building is Adam is buried inside is destroyed and he comes back to life. After running from a hospital and collapsing on the street, he’s rescued by Georgina, who has read all of the stories of his life and wants to be part of his new cases.

Gerald Harper played Adam, while Georgina was a role for Ann Holloway in the now lost pilot and Juliet Harmer in the series. I’ve always found it amusing that Adam constantly believes that Georgina has to be a boy based on the way that she carries herself, while he remains quite the fancy gentleman. Adamant’s manservant, a former music hall artist named William E. Simms, was played by Jack May who is in Night After Night After Night and Trog.

By the second season of this show — created by many of the men that originated Dr. Who like Donald Cotton, Richard Harris and Sydney Newman (who oversaw the team that came up with The Avengers) — The Face had come back, freezing himself right after Adam and watched over within his ice tomb by Louise.

Only 29 episodes were made and sadly just 17 remain. I wish there were more and I’d love to see this come back as something new, but then people would just think it was stealing from Agent Powers. I was happy to learn that in 2020, Big Finish put out two audiobooks with new adventures. They’ve also put out audio tales of The AvengersBlake’s 7Dan DareDr. WhoDark ShadowsThe PrisonerSpace:1999Terrahawks and many more.

SLASHER MONTH: Blood Bath (1966)

While on vacation in Europe, Roger Corman kept working. He made a $20,000 deal to distribute an as-yet unproduced Yugoslavian Eurospy — Eastern Eurospy? — called Operation: Titian.

Part of the deal was that William Campbell and Patrick Magee would have roles. Plus, Corman would be involved so that the film made sense to Americans, installing Francis Ford Coppola as script supervisor. However, the results were confusing and unreleasable, but they did air on TV in a reduced form as Portrait In Terror.

A year or so later, Corman asked Jack Hill to see if he could fix the film. Instead of a spy movie, new footage would be added that made this movie about an artist who kills his models and uses their bodies as sculptures, which sounds a lot like Color Me Blood Red or Corman’s A Bucket of Blood. Campbell asked for more money to come back for these reshoots, which went over with Corman about as well as you’d think. Now called Blood Bath, Corman still disliked the end product.

Enter Stephanie Rothman, who would one day make The Student Nurses and The Velvet Vampire. Now, the antagonist would become a vampire at night and as Campbell wouldn’t come back for free, the character is played by someone else when he transforms at night. This is what American-International Pictures released in theaters along with Curtis Harrington’s Queen of Blood, which Saunders co-produced.

Wait — there’s more. Corman added six minutes of Linda Saunders from Petticoat Junction dancing on a beach and retitled the movie Track of the Vampire.

Anyways, Antonio Sordi is the name of the bad guy and he basically kills women so that he can cover them in wax. Since his vampire and human appearances are so different, he’s never been caught until he falls for Dorian (Saunders), who is an avant garde dancer. There are some wild scenes where she keeps trying to get him to go all the way and that means murder for him, so he keeps running away. Finally, he gives in to his bloodlust — thinking that she’s Meliza, a long-lost love whose breakup drove him to this life (they’re both played by Saunders, so cut him some slack). It’s at that point that all of his wax figures come to life and treat him like Frank Zito.

Look for Sid Haid as a beatnik whose facial hair keeps changing due to all the reshoots and re-edits. Man, what a crazy history and a goofy film.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Arabesque (1966)

Based on Ale Gordon’s The Cypher, this movie nearly didn’t have Gregory Peck in it. Cary Grant had just starred in another Hitchcockian film by the same director — Stanley Donen’s Charade — but he retired from the screen.

Dohen wasn’t sure about the film, but the idea of this movie proved to be too good to pass up as he remembered in the book Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies: “[Grant] didn’t want to be in it…It wasn’t a good script and I didn’t want to make it, but Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, whom I loved, wanted to be in it and the studio implored me to make it, because, they said, ‘It’s ridiculous not to make a film with Peck and Sophia.’ They said it would make money, and they were right.”

To keep himself interested in the film, Donen tried to constantly keep the camera moving, giving this movie a handheld feel. It works really well and keeps things from getting too staid.

Peck plays Professor David Pollock, an American hieroglyphics professor who is hired to uncode a secret message. Once the answer is found, he’s marked for death by an oil magnate and finds himself falling for the evil boss’ gorgeous lover, Yasmin Azir (Loren).

So yes, the director of Singin’ in the Rain (and Kiss Them for MeFunny FaceBedazzled and, oh yes, Saturn 3) ended up making a Eurospy.

The Kino Lorber blu ray of this movie comes complete with commentary by Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson, a feature on Henry Mancini, three different trailers, five TV commercials and an image gallery.

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

The first on-screen teaming of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau*, this film won the latter the Best Supporting Oscar. That’s a great reward, as production on the film stopped after Matthau had a heart attack. He lost thirty pounds in the hospital, so if you see any scenes in this movie where he has on a heavy jacket, they were shot after the health crisis.

Lemmon plays cameraman Harry Hinkle and he’s knocked out during a play when Cleveland Browns player Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) runs him over. Harry’s fine, but his brother-in-law William H. “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich (Walter Matthau) comes up with a plan to get some insurance money. The only reason Harry plays along? The chance to get his ex-wife Sandy (Judi West) to love him again.

After this film, Lemmon and Matthau would team up for The Odd Couple, Kotch, The Front Page, Buddy Buddy, Grumpy Old Men, The Grass Harp, Grumpier Old Men, Out to Sea and The Odd Couple II. They bonded early in the production process and connected over their love of football. They would remain close for the rest of their lives.

This was directed by Billy Wilder and it sparkles.

You can buy the new blu ray release of this movie from Kino Lorber. It comes complete with the Trailers from Hell episode about the film; commentary from Joseph McBride, author of Billy Wilder: Dancing on the Edge and even a clip of Jack Lemmon asking for extras to show up to the crowd scenes that were filmed in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium.

*Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason were also suggested for the role, but Lemmon insisted that Matthau be in the movie.

The Ugly Dachshund (1966)

Based on the novel by Gladys Bronwyn Stern, The Ugly Dachshund was finally the Disney live action film that pushed my dislike for Dean Jones and his characters to the breaking point. He’s quite literally an irrational man-child who explodes at the slightest misfortune, yet he’s somehow won the affections of Suzanne Pleshette, who is beyond wonderful in this movie. Seriously, as a kid I’d grown up with her as Dick Newhart’s wife — well, Dr. Robert Hartley — and always thought of her as the sarcastic yet supportive wife of a beloved TV character. Perhaps I was not yet ready for the radiant charms and smoky eyes of 1966 Ms. Pleshette. Forgive me for acting like a Tex Avery wolf, as I am trying to be polite.

In this film, she plays Fran and is married to Mark (Jones). She spends most of her time raising her prize-winning dachshund Danke, who has just gone into labor with multiple puppies. The veterinarian suggests that Mark adopt a Great Dane puppy whose mother has pushed him away. Mark gets the great idea to act like said puppy is a dachshund, as if his wife is a total moron. Luckily, Danke has enough milk to save the dog’s life, but hijinks ensure as the gigantic dog grows up around small puppies, including a scene of Japanese racism that was strong enough to earn this movie a warning before you watch it on Disney+.

But hey — there’s a dog show where the big dog acts like a little one and I guess that’s somewhat humorous. And maybe I teared up a bit when the big dog saves a baby dog that is stuck in a garbage truck. Man, I’m not inhuman, you know?

Vengeance Trails: Massacre Time (1966)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally reviewed this film on August 8, 2020. Since it’s part of Arrow’s new Vengeance Trails box set, we’ve revised and added to this article.

Massacre Time was originally supposed to be an Italian-Spanish co-production with Ringo co-star George Martin playing Tom Corbett. According to Troy Howarth’s book Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, the Spanish side withdrew their involvement and funding after Fulci refused to tone down the script’s violence.

Fulci instead cast Nero at the suggestion of his assistant director, Giovanni Fago, based on his look from the production stills of the recently completed Django. George Hilton was cast in the other lead and had difficulty dealing with Fulci as a director.

This was written by Fernando Di Leo, who co-wrote A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, A Pistol for Ringo and The Return of Ringo, with the title taken from Franco Enna’s book Tempo di Massacaro.

Speaking of the violence in this film, Fulci would later claim that he pushed Di Leo to make the film as violent as possible, which Di Leo refuted, stating “I don’t know anything about Fulci’s claims that he insisted that I write a very violent movie. Fulci only directed well what was already on the page. The script was good and ready and he liked it the way it was, otherwise I’d have complied to his demand if there had been any”.

Nero and Hilton play the Corbett brothers, with Tom (Nero) coming back to their hometown to find it under the iron rule of Mr. Scott (Giuseppe Addobbati, billed as John MacDouglas for American audiences; he’s also in Nightmare Castle) and his son, Junior Scott (Nino Castelnuovo, Strip Nude for Your Killer).

Linda Sini is also in this. She also is in Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling as Bruno’s mother.

Although an English-language version was made, AIP made their own dub of the film and released it as The Brute and the Beast, making it one of only two Italian Westerns released in the U.S. by the studio (the other is God Forgives… I Don’t!). In the UK, this is known as Colt Concert and in Denmark and West Germany, it was released as Djangos seksløber er lov (Django’s Six-Runner Is Legal) and Django – Sein Gesangbuch war der Colt (Django – His Hymnbook was the Colt). My favorite alternate title has to be what it was called in Hong Kong, Ghost Gun God Whip, and Spain, Las Pistolas Cantaron su Muerte (y fue Tiempo de Matanza)(The Pistols Sang His Death (and it was Time for the Killing).

Arrow Video’s Vengeance Trails box set has 2K restorations of this movie, as well as My Name is PecosAnd God Said to Cain and Bandidos, as well as a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author and critic Howard Hughes plus a double-sided poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx. Massacre Time has an alternate U.S. dubbed audio track, new commentary by authors and critics C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke, a new documentary featuring a new video interview with Franco Nero and an archival video interview with George Hilton, an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli and the Italian trailer. You can order this from MVD.

It’s also available on the ARROW player. Head over to ARROW to start your 30 day free trial (subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly). ARROW is available in the US, Canada and the UK on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Shot back-to-back with The Reptile using the same sets, The Plague of the Zombies is all about a Cornish village that finds many of its inhabitants mysteriously dying and then rising from their graves and are working in a tin mine.

This isn’t a fallen satellite or hell bring full. This is voodoo in 1860s England at work! The funny thing is that this movie was made only two years before Night of the Living Dead and it may as well have been made two decades hence. That’s no jab at this film, which I love, but it seems from a totally different era.

That said, this movie has atmosphere galore, with foggy denseness and dread in every frame, the kind of movie I bet Electric Wizard watched when they were little kids and could only dream of the feedback and heaviness that was in their future.

Wrath of Daimajin (1966)

Daimajin is found at the top of a mountain, above a village where an evil lord has forced men into work camps. This sends their sons to rescue them, which takes them past the statue of Daimajin, which they take the time to pay proper respect to. However, the big bad has decided that he can openly disrespect the statue, which leads to the same thing that happens in all three of these films: Daimajin goes wild and ruins the evil empire.

Written by Tetsurô Yoshida, this movie was directed by Kazuo Mori (Forty-Eight Hours to Kill), this film focuses on four young boys who are trying to save their fathers and discover that they have a psychic link to Daimajin.

This is the only film in the trilogy that wasn’t released in the U.S. during the 1960s and it didn’t have an English dub until Mill Creek Entertainment released it on blu ray in 2012.

While these films were all shot together to save time and money, they’re all interesting in their own ways. This one feels more of a children’s story, except that our heroes face incredible danger throughout.

You can get this movie as part of Arrow Video’s new The Daimajin Trilogy. Wrath of Daimajin has commentary by Asian historian Jonathan Clements and a feature on the cinematography of the trilogy. Get it now from MVD.

The Psychopath (1966)

You know, between Die! Die! My Darling! and the poster for this, which shows the killer asking, Glenn Danzig sure found plenty of ways to be inspired by British horror films.

Directed by Freddie Francis for Amicus, this is the story of a series of murders that all have a doll — that looks exactly like the victim — attached to the dead bodies!

It’s a nascent giallo and has a really great scene of a room filled with dolls that is quite stunning. All that’s missing is some fashion, a jazzy soundtrack, a few bottles of J&B, some nudity and this movie would completely fit in. You could also consider this a slasher and I would be find with your decision.

Patrick Wymark (Blood on Satan’s Claw) plays Inspector Holloway, the mysterious wheelchair-bound doll maker Mrs. Von Sturm is Margaret Johnson (SebastianNight of the Eagle) and her obsessive son Mark is John Standing (The Elephant Man).

If you’re reading this and think “A movie where a man with mommy issues becomes a murderer sounds kind of like Psycho,” this was written by the same person, Robert Bloch.