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.

Return of Daimajin (1966)

Never released theatrically in the United States — it was shown on TV by American-International Pictures in 1967 — the second film in the trilogy finds Daimajin concerns an evil lord who takes over the villages of Chigusa and Nagoshi. He also shatters the statue of Daimajin with gunpowder, sending what’s left of the spirit to the bottom of a lake where it comes back to life to save the villagers who pray to him.

All three of these movies were written by Tetsurô Yoshida, with this installment being directed by Kenji Misumi, who made four of the Lone Wolf and Cub films. While this is similar to the first film, it does have a scene where the giant Daimajin parts the seas as well as an amazing scene where he rescues a crucified woman while stomping an army of samurai into puddles of bone and blood.

The effects in this film are gorgeous, with the stone spirit looking as if it was a real kaiju and not just special effects. These movies aren’t as well known in the U.S., but they certainly deserve to be.

You can get this movie as part of Arrow Video’s new The Daimajin Trilogy. Return of Daimajin has commentary by Japanese film experts Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp a discussion of the movie’s storyboard, an interview with Professor Yoneo Ota (director of the Toy Film Museum, Kyoto Film Art Culture Research Institute) and opening credits for the U.S. release of Return of the Giant Majin. Get it now from MVD.

Daimajin (1966)

Produced by Daiei Film, this is the first film in a trilogy of movies that are all somewhat similar, made with different directors and the same crew, shot at the same time.

Daimajin is a spirit that has been trapped inside a mountain who is struggling to emerge. As the villagers pray at a shrine, the evil Samanosuke slaughters the family of the area’s leader, Lord Hanabusa, except for his son Tadafumi and daughter Kozasa, who are rescued by a samurai named Kogenta.

As the children become adults, Samanosuke’s power grows in the region and then decides that in order to have complete control of the people, he must smash the half-buried statue of Daimajin. The villagers begin to pray that the statue will come to life and save them.

Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda also made several of the Zatoichi movies, while writer Tetsurô Yoshida would write all three of these films and one of my favorite kaiju movies, Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare.

In the U.S., this movie was released as The Devil Got Angry, The Vengeance of the Monster, and Majin, the Monster of Terror.

Speaking of the yokai, Takeshi Miike is making a sequel to his film The Great Yokai War which will be called The Great Yokai War: Guardians. Imagine my excitement when I learned that Daimajin is in this movie!

You can also read Jennifer Upton’s review of this film.

You can get this movie as part of Arrow Video’s new The Daimajin Trilogy. Along with an illustrated collector’s book featuring new essays by Jonathan Clements, Keith Aiken, Ed Godziszewski, Raffael Coronelli, Erik Homenick, Robin Gatto and Kevin Derendorf, there are restored versions of all three films. Daimajin has an introduction by critic Kim Newman, an exclusive video essay about the special effects of the Daimajin films by Japanese film historian Ed Godziszewski, audio commentary by Japanese film expert Stuart Galbraith IV and the alternate U.S. opening credits for Majin, the Monster of Terror. Get it now from MVD.

Girl from Tobacco Row (1966)

One of my favorite things about Ron Ormond’s movies is that he brings back old western stars — often to my surprise — and gives them work long after Hollywood stopped hiring them. The congregation in this movie is led by Reverend E.F. Bolton, who is played by Tex Ritter, a singing cowboy who was the father of John Ritter and the Oscar-winning writer of “The Ballad of High Noon” from High Noon.

Bolton’s ministry is about to be tested, because a convict named Earl “Snake” Richards — played by Earl “Snake” Richards — is looking for some stolen cash in town before being taken in by the preacher’s son Tim (Tim Ormond, always a welcome sight) and falling for his daughter Nadine* (Rachel Romen, Maggie from Run, Angel, Run!). Also, his wife Rita is played by Rita Fey, who also is in Ormond’s The Burning Hell.

Country DJ and one-time The Nashville Network staple Ralph Emery shows up as a hit man, as Snake is being watched by the mob. He has a vision that he’s going to die surrounded by money and, well, he gets what he wants. If you’re wondering, who is that Vic Naro who plays the crime boss, well it’s Ron Ormond.

For a movie that promises, “A girl wilder than a peach orchard hog!” this is all pretty innocent. But it’s also crazy, because it somehow goes from preaching to country music to crime, sometimes all in the same moment.

*Nadine has some serious daddy issues, lusting after older men by literally screaming, “When you see snow on the mountaintop, there’s always fire in the furnace!”

The Deadly Bees (1966)

Based on H.F. Heard’s 1941 novel A Taste for Honey, this Freddie Francis film — look for an entire week of UK science fiction and horror next week — this movie predates the worries of the 70s killer bees by nearly ten years.

You know, singers don’t just get exhausted today and have to escape from reality. They used to in 1966, Vicki Robbins (Suzanna Leigh, Lust for a VampireSon of Dracula) collapses on television and has to go to Seagull Island to get her life back together. Look for a young Ron Wood in the opening number.

Originally adapted from Heard’s novel by Robert Bloch, director Freddie Francis and writer Anthony Marriott worked to improve said script and ended up with a movie that nobody seemed to like. Maybe it’s because there’s no Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, as audiences expected them in almost every horror movie.

Bloch never saw the completed film, although he was a gentleman in how he felt about Francis, Marriott and Amicus, the studio who produced the film. He did say, however, that the movie “buzzed off into critical oblivion, unwept, unhonoured and unstung.”

If you want to see a movie with plastic bees glued to the faces of thespians, by all means, this would be that film.