EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally watched this movie on May 14, 2021 and are happy to bring it back for this month of all things Franco.
You know, there are times when you get the Jess Franco who is obsessed with sex and times when you get the jazz-loving, Old Hollywood fan Jess Franco and this would be the latter.
This Eurospy affair stars Eddie Constantine as Al Pereira*, who is hunting down a series of bronze-skinned and horned-rim glasses-wearing killer robots commanded by Lady Cecilia Addington Courtney (Françoise Brion, probably the only person to be in movies like Le Divorce and Otto Preminger’s Rosebud, as well as a Franco film) who is using computers to destroy Europe.
So yeah, Jess shows up playing jazz piano, but don’t worry. Plenty of BDSM and mind control lurk right around the corner, instead of appearing full frontal and center. Perhaps the strangest thing about this movie is that it was shot in color and released in black and white. And that it’s nothing like the Franco movies that people dislike his movies harp on.
The second Horton Foote adaption on Mill Creek’s new Through the Decades: 1960s Collection — the other is Baby the Rain Must Fall — this Arthur Penn-directed, Lillian Hellman-written movie is even darker than that film, which I didn’t think was possible.
Anna (Jane Fonda) is married to Bubber (Robert Redford), who is currently in jail. She’s still in love with Jake (James Fox), the rich son of the man who runs Tarl County, Val Rogers (E.G. Marshall). And, yes, the best friend of Bubber.
Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando) believes that Bubber is innocent of his crimes, but when he breaks out, the entire town starts drinking and arguing over when he’ll come back and what will happen. It gets so bad that Calder is brutally beaten by a gang that feels he hasn’t acted to stop Bubber, but he’s saved at the last minute by his wife Ruby (Angie Dickinson).
Everything builds to an inferno — literally — as the vigilantes set a junkyard that Bubber is hiding in ablaze as his wife and best friend attempt to rescue him.
Hill wasn’t happy with the movie, saying “Everything in that film was a letdown, and I’m sure every director has gone through the same experience at least once. It’s a shame because it could have been a great film.” At one point, Penn was asked if he’d like to re-edit the film back to his original vision, but the experience had too many painful memories, such as producer Sam Spiegel refusing him final cut.
Paul Williams wasn’t either, as three months of work led to two lines getting into the actual movie.
Based on the screenplay for the Russian movie Mechte Navstrechu (A Dream Come True) and using the special effects footage from that film and Nebo Zovyot (Battle Beyond the Sun), this American-International Pictures release, directed by Curtis Harrington, had to have some kind of influence on Alien, right?
Harrington agreed, saying that Ridley Scott’s movie was a “greatly enhanced, expensive and elaborate” take on Queen of Blood.
This movie believes — and it made sense at the time — that by 1990 man would be traveling in space and have united to form the International Institute of Space Technology. Astronaut Laura James (Judi Meredith) hears strange signals from space, messages that Dr. Farraday (Basil Rathbone) believes are from an alien race sending an ambassador to Earth, yet the ship has crashed on Mars.
The ship Oceano is sent to rescue the ambassador but only one dead alien is on board. They decide that a rescue ship must have picked up the crew, but when they follow what they think is the rescue ship, they find only one being on board, a green-skinned alien (Florence Marly, who made a short sequel to this movie called Space Boy! and is also in The Astrologer) and several eggs.
She refuses to eat food, won’t let them take a blood sample and when left alone with an astronaut named Paul (Dennis Hopper), she hypnotizes him and drains his blood. Soon, she takes over most of the male crewmembers and plans on making her way to our planet, with only Laura and Allan Brenner (John Saxon) left to oppose her.
This would be the first movie that Harrington would work with George Edwards (as a line producer for this movie). They met when Edwards produced a stage production of Tennessee Williams’ The Garden District and this movie impressed Universal enough that they hired Harrington and Edwards to make Games.
Sakura Nishi has been sent to a field hospital in Tientsin, the frontline of Japan’s war with the Chinese during the Second Sino-Japanese war.
It’s a losing battle filled with amputation after amputation, as well as soldiers that are emotionally and physically ruined, even going so far as to assault her when she’s one of the few people who can help them. Yet even in this hell — and with the Chinese troops coming to kill everyone — she finds herself giving herself to a man with no arms, trapped in a hospital as he can’t return to Japan and his wife and the public who can never know just how badly the war is actually faring and falling in love with head surgeon Dr. Okabe, who has found himself addicted to morphine.
Even when the man who attacked her comes back injured, Nishi begs Okabe to give him precious blood, but supplies are so low that hardly anyone can be given drugs or fluids. Everyone is chopped into pieces, with Nishi often holding them down so that the bonesaw can do its horrible work. Piles of severed appendages and bodies waiting to be burned prove that this field hospital is just slowing down the inevitable, just as the battles with the Chinese will soon destroy them all.
RedAngel is a brutal film. It’s a punch in the face, a kick to the stomach and a hit to the brain and the people that should see it and be moved and changed by it never will.
As for you, you can grab the new Arrow Video release of Red Angel, which has new audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser, a new video essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum, a newly filmed introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns, a trailer and image gallery. You can get it from MVD.
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?
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 Nightand 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 Avengers, Blake’s 7, Dan Dare, Dr. Who, Dark Shadows, The Prisoner, Space:1999, Terrahawks and many more.
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 Redor 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.
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 Me, Funny Face, Bedazzled 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 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.
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?