HAL on Earth

It’s a Baby Boomer movie fan’s dream come true to announce the Blu-Ray release of a full-color 3D restored version of the 1954 sci-fi flick GOG, now available from Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios in conjunction with the grand folks at the 3D Film Archive. Man, that’s a lot of words!

What is GOG, and why do we love it?  The first part of this question is an easy, the latter – less so.  GOG is the name for a new super robot, constructed (along with its mate, MAGOG), to pave the way for America’s entry into the space race.  The fact that getting to their on-screen intros and subsequent horrific, rampaging malfunction is an often slow-moving, scientific jargon-laden journey (courtesy of script writer Tom Taggert) consistently makes me ponder why we do adore it so.  But we do.  And perhaps more now than ever, as, so often in “far-fetched” science-fiction narratives, time proves to be a friend, turning the fiction into fact.

Midway lethargic pacing aside, GOG begins on a high note.  Scientists are being murdered in a mysterious heinous fashion. And since this is an Ivan (Riders to the Stars, Science Fiction Theater, Around the World Under the Sea) Tors production (he also concocted the original story), it tosses us eager junior futuristic progressives a plethora of juicy “things to come” tidbits.  These killings are taking place in a secret high-tech multi-leveled complex, located some 500 feet below the surface of a desert nuclear testing area (red flag numero uno).  These crème de la cranium of human brain power are being frozen to death (breaking into a thousand crystalized pieces), incinerated, exposed to lethal radiation, etc., etc.  In short, it’s a malevolent home improvement cookbook offering a myriad of creative ways to prepare egghead salad.

It’s of no surprise then that head of the complex, Dr. Van Ness (Herbert Marshall), is informed by D.C. bigwigs of the arrival of hunky physicist Dr. Sheppard (Richard Egan; in reality, a secret agent, assigned to find out WTF is going on).  He, in turn, is the lover of Marshall’s hottie-cerebral assistant, luscious Joanne Merritt (Constance Dowling), looking particularly lover-ly in her curvaceous anti-radiation jumpsuit (spoiler:  she’s actually a secret agent too).

Since Van Ness has developed this modern metropolis, he is thus quite concerned that his citizenry is turning into overpaid ballast.  The jewel in the crown of the professor’s “city” is a 1950s phenomenon christened NOVAC (that’s with a “C,” not the Vertigo one).  NOVAC is a mega-computer that controls the woiks.  The revelation that the numerous functions achieved by this block-long marvel of tubes and flashing lights can currently be controlled via the programs in my cellphone is immaterial.  What is fascinating is the counter-productive concept of computer hacking; yup, someone has hacked into NOVAC, and that’s what’s causing these lethal accidents.

How GOG deals with this revolutionary idea is but one of several theorems set forth throughout the narrative.  Cryogenics is another (the successful Haagen-Dazserie of Pepe the monkey that opens the picture).  The most eyebrow-raising factor of GOG is its idea of solar power via satellite.  Indeed, the harnessing of the sun’s rays (what the movie terms Helio-Engineering) is discussed and even demonstrated.  They’ve got the science right – but for all the wrong reasons.  The solar power is not even considered to be a useful tool for clean energy, but rather a nefarious weapon to obliterate cities and countries, burning them to a crisp.  Of course, one can rationalize this insanity, being that it’s from a low-budget science-fiction movie, filmed in 1953.  What is disturbing is that its paranoid fear (albeit in a reverse effect) is virtually identical to an incident which occurred just last year in North Carolina, when the entire populace denied the zoning permits for solar farms due to their belief that it would suck the energy from the sun (the dire consequences of exposing climate change deniers to the Ice Age franchise).

In GOG, the paranoia is intentional; I mean, it’s 1953, and, in actuality, someone is screwing around with these geniuses.  In true Republic serial style, the “hacking” is not being achieved by a rival computer, but from an unidentified jet, shooting rays into the vicinity of the NOVAC locale.  No foreign enemy name blame is given to this sinister warship, but I bet ya rubles to blintzes that their flight plan is in Cyrillic.

Then there are the scientists themselves, who, hunky and luscious, must investigate (since one might be the saboteur), and they’re a hoot.  There’s middle-aged couple Dr. and Mme. Elzevir (Phillip Van Zandt and Valerie Vernon), the hubby half of whom is a womanizing perv, frequently sneaking away to watch the outer space aerobics heart-acceleration tests by pinup-worthy astronaut Beverly Jocher.  There’s affable William Schallert as Engle, whose loyalty becomes a non-issue once he’s transformed into robot kibble.  Can’t forget Dr. Zeitman (John Wengraf), the cold, calculating prototype of all those ex-Nazi scientists we couldn’t wait to import over here by the bushel-load after the war.

But, finally, there’s GOG and MAGOG – the real reason we worship this movie (and portrayed by little-person actor Billy Curtis).  Resembling embryonic versions of the Daleks, G & M swirl around, flail their metal-clawed arm (-atures) and, once hacked into killer mode, effortlessly crush windpipes like so much baked ziti.

There’s a remarkable equality vibe in GOG.  The male and female prodigies are evenly matched and use only their titles and surnames (“In space there is no thing as a weaker sex…This is why I like it here.”).  It’s refreshing to see the women in a Fifties sci-fi not stopping to split the atom in order to make coffee.  Of course, before I out-and-out call this a feminist-themed Eisenhower Era entry, I’ll have to see their paychecks.  That said, GOG and MAGOG definitely do not gender discriminate and will snuff anybody.

I can’t praise Kino-Lorber and the 3D Film Archive enough for the work they have done in restoring this movie beyond its original glory.  I say beyond, because my research indicates that the picture languished on the UA shelf for nearly a year, and ultimately was only released “flat,” and not in 3D.  3D was, by 1954, already on its way out, and a minor entry like GOG (shot in 15 days at the Hal Roach Studio) would have been, lab-wise, a major consideration to distribute stereo-optically (double the print costs for left and right projection).

The funny thing is that, like House of Wax’s Andre de Toth, GOG‘s director/editor Herbert L. Strock had vision problems and couldn’t properly gauge the 3D effects required.  The bulk of the visual load was extensively handled by Natural Vision co-creator Julian Gunzberg, who supervised all the 3D/F/X sequences.

How good are the effects in GOG?  Well, honestly, there’s nothing of the caliber of Wax or Dial “M” For Murder.  As with many 3D flicks, it’s the throwaway stuff that works and carries quite a punch.  While POV GOG and MAGOG on the attack is okay, it’s the quietly framed images of the actors working behind shelves of test tubes and electrical equipment that (to use pure Fifties speak) is nothing short of  “boss” and “neato.”  Also the prerequisite library footage of the Air Force in action (once the enemy plane is identified) is equally halved stock footage and Strock footage, and I must say that the specially shot 3D prep of our modern jets taking off is totally cool.

Flat or 3D, the movie generally got tepid reviews from the 1950s press, which essentially labelled it as GOG-wash (The NY Times, which, surprisingly saw fit to screen it, called the picture “utter nonsense.”).

As my fellow Boomers can attest, the 1960s and onward showcased GOG at its worst.  Filmed in a cheap pigmentation Eastman process (Color Corp. of America), UA only provided murky black-and-white prints to TV stations well into the Watergate decade.

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that I discovered that the movie was shot in color.  When I told this to my fellow GOG-enthusiast Ric Menello, he reacted with a stunned “Oh my GOG!,” followed by an understandable gasp.  When I was later passed on the enlightened information that it was also in 3D, he practically plotzed “No f#$%ing way!”  And then, “Any price.”

Indeed, when Menello and I cowrote scripts or treatments, and occasionally got stuck for a line or situation, we would sit silently on my couch before one of us would simply turn to the other and say “GOG” to which the other would reply “MAGOG.”  Don’t know why, but, damn it, the temporary writer’s block was lifted.  The incantation of “GOG” and “MAGOG” likewise solved problems when, during our mammoth movie marathons, we became hard-pressed to choose a print (from the 16MM days), then laserdiscs and, at last, DVDs and Blu-Rays for weekend screenings.  To quote the song, “Ho, ho, ho – it’s magic.”

The Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray of GOG is amazing.  The pristine 35MM widescreen restored color elements (as lensed by Lothrop B. Worth) display a muted, but accurate rendition of enamel metallica and acceptable-plus flesh tones.

The 3D is, natch, another purchase incentive.  While the backgrounds tend to slightly bleed, the main action (and actors) is (are) in perfect three-dimensional synch.  It’s good to know that even in Natural Vision, you still can’t discern Herbert Marshall’s wooden leg.  On the other eye, the process does contain one of the most scarifyin’ moments in any 3D movie – the in-your-face vein in the center of John Wengraf’s forehead.

The disc states that it’s in mono, but I swear there were surround-esque effects when the robots went about their inappropriate business. And the score, by noted mini-budget composer Harry Sukman, is just right (and left).

If one still remains in doubt to rationalize acquiring GOG for their collection, I must point out the many groovy extras, including audio commentary by Tom Weaver and Bob (3D Film Archive) Furmanek, plus a 2003 interview with director Strock.

I close with a bittersweet personal touch, for, as I watched GOG play out in all its 3D swagger, I swear I could feel the jubilant presence of Menello in the room, nodding approvingly and having the time of his (after) life.

GOG.  Color.  Widescreen (1.66:1; 1080p High Definition); 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  3D (also includes standard “flat” version).  Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios/3D Film Archive.  CAT # K17592.  SRP:  $34.95.

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Rail and Farewell

There’s nothing quite like watching two old adversarial warhorses readying the battlefield for one, final sanguine confrontation.  And that’s exactly what happens when The Shack at last matches wits and weaponry against A#1 in Robert Aldrich’s violent 1973 Depression drama EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, now on limited edition Blu-Ray from Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment.

It’s 1933, and this clash of wills pits a psychopathic railroader against a nonconformist ‘bo (hobo, to you).  The script, by Christopher Knopf, was actually based upon Jack London sources, notably the author’s 1907 memoir The Road, and From Coast to Coast with Jack London (a factual account by A-No-1, the pen name of writer Leon Ray Livingston).  I can only further imagine Jim Thompson smiling approvingly at this, a reluctant camaraderie picture that ends more bloody than buddy.  By journey’s end, it’s the pic’s adaptation of Erich von Stroheim’s mantra (“life is filth”) that provides EMPEROR OF THE NORTH with its nasty charm.  Youth, it turns out, cannot be trusted in the modern world, especially if it’s Keith Carradine (as Cigaret, London’s name during his ‘bo days).   As for The Shack and A#1, you can’t dream up a better couple of mortal enemies than Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.

The story is played out against the picturesque Oregon landscape (it was mostly filmed in Cottage Grove), its plethora of rich greens and blues being splattered by vagrant hemoglobin.  The Shack lives for finding freeloaders on Number 19 (“his” train), and even occasionally lays lures for the unfortunate homeless travelers.  The follow-up is his torturing and ultimately either disfiguring or murdering them, much to the veiled satisfaction of the fat-cat big-city railroad suits. Indeed, it’s doubtful that no one can best the vicious, savage Shack, with the possible exception of Ethel Merman.  Aldrich called the movie the absolute parable of the (then-current) establishment vs. the anti-establishment populist ideology.

Equaling The Shack’s monstrous reputation is A#1’s ability to triumph over the elements, becoming a Robin Hood to the society of displaced poor sprawled across America.  Marvin is initially seen brazenly swinging a huge cock (well, a stolen chicken, but the unsubtle analogy is nevertheless an effective visual pun).  It’s inevitable that Shack and A#! should/will match up.  When the gauntlet challenge is met – that A#1 will defiantly ride Number 19 – the result becomes an unofficial wildfire betting contest between railroad workers and the homeless on who will emerge victorious.

Suffice to say that Borgnine and Marvin are superb in the leads.  They had become quite used to each other’s vibes by this time, having costarred opposite  in more than a half-dozen movies and TV episodes (most prominently in Andre De Toth’s The Stranger Wore a Gun, John Sturges’s Bad Day at Black Rock and Richard Fleischer’s Violent Saturday).  Recently, they had both worked for Aldrich in The Dirty Dozen.  Aldrich loved each actor with a passion, and pulls out the stops full-throttle (to coin RR lingo) in order to give them 110% of celluloid testosterone.  Marvin had previously appeared in the director’s brilliant 1955 war drama Attack!  Borgnine went back a year earlier, making his Aldrich debut in Vera Cruz.  While it’s Marvin who is top-billed, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH is Ernest Borgnine’s movie, arguably his best role since Marty.  Aldrich himself was going great blazes in the 1970s with such triumphs as Ulzana’s Raid and such later efforts as The Longest Yard, Hustle and Twilight’s Last Gleaming (the latter two of which I consider masterpieces).

Yet, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH had some start-up problems, director-wise.  Originally Martin Ritt was assigned to the picture, but was quickly fired.  Sam Peckinpah was next on-board, but his salary demands were such that Fox cut him loose.  Aldrich was the third person handed the project and he took the bit, bringing along other Dirty Dozen alumnus, including producer Kenneth Hyman, editor Michael Luciano and composer Frank DeVol (the latter pair being longtime Aldrich collaborators).

Keith Carradine is slither-perfect as the self-supposed successor to A#1 (or A#1 and a half), the eager, courageous underling, determined to be schooled in the art of hobo-ing by the veteran Marvin.  But as we and the cast learn, there’s a difference between being a bum and being bummy, between being A#1 and an A#1 A-Hole.  As Marvin memorably decrees, “You had the juice, kid, but not the heart, and they go together.”

And speaking of the cast, one couldn’t ask for a better supporting roster of grizzled thesps than Simon Oakland, Charles Tyner, Malcolm Atterbury (his final screen performance), Harry Caesar, Hal Baylor, Joe Di Reda, Liam Dunn, Robert Foulk, Sid Haig, Vic Tayback, Lance Henriksen, Harry Hickox, and, last but not least, Elisha Cook, Jr..

The 1970s seemed to take particular pleasure in rose-coloring the Depression era; although, upon closer inspection, it really wasn’t rose-colored, but rather the crimson tint of a burst blood vessel in the retina.  The 1970s version of the 1930s transcended The Bad Old Days; they were way worse.

That said, like a vintage wine, EMPEROR OF THE NORTH improves with age.  That’s not to say there aren’t any problems.  It does seem to go on a bit too long (a full two hours).  There seem to be reels of prep/filler waiting for that climactic onslaught, made sore thumb obvious by lengthy periods during which neither of the two leads appear.  But like Frankenstein and the Wolfman, King Kong and Godzilla, or, if one wishes to stick to the Aldrich universe, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, once they connect, to coin the current vernacular, “It’s on!”

One cringe-worthy red flag pops up early – in fact, during the credits.  While the DeVol score is a reasonable and appropriate one, the asinine title tune is one step away from a Mel Brooks parody.  As ably sung by the great Marty Robbins, Hal David’s ridiculous ditty contains some of cinema’s all-time champion ludicrous lyrics.  As Number 19 chugs through the countryside, we are treated to the likes of “A man and a train.  A train and a man.  A man’s not a train, a train’s not a man.”  While anatomically correct, it’s certainly information that the majority of viewers were probably painfully aware of.  True, it follows David’s description of the earlier title song to the brothel movie A House is Not a Home (“A house is not a home, a home is not a house…” or something…), but that, at least made more sense.  Then again, this is the same guy who warned us about raindrops fallin’ on your head.

I can personally verify that this song had a detrimental effect on a special premiere crowd in 1973, because I was there.  At the time, I was a film student at NYU, and, as was the case, the major studios would sneak their upcoming releases for us at closed screenings in the old Bleecker Street Cinema.  As soon as this song began, one group of cinema studies louts started to titter uncontrollably while the humorless production contingent simply got up en masse and exited.  Sad to say, that, by the picture’s conclusion, there were only about seventeen or so folks remaining, including myself, Ric Menello and a Fox rep, who had fallen asleep.  While Menello and I relished many moments of this new Aldrich extravaganza, the response of this “sneak” pretty much mirrored the actual release; EMPEROR OF THE NORTH quickly melted away in the wake of the happier 1930s pic The Sting and that head-spinnin’ Exorcist.

At the sneak unspooling, the picture was called Emperor of the North Pole, a genuine ‘bo term, implying that if one survived to ascend to that title that they would have the honor of being the supreme ruler over nothing; what a cynical bunch.  Even though this moniker’s origin is often referred to throughout the course of the narrative, Fox changed the title to EMPEROR OF THE NORTH in the fear that many parents might consider it a Christmas picture.  Oy vey!

I can say without hesitation that if you are a fan of 1970s movies, Robert Aldrich, Lee Marvin or Ernest Borgnine, you should immediately take measure to add this title to your library.  It is a limited edition (of 3000), and once they’re gone, that’s it, pal.  I also must state that the print we saw in 1973 was a grainy mess, with orange-colored flesh tones, truly an ugly-looking movie.  Not the case with this Twilight Time Blu-Ray.  Joe Biroc’s saturated location camerawork looks splendidly lush, with proper skin pigmentation and accurate flora and fauna photosynthesis.  Crystal-clear, too.  The mono audio is crisp and fine and includes the IST option (at your own peril).  There’s also the trailer/TV spots (“from the…makers of The Dirty Dozen!”) and commentary by film historian Dana Polan.

I originally screened this as part of a Twilight Time double-feature, pairing it with Hard Times, another excellent 1970s movie about them post-Black Tuesday days.  When the lights came up, one of our guests quietly rose, shook her head and remarked, “Now I know why they called it the Great Depression.”  I subsequently ran it with Bill Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road, which seemed to work better.  So you might want to consider a partial train theme on a two-fer, although probably not The Harvey Girls.

EMPEROR OF THE NORTH.  Color.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment. CAT # TWILIGHT171-BR.  SRP: $29.95.

Limited Edition of 3000, available exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment:  www.screenarchives.com

 

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Duke’s Duchesses

When one is asked to pick iconic Hollywood stars, the punim of John Wayne is usually one of the first to grace any buff’s celluloid mind.  And if it isn’t, it should be.  Indeed, the immediate complete visual hitting one’s cellebellum usually comprises the actor’s 6’ 4” frame attired in his favorite, slightly worn cowboy togs – bib shirt and vest, Stetson – highlighted by his trademark crinkly smile.

Remarkably, John Wayne was a major star in the Top Ten Box-Office league from the 1940s-1970s.  Can’t think of anyone who matched that.  Wayne was truly an original – the actor who had “that special something,” as the Tinsel Town wags love to say.  Natch, it’s there in those big-budget Technicolor epics from the late 1950s through mid-1960s; but, more extraordinarily, it’s there in the Poverty Row clunkers from the early 1930s, where he was relegated after the failure of his 1930 mega-buck, widescreen Fox western The Big Trail (and it’s there too!).  Hell, it’s even there in his walk-ons as an extra in pics like John Ford’s 1928 Hangman’s House.  The point is that no matter which John Wayne movie one screens, you are never disappointed.  Simply put, Wayne is Wayne.

Granted, this is a long-winded intro to a piece not necessarily about The Duke, but rather his illustrious list of female costars, themselves chronicling the history of great movie actresses.

Depending on the period, costarring with John Wayne either meant you were a starlet on your way up or a former marquee attraction on your way down.  Later, it became a rasslin’ match to see who would be lucky enough to glean the co-credit gig with the now-superstar.

If you think the list of glamorous women who shared screen time with Duke is some horrible experiment gone wrong, look again.  A mere glance at his 60-year cinema odyssey reveals such beauteous companions as Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Laraine Day, Claire Trevor, Susan Hayward, Claudette Colbert, Donna Reed, Lauren Bacall, Capucine, Sophia Loren, Angie Dickinson, Betty Field, Patricia Neal, Yvonne De Carlo, Dorothy Lamour, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth and Claudia Cardinale (the latter two in the same movie!).  And the list goes on.  It’s got to be something of record for someone to able to proudly boast that he costarred with both Geraldine Page and Vera Hruba Ralston.  But Duke did.  And triumphed admirably.

The initial four movies discussed here, span the end of Wayne indentured servitude into his post-Stagecoach leap into A-plus offerings, circa 1938-1945.  All are from the swinging saloon door entrance gates of Republic Pictures (formerly known as Mascot, Majestic and other itty-bitty B-minus studios that it enveloped like the blob – the Steve McQueen version).  The titles alone define the ascension:  OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS, FRONTIER HORIZON, LADY FOR A NIGHT and FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST (all now on Blu-Ray from Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment).

True, when one is resigned to watching an oater entitled Three Texas Steers, he or she dare not expect something of the John Ford/Howard Hawks/Raoul Walsh calibre.  Yes, folks, while the Duke may not let his fans down, these two-day wonders often do.  They certainly are not golden-age Hollywood classics of the screen, and notoriously brandish a penchant for bad direction, worse writing and godawful production values.  There is, however, one aspect that has left a stain upon movie history which must be rectified:  that these 50-minute extravaganzas are lousy looking.  Neglect, of course, was a prime factor, tarnishing their “legend” via decades of wretched, unwatchable TV/public domain prints. Thus, it’s truly astonishing to see them in brand-new 1080p 35mm transfers on Blu-Ray.  Whereas one can appropriately be appreciative of a High Def upgrade on Reap the Wild Wind (after all, one is used to seeing fine quality on a major DeMille title),  there is a definite jaw-dropping double-take in the works when it encompasses on a run-of-the-mill entry!  And that’s what makes their presence in the superior home video format way more awesome.  Crystal clarity with excellent contrast and even some dynamic sound, especially in a universe where the likes of The Quiet Man is still in crucial need of repair?  This is genuinely Bizarro World.

Oh, well, I’m veering off the trail.  Long story short:  it’s ain’t all Maureen O’Hara (although we love ya, Red).

1938’s OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS is one of those Republic having-its-cake-and-eating-it-too epics.  By that I mean it anachronistically mixes traditional Western trappings with modern 1930s technology.  In serials, that wasn’t so bad.  But switching stagecoach loot to an airplane within the same narrative tapestry is a bit on the crazed fruit side (like armored cars or trucks or Super Chief rail never existed).  It is cool to see Wayne literally parachuting into action, effortlessly switching from saddle tramp to ace aviator lawman.  Playing devil’s advocate, that’s part of the loopy fun.  More genre mating occurs when the script has the local badman import eastern gangsters to extort, rob and beat the bejeezus out of the resident ranchers.

My problem with this batch of Mesquiteers is the participation of the unbearable Max Terhune, who, aside from questionable hygiene, has the sidekick temerity to not only out-grizzle Gabby Hayes but adds revulsion to the proceedings by being a ventriloquist – although it’s often a toss-up as to who’s the real dummy.  His alter ego, Elmer, is likely the second most annoying character ever to appear in a B-western, the number one position being Terhune himself.  Surprisingly, this 55-minute effort required the talents of four writers to bring the story and script to the screen:  William Colt MacDonald, Bernard McConville, Edmond Kelso and Luci Ward.  While the dialog is certainly nothing to have Ernst Lubitsch lose any sleep over, it does (and often brutally) get the job done.  “I’ll choke the truth out of him,” merrily offers a denizen with such joy that even Wayne seems ill at ease.  Oh, yeah, and counterbalancing the agony of Terhune (and Elmer) is Wayne’s lady costar who is a genuine Lulu – none other than Louise Brooks!

RAIDERS  is directed by the prolific George Sherman, who survived in the industry into the 1970s.  His last credit is on 1971’s Big Jake, also the last Wayne picture to do blockbuster business across the country.  Sherman, who, by all accounts, was at sea with the business by the 1960s, was nevertheless under The Duke’s protection (he got a producer’s credit on The Comancheros, and, it’s generally assumed that Wayne himself directed most of Jake).  OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS was photographed by William Noble (whose career began in 1919, eventually amassing a filmography of nearly 200 features) and looks amazingly slick.

Brooks’s role is less-than-zero, or, as a female Universal-International contractee once told a pal of mine: “I was generally given the ‘wait at the fort till the fucking cavalry comes home’ parts.”  She really has little to do, appearing in close-ups while adoringly pining longingly for Duke (which, apparently, wasn’t all acting).  Many Republic ladies did get in on the action (riding, shooting, cat-fighting), but not Lulu.  It’s sort of wild seeing her with shoulder-length hair; still stunning, but very different. The movie has been called an attempt at Brooks’s comeback, but anyone who thinks a picture called OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS could bring ANY organism back – living or dead –  has obviously been munching the loco weed.  The actress was paid $300 for her couple days work, and she needed it!

The usually acerbic Brooks remembered RAIDERS and Wayne with rose-colored fondness.  She recalled arriving at the location on a cool, brisk, sunny morning.  Wayne was joking with fellow actors and crew, saw her, flashed his trademark grin, and walked over to her, hand extended.  “So great to meet you,” he blushed honestly.  Indeed, Brooks reminisced that the OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS experience was one of the best she had ever been had on any Hollywood production.  To her dying day, she defended the Duke whenever anyone made a nasty crack.  Brooks also would chuckle that OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS remained the only movie of hers that her father liked.

1939’s FRONTIER HORIZON, about a crooked reservoir land deal, is (no pun) a high-water mark for Duke.  It was one of eight Three Mesquiteer oaters he made in 1938 and ‘39 (taking over the role of Stony Brooke from Robert Livingston).  Max Terhune and famed stuntman Ray “Crash” Corrigan filled out the trio of sagebrush do-gooders in this unusual entry, penned by two women (Betty Burbridge and Luci Ward).  The reliable George Sherman directed, William Lava provided the thundering score and the wonderful cameraman Reggie Lanning shot it.  Greed has never been more lethal and/or callous than in the pic’s plot about crooked political grafters obliterating a town out of existence to line their pockets (via a lethal pipeline, no less).  Their nightmarish “pipe” dream doesn’t contain oil, but pure water – waylaid to turn a right into a privilege.  The fact that it means flooding an entire community into oblivion is of little consequence.

What makes this entry so important is that it was Wayne’s last B-series role, as between this fistful of Mesquiteer adventures was sandwiched Stagecoach.  The other “notch above the rest” factor is the female lead, beautiful newcomer Phyllis Isley.  While that name may not mean much to novice classic movie buffs, her Oscar win a mere four years later probably does – under her rechristened marquee “A” upgrade as Jennifer Jones.

Even here, as an inexperienced teen, she shows some of that smoldering sexuality that would get the horndogs a-panting in Duel in the Sun, Portrait of Jennie, Ruby Gentry and other later efforts.  What makes this even more startling is that, like most B-western heroines, she has relatively little to do (although considerably more than Brooks).

No surprise that Republic took full advantage of her meteoric rise to stardom (along with the Duke’s).  Almost immediately after The Song of Bernadette‘s release (and Academy Award track record), the studio re-issued FRONTIER HORIZON with an A-picture campaign featuring Wayne and (now) Jones receiving big above the title billing.

1942’s LADY FOR A NIGHT is a rather ambitious effort from Republic, their bid in the still viable post-GWTW Scarlett O’Hara cash cow sweepstakes.  It provides former Warner star Joan Blondell with the role of her lifetime, a crazy quilt hybrid of every wiseacre and upwardly mobile Southern minty julep ever to hit the screen.

It’s a stark departure for Wayne as well, playing a rather shady good-bad guy or bad-good guy, your choice.  Wayne and Blondell are lovers/partners who operate the floating “bawdy house” riverboat casino.  Blondell, tired of Wayne’s pussy-footing, offers the ultimatum of marriage or else.  She gets “or else,” and promptly hooks up with rich, weak and rakish Ray Middleton, heir to a withering name and an even more dilapidated plantation.  Blondell’s ill-gained fortune comes in handy to pay the bills, but Middleton’s disgusting and downright evil snobbish relatives treat her like crap, pretty much the way Blondell was often handled at Warners.  Aunt Julia (the genuinely creepy Blanche Yurka), in particular, is a couple ticks short of Mrs. Danvers (likely not an accident in Isabel Dawn’s and Boyce DeGaw’s script, from the story by Garrett Fort).  Within the compact 87-minute running time, Yurka poisons Blondell, gives her a blind horse with the instructions to whip him up, and does all other kinds of naughty things, which only accelerate after Middleton’s unsurprising death.

Wayne, meanwhile, plays it for all its political worth, even resorting to quasi-blackmail in his lust for power and his now-titled ex-paramour (which is extremely threatening to the classless upper class).

There’s a lot of cringe-worthy racist dialog, with African-Americans spouting such lip-biters as “Mr. Lincoln done emancipated and proclamated me.”  Which is more than can be said of Blondell’s character.  Nevertheless, Wayne’s rep with the ladies is given a line worthy of Preston Sturges (“I wouldn’t trust him in my garden” mutters a supposed lady of quality).

The fog-shrouded bayou mansion itself is a Lovecraftian masterpiece, and why Blondell would pour her dough into an upgrade renovation from foreboding horror to one of mere titillating terror (especially considering its ungrateful inhabitants and her Dickensian treatment) is a mystery that is never fully solved.

LADY FOR A NIGHT is certainly a strange movie for the studio, and, being a Republic picture, there’s lots of action to bounce off the psychological shenanigans.  It’s also a fascinating stop-off point for Blondell, on her way from featured player to character actress.  She and Wayne work rather well together.  There’s also some fine support from the strong additional cast members, including Philip Merivale, Edith Barrett, Leonid Kinskey and one-time silent screen star Carmel Myers.  While director Leigh Jason adequately, at best, keeps the narrative moving, the camerawork by Norbert Brodine is first-rate, as is the score by David Buttolph and Cy Feuer.

The movie was a box-office bonanza for Republic and ultimately ended up as a footnote in American history.  So impressed were U.S.A.F. flyers Robert K. Morgan and Jim Verinis with LADY FOR A NIGHT that they christened their new fighter plane after Wayne and Blondell’s riverboat, The Memphis Belle.

Once one is apprised of the situation that FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST takes place in 1906, the die has been inevitably cast.  Indeed, before savvy viewers can say “Lydecker Brothers” (Republic’s superb SFX mavens), one can practically hear the rumbling of cracking sidewalks and cascades of shattering glass storefronts.  Yup, the quake plays a relevant part of this unusual drama, another A-picture entry from the Herbert Yates racing stable.

Once again, Duke plays a shady character (actually named Duke), determined to carve a personal empire out of the raucous title vicinity – eventually cracking the Snob Hill crowd with two-fisted vengeance.

He almost meets his match in the smart ‘n’ sassy form of Flaxen, played to sensual perfection by the always magnificent Ann Dvorak.  Dvorak shakes it up with as almost a cataclysmic effect as the pic’s other awesome force of nature, effortlessly tossing her hips and one-liners with equal abandon; she even sings in French.  The former Warners pre-Code goddess had literally just returned from the wars, having relocated to Britain with her English husband actor-director Leslie Fenton.  Dvorak spent the years across the pond driving ambulances and going all out for defense.  Like the war, Dvorak’s marriage was over, and back she was in the States fortunate enough to be costarring with one of Hollywood’s now top screen attractions.  It’s a showy role for the actress, one of few that she would be able to attach herself to as she entered her late thirties (of course, some great bits were still ahead: The Private Affairs of Bel Ami, The Long Night, A Life of Her Own, albeit not always in lead parts).  Admittedly, there are flaws in FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST; action director Joseph Kane seems a bit in over his head anytime four-legged fillies are replaced by the two-legged kind, but the script by Borden Chase, sprinkled with some rather frank dialog, keeps things a-hoppin’ (the lavish, crisp black-and-white photography by Robert de Grasse is another plus).

A strange aspect of FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST is the third lead, supposed dastardly villain Joseph Schildkraut (as a disgraced aristocrat adept in stabbing folks in the back with stiletto or verbal barb).  That he turns out to be not such a rotten egg is a nod to Chase; of course, even the most unsophisticated cine aficionado doesn’t have to scratch his/her head when faced with the dilemma over who Dvorak would chose, John Wayne or Joseph Schildkraut.  There are many other delectable thespian pleasures, key being the welcoming presence of Virginia Grey.  In fact, the supporting cast is quite superb (notably sleazy Paul Fix and inebriated Jack Norton), featuring a gaggle of B-western faces (Rex Lease, Eddie Acuff, Tom London, Bud Geary, Frank Hagney) mixed in with silent stars long past their due dates (Philo McCullough, Jack Mulhall).  Chief amongst the primo support is William Frawley, as the ace gambler who teaches Wayne the art of grifting.  His sexual references to a deck of cards (“They’re a whole lot like women, usually when you pick one up, you wish you hadn’t”) are delivered with his trademark curmudgeonly crust.  Another exchange about horses prefigures the risque byplay in Hawks’s The Big Sleep, released a year later (“A little hot, very nice, good head…carries herself well”).  And there’s an extremely interesting behavioral facet regarding Wayne’s character’s obsession with the Pacific Ocean (in a way, a precursor of Gabriele Ferzetti’s similar “jones” in 1969’s Once Upon a Time in the West).

Wayne and Dvorak are excellent together and just slippery enough to slosh through both the human and non-human disasters with saucy and rewarding panache.  Should warn you, though – I’d watch Ann Dvorak in anything, so, like the plot points in this movie, the deck was already as stacked as Flaxen (in my favor) before the disc (which looks terrific) started spinning.

All Blu-Rays in black-and-white; full frame (1.37:1; 1080p High Definition); mono (DTS-HD MA).  Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment. SRP: @$29.95

 

OVERLAND STAGE RAIDERS: UPC: 887090047401; Cat #: OF474.

FRONTIER HORIZON: UPC: 887090052405; Cat #: OF524.

LADY FOR A NIGHT: UPC: 887090054805; Cat #: OF548.

FLAME OF THE BARBARY COAST: UPC: 887090066402; Cat #: OF664.

 

 

 

The Pig Parade

The Volga boatmen ain’t got nothing on the vulgar horsemen, as evidenced by the 1928 late silent MGM action-romance THE COSSACKS, now on made-to-order DVD-R from the Warner Archive Collection.

Based on the 1863 Tolstoy novel, THE COSSACKS, adapted by the always-reliable Frances Marion (titles by John Colton), tells the tale of a violent band of Russians who thought nothing of ravishing and ravaging their own to satiate their primal animal lust.  Of course, this is partially understandable, as it was decades before the advent of karaoke, so what’s a goy to do?

Amidst these extra chromosome-carrying ruffians emerges Lukashka, spectacularly envisioned by era superstar John Gilbert.  Lukashka is unlike his fellow Neanderthals (and Neanderthallettes); he enjoys the beauty of nature, and even reads.  Not surprisingly, he is the pariah of the tribe.  This is unfortunate for two reasons: one, Ivan, his brute of a father, is the village alderman (a robust performance by Ernest Torrence; Donald Crisp presumably being otherwise detained torturing Lillian Gish) and the love of his life, Maryana (gorgeous Renee Adoree) despises girly-men like Gilbert (“Keep away, lover of sunflower seeds!,” she spits at him, the ultimate Rooskie mean devushka snap).

But things are about to change.  After a victorious skirmish with the hated Muslim Turks, Torrence and Company celebrate by belittling the prisoners almost as much as their own women and sickly clan members.  The escape of some of these jackals proves to be the last straw, as they have stolen some horses – the most prized commodity of the Cossacks.  It is here where Lukashka has no equal, an expert equestrian of the Will Rogers Barnum & Bailey variety.  Rape, pillage and kill, but dare not touch a hair of the mane of our steeds…Or something along those lines.  In an incredible sequence of stunt work, Lukashka gallops after the thieves and nearly singlehandedly snuffs ’em flat like yesterday’s blintzes.

Papa is so proud of the carnage, but, more remarkably, Lukashka has piqued his inner Cossack, instantly developing a taste for blood; Ferdinand the Bull is now Sammy the Bull.  It’s an amazing transformation – again a nod to Gilbert’s abilities as an actor.  Of course, all the local babe-booshkas are now warm for his form, including Adoree who gets a dose of her own medicine; it’s Gilbert’s turn now to be a mean girl…well, you follow what I’m saying.  As all movie buffs worth their salt know, Lukashka’s and Maryana’s mutual growing animosity can only imply one thing: they’re mad about each other.

But there’s yet another anvil blow to the head about to be delivered:  the arrival of Prince Olenin Stieshneff, the Tsar’s royal messenger (Nils Asther).  Asther’s mission is two-fold:  to promote peace between the Cossacks and the Muslims and to choose a Cossack woman for upper crust breeding purposes; in effect, to add some of that wild, hotcha spice into the sluggish blueblood line.  Guess whom he chooses?  Asther, who refers to the village females as turnip women, indoctrinates Adoree into believing that pure Cossack love is reserved for the lower forms of animal life, an affectionate sweet nothing which she passes on to her mother (Dale Fuller, la femme pathetique of von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives, Greed, The Merry Widow and The Wedding March).

Meanwhile, Torrence refuses to relinquish his title of Turk Killer, and commands his progeny to compose a rather rude FU letter to the nearest Wizir (aka, Sultan Pot Boy).  These high school antics take on horrendous repercussions far exceeding the most severe Lifetime Movie.

The royal carriage transporting Adoree and Asther back to the Tsar’s palace is attacked and Adoree taken hostage.

When word of this outrage reaches Gilbert and Torrence, they lead a charge to the Muslim camp, determined to “slit every throat that gurgles in these mountains.”

As one might expect, THE COSSACKS isn’t your standard MGM bit o’fluff.  Truth be told, it’s one of the most sanguine, raw movies I’ve ever seen – silent or sound.  The climatic, grueling torture scenes make the Saw and Hostel franchises look like an Ace Hardware ad.

Not surprisingly, the studio’s response to the rough cut was akin to the initial first-nighters’ gasp at Springtime for Hitler.  Director George Hill (who would embellish his later 1930 pre-Code classic The Big House with this same kind of visceral, savage energy) was chastised by the powers that be.  Clarence Brown was called in to humanize the highfalutin’ Cossacks. Hill argued that these were passionate people – scumbags, but passionate people.  Indeed, the unorthodox pagan activities of the orthodox Christian denizens of Cossackville was not all that different from the goings-on in Gogol’s Taras Bulba; but, literally, that’s another story.  Hill’s beseeching fell upon lopped-off ears, and Brown prevailed.

The picture, the seventh of eight teamings between Gilbert and Adoree, was a huge hit in 1928, and why not?  The production is nearly as gorgeous as its leads, with no expense spared, including the plasma.

THE COSSACKS is a textbook of classic screen design (Alexander Toluboff) and art direction (Cedric Gibbons), sumptuously photographed by Percy Hilburn.  Actual Cossacks (hopefully, retired) were recruited to append the riding expertise of the troops of Gower Gulch cowboys. While the picture never gets to play the Palace (where a Stroheim version, no doubt, would have just begun), and, arguably looks rushed in its last act (the Muslim-ambushed carriage emulating the kind of stuff Apaches vented upon untold stagecoaches), THE COSSACKS is Grade-A entertainment, a superb example of silent screen excitement at its peak.  That said, the most difficult demand on modern audiences is not unspooling a non-speaking photoplay, but rather its unspeakable the (female-penned) narrative’s rampant misogyny and racism (the one cultural idea both Gilbert’s and Asther’s characters embrace is to “treat women like horses and horses like women”).

Aside from the aforementioned thesps, THE COSSACKS also features Paul Hurst, Mary Alden, Sidney Bracey, and, supposedly, a young would-be stuntman later turned comedian named Lou Costello.  I couldn’t find him, but, honestly, wasn’t meticulously looking, being caught up in the non-stop goring and whoring.

Like many top 1928 releases, THE COSSACKS had a synchronized track (by Dr. William Axt) and sound effects.  Bizarrely, it’s the picture portion that survives while the audio discs appear to have be lost (usually it’s the other way around); the Warner Archive transfer has been mastered from (mostly) terrific 35mm materials. A recent excellent score by Robert Israel accompanies the stunning and startling visuals.

The original poster art for THE COSSACKS (that graces the Warner Archive cover) comprises Gilbert, galloping away – a half-naked Eastern European woman straddled over his saddle – conceivably returning from a robust weekend of Muslim-killing.  It’s like a Donald Trump Club Med fantasy.  Again, if one can overlook some of the more dicey aspects of the scenario, one might gain a better hook on the enduring Gilbert mystique; I suspect novice viewers will far more prefer the most famous of the Gilbert-Adoree pictures (The Big Parade) or the Gilbert-Garbo pairings.  In any event, I heartily suggest those interested to pick up a copy of the wonderful biography 2013 John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden (University of Press of Kentucky; http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=3162#.Vtx11fkrJD8).  I guarantee that regardless how your 2016 psyches respond to any or all of the above, but particularly THE COSSACKS, you won’t be bored!

THE COSSACKS.  Black and white.  Full frame [1.37:1]; 2.0 stereo-surround [Robert Israel track].  Warner Archive Collection.  CAT# 1000541751. SRP:  $21.99.

Available exclusively through the Warner Archive Collection:  www.warnerarchive.com

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Out of the Passport

“They’d paint eyes on my eyelids, man, and I’d walk through it,” was a classic admission from Robert Mitchum regarding his less than inspiring directors. For much of its 100-minute running time that’s the “what you see is what you get” results of the nonetheless entertaining 1956 spy romp FOREIGN INTRIGUE, now on Blu-ray from Kino Classics/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.

The movie is a Swifty Lazar fantasy come true – an “art of the deal” arrangement comprising a then burgeoning cottage industry for now studio-free independent stars.  Long story short, two words, profit-sharing (or one with a hyphen).  United Artists was key for setting up these contracts, and by the mid-late1950s, had already lured the likes of Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, David Niven, Robert Wise, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, John Huston and Billy Wilder into multi-picture deals.  Robert Mitchum’s addition to that roster was a quite a coup, to say the least.

The concept of FOREIGN INTRIGUE was the brainchild of writer-producer-director Sheldon Reynolds, whose connection to the industry was primarily from television; in fact, that, too, was the origin of FOREIGN INTRIGUE.  It was a top-rated adventure series since its 1951 debut, lasting until 1955.  It brought a number of talented actors into the public’s view, including semi-regulars James Daly and Gerald Mohr.  The big hook of the show was the actual overseas locations, an enticing novelty for the medium.

With the show now relegated to the musty vaults of syndication, Reynolds proposed to UA a big-screen version in color and widescreen, and with a major star.  UA bit the carrot, and Mitchum, newly aligned with the studio, readily agreed as part of his initial foray into coproduction (Mitchum had hit the ground running for UA in 1955, scoring the art-house favorite Night of the Hunter and the box-office smash Not as a Stranger).  The actor’s piece-of-the-action slice was a pact between United Artists, Reynolds and the star’s wife Dorothy, culminating in the formation of D-R-M Productions.  The actor’s critics have been unkind to his project choices (this pic, the western Man with the Gun and the Mexican Revolution saga Bandido!), but, in retrospect, they were three solid, safe moves.  FOREIGN INTRIGUE had been a huge TV series and had name recognition; furthermore, 1954’s The Long, Long Trailer, while not officially an I Love Lucy movie, nevertheless was essentially a large-scale extension of the sitcom, sans the Mertzes (Lucy and Ricky now being Tacy and Nicky).  In addition, Our Miss Brooks was going into production at Warner Bros., as was a Lone Ranger feature film, so, well, you get the picture.  Man with the Gun was a natural as westerns were hot in 1955, and, thus, a wise strategy for anyone wanting to get their producer’s feet wet (it was said at the time that westerns were the only guaranteed genre that couldn’t lose money).  Bandido! was obviously drenched in Latin flavor, so popular then in culture and music; besides, the actual locations (keeping high-paid performers out of the country for long periods of time) held other advantages, providing actors and actresses with tax-saving incentives (aside from Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Gary Cooper, Anthony Quinn, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, and Gregory Peck all spent much of their 1950s career working outside the United States).

On the surface, FOREIGN INTRIGUE plays like one of the movies Mitchum screamed about fleeing RKO from, what he called the “pounded to death by the gorillas” picture.  The star swore that RKO would barely finish one potboiler, slap a new title page on the same script, and put it back into production.  FOREIGN INTRIGUE upped the ante by paying Mitchum more money, offering a share of the gross and giving him an all-expense paid vacation to glamourous and exciting locales for both him (and, likely, his family).

The problem with FOREIGN INTRIGUE is the jack-of-all-trades multi-tasking efforts of Reynolds.  He may have been an adequate producer, but as a writer and director, he definitely was not ready for prime time.  The movie seems to be a labyrinth montage of endless footage involving a trenchcoat-attired (and tired) Mitchum prowling the dark alleyways of the otherwise desirable cities of Monte Carlo, Nice, Vienna and Stockholm.

That said, there is enough to recommend the picture, especially to Mitchum fans.  While the screenplay ain’t exactly North by Northwest, the original story by Harold Jack Bloom and Gene Levitt is actually quite…well, intriguing.  Mitchum portrays Dave Bishop, a publicist hired by a famed millionaire to “create a past for him.”  When his client is murdered, Mitchum is reluctantly tossed into the kind of dark, murky pit Dick Powell was always trying to crawl out of (mostly, post-Ruby Keeler).  The millionaire, it is revealed, was one of several Allied-friendly entrepreneurs hailing from (mostly) neutral countries during World War II; turns out that many of these pillars of society’s fortunes were made by their collaboration with Hitler and the Nazi regime.  With their past traitorous activities threatening to come to light, one of the group is intent on violently liquidating the remaining members.

Reynolds directs his international cast (including Mr. Arkadin‘s Frederic O’Brady, an interesting choice as there are some fleeting parallels to the Welles movie) as if they’re being fed intravenously via a coaxial cable.  In other words, you can take Sheldon Reynolds out of the TV station, but can’t take the TV station out of Reynolds.  Having his thesps hit their respective accents hard and loud plays like a Your Show of Shows movie parody sketch (no kidding, there’s an array of memorable and hilarious sinister red herrings, including a blind housekeeper, Howard Hughes-type mystery men from the Harvey Korman School of Subtlety, Get Smart bumbling assassins, Schick ad-ready square-jaw American agents, etc., etc.).  Though I must say, Mitchum, even when sleepwalking in his alter ego as Zombie Mitchum, never disappoints, proof positive via his admirably speaking fluent French in one sequence.

Even those who don’t parlais vous francais will find Mitchum’s Gaelic abilities far more palatable than Reynolds’s English dialog, which is lip-biting borderline awful (“I’ll be there when I hear from you or when I don’t”).  Mitchum, pro that he is, rises above it (his trademark apathetic understated response to his late employer’s non-mourning trophy wife widow: “You’re prostrate with grief”), even suggesting that he may have improvised on his own.

The women in FOREIGN INTRIGUE are a definite plus, but Reynolds, once again, fails to generate any chemistry between Mitchum and subsequent Ingmar Bergman favorite Ingrid Thulin.  That said, there is a sorta spark ignited betwixt the actor and bad girl Genevieve Page (in her movie debut).

But, hey, crazy me, I like movies where action heroes are press agents.  And the real-life locations do help.  No foolin’, FOREIGN INTRIGUE is beautifully shot in Eastmancolor (print by Technicolor) by Bertil Palmgren.

And then there’s the soundtrack.

The one huge success of the movie was the title theme.  While the score of the flick was nicely composed by Paul Durand, the jazzy main instrumental tune, what became known as the “Foreign Intrigue Concerto” (by Charlie Norman), skyrocketed to the top of the pop charts.  Since approximately 80 minutes of the movie encompasses Mitchum skulking through rain-soaked streets accompanied by this ditty (which also seemingly plays constantly in the background of dialog scenes), one becomes infected by the contagious melody.  I seriously wondered if Bishop/Mitchum was genuinely stalking the villains, or simply wanting to know where the hell that music was coming from.  Personally, I couldn’t get the damn thing out of my head, humming the piece for two days after I had screened it.  It bounced around my cranium while I was putting together bookshelves, it haunted me on my way to the post office, and, ultimately, it took over my life.  Indeed, I found myself stealthily darting in and out of doorways en route to the local strip mall Food Universe, suspiciously eyeing deadly senior citizens and their lethal walkers.  Finally, the “Foreign Intrigue Concerto” even followed me into the bathroom where I feebly tried to justify its presence by reasonably pairing it with the aftermath of a Thai dinner.

The Kino Classics Blu-Ray of FOREIGN INTRIGUE is pretty good.  The picture, while displaying some wear in the optical department, generally looks clean and spiffy in its 35mm 1.85:1 dimensions.  The mono audio, with its combination of dubbing and wild sound, is uniformly crisp and fine.  As a bonus, Kino has cleverly included trailers to other Mitchum UA titles on their roster, including Man with the Gun and The Wonderful Country.

Bottom line, in spite of its shortcomings, I’ll opt for watching FOREIGN INTRIGUE any day over a box set of Bourne-again cretins.  In fact, I kinda have a hankering to give it another spin now.  Oh, crap – there’s that song again!

FOREIGN INTRIGUE.  Color.  Widescreen [1.85: 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.  CAT # K1680.  SRP: $29.95.

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