Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) | The neo-noir psychosexual oddity starring Sal Mineo restored in HD
Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazz sounds and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against a sleazy New York City nightclub and ‘Hey Presto!’ you’ve got Who Killed Teddy Bear?, which is now getting a worldwide Blu-ray release from Network Distributing in the UK.
From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 neo-noir American indie reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by Marian, a fierce-but-fair lesbian (played by the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).
Spinning the decks in the dingy club littered with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).
Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s chain-smoking Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night in his tight white briefs. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.
Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom (now, that’s just not right!). Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho…
I won’t spoil the rest for you, but the gritty Times Square location shots and overt sexualisation of Mineo’s sweaty toned body (check out the slideshow for a taster) makes this curio a must-see. The catchy discotheque numbers, meanwhile, are by Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (who wrote those Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).
Who Killed Teddy Bear is a forgotten neo-noir oddity of American independent cinema that rightly deserves high cult status. Previously available only on DVD, the film has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving 35mm prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Missing frames/sections have been re-instated from a 16mm print and the image matched as far as possible but a difference in visual quality may be occasionally noticed. While their are some scenes where print damage is still visible, this new scan is a huge improvement on the 2009 DVD release.
Network Distributing’s Blu-ray (out on 17 September 2018) also carries over the extras from the DVD, including The House Where He Lived, an episode of the 1960s TV series Court Martial, in which Mineo guest stars alongside Anthony Quayle; and 1967 short, LSD: Insight or Insanity, narrated by Mineo, in which some questionable old men in white coats outline the dangers of taking the drug.
Miss Leslie’s Dolls (1973) | This demented schlock horror is a camp delight!
Whatever you do, don’t go by the IMDb listing for this 1970s schlockfest, which is supposed to be about ‘a gay drag queen with a mother fixation who terrorizes a city, hunting down, killing and dismembering women’. While that sounds like something I’d rather like to see, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is actually about a maniac obsessed with transporting her spirit into the bodies of young women, while the ‘dolls’ of the title are the preserved corpses of the girls she failed to possess.
With long black Morticia Addams hair, bushy eyebrows and five o’clock shadow, and dressed in a matronly purple robe, Miss Leslie looks like Aleister Crowley in Norma Bates drag. Now it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she’s being played by a bloke (Miami theatre actor Salvador Ugarte) being dubbed by a woman, but it all makes sense in the end and the road to the reveal is an absolute hoot.
This trangressive spin on the Old Dark House and House of Wax sees students Martha (Kitty Lewis), Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Roy (Charles Pitt) and their teacher Alma (Terri Juston) seeking shelter from a storm at Miss Leslie’s remote home in the woods.
On setting eyes on the lonely middle-age woman’s tableaux of female statues, the teens suspect her of belonging to some weird love cult, but Miss Leslie explains that she has long held a fascination for dolls and for creating life size ones as her family once owned a doll factory that was burned down in a fire. Martha, meanwhile, is the spitting image of the girl Miss Leslie was in love with 20 years ago.
Things go all Thundercrack meets Psycho as soon as the lights go out, with the students and their teacher getting in some bed swapping and heavy petty (Roy’s a bit of a sex god, and there’s some girl-on-girl action), while ‘girl worshipper’ Miss Leslie heads to the cellar for an emotional heart-to-heart with the skull of her dead mother, whom she blames for her murderous acts. We then learn that all Miss Leslie wants in life is to be desired – and to do that, she needs to be reincarnated into the body of a young woman. Oh dear… there are three potential candidates upstairs!
What happens next is really ‘Out there!’ – with the standout scenes involving the waxwork ‘dolls’ coming to lurid life; Martha, Lily and Roy being chased by Miss Leslie armed with an axe dripping in blood, and a drugged Alma, dressed in baby doll negligee and fluffy mules, trying to escape from the deranged maniac. So does Miss Leslie succeed in her spirit swapping? Well you’ll have to see the film to find out. But I can reveal that’s there’s a neat twist at the end.
For decades this would-be cult classic was considered lost, and doesn’t even get a mention in any of my cult film reference books, including Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopaedia (my go-to book for the weird, the strange and the freakish). But kudos to Network Distributing and The Erotic Film Society’s Julian Marsh for unearthing this hidden gem (which I’ve now watched three times).
As I’ve mentioned, the film shares its DNA with a host of other genre classics, with Psycho being the obvious one. Shot at the same studios in Florida where Hershell Gordon Lewis lensed his grand guignol offerings, it has the look and feel of the godfather of gore’s grindhouse flicks (especially Gruesome Twosome), but also has shades of Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda and even Beyond the Valley of the Dolls running through its exploitation veins.
There’s much debate as to who really directed this bizarre cinematic experience, which is all explained in the booklet, written by film historian Laura Mayne, which accompanies Network’s release, but that doesn’t matter, as this is a hugely enjoyable slice of cheap and sleazy 1970s horror, which also benefits from an unusual score by the film’s screenwriter (Ralph Remy Jr as Imer Leaf) that fuses the space-age electronic sounds of Bebe and Louis Barron’s music to Forbidden Planet (1955) with Bobby Beausoleil’s otherworldly orchestral score to Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972).
Newly scanned from one of the few surviving prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 3 September from Network.
The Naked Civil Servant (1975) | John Hurt’s Bafta-winning turn as gay icon Quentin Crisp restored in HD
Originally broadcast on UK TV in December 1975, this Bafta-winning adaptation of Quentin Crisp’s best-selling autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, boasts a career-best performance by the late John Hurt as Crisp – a flamboyant south London engineer’s tracer turned artist’s model living an openly gay lifestyle during the intolerant pre-war years, where he proudly challenges the authorities that seek to suppress him and his kind.
Blackly comic, poignant and yet also life-affirming, this courageous story about a very unconventional British eccentric is masterfully directed by Jack Gold (The Medusa Touch, Escape from Sobibor), from a screenplay by Philip Mackie (TV’s Raffles), and executive produced by Doctor Who’s Verity Lambert.
It also boasts some colourful turns from the likes of Shane Briant as a cross dressing male prostitute called Norma and Patricia Hodge as an Isadora Duncan-styled ballet teacher. But kudos go to Stanley Lebor as the tragic Mr Pole (his descent into madness will have you reaching for some tissues).
One of the most significant LGBT British-made TV dramas of all time, the Thames Television production gave Hurt his first Best Actor Bafta and turned Crisp into an instant international celebrity and a gay icon.
The self-proclaimed ‘Stately Homo’ was hailed as a modern-day Oscar Wilde due to his aphoristic witticisms which led him into creating a successful one-man show and publishing further works including 1996’s Resident Alien (which inspired 2009’s An Englishman in New York, also with John Hurt). Crisp died, aged 91, in 1999.
Check out his archives here: http://www.crisperanto.org/index1.html
Voted fourth in BFI’s Top 100 TV programmes of 20th Century, The Naked Civil Servant has been restored in high-definition from the original film elements.
With 2017 marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, it’s the perfect time time revisit the film, which also gets a special cinema screening on 28 May at a number of selected venues nationwide part of Picturehouse Cinemas’ Criminal Acts season. For more information go to: https://www.picturehouses.com/film/the-naked-civil-servant
Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Network on June 5 2017
THE NETWORK RELEASE
• HD feature version (HD Blu-ray exclusive), restored from the original film elements and presented in its original 1:33:1 picture ratio with the ad-breaks removed
• Commentary with John Hurt, director Jack Gold and executive producer Verity Lambert
• Seven Men: Quentin Crisp – a Granada profile from 1971
• Mavis Catches Up with Quentin Crisp: an interview from 1989
• Image gallery
• Philip Mackie’s original script (PDF)
ALSO… CHECK OUT THIS UNRESTORED VIDEO OF QUENTIN CRISP’S ONE-MAN SHOW
UFO: The Complete Series on Blu-ray | Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s cult sci-fi returns in a stunning new HD restoration
After 10 years development in top secrecy beneath a London film studio, Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation (aka SHADO) goes live on 16 September 1980. Its aim – to combat the threat of an alien invasion from a dying race that abducts humans to repair their own decaying bodies. SHADO’s dedicated operatives, headed up by Commander Ed Straker (Ed Bishop), fight a covert war against Earth’s terrifying new menace: on land, sea, air and in space!
The first live-action television series from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, UFO remains a benchmark sci-fi production, featuring solid storylines, superior special effects and a blast of a cast. Long-awaited on Blu-ray, it’s presented here in a pristine new HD restoration, with all 26 episodes offering original mono or 5.1 soundtracks, alongside the following special features:
• From Earth to the Moon: New feature-length documentary featuring interviews with many of the surviving cast. (Just wait until you hear Wanda Ventham’s views on Star Trek and that famous son of hers, Benedict Cumberbatch – it’s a hoot – as is Ayshea Brough’s memory of the show).
• The Women of UFO: New documentary discussing the improving sexual equality depicted in the series.
• Identified: SHADO New Recruits Briefing: New SHADO briefing film narrated by Matt Zimmerman.
• 600-page collector’s book edited by archive TV historian Andrew Pixley.
• Dolby 5.1 audio mix, as well as existing as-transmitted mono audio.
• Film material, including textless episode title backgrounds, textless end titles, stock footage, TV spots, extra footage for Identified and Exposed, unused footage from Timelash and The Long Sleep, and Italian trailers.
• Audio commentaries: Identified with Gerry Anderson and Sub-Smash with Ed Bishop.
• S.I.D. Computer Voice Session and audio out-takes for these sessions and Kill Straker!
• Archive Ed Bishop audio interview from 1986.
• Tomorrow Today: Future fashions with Sylvia Anderson (be warned, there’s also a disturbing interview with a burns patient).
• Extensive image galleries.
• Ron Embleton-designed poster (at the time of time of writing, the first pressing was sold out and this was only available if you bought the box-set direct from networkonair.com).
• Also available from Amazon (while stocks last)
All Night Long (1962) | Basil Dearden’s jazz-fuelled drama that swings to a Shakespearean beat
Patrick McGoohan headlines director Basil Dearden’s modern dress, modern jazz adaptation of Othello, with jazz greats Charlie Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth and Tubby Hayes appearing as themselves.
Musical comedy star Paul Harris plays Aurelius Rex, a musician whose wife, Delia (Marti Stevens), gave up a prosperous singing career when she accepted his hand in marriage. But the peaceful structure of their relationship is shattered during a late night warehouse party in Bermondsey, when ambitious drummer Johnny Cousin (McGoohan) uses every dirty trick to woo Delia into working with him.
This powerful psychological drama is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of Network’s ‘The British Film’ collection, and is presented in a new High Definition transfer from original film elements in its original, as-exhibited aspect ratio. The special features include original theatrical trailer and an image gallery.
All Night Long also makes its Channel Premiere today at 9.40pm on Talking Pictures (Sky 343, Freeview/Youview 81, Freesat 306).
Watch the skies! Invasion: UFO gets an exclusive release in HD!
Ahead of the restored Blu-ray release of Gerry Anderson’s cult 1970s sci-fi series UFO later this year in the UK, the feature-length compilation Invasion: UFO is now available to buy on Blu-ray exclusively through: networkonair.com.
Earth’s greatest fear becomes a reality when UFOs are finally confirmed – the aliens come from a dying planet millions of light years away, seeking human organs to repair their own decaying bodies. And mankind’s only hope at stopping the alien terror is SHADO, a top secret defence organisation headed up by Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), a former American Air Force Colonel, and his loyal team including first officer (George Sewell) Alex Freeman, computer specialist Virgina Lake (Wanda Ventham) and former test pilot Paul Foster (Michael Billington).
Created on videotape for syndication in Europe and America, Invasion: UFO is an amalgamation of the episodes Identified, Computer Affair and Reflections in the Water. To bridge continuity gaps, segments from ESP and Confetti Check A-OK were also used, while the ending was taken from The Man Who Came Back. If you have never seen the series before, then this makes for fantastic taste of things to come.
Having been resized in full 16:9 widescreen from restored High Definition elements sourced from the original 35mm negatives, Invasion: UFO looks better than it has ever been, and is presented here with both original mono and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. The special extras include the original 1980 videotape version (which just shows how much work has gone into the restoration), the 1980 trailer, full-frame opening and end titles, and textless end titles.
Terrahawks | Watch out Earth scum! Gerry Anderson’s crazy children’s Supermacromation sci-fi invades in HD
Having turned to live action drama in the 1970s following his 1960s Supermarionation hits Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, Gerry Anderson returned to puppeteering in the 1980s with the Supermacromation sci-fi, Terrahawks, which he co-created with Christopher Burr.
The show, set in 2020, introduced a new generation of kids to a brand new elite force, headed by Tiger Ninestein, whose loyal crew (both human and zeroid) matched wits and state-of-the-art weaponry with a hideous-looking android crone called Zelda, as she attempted to dominate all ‘Earth scum’ with her cyrogenically-suspended monster squad.
With its latex Muppet-style hand puppets and cheap special effects, some critics called it a cut-price Thunderbirds, but the show, which ran for 39 episodes between 1983 and 1986, has become quite the cult in its own right thanks to the quote-worthy tongue-in-cheek humour, the crazy creature designs, and scene-stealing vocal performances from Windsor Davies as bullish zeroid, Sergeant Major Zero, and Labyrinth‘s Denise Bryer as Zelda (who reminded me of a potty-mouthed Witchie-Poo from HR Pufnstuf).
From Network in the UK comes the first 13 episodes, presented for the first time in High Definition from the best available materials, in their original as-transmitted aspect ratio, and with the following special features:
• Geronimo! Terrahawks SFX with Steve Begg and Terry Adlam (HD) (30min)
• The Composer’s Perspective with Richard Harvey (HD) (20min)
• Zeroids vs Cubes: Zero’s 1980s Party cartoon (2:16) (HD)
• FX Reel (HD) (14min)
• The Price is Right audio episode (SD) (35min)
• Glass Onion music video (SD)
• Image gallery (HD)
• Expect the Unexpected: VHS Version (SD)
• Script and Annual PDFs
• Steve Begg Concept art and storyboards
Timeslip (1970) | It’s back to the future with the British TV children’s sci-fi fantasy
The groundbreaking 1970s British TV children’s drama, Timeslip, gets a limited edition DVD set, featuring all 26 episodes of the four serials, a host of special features, and a ‘making of’ book from Network Releasing this week.
Devised by Ruth Boswell (The Tomorrow People and Shadows), Timeslip fused hard science and fantasy in its tale of two teenagers who discover the existence of a ‘time barrier’ that enables them to travel to different periods and locations – from World War Two to chilling visions of the future.
In The Wrong End of Time, teenagers Liz (Cheryl Burfield) and Simon (Spencer Banks), who are holidaying in St Oswald in the Midlands, are sent back in time to 1940 when the local naval base was taken over by German marines. In The Time of the Ice Box, they find themselves mistaken for scientific guinea pigs at an Arctic research station 20 years in the future.
The third serial, The Year of the Burn Up, sees our young heroes in an alternate 1990, where the misuse of science threatens the Earth. And, returning to the present day in The Day of the Clone, Simon goes in search of a missing Liz and has a fateful encounter with Charles Traynor (Dennis Quilley) – the man who put the duo on their time-travels in the first place.
Wasn’t the series made in colour?
With the exception of four episodes (parts 2 to 5 of Day of the Clone), the series was filmed in colour. However, the colour master tapes were found to be badly damaged in the 1980s – with only episode six of Time of the Ice Box remaining intact. This meant that only 16mm black and white film recordings, originally made for overseas sales, were all that remained. It was these that have been used for all subsequent video releases. However, the Time of the Ice Box colour episode is included in Network’s release.
• Behind the Barrier: 2009 feature-length documentary
• Beyond the Barrier: mini-episode
• ‘Making Of’ book by archive TV historian Andrew Pixley
• Back to the Barrier 2003: the cast return to the series location
• Day of the Clone 2007: Convention footage
• PDF archive featuring scripts and production paperwork
• Image gallery
• Disc text features – including an overview of Timeslip comic strip artist Mike Noble
Timeslip is released by Network as a limited edition DVD box-set (buy it here)
For more on the show check out the fan website: http://www.timeslip.org.uk/
Revenge (1971) | James Booth and Joan Collins are out for blood in the sensational X-rated British shocker!
If you look in the basement… be prepared to SCREAM!
Following the murder of his young daughter Jenny, publican Jim Radford (James Booth) is persuaded by his best mate Harry (Ray Barratt) to hunt down the suspected child killer who has just been freed by the police and extract a confession from him.
Aided by his 18-year-old son Lee (Tom Marshall), Jim and Harry abduct loner Seely (Kenneth Griffith), then lock him up in the pub’s cellar where they beat him to a pulp under the watchful eye of Jim’s wife Carol (Joan Collins). But keeping their quarry a secret from the police and the pub’s punters while they decide what to do next puts their loyalties to the test…
Welcome to the Inn of the Frightened People
With tight direction from Sidney Hayers (Circus of Horrors, Night of the Eagle) and a script bristling with tension and melodrama from The Saint screenwriter John Kruse, Revenge was one of the most lurid British thrillers to come out of the 1970s, and quite the departure for producer Peter Rogers, who was better known for the Carry On films.
But there’s quite the carry-on happening down at The Crown pub where James Booth’s landlord Ray must decide the fate of the man he’s got tied up cellar – is he really responsible for his daughter’s death or has he been falsely accused? While Kruse’s script touches on the very emotive subject of child killers and sex offenders that’s still very relevant today, it concerns itself more about matters of conscience. For Ray, it’s the nagging thought that he may have gone to far; for Lee, it’s being unable to perform for girlfriend Rose (Sinéad Cusack), and for Carol, it’s all about looking the other way.
Working entirely on location and shooting in vivid Eastmancolor, Hayers (coming directly off TV’s The Avengers) and cinematographer Ken Hodges (The Shuttered Room) make excellent use of the pub’s nooks and crannies and surrounding suburban streets (in Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire), which lend the proceedings a suitably claustrophobic air – all the better for the ensuring drama to heat up as Ray, Carol and Lee try to cover their tracks, and tensions start to fray, climaxing (no pun intended) in the film’s most sordid scene in which Lee engages in rough sex with step-mum Carol while a bound and gagged Seely looks on through shattered glasses.
The abduction of a suspected child killer by a grieving dad and his mates was also used as the premise of the shocking 2013 Israeli film Big Bad Wolves. But that relied on scenes of extreme violence to tell its politicised vigilante story. Now, Revenge may have been regarded as one of the most unsavoury British thrillers of the 1970s, but it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, and could easily be a storyline in one of those ITV real-life dramas or a British soap – after all The Queen Vic’s cellar in EastEnders was the setting of Dirty Den’s ultimate demise. And I must admit that watching Joan Collins as landlady Carol in Revenge, I couldn’t help but wonder what she’d be like taking over The Vic now that Babs Windsor’s Peggy Mitchell has said her final goodbyes. Maybe she should be speaking to her agent?
THE NETWORK RELEASE
Revenge is featured in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of Network’s The British Film collection.
The extras includes restored original theatrical trailer (which thankfully doesn’t have any spoilers), an image gallery (with lots of modelling shots of Joan Collins), a script (in pdf) and a collector’s booklet with articles by Professor Neil Sinyard.
Hot Enough for June (1964) | Dirk Bogarde turns reluctant spy in the Iron Curtain comedy thriller
She’s An Eye Catcher … He’s a Spy Catcher
In Ralph Thomas’ lively 1964 spy comedy thriller, Hot Enough for June, Dirk Bogarde plays an out-of-work author who gets plucked out of the dole cheque and sent behind the Iron Curtain to work as a secret agent based on his the ability to speak Czech. Sylva Koscina is his glamorous chauffeur, Robert Morley is the espionage chief (and master of irony) who sends him on the assignment, and Leo McKern, John Le Mesurier and Roger Delgado are the familiar faces showing off their versatile acting chops.
The Master Spy Comedy of the Year!
Bogarde (filling in for Tom Courtenay who pulled out at the last minute) gives his usual polished performance in the James Bond spoof that’s more of a thriller than straight-out comedy, and also gets to share a rather steamy love scene with the sultry Sylva Koscina (who was once in line for the role of Tatiana Romanova in the real Bond adventure, From Russia With Love).
Set in Prague (but with Padua, Italy standing in for the Czech capital), the film is an adaptation of Lionel Davidson’s 1960 debut novel The Night of Wenceslas by screenwriter Lukas Heller, who penned Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? the previous year. This was one of series of back-to-back espionage films directed by Ralph Thomas, who is better known for his classic ‘Doctor’ series of comedies, also starring Bogarde.
THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
Hot Enough for June (PG) is out on Blu-ray, as part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection, and is presented in a High Definition transfer from original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio. Special features include original theatrical trailer, image gallery and original promotional material (on pdf).
Discuss the film on: