Director Otto Preminger’s Laura is one of the greatest and most essential film noirs of all time, and now the deliciously well-crafted murder mystery is heading to Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series from 14 January 2019.
Police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is drawn into Manhattan high society as he investigates the death of career girl Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), apparently gunned down in her own apartment. The suspects are numerous, led by effete, snobbish columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), and Laura’s philandering fiancé Shelby (Vincent Price), who’s also been cavorting with Laura’s wealthy aunt (Judith Anderson). McPherson begins to fall in love with Laura through a portrait in her home and the memories relayed by those who knew her… just as it becomes apparent that even the basic facts of the case might not be what they seemed.
This 1944 murder mystery classic from director Otto Preminger (replacing Rouben Mamoulian) has grown in stature over the years, with its hypnotic mixture of doomed romantic obsession, dizzying intrigue, and fatalistic cynicism marking it as essential noir.
Peppered with eternally quotable dialogue (“I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbours’ children devoured by wolves.”), sumptuous, Oscar-winning cinematography by Joseph LaShelle and David Raksin’s haunting theme music, Laura is an undeniable American masterpiece.
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray of both the extended and original theatrical versions of the film
- LPCM mono Audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary by composer David Raksin and film professor Jeanine Basinger
- Audio commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer
- Laura: The Lux Radio Theater broadcasts Two radio adaptations of Laura from 1945 [59 mins] and 1954 [57 mins], starring Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in the 1945 version, and Gene Tierney and Victor Mature in the 1954 version
- Laura: The Screen Guild Theater broadcast Adaptation of Laura from radio anthology series, The Screen Guild Theater, originally aired in 1945 [30 mins], starring Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb
- Laura: The Ford Theater broadcast A further radio adaptation of Laura from 1948, starring Virginia Gilmore and John Larkin
- A Tune for Laura: David Raksin Remembers an archival interview with the renowned composer
- The Obsession an archival featurette on Laura
- Deleted Scene
- PLUS: A collector s booklet featuring a new essay by Phil Hoad, alongside a selection of rare archival imagery
The House of the Seven Gables (1940) | When Universal adpated Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic Gothic novel
AN ANCIENT HOUSE! A MURDER SECRET! A HIDDEN TREASURE!
For 160 years the New England Pyncheons have lived under a curse after an ancestor had a man called Matthew Maule condemned to hang so that he could steal his land and build his dream house in Salem. When patriarch Gerald (Gilbert Emery) dies during a heated argument with his aspiring songwriter son Clifford (Vincent Price), his other son, Boston lawyer Jaffrey (George Sanders) seizes on the opportunity to claim the house for himself and have his brother sent down for murder.
But when Clifford’s intended bride Hepzibah (Margaret Lindsay) inherits the family estate, she kicks Jaffrey out and locks herself up in the house and from the outside world. Two decades later, Hepzibah has turned into a bitter sinister, but the arrival of orphaned niece Phoebe (Nan Grey) and the machinations of a mysterious lodger Holgrave (Dick Foran) could prove to change her fortune, and reunite her with her beloved Clifford.
‘What a pity man must inherit their ancestors ignorance, instead of their wisdom’
This 1940 Universal melodrama, directed by Joe May, is a handsome adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, but fuses its Gothic themes of guilt, retribution and atonement with a contemporary take on Cain and Abel and a bittersweet romance over three acts.
Appearing in one of his earliest screen roles, Vincent Price’s native midwestern accent comes through, especially in the first act, where he brings an educated, theatrical quality to his happy-go-lucky bohemian Clifford who despises his family’s dark history. And this is used to great effect in his trial scene (a travesty of justice that infers the Salem witch trials of 1692), in which he evokes Maule’s curse (‘God has given him blood to drink’) on his brother Jaffrey, who has used the most degenerate means to keep the house on the belief a fortune in land deeds and gold lies hidden within its walls. And following Clifford’s incarceration, Price’s voice takes on a melancholy timbre to denote his weariness at his captivity. He would go on to use this sombre tone to great effect in his more famous roles, in which he played cads and villains, but here he shows his mettle as a romantic leading man.
Keen eyed viewers might recognise a scene in which Vincent Price’s Clifford points out the unsavoury professions of his ancestors whose portraits decorate the walls of the family home, for it was later used by Roger Corman in his first Poe picture, The House of Usher, and then spoofed by Price in 1966’s Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.
Vincent’s voice also comes in fine form in singing the theme tune, The Color of Your Eyes, by Frank Skinner and Ralph Reed. But it’s not the only time that Price would display his wonderful baritone on screen. He filmed a musical sequence for 1944’s Laura, but it was removed in the final cut, while for many years his singing at the end of Dr Phibes Rises Again (Somewhere Over the Rainbow) and Madhouse (When Day Is Done) went missing in action during the VHS era.
While Vincent Price and George Sanders (at his slimy best) are the star names here, they were virtually unknowns at the time, while 1930s star Margaret Lindsay is a revelation, and watching her Hepzibah change from light and gay sweetheart to bitter crone (whose rasping voice sounds very much like Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful) is pathos personified.
As Matthew Maule, a direct descendant of the man who cursed the Pyncheons and a committed abolitionist who helps Clifford get his revenge, Dick Foran makes for a engaging hero, but his character also gave the film’s screenwriter Lester Cole the chance to inject some personal political views with lines like: ‘How is it possible to arrest a man for speaking freely of freedom in a country whose constitution guarantees freedom – and justice?’. These left-wing views would later earn the film some notoriety when it was shown on TV in the 1950s during the McCarthy communist witch-hunt era.
But the film’s politics are overshadowed by the film’s two romantic storylines which see Hepzibah and Clifford finally reuniting after so long apart, and Matthew (masquerading as Holgrave) courting and catching Phoebe, while providence and fate work against the vile Jaffrey.
The direction might be a touch too sentimental for modern audiences, but the solid lead performances, Frank Skinner’s Oscar-nominated musical score, the atmospheric photography and the authentic recreation of the original 16th-century Turner-Ingersoll mansion in Salem that inspired the Hawthorne novel, makes this Universal melodrama a classic worth repeating.
The only extra is a 10-minute interview with star Vincent Price on Aspel and Company (1984) in which he looks back at some highs and lows of his screen career, and reveals to the British chat show host Michael Aspel what frightens him most.
With a bounty of Bollinger 1969 stored onboard his yacht, Percy Edward Anthony (Leigh Lawson) takes to the high seas to escape his notoriety as the well-endowed recipient of the world’s first penis transplant.
But when the entire male population becomes impotent after the US-made PX-123 drug accidentally gets into the water supply, Percy becomes the British Government’s secret weapon in reversing the world’s falling birth rate.
After ‘servicing’ the representatives of several countries in the Miss Conception International contest, Percy decides he’s done his patriotic duty and goes back into hiding – which doesn’t go down well with his advisors or the bevy of beautiful birds who only want a favour most men would be happy to oblige…
This 1974 British sex comedy was director Ralph Thomas and producer Betty E Box’s sequel to their box-office hit Percy, based on Raymond Hitchcock’s 1969 debut novel, with Leigh Lawson packing into Hywel Bennett’s briefs as the sexed-up anti-hero with the enviable manhood.
Drawing on themes originally exploited in the 1933 sci-fi musical comedy, It’s Great to Be Alive (a remake of the 1924 silent, The Last Man on Earth), and in the 1946 Pat Frank novel, Mr Adam, Percy’s Progress comes off like a poor-man’s Carry On. It should have been a saucy seaside postcard delight, but it’s not. Director Thomas, who was responsible for the ar superior Doctor series of comedy films, and Up Pompeii! writer Sid Colin have merely served up a series of flaccid, vulgar jokes about impotence.
Getting into bed with Lawson (who famously wedded both Hayley Mills and model Twiggy), are some well-known Hammer glamour stars, including Jenny Hanley, Madeline Smith, Julie Edge and Judy Matheson. But it’s the roll call of other famous names that’s the real reason to check this oddity out. Among the embarrassed faces on display in the messy farce are Elke Sommer, Milo O’Shea, Denholm Elliott, Bernard Lee, Anthony Andrews, Ronald Fraser, Alan Lake and Anthony Sharp.
As the Aristotle Onassis-styled tycoon Stavos Mammonian, Vincent Price is confined to a wheelchair (the last time he did that was in 1953’s House of Wax); while Harry H Corbett (who wrote some of the dialogue, along with comedy legend Ian La Frenais) gets in an hilarious Harold Wilson impersonation (albeit with a Yorkshire accent) as the British PM.
Following his multiple roles in the crude but entertaining Barry McKenzie movies, Barry Humphries takes on the dual role of scientist Dr Anderson (sporting a great whistling speech pediment) and an ‘Australian TV lady’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to his Moonee Ponds housewife, Edna Everage. Judy Geeson, meanwhile, gets a very odd role as Dr Anderson’s overly cheery assistant who become instrumental in reversing the drug’s sterility factor.
Interestingly, author Raymond Hitchcock ended up publishing a novel based on Sid Colin’s screenplay, while the film’s theme tune ‘God Knows I Miss You’ was co-written by The Seekers’ Keith Potger and Tony Macaulay, who had a string of hits for the likes of Long John Baldry and The Hollies.
EMI Films originally released the film in the UK in August 1974, but it took another two years before a US distribution was announced. Retitled, It’s Not the Size That Counts, trimmed by 90-minutes, and with additional scenes of a penis transplant and a dwarf (played by one-time Ewok, Luis De Jesus) tacked on, the film was eventually released Stateside in November 1978. You can watch a US TV trailer below.
THE UK HD RELEASE
Released as part of Network’s British Film collection, Percy’s Progress gets a brand-new high definition transfer from the original film elements, in its original aspect ratio, and in both Blu-ray and DVD formats. The special features include original theatrical trailers, image gallery and promotional material (pdf).
CATCH A BLU-RAY CLIP FROM NETWORK
WATCH THE US TV TRAILER
Lost Horizons: Beneath the Hollywood Sign | A darkly comic memoir on some of Tinseltown’s forgotten faces
From Universal’s classic monster movies of the 1930s to the fleshpot romps of Russ Meyer in the 1960s, and the European arthouse antics of Fellini and Visconti in the 1970s, cult movies have become part of the fabric of contemporary culture, and we all have fond memories of them.
But what of the actors and actresses you recognise, but whose names you can’t quite remember? We’ve all heard of the King of Horror, Boris Karloff, but can you remember any of the players he starred with in The Mummy, like the exotic Zita Johann or the charming David Manners?
Remember when the late veteran actress Gloria Stuart became the oldest person to be nominated for an Academy Award for Titanic back in 1997? Did you know she worked for Universal in the 1930s (in classics like James Whale’s The Old Dark House), a period which also saw actresses like Gale Sondergaard at their peak before being caught up the McCarthy blacklisting fiasco in the 1950s. Remember her? And what about that great scene in 1978’s Damien: Omen II when Elizabeth Shepherd‘s reporter gets her eyes pecked out by crows. Did you know she was one of Britain’s leading stage actresses in the 1960s. Whatever happened to her?
From writer, historian and one-time agent, David Del Valle comes the darkly comic memoir, Lost Horizons: Beneath the Hollywood Sign, which follows his own personal journey over 25 years, meeting and befriending many of the old-time and obscure players whose dreams of fame and fortune never quite worked out the way they quite intended.
The late, great Vincent Price described Hollywood as one of the most evil cities on the planet, and he had witnessed enough in his lifetime not to kid around – unlike some of his contemporaries, who got burned on their journey through Tinseltown’s stratosphere. Reading Del Valle’s entries, you certainly get the picture – Hollywood is a Hell of a place to make a living.
Some tragic, some suprising, some plain shocking, the stories are many – too many to explore here in detail here. But whether they’re ancient silent movie actors whose only stage in later life are the cocktail parties they host or attend; or big name veteran stars like John Carradine, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price giving their honest take on living in this Hollywood Babylon, survival is the key theme.
One of the saddest must be the tragic story of Johnny Eck, best known as the Half-Boy in 1932’s Freaks. After retiring from acting, Eck turned his hand to art and photography, but was left traumatized following a brutal home invasion. The incident left him housebound and fearful for the rest of his sad life. Then there’s Les Baxter, the undisputed king of Exotica. Baxter was living a lonely life in music exile when Del Valle met him. Depressed over unsuccessfully suing John Williams for lifting some of his music for his ET score, Baxter died before his style of lounge music became cool again.
There’s also some deliciously gossipy entries, including one in which Del Valle describes actress Hermione Baddeley and singer Martha Raye entertaining the patrons of a leather bar in West Hollywood, only for the German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder wanting to meet these grand dames. What a sight that would have been.
Del Valle also has some intimate encounters with some truly offbeat heroes. He gets high on gin and joints watching The Loved One with the film’s writer Terry Southern, the cool hipster immortalized on the Sgt Pepper’s album; trips on LSD with Timothy Leary over Charlie Chan movies; and gets a tour of Russ Meyer’s home, filled with memorabilia from his saucy sex films, including a giant bra.
It all makes for some revealing reading. And, despite the odd typo, I couldn’t put it down as each chapter offered a glimpse into the private lives of an actor, actress, writer, director, musician or muse who have given cinephiles everywhere such joy and excitement over the past 70 years. Less salacious than Kenneth Anger’s infamous trash bible Hollywood Babylon, but no less gossipy, Del Valle’s memoir is a truly touching portrait of the people that were very much a part of old Hollywood. Thankfully, Del Valle has given these fading characters their proper dues, making them shine for us film fans once more.
To mark the 16 February UK Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors from Arrow Video (reviewed at the bottom of the post), here’s a look back at the vintage horror farce.
‘You’re invited to a funeral’
Welcome to the Hinchley & Trumbull funeral parlour, the only establishment of its kind that has found the secret of increasing business – by furnishing its own corpses! From Jacques Tourneur, director of the horror classics, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Demon, comes the 1963 horror spoof, The Comedy of Terrors, starring four masters of the macabre – Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.
‘What place is this?’
Inebriate undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Price) is running a New England funeral home business owned by his ageing father-in-law (Karloff)… straight into the ground. Hounded by his penny-pinching landlord Mr Black (Rathbone) for non-payment of rent, Trumbull and his put upon assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) hatch a plan to boost business. But murder is not their forté, especially when their latest ‘client’ refuses to stay dead…
‘Every shroud has a silver lining when old friends get together for a real swinging blast of grave robbery… poisoning, and multiple mayhem!’
So declared the promo poster for American International Pictures‘ The Comedy of Terrors, which famously brought together four great names from the horror hall of fame. In the early-1960s, AIP were riding high with their winning formula of director Roger Corman, star Vincent Price, screenwriter Richard Matheson, composer Les Baxter, et all. Following their full-on Colorscope Gothic horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, AIP added some comic relief in 1962’s Tales of Terror, in a segment called The Black Cat, whose highlight was an improvised wine tasting scene between Price and Lorre.
Because the two spooks gelled so well, director Corman gave Price and Lorre the chance to do it all over again in his 1963 fantasy spoof, The Raven. Out of that was born a gruesome twosome comedy duo that were like an Abbott & Costello for the drive-in generation. Wanting to tap those funny bones again, AIP gave Matheson free reign to conjure up another vehicle for them. The result was The Comedy of Terrors (originally called Graveside Story), which was shot over 15 days, starting 4 September 1963, and released in US cinemas on 22 January 1964.
‘Comedy and terror are closely allied. My job as an actor is to try and make the unbelievable believable and the despicable delectable’ Vincent Price
As the roguish Waldo Trumbull, Price is at his ‘delicious boozy hammiest’ – according to the New York Herald Tribune – and has a whale of a time making the most of Matheson’s venomous dialogue – in particular his sardonic put-downs on Lorre’s wanted fugitive Felix (who is a terrible coffin-maker, I might add), while their slapstick misadventures evoke Laurel and Hardy – Price even gets to reappropriate their famous catchphrase: ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things again!’
Sadly, this would be the last time that the two pals got to act together, as the 59-year-old Lorre was in poor health during the shoot (his regular stunt double Harvey Parry did all of his action scenes wearing a mask), and died just two months after the film’s release. Fittingly, it was Price who delivered the eulogy.
Interestingly in this film, Price and Lorre reverse the roles they played in Tales of Terror, and again there’s Joyce Jameson playing a buxom mistreated wife with a drunk for a hubby. As Amaryllis, an unfulfilled opera star with the ‘vocal emissions of a laryngitic cow’, Jameson hits a real high with her ‘off-key’ singing during a funeral service, while her verbal sparring with Price is eminently quotable. David Del Valle’s audio commentary in the Arrow release is dedicated to Jameson, a great friend to the film historian who tragically took her life in 1987, aged 59.
Veterans Rathbone and Karloff are also game for a laugh in this Arsenic and Old Lace-styled affair (and shares a similar structure as that classic 1941 play which famously sent up Karloff’s horror screen persona). Rathbone is exceptional as the Shakespearean-spouting cataleptic who refuses to ‘shuffle off his mortal coil’, while he also gets to play up his thespian image and swashbuckling days (the sword play being an homage to 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.)
At 76, and suffering from arthritis, Karloff was not up to playing Mr Black, a role which was originally offered to him. But as the endearingly senile Amos, who somehow manages to avoid the poison that Waldo offers him at every turn, Karloff is only one who keeps the farce from taking full flight.
The downside to Tourneur’s film, however (it was the director’s second-to-last feature before some TV work and then retiring), is that it’s rather stagey and old-fashioned (especially for the 1960s teen crowd that it was aimed at). It remains, however, a firm favourite of mine – a gleefully ghoulish slapstick affair with a classy never-to-be-repeated cast of old Hollywood greats.
DID YOU KNOW?
Richard Matheson scripted a follow-up called Sweethearts and Horrors, that was to feature the fearsome four once again, but it was shelved due to Lorre’s death and the film’s poor box-office takings. The unfilmed screenplay ended up being released in 2009 as part of Matheson’s collected works, entitled Visions Deferred.
The music is by celebrated composer Les Baxter (who also did the US scores for Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and The Evil Eye in 1963, as well as Corman’s The Raven). The complete mono session which was recorded in November 1963 at Goldwyn Studios was uncovered from the MGM vaults last year and released on a now sold out CD.
RHUBARB | THE CAT IN THE HOUSE OF UNHOLY HORROR
Cleopatra is played by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated animal stars, Rhubarb (aka Orangey) – a 12-pound marmalade tabby who won two American Humane Association’s PATSY awards for 1951’s Rhubarb and 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (in which he has almost seven minutes of screen time), and who also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). In The Comedy of Terrors, Rhubarb gets an inspired scene in the closing credits.
THE ARROW UK BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASE
The Comedy of Terrors is presented its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on Blu-ray). The HD master was made available by MGM via Hollywood Classics, and includes optional English subtitles. The extras include:
• Audio commentary with David Del Valle and Rapid Heart TV’s David DeCocteau
• Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes: This is the unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle interview that was previously released on DVD in 2002 as The Sinister Image
• Whispering in Distant Chambers: informative 17-min video essay by David Cairns, exploring Tourneur’s work.
• Richard Matheson Storyteller – Comedy of Terrors; this featurette on late screenwriter also appears on the Shout! Blu-ray and on the older MGM Midnite Movies DVD.
• Unrestored original US theatrical trailer (this makes the film look more racy and scary than it actually was).
• Collector’s booklet featuring a critical analysis of the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, plus archive stills and posters.
• Artwork by Paul Shipper.
OTHER BLU-RAY RELEASES
Also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory (from October 2014), an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, as part of their Vincent Price Collection II bundle, and includes a Iowa Public Television introduction with Price, but no audio commentary. Blu-ray reviewers have also praised Arrow’s transfer over this one, both for its excellent print and audio transfer. A German Blu-ray was also released in May 2013.
If you want a further reason to add Arrow’s Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales limited edition Blu-ray box-set to your collection, then here’s a look inside the collector’s booklet…
The House is the Monster
Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, who also supplies the commentary on The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), looks back at why Roger Corman chose to adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of ‘corrupted lives and imminent doom’ for the big screen. This essay was originally published in Arrow’s booklet accompanying their stand-alone Blu-ray release (read my review here).
The Waiting Pit of Hell
Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby waxes lyrical over The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Corman’s second Poe adaptation, paying particular attention to star Vincent Price’s barnstorming performance. This essay also appeared in Arrow’s booklet that went out with the stand-alone Blu-ray release (reviewed here).
Three Down, Five to Go
A Natural History of Ghosts author Roger Clarke traces the history of Tales of Terror (1962), the third Corman/Poe film in which star Vincent Price gives a trio of ‘lip-smacking turns’: as a Byronic necrophiliac (Morella); an adulterous wine connoisseur (The Black Cat); and a man suspended in a mesmeric trance (in The Case of Mr Valdemar).
• The title of this article includes Corman’s The Premature Burial, which starred Ray Milland instead of Price, in the series. As such, it should have been called Four Down, Five to Go, as that film went out three months before Tales of Terror. 1964’s Masque of the Red Death is not included in this release as it’s owned by StudioCanal (but that’s another story).
• Best bit of trivia: Voice-over artist Lennie Weinrib, who plays a policeman in the Black Cat segment, was the original voice of Scrappy-Doo in 1979 (still hate that character), and also voiced HR Pufnstuf (one of my favourites).
Comedy and Karloff
BFI National Archive curator Vic Pratt reveals how Roger Corman’s ‘Mad Magazine parody of a Corman horror’, The Raven (1963) was a showcase for veteran star Boris Karloff’s skill and versatility as an actor, and introduced the old-timer to a new generation, the college crowd.
Strange Echoes and Fevered Reptitions
Birbeck College professor Roger Luckhurst traces the history of Corman’s fifth Poe adaptation, the underrated The Haunted Palace (1963), which was actually based on the 1927 HP Lovecraft novella, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
The Last of the Corman-Poes: Excavating The Tomb of Ligeia
Julian Upton provides a witty and incisive essay on the making of The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), Corman’s lush final Poe entry, that gave the director the best reviews of his entire career and remains the finest interpretation of a Poe tale on the big screen.
Vincent Price: His Movies, His Plays, His Life
An excerpt from the 1978 biography that was ghost written for the legendary actor. This made me want to dig my copy out again.
Better to be On the Set than in the Office
Film historian David Del Valle interviews Roger Corman about his Poe screen adaptations. This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared in Films & Filming in November 1984. For those not familiar with Corman’s cycle, this is an informative inclusion.
The Black Cat/The Trick
Director Rob Green (The Bunker) discusses the making of his two 1990s shorts. Having never heard of the director before, I would have preferred the inclusion of Curtis Harrington’s first and final shorts (both adaptations of Poe’s Usher story) as that ‘cult’ director had a direct connection to Corman.
The Dell Comic Tie-Ins
Included are full reproductions of the Dell Comic adaptations of Tales of Terror (originally published in February 1963), The Raven (1963) and Tomb of Ligeia (1965). This is real treat (and something I will be elaborating on in an article for a book to be published in 2015).
The 1979 CBS four-part mini-series, Time Express, was broadcast from 26 April to 17 May in the US, from 27 November to 18 December in the UK, and in July and August 1980 in Australia (the same time that Vincent Price toured the country with his one-man show, Diversions & Delights).
The Time Express was like a modern ghost train, filled with 100 dead souls reincarnated to operate the service after their own train, The New Guinea Flyer, crashed into a river in 1886. Like eccentric millionaire John Beresford Tipton on The Millionaire (CBS, 1955-1960), who chose people at random to receive a million tax-free dollars, there was also a mysterious benefactor on board the Time Express. This unseen Head of the Line would choose people who have the greatest need to relive a particular moment from their past. The passengers, once back in the past, see that people will change, as well as themselves, making them all better people. Based at the Los Angeles Union Station, the Time Express departed from Gate Y Track 13. On board, host and hostess Jason and Margaret Winters supervised each passenger’s trip as they moved through the misty corridors of time.
Vincent Price as Jason Winters
Coral Browne as Margaret Winters
James Reynold as the Conductor, Robert Jefferson Walker
William Edward Phipps as the Engineer, Patrick Callahan
Woodrow Parfey as the Ticket Clerk
Executive Producers: Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Producer: Leonard Kaufman
Created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts
Written by Steven Cander, Richard Boell, Pat Fielder
Director: Michael Caffey
Music: Richard Hazard
Casting: Tom Stockingfish
Make-Up: Fred Williams
Set Director: Ed Bauer
This train runs in reverse. Like a blend of Fantasy Island and Supertrain is Time Express. Passengers on the Time Express get the chance to go back and change one incident in their past. The wish becomes reality for the lucky few that receive ticket invitations to ride the Time Express as it travels through another dimension. From the moment they arrive at the station, an otherworldly crew puts passengers at their ease. A droll crew reassures the skeptics, while the debonair champagne-sipping host and hostess answer questions and lend their moral support. As the train moves backwards into their past, the travellers have the opportunity to learn more, try harder and make up for past errors. (Peter Fuller, The West Australian, 1980)
GARBAGE MAN/DOCTOR’S WIFE
Telecast: 26 April 1979 (US)
James McArthur as Dr Mark Tolen
Jerry Stiller as Edward Chernoff
Pamela Toll as Olivia Tolen
John de Lancie as John Clayton
Anne Meare as Gloria
Writer: Gerald Sanford
Director: Arnold Laven
A man (Jerry Stiller) goes back to 1969 Cleveland to return $2 million he found; and a physician (James MacArthur) hopes to find his wife’s brother who is needed for a life-saving transplant.
THE COPY-WRITER/THE FIGURE SKATER
Telecast: 3 May 1979 (US)/Screened last in Australia
Richard Masur as Sam Loring
Lyle Waggoner as David Blaine
Lee Meriwether as Vanessa
Francois-Marie Bernard as Paul Venard
Terri Nunn as Jill Martin
Morgan Fairchild as Michelle Bradford Fleming
Writer: Stephen Kandel, Richard Bluebell, Pat Fielder
Director: Michael Caffey
A copywriter (Richard Masur) and a figure skater (Terri Nunn) get second chances at romances that failed because of broken rendezvous (in Paris, 1978 and on St Valentine’s Day in Montreal, 1977).
Telecast: 10 May 1979 (US)
John Beck as Roy Culper
Marcia Strassman as Sara Mason
Robert Hooks as John Slocum
Vic Tayback as Charlie Enright
Writer: A Hayes
Director: Alan J Levy
A rodeo rider in Montana returns to the fateful day in May 1977 when he was thrown from a horse; and an LA cop goes back to June 1973 to the scene where he was shot by a suspect.
Telecast: 17 May 1979 (US)/Screened first in Australia
Steve Kanaly as Michael Bennett
Paul Sylvan as Tony Marcello
Jaime Lyn Bauer as Elizabeth Stone
Linda Scruggs Bogart as Lisa Marcello
Writer: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts
Director: Alan J Levy
A boxer (Paul Sylvan) revisits the championship fight that he threw in New York in May 1969; and a man (Steve Kanaly) in San Francisco returns to July 1976 when his girlfriend was killed in a plane crash.
And so, the Time Express swishes off into TV heaven…
Set during the English Civil War as the Royalists battle Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads for control, this grim and gory revenge thriller stars Vincent Price in his most malevolent role as self-appointed witchfinder Matthew Hopkins, who tours the land offering his services as a persecutor of heretics, aided by his sadistic accomplice John Stearne (Robert Russell). But he meets his match in Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy) when he violates the young calvaryman’s betrothed Sara (Hilary Dwyer)…
In honour of the cult classic’s Halloween screening, here’s a gallery of images that I’ve found of some artists renditions of Price as Matthew Hopkins, as well as lobby cards and a trailer for the film.
His Kind of Woman (1951) | Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and Vincent Price serve up a film noir like no other
THIS PLACE IS DANGEROUS. THE TIME RIGHT DEADLY. THE DRINKS ARE ON ME!
Professional gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) gets embroiled in an elaborate scheme to get deported gangland boss Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) back into the US. After receiving an offer of $50,000 from a mysterious benefactor to head to an exclusive resort south of the border, Milner encounters nightclub singer Lenore Brent (Jane Russell) and her narcissist Hollywood actor lover Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). But as he settles into the rich playground of the Morro’s Lodge and starts falling for Lenore, Milner discovers he is being used as a patsy. With his life is placed in danger, Milner gets an unlikely rescuer – ham actor Cardigan…
WELL, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PICTURE?
When it comes to film noir, RKO’s His Kind of Woman (which had its US premiere on August 29 1951) is definitely one of a kind. While the first third of this Howard Hughes-produced movie sticks closely to classic noir tropes, complete with archetypal noir characterisation, dialogue and atmospheric cinematography, the film becomes increasingly comedic as it veers between satire, a battle of the sexes comedy and hard-boiled thriller. There’s even some slapstick thrown amongst the action, courtesy of the mock-heroics of Vincent Price’s flamboyant Cardigan (the scene where he sinks a boat load of local Mexican volunteers being one of film’s comic highlights). But it’s this crazy mixed-up brew that makes the film stand out from more faithful, now long forgotten, noirs of the era.
The film was originally shot under the title Smiler With a Gun in May 1950 under the direction of John Farrow. But on viewing the rushes, Hughes brought in Richard Fleischer to add in some new scenes, many featuring Vincent Price’s Cardigan (Hughes favourite character), and to re-shoot all of the Ferraro scenes with Raymond Burr taking over the role from Lee Van Cleef. The end result was a coup for Price, who ends up getting almost as much screen time as Mitchum, while also showing off his innate comic skills. There’s also a hint of the campy persona he’d go on to become known for. Interestingly, he also gets to quote Shakespeare, something he’d do on a much grander scale in his 1973 magnum opus, Theatre of Blood.
The films ‘stars’, however, fared less well than Price. As Milner, the laconic anti-hero loner, Mitchum is typical noir and certainly plays up to his hard man image, but his scenes alongside Russell’s heart of gold chanteuse lack the frisson that Louella Parsons called ‘the hottest combination to ever hit the screen’. And apart from some clever quips, singing two songs (excellently, I might add) and showing off her ample assets (again most excellently), Russell is practically left in the closet (Cardigan locks her up during the film’s crucial scenes). And speaking of closets, what’s with Burr’s frightening Ferraro? That look of suppressed ecstasy on his face as a sweaty, shirtless Milner is whipped is a very ‘telling’ sight, and makes you wonder if he wants a lot more from Milner than just his face (which is the reason, we learn in the climax, why he engaged Milner in the first place).
WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID
‘Both Mitchum and Russell score strongly. Russell’s full charms are fetchingly displayed in smart costumes that offer the minimum of protection’ Variety, 1951
‘…the best part of the picture, as far as we are concerned is Vincent Price. He is deliciously funny…’ Los Angeles Daily News, 1951
His Kind of Woman was released on DVD in the UK in 2011 from Odeon Entertainment, as part of the Hollywood Studio Collection, featuring an unrestored print in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital mono audio. Region Free. You can purchase a copy here from Play.com
DID YOU KNOW?
Clips from His Kind of Woman featuring Vincent Price were used in A Time For Hyacinths, an episode of the popular US TV series Mod Squad, and played a crucial role in the story which guest starred Price as a Hollywood film star who stages his death after witnessing a murder.
Three stories to shock you! Chill you! Thrill you! And make you laugh…
From Amicus, the studio that dripped blood in the 1960s and 1970s with a slate of uniquely British horror fare, comes 1980’s The Monster Club – now in HD.
Taking its cues from Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes’s 1975 short story collection (which is excellent btw), this horror-comedy anthology found veteran actor Vincent Price (playing a vampire for the first and only time in his film career) and an ailing John Carradine (paying a fictionalised Chetwynd-Hayes) musing over three tales of terror while enjoying the dubious delights of a naff member’s club for supernatural creatures. But it bombed! Author Chetwynd-Hayes was struck dumb by how badly his source material was rewritten, while the great Roy Ward Baker (who’d been pulled out of retirement) directed without his usual flair. It was his final feature film, and also that of Amicus supremo, Milton Subotsky.
With little to no fanfare in 1981, The Monster Club ended up on home video, where it took on a bit of a cult following. Looking at it again however the Shadmock and Humgoo stories are actually quite effective, but the club scenes (featuring the worst masks ever) and the comedic vampire story are still pants. Vincent’s great though – especially his impassioned soliloquy in the film’s climax for allowing humans into the club because they have proven time again to be the ultimate monsters.
Network Distributing‘s UK Blu-ray restoration release comes from ITV Global and is a sparkly fresh delight (it also shows up just how bad those masks are). The special features includes the film with isolated music score – where you get to hear all of the songs featured (Barbara Kellerman and Simon Ward having breakfast while listening to a punk vampire song on the radio is hilarious), plus Douglas Gamley’s lyrical instrumental music and Alan Hawkshaw’s stirring synth score; two theatrical trailers (one textless); textless film elements, comprising the opening scene of the bookshop without sound, and the John Bolton/Dez Skinn colour promo poster (see below); promo, featuring the best bits on Blu-ray accompanied by The Viewers’ theme tune; and an image gallery, featuring UK and Spanish lobby cards, as well as lots of pictures you may not have seen before – all courtesy of Stephen Jones.
What is missing are the extras you get on the US Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing (October 2013), which included George Reis’ detailed production history liner notes, and two interviews with Vincent Price conducted by film historian David Del Valle (I was looking forward to those). But considering I’ve only ever had the film on DVD in French before – it came with an issue of Mad Movies – I’m not complaining.
Check out Vincent’s friendly vamp Erasmus discussing the rules of monsterdom in this clip: