Friday, February 22, 2019

A Quick Look: KONGA (1961 - color)


   In the early 60's, England gave us a pair of color giant monster movies. GORGO, about a rampaging dinosaur, is still heralded as a milestone in the genre. This one, however, KONGA, isn't. The picture was advertised as a KING KONG knock-off, although it's really more of a mad scientist picture. Michael Gough plays the obsessed Dr. Decker, who has found a way to use fluid from carnivorous plants to enslave and enlarge animals. Konga, his pet chimp, is soon turned into a gorilla used to kill those who get in Decker's way. Though hardly a classic, the film is delight for the gripping performance of Gough. The Konga suit was actually George Barrow's rather identifiable costume, rented out to the British film company (so George often gets credited for the film despite his not being in it). Reportedly, the crew trashed the suit and even broke the mouth mechanism, thus ending Barrow's loan-out policy. Infamously, this film (along with GORGO and Denmark's REPTILICUS) became the subject of a pornographic paperback novel (!) as well as a Charlton comic book series. Featuring art by the well-known Steve Ditko, the Konga title is remembered well among comic book geeks -even those unaware of the movie's existence! A beautiful transfer was issued on disk by MGM.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Cover for Cartoon Cuties no.3!

Colors/edits by Jim Ludwig.
The release of issue 1 has been delayed by formatting issues, but there's no standing still!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Quick Look: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER (1949)


   After ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN was such a runaway success, Universal immediately altered the boys' next film into a serviceable copy by naming their new murder mystery ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER (aka ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF). Karloff was actually one of many suspects in a high profile murder at a resort hotel at which Bud is the house dick and Lou the freshly-fired bellboy. Bud plans to draw out the killer (or killers) by making it known that Lou knows the identity of same. Soon, dead bodies are piling up and attempts on Lou's life come in forms as diverse as arrows, knives, and steam! A truly entertaining entry highlighted by Universal's crack effects staff. Well worth seeing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Quick Look: THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955 - color)


   Universal International's prestige science fiction epic tells of a brilliant scientist recruited to a mysterious civilian project which turns out to be a research unit operated by men from the distant planet of Metaluna. As Exeter, the Metalunan who has lived around Earthlings long enough to respect and love them, Jeff Morrow creates his most iconic role. Rex Reason is the rock-jawed scientist swept into the adventure which spans a galaxy. Howard Hughes discovery Faith Domergue is the beautiful female scientist who knows enough about the Metalunans to put our hero on guard -if not quickly enough! Pulp Technicolor sci-fi foretells of similar fare to emerge from England in the 60's. Ads screamed the fact that the film was 2 1/2 years in the making. It still contains some of the best effects work ever committed to film. Lance Fuller, Russell Johnson, and Douglas Spencer star in supporting roles. Initially, the film wasn't to have a monster in it, to make the film stand apart from the numerous creature flicks being cranked out at the time. The studio insisted on having a monster they could put on the poster, however, and the giant insect Mutant was added to the mix. Just a wonderful picture, one of Universal's best.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

A Quick Look: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971 - color)


   After calling it quits and moving on to other projects, Sean Connery was again approached to play 007 following the premature departure of George Lazenby. EON knew audiences wanted Connery back, and paid him a record-breaking figure to secure him for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER. Mr. Connery subsequently donated his tremendous paycheck to a charity he had started. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER tells of Bond's investigation of a diamond smuggling racket, involvement with professional underground diamond merchant Jill St. John, and eventual reunion with his most hated enemy -now plotting to hold the world ransom with a death ray from a satellite! Connery's presence helped make the film a record-breaking smash hit. There's a lot of good stuff here, including another hit theme tune from Shirley Bassey, but the climax isn't nearly as spectacular as it should be. I think DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was one of the first Bond films I caught on television. Anyway, everybody involved knew that Sean wasn't going to stick around for another adventure, and began planning early on re-casting the part for the next film, LIVE AND LET DIE. Roger Moore would establish himself as Connery's successor over the next two decades, but Connery was to revisit his most famous role one last time in the independent NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN.

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Quick Look: THE LAST DINOSAUR (1977 - color)


    THE LAST DINOSAUR was a Japanese/American co-production funded mainly by Rankin/Bass, the makers of those delightful stop motion Christmas specials that have become so much a part of American culture. The film was released theatrically in Japan, but came straight to television here in the States. Richard Boone plays super-industrialist/great white hunter Masten Thrust, who's company has been drilling for oil in the Arctic. They've recently stumbled onto a volcanic crater that still houses prehistoric life, including the hungry Tyrannosaurus who lords over this lost world. Would-be generic adventure story somewhat undercut by the 70's need to be "relevant." The Last Dinosaur of the title isn't the strangely stealthy carnosaur, but Boone's macho hunter who no longer has a place in the "civilized" world. The film was broadcast endlessly through-out the 80's. The star dinosaur costume was re-used as the main villain of an exceptionally bizarre Japanese kiddie show (in which intelligent, talking man-in-suit dinosaurs from the center of the Earth menaced animated human beings in miniature cities) which was later imported to us in feature form as the video oddity ATTACK OF THE SUPERMONSTERS. Rankin/Bass also sponsored THE BERMUDA DEPTHS (a ghost story with a giant turtle) and THE IVORY APE (about a killer albino gorilla on the loose) with Japanese talent and American actors.