The Quotable Colleen Gray

Although film aficionados are familiar with Coleen Gray (1922 – 2015), she is not a household name. Nevertheless, her career on the big screen and TV was long and contained a number of highlights. Not many had such a promising start in multiple first-class films. Who knows why that didn’t continue? Poor agent? Unwilling to go the casting couch route with a studio exec? Marriage and family? (Somehow Jeanne Crain managed to be a 20th Century Fox mainstay from 1944 into the 50s despite birthing 7 children, although she did give up the plum role of Eve to Anne Baxter in the Nightmareb1950 classic All About Eve.)

After small and/or uncredited appearances in several films, Gray got the “and Introducing” honor as Victor Mature’s neighbor and future wife Nettie in the seminal noir Kiss of Death (1947). (Until relatively recently, Richard Widmark’s overpowering debut as the giggling psychopath Tommy Udo sucked all the oxygen from the other players. Of late, Mature has come in for well-deserved kudos.)

In her next film, the same year, Gray not only had another superstar to play against but initiated her unheralded spate of memorable lines.  Nightmare Alley has become an increasingly hailed noir that Tyrone Power was keen to use as a way to demonstrate that he was more than just a pretty boy—maybe Hollywood’s handsomest star.  He’d taken a step in that direction the previous year in The Razor’s Edge and wanted to keep that ball Redriverarolling. In Nightmare, he played con man Stan Carlisle and Gray his wife who eventually had enough and stood up to him: “Wait a minute, mister. You’re not talking to one of your chumps. You’re talking to your wife. You’re talking to somebody who knows you red, white and blue, and you can’t fool me anymore. There’s only one way I can stop you from doing this thing, and that’s to leave you.”

In 1948 Gray was John Wayne’s girl in the epic cattle drive saga Red River. Her role as Fen was small but significant. She pleaded with Tom Dunson (Wayne) to stay with the wagon train rather than leave the customary trail with crusty old Groot (Walter Brennan): “Listen to me, Tom, listen with your head and your heart, too. The sun only shines half the time, Tom, the other half is night.” He didn’t listen and regretted it the rest of his days.

SleepingaAlthough it wasn’t on the same scale or have the same prestige as her earlier movies, The Sleeping City (1950) with Richard Conte was a good crime drama set in a hospital. Once more Gray had the best lines, a monologue: “Blemishes are hid by night and every fault forgiven. The world should live by night. Dark draws people together. They can feel the need for each other. But the world gives the night to the sick, keeps for itself daylight and lets men look into faces filled with fear and hatred. Are you filled with fear and hatred?”

Like Marie Windsor, Mari Blanchard, Peggie Castle, Beverly Garland, Marla English and several Vampireaothers, Gray can in retrospect be labeled a B-movie queen of the 50s. See: Apache Drums, Copper Sky, Las Vegas Shakedown (“Nothing happens to school teachers.”), Star in the Dust, Destination 60,000, The Vampire, Hell’s Five Hours, The Leech Woman.

Occasionally Gray was in what would later be recognized as an important, even classic movie. See Stanley Kubrick’s multi-layered heist film The Killing (1956).

In the western The Black Whip (1958) Gray provided audiences with another memorable rant. As dance-hall Blackwhipafloozie Jeannie, she confronted Hugh Marlowe: “What do you know about women like me? Do you think I chose this kind of life?”

In Johnny Rocco (1958) her character’s wit and wisdom was topped by Stephen McNally, her co-star from the same year’s Hell’s Five Hours.  McNally apologized for his misstep: “Sorry, I call all dames Jack.”

The 1960s found Gray a fixture in TV series. She appeared on Perry Mason in 4 episodes between 1960 and 1966. In 1966 she was a regular on the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. She guest starred on innumerable other shows and many years later was a friendly, appreciative guest at film conventions.

Witch Movies

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971, Rated G)
An amateur witch, her three orphan charges, and a charming con man, must track down a spell that will protect England from an invading army.

Bell, Book, and Candle (1958, Not Rated)
A witch casts a love spell on an unsuspecting book dealer. He is not so happy when he figures it out.black sunday

Bewitched (2005, Rated PG-13)
Based on the beloved TV series. Modern witch Samantha vows to give up magic for the sake of her love life, but the temptation proves too strong.

Black Sunday (1960, Not Rated)
A woman burned for witchcraft during the Inquisition rises from the grave to seek vengeance on her accuser’s ancestors.

The Blair Witch Project (1999, Rated R)
Four film students take their cameras into the woods to try and document evidence of the Blair Witch, an urban legend that haunts the area, and soon find themselves hopelessly lost.

The Craft (1996, Rated R)
A group of four outcast high-school girls start practicing magic, but the power they discover starts to tear the group apart.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013, Rated R)
The titular siblings from the beloved fairy tale are all grown up and have made a living for themselves hunting witches like the one that tried to eat them.

Hocus Pocus (1993, Rated PG)hocus pocus
A group of kids accidentally awaken the Sanderson Sisters, a trio of witches, from their three-hundred year slumber. Now they must stop them from stealing the souls of the children in Salem, Massachusetts.

I Married a Witch (1942, Not Rated)
A witch burned at the stake returns and marries her persecutor’s descendant, hoping to take revenge by ruining his career, but finds herself falling in love with him instead.

The Lords of Salem (2012, Rated R)
A radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts is given a mysterious record that, when played, causes strange visions and occurrences. Could it be that the Lords of Salem are back for revenge?

Practical Magic (1998, Rated PG-13)
The Owens sisters, a pair of witches, must use their powers to navigate life, love, a husband-killing curse, and a bad boyfriend who comes back from the dead.

Suspiria (1977, Rated R) suspiria
A young ballerina travels to a German dance school, and finds that a string of murders and mysterious occurrences may be supernatural in nature, and her new instructors might be to blame.

Suspiria (2018, Rated R)
At the home of a world-renowned dance company, dark magic threatens to overcome a young student, the artistic director, and a psychotherapist. Who will succumb? Who will survive?

The Witch (2016, Rated R)
When the child of an isolated puritan family goes mysteriously missing, the family is embroiled in suspicion, doubt, and guilt. Is a member of the family to blame, or is there truth to the stories of a witch that lives in the wood…?

The Witches (1989, Rated PG) the witches
A young boy on vacation at a seaside hotel stumbles into a meeting of witches, and is turned into a mouse. Now he must save the other children from his fate, and break the spell before it’s too late!

The Witches of Eastwick (1987, Rated R)
A trio of women with mysterious powers wish for the perfect man, only to have him turn up and sweep them off their feet. But their new lover isn’t as perfect as he seems, and every wish comes with a price…

Witchfinder General (1968, Not Rated)
The titular general and goes from town to town, accusing and executing “witches” for a handsome fee. But when the general accuses an innocent priest and blackmails his niece, the girl’s fiancée swears vengeance on him.

Zombie Movies

The Cured (2017, Rated R)
In a world ravaged by a zombie disease, a cure is found. One cured young man is haunted by the wrongs he did while infected, and by the lasting prejudice society has for him.  dawn of the dead

Dawn of the Dead (1978, Rated R)
Human survivors of a zombie apocalypse find seemingly perfect shelter in an abandoned shopping mall. But how long will their safety last?

Dawn of the Dead (2004, Rated R)
After finding that her husband has succumbed to a zombie bite, a young woman joins up with a policeman and a number of others who are seeking shelter at the local mall.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019, Rated R)
The quirky inhabitants of a small, isolated American town are thrown for a loop when the dead rise from their graves.

Evil Dead (1981, Not Rated)
Five college students spending the night in a cabin in the woods awaken an evil force that, one by one, turns them all into monsters.

Evil Dead (2013, Rated R)
To kick-start her sobriety, a young woman and her friends retreat for the weekend to a cabin in the woods, only to discover that a supernatural evil awaits them there.

Evil Dead II (1987, Not Rated)
Ash, the one survivor of the first Evil Dead, returns to the cabin in the woods and once again unleashes the forces of the undead.

Night of the Living Dead (1968, Not Rated) night of the living dead
In a quiet house in the country, a group of strangers must lock themselves in and hold off hordes of undead monsters hungry for their flesh.

Overlord (2018, Rated R)
In World War II, a group of American soldiers are sent on a mission that will ensure the success of D-Day. But their target, a Nazi base, hosts a number of supernatural horrors and experiments.

Patient Zero (2018, Rated R)
The victim of a zombie bite realizes that she shows no symptoms of infection, but can communicate with infected zombies. With her newfound powers she sets out to find a cure.

Pet Sematary (1989, Rated R)
A family moves to rural Maine and is struck by an unexpected tragedy, but find that fate might be reversed in the burial ground just beyond their yard.

Pet Sematary (2019, Rated R)
When a man discovers a burial ground that can bring back the dead, he soon learns that the people he brings back come back… different.

Planet Terror (2007, Rated R)
Cherry Darling, a woman with a gun for a leg, and her old lover El Wray must defend their Texas town from flesh-eating zombies called “sickos.”

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016, Rated PG-13)
Jane Austen’s classic tale of regency-era relationships gets a ghoulish twist when Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy must find true love while battling the undead.

Rampant (2018, Not Rated) more like herbert BEST
In ancient Korea, zombies called Night Demons have overrun the land. A prince, newly returned from exile, must rally his people to defend their land from their evil forces.

Re-Animator (1985, Rated R) 
Herbert West, an eccentric scientist verging on mad, enlists medical student Dan to help him perfect a glowing green serum that can bring back the dead.

[Rec] (2007, Rated R)
A news reporter follows a group of firefighters into an apartment building, and soon they are all locked inside. As she continues to record, the finds that they are not the only ones trapped within the building…

The Returned (2012, Not Rated)
A group of strangers awaken in a strange place and, confused, try to return home. They soon discover though, that no one was expecting them back—since they all died several years ago.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015, Rated R)
Three Boy Scouts must save their town from a zombie invasion.

Shaun of the Dead (2004, Rated R)shaun of the dead
When zombies invade the outskirts of London, deadbeat Shaun and his friends must band together to protect themselves.

Train to Busan (2016, Not Rated)
While riding the KTX, a bullet train bound for Busan, a man and his daughter encounter an outbreak of violent zombies. They and the other passengers must survive long enough to reach their destination.

28 Days Later (2002, Rated R)
A coma patient awakens to find his entire city abandoned as a result of a disease that creates hyper-violent, aggressive zombies. He and a group of survivors must fight to stay alive in the wasteland.

Warm Bodies (2013, Rated PG-13)
When a zombie rescues a human girl from a zombie attack, they soon find that affection might be the cure to the zombie apocalypse.

World War Z (2013, Rated PG-13) world war z
When a global pandemic that turns humans into zombies endangers humanity, one man must journey to find a cure—before it’s too late.

Zombieland (2009, Rated R)
A group of mismatched outcasts must band together to find the one place around not overrun by zombies—an amusement park.

Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Rated R)
The dysfunctional found-family from Zombieland faces off against a whole new crop of evolved zombies, and some new human enemies, too.

Monster Movies and Creature Features

Attack the Block (2011, Rated R)
A gang of tough inner-city kids from South London try to defend their apartment building against an invasion of horrific alien creatures.

The Babadook (2014, Rated R)
When a disturbing storybook turns up at newly-widowed Amelia’s house, she is forced to battle with her son’s deep seated fear of the monster foundbabadook in its pages, The Babadook.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, Not Rated)
An atom bomb test deep awakens a creature encased in ice for over 100 million years, who then leaves its arctic home to wreak havoc on New York City.

Cloverfield (2008, Rated PG-13)
The arrival of a colossal creature in New York City disrupts a going-away party held by a group of young friends, who record the destruction of the city as it unfolds.

Crawl (2019, Rated R)
A hurricane floods a small town, leaving a young woman and her father stranded with a clutch of killer alligators.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, Rated G)
A group of scientists discovers an amphibious creature living in the Amazon, and must confront it face to face when it kidnaps a member of their team.

Deep Blue Sea (1999, Rated R)
Researchers in an underwater lab must battle the result of their own genetic experiments—a school of super-intelligent killer sharks.

The Fly (1986, Rated R)
When his matter-transporter experiment goes unexpectedly wrong, Doctor the flySeth Brundle finds himself slowly transforming into a horrible insectoid monster.

Frankenstein: the Legacy Collection (Not Rated)
This collection includes all five of the original, classic films from the Frankenstein series, including Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), and more.

Godzilla (1954, Not Rated)
The very first appearance of the iconic monster, a giant radioactive lizard who terrorizes a post-WWII Japan.

Godzilla (2014, Rated PG-13)
Godzilla returns to battle new creatures called MUTOs, and humanity is caught in the crossfire of their violence.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019, Rated PG-13)
An eco-terrorist organization accidentally unleashes destruction when they awaken monsters such as Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, and the mighty Godzilla.

Gremlins (1984, Rated PG)
Disarmingly cute and cuddly Mogwai transform into reptilian Gremlins when fed, and cause chaos in a sleepy suburban town at Christmastime.

It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955, Not Rated)
A naval officer and team of scientists must work together to defeat a giant, from beneath the searadioactive octopus that’s attacking the city of San Francisco.

Jaws (1975, Rated PG)
“We’re going to need a bigger boat.” When a man-eating shark terrorizes a town on the Long Island coast, three men must hunt it down on the open sea.

Jurassic Park (1993, Rated PG-13)
In a would-be theme park on a tropical island, dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA break loose and hunt the paleontologists hired to appraise the park.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994, Rated R)
A dark and atmospheric retelling of the classic tale of terror. A young Victor Frankenstein creates a monster who haunts and hunts him for the rest of his life.

The Meg (2018, Rated PG-13)
When a 70-foot shark attacks and sinks a deep-sea submersible, a rescue diver must face his fears to save the trapped crew.

The Mummy (1999, Rated PG-13)
A rugged adventurer and two Egyptologists accidentally awaken the spirit the mummyof an ancient, evil mummy, and must defeat him to save the world.

Pacific Rim (2013, Rated PG-13)
Alien creatures known as Kaiju arise from the sea to destroy Earth, and can only be stopped by Jaegers, giant robots piloted by two humans with a connection called the Drift.

Pacific Rim Uprising (2018, Rated PG-13)
A new team of Jaeger pilots team up to fight bigger, smarter, and more dangerous Kaiju.

Piranha (2010, Rated R)
An underwater tremor on Lake Victoria sets free a school of man-eating fish, and leaves the spring breakers on vacation there vulnerable to its attacks.

A Quiet Place (2018, Rated PG-13)
Alien monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing have invaded Earth, and a family must live in silence to evade and defeat them.

Shin Godzilla (2016, Not Rated)
A team of volunteers must work fast to discover Godzilla’s weakness before the monster destroys their city, and the world.

Swamp Thing (1981, Rated PG)
A scientist is doused in a plant-based potion and transformed into the swamp thingSwamp Thing by criminals looking to steal his experiments.

The Thing (1982, Rated R)
Scientists living in an Antarctic research station are embroiled in suspicion and suspense when they find a killer, shape-shifting alien is living among them.

Tremors (1989, Rated PG-13)
The residents of an isolated desert town must fight for their lives against a horde of subterranean killer worms.

 

The League of Alternate Superstars: Ray Milland

One senses that Welsh-born Ray Milland (1907-1986) is often thought of as especially adept at light comedy, but that was but one of the genres in which he excelled.  He was equally at home in drama, adventure, and horror.

When he left Britain for the United States in 1930, Milland was signed up by MGM but in short order gobbled up by Paramount.  There he stayed until the classic studio system raybroke down in the late 1940s.

Early on two comedies, one or both of which could be included in the “screwball” subgenre, gave Milland prime roles opposite major actresses.  In The Gilded Lily (1935) it was Claudette Colbert, about to win the Academy Award for It Happened One Night (1934).  The second was Easy Living (1937) with the definitive screwball representative, Jean Arthur.

His career on the rise, Milland had a worthy film in that greatest of all Hollywood years, 1939:  the sound version of that old chestnut, Beau Geste.  The three Geste brothers, played by Gary Cooper, Milland and Robert Preston, join the French Foreign Legion.  Only one survives the enlistment:  Milland’s John.

A biggie for Milland during the war years (a twice-damaged left hand kept him from active service) was the Cecil B. DeMille nautical adventure Reap the Wild Wind (1942).  He was second billed after John Wayne.  In 1944 he was the lead in what many consider the best of all cinematic ghost tales:  The Uninvited.

The same year he starred in Ministry of Fear.  It was a chase movie, an espionage movie, and can be considered noir, especially as it was directed by German expatriate Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M, Fury).

At mid-decade, with the war over, Milland had his watershed moment, as it was for director Billy Wilder:  The Lost Weekend (1945).  So much was against the making of a film about alcoholism.  Prohibitionists said it would promote drinking while the liqour industry was of the opposite opinion.  The studio didn’t want Wilder to do it but it was lostwmade to considerable acclaim:  Academy Awards for Wilder, Best Picture, screenplay by Wilder and Charles Brackett, and Milland.  Decades later The Paramount Story found that the movie held up and called Milland’s performance an “amazingly sensitive and moving portrait of an alcoholic on a three-day bender.”

In 1948 he starred in the noirish and praised The Big Clock.  From the Rotten Tomatoes website it receives a 100% “Fresh” rating.

In 1949, still with Paramount, Milland starred in Alias Nick Beal.  Beal was a satanic figure corrupting Thomas Mitchell from the shadows.  That year he was also back in comedy in the cute 20th Century-Fox production,  It Happens Every Spring.  Presaging The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and flubber, Milland played a college professor who discovered a substance that repelled wood.  What to do with it?  Rub it on baseballs so the hitters can’t hit, of course.

In 1947 Robert Montgomery convinced MGM to let him play private eye Philip Marlowe without being seen in Lady in the Lake.  The audience only spied him when he looked in a mirror.  In 1952 Milland broke free of convention to star in The Thief , which had no dialogue.

On the dark side again, Milland planned an elaborate scheme to kill his unfaithful wife in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954).  That spouse was hot newcomer Grace Kelly.

In the 1960s Milland was enlisted by director Roger Corman, the “King of the Bs,” to essay troubled characters in terror films.  The Premature Burial, ostensibly based on Poe, was first.  X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes followed in 1963.  These were B movies but with the Corman sheen and good casts.  With or without Corman at the helm, Milland threatened to become the new king of horror, but the current one, Vincent Price, never quit.

During his career Milland directed three features:  the well-regarded western A Man panic in year discoAlone (1955), a thriller cum Portugal travelogue, Lisbon (1956), and the post-apocalyptic Panic in Year Zero (1962).  Panic is a B movie but a darned good one.  Driving away from L.A. for their annual vacation at a cabin in the woods, the Baldwins learn of a nuclear attack on the city.  What to do?  What else, continue on to the presumed safety of the isolated cabin.  Under the guidance of the father Harry (Milland), they make good decisions to negotiate an increasingly lawless society and reach their goal.

Although it was labeled by some critics a sappy romance, Love Story (1970) was a tremendously successful movie.  Milland played the spiteful father of Ryan O’Neal’s Oliver Barrett IV before finally coming around to appreciate his son’s choice in a mate Jenny (Ali McGraw).

In 1972 Milland was a cantankerous elder in Frogs, a pro-environment B movie that was in execution fairly nonsensical, e.g., a woman steps into a bog, can’t move and screams as an extra mean snapping turtle crawls her way.  As Jason Crockett, Milland was dismissive of the horror that was slowly surrounding his manse:  “And very intelligently, too.  The frogs are thinking now.  The snails are planning strategy.  They have brains as good as ours.  Is that your point?”  The same year Milland co-starred with former football all-star Rosie Grier in the instant cult movie, The Thing with Two Heads (1972).  Milland played a terminally ill doctor whose head is grafted onto the body of an African-American convict frogs(Grier) seeking to prove his innocence.  “Is this some kind of joke?” is Milland’s response to his new condition.

In 1976 Milland won an Emmy Award for Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) as Supporting Actor in a Continuing Series.  In addition to appearing in many TV shows, Milland had directed episodes of General Electric Theater, The Dick Powell Show, Thriller and others.

When he passed away at age 79 in 1986, Milland had been married to his wife Muriel since 1932.  His film legacy is second to very few.

 

By Kim

 

References

Eames, John Douglas.  The Paramount Story.  1987.

Madsen, Axel.  Billy Wilder.  1969.

Shipman, David.  The Great Movie Stars:  The Golden Years.  1970.

Hugh Marlowe’s Golden Age

Like even the biggest stars, supporting actors often had a golden age, and for Hugh Marlowe 1949-1956 was that epoch.

Marlowe was born Hugh Herbert Hipple in Philadelphia in 1911.  He went west in the 1930s and began performing in the increasingly esteemed Pasadena Playhouse.  His film debut was in Brilliant Marriage (1936).  In 1944 he had a small part in the classic MGM musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, before moving to 20th Century-Fox for a bigger role in another quality film, Come to the Stable (1949) with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm.  Fox became Marlowe’s “home studio” for the ensuing decade.  Also in ’49, Marlowe achieved second billing behind Gregory Peck in the sterling World War II saga, Twelve O’Clock High, which received Best Picture and Actor (Peck) nominations.  (Dean Jagger won the Best Supporting Actor award.) This was one of those rather perfect mid-century movies, as was Marlowe’s next.  Night and the City (1950) is considered a 4-star noir starring Richard Widmark.  This impressive stretch continued with All About Eve, the justly famous Bette Davis Academy Award-winning film.  

The Day the Earth Stood Still

In 1951 Marlowe almost put the kibosh on Klaatu (Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still), sent from his planet to warn earth to cease and desist squabbling and fighting lest it be turned into “a burned out cinder,” probably by Klaatu’s loyal servant/galactic policeman, Gort the robot.  As Patricia Neal’s intended, and hopeful of impressing her by revealing to the authorities that her boarder Mr. Carpenter is none other than the visitor from space, Marlowe ruined his chances via this schmucky decision.

That same year Marlowe was out of character in a western, or was he?  For his role as the one-time gentleman become outlaw gang leader in Rawhide, Brian Garfield observed in Western Movies:  A Complete Guide that “Most of all, however, it is Hugh Marlowe’s electrifying performance that makes it top-drawer.”

In 1952 Marlowe narrated Diplomatic Courier, a decent if action-starved Cold War adventure starring Tyrone Power.  Also that year was Howard Hawks’ Monkey Business, full of monkey shines or rather ape shines as a chimp mixes up an elixir that consumed at the water cooler caused Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers to revert to the ways of unbridled childhood.  (It is curious that this and another Fox film, 1949’s It Happens Every Spring, have similar plot devices:  the accidental creation of weird substances.  In Spring it is methylethylpropylbutyl, which repels wood.  This must be attributable to the postwar fascination with scientists and their seemingly magical research and inventions.)  In Monkey Business Marlowe is on the outs again, losing Rogers to Grant, naturally.  

garden of evilIn the now highly-regarded 1954 western Garden of Evil, Marlowe’s John Fuller was the catalyst for his wife Leah (Susan Hayward) to ride pell mell from the Mexican interior to the coast, hoping to enlist someone to help her rescue him from a mine cave-in.  She finds Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark, Cameron Mitchell and Victor Manuel Mendoza, all eager to do the deed and share in some gold. Using brute strength, the men extract Fuller from the mine. He’s not so sanguine, however, telling them it’s the time of the “White Man’s Moon.”  The Indians—never seen closeup and thus supremely frightening—won’t let anyone leave. They’d only left him unscathed because they couldn’t think of a worse fate. Marlowe spent 90% of the movie flat on his back, then was shoved up onto a horse, and later was found spread-eagled upside down on a cross with an arrow in him.  According to the Garden of Evil pressbook, this position increased his blood pressure and aggravated latent sinus problems because of the altitude.

Marlowe had three films released in 1956.  In each he was the lead. On numerous occasions the second-rank studio Allied Artists churned out low-budget but special, sometimes cutting-edge movies.  Think The Big Combo, Riot in Cell Block 11, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Hell to Eternity.  Not quite up to those standards but interesting nonetheless was World Without End.  With higher production values that some other grade B science fiction films of that era plus outdoor location shooting, it gave Marlowe the role of a scientist on a spaceship accidentally venturing into the future after circling Mars and heading home.  Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is chiefly notable for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion special effects.  Marlowe was back in a western in The Black Whip.  Again he elicited Garfield’s praise:  “and Hugh Marlowe always commands attention—he is an excellent actor ill-used by Hollywood, whose commanding voice and rugged good looks might well have been employed to far greater advantage than in the second-rate movies he usually appeared in.”

birdman of alcatrazIn the 1960s Marlowe made appearances in a number of prestigious films, including Elmer Gantry (1960), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and Seven Days in May (1964).  (Is there any significance that all three starred Burt Lancaster?)  From 1969 to 1982 he was a family patriarch on the TV soap opera, Another World.  Hugh Marlowe died in 1982 at the age of 71.  His son Chris Marlowe became an Olympic volleyball champion and remains a notable TV sportscaster.  He’d also acted on TV and in a few movies.

By Kim

References

Garden of Evil pressbook  1954.

Brian Garfield.  Western Films: A Complete Guide.  1982. 

A Brief History of “Non-Movies”

There have been calls for productions from Netflix and other cable content providers/streaming services to be nominated for Academy Awards.  There is some sense to this in that many of these productions are more cutting edge than what appears in theaters, especially those epics based on comic books and video games that target “fan boys.”  However, the cable companies create films for TV, not the big screen.  That qualifies them as non-movies, at least for purists and the literal-minded, who contend that a movie is a movie only if it is made for and shown in a theater.  After all, there are Emmy Awards for TV productions, whether series, specials or lengthy productions.

netflix theater

Maybe the term “movie” should be used for productions shown in a theater, “film” for those that are not.   But recall that film is also a physical object on which a motion picture was made through the first hundred years of the cinema.

Could one use length to legitimize a movie?   In the past, many low-budget “B-movies” and “programmers” were less than 60 minutes long.  That doesn’t sound like a movie, giant gila monsterdoes it?  But what about 80 minutes?  We wouldn’t deny the 80-minute Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) the status of “movie,” would we?  Film noir B movies were often short.  For instance, Raw Deal (1948) came in at 79 minutes, The Narrow Margin (1952) at 71 minutes.  Fifties sci-fi films were similarly short, e.g., The Giant Gila Monster (1959) is 74 and its double-feature mate The Killer Shrews 69 minutes.  (For years length was predicated on exhibition.  Was the product to be shown in a drive-in?  It made sense to double up.  Was it to be shown repeatedly in a regular theater along with cartoons and newsreels?)

One of the earliest “non-movies” was Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955).  This was spliced together from Walt Disney’s immensely successful proto-TV miniseries, the 3-episode Davy Crockett.

Consider “TV movies” or “made-for-television movies,” which originated in the 1960s duelafter the broadcast networks exhausted the movie libraries of major studios whose semi-recent films were first shown in primetime on NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies (1961).  Being made for TV compromised TV movies’ designation as movies not only because they were made specifically for the home screen but because they were created with commercial breaks in mind, with actors who might have been stars but were no longer popular, with budgets smaller than big-screen productions, and with censorship that compromised their art.  See How They Run (1964) is reckoned the first made-for-television production.  Surprisingly, these items were quite popular.  Unsurprisingly, predicting his future status, Steven Spielberg’s thriller Duel (1971) is generally regarded as the best made-for-TV movie.

The 1964 version of The Killers is a real conundrum.  This was a modern take on Hemingway’s short story initially come to the screen as a highly regarded 1946 film noir starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.  Don Siegel directed the ‘64 version with Lee Marvin and Ronald Reagan in his last big screen role, and surprise, surprise, it was deemed too violent for TV.  Siegel had helmed Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) and would in a few years collaborate with Clint Eastwood on Coogan’s Bluff and Dirty Harry, distinctly violent crime dramas.  Thus was The Killers TV presentation canceled in favor of a theatrical release.  It has its admirers, especially among Lee Marvin fans.  (It premiered the year before Cat Ballou, for which he won his Academy Award.)  Nevertheless, for the purist this film is tainted by its association with TV.

What about filmed plays?  Electronovision made its appearance in 1964-1965.  The burton hamlet take 2wrinkle here was that live stage shows were filmed, duplicated and shown in theaters across the country.  Perhaps the most famous electronovision film was Hamlet (1964) with Richard Burton.  The goal of American Film Theatre (1973-1975) was similar to that of electronovision, but with famous plays produced specially for showing in movie theaters to subscribers.  These included Lee Marvin in The Iceman Cometh, Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in Rhinoceros, Susannah York and Glenda Jackson in The Maids, and Luther with Stacy Keach.

How about made for/direct-to-video/straight-to-DVD?  Andy Sidaris, who had directed Sunday Night Football in 1970 as well as Olympic events and ABC’s long-running program, Wide World of Sports, was an early exponent of this form of exhibition.  His writing and directing skills were devoted to R-rated adventures for video and cable.  More recently action saga purveyors have often skirted voluntarily or been forced to release their films direct to cable.  Some are even good, e.g., Universal Soldier:  Regeneration (2009).

Since the 1960s there have been “movies” shown in theaters overseas but in few U.S. theaters.  These include films comprised of two or more episodes of a popular TV series strung together, reedited and provided extra footage to become, for the undiscriminating action fan at least, “movies.”  Think TV’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and its souped up productions for theaters, To Trap a Spy (1964) and The Man with My Face (1965).  Classics were not immune to the need for more primetime product, witness the direct to TV in 1966 of Purple Death from Outer Space and Perils from the Planet Mongo, both compiled gotg2from the 1940 serial Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

Returning to the modern day, are superhero sagas movies?  Why wouldn’t they be?  They are made to be shown in theaters, but here’s where definition might be be compromised by origin, i.e., comics, graphic novels and cartoons.  (On the other hand, is this different from basing a movie on a novel or stage play?)  What about pandering to audiences with inside jokes and references to pop culture?  Think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 What about sequels with numbers in the titles, from Rocky II to Predator 2?  If the sequel to The Robe (1953) were made today, would it not be The Robe 2 rather than Demetrius and the Gladiators?

In the final analysis, recall the plethora of movies about western icon Wyatt Earp.  To varying degrees they are all worthwhile.  So the Wyatt Earp-that-satisfies-you test can apply to your definition of movie. 

By Kim

The Best (and Last) of the Bs

Cover imageIn common movie parlance, B stands for B, not A. The B movie could be made cheaply (“on a shoestring”), feature a cast of up-and-comers (Lee Marvin, Dennis Hopper), actors who’d found their niche (Randolph Scott, John Payne), character actors (Riot in Cell Block 11), or actors whose glory days were behind them (Van Heflin). Because of a tight script and competent behind-the-scenes personnel, B-movies could exceed expectations and even become classics. A prime example of this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), directed by low-budget master Don Siegel, produced by big-time Hollywood veteran Walter Wanger. B movies can have an edge major studio productions lack. Had they been large-scale studio films they might have been censored under the restrictions imposed by the Production Code until they were shadows of their former selves. The B movie was also termed a “programmer,” i.e., a small-scale production that could run as a matinee feature or part of a double bill with another B film plus cartoons and newsreels.

B movies have a heritage that goes back to the ’30s. Examples include the Three Cover imageMesquiteers western series, some of which starred the young John Wayne. “Poverty Row” studios like Monogram and Producers Releasing Corporation churned out innumerable B films in various genres, sometimes hitting a home run with the likes of PRC‘s Detour (1945).

It’s convenient, of course, to plot trends by decade, but it’s rarely true. The best and last of the Bs extended from the ’50s into the ’60s. Slowly TV took over as prime purveyor of film entertainment, helped when color became common by the end of the decade. Why go to the theater for a modest western when a modest western was on the tube every night? Double features and matinees were also on their way out. The “beach” movies petered out well before decade’s end. They were B movies to be sure, but hardly art or “good” except for the now iconic pop stars and groups who showed up to serenade the surfers, motorcycle men and molls, beach bums and assorted older actors and actresses generally slumming as crackpots or square adults.

The quality B movies released between 1951 and 1962 that are held in Chester County Library’s Multimedia Department are:

Cover imageFixed Bayonets (1951) — Gene Evans’ Sergeant Rock (!) doesn’t care if Corporal Denno (Richard Basehart) uses one or six bullets to kill a Commie, just do it!

The Prowler (1951) — Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) ingratiates himself with Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) after she complains about a peeping-tom. Adultery leads to murder and a slag heap.

When Worlds Collide (1951) — A star christened Bellus approaches the solar system and threatens life on earth. A rocket is constructed to transport a selected few to safety on Bellus’s orbiting planet, Zyra.

The Thing from Another World (1951) — A flying saucer crashes in the arctic. The Air Cover imageForce men who find it also discover its pilot, a very tall humanoid, frozen in a block of ice. Too late do they realize that an electric blanket has thawed out the less than benevolent visitor from space. “Keep watching the skies!” urges reporter Scotty.

Kansas City Confidential (1952) — A flower delivery man (John Payne) is set up to take the fall for a bank robbery in this intricately plotted heist film.

The Narrow Margin (1952) — Tough as nails police detective (Charles McGraw) escorts to a trial via train a prime witness who’s targeted for murder. Surprise ending.

Invaders from Mars (1953) — “Moo-tants! What would they want here?” is the anguished question Dr. Pat Blake (Helena Carter) asks the astronomer (Arthur Franz). But is it all a young boy’s dream?

It Came from Outer Space (1953) — Crash landing their spacecraft in the American Southwest (typical ’50s environment), aliens try to keep humans at bay while fixing their spacecraft. Richard Carlson helps them finish their task and tells teacher Barbara Rush they’ll return when the time is right.

Cover image99 River Street (1953) — John Payne again, this time as a one-time boxer turned cabbie framed for his shifty wife’s murder. With help from the underrated Evelyn Keyes (The Prowler), he proves his innocence and takes down the criminals.

Split Second (1953) — Murderous convict Sam Hurley (Stephen McNally) and his wounded companion take hostages in a Nevada ghost town the day before a scheduled atomic blast.

War of the Worlds (1953) — Although H. G. Wells’ classic adventure is updated to 1953 Los Angeles, it’s a decent rendering of the novel.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) — The last of the now iconic Universal monsters Cover imagemakes his auspicious debut (he/it appeared in two other ’50s films) in the Amazon, where in a classic scene the creature parallels from underwater Julie Adams swimming above. Once again, it’s a beauty and the beast fable.

Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954) — Character actor all-stars in Don Siegel’s docudrama. Psychopathic Crazy Mike Carney (Leo Gordon) was actually incarcerated before becoming an actor and writer.

The Tall Texan (1954) — With a plot similar to the same year’s A production, Garden of Evil, this film features a bow and arrow sequence that is supremely dangerous.

The Big Combo (1955) — Subtext abounds in this gangster saga. Police Lieutenant Diamond (Cornel Wilde) aims to take down the criminal empire of Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) even as he develops a craving for his moll (Jean Wallace). Significant noir features Cover imagethe compelling hitmen duo of Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) — The threat of nuclear holocaust is the backstory in this noir classic featuring Ralph Meeker as Mickey Spillane’s uber tough private eye Mike Hammer.  How appropriate that his assistant is named Velda?

Shack Out on 101 (1955) — Propagandistic anti-communist tract is unintentionally hilarious tale set in a beanery on the California coast where hash-slinger Cottie (Terry Moore) dreams of working behind a desk in a great, big government building while fending off the advances of short order cook Slob (Lee Marvin), who just might have invented the V-neck t-shirt.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) The first and best of the “pod” movies features Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter as Santa Mira residents who discover their hometown has been infested by alien seed pods that recreate humans as emotion-less automatons. Where can you hide in a small town where everybody knows your name and residence?

Running Target (1956) — Modern-day western features a Colorado sheriff (Arthur Franz) reluctantly leading a posse to retrieve escaped convicts dead or alive.

The Killing (1956) — One of director Stanley Kubrick’s early films is a heist saga told from different viewpoints. Needless to say, the race track robbers don’t quite succeed. Chalk up another topnotch escapade for Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle).

Slightly Scarlet (1956) — One of the few fifties noir films in color features John Payne yet Cover imageagain, this time fending off two redheaded sisters, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl, who has the best line: “Oh please call me Dor, won’t you? A frank and open door.”

The Brass Legend (1956) — Just before his stint as TV’s Wyatt Earp, Hugh O’Brian faced down outlaw Raymond Burr, so large we feel sorry for his steed.

Seven Men from Now (1956) — One-time sheriff Randolph Scott tracks the men who killed his wife during a freight office robbery. Complicating matters are a husband and wife heading west, Apaches, and a gunman. It all comes down to a showdown between Scott and Lee Marvin.

Decision at Sundown (1957) — Randolph Scott stirs up the residents of Sundown, where he intends killing John Carroll, whose affair with Scott’s wife led to her death—or did it?

Cover imageThe Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) — After a radioactive cloud envelops Scott Carey (Grant Williams) during a fishing trip, he begins shrinking. In short order he must beware of the cat and what has become for him a giant spider.

The Tall T (1957) — Taken hostage along with fellow stage traveler Maureen O’Sullivan, Randolph Scott ingratiates himself with kidnapper Richard Boone and sows dissention among Boone’s cadre comprised of Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. When Boone goes to collect the ransom and Silva follows to make sure he’ll return, Scott gets his chance to survive.

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) — Returning from Venus, a U.S. spaceship crashes off the Italian coast. A small container holds a strange reptilian creature that proceeds to grow and terrorize the inhabitants.

The Blob (1958) — Seminal goo movie has a Cold War subtext.Cover image

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) — Riding into the Texas-Mexico border town of Agry, Randolph Scott finds himself at odds with two feuding families and stymied in his attempt to start a ranch.

Fiend Without a Face (1958) — At a Canadian research facility, scientists inadvertently unleash swiftly-moving brains that feast on human ones. Excellent special effects.

Hell’s Five Hours (1958) — Prescient thriller features Vic Morrow as mentally deranged, hostage-taking terrorist intent on blowing up a rocket fuel plant.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) — Sometimes ranked the best science fiction B movie of the decade, this film can be seen as an inspiration for Alien and was itself triggered by The Thing from Another World (1951).

Thunder Road (1958) — Robert Mitchum had hoped Elvis would play his younger brother Cover imagein this drive-in circuit cult favorite about moonshiners.

The 4D Man (1959) — Robert Lansing invents an “electronic amplifier” that allows him to walk through solid objects and naturally visit vengeance upon his enemies.

Ride Lonesome (1959) — Bounty hunter Randolph Scott captures James Best, who warns Scott about the toll his brother Lee Van Cleef will take. Enter Karen Steele, the ingratiating gunmen Pernell Roberts and his sidekick James Coburn (his first film), and Indians. And don’t forget, Van Cleef is still out there.

Terror is a Man (aka Blood Creature, 1959) — A U.S.-Filipino co-production version of H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau has atmosphere in spades and the gorgeous Ms. Denmark, Greta Thyssen, as she who soothes the monster in this beauty and the beast scenario.

Comanche Station (1960) — Jefferson Cody (Randolph Scott) buys a recently captured white woman (Nancy Gates) from the Comanches but needs the help of Ben Lane (Claude Akins) and his gunslingers to make his way back to civilization. Surprise ending.

Night Tide (1961) — On leave sailor (Dennis Hopper) encounters the seashore sideshow Cover image“mermaid” Mora (Linda Lawson), who just might be the real thing. Besides the story, this is a snapshot of a California entertainment pier in the early ’60s.

Carnival of Souls (1962) — One of those movies that are probably less than meets the eye but have influenced future filmmakers.

Panic in Year Zero! (1962) — Veteran star Ray Milland acts in and directs this thoughtful apocalyptic thriller where the protagonists make sensible decisions to stay alive after a nuclear attack.

Were there any foreign language B movies in the ’50s and ’60s? Yes. The Italian “sword and sandal” mini-epics spawned by Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), and the late ’60s and early ’70s spaghetti westerns generated by Sergio Leone and Clint Cover imageEastwood’s “Man with No Name” trilogy (but not the classier Once Upon a Time in the West, Red Sun, and Duck, You Sucker). Also horror like Italy’s Black Sunday (1960). Japan contributed Godzilla (1954) and its kin, such as Rodan and Mothra. As for Britain’s Hammer Studios, their Gothics may have been lower budget than more mainstream films, but the use of color, sets, music and excellent acting raise them to a higher level.

Post written by Kim Holston