Sunday, November 10, 2019

HALLS OF MONTEZUMA 1951





"The everlasting story of the everlasting glory of the United Stares Marines!"



    Released by Fox, this 1951 Technicolor war epic features a terrific cast many of whom were just starting out on long careers and while at first glance it does seem to be something that would have been made about 6 years or so earlier (one of the "why we need to fight" WWII pictures) it does attempt to get into a bit more into the psychological side of things and thanks to full corporation on the USMC it features scads of post WWII Marine armor and vehicles. Filmed in Southern Calif. around Camp Pendleton (along with a stop off at famous Bronson Cavern) the filmmakers were allowed the full corporation of the USMC which as a result along with the bunches of Marine hardware (for armor buff lots of Sherman tank & Amtracks) they had access to hundreds of Marines for use as extras.
   Although basically a 113 minute recruiting advertisement for the Marines with recruiting stations even set up in theatre lobbies, it was directed by Lewis Milestone who rather ironically had directed what is considered to be one of the greatest anti-war films of all time - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT in 1930. Some shots in HALLS OF MONTEZUMA, espically the long tracking shots of lines of charging and falling soldiers, are very reminiscent of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. Although filled with gung-ho rousing action sequences as the Marine Hymn blasts away on the soundtrack as mentioned the story does attempt to get a little deeper into a few of the soldiers back story with some admittedly overdone melodrama. We feel something for the them and when the characters do die, they die an agonizingly slow death while dragging themselves heroically through the mud.
   The movie was parodied in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H* in 1972 as one of the PA announcements for an upcoming movie night using one of the actual (and rather embarrassing) tag lines for the movie "Only the screen could capture their story and their glory...cheer those lovable mugs with the wonderful mugs we now love more than ever". What the hell (??)




     Focusing on a Marine platoon during an unnamed WWII Pacific battle (it's based loosely upon Okinawa and it was titled as that in some overseas releases) the film features Richard Widmark as the Lt., Karl Malden as the medic, along with Neville Brand (EATEN ALIVE), Jack Palance, Skip Homeier (THE TALL T), Robert Wagner, Martin Milner (ADAM-12), Brett Freed (HANG 'EM HIGH) who as the tough Sgt. is constantly trying to build a moonshine still (and would in a few years would be replaced by Aldo Ray in this type of role) and Richard Hylton (FIXED BAYONETS!) as the remainder as the central group of soldiers that we're introduced to in the film's opening sequences. The remainder of the cast includes Richard Boone, in his big screen debut, as the command figure in the form of a Col. perpetually suffering from a cold, along with Reginald Gardner as an intelligence officer and Japanese interpreter (who also supplies a bit of comedy relief) and Jack Webb as a war correspondent.
     This ensemble (sans Boone) is sent on a mission to locate a hidden Japanese rocket battery that must be destroyed by a certain time in order for an offense to start. Earlier in the movie we were introduced to various members of the squad is flashback (which does stop the action-oriented narrative a bit) and how their problems such as Widmark's migraine headaches, Hylton's cowardice and Homeier's tough guy attitude play out in the upcoming plot as the groups numbers are whittled down and they become more desperate and disillusioned. It's interesting to see how it's mostly the younger actors who perhaps were newly under contract at FOX, receive the lion's share of the back- story sequences with Wagner, Homeier and Hylton each receiving a segment.
   The movie features some spectacular battle footage with actual color combat footage neatly worked in and once the action moves primarily to the island  and the "mission" begins the plot holds interest and excitement in spite of its rather long running time and as far as a war picture, you couldn't ask for a better cast.
    The film works well with giving all the individual marines distinct personalities and we feel a sense of loss as various members of the patrol are killed or wounded. There is also a realistic feeling and look to the men in combat as they become more disheveled, bloody and dirty as the film progresses and although filmed in Southern Calif. the scenery is well chosen and doesn't scream "California" like a lot of productions although film buffs will instantly recognize the Bronson Caverns setting from about a gazillion films.




    The entire cast is excellent with most looking impossibly young including dark-haired & slim Richard Boone (who as the commanding officer basically just stands around and yells at everyone) and Jack Palance (here right after his first major role in the wonderful PANIC IN THE STREETS) is already one those actors that you just can't take your eyes off of.
     It's always interesting to watch Jack Webb in his early movies as you swear you actually see the wheels turning in his head as he observes the creative process. He would later use Boone in the 1954 DRAGNET movie (where he would essentially play the same character as here) and with even more fortuity this would be his first meeting with a young actor named Martin Milner and there's an integration scene here with a captured Japanese officer that's eerily reminiscent of his later work in DRAGNET. Richard Widmark has always been a highly intriguing actor to me. He always seems to bring some depths (no matter how small) to every character he plays from the highly consciences and caring role here to his more evil portrayals such as in KISS OF DEATH.
    HALLS OF MONTEZUMA is available on a Fox DVD that's re-packaged every so often in multi-packs with other Fox war films, although a Blu-ray hopefully one day should look pretty spectacular.














Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Rosalba Neri News # 30 LA CASA DELLA PAURA (THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A) 1974 On Blu




    X Rated Kult have announced the upcoming release of THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A for later this fall. Although a release date of Nov. 8 has been posted over on Blu-ray.com there is no pre-order has of now on Amazon. X-Rated doesn't have much of an internet or social media footprint and their initial media book style releases tend to disappear quickly with a standard package release following.
   Although a European production it features a couple of Americans in the mix being the last movie directed by skin-flick specialist William Rose (THE SMUT PEDDLER and RENT-A-GIRL) and it was produced by Dick Randall (THE FRENCH SEX MURDERS and FRANKENSTEINS CASTLE OF FREAKS) who had a hand in bunches of features starting in the early 60's such as THE WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD before heading to Europe where he spent the majority of his career.
    Owing a bit more to ROSEMARY'S BABY (with a bit of Val Lewton's THE SEVENTH VICTIM mixed in) then the giallos its most often lumped in with it works a pretty decent little thriller with creepy atmosphere but things never quite completely gel like you would hope. Daniela Giordano (YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY) plays a young woman who after being sent to prison on trumped up charges goes to live in creepy rooming house overseen by Giovanna Galletti (KILL, BABY...KILL!). Rosalba plays a social worker for Giordano and Karin Schubert (THE COLD EYES OF FEAR) also appears. 
     The Blu-ray DVD package will be released in a mediabook format with the four covers shown in a limited edition (usually 333 or 666 or some such number) and later a standard edition with the book. It was previosly released on a now OOP DVDfrom Mondo Macabro.






The above screenshots are from the Mondo Macabro DVD 




Wednesday, October 16, 2019

DRAGNET 1967 : THE LSD STORY

Season 1
Episode 1

Original Air Date Jan. 12 1967

"Your pretty high and far out. What kind of kick on you on, son ?"



"It was Tuesday March 15th. It was fair in Los Angeles"
"We were working the day watch out of Juvenile Narcotics"
"The boss is Capt. Richie" 


    In 1966 Jack Webb relaunched DRAGNET for NBC television and a featured length movie was produced as a pilot which did not actually air until 1969. The series proper premiered on Jan. 12, 1967 with this episode which has become of the best loved for fans of the series. Playing it would seem constantly in reruns somewhere during the 70's and beyond, these newer color episodes have somewhat sadly become more readily available the series classic B&W run in the 50's. With the new color episodes Webb's never changing wardrobe of dark slakes and grey sport jacket stand out along with the brown smog drenched opening shot of Los Angeles ("This is the city...")
   Now produced in color Webb decided it was time for the TV version LAPD and Sgt. Friday to confront the exploding counter culture moment and the associated drug use which in turn accounted for some the more infamous &  entertaining episodes of the series (including next seasons THE BIG PROPHET and the much-loved THE BIG HIGH). One more major change for the series revival was a new partner in the form of Webb's old friend Harry Morgan as officer Bill Gannon. Like Ben Alexander's portrayal of Det. Frank Smith in the B&W series run, Morgan's deft touch of comedy was a perfect foil for Webb's portrayal of the ramrod straight Friday and their interactions would become highlights of the new episodes (you see Webb trying his best to stifle laughter during some sequences).  
   Sometimes known as the "Blue Boy" episode this initial episode of the resurrected DRAGNET took the no-nonsense Joe Friday crashing headlong into the world of psychedelics, Sunset Blvd. and hippies. It takes place in the historical time frame before the outlaw of LSD on 10/6/1966 - which the episode takes note of.



  Working out of the Juvenile Division Friday & Gannon respond to a call concerning strangely behaving teenager Benjie Carver (child actor Michael Burns) whose been reported tripping out in vacant lot with his head buried in the dirt. Popping out of the ground with a yellow & blue painted face he utters such classic lines as "I'm green, I'm a tree!" and proclaims himself to be "Blue Boy!"
  Arresting him and bringing him back to station the officers face the wrath of the boy's parents who being obviously upper class start throwing their weight & money around ("Are saying my son is a drug addict !?"). We then get a trip to forensic chemist Ray Murray (Webb regular Olan Soule - and probably my favorite actor in the Dragnet universe) where he relates the history and effects of LSD with the some hoped-for chilling asides with ominous cue music concerning its effects.



     With Benji let off with probation Friday & Gannon begin coming across various kids who become involved with LSD but are set straight with Friday sternly explaining how a simple experiment with marijuana can lead to LSD and as mentioned the episode takes place in the historical context before the drug was outlawed.  The story ends with the passage of the law outlawing LSD and the expected tragic climax of the episode. Along the way we get some great footage of the Sunset Strip (used in later episodes) including Pandora's Box and The Trip - complete with a Marquee for The Ted Neeley Five (Neeley later played Jesus in the original Broadway production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR). At one point Friday and & Gannon bust a hippie drug pad that features psychedelic lighting and a guy eating paint (!!) all set to some trippy music played backwards on reel-to-reel tape deck.
    Shari Lee Bernath (THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST 1958) and Heather Menzies-Urich (PIRANHA 1978) show up as a couple of wayward teens who after experimenting with LSD are put back on the straight path by Friday & Gannon (with the girls even becoming snitches!).  Also on board is soon to be series regulars Alfred Shelly (usually playing secondary Sgts or detectives), busy TV character Arthur Knapp as the pushy father and Art Balinger (usually as here playing the stern captain).