Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Columbia's Screen Classics by Request

About two months ago, Sony Home Entertainment unveiled their Screen Classics by Request program, which allows fans to purchase print-on-demand DVDs of films from Columbia's backlog that have never been available before.  There's approximately 100 flicks currently up for grabs, each one priced at $19.94--plus shipping, natch.  You can view the entire catalogue by clicking HERE, but I've included links and synopses of some of the titles I thought you all might be interested in.  Check 'em out.

10 Rillington Place: Based on Ludovic Kennedy’s investigative book, this is the true and horrifying story of serial killer John Christie, chillingly played by Richard Attenborough. When Timothy Evans (John Hurt) and his wife (Judy Geeson) move into Christie’s tiny flat, they do not know that they are now part of the latest plan Christie has hatched to lure yet another woman to her death and pin the blame on Evans, who is soon afterwards hanged. It is only when fate exposes the crimes of the death-house at 10 Rillington Place in London, that Christie is brought to justice and all of England rethinks its views of the death penalty. Newly remastered.

The 27th Day: Gene Barry (War of the Worlds) stars in this unique, intelligent sci-fi thriller. Five ordinary humans are summoned by an alien (Arnold Moss, Gambit) who gives each a box containing capsules capable of killing millions of people. If they can refrain from using the capsules for 27 days, the Earth will be spared. Will they be able to stand firm, especially when word leaks out and a panicked and furious population starts to hunt them down? William Asher (I Love Lucy) directed this seldom-seen sleeper, adapted by John Mantley (Gunsmoke) from his own novel; the cast also includes Valerie French, George Voskovec, Paul Birch, Mel Welles and legendary voice actor Paul Frees in a rare onscreen appearance as a newscaster. Newly remastered.

30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock: In his final film (and only starring role without partner Bud Abbott), the one and only Lou Costello plays Artie Pinsetter, a would-be inventor who needs to create something in a hurry when his girlfriend (Dorothy Provine, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World) is mysteriously turned into a giantess. This wacky spoof of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and other sci-fi “growth” epics of that era is skillfully helmed by veteran actor/director Sidney Miller (Babes In Arms) and features such beloved comedy greats as long-time Lucille Ball foil Gale Gordon as Dorothy’s pompous uncle, plus Charles Lane, Jimmy Conlin, Joey Faye, Peter Leeds and Doodles Weaver. And it’s “Wonder filmed” in the miracle of “Amazorama!” Newly remastered.

Address Unknown: The legendary production designer William Cameron Menzies (Gone With The Wind) produced and directed this startling drama, made during World War II. Academy Award®-winner Paul Lukas (1943, Best Actor, Watch on the Rhine) and Morris Carnovsky (Dead Reckoning) star as German immigrants and art-dealers in San Francisco whose lifelong friendship is threatened when Lukas returns to Germany and comes under the sway of Nazi beliefs. The daughter and son of the two men, engaged to be married, are also caught up in the crisis. This riveting Hitchcock-style thriller, stunningly photographed by Rudolph Maté (Foreign Correspondent), blends suspense, romance, action and a powerful message into a unique and exciting film. The cast also includes K.T. Stevens, Carl Esmond, Peter Van Eyck, Emory Parnell, Frank Faylen, Charles Halton and Frank Reicher. Newly remastered.

Birds Do It: In his only starring feature film, legendary TV comic Soupy Sales plays a top-secret janitor at Cape Kennedy who dreams of becoming an inventor and has, in fact, created devices to help him keep the place clean. Then one day he walks into the wrong room, and before you can say “Up, Up and Away!” he has the power to fly. Naturally, the bad guys want him even more than the NASA folks. This zany comedy for all ages features Tab Hunter in a dual role, many popular TV comedy actors, and a gag cameo by a very famous singer. Also features Arthur O’Connell, Beverly Adams, Edward Andrews, Frank Nastasi, and is directed by Andrew Marton. Newly remastered.

The Canterville Ghost: Sir John Gielgud stars as a 300-year-old cantankerous ghost who finds a new unexpected friend in a modern American teenager in The Canterville Ghost. When an American family comes to England to claim their inherited ancient ancestral castle, the restless spirit of Sir Simon, refusing to share his home, instigates all manner of fiendish tricks intended to scare the new owners off the premises. The daughter of the new owner (Alyssa Milano) has her own objectives for wanting to make trouble for her father (Ted Wass) and new stepmother (Andrea Marcovicci). This updated retelling of the classic tale (first filmed in 1944) is a fantasy full of fun for the whole family. Newly remastered.

The Case Against Brooklyn: Based on a true story, this gritty, brutal drama traces how the police, empowered by the D.A., go about smashing a violent betting syndicate. Darren McGavin (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) plays the lead cop on the case, while Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet) has one of his best roles as the mob’s sadistic enforcer. Maggie Hayes and Peggy McCay co-star alongside such veteran tough guys as Tol Avery, Emile Meyer, Nestor Paiva, Robert Osterloh and Joe Turkel; Paul Wendkos (The Burglar) directs from a script by blacklisted writer Bernard Gordon (billed as Raymond T. Marcus). Newly remastered.

Cell 2455, Death Row: Based on the autobiographical book by Caryl Chessman, this fictionalized account of how a boy becomes a brutal criminal is both shocking and sensational. William Campbell plays Whit Whittier, who begins with petty crime, escalating to violence, and finally convicted on charges of robbery and rape, is sent to San Quentin’s Death Row. While awaiting execution, Whittier studies law and manages to successfully represent himself in appeal after appeal. The real story of Chessman was controversial for the prosecutor’s use of the Lindbergh kidnap law, in an unorthodox way, resulting in Chessman’s death sentence for crimes that did not amount to murder. A gripping, shocking film, particularly for its time, which explores the problems of juvenile delinquency and the justice system without shying away from controversy. Directed by Fred F. Sears (Earth vs. The Flying Saucers and Rock Around the Clock), with Marian Carr, Kathryn Grant and Vince Edwards. Newly remastered.

Contract on Cherry Street: Frank Sinatra and Martin Balsam are lieutenants on the vice squad investigating motor vehicle chop shops which lead them to a wider investigation of the mob. After the murder of one of their own, the cops decide to take justice into their own hands, no matter where that dark road takes them. Location filming in New York takes Sinatra into Studio 54 and the backroom of a Jewish deli, which enhances the atmosphere of this procedural/thriller. Great performances from the squad room cops and the mob characters including Jay Black, Verna Bloom, Joe De Santis, Martin Gabel, Harry Guardino, James Luisi, Michael Nouri, Marco St. John, Henry Silva, Richard Ward and Johnny Barnes keep this tale moving at high speed. Written by two-time Academy Award® winner Edward Anhalt (Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, Panic in the Streets, 1950), (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Becket, 1964), from a novel by Philip Rosenberg and directed by William A. Graham. Newly remastered.

Crash Landing: Nancy Davis (aka Mrs. Ronald Reagan) made her last feature film appearance in this gripping Sam Katzman production. As a trans-Atlantic flight bound for New York develops engine trouble, flashbacks reveal what brought the passengers and crew to this fateful moment. (Relax — they don’t land on a weird island with smoke monsters.) A fine cast adds spark to this unusual entry in a familiar genre, written by future Star Trek producer Fred Freiberger. Directed by Fred F. Sears (The Giant Claw) and starring Gary Merrill, Irene Hervey, Roger Smith and Richard Keith. Newly remastered.

Detour to Terror: O.J. Simpson plays the driver of a tour bus on its way to Las Vegas hijacked by a gang of men in a dune-buggy. The crazed men are intent on kidnapping one of the passengers, an heiress, and force the tourists into a harrowing detour in the middle of the desert. Lorenzo Lamas is excellent as one of the villains who will stop at nothing to get their way. This classic made-for-television thriller also stars Anne Francis and Arte Johnson. Newly remastered.

Duffy: Academy Award®-winner James Coburn (1998, Best Supporting Actor, Affliction) is at his coolest and suavest in this delightful caper that brings back the Swingin’ Sixties in all their groovy finery. He’s a retired master thief who agrees to steal $2,000,000 in bank notes from one of tycoon James Mason’s ships, said loot to be turned over to Mason’s venal sons (James Fox and John Alderton). There’s also an added perk in the comely person of liberated Susannah York. Lovingly filmed in Spain by director Robert Parrish (The Mob) and co-written by Donald Cammell (Performance), this is sexy escapism at its psychedelic finest. Newly remastered.

The Executioner: When a covert operation in Vienna goes awry, British Intelligence operative John Shay (George Peppard) suspects his colleague, Adam Booth (Keith Michell), may be a double agent. Despite help from his girlfriend, Polly (Judy Geeson), a clerk at MI6, Shay fails to convince his superiors of his theory. Undeterred, Shay learns from scientist Philip Crawford (George Baker) that Booth has been trying to steal top-secret documents. Appointing himself executioner, Shay kills Booth and then assumes his identity to obtain conclusive evidence that Booth was a traitor, only to discover the dead man’s wife (Joan Collins) is now Crawford’s mistress, and Soviet Intelligence has set him up. Newly remastered.

Fragment of Fear: David Hemmings (Blow-up) stars in this incredibly creepy thriller as an author (and reformed addict) who attempts to investigate the recent murder of his elderly aunt. Unfortunately, given his past, no one is interested in his theories — except, of course, the killer. Directed by Richard C. Sarafian (Vanishing Point) from a script by Academy Award® winner Paul Dehn (1951, Best Writing, Seven Days to Noon), this smart, twist-filled mystery will keep you guessing till the very end. The distinguished international cast includes Gayle Hunnicutt, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Flora Robson, Adolfo Celi, Roland Culver, Daniel Massey, Mona Washbourne and Arthur Lowe; it was photographed by Academy Award® winner Oswald Morris (1971, Best Cinematography, Fiddler on the Roof) and scored by famed jazzman Johnny Harris. Newly remastered.

The Guilt of Janet Ames: Rosalind Russell stars in this complex psychological drama about a woman whose husband is killed in World War II while saving the lives of five comrades. She sets out for some sort of revenge, but when she is struck by a truck and paralyzed, a boozy reporter (Melvyn Douglas) thinks she can walk again and uses psychology to help her. But what she also doesn’t know is — he’s one of the five men on her list! Richly photographed in a gauzy style by cinematographer Joseph Walker to heighten the dreamlike quality of the story, with excellent support by Sid Caesar, Betsy Blair, Nina Foch. Directed by Henry Levin (Genghis Khan). Newly remastered.

The Long Haul: Harry Miller (Victor Mature) is an Ex-GI living in a tiny, rundown flat in Liverpool with his English bride and young son. Harry feels trapped in his life there: the best job he can get is driving a truck for his wife’s uncle, and his desire to return to the States is a constant source of friction between the couple. When he lends a hand to the gorgeous, petulant girlfriend of big-time racketeer Joe Easy (Patrick Allen), Harry finds himself tempted by more than just the lovely Lynn (Diana Dors). Similar in theme to They Drive by Night and the great Thieves’ Highway, this little known noir gem has more twists and turns than the English countryside; written and directed by Ken Hughes (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Casino Royale) who specialized in British suspense stories (or Brit Noir) before resettling in Hollywood. Newly remastered.

The Love-Ins: Not even hippies were safe from the headline-scanning eyes of beloved B-movie producer Sam Katzman. When two San Francisco college students (James MacArthur, Swiss Family Robinson and Susan Oliver, The Disorderly Orderly) are expelled over the contents of their underground newspaper, they find an unlikely supporter in a philosophy professor (Richard Todd, Oscar® nominee for The Hasty Heart, 1949), who resigns his teaching post in protest and styles himself as the love children’s new “Messiah.” From Todd’s Timothy Leary-like endorsement of LSD to a zonked-out interview with talk show host Joe Pyne to Lost in Space’s Mark Goddard as a pusher to the most jaw-dropping production of “Alice in Wonderland” you’ve ever laid eyes on, this campy masterpiece will have you rolling on the floor… or rolling something else! Newly remastered.

The Mad Room: This compelling remake of the classic Ladies In Retirement stars Stella Stevens as Ellen, a woman living as a companion to her future mother-in-law, wealthy and very irascible widow Mrs. Armstrong (Shelley Winters). Soon after, Ellen’s younger brother and sister, one of whom murdered their parents (they can’t remember which one of them did it), are released from an asylum and come to live with them. And thus begins a chilling mystery loaded with twists and thrills, as director Bernard Girard (Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round) keeps tightening the screws brilliantly. The fine cast also includes Michael Burns and Barbara Sammeth as the kids, plus Skip Ward, Beverly Garland, Severn Darden and Lloyd Haynes. Newly remastered.

Man Who Turned to Stone: When a new psychiatrist (William Hudson, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman) is hired at a women’s reform school/prison, he and social worker Carol Adams (Charlotte Austin) begin to puzzle over some recent suspicious deaths among the young inmates. The prison warden (Ann Doran) and doctor (Victor Jory) seem to be behind a centuries-old evil plot to steal the life force of young women to extend their own unnaturally immortal lives. A bizarre and diabolical sci-fi premise has an extremely creepy crew exploiting the bodies of their young charges, but as always, the more flesh the scientists consume, the more they need! Newly remastered.

The Mind of Mr. Soames: This fascinating sci-fi thriller prefigures the rise of reality television and modern day questions of medical ethics, as the progress of a recently awakened coma victim is nationally televised. John Soames (Terence Stamp) has been surgically awakened by the neurosurgeon Michael Bergen (Robert Vaughn), and then goes through a rigorous training program to cram thirty years of education and experience into a few weeks' time. Will this experiment prove successful or will Soames’ accelerated education neglect the essentials of true maturity? Newly remastered.

New Orleans Uncensored: William Castle directed this Sam Katzman production, a gritty crime thriller about a newly-discharged sailor who gets a job as a longshoreman in The Big Easy. He swiftly discovers mob corruption throughout the docks, and when a friend is killed by the gangsters, he convinces the police to let him go undercover and take matters into his own hands. Filmed on location on the docks and in the French Quarter; stars Arthur Franz (The Sniper), with Beverly Garland, Michael Ansara, Ed Nelson, and Mike Mazurki. Newly remastered.

The Night the World Exploded: With his assistant, Laura Hutchinson (Kathryn Grant), Dr. David Conway (William Leslie) develops a device to advance the fledgling science of earthquake prediction. After forecasting a large temblor that will rock California within twenty-four hours, Conway cannot persuade the Governor to act. When the prediction proves true and further tests indicate that there are more quakes to come, Conway and Laura seek to perfect their device. Subsequent tests deep within Carlsbad Caverns discover an unknown element - E-112 - that is responsible for the earthquakes and threatens to destroy the globe if it ever reaches the surface. The team determines that with only four weeks until Armageddon, the race is on to neutralize the killer element before it takes a devastating toll. Newly remastered.

Nightwing: At the rock hovel home of Abner Tasupi (George Clutesi), a 92-year-old high priest of the Masakai, tribal deputy Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) finds the old man trying to bring the world to an end by summoning Yewah, the monster god of the Masakai who guards the gates of life and death. Called to the Mamoa ranch, Duran is puzzling over the strange razor-sharp wounds and smell of ammonia coming from a dead horse when a helicopter soon arrives bearing Walker Chee (Stephen Macht), a wheeler-dealer politician from the neighboring Pahana tribe, accompanied by a veterinarian who underscores Duran’s observations as he takes samples to determine what killed the animal. After going to see Anne Dillon (Kathryn Harrold), a health service nurse with whom he's romantically involved, Duran returns to Abner's shack to find the old man dead, his flesh stripped raw like that of the Mamoa ranch horse. Meanwhile, when Anne takes four foundation missionaries out on a camping trip, as they are gathered around an evening campfire, they hear a strange keening sound just before thousands of bats come swarming down upon them. Newly remastered.

Otley: Born loser Gerald Otley (Tom Courtenay) is a freeloader living off the nearly exhausted kindness of friends and former lovers. One night, Otley is drunk and asleep when his host is murdered. The next morning, before the police arrive, he is kidnapped by a beautiful woman he met the night before (Romy Schneider) and her partner, who attempt to extract information from him but eventually determine he’s clueless. Realizing he’s in the midst of an espionage conspiracy and also wanted for murder, Otley stumbles from one near-crisis to another, incapable of distinguishing friend from foe, and unable to extricate himself. Set in swinging London, the story is propelled by Courtenay’s charm and a sense of humor informed by the best of British spy films; co-written and directed by Dick Clement. Newly remastered.

Reflection of Fear: Renowned cinematographer William A. Fraker (Bullitt) directed this perverse, dream-like chiller. Sondra Locke (Sudden Impact) plays a reserved young woman living in a remote New England house with her grandmother and mother. Her already fragile world is further shaken when her father (Robert Shaw, Jaws) turns up with a woman he introduces as his fiancée! Needless to say, murder soon rears its ugly head, leading to a truly jaw-dropping ending. Sally Kellerman, Mary Ure (Mrs. Shaw), Signe Hasso and Mitchell Ryan co-star; co-scripted by Lewis John Carlino (Seconds) and photographed by Laszlo Kovacs (Shampoo). Newly remastered.

Shadow on the Window: Musical-comedy legend Betty Garrett (My Sister Eileen) has a rare dramatic role in this incredibly tense thriller. Lisa Atlas (Garrett) and her seven-year-old son Petey (a pre-Beaver Jerry Mathers) witness the murder of her boss during a botched armed robbery by psycho Jess Reber (John Barrymore, Jr., While The City Sleeps) and his two pals. Stunned by what he saw, Petey wanders off, leaving the thugs holding his mom hostage. But what they don’t know is that her husband is a police detective (Phil Carey, TV’s Laredo) and will stop at nothing to get her back safely. Corey Allen and Paul Picerni co-star in this seldom-seen gem, skillfully directed by William Asher (Bewitched). Newly remastered.

The Soul of A Monster: Esteemed actress Rose Hobart (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931) stars in this moody horror film reminiscent of the classic chillers of Val Lewton. A noted surgeon (George Macready, Gilda) lies terminally ill, but a strange woman appears and announces she can cure him; she succeeds, but the good doctor now behaves a little bit… differently. Creepily photographed by Academy Award®-winner Burnett Guffey (1967, Best Cinematography, Bonnie and Clyde), this seldom-seen thriller is a must for those who like their fright a little bit… different. Will Jason (Movie Pests) directs from a script by Edward Dein (Lewton’s The Leopard Man). Newly remastered.

The Spiritualist: Turhan Bey (The Mummy’s Tomb) plays the mysterious spiritualist who convinces a beautiful widow (Lynn Bari, Orchestra Wives) and her young sister (Cathy O’Donnell, They Live By Night), that her dead husband is trying to contact her from beyond the grave. Richly photographed by famed cinematographer John Alton (Border Incident and The Big Combo), the dark, smoky interiors and fog-swept beaches give this a gothic feel that elevates this B-picture to a favorite of noir fans. Co-starring Richard Carlson, Donald Curtis and Virginia Gregg, with stylish direction by Bernard Vorhaus (Bury Me Dead); sadly, this was one of his last films in the U.S. before being blacklisted. Also known as THE AMAZING MR. X, this is the first and only DVD release of this film mastered from original 35mm elements. Newly remastered.

A Study in Terror: Three of 19th Century England’s most famous characters come together for the first time in this sumptuous, exciting mystery, as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson set out to bring down history’s most notorious serial killer: Jack The Ripper! When a suspicious package arrives at the master sleuth’s Baker Street home, he and his old friend must join the hunt before more murders are committed... even though the trail may lead to places they’d rather not go. John Neville is one of the most authentic Holmes portrayers ever, and he’s ably supported by Donald Houston as Watson, as well as such British acting royalty as Anthony Quayle, Robert Morley, Frank Finlay, Barbara Windsor, Cecil Parker and, in one of her earliest screen roles, Academy Award® winner Dame Judi Dench (1998, Best Supporting Actress, Shakespeare in Love). If you like your Holmes straight up and unadulterated, then adding this thrilling, sexy, witty, colorful adventure to your collection is... oh, come now, do we really need to say it? Newly remastered.

The Take: Terry Sneed (Billy Dee Williams) is a well-known cop brought by police chief Ray Berrigan (Eddie Albert) to quell a crime wave that has gripped Paloma, New Mexico. Already on the payroll of local businessman and crime chief Victor Manso (Vic Morrow), corrupt police Captain Frank Dolek (Albert Salmi) finds it hard to control Sneed. But in fact, Sneed is in business for himself, and even has his own “business manager” (Sorrell Booke) to help him shake down anyone he can for a payoff. Directed by Robert Hartford-Davis; also stars Frankie Avalon and Kathleen Hughes. Newly remastered.

Terror Among Us: Ted Shackelford (TV’s Knots Landing) plays a rapist on parole who threatens the lives and safety of five women who previously testified against him. This thriller is rounded out by a cast including Don Meredith as a cop who’s out to catch the rapist and Sarah Purcell (TV’s Real People), Jennifer Salt (TV’s Soap), Kim Lankford (TV’s Knots Landing) and Sharon Spelman as potential victims. Airing on television in 1981, this film is full of suspense and a cast of familiar favorites. Newly remastered.

Valley of the Dragons: Based very loosely on a story by Jules Verne, two men, about to undertake a duel, are thrust into an alternate universe. Finding themselves the only “civilized” men in a world of cavemen and savage beasts, the two realize they’ll have to put aside their differences to help each other survive in this strange new world. Cesare Danova and Sean McClory star, with Joan Staley (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken) and Danielle De Metz (The Magic Sword) starring as the love interests. Directed by Edward Bernds (Queen of Outer Space and The Three Stooges In Orbit), who also wrote the screenplay. Bernds likely saw the comic possibilities in the implausible Verne story, just one of the many reasons that this bizarre adventure is a one-of-a-kind fun-filled science fiction film without the earnest, straight-forward tone of many of its era’s sci-fi classics. Newly remastered.


--J/Metro

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads up on this Jonny - of the titles you mentioned in your summary I'm most interested by THE MIND OF MR. SOAMES, an obscure Amicus film, which I've still yet to see. Also of note is A STUDY IN TERROR and FRAGMENT OF FEAR. I'm off to check out the site now.

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