Classic Movies · Stuff You Should Know

It’s a MOD MOD MOD MOD world

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Both Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings and 50 Westerns from the 50s have mentioned Sony Pictures’ new “manufactured on demand” website—a place where you can order those elusive classic movie titles the company just can’t seem to justify releasing on DVD the old-fashioned way, much in the manner of the Warner Archive, Universal, Fox/MGM, etc. The titles they have available right now are a bit scanty but since they’re just out of the gate that’s to be expected, I suppose. I will, of course, take a pass on the myriad Hart to Hart reunion films Sony is assuming that the DVD-buying/purchasing public is clamoring for…they’re also offering 10 Rillington Place (1971), a first-rate crime drama that’s already available on Region 2. (And when did they do a sequel to To Sir, With Love? I must have been napping.)

Here’s a few films that caught my eye as possible TDOY archive purchases…providing they don’t turn up on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ (ka-ching!) in the near future. (Warning: clicking on these links will take you to the information on each film, but there’s also a movie clip with loud audio included.)

711711 Ocean Drive (1950) – Here’s one of my favorite movies starring “the sweatiest man in noir,” Edmond O’Brien—Ed plays a telephone repairman who uses his electronics acumen to make bookie Barry Kelly a wealthy man by tapping into various communication centers for instant racetrack results. I haven’t seen this one in ages, but as I remember it’s not too shabby, with a memorable finale set at Boulder Dam. The film, directed by journeyman Joseph M. Newman, also features Joanne Dru, Don “Gidget’s dad” Porter, Howard St. John, and Robert Osterloh.

2455Cell 2455, Death Row (1955) – This is one I’ve wanted to check out for some time—a fictionalized account of a good-boy-gone-wrong who’s waiting to walk the last mile based on a book by real-life inmate Caryl Chessman, whose story was also told in a 1977 TV-movie with Alan Alda entitled Kill Me if You Can. William Campbell plays the kid who’s destined to fry, with a cast that also includes Kathryn Grant and Vince “Ben Casey” Edwards.

A Study in Terror (1965) – In a film whose plot later turned up again in 1979’s Murder by Decree, the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) goes up against the world’s craftiest serial killer—Jack the Ripper! Donald Houston is a non-bumbling Dr. Watson, with Robert Morley as brother Mycroft Holmes and Frank Finlay as Inspector Lestrade. John Fraser, Anthony Quayle, Barbara Windsor, Adrienne Corri, and a young Dame Judi Dench round out the cast. This one was shown on TCM during their Sherlock Holmes Christmas Eve festival last year but I missed recording it. (Of course, I got my mother’s Rathbone-Bruce collection in trade, so sacrifices sometimes must be made. This one was released on Region 2 as well back in 2005 but I believe it’s now OOP.)

stormStorm Center (1956) – I haven’t seen this one, but here’s the description: “A small town librarian stands up to local pressure to remove a controversial book from the shelves—on principal [sic], not out of sympathy for its perspective.” Yeah, it sounds fairly tame…but Bette Davis plays the librarian, so you just know there’ll be cigarette smoking and scenery-chewing aplenty! Center also stars Brian “Family Affair” Keith and Kim Hunter.

saddlesSaddles and Sagebrush (1943) – This one sounds like your typical B-western shoot-‘em-up starring Russell “Lucky” Hayden…but I’m curious to check it out for the presence of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys—particularly since Bob has a meatier role in this one, even helping Hayden rounding up the bad guys. And what bad guys—some of the best B-western/serial villains around, like Wheeler Oakman, Edmund Cobb. and Jack Ingram. Throw in Dub Taylor as comic relief, and B-movie femme fatale Ann Savage as the love interest—Saddles sounds impossible not to like.

Pygmy Island (1950), Fury of the Congo (1951), Jungle Manhunt (1951), and Jungle Moon Men (1956) – Columbia/Sony has been promising to release the Jungle Jim movie series to DVD almost as long as Warner has promised the Bowery Boys films, so it’s nice to see the studio finally “put up,” even if it is only MOD. Of the four, Manhunt is the only one I’ve seen and while it’s no great shakes it’s delirious B-movie fun. In Moon Men, Johnny “The Good Tarzan” Weissmuller has to play a character named “Johnny Weissmuller” because producer Sam Katzman had sold the rights to the Jungle Jim character for a TV series (that also starred Weissmuller) and he couldn’t continue calling his hero by that moniker in the flickers.

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