Archive for August, 2020

What we were going to see at the Cinema in April 1951

These advertisements are scanned from the Picturegoer Magazine dated 7 April 1951

This magazine along with Picture Show was weekly and was full of reviews of the new releases as well as articles on films and film stars.

It was a way of getting to know what was happening on the silver screen – the cinema at that time, was a really good night out and people would go probably twice a week – so it was big business for the film makers, distributors and the thousands of cinema owners world wide.

I think I have mentioned before that in the 1951 F.Maurice Speed Western Film Annual there were 107 Western films released that year – incredible at more than two per week. Maybe a lot of them would be supporting films no doubt but nevertheless the Hollywood Studios were churning them out at this sort of rate

Vengeance Valley – Robert Walker and Joanne Dru both very good – Burt Lancaster – well he was good in his early acrobatic roles – if slightly over the top, but in later roles I am not so sure.

The stories of him threatening Film Directors does not sit easy with me.

Once such example was with Michael Winner the British film Director :

Burt Lancaster had a volatile temper, and on a mountainous filmset during the making of Lawman he attacked Michael Winner over some trifle. ‘You ****** moron, don’t you dare ******  tell me what to do!’ He grabbed Michael Winner and threatened to throw him off a 1,000-foot cliff. ‘

After recovering from the attack he was consoled by someone who knew Lancaster well. ‘It was a very good sign. Burt only threatens to kill his friends.’

ABOVE – I would have gone to see this one ABOVE because it had Victor Mature in the lead role – I have to say again though, that this is a film I can’t remember ever having seen

The advertisements BELOW were not featured in this magazine but were released sometime in 1951

Interesting to see that, at the time of the release of Iron man Jeff Chandler was quite a big star and this film also had Evelyn Keyes and Stephen McNally – both experienced and seasoned players – but Rock Hudson was not known and he comes a little way down the cast list

ABOVE – As the advertisement says ‘ This is the Big One’ and I suppose it was in 1951 – very colourful and spectacular – with a brilliant performance by Peter Ustinov

The ABOVE is a Musical that I like – I also like the 1935 version with Paul Robeson in fact I think I preferred that one

ABOVE – The F.Maurice Speed Western Annual for 1951 which is referred to in this article.

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Gwrych Castle – Not a Film Location – but Why Not ?

This is something of an unusual article because it features a castle in North Wales that has not been used in a film to my knowledge but surely it should have been – it just lends itself perfectly to such a use.

Way back in the early Sixties, I was on holiday staying in Abergele and we visited this castle which has always stuck in my mind because of it’s stunning location. At that time it was open as a Castle to visit with a tour round parts of it, as I remember. I was impressed.

One thing that did stick with me is being told that it had been used by boxer Randolph Turpin when he trained for his famous fight against Sugar Ray Robinson in 1953.

When you look at the above picture, you can almost see it as Castle Dracula – just a perfect location, and I am so surprised, and have been over the years, that this has never been used.

I have now realised on looking further that there have been films that have used the Castle – Prince Valiant in 1997 and Holiday on The Buses in 1970. Although I know and like the 1954 version of Prince Valiant with Robert Wagner and James Mason, I was not aware of this later one at all.

What a stunning picture of Grwych Castle

Holiday on the Buses’, I do know and have watched it many times with my children when they were small – and I liked it too. I think a Holiday Camp at Prestatyn, nearby, was used.

We now learn though – and this news may have sparked my memory of this place – and hence this article – that the castle will be used as the location for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here – the TV show that attracts millions of viewers and is usually located in Queensland Australia, close to where my daughter lives. Due to Coronovirus, the show had to be re-planned and re-located and Grwych Castle has been chosen.

So although I am surprised that this has not been used more in films, it seems that fame will come to the Castle via a most unexpected turn of events – I have a feeling this will put the Castle ‘on the map’

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Fiend of Dope Island 1961

I have not seen this film but this is a review I read that makes me want to see it. In fact it is a film I had never heard of until I was browsing information on actor Bruce Bennett ( formerly Herman Brix ) who had played Tarzan in one or more films in the Thirties – and apparently played him well. Anyway back to this one, and it does seem that Bruce Bennett just knew that his performance would have to be outrageous to make the film both entertaining and watchable.

Bruce Bennett wrote the screenplay for this film as well as playing the starring role. Here is that Review :

Wow! What a bad and yet at the same time awesome film experience. The acting is so-over-the-top, the storyline so twisted, and the mood, tone, and pace so depraved, that I honestly can say that I have never seen anything quite like this. For many, that will be good news if they can say the same!

Don’t get me wrong, Fiend of Dope Island is an atrocious film. It has awful acting, no special effects, and has a story with little merit or any redeeming qualities. It is; however; a fun bad film to watch and has perhaps one of the most outrageous performances I have seen in Dope island dictator Bruce Bennett who runs his island whipping natives and friends alike any time they don’t move fast enough for him or displease him in some way – which it seems is all the time as he is always drunk.

Charlie Davis (Bruce Bennett) is a psychotic man who owns an island in the Carabean where he whips and treats everyone there like slaves. One day a boat comes by and a beautiful dancer is on board and Charles sets his attention to her, which causes a mutiny.

THE FIEND OF DOPE ISLAND is a pretty bad film if you want to be a snob and look at it as something it’s not. If you’re wanting a good looking, Oscar-winning film then this here certainly isn’t going to be for you. The film is actually very fast-paced and it is good entertainment

The highlight is without question the insane and way over-the-top performance of Bruce Bennett. I’m going to say he probably watched several Bela Lugosi movies when he was younger and perhaps he realised that everything about the film was bad that he hammed it up for some entertainment. It’s his nutty performance that makes the film worth watching and it was really fun seeing and hearing his insane laughing and non-stop rants. Tania Velia does a nice job in her role of the dancer.

The film has many campy moments but there’s no question that it’s one of the more outrageous and over-the-top adventure films ever made. The “dope” connection isn’t played up as much as you might imagine it would be but this is still a fun film if as you don’t take it too seriously – and I don’t see how you possibly could.

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Back Here again to ‘The Secret of Treasure Mountain’ 1956

This is a film that I really like. Not at all well known and a supporting picture at that running just 68 minutes

It starts out looking like a run-of-the-mill Western but changes into a very different kind of film. Raymond Burr plays a real ‘baddie’ here and is not that good but the rest of the cast do well. Another unusual aspect is that the one or two of the characters seem to turn out different to what we might first think – an apparently good man turns out to be anything but.

Lance Fuller ABOVE

Lance Fuller and Susan Cummings

The best part of the film was a sequence taken directly from Lust for Gold 1949 where the Indians attack gold prospectors in a remote valley many years before. Very much a studio set but extremely well done with production quality well ahead of the rest of the film.

Wiilliam Prince had also been in ‘Lust for Gold’ seven years earlier – and he alos has a leading role in this one

Interesting to note that the Englishman that played Valerie French’s father in the film was Reginald Sheffield who was the father of Johnny and Billy Sheffield who were boy stars in films – Johnny playing Boy in the Tarzan films and later Bomba The Jungle Boy. I well remember seeing this film as a youngster and somehow the plot has always stayed with me – and on seeing it again last evening – the main elements that had stuck in my mind were there. I had remembered a search for the Braganza crosses – small metal crosses – that if found would lead to the famous Braganza treasure in Treasure Mountain. I have looked for the name Braganza before – and not been able to find it – and thought I had this wrong but I was pretty sure I had it right – and so it proved to be the case. The production values of the film were not top class by any means but the flashback sequence to the man who had discovered the treasure 200 years earlier when the Indians attacked and killed the searchers and Braganza himself in the cave was very well done – these scenes were pinched for an earlier film Lust for Gold with Glenn Ford.

William Prince as Robert Kendall and Valerie French together ABOVE

ABOVE – Having found the Second Braganza Cross, Robert Kendall tires to work out the significance of the Snake Rock Formation

He stands inside the rock formation and gradually sees – ABOVE

The shadow of him with his arms outstretch forms the third Braganza Cross – ABOVE

Valerie French looks up at the rock ABOVE

ABOVE and BELOW Robert Kendall fights with Raymond Burr who falls to his death from the rocks down a sheer drop, hundreds of feet to the floor of the valley

Lance Fuller ABOVE – half Indian and he guards the treasure we learn as the film unfolds

They all leave the valley home at the end of the film

The story about Arizona’s Lost Dutchman Gold Mine is well known. It fires up the imagination, the various clues to its location and the lore going with it. Columbia used the material twice: the first in 1949’s Lust for Gold with an A-list production, at least for that budget-minded studio. This film is the second, but generally inferior to the first.

Nonetheless, production does a good job here with staging desert sequences, especially Robert Kendall’s clambering search for the third gold cross. It is a diverse group (Prince, Burr) has come together at a desert cabin where an old man (Sheffield), his daughter (French), an Indian girl (Cummings), and a half-breed (Fuller) live.

The film is visually entertaining with a generally unpredictable storyline that manages a few twists. The package may not equal the 1949 version, but this is a good enjoyable film with some of the exterior filming excellent.

It has taken a long time searching for this film but I now have it and have seen it again – and in point of fact, I have not just got the DVD but have acquired, some time ago, the 16 mm film itself – so I can stage a real film show – might just do that !

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The Desert Hawk 1950 in Technicolor

Now this is just perfect early fifties – just what we loved. The Desert Hawk fits that early fifties style so well. It is a Romantic story with action and wonderful costumes and sets – and it is in glorious Technicolor – never bettered !! Yvonne de Carlo stars as Princess Scheherazade and Richard Greene as Omar, the Desert Hawk. By day he is a humble blacksmith, but by night he becomes The Desert Hawk battling against the oppressive regime of Prince Murad (George Macready).
One of the Hawk’s tactics is to trick Scheherazade into marriage, so that he can enlist the aid of the army commanded by the Princess’ father. Murad retaliates by kidnapping Scheherazade, leading to an exciting climactic rescue. Look out for all the film stars in the supporting cast.
Playing the villainous Captain Ras is none other than Rock Hudson, while the Desert Hawk’s loyal companions Aladdin and Sinbad are played, respectively, by Jackie Gleason and Joe Besser
Besser gives a genuinely impressive performance, with some dramatic ability. In one scene Besser as Sinbad is put into a torture device (a vertical form of the rack), and stretched unmercifully.
This was certainly and early outing for Rock Hudson who at that time was just a whisker away from international stardom
In this film he plays a villain though whereas in a short time he would have the lead in ‘Magnificent Obsession’ which was a real hit
The Desert Hawk 1950

Universal bought the story in January 1950. The film was intended to be a vehicle for Yvonne de Carlo. Douglas Fairbanks Jr was sought for the male lead but that role eventually went to Richard Greene, returning to Hollywood after two years in Britain. Jackie Gleason signed to play a comic support role. Universal contract player Rock Hudson, who had just impressed in Winchester 73, was also cast.

Yvonne De Carlo must have been one of Universal’s top stars at this time
The Desert Hawk 1950
Richard Greene was back in Hollywood I think he was still married to Patricia Medina at that time but not for much longer
Richard was approaching the time that he found TV success both sides of the Atlantic with the excellent ‘Robin Hood’
The Desert Hawk 1950
Yvonne’s 3 handmaidens were all beautiful, but one in particular, Anne Cramer, looked very much like her. Anne must have been a fascinating person. Later, she attained a PhD in film technology,, and another in literature. She was employed through the years in various aspects of film production – and then switched to psychoanalysis in her retirement years.
The ending is really interesting, when Yvonne and Omar meet after the big battle in ‘The Palace of 1000 Pleasures’, with Omar in chains.

Yvonne holds all the cards at this time, and heaps psychological vengeance on Omar, telling him that he may be whipped with 100 lashes, or put on the rack.. Then, she rapidly changes her attitude, to bring him some very good news.

During this time, Omar makes some general comments about women: “Be she wench or princess, a woman is only a woman, and always needs a master”. Then he must have thought better of it and came out with “A man should never argue with a woman”.

It’s a almost fairy tale and very much romanticised and Hollywoodised but with above all spectacular clothing and fencing scenes. Almost like a Douglas Fairbanks and Rudolph Valentino film set in that fantasy world of highly romantic splendour.

Richard Greene as the Desert Hawk is just a dashing adventurer like any pirate – and this is a part he was perfect for – Yvonne de Carlo as the princess.

The colours are also magnificent throughout, this is a dashing costume drama of great swashbuckling and a dazzling extravagance of costumes all the way, and Frank Skinner’s music is first rate.

Great colourful entertainment

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