Archive for January, 2021

Piccadilly Circus

This picture came from a newspaper article on a very different subject to the films of the time, but looking closely at it, we get a glimpse of what is showing in one particular Cinema in the West End – probably later in the summer 1953.

Abbott and Costello meet Captain Kidd with that great film actor Charles Laughton.

This was released at Christmas 1952 and did pretty well at the Box Office.

It seems a strange coupling between these two popular comedians on film and Charles Laughton but it does seem to have been a successful one but just maybe Charles Laughton wanted, in a way,to reprise his famous role as Captain Blighe but this time with a nod towards comedy and possibly a touch of Robert Newton’s Long John Silver.

It was filmed in SuperCinecolor

However I now turn to the supporting film ‘No Escape’ which ran for a mere 76 minutes but from the reviews I have seen, it was a very good thriller

No Escape 1953 with Lew Ayres, Marjorie Steele and Sonny Tufts

Quite often – and this is proof of that – a “B” picture needn’t be of inferior quality.

Back in the 1930s, Lew Ayres was on top of the world in Hollywood. After starring in “All Quiet on the Western Front”, he had a steady career in Hollywood. When he had got the lead in MGM’s Dr. Kildare series, Lew Ayres continued on his winning ways. However, WW2 arrived and he was an avowed pacifist. While he bravely volunteered to be an orderly in the military, his refusal to fight soured him with the public and the studios.

As a result, his career, with a few exceptions (such as “Johnny Belinda” in 1948), was mostly flat in the post-war years. He worked but the quality of the films declined. This is why he starred in a low-budget film like “No Escape”…a film that paired him with Sonny Tufts – who, himself, had fallen even further in his career thanks to his off-screen habits.

However No Escape turned out to be a really good and tense thriller

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The Amazing Colossal Man

This is, or was another treat for fans of the absurd Horror films of the Fifties – it is possible to reel a few of them off Tarantula, Attack of the 50 ft Woman, and even The Giant Claw featured on here before.

This time, audiences were treated to the science-fiction thriller, The Amazing Colossal Man. The film revolves around a character named Colonel Manning, who strays too close to the test of an atomic device in the Nevada desert and is bombarded with “plutonium rays.”

This was but one of many such films released in the 1950s

Ants exposed to radiation grow to enormous size and threaten humanity in ‘Them’ ; The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), tells the tale of a dinosaur, thawed out by an atomic test in the Arctic, that ravages New York City.

In one of the best of this class of film, a man survives being caught in a nuclear test, only to find himself shrinking away to nothing in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). This was in a different category to the other films mentioned – this was well made and extremely well done with very good special effects.

The Amazing Colossal Man’ was produced and directed By Bert I. Gordon who made a career out of making his own films without the financial clout of the major studios. He was ingenious in the way he went about it too.

Bert Gordon had established a style and mastered a technique, which perfectly suited the production budgets he had – which were at best, meagre.

The following year saw another three films, including a sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man (War of the Colossal Beast ), and another giant monster picture (Attack of the Puppet People) and Earth vs. The Spider, perhaps among the best of the giant tarantula films.

ABOVE – Susan Gordon – Bert’s Daughter in a publicity still for ‘Attack of the Puppet People’

Rarely had Gordon used the rear-projection technique so well or with such frightening results as he did in Spider. What’s more, it remains the only film ever made in which a dead giant tarantula is brought back to life by the music of a high school rock ‘n roll band.

Likely as a reaction to changing audience tastes, in the 1960s and early ‘70s, Gordon made a sharp break from giant monster pictures, trying his hand instead at human-scale adventure films, fantasies, thrillers and sex comedies. For the most part the films weren’t as popular or memorable.

However back to his normal style was 1965’s Village of the Giants (with Beau Bridges and a young Ron Howard, – a group of teenagers try to deal with growing up, adults and unexpected gigantism. Sounds a strange mix

In the mid-70s, perhaps recognising what audiences really wanted from him Bert Gordon returned to the genre that created him with a double bill of giant (or at least big) monsters pitted against all-star casts.

Very, very loosely based on an H. G. Wells story (and returning to a premise Gordon visited in a couple of his earlier films), Food of the Gods was both a technical and commercial success and marked the pinnacle of Gordon’s career.

The film was was an instant classic in schoolyards across the US. Watching it now it still contains a number of surprises, as well as Marjoe Gortner’s finest performance, as a football player who saves the day.

Not a good end for Ida Lupino in this one though – it was one of her very last films and in it she ended up by being eaten by giant mealworms

Also when I look at the picture above, I hadn’t realised that English actress Pamela Franklin was in this – she was a pretty girl. She appears to have one of the two leading roles

Riding on the success of Food of the Gods, Bert Gordon returned to H.G. Wells the following year with Empire of the Ants, in which a colony of giant, super intelligent ants, in search of slave labour, absolutely destroy corrupt real estate developer Joan Collins’ plans to turn a small island into a resort.

BELOW – Joan Collins gives one of the ants a kiss

Bert Gordon’s effects had never been better and the film was another big hit during a summer that found it pitted against the likes of The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Car, Viva Knievel and Star Wars and that’s saying something.

Empire of the Ants marked the end for Bert Gordon and giant monsters but he left a legacy of B Movie classics.

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Great Britons of the Silver Screen – A Wonderful Book

I have just received this book and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in films – particularly British Films.

The Author is Barbara Roisman Cooper who, although from the USA in fact California, is a real lover of Great Britain and our way of life.

Since she first came over, she has done the trip more than 70 times and during that time , with a keen interest in Theatre and Films – and also in Sherlock Holmes for reasons I am not clear about, she has interviewed quite a few of our ‘stars’ for this book and others that she has written.

Written by Barbara Roisman Cooper

ABOVE – One of the stars interviewed is Joan Collins – and among many other things she discusses is the filming of ‘The Virgin Queen’ for 20th Century Fox in Hollywood. She does not speak that well of Bette Davies who she says was ‘horrible’ to work with

Great Interviews

ABOVE – Samantha Eggar, I found interesting because she talks about the film ‘Dr Crippen’ where Donald Pleasance plays the title role with her as his lover. This is a film I know and like – I thought that they were both very good and Donald Pleasance fitted the part of Dr Crippen perfectly.

She describes how well they got on during filming and how much fun he was to be with.

She also mentioned Sir Donald Wolfitt who was also in this film – and as a young actress she had been in his Theatre Company for a while. She seemed to get the wrong side of him at that time although she greatly admired him as a stage actor – and for what he had done for Theatre in the country
My view is that Sir Donald Wolfit was a wonderful and powerful stage actor – and also an actor manager – probably one of the last of the breed – and as such he took Shakespeare to the masses, touring the length and breadth of England. This is as well as his mid-day productions in the heart of the West End of London during the War, when German bombs were raining down on the capital.

A few years after this book – Volume 1 – Barbara Roisman Cooper has produced the sequel – this time focussing on directors rather than actors.

The range of subjects—all leading figures in either stage or cinema—in terms of time period is similarly impressive, from directors such as Ronald Neame, who worked in silent cinema and in fact on England’s first ‘talkie’ nearly a hundred years ago, right up to directors still working today, such as Deborah Warner. It takes in two former directors of the National Theatre—Richard Eyre and Nicholas Hytner—plus some who have directed regularly in that South Bank building, such as Howard Davies and Michael Blakemore, and former heads of the Almeida and the Donmar Warehouse Michael Attenborough and Michael Grandage.

If that isn’t impressive enough as a cast list (not mentioned above are Ken Annakin, Pat Jackson, Charles Jarrott and Tony Palmer), there is a foreword by David Suchet and inserted comments from many other famous names such as Angela Lansbury, Matthew Bourne, Derek Jacobi, Alfred Molina, Alec Guinness, Glynis Johns, John Mills, Jack Klugman, Shelley Winters and other actors, script supervisors, choreographers, designers etc. The author must have quite an impressive address book

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Richard Greene as Robin Hood – a 1991 film

We all know this TV series that took TV Worldwide by storm in the late fifties – with Richard Greene well cast as Robin Hood.

I did not know though that in 1991 a film version was released on video – a feature film length and would you believe colorised – and colorised well. This consisted of a number of episodes incidents from the series cleverly put together.

I have ordered this and await its arrival – can’t wait to see it. It cried out for being made in Colour

Have look at this clip ABOVE

This is an extract from it – as our the screen images below :

Richard Greene in great form as Robin Hood

Richard Greene in great form as Robin Hood tis time with his trusty bow and arrow

ABOVE and BELOW : The famous quarter staff fight with Little John – Not that well done here really I thought but looks better in colour

BELOW – Bernadette O Farrell as Marian

This film is culled (quite seamlessly, unlike most other edited together ) from the TV series) which legendary and known and sold all over the world.

The film has been beautifully colorised, and the colours look real and natural, not faded or washed out.

Someone seems to have taken their time in producing it – in fact a labour of love that really stands out. If I were to make a list of the great action films this would not be at the top but it would feature

This is a film that is fun, exciting, and easy to watch – it should have got a cinema release.

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The Gaumont Cinema Gainsborough, The Waterloo at Whitby and The Rio Cinema in Epworth

I came across this picture – which has been colorised – and shows Mabel List greeting youngsters attending the Saturday Matinee in this Lincolnshire Town.

Not sure of the date but the lady, Mabel List worked there from 1947 until 1960. I bet that it was a good job too

Gaumont Cinema Gainsborough Lincolnshire

The cinema had been re-named the Gaumont in 1949 and was modernised in early-1954, Reopening on 29 March 1954 with Edward G. Robinson in “The Glass Webb” showing.and with film stars Joan Rice and Donald Sindon making personal appearances.

The pictures – above and below – were taken at the Gaumont in Gainsborough, but really could have been taken anywhere at because this would be typical of cinema life at that time.

Surprising and pleasing to see just how many staff were employed there – and below just how many children attended these shows – and loved them no doubt

I have a good friend who did briefly work in the Cinemas in Whitby in the mid to late 60 s. His main base was the Waterloo Cinema in the town – now one of the most popular seaside resorts in the country

He worked for a short time at the Waterloo Cinema. It was taken over by the Leeds based Star Cinemas chain in June 1968, and after refurbishment, was renamed Ritz Cinema.

Sadly, like so many, The Ritz Cinema was closed by 1980.

Whitby Cinemas BELOW

My friend, who would have just left school at the time, when he worked at The Waterloo Cinema told me that one of his tasks had been to stoke up the boiler and keep the place warm – but he said that sometimes he would really get the maximum heat he could which resulted in more ice cream sales – at least that was the theory

ABOVE – A great Walt Disney line-up. This would really pull in the cystomers

Another Cinema is a small town was the Rio in Epworth, again in Lincolnshire.

I did actually go to this one to see ‘Barabbas’ with Anthony Quinn – which I thought was one of the very best of the bis ‘epic’ productions

The Rio Cinema – ABOVE – opened in November 1938 with a performance of “No No Nanette” by the Epworth Operatic Society.

The first film to be shown at the cinema was “Rosalie” starring Nelson Eddy & Eleanor Powell. It had a 24ft wide proscenium and was equipped with a Duosonic sound system.

It also hosted concerts with top stars such as Shirley Bassey and Billy J. Kramer.

The man most associated with the cinema was Sidney Yorke. The cinema was badly damaged by fire on 1st June 1978, although it is believed to have stopped screening films the previous May. It was later demolished and replaced by housing.

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Isabelle goes to Hollywood

Back in 2017 on the final of BBC’s ‘Mastermind’ Isabelle Heward impressed us – as she always does – with her knowledge of the Life and Films of Billy Wilder.

After making it to the semi-finals, the Lincolnshire resident fought off stiff competition and made it to the final.

Her specialist subject in the final was The Life and Films of director Billy Wilder.

At the BBC’s expense and in order to film an intro to her appearance on the show Isabelle travelled to Los Angeles and got the chance to sit at a table in Billy Wilder’s favourite restaurant – Mr Chow – and chat to the maître d’.

Here BELOW is Billy Wilder with Marilyn Monroe

Isabelle spent a week in Hollywood and knowing as I do, that she is a great film fan with a vast knowledge and terrific memory, I know that she would have been thrilled to go there. In truth, when she came to visit California, she had not flown overseas for quite a few years and had never been to the Movie Capital but she took it on, enjoyed the experience and duly returned with a short film record of her visit there.

This film was shown on the Mastermind Programme – The Final – which Isabelle won.

Isabelle has made a number of Television and Radio appearances on various Quiz Shows prior to her winning the Mastermind Trophy and she does continue to be asked onto various shows.

In the semi final of the 2017 Mastermind there was a three way play off of those who had tied and Isabelle won that. After that show was broadcast, she told me that although she was never confident of winning normally, when she knew she was in that play-off she just ‘knew’ that she would win – as she did.

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Apache Territory 1958

Until I watched this on Television today, it was not a Western Film that I knew – but in all fairness it was a good one, very much Cowboys and Indians in a fight to a finish but it was action packed with good studio sets cut in with location shots which all seemed to work well whilst also looking good.

Rory Calhoun was not a top line film actor, but the roles he played in films such as Apache Territory suited him well. He was a handsome and capable actor who made reasonably good Westerns and this is a good example.

Mind you it should have suited him because the film was made by his own Production Company Rorvic Productions and released through Colombia Pictures.

For Rorvic Productions Rory Calhoun starred in all they ever made Flight to Hong Kong in 1956 then The Hired Gun and The Domino Kid in 1957 lastly this one ‘Apache Territory’ in 1958.

Then they went into Television with ‘The Texan’ again with Rory Calhoun – after this he went back to films

Apache Territory is a basic story of a group of people in the desert surrounded by a horde of Apache indians intent on doing them harm. John Dehner and Leo Gordon -two extremely competent character actors- add to the film.

The two leading ladies were Barbara Bates and Carolyn Craig who played very well here and looked lovely – even when under great pressure from an Indian attack.

ABOVE – Rory Calhoun and BELOW Barbara Bates meet again – they have know one another before it seems

Preparing for a fight

Rory and Barbara talk about ‘old times’

They seem to have been thrown back together and talking things through

BELOW – An Indian Attack

ABOVE – Barbara Bates, Carolyn Craig and Tom Pittman

ABOVE – A lovely actress Carolyn Craig

ABOVE – Preparing to ride away


Tom Pittman (March 16, 1932 – October 31, 1958) was an American film and television actor. He died in a motor car accident at the age of 26

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