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Thursday, September 30, 2010




Favorites List --- Alan Ladd and Appointment With Danger







Ladd Always Pleases Here: Boy, for the number of times I've read that exhibitor comment in trade journals. So why's Alan Ladd so forgotten now? Well, partly it's films out of circulation. Most of his good Paramounts are below ground, and don't ask about ones he produced of which negatives his family came heir to. Some of those played television in syndication years, then vamoosed. Remember Drum Beat, Hell On Frisco Bay, Guns Of The Timberland? They were Jaguar Productions. That was Alan's company. He was plenty big enough to have his own company. Jack Warner said there was nobody more reliable for boxoffice (AL moved to WB in the fifties). Like Warners' Errol Flynn, Ladd was an action man, easiest to sell in that capacity and welcome in all venues ... first-run, drive-in, or grind. You could call him a half-pint Flynn were size the issue. For too many people it was, and that's part of what tortured Laddie (was that nickname inspired by his diminutive stature?). Maybe they forgot that little guys often move fastest, and believe me (or your eyes), AL was like a gazelle when time came to lift off. He's another I'll watch no matter the film. There's depth to Ladd no one could have got while he was alive and darker truths of his life were unknown. All that was well concealed by happy time merchants who made him seem essence of fame and family in harmony, when in fact he was Sad Ladd from start to a lonely finish. Those that knew him got to live longer to tell how melancholy it all was. Herbert Coleman gave a chapter of his Hollywood memoir to meditation of final inning Ladd trying to put together ill-starred projects and dodging a wife who seemingly ran every aspect of his micro-managed life. Just dare me to jump out that window shouted Ladd at a 1963 low-point, shortly before the end.









My sixth-grade band teacher and former Our Gang-er whom I've talked about before was represented by Sue Carol, actress turned agent who took over Ladd and went about said micro-doings. Well, she also handled Priscilla Lyon's teenage castings and invited her out for barbecues from time to time. Priscilla recalled to me how parties around the grill were usually minus by-then husband to Sue, Alan Ladd having repaired poolside and alone. He was cordial but distant, she said. This year's Columbus Cinevent gave opportunity to meet onetime kid actor Charles Herbert, who'd worked with Ladd at age ten when they did The Man In The Net (1959). He told me AL was way to himself and had nothing to do off-camera with several youngsters that figured into Net's story. By then, Ladd was deep also into cups and decline that followed. His features got puffy and reactions slowed. The lithe figure that monkeyed up a slick pole in The Iron Mistress was thicker and far less alert. He'd die early (at 50) before his last, The Carpetbaggers, was released. You knew from watching that starring days were done in any event. Carroll Baker spoke later of crew folk at Paramount being glad to have well-liked Ladd back on the lot, even as younger and less gracious George Peppard showed little respect for this star who'd really kept the studio in chips over a long, lucrative haul.








So this rambling brings me round to out-on-DVD Appointment With Danger, one of my favorite Ladds and a sterling film noir if you prefer slapping a more commercial label on it. I'm very much for reviving Alan Ladd. Back when I collected vintage scrapbooks, there was no male name that filled more of them. Good gravy, he was huge in the day. But enough of that for a moment. Consider Appointment With Danger. Ladd's a postal inspector who goes undercover to bust up a mail robbery. Jack Webb and Harry Morgan are among the heavies, and Jan Sterling is a quasi-bad girl. Here is about the most pleasurable investment of 89 minutes you could make. It was part of a noir cycle where enforcement agencies were methodically glorified badge by badge. T-Men, C-Men, and immigration watchdogs had been celebrated. Now it was the post office's moment. That institution could use a back-pat right now for all I'm hearing about them going broke, but we're too cynical to extend plaudits for fed employees on any job, so Appointment won't likely get remade, but 1951 being that simpler time we keep hearing about, Paramount sent out bands blaring for the USPS and put flyers into (wow!) 21,000 post offices tieing-in across the land. There was even a commendation letter from ye Postmaster General himself (below). If real-life inspectors went about business as ruthlessly as Alan Ladd in Appointment With Danger, there must surely have been fewer letters (and payrolls) lost in 1951. His character was by then a patented one ... the loner, only friend is his gun, women don't melt him, etc. Ladd had played that in everything back to This Gun For Hire, and each time it worked because folks liked him best silent and deadly. AL moved forward by holding back and made underplaying a signature. Talent like this wasn't much rewarded except at cash registers, but hey, where else did it matter?









































Ladd loved his fans and treated them like pen pals. These at-home with secretaries shots were no puff. AL with wife's (no doubt hovering) assist made business of being Alan Ladd a 24-7 proposition. He needed an athlete's build for stamina that required. Ladd's screen character seemed always to be coming in from the outside and going out the same way --- alone. Audiences were well prepared for him as Shane. That one's the definitive statement of what it was to be Alan Ladd. Without him, it wouldn't have been near the show it was. AL used to joke about his abbreviated gestures, not appreciating (because maybe no one told him) just how effective they were. I gave a really good "look" today was how he summed up performing so close to the vest. Could be that look he referred to happened in Appointment With Danger when bad guy Paul Stewart slams a bar counter on his fingers. Well, for that split moment, Laddie's eyes widen but slightly to reveal a panther's quickness held barely in check, letting us wonder when he'll cut loose (he does, in short bursts like on a handball court with Jack Webb, and it's magical). Should this kind of coiled quality be revered over acting chops easier to spot and applaud? In movies, where action always speaks more effectively than words, I'd say yes. Women went kooky for Ladd because he could never quite be reached . The pistol that doesn't jam was his preferred date, but gals could dream, couldn't they? Teaming him with a nun in Appointment With Danger was inspired outcome of a Ladd image going into Decade Two. He offers this untouchable counterpart protection and tender concern withheld from mainstream reps of the opposite sex who might want more commitment than he's got to give.




Monday, September 27, 2010




And a Susan Slade Shall Lead Them







There's a petting party in Susan Slade that I think kind of redefined how teen sex would be addressed by movies. Before, and I mean in things like Peyton Place, such an episode was at the least prelude to disaster of Lana Turner flipping on lights to raise holy hell, if not cause for police intervention. That was 1957, of course. Now it's 1961 and we glide leisurely across a stateroom filled with snuggled-up couples, not so murkily lit as on furtive occasions before, enjoying each other (Susan Slade's first act takes place on an ocean liner) to accompaniment of Max Steiner's mating theme from A Summer Place. At the end of this smooch line is Connie Stevens with Grant Williams, she having lately taken receipt of a "first kiss" from him and now getting the process down. Teen screen lovemaking had never looked so assured. I'd draw a line of demarcation around Susan Slade and others of its cycle and call what came before Pre-Delmer Daves ... everything after was what his masterminding made possible. Here's the thing remarkable about Daves: He wrote, produced, directed the whole magillah of melodramas Warners released and everyone (save those around to enjoy them when new) eventually laughed at. But the cycle made oodles of profit and Delmer Daves retired to the desert with his fortune, so I'd say last yoks were his. Why do cineastes go on worshipping Doug Sirk with this truer auteur having been in our midst? Daves was a do-it-all-er who saw a trend coming and so customized it to his will. The man was well into fifties when he built A Summer Place, Parrish, Susan Slade, and Rome Adventure, but no one younger had the movies' most sought after demographic roped and tied like Delmer. As with other filmmakers with ears to a pop culture wall, he was raising a couple of kids at home. Were they tipping him off to what worked with peers the way Jim Nicholson's offspring and friends helped steer AIP? Remarkable how a veteran like Daves, in the business since silents, could read adolescent ticker tape better than picture folk more recently out of that age group. I'd assume Warners knew what a treasure they had in this guy, for he was the first director to make their contract youth look lush.












DD made taboo sex among youth romantic and accessible, more so as his profitable series carried forward. Harsh consequence of under-age lovemaking in A Summer Place gives way to comparative live-and-let-live of Susan Slade. Now instead of punitive Constance Ford for a mother, there is supportive Dorothy McGuire to ease pregnant and unwed Connie Stevens through the thicket. What a difference two years made, and how adroitly Delmer Daves recognized that his audience was past need of admonishment over ill-timed coupling. Parental outrage is the least of Susan Slade's concerns. Even as there is society's disapproval to contend with, she has reassurance of a birthday pony and luxury placement in a so-called "Monterey Dream House." Girls in trouble never had it so good. Dorothy McGuire was harbinger for permissive moms who'd not hit panic buttons when daughter came home knocked up, having "understood" in A Summer Place that youth must have its carnal fling. Susan Slade's roll-with-the-punches father Lloyd Nolan follows Place's Richard Egan for not judging nor raising a hand to errant offspring. These were dream parents unlike ones 1961 viewers contended with at home, another reason they loved basking in Susan Slade's comfort zone. Didn't she have enough problems with boyfriend/father of unplanned child falling off a mountain without mom and dad getting all in a moral twist over it?


































Delmer Daves' genius was reflected too in his letting youth stars drive stories. No more were deluxe model melodramas sole preserve to grown-ups. With teens buying a clear majority of tickets, why not tell facts of life from their point of view? The early sixties would see the Jane Wymans and Lana Turners making way (if reluctantly) for Connie Stevens, Sandra Dee, and kindred youth to topline vehicles worthy of that generation now supporting an industry in distress. Cheapies like Unwed Mother and Diary Of a High School Bride had been reminder to kids of how little Hollywood valued them, while mainstream A's treated teens and their issues like spiders in a bottle, stressing trouble they caused for adults billed over the title like James Cagney and Barbara Stanwyck in 1956's outdated-when-it-was-new These Wilder Years. Delmer Daves realized ponytail patrons would not only support his merchandise, but study it, for these were long overdue women's pictures for young women, and this till-now ignored customer base would respond more loyally and in greater number than mature femmes staying home to watch Queen For a Day. How many boyfriends were inveigled to carry dates to drive-in runs of Susan Slade and her Daves-generated cousins? ... I'll bet lots more than ever sat through Sirk mellers with over-hills Wyman and Lana. Classifying the Daves group as chick pics is a misnomer in any case. I've long guessed males enjoy these even if they won't admit it, and who among them would be so obtuse as to drag girlfriends to hardtop Gorgo runs when they could enjoy benefit of aphrodisiac spell Daves' films cast?


























That potion was mixed as much by composer Max Steiner as writing-directing Daves. What a late-career spike this was for been-around-an-eternity Steiner, who understood maybe best of all what got teen motors running. Warners had by now boosted their sound to world-class clarity, just in time, it seemed, for Steiner's final and epic assaults upon viewer emotions. His scores were essential to the Delmer Daves oeuvre, a common thread linking them all as much as repeating cast members. I still remember teenage neighbor girls playing their Rome Adventure albums till grooves wore smooth. Speaking of that one, my friend Geoff Rayle ran a 35mm IB Technicolor print at his archive screening room a few weeks ago and dazzled that 2010 audience in ways undoubtedly similar to what a 1962 public experienced. Good as Warners' DVD set looks (including Parrish, Susan Slade, and Rome Adventure), there really is no substitute for the wondrous impact 35mm has with its Technicolored luminosity. Geoff reported his audience, all of them born a generation after Rome Adventure came out, being blown away by what looked to be a 3-D tour of Italy minus glasses ( ... and sharpness like I've never seen, said more than one). You can knock these pics for clunky narrative, snail pacing, and callow actors barely worthy of the name, but folks in the late 50's/early 60's with access to first-run prints knew something we don't ... when movies look and sound this good, and cast such romantic (if not outright erotic) glows ... the rest counts for damn little and matters less.




Thursday, September 23, 2010


Best Keaton Book I've Read




Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy by Imogen Sara Smith has been a constant companion this week. We've been together to the barber shop, in and out of fish camps, Glenn's Tastee-Freeze (the one with B-west lobby cards on the walls) ... wherever I had time and leisure to enjoy a few more pages. Measuring a good book often comes down to whether or not it leaves the house with you. This one did until it was finished. If you like Keaton and haven't read Persistence, I'd suggest ordering. The author brings fresh insight to Buster's story. She mingled with and gauged reaction of modern audiences to his comedy, being aware of Keaton as an ongoing entertainment presence still gathering admirers to his net. Smith discovered BK as a teenager via The Goat on American Movie Classics. Since then, she read all the Buster books there were, as have most of us that follow him. I like the way this writer confronts myths about Keaton's life. Was his boisterous vaudeville act as "human mop" with parents tantamount to child abuse? Was BK a functioning illiterate as others have claimed? Smith digs into the films, Buster's influences (Roscoe Arbuckle chief among them), his marriages (best appraisal yet of ill-fated one with Natalie), and those decades coming back from a career in ruins. She's also got some of Keaton's latter-day following pretty well nailed: "Buster Keaton" is a favorite name to drop, shorthand for a cool, dry, deadpan style, and a mechanically elaborate absurdist aesthetic. To identify oneself as a fan is to side with black humor, irony, and hip disaffection. This is a stylish caricature that fits on a t-shirt. Now there's perception of a sort Smith's book is filled with. You come away from writing so astute and think, Why didn't I come up with that?


Timing is ripe to revisit Buster Keaton in any case, what with Blu-Rays, the Educational shorts DVD packaged at last, and hope that all his best work will eventually be available on high-definition. The Persistence of Comedy covers Keaton's output not in terms of mere synopsis and recitation of well-trod anecdote, but by ways invigorated and excitingly alert. Smith evaluates previous Keaton books, including the comedian's own ghost-written autobio, and reveals plus/minus factors in each. You know a book is special when the extensive footnotes are as readable as the main text, as was case here. I've not been fully satisfied with any Keaton overview before this one. It doesn't pretend to be definitive biography, which is fine because we pretty much have that data spread among what's been published over the last fifty years. Smith has instead synthesized all of that and spun her own interpretation toward events and accomplishments of Buster Keaton's life in a way that's fresh, modern, and not at all bound by assumptions/conclusions others have made. Best of all, she is a fan of Buster's (not always the case among previous writers) and observant of how newcomers react to him, something historians too often overlook. People who knew Buster wondered just what made him tick. His was instinctive genius you'd not acquire in school. Smith gets closer to the heart of this great comedian than anyone I've read. Her analysis/appreciation inspired my own repeat (re)viewings of (so far) Battling Butler and Steamboat Bill, Jr., both richer desserts for following satisfied serving of this book. The Persistence of Comedy really gets it done on the subject of Keaton, and more than merits any film lover's time and attention.




Monday, September 20, 2010




Sternberg Surfs Criterion DVD Wave







Josef von Sternberg's heavyweight status was never in doubt. Critics knew he was something rare almost from the beginning. Perhaps the "von" affectation commanded respect (imposed by studio publicists, he claimed), or perhaps it was imperious ways he adopted once success bloomed. That was awhile in coming, as Joe had started at the bottom and several times blew his luck making unreleasable films or walking off ones that didn't suit him (his first, The Salvation Hunters, inspired Charlie Chaplin to arrange release through United Artists, for which $44,000 in domestic rentals came back). A recent DVD set from Criterion finally lays three of the best silent Sternbergs before us in presentations that fully settle this director's mastery of visual effect. As to proof of that till now, you had to rely on assurance from books and lucky few who saw existing nitrate prints of Underworld, The Last Command, and Docks Of New York. All were museum guarded with copyrights renewed by Paramount, the latter surprising VHS collectors in the eighties with Docks and Command to commemorate a studio anniversary spree that's said to have fizzled, at least with regard sales of silents unknown even to many that fancied vault treasure. What they needed back then, and didn't have, was internet pom-poms to spread word about how special Sternbergs were, a lapse we've corrected with online endorsement from everyone who writes serious about films (even dilettante me got around to it). Again I'd love peeking at Criterion receipt books to know how these are selling, and to learn just how much they tendered to Paramount for video rights. Is this none of my business? May-be, but who wouldn't like insight into what our beloved classics are worth in 2010 dollars-and-cents?












Von Sternberg (think I'll call him Joe from here) was every film journal's pet during the sixties and after. New York revival houses had long been running him to assure connoisseurs that a US director could deliver art same as oversea rivals. Joe having been cast out of studios lent cache as well. His saga of art versus commerce bespoke integrity (still does) except to those footing bills. These three from Criterion represent 1927-28 opening of a commercial window that stayed wide a good five-six years before slamming back on star-making Sternberg, his vogue at Paramount secure for what remained of the silent era and then some, success even more pronounced once Marlene Dietrich hit shores. Underworld has been lauded for a lot of things, but less so for Joe's discovery of three bankable names Paramount would squeeze, then discard, same as they ultimately would him. George Bancroft was a big bruiser you knew would have an abbreviated shelf life, but Sternberg made expert use of him, enough so as to make the Bancroft brand a profitable one for several years into talkies (virtually none of these are shown, despite worthies like The Mighty). There was Evelyn Brent, who was uncertain temptress material, but Joe could have made Polly Moran smolder given the inclination, so for a while at least, Brent was smokin'. Her casting off to B's and cowboys (good support for Hoppy at one point) was a fate Sternberg predicted, knowing she'd falter without him. Clive Brook was better showcased by Sternberg than he would be again. Few are even aware Brook's was once a leading name. Maybe Joe's belligerence (having once said directing was a thankless task I never enjoyed) came of frustration at seeing personalities he'd developed so badly handled by others at Paramount. That was S.O.P. long before JvS arrived, however, and the pattern would be repeated with Dietrich, only then it would be Sternberg getting blame for her mid-30's decline.
























Sternberg worked magic with another limited type, Emil Jannings, who'd mastered a range of characters he could (or would) play. Joe varied one of these enough in The Last Command to deliver what everyone called Janning's best performance (we can't confirm thanks to others largely lost). Preston Sturges would say The Last Command was the only perfect film he'd ever seen. Doug Fairbanks sent telegrams of congratulation, and word came they were scalping tickets in front of Warsaw theatres. Command's story was arresting enough for a wide US public to enjoy as well (trade ads such as ones here radiated confidence). Like Underworld, this was a hit. In fact, for a while, it looked like Sternberg had an enviable finger up America's pulse, Underworld being socko in urban markets according to Janet Bergstrom's excellent DVD segment. Highest among complements to Joe may have been Howard Hawks grabbing credit for Underworld's story development years after it stopped mattering, plus he'd crib a memorable spittoon gag from the film for his own Rio Bravo (who in 1959 would recall that having been done three decades before, and in a film long out of circulation by then?). Whatever crazed logic guided Sternberg to treat people so badly may account for his getting Paramount's boot when profits from his stuff went dry, although colleagues who'd known Joe before he was Von were able to handle him better. Still, he made powerful enemies when those could hurt, and none would forget (Ernst Lubitsch among them). Bill Powell had it written into contracts that he'd not work with JvS again (when was this genial actor before or since so miffed?). Sternberg got known as a busy lot's angry young man, but when George Bernard Shaw called The Docks Of New York one the greatest films I've seen in my lifetime, who gets to be right? Anyone with eyes knew Joe was leagues ahead of others aiming cameras. The fact he claimed total authorship of all creative aspects was even OK so long as money wells were deep enough for everyone to sup.














































Some have said Sternberg's silents were conked out by onrushing talkies, but a look at the ad above shows Paramount putting best feet forward in '28 for a silent program that likely sold well, what with Wings, Beggars Of Life, The Fleet's In, and Sternberg's Docks Of New York leading the pack. Sound would be a mite longer obliterating this art form. As to Docks Of New York representing summit of silent artistry, you could pretty well call it that without fear of contradiction, for there's no other that looks so stunning. Time seems right too for rediscovery of Sternberg's narrative skill, which is to say he barely concerned himself with story, as neither, apparently, do a lot of modern filmmmakers. You never see three-act wheels grinding with Joe, and for a jaded 2010, that's refreshing. His shows gain considerably on repeat viewing as well, for its smallest gestures and atmosphere that often escape us a first time around. The Sternbergs are ideally served to fans who've been round the silent block and are ready to sample its deeper dishes. Tag Gallagher's DVD extra explains JvS in ways that opened my eyes, and I'd seen these pics several times before. Would they work for the uninitiated? Some called Sternberg a poet of film (and he'd have agreed), but poetry isn't readily understood by us all, so I'm left wondering what an evening with Sternberg would yield in terms of audience response. Has anyone lately tried him out with a crowd?




Thursday, September 16, 2010




A Horror Plague Is Upon Us! --- Part Two







Controversy over showing the demon persists to this day, despite its being one of the most arresting of all monster images. Would Curse be a better film minus that visage? Not for me. Would Columbia have released the film stateside without its demon? Doubtful. Especially when a whole campaign was built around said face that yet defines memorable experience viewing Curse Of The Demon. He was a humble puppet at inception, later cover subject for multiple horror mags, and inspiration for artists and model makers since. Writers who've shunned the Demon are cowed to large extent by shared objection among personnel who gave us Curse. Writer Charles Bennett, director Jacques Tournear, and star Dana Andrews all scolded Columbia for imposing him --- who are we to part company with these? Demand for Curse Of The Demon posters speaks to ongoing preference, however. They've regularly sold for hundreds. A lobby card head shot of the titular beast recently brought $567.63 at auction. Surely 1958 patrons were entitled to as much stimulation for entering theatres to see an otherwise unknown quantity (and British-made besides). Columbia had smarts enough to know you can't sell an exploitation picture without something to exploit. Toward that end, Curse's demon was made to order.









Revenge Of Frankenstein and Curse Of The Demon began charting on Boxoffice's July 14 Barometer page. The Barometer recorded performance of current attractions in the opening week of first-runs in twenty key cities monitored. Computation was in terms of percentage in relation to customary grosses as determined by theatre managers, with 100% representing "normal" business. How far your show got beyond that 100% was measure of its success. In the case of Revenge Of Frankenstein and Curse Of The Demon, numbers were 106%/105%, respectively, not too swift in comparison with other genre players that had been in the marketplace longer, but continued pacing high. Horror Of Dracula, a May release, was averaging 143% as of mid-July. Weeks to follow saw Revenge/Curse undone by MGM's combo of The Haunted Strangler and Fiend Without a Face (both at 110%), while Attack Of The 50-Foot Woman and War Of The Satellites arrived for latter July and clocked at 135%, Revenge/Curse's average creeping up to 107% during the week of July 28. Competition increased with summer progressing and more horrors making landfall. Worse came with August debut of chart-busting The Fly. Another fly forever buzzing (and siphoning off playdates) was American-International --- their August package was War Of The Colossal Beast and Attack Of The Puppet People at 116% for opening week. There was also baited hook of Allied Artists' Frankenstein --- 1970, which had not Revenge's color, but compensated with presence of Shock Theatre stalwart Boris Karloff back in castle environs. How could Columbia and its Revenge/Curse combo prevail in the face of such opposition?













One problem was oversaturation of famous monsters, for which both Revenge Of Frankenstein and rival Horror Of Dracula suffered. There had been Curse Of Frankenstein for the summer before, and AIP's opportunist I Was a Teenage Frankenstein behind that. The latter was paired with Blood Of Dracula and they played from November 1957 release into 1958. Then there was Return Of Dracula and Frankenstein --- 1970 to clog Spring and Summer 1958 schedules. Harrison's Reports complained over all this, pointing out rightly that customers wouldn't spot differences among the lot and might skip one thinking they'd seen it already. Horror Of Dracula broke from the pack for being a really exceptional chiller and cracked a million in rentals, but Revenge Of Frankenstein frankly disappointed a lot of those with expectations not met. This was nearly a year into the old Frankensteins on television and fans wondered why this monster looked so different from Universal's patented design. Exhibitors said Revenge was nowhere near as good as the first one (Curse Of Frankenstein) ... the kids came right out and told us (there was) nothing scary, so it seems if you can't scare their pants off, it's no good. Columbia had a monster on its hands more pathetic than frightening, Peter Cushing's handiwork perhaps saddest of all his creations. More important, this was not a Frankenstein that youth patrons would care to go home and recreate on their sketchpads and school notebooks. No coincidence, then, that Columbia relied on Curse's Christopher Lee image to adorn at least one Revenge trade ad, along with using footage of his monster for the film's theatrical trailer.



























The Fly was shaping up as the summer's big horror winner, with $1.3 million in domestic rentals and $929,000 foreign. The Revenge Of Frankenstein/Curse Of The Demon tandem separated as subsequent runs found each keeping company with other Columbia season releases. The Camp On Blood Island was an import from Hammer brimming with exploitation angles and had reached 132% on Boxoffice's barometer. Curse Of The Demon would support this one in a number of late Summer/Fall bookings, while Revenge Of Frankenstein bunked with The Snorkel, a B/W suspense thriller from Hammer that Columbia was also distributing. The company's TV division, Screen Gems, let little grass grow under features played out in theatres. Curse Of The Demon was announced for syndication on September 25, 1963 as part of SG's sci-fi package called simply "X", a mélange of fifteen recent titles including Battle In Outer Space, The Giant Claw, Mothra (only a year old at the time!), and The Tingler. I remember well struggling to bring in a Saturday morning signal off Raleigh's Channel 5 during a visit to Statesville cousins during summer 1965, my first exposure to Curse Of The Demon. The picture held for six or so initial minutes, turning gradually to snow as the demon gathered up Professor Harrington. It was years before I had another run at Curse. As for Revenge Of Frankenstein, there'd be announcement to TV in September 1962 with a strong group of seventy-three Columbia features the likes of Bell, Book, and Candle, From Here To Eternity, The Lineup, and Ride Lonesome. Revenge was ubiquitous on the tube, thanks to this being a heavily bought package, but broadcasts were primarily black-and-white, at least through most of the sixties. About the only way to see Revenge in color outside very infrequent 60's theatre bookings was via Columbia's 8mm highlight reel which was offered first in 1964, its color availability both a surprise and beyond means of boy collectors like myself (a skyward $12.95).







































In the wake of Monday's Part One post, I was delighted to receive a first-hand Curse Of The Demon screening report from Bill Littman in Baltimore. His 1958 Demon experience was, to say the least, an unusual one. Here's the story in Bill's words:

I saw the combo at the New Essex; the little theater where you could request movies. I know, 'cause I'm the one who requested it (DEMON). [I'd seen COTD mentioned in World Famous Creatures] I told the NE owners, a wonderful old married couple who would allow you free refills of popcorn (!), I liked Westerns too and since almost (?) nobody in town was running DEMON, I wanted to do something about it. Also GUNMAN'S WALK was 1. one I'd missed and 2. was in CinemaScope. (always a must!) I figure looking back, that they must have gone through the local exchange, gotten a deal on the combo & short (a Three Stooge comedy) and ran it for maybe two days (Fri. & Sat.) and made their dollar back. The newspaper never ran ads for the NE and by Sunday the double bill was gone and "I knew I was never gonna see it again" and it haunted me for days afterward. Didn't see it again 'til it was on TV in the early '60's. I WISH I had saved that little triple fold, yellow-tinted "now showing--coming soon" handout we got. I also went alone to see that combo, a rare occurrence since nobody else could make it. I was ticked off 'cause I'd gone to the trouble to ask the old folks who ran the New Essex to try & get it. (a 12-year-old doesn't count the fact everybody's sick with colds as a reason for missing a horror movie! Actually, I got sick a couple of days later--that'll teach me!). It was probably in late October; around the time I saw THE BLOB & I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE. I know it was before Thanksgiving. DEMON always meant a lot to me because I had to do all the work to get to see it! I had to walk 3 miles to that theater and it was the smallest in town, but that was the place where, in '55, I saw the sepiatone double bill of BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS & THEM! (and a lot of great stuff after that). I've never been able to find a photo of the theater as it was. I guess nobody thought it was worth taking a picture of. Amazingly enough, the building has outlived my other two theaters. Today it's a union hall.
Imagine a theatre where you could request movies. This is such a neat story, and I do thank Bill Littman for allowing me to post it. What any of us wouldn't give to have had a Curse Of The Demon encounter like that!
grbrpix@aol.com
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