Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, November 27, 2023

Parkland Picks with Popcorn #2


PPP: It Came from Outer Space, I Walked with a Zombie, The Adventures of Superman, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) --- Freak tent that was 3-D moviegoing made fad impression, then withdrew, a process repeated since fifties vogue, most recent before televisions stopped being equipped to play depth. What was industry trying to tell us? Will my 3-D discs become useless for there being no hardware to host them? Universal is lately out with 4K of It Came from Outer Space, but not 3-D in 4K. Maybe technology does not exist to support that. I can’t go back to flat after seeing a feature deep. That goes for Space, the Creature duo, any of them. It Came from Outer Space needs 3-D for being much the flatter without it. We never board the alien craft and aliens themselves are too shapeless and ugly to please. The build-up is effective for trading on fear 1953 had of invasion-from-without, things not of this earth a concern to rival what Reds had afoot. Science-fiction was topical also during short window when folks figured saucers had crashed or been captured and being hid from us (well, were they?). Sci-fi encounter of its own was 3-D being projected, seldom got right it seemed, too few operators skilled enough to keep right and left prints in harmony. Engagements curdled with depth seen sudden as shallow, theatres relieved to chuck glasses plus the system. Seventies scour of the Liberty found scores of specs shoved to a corner, me not caring enough even to take samples. I venture It Came from Outer Space, the 3-D lot in fact, looks leagues better than any of it did when new. Some of us chanced a 1981 revive of Space plus the first Creature in Concord, NC, enough to make anybody exit depth for keeps. Concord's I think was the red-green deal, or over/under, who cares which, it blew either way. You barely saw the too-dim image, only good thing Richard Carlson swinging a telescope round and us nearly conked by it. 3-D led with chins until digital came to decades-later rescue, It Came from Outer Space finally giving value for novelty promised when new, but taking all this time to fulfill.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943) --- Happy day was this Lewton favorite turning up finally on TCM with a new transfer, giving us glimpse of what eventual Blu-Ray (we hope) will look like. Anything of Val Lewton needs whatever visual support they can get, old prints more matter of imagining what beauty once gleamed off nitrate surface. I Walked with a Zombie stayed in theatre circulation, at least NC-wise, right into the mid-sixties, a Winston-Salem downtown venue using it to prop a live appearance by “Dr. Evil” of Charlotte late night fame, this 1964 booking a last record I found of Zombie before a mainstream audience as opposed to art house or “revival” situations. I Walked with a Zombie had earlier supported RKO genre stuff on reissue, second to The Body Snatcher in 1952 and King Kong in 1956, Zombie more chaser than classic on these occasions with exhibitors complaining it did not pack chills their audience expected. Perceived weak sisters could clear a house of youth that might otherwise sit for repeat of King Kong, Zombie and paired-with-Kong in 1952 The Leopard Man good for emptying seats so more paid admissions could plop down. Yes, we love Lewton, but his stuff fell down quick after Cat People, rentals and satisfaction-wise. It needed Karloff to come in and hypo the lot with The Body Snatcher, though even he couldn’t float Lewton after loser that was Bedlam in 1946. I Walked with a Zombie has nice story values and a halfway wow where women walk to a voodoo ceremony, vivid stuff of placement wherever art of Val Lewton is celebrated. I read where Frances Dee took gracious applause for starring in I Walked With a Zombie, but privately confided that fame of the show was mystery to her.

THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN --- Two episodes recommended by a friend. I need guidance to these, for it is too many years since watching on afternoon TV. Such occasion could be tense where I argued at age five for The Mickey Mouse Club and my brother insisted on Superman, only one set in the house to supply either. Was Superman too adult for me? By ten, I was ready, or maybe lure was George Reeves as paternal figure, which he widely was for mass of boy (and girl?) watchers. In fact, my sister sent away for Superman club membership spawned by the series for which she got a nice card and booklet, circa ’53 or so. First out of the DVD box for me was Night of Terror, initial season entry when harder-edge was maintained and Phyliss Coates was Lois Lane. She gets knocked around lots by heavies (for real it is said, bump on her head big as a turkey egg). Superman doesn’t show up until a last critical moment to give baddies a pasting. What if Superman hit a guy too hard and killed him? That had to be an issue for the Krytonian, a need always to pull punches lest he deal lethal blows. Clarity of digital permits us to spot doubles for Reeves. Did they borrow his costumes, or was there a closet filled with stuntman suits? Bullets bounce off Superman, but what if one ricocheted and hurt Lois or Jimmy? I’m taking these too literally. Superman had a likeable enough ongoing cast so it mattered less if he seldom did truly super things. How, with costs so stringent low? That was part of the show’s charm too.

The color episode I watched was Superman’s Wife, her played by Joi Lansing, and yes, this was  reason for picking it. Superman in color had a cobalt effect when first encountered that way in the mid-sixties, mainly because too few knew (anyone?) that episodes had been rendered that way (early runs were resolutely B/W). Just seeing the suit with its red, yellow, blue was thrill aplenty, even if content fell down from the first two seasons. At right is a 1973 display for a Greenbriar college program which included a five or so minute color clip I had come across from a Superman episode, novelty enough to flash upon an auditorium screen and set students upon wing of nostalgia. I like how Clark interacts with Daily Planet colleagues, then as Superman becoming the authority figure, even impatient when Lois proves dense as to water pressure and its effect on diving bells. LL by now was Noel Neill. She is motherly to Jimmy, critical of Clark, jealous, almost teary at prospect of Superman marrying Joi. There is no ceremony, so we assume no vows were exchanged, but mere possibility of such a thing galvanized viewers at the time. Per before, not necessary for S to do s things to engage us. It was personalities that sold these shows. Had anyone but Reeves been aboard, I don’t think Superman would have lasted long, because then kids would insist on action, and flying, and more action. Adults liked Superman according to expert Michael Hayde. Character and interplay appealed in lieu of dollars (not) spent, Reeves bursting through cardboard walls an endearing if not convincing ritual. Superman has been done too much, and by too many, to allow for much memory of George Reeves and the fifties series. I can’t see fans today canvassing all of episodes and committing situations and dialogue to memory. Is it reasonable to expect they would? Chance of Warner spend to upgrade The Adventures of Superman to Blu-Ray seems remote. We’re lucky enough to have entirety of the series on standard DVD.

ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1943) --- Suppose clouds lifted and Hollywood’s star system was somehow restored. What sort of vehicles might spotlight fresh personalities? (I read of late that there are no real “stars” left under the age of sixty) Tar pits these days are referred to instead as “challenges.” Might a blighted industry, specifically Universal, remake Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves? Could be a swell idea, even if absurd on its face, but no more so than Disney throwing $300 million at The Marvels and facing loss of it all. A Classic Era was where if you needed stars, you’d simply create them, or take a familiar face, if vaguely so, and confer fame to same. The Montez/Hall series was brilliant application of a simple and sure principle. Arabian Nights used applicants that were Maria Montez (a starlet, if that), Jon Hall (minor beach wear up to then), Sabu (a Korda find, but untried domestically), plus character and comedy favorites. All proved a click, and so came a lucrative series of six. I watched Ali Baba and was charmed, same as with the other five. Look how the idea sustained … Tony Curtis as a 50’s son of Ali, a sixties pastiche of stock footage from ’43 called Sword of Ali Baba. There was even Popeye to lead late-thirties way with a souped-up Technicolor cartoon. Is the concept of Ali Baba hopelessly past, or worse, forbidden by modern edict? I envision U seeking sand nearby as did forebears and bringing back a desert epic on modest terms, let’s say twenty or so million as latter-day counterpart to less than a million the 1943 Baba would have cost. Cast three attractive leads, don’t mock the myths, and see how theatres react (yes theatres … don’t throw it away on Peacock, Pelican, or whatever Universal’s streaming platform is called). Fresh Ali Baba would be a gamble sure, but with far less than Marvel money down recent drains. What if it sold? Stranger things have happened for an industry steeped in dreams and miracles, fresh out of latter lately. In a meantime there is Kino’s Blu-Ray of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves to enjoy.


Blogger Ken said...

I too have always gotten a kick out of Maria Montez's series of adventure films at Universal. Impressive how the studio maintained such an entertaining balance of elements when mounting these fantasy trips to the desert sands and elsewhere. Enjoyed reading your take on "Ali Baba".
Some years back I wrote a piece on La Montez and her onscreen essence. If anyone's interested in checking it out here's a link:

10:14 AM  
Blogger Supersoul said...

I was 7 years old when "It Came from Outer Space" was released and saw it in 3D with my older brother. I had to nag my parents to the point where they told my brother that either he took me with him or there would be no movie-going. Even at my tender age I had heard about 3D effects and was determined to see them for myself. The 3D glasses were of the red/blue type and the 3D effects were amazing to behold, at least to this young impressionable boy. That day was permanently etched into my memory. I don't believe subsequent encounters with 3D ever surpassed that original experience.

Regarding TV's "Superman", I saw them all first run in the 1950's on my family's black and white TV. It was truly must-see TV for my generation. All of my friends watched it and it would invariably become a topic of great discussion the next day. Of special note was my excitement when Kellogg's cereals (the original sponsor) announced that you could get an official Superman t-shirt in glorious color with the big Superman "S" on the chest area. All you had to do to get it was collect several Kellogg box tops and send them with a small amount of money to Kellogg's. That was a no-brainer for me. I simply had to have it. Very soon afterward my t-shirt arrived and I was ecstatic. I wore it all the time until it wore out. I wish I still had it. Great stuff, John. To quote Bob Hope, thanks for the memories. Frank B.

10:33 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Yes, paternal is the word. When revisiting in my 50s, I still felt that Clark and Lois were older than me, the cheery but firm favorite grade school teachers. Trying to remember if they ever did anything of Clark being cowardly or wimpy, or even the butt of a joke. At worst he might be a bit flippant about something Lois took seriously, or too sensibly cautious on her and/or Jimmy's behalf ("Do you really think that's a good idea?" "I can take of myself, Mister Kent."). Think there was one first season episode where Lois went on a date and Perry White fretted Clark was jealous. Of course he wasn't and the date was nothing, and that was the end of Sex beyond Lois's schoolgirl crush on Superman. Just like our teachers, they had no existence after school and were Just Friends on the job.

Disney's Zorro took a similar tack, with Guy Williams quickly shedding the foppish airs of Don Diego and playing him as sensible and charming, usually suggesting grown-up restraint ("Perhaps the Commandante will listen to reason.") before putting on the mask. Other characters might describe him as a milksop, but he almost never played it that way. His father's bitter disappointment was likewise dialed way down early on -- something too close to home for kid viewers? Anyway, he accepted Diego's peaceable leanings. In the second season Don Alexandro revealed he knew Diego was Zorro for some time, and reasoned Diego would come out, as it were, when he saw fit.


The deal now is not to manufacture stars but characters and franchises, undependent on names and faces owned by unreliable human beings. Almost every big popcorn movie is ultimately a test balloon for an empire of media content and merchandising.

The "Marvel Cinematic Universe" had an impressive run before recent flops. Star Trek, meanwhile, successfully rebooted several times on TV, despite -- or perhaps because -- they regularly shed nearly everything and everybody but the idea of Starfleet. Marvel, DC, and Star Wars have all collapsed under their own weight, freighted with "canon", corporate expectations and vocal fanboys. They may yet rise from the ashes, but a lot of undergrowth has to be burned away first.

Universal's attempts to resurrect its classic Monsters suggest what would happen to a revival of Montez-Hall adventures. The original films divide into two stages: the revolutionary, Whale and Browning styled adult horrors; and the juvenile if fun sequels that set familiar creatures loose on familiar Universal sets. The 21st century reboots were huge dice rolls instead of matinee fodder, would-be blockbusters built to haul freight for years instead of just entertaining. One can only imagine what the minds behind "Van Helsing" would do with "Cobra Woman". It should be noted that Universal is including a Monster land in its new Florida park, which means more chairs at any discussion of another Monster movie.

The closest we could hope for is if some bright soul produced a series of costume adventures for TV/streaming, G-rated (but not smugly so) and for just enough money, teaming story-smart filmmakers with budding Harryhausens and leaving them alone.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The demise of the 3D feature on TV sets was and continues to be a huge pain in the butt. It put the kibosh on a lot of people. Kudos to THE 3D FILM ARCHIVE, Kino Lorber, Paramount, Universal And others for keeping the 3D flame alive. Seeing I, THE JURY in 3D is a revelation. If only Warner Archive and Sony would take a cue from them. Looking forward to finally seeing BWANA DEVIL in 3D.

The Universal Monsters are perfect in the 1930s, good in the 1940s and the attempts to bring them into the present era show that to be nearly impossible. I say "nearly" because in the right hands anything is possible. Great post,

11:22 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Disney's 'Aladdin' is a popular and well-known product as of 2023 (as it has been for thirty or more years since the Disney animated film was released; their "live-action" movie version from a few years ago was a hit too, though I myself have seen neither it nor the Disney animated film itself for decades), and its themes and characters are not so very far from the Montez-Hall confections of the 1940s.
Perhaps animated remakes of those "Arabian Nights" titles would be a "better bet" for cinematic success than live-action remakes; but in truth, as of right now, live-action and animation are increasingly seen as being non-exclusive categories thanks to the integration of computer graphics into cinematography, and particularly so when it comes to sci-fi or fantasy subjects.
So maybe there's hope for "Arabian Nights" cinematic subjects outside of and apart from Disney's 'Aladdin' franchise after all.

11:52 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Filmfanman has a very interesting and thoughtful comment regarding the Montez/Hall films and their similarities to the STAR WARS that was just posted at Greenbriar's earlier (2009) column concerning the series. Here is the link:

5:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024