Ho Meng Hua’s THE OILY MANIAC„ÄĆ ś≤Ļť¨ľŚ≠ź„Äćto Blu-ray in July from 88 Films

Today in “things I never thought I’d live to see”, 88 Films have announced via their facebook page that director Ho Meng Hua’s deliciously bizarre action-horror-revenge fantasy¬†The Oily Maniac „ÄĆ ś≤Ļť¨ľŚ≠ź„Äć, from Shaw Brothers in 1976, will see its high definition video debut in July.

From the 88 Films FB:

Danny Lee (THE KILLER) played one of cinema’s most unlikely superheroes in THE OILY MANIAC (1976) – a Shaw Brothers creature-feature classic that is only now gaining a much-deserved premiere in the UK! In this gooey gem of a monster-mash, Lee plays a Hong Kong everyman who has been crippled and is down-on-his-luck – that is, until he learns of a spell that can turn him into a transformative and transmorphing pile of ferocious but malevolent mush. Yes, he is THE OILY MANIAC – and in this Cantonese predecessor to Troma’s THE TOXIC AVENGER, he is able to appear and re-appear at will, making it all the more tricky for his arch-enemies to dillute his delirious brilliance. Directed by the prolific Meng Hua Ho (THE FLYING GULLOTINE), this is one Far Eastern B-movie masterpiece that deserves to be seen and appreciated in full HD!

Full details have yet to be made available, but The Oily Maniac is expected to release on the 24th of July. The disc is already available for pre-order through Amazon.co.uk. We can hardly wait!

John Agar against the INVISIBLE INVADERS: The Most Fantastic Battle Ever Fought!

“You would see nothing! We are invisible. We are invisible, Adam Penner! Long ago we learned to change¬†the molecular structure of our bodies. You cannot see us.”

It’s difficult to say for certain whether 1959’s Invisible Invaders has an awful lot on its mind, or awful little. One suspects the latter, but whether genuinely trying to say something or just trying to fill time screenwriter Samuel Newman’s hyperbolic prose (excerpt above)¬†pushes¬†a dozen or so hot-button topics just the same, bemoaning nuclear proliferation and the militarization of science on the way to banding humanity together to squander the colonial ambitions of a dictatorial race of invisible extraterrestrial whatsits.

The narrative here is of pretty simple stuff:¬†Peace-minded atom scientist Adam Penner (Philip Tonge, Witness for the Prosecution) makes a stink after a colleague is killed while conducting nuclear weapons research for the government, but¬†is soon at work building weapons for peace (sort of?) after mankind¬†finds itself in the sights of the eponymous menace. Along for the ride are Penner’s daughter and secretary Phyllis (Jean Byron,¬†Jungle Moon Men) and¬†his pro-MIC colleague John (Robert Hutton,¬†They Came From Beyond Space), as well as¬†John Agar (The Mole People) as requisite strong-jaw Major Bruce Jay.¬†Together the¬†four work tirelessly¬†to repel the invaders and save Earth, all from the confines of a¬†tiny lab¬†buried below¬†the intractable wilderness of Los Angeles’ Griffith Park.

There’s plenty of parity to be found between¬†Invisible Invaders and its contemporaries. That mankind’s unchecked scientific and military expansion into the upper atmosphere and beyond might invite an unwanted ultimatum¬†from extraterrestrial civilization echoes the likes of¬†The Day the Earth Stood Still and¬†Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, while the unnamed invaders’ conquest and colonization of the moon as a base of operations recalls Toho’s color sci-fi spectacles¬†The Mysterians and¬†Battle in Outer Space. That’s not to say that the ideas are ever substantially realized in¬†Invaders,¬†which treats them¬†as little more than a bit of expositional window-dressing – a few big concepts¬†to distract from the production’s own tininess.

Elsewhere Invisible Invaders reminds heavily¬†of the earlier Sam Katzman-produced¬†thriller¬†Creature With the Atom Brain, in which an army of revivified and radioactive un-dead are unleashed upon the world by an ambitiously ego-maniacal criminal. That¬†Invaders‘ own Edward L. Cahn also directed that picture should come as no surprise, nor the fact that both screenwriter Samuel Newman and producer Robert E. Kent were employed in¬†Katzman’s script department at¬†the time of Creature‘s production.¬Ļ

Invisible Invaders may substitute malicious invisible aliens for vengeful ex-mobsters, but the end result is much the same. Having no weapons of their own which work within the Earth’s atmosphere (something of an oversight, methinks) the invaders opt instead to possess the bodies of the recently dead, who rise to visit¬†all manner of cut-rate havoc upon human civilization. There are some reasonable effects takes (including not one but two miniature dam demolitions) cut into the mix, none original to Invaders, but the majority of the footage is stock newsreel stuff – fires, riots, and assorted other devastation. That supervising editor Grant Whytock (here in the fifth decade of his film career) was not also veteran of Katzman productions is one¬†of the bigger surprises of the picture – between Creature With the Atom Brain and¬†Invisible Invaders, the montages of destruction are practically interchangeable.

That’s not to say that¬†Invisible Invaders doesn’t have its own quirks and peculiarities. There’s a distinctly nasty edge to the “us or them” aspect that dominates the film’s second act, with Agar’s Major Jay coolly disposing of a meddlesome shotgun-toting farmer (Hal Torey, Earth vs. the Spider) to ensure the survival of the team under his care. While the¬†sentiment would¬†become common among the survivalist doomsday fantasies to follow (the derivative yet none-the-less formative¬†Panic in Year Zero comes to mind) it’s a grim turn for a ’50s sci-fi, though Newman twists it to relatively banal purposes. In¬†Invaders the killing serves largely to ratchet conflict between the more intellectual Phyllis and the action-minded Jay, but the tension is short-lived – by the end of the picture the two are an item. Even the farmer¬†gets a second chance, his body immediately taken over by an invader in an effort to suss out the good guys’ secret bunker, but is sidelined once more when he and his possessor become the team’s test subjects.

Invisible Invaders reserves most of its action for the third act, in which¬†John Agar dons a radiation suit and a fancy wooden sound-gun, taking the fight to the invaders for god and country and what-not. As is the film in its other respects, the action here is pretty cut-rate stuff. Agar battles maybe a dozen radioactive zombies – only one of whom has the foresight to have brought a firearm (“We cannot be defeated. We have never been defeated!”) – and lays¬†waste to an invader spaceship single-handed. The special effects, limited to¬†a few opticals of the un-invisibled invaders¬†melting into frothing goop, are the early work of¬†effects tech Roger George¬†(Repo Man,¬†The Terminator), here working with¬†a monster suit re-purposed from¬†It! The Terror From Beyond Space. Details of Doc Penner’s newfangled sound-gun are eventually¬†divulged to the rest of the world, the salvation of which occurs, as was most affordable, off-screen. One supposes that little more should be expected of a feature that conspires to both begin and end an alien invasion in little more than an hour, and I will confess to finding it all ceaselessly compelling as a child.

To that and, despite its distinct¬†paltriness, I still find Invisible Invaders to be a¬†perfectly watchable affair.¬†A good deal of that is owed to Philip Tonge, an English actor whose substantial career had begun on the stage in 1902,¬†who delivers his performance with a passion and sincerity well in advance of what the material deserves.¬†Invisible Invaders has the inauspicious distinction of being one of his¬†final films, if not indeed his last – Tonge died in late January of 1959, several months¬†before¬†Invaders went into regular release. The ever dependable Carradine helps as well, doing his usual level best in an appearance that must have taken whole hours to complete (what glamorous lives these working actors lead!). A brief scene as a stereotypical scientist (lab coat, test tubes) looks to have been shot almost entirely for exploitation purposes; stills from it were well represented in¬†the film’s press materials. Carradine is only on-screen for one other scene,¬†as the Marley’s-Ghost device¬†through which the invaders deliver their surrender-or-else ultimatum, though he resurfaces from time to time as the (voice only, natch) vanguard of the invasion.¬≤

Otherwise, the overwhelming silliness of the thing has appeal enough on its own. It’s tough to really hate a film whose alien invaders conspire to announce their nefarious intentions to the world at hockey games. Some game play¬†footage was evidently handy.

Invisible Invaders looks great in its improbable Blu-ray edition, released by Kino Lorber just last year (a DVD is also available) and from which I reviewed the film. The new scan from MGM frames the film to 1.66:1, improving well upon the open-matte editions of the past, and detail and contrast levels tick up nicely. A few minor scuffs and bumps and the persistent stock footage aside, Invisible Invaders¬†looks almost embarrassingly good in motion. I’ll confess that I haven’t¬†listened to the provided commentary track, featuring B-cinema historians Tom Weaver and Dr. Robert J. Kiss, but its inclusion is welcome – Weaver is always a dependable presence, and certainly knows his stuff. Theatrical trailers for¬†Invisible Invaders and¬†The Magnetic Monster, also on Blu-ray from Kino, round out the disc. And for those less keen to¬†purchase,¬†Invisible Invaders is also streaming now (albeit in an older open-matte SD iteration) via Amazon Prime Video.

¬Ļ¬†Invisible Invaders may be the most singularly Katzman-esque production ever to be made without his direct involvement. In addition to¬†Invaders‘ producer, writer, and director, cast members John Agar (The Magic Carpet), Jean Byron (Voodoo Tiger), Paul Langton (Utah Blaine), and Hal Torey (Crash Landing) were all familiar faces around “Jungle” Sam’s Clover Productions. John Carradine’s connection is more tenuous to¬†this comparison, but goes back even further – Carradine had played under Katzman during¬†his pre-Clover tenure with Monogram Pictures.

¬≤ Though credited as “Carl Noymann”, a mistake reiterated in¬†Invisible Invader‘s opening narration, Carradine plays a character named “Karol Noymann” – also the name of¬†the scientist (played by Edgar Barrier) who reveals the intergalactic anti-matter origins of the big bird from Fred F. Sears¬†The Giant Claw. Both films were written by Samuel Newman, who has the name, in full, almost obsessively repeated¬†throughout¬†Invisible Invaders‘ early scenes.

Entombed for eons… Turned to Stone… Seeking Women! Women! Women! Edward Cahn’s CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN

Etruscan gladiator-slave Quintillus Aurelius rises from the ruins of Pompeii to reclaim his reincarnated bride in this occasionally odd and often rote science fiction horror, produced by Robert E. Kent (Invisible Invaders) for the prolific Edward Small (Witness For the Prosecution) and directed by B-picture genre dependable Edward L. Cahn (Creature With the Atom Brain).

Curse of the Faceless Man plays in a more or less predictable fashion, with a gaggle of Neapolitan scientists working to uncover the secrets of their discovery; a man, perfectly preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD (never-mind that the real-life inspirations for the film’s ‘Volcano Man’ were poured plaster through and through, shaped by the cavities left by Pompeii’s long-decomposed dead); as bodies start to pile up. Elsewhere artist Tina (Elaine Edwards, The Bat) is haunted by dreams of the faceless man, of his slavish imprisonment in the past and of his misdeeds in the present.¬†On the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius Tina succumbs to her psychic connection with the faceless man and the pair, reliving their doomed¬†flight of two-thousand years ago, make their way towards the sea . . .

This is another of those films which was arguably better than it needed to be, reasonably¬†photographed (by The Outer Limits regular Kenneth Peach) and intelligibly edited, with a capable cast (including a perennially disinterested Richard Anderson, The Six Million Dollar Man,¬†and the lovely Adele Mara, Wake of the Red Witch) who do little to embarrass themselves. The primary draw, then as now, remains the faceless man himself, a memorably blank make-up by Charles Gemora performed by the substantially buff Bob Bryant (My Seven Little Bares). He reminds of the meteor-encrusted astronaut of the following year’s¬†First Man Into Space, albeit less grotesque. The score by Gerald Fried (The Killing)¬†lends the beast a suitable atmosphere in its various budget rampages, knocking through doors and bashing in the skull of the occasional misplaced guard.

Curse of the Faceless Man isn’t a bad hour to spend all told, provided expectations aren’t set to high for it. Pseudo-DeMille-ian¬†narration by genre regular and frequent screen general Morris Ankrum (Invaders From Mars) may put it a notch or two higher in my book, but this is pretty standard monster-on-the-loose fair, and perfectly average among its contemporaries. It may not sound like much of a recommendation, but those of you looking to scratch that mid-century sci-fi / horror itch could do much worse.

As of this writing Curse of the Faceless Man is available for streaming, and in HD besides, via Prime Instant Video through Amazon. The film is also available on Blu-ray through Kino Lorber, who include a commentary for the feature by Chris Alexander.

The Depression-era spectacle of Felix E. Feist’s DELUGE

It’s been nearly 90 years since RKO’s¬†Deluge first raged across the silver screen, leveling the concrete modernity¬†of 1933 to rubble and inviting audiences to ponder the consequences, but its history, beyond those first furtive months of general¬†release, has been a troubled one. Indeed, one could argue that Deluge‘s history was troubled almost from the beginning.

Author¬†S. Fowler Wright was responsible for the film’s eponymous source material, but little of the novel’s preoccupation with interminable personal¬†introspection or post-calamity sexual politics would find their way into the RKO film. Though Wright had been shopping a self-written screen¬†treatment for Deluge around Hollywood on his own in the early 1930s, it was to go unproduced.¬†After purchasing¬†the story for film development in February of 1933, K.B.S. Productions’ Samuel Bischoff hired¬†scenarist John F. Goodrich (The Last Command) to adapt it for the screen. Deemed unfit for production for reasons that go unpublished, Goodrich’s screenplay was eventually to be re-written by¬†Warren Duff (Angels With Dirty Faces) and an uncredited Joe Traub (The Death Kiss;¬†Traub, as Variety reported, was brought in “to insert laughs”). By the end of May ’33 financing had been secured through distributor RKO and Deluge,¬†under novice director Felix E. Feist (Donovan’s Brain) and the producers of K.B.S., began production.

RKO appear to have had few ambitions for¬†Deluge, excepting that it be made cheaply and help to pad their ever-imperiled bottom line. K.B.S. felt differently, with the result that¬†Deluge swiftly overwhelmed its low B-picture budget. As Feist toiled away in the field, the¬†run-ins with his penny-pinching producers helping to pad the margins of the Summer trades,¬†Deluge‘s hired effects talent were busy running up the tab. Pioneering effects director Ned Mann (later renowned for his work under Alexander Korda) was purportedly given carte blanche¬†to manufacture the film’s singular highlight; the utter annihilation of New York City by earthquake and tidal wave; and¬†cost K.B.S. backer RKO a small fortune in the process. By mid-August¬†Deluge was in the can, but at well more than double the anticipated expense.

On September 15th 1933 Deluge went into regular release,¬†and though often noted for its novelty, swiftly developed a reputation as a poor earner at the box office. Good¬†showings (like a whopping $15,000 take during its run in Chicago’s 2,600-seat State-Lake Theatre) were few and far between, and the Autumn trades are full of instances in which¬†Deluge “disappointed”, or worse, was a “miserable flop”.¬Ļ

Deluge continued to fizzle, often as the bottom half of a¬†B-picture double bill, through much of 1934, and with the founding of Herbert Yates’ Republic Pictures the stage was set for the film to slip into obscurity entirely. Desirous of special effects and other stock for their film serials,¬†Republic moved to purchase¬†the special effects takes from¬†Deluge¬†from RKO outright, with one historically relevant caveat:¬†that Deluge itself be pulled from circulation. And so it was for some fifty years.¬†Deluge‘s epic disaster footage lived on, cobbled into Republic serials like¬†S.O.S. Tidal Wave and¬†King of the Rocket Men, its production¬†(illustrated with fantastic images of Ned Mann and his crew strolling among their plaster replica of New York City) spotlighted in the occasional book or magazine, while the film languished, unpreserved through RKOs final mid-century upheaval and ultimately feared lost.

Deluge first re-emerged in the 1980s, when a release print of the Italian-dubbed version (La Distruzione del Mondo) was unearthed from a private collection. This was eventually subtitled and restruck, granted the odd theatrical screening and a short-lived VHS release², but the film, as originally produced in English, remained as obscure as ever.

. . . Until now, that is. Following the discovery of a 35mm nitrate dupe negative, France’s Lobster Films have restored Deluge in its original English, allowing the film to be seen in the closest approximation of its original form that has been available in nearly a century. The restoration thrilled attendees at various festival screenings in late 2016, and Kino Lorber have made it available to wider audiences still, courtesy of new Blu-ray and DVD editions released in February of this year.

As for Deluge itself, it remains a¬†distinct curiosity among 1930s film productions. While spectacle was the order of the day post-Depression, end of the world scenarios were a rare sight in cinemas of the time.¬≥ In this sense¬†Deluge was well ahead of its time, even if a century of post-civilization fiction has left it feeling more than a little rote. The narrative follows lawyer Martin¬†(Sidney Blackmer, Tammy and the Bachelor), who is separated from his family by a world-ending cataclysm, and the bond that forms between him and fellow survivor Claire (Peggy Shannon, Turn Back the Clock), a record-setting swimmer whom he discovers beached at his doorstep. Together they combat a rapacious criminal element and eventually¬†rediscover civilization in the form of an unsubmerged rural town, but complications arise when it is discovered that Martin’s missing family, long presumed dead, are also alive and well there.

There’s little of significant interest to be found in¬†Deluge‘s post-disaster melodramatics, an indifferent and mercilessly spare distillation of the novel’s original narrative that hits upon the major points, but little more – with only 67 minutes at its disposal, the¬†film has little time for else. The Bronson Canyon-bound siege that dominates the middle third of the running time is a serviceable piece of action for the time, with some violent pre-Code appeal besides (Shannon hacking lead baddie Fred Kohler to death with a pike is the ferocious non-effects highlight of the film), but the rest is passable at the best of times. Much of this is down to Wright’s novel, which has not aged at all well in its politics since it was first published in 1928. The film deftly sidesteps the author’s most controversial subject (the novel’s polygamist finale, in which Martin’s estranged wife and Claire both opt to devote themselves to him), substituting a visually poetic, if substantively disturbing alternative. Here Claire, vowing to die rather than lose Martin to another woman, flings herself back into the¬†sea as her¬†distressed beloved¬†looks on, ending¬†Deluge on a note of tragedy.

Deluge ultimately appeals more in its bits and pieces than as a whole. Shannon holds up well, even as the screenplay can’t decide quite what to do with her. Claire is at once headstrong and driven and utterly dependent, a confusing quality that persists across the novel as well (in which she regularly¬†effaces herself in light¬†of Martin’s righteous male superiority, regardless of any evidence to the contrary). She is also the most exploited element of the film, second to the effects, her scant dress, implied nudity, and binding a¬†frequent object of the film’s affections. Blackmer stumbles through the awkward scripting well enough, his occasional Southern inflection adding interest to an otherwise disposable performance, but serves the film best in a purely visual sense. The image of his lonesome figure, shocked by and dwarfed within¬†a landscape now sparse and alien, is iconic, and closely echoes the finale of Geoff Murphy’s 1985 sci-fi¬†The Quiet Earth.

Still, it’s Deluge‘s effects production which remains its prime selling point, even if¬†it seems almost entirely dissociated from the rest of the film when viewed¬†in context. Feist frames the action with scenes of a meteorological community (headlined by Samuel Hinds, The Boy with Green Hair,¬†and Edward Van Sloan,¬†Dracula) in turmoil, assured by the increasingly ominous¬†evidence that something awful is on the verge of happening. It’s a novel sequence, wholly contained as it is within the film’s first reel, and the flickering¬†montages of stock footage and Bible-thumping evangelists that divide¬†the drama remind of those¬†found within Abel Gance’s troubled 1930 effort¬†La Fin du Monde (a truncated and bizarre hour-long version of which would release to American screens in¬†1934).¬†When the inevitable disaster strikes it does so¬†in grander fashion than had ever been seen on screen¬†before.¬†The impossible upheaval Mann constructs¬†echoes the similarly implausible¬†disasters of Emmerich’s¬†The Day After Tomorrow and¬†2012 and the more recent spectacle of¬†San Andreas, but retains a wondrous phantasmagoric¬†aesthetic all its¬†own.¬†It’s amidst all that crumbling plaster that¬†Deluge finds its place as art.

Deluge is ultimately more a blip than a milestone, more curiosity than classic, but the momentousness of its present reemergence is no lesser for that. Lobster Films’ restoration is not perfect, dictated as it is by the state of the materials in question (there are splice-y segments here and there, and the new restoration lacks¬†both an opening insert shot and the first line of the picture), but one doubts¬†Deluge will ever play better. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray and DVD editions are well worth it for those curious, offering the restored¬†Deluge¬†with informed commentary from Richard Harland Smith and alongside the¬†low budget 1934 drama Back Page, also starring Shannon.

¬Ļ A rare exception was reported in Variety from Tokyo, of all places, where¬†Deluge thrilled audiences on a double bill with Charlie Chaplin’s¬†City Lights in February of 1934. One suspects that the theatre had more¬†to do with the film’s success than¬†Deluge itself did, in this case. The cinema in question was the historic¬†4,000-seat Nippon Gekijo (iconically demolished in the 1954 Gojira), which was still riding a wave of public interest only three months on from its grand December 1933 opening.

² Wade Williams, who produced the first restoration and under whose name the VHS issue was released, continues to assert his control of all rights regarding the film Deluge via his website. To say whether such claims are legitimate or otherwise would go well beyond my realm of expertise, but neither the recent Kino Lorber video editions of the film nor the restoration upon which they are based make any mention of them.

¬≥ Journalist and script doctor Ferdinand Reyher was working on a screen treatment¬†of M.P. Shiel’s bizarre last-man novel¬†The Purple Cloud¬†under various titles (Purple Cloud,¬†The Last Man, and End of the World) throughout the decade, but no film resulted. His work was eventually credited as the source for writer and¬†director Ranald MacDougall’s¬†The World the Flesh and the Devil, from HarBel and MGM in 1959. Also unmade was Cecil B. DeMille’s production¬†End of the World, which was to be a¬†$400,000 adaptation of Wylie and Balmer’s novel¬†When Worlds Collide. The film was announced in the trades in mid-1933, but just as quickly disappeared – Paramount cancelled the project before it had really begun, reportedly on account Deluge‘s thematic similarities, and DeMille switched focus instead to his historical epic¬†Cleopatra.

A very brief note:¬†I used Archive.org’s collection of¬†historic issues of Variety *a lot* for this article, and thought it deserved a shout-out all of its own. Those curious are encouraged to set a few hours aside and dive into an issue or three.

Flying Beast out of Prehistoric Skies! Fred F. Sears’ THE GIANT CLAW to Blu-ray in April from Anolis Entertainment

Addition¬†(03/31): Anolis Entertainment’s¬†The Giant Claw (Angriff der Riesenkralle) is up for pre-order now, through Amazon.de and other outlets.

It’s been less than two weeks since German label Anolis Entertainment’s excellent Blu-ray issue of Ishiro Honda’s The H-Man, but they’re already at it again, expanding upon their Gallery of Horrors with an oddball monster yarn that’s near and dear to ExB’s cold little heart.

Fred F. Sears’¬†The Giant Claw¬†was made¬†on the fast and cheap under the auspices¬†of prolific penny-pinching producer Sam Katzman and distributed through Columbia in the Summer of 1957, and though it superficially resembles the classic Charles H. Schneer-produced Ray Harryhausen effects ventures which preceded it (the first two of which, It Came From Beneath the Sea and¬†Earth vs. The Flying Saucers were also made under Katzman) it’s the details that make all the difference. Starring sci-fi regular Jeff Morrow (Kronos,¬†This Island Earth, The Creature Walks Among Us) and actress and pin-up sensation Mara Corday (Tarantula!, Raw Edge),¬†The Giant Claw is a more or less competent mid-century genre quickie with one tremendous exception: It’s special effects production.

To my child eyes the feature’s eponymous creature;¬†an impossibly gigantic buzzard from intergalactic space; was the single best monster I had ever seen.¬†These days I still love it, though¬†it’s impossible to deny the overwhelming silliness of a giant space vulture with sharp, pointy teeth, flaring nostrils, bulging veiny eyes, and a billowing scraggle of a mohawk. With Harryhausen having followed faithful producer Charles H. Schneer as he exited from under Katzman’s supervision to pursue his own film enterprises¬†The Giant Claw was forced to improvise, and¬†Katzman, as was typical of him, spared most expenses.

The results were a noted embarrassment to the film’s¬†cast,¬†and well below the standards set by¬†the Schneer / Harryhausen classic¬†20 Million Miles to Earth (which was in release through¬†Columbia that same Summer), but have helped to make The Giant Claw¬†a sort of classic in its own right. Sixty years on the film remains a relevant cult item, salvaged from the obscurity suffered by so many other (and sometimes better) films by its own iconic shortcomings.

Gif shamelessly snagged from Tumblr user SwampThingy

The Giant Claw will receive its high definition home video debut on April 13th, in a dual format Blu-ray / DVD edition as part of Anolis’ ongoing Die Rache der Galerie des Grauens series. The film will be presented with¬†both English and German audio options, presumably through Sony’s own master of the title (a la The H-Man), and will likely be Region B / Region 2 locked. The full details, quoted from Anolis’ Facebook page, follow below.

Ja, ich wei√ü, ihr alle wartet auf unsere n√§chsten Hammer-V√Ės. Und keine Sorge: Dieses Jahr wird es davon reichlich geben. Nur eben noch nicht im April. Daf√ľr gibt es in dem Monat, der nicht wei√ü, was er will, eine weitere GALERIE Ver√∂ffentlichung. Und diese bietet das wohl abstruseste Filmmonster, das die Welt je gesehen hat. Einen √ľbergro√üen Vogel Strauss mit Punkfrisur. Ganz klar, dabei kann es sich nur um ANGRIFF DER RIESENKRALLE (orig. THE GIANT CLAW) handeln.

F√ľr diejenigen unter euch, die dieses grandiose Meisterwerk noch nicht kennen, hier mal ein paar S√§tze zum Inhalt bzw. zur Einordnung in die Filmgeschichte:

Als √ľber dem amerikanischen Luftraum ein seltsames Wesen von der Gr√∂√üe eines Schlachtschiffes auftaucht, will keiner der Aussage des Wissenschaftlers Mitch MacAfee Glauben schenken. Dann attackiert das Wesen, ein gigantischer h√§sslicher Raubvogel aus dem All, die Zivilisation. Er schleppt Z√ľge fort und frisst Teenager. Konventionelle Waffen prallen am Energieschild des Monsters ab. Als sei das nicht genug, hat die Bestie bereits ein Nest gebaut und br√ľtet weitere Unget√ľme aus. Ist die Menschheit noch zu retten oder endet sie wom√∂glich als Vogelfutter f√ľr eine Schar fliegender Monster?

Sam Katzman produzierte diesen ber√ľhmt-ber√ľchtigten Monsterfilm, in dem die bekannten Genrestars Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday und Morris Ankrum die Welt vor dem mit Abstand verr√ľcktesten und ungew√∂hnlichsten Monster der 1950er Jahre retten m√ľssen. Der Riesenvogel mit seinem vollkommen grotesken Design begeisterte schon Generationen von Fans und lie√ü die Darsteller des Films seinerzeit vor Scham im Boden versinken.

Nicht vor Scham im Boden versinken m√ľssen wir was die Pr√§sentation dieses Films angeht, bieten wir euch doch schon wieder eine Blu-ray/DVD-Kombo an:

Verpackung: Standard Amaray H√ľlle (mit Fl√ľgel f√ľr 2. Disc)
Bestell-Nr: 31077
EAN-Code: 404 1036 31077 6

FSK: 12
Bildformat: 1:1,79 (16:9)
Tonformat: Deutsch/Englisch DTS MA 2.0 Mono
Untertitel: deutsch (ausblendbar)

2-Disc-Edition (Blu-ray & DVD)

Extras: Audiokommentar mit Ingo Strecker und Thomas Kerpen / Audiokommentar mit Dr. Rolf Giesen, Uwe Sommerlad und Ivo Scheloske / Einleitung von Dr. Rolf Giesen √ľber die Spezialeffekte / Amerikanische Titelsequenz / Spanische Titelsequenz / Amerikanischer Kinotrailer / Super-8-Fassung / Bildergalerie

16-seitiges Booklet geschrieben von Ingo Strecker

Als V√Ė-Termin haben wir den 13. April 2017 festgelegt, damit die Edition noch rechtzeitig in euren Osterk√∂rbchen landen kann.

The Giant Claw¬†(as Angriff der Riesenkralle) should be available through Amazon.de and other outlets soon. The film is already out in an excellent DVD domestically from Sony, as part of the Icons of Horror: Sam Katzman Collection. The film’s original double-bill co-feature¬†Night the World Exploded is also available, through Sony’s MOD DVD program or as part of Mill Creek’s questionably mastered (yet excruciatingly affordable)¬†Vintage Sci-Fi 6 Movie Collection.

Beast-Thing From out of the Earth! FROM HELL IT CAME to Blu-ray next month from Warner Archive

Brothers Dan and Jack Milner’s execrable 1957 anti-classic is the latest genre surprise to emerge from the depths of the Warner Archive Collection, which released the film to MOD DVD in its formative¬†days. WAC have been keeping genre aficionados plenty busy over the last few months, granting quality HD releases to the likes of¬†Demon Seed and¬†When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, and most recently¬†The Valley of Gwangi and¬†World Without End.

From Hell It Came terrified me as a child, when the sight¬†of Paul Blaisdell’s hyperbolically evil tree-monster rising from a smouldering pit felt like¬†the most sinister thing ever committed to film, though these days it’s the film’s social politics that really creep me out¬†(material for another day, perhaps). Originally nary an hour long,¬†From Hell It Came was¬†lengthened for television in appropriately unimaginative ways – a mid-film scene was repeated as a prologue, and text scrawls appended to the opening and closing credits. So it was when I first caught the picture in the latter ’80s. WAC’s Blu-ray will doubtless return¬†It¬†to its more merciful theatrical running time of 71¬†minutes, as did their earlier DVD.

Lamentable as¬†From Hell It Came can be,¬†it’s encouraging to see the WAC digging this deep for their Blu-ray program. One wonders if the likes of¬†The Giant Behemoth,¬†The Cyclops¬†or even¬†From Hell It Came‘s original double-bill compatriot¬†The Disembodied might not be far behind. I would shell out hard for any of those, and will doubtless be picking up this one as well – out of¬†principle, if nothing else.

From Hell It Came has a street date of April 25th, and is up for pre-order through Amazon and other outlets.

A Song Before Annihilation: Hard Liquor (Sohn)

Perhaps the most addictive track of early ’17, which seems appropriate. It should come with tasting notes.

Just hit “repeat”.

Hard Liquor is¬†the latest single off Sohn’s¬†Rennen, which dropped last Friday, and is available through Amazon and the other usual outlets (I caught up to it on Tidal, for whatever that’s worth).¬†Jovan Todorovic directed the video, which is shared below. Sohn will be playing the Twin Cities’ own (essential) Triple Rock Social Club in April.

All Brand New! An Important Film of Our Age Starring Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, and… Kipp Hamilton?

Tokusatsu Tuesdays is a regular feature relating to Japanese special effects entertainments and their associated whatsits, and a bridge, so to speak, between ExploderButton.com and its sister site, Eiga · Bouei. 

Just a short write-up for all of you this Tuesday. The artwork shared below comes courtesy of a trade ad Toho placed in the September 14th 1966 issue of the industry publication¬†Motion Picture Herald, in which it serves as the back cover image (which is great, as it means I didn’t have to dismember the entire mag just to get a decent picture of it). The sharp two-tone design is¬†a variation on the key poster image Toho produced to advertise the film to international buyers, and which served as the basis for the final theatrical poster art¬†in territories like France and Spain.

The film itself should need little introduction. 1966’s¬†„ÄĆ„Éē„É©„É≥„āĪ„É≥„ā∑„É•„āŅ„ā§„É≥„ĀģśÄ™Áć£ „āĶ„É≥„ÉÄŚĮĺ„ā¨„ā§„É©„ÄćWar of the Gargantuas, the kind-of sort-of sequel to the prior year’s¬†„ÄĆ„Éē„É©„É≥„āĪ„É≥„ā∑„É•„āŅ„ā§„É≥ŚĮĺŚúįŚļēśÄ™Áć£„Éź„É©„āī„É≥„ÄćFrankenstein Conquers the World, received significant distribution both in theaters and on television worldwide and remains one of the best-known and beloved of Toho’s special effects productions. Toho have a fine all-region Blu-ray available, albeit in Japanese only, and an inexpensive domestic DVD is available¬†which features both the Japanese and American¬†versions.

Toho’s international key art speaks well for the film’s charms – two monsters locked in a duel to the death, the military amassed against them and the fate of a city in the balance. The film’s opening attraction – a malevolent giant octopus – even makes an appearance. Perhaps my favorite thing about the piece, however, is how also-ran guest star Kipp Hamilton finagles a third-place credit, right behind genuine stars Russ Tamblyn and Kumi MIZUNO. Hamilton appears briefly to regale¬†audiences¬†with¬†War of the Gargantuas‘ enduring anti-classic lounge tune “The Words Get Stuck in my Throat“, before running afoul of a not-so-jolly green giant. The lamentable number is shared, below the ad,¬†in its DEVOlved version.

Val Guest’s WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH headed to uncut Blu-ray from Warner Archive

Hammer’s 1970 follow-up to the creature classic¬†One Million Years B.C. (itself arriving on Blu-ray from Kino later this year)¬†will reach Blu-ray from Warner Archive in February. A new master of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth‘s international theatrical version has been minted just for the occasion, which should please fans of¬†the film’s kitchy blend of Academy Award-nominated special effects and anachronistic prehistoric cheesecake.

From Warner’s announcement:

After Raquel Welch conquered the screen in One Million Years B.C., Hammer Studios followed up with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, written and directed by Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment) and based on a story by J.G. Ballard (Crash). Victoria Vetri stars as Sanna, rescued from ritual sacrifice by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a member of a rival tribe. Her survival coincides with the mysterious formation of a new ‚Äúfire‚ÄĚ in the sky: the moon! Sanna‚Äôs old tribe blames her for this affront to the sun; Sanna flees their wrath and Tara follows. Their shared adventures loom as large as the giants who once ruled the earth!

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth will receive a BD50 treatment with DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio and English SDH subtitles. The film’s theatrical trailer is the only slated extra.

Kikuchi’s GENOCIDE: Music for Insects to War By

Tokusatsu Tuesdays is a regular feature relating to Japanese special effects entertainments and their associated whatsits, and a bridge, so to speak, between ExploderButton and its sister site, Eiga · Bouei. 

Out of the string of grim and out-there sci-fi horrors Shochiku Company produced at the tail end of the 1960s, perhaps the grimmest and most¬†out-there of them all was¬†1968’s „ÄĆśėÜŤôꌧߜą¶šļČ„Äć Genocide.

A sort of precursor to the ecologically-minded nature-gone-wild horrors of the 1970s, Genocide finds a small island in the South Pacific serving as ground zero for clandestine biological warfare experiments, a wrong-man murder mystery, simmering Vietnam-era East-West tensions, and an apocalyptic revolt of the insect world as well. Drug-addled soldiers descend into trauma-fueled murder frenzies, fifth-columnist hotel managers letch, and scientists elucidate insidious insect intent from out of a groovy psychotropic haze, all while a lost H-bomb ticks ever more ominously away.

Needless to say, Genocide had an awful lot on its plate.

The production boasts plenty of talent with recent experience in¬†Shochiku sci-fi – director Kazui NIHONMATSU, a long-time assistant director for the company best known for 1967’s one-of-a-kind kaiju goof-off The X From Outer Space, X‘s effects supervisor¬†Keiji KAWAKAMI (The Thick-Walled Room), X and¬†Gok√© Bodysnatcher From Hell photographer Shizuo HIRASE, as well as X-actor Keisuke SONOI (Affair of the Heart), Gok√©¬†co-star Kathy Horan,¬†and long-time scenarist and¬†Gok√©¬†scribe¬†Susumu TAKAKU (The Blood Sword of the 99th Virgin). Chief among the returning staff however, for the sake of this article at least, is¬†prolific composer Shunsuke KIKUCHI, who had been tasked with¬†Gok√©‘s score just a few months prior.

Kikuchi’s work on Genocide is marked by his usual trademarks (staccato low-brass for action¬†and extended muted brass for suspense and atmosphere, with ecstatic ascending motifs to punctuate the major plot beats), but it is also possessed of a nuance and subtlety not typically expected of the composer.

The latter is evident from the very beginning, with the main title’s more emphatic strains complemented by a¬†Vertigo-esque layer of violins and flutes and the first tentative appeals towards¬†Genocide‘s melancholic love theme. The theme reveals itself in full for¬†Joji and Yukari (love theme), a restrained minute and 43 seconds whose judicious blend of high and mid-range strings perfectly evoke the fated nature of the two lovers – Joji, in over his head with a mysterious foreign mistress and jailed for murders he did not commit, and Yukari, faced with the prospect of raising their unborn child on her own.

As Yukari is to the greater film, Kikuchi’s bittersweet love theme is a glimmer of hope and humanity amidst¬†Genocide‘s overwhelming gloominess, receiving¬†plaintive reprises all the way through to the film’s doom-ridden finale. In¬†Mankind’s Final Sunrise¬†the theme emerges tentatively from a plume of nuclear destruction, a single¬†violin¬†with increasingly rich harmonized accompaniment, but its resolution is cut short by Ending‘s resounding and atonal piano din.

Cinema-Kan’s restored CD release of¬†Genocide‘s score makes it easier to appreciate Kikuchi’s work than ever before. The film’s eccentric¬†narrative seems to have compelled him towards more variety than his scores typically achieve, from the bright chords and jungle-trotting exoticism of¬†Jungle Search to the insectine woodwinds and mounting¬†tonal chaos of¬†Revived Fear. Cinema-Kan went back to the original 6mm tape recordings to build this 42 minute release, which collects the film’s music in total for the first time ever, and with excellent sound to boot – Kikuchi’s laser brass is crisp and clear, free of the distortion I’ve become accustomed to hearing with it.

In addition to the requisite liner notes¬†(in this case a heavily illustrated booklet complete with film credits, release notes, a listing¬†of Genocide‘s past LP and CD releases,¬†track-specific commentary, and a biographical section on the composer) Cinema-Kan offer a few on-disc surprises as well. The incidental music heard over the radio in the film is present in full, and what a weird mix it is.¬†Lobby BGM is in the light chamber music style, while¬†Radio Music 1 is pure glitzy pop, electric guitar and all.¬†Radio Music 2 and¬†3¬†are different still, lurid and torchy numbers to compliment the seediness of the hotel bar they’re overheard in. Listeners get a couple of bonus tracks as well – a¬†percussion-only alternate take for¬†Jungle Search, and a recording of the isolated music from the film’s trailer.

Cinema-Kan’s CD release of Genocide is available now, through third-party sellers at Amazon.com and directly through Amazon.co.jp and elsewhere. The film itself is available on DVD, with English subtitles, through the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse sub-label as part of the four-film set When Horror Came to Shochiku.