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Flash Gordon (1936)
This is not the TV movie, but an earlier film from the same serial
ROCKETSHIP is frequently confused with a second (and very similar) film cut from the original 1936 FLASH GORDON serial, the 1966 TV movie SPACESHIP TO THE UNKNOWN. (While SPACESHIP contains most of the material found in ROCKETSHIP, that second film has a longer running time.) As with MARS ATTACKS THE EARTH (a feature made from the 1938 chapter-play FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS that hit theaters soon after Orson Welles' infamous WAR OF THE WORLDS panic broadcast), ROCKETSHIP was playing the big screens before the small screens become a household staple.
Curiously the third/final Flash Gordon serial, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE, did not result in a theatrical feature from Universal. When the decision was made to make new features from the old serials in the mid-Sixties, CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE yielded no less than two instant TV movies, THE PURPLE DEATH FROM OUTER SPACE and THE PERIL FROM PLANET MONGO. (The new film made from FLASH GORDON'S TRIP TO MARS was called THE DEADLY RAY FROM MARS.)
Recycling the TWILIGHT ZONE
The Stephen King story "Word Processor of the Gods," which forms the basis for this episode of TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE, seems to have borrowed its basic premise from an old episode of the 1950s/1960s TWILIGHT ZONE, and given it a face-lift to make it more in keeping with current technology. (The TWILIGHT ZONE episode in question is Richard Matheson's "A World of His Own," featuring Keenan Wynn.) The TWILIGHT ZONE tale is about a writer who dictates material into a tape recorder, only to find that his recorded words become reality. The TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE outing substitutes the more modern computer for the dictaphone, and tells the tale of a writer who finds that the descriptions he enters into the word processor become reality.
The Shaggy Dog (1959)
This was NOT Disney's first live-action feature
The "Wild & Woolly" DVD edition of 1959's THE SHAGGY DOG (and some product reviews and posts found here) claim this film is the "first live action movie ever produced by Walt Disney!" I guess all those other live action features Walt produced PRIOR to THE SHAGGY DOG (such as 1957's OLD YELLER or 1954's Academy Award-winning 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, among others) didn't count? (One comment posted here stated that 20,000 LEAGUES, like TREASURE ISLAND, was one of the films done for Disney in England because of studio funds tied up there. Not true; when not filming on location, 20,000 LEAGUES was shot on the sound stages at the Disney Studio in California...information supplied to me by the studio while I was researching & writing a magazine article on the making of the film.) I can see how some reviewers might make such a mistake, but for the claim to appear on the packaging that was approved by the Disney staff takes some serious explaining. (As does the differences in running time for the two versions of the film, with the B&W version being the full cut of the movie, while the colorized version is missing about 10 minutes of material.) Don't get me wrong,this is a great comedy and well worth having...it just deserved a bit better treatment for its fans.
Flight to Mars (1951)
Good DVD, but overpriced for such a poor print
Before I start being critical, let me point out that Image has released some excellent transfers of 1950s sci-fi from the Wade Williams/Corinth Films library on DVD. Because of their past track record, I went in with high hopes for this film, only to find that while the color looked pretty good for a Cinecolor film from this time period, the print used for the DVD was full of scratches, dust specks and splices...splices that made sections of conversation inaudible. Adding to the disappointment is that Image is charging about $10 more for this than most of their other Wade Williams titles. Part of the price may stem from the extras, which include two 25 minute interviews with leading man Cameron Mitchell by David Del Valle, which are a welcome addition to the package. But the quality of the overall presentation makes the higher cost seem like a questionable pricing practice.
A surprise to find this is even listed on IMDb
There are a number of films in Hollywood history that went into preproduction, even actually shot test footage for a presentation reel, only to be shelved by the studio for various reasons. Usually such ventures are forgotten to all but a few film fans & scholars, let alone actually listed on the Internet Movie Database. So it was very surprising (but a pleasant surprise!) to find Willis O'Brien's CREATION actually given a full listing here, especially since less than a full reel of film still survives. When JURASSIC PARK came out, there were dozens of bargain bin tapes on dinosaur movies that popped up to cash in on the interest in dino-films of the past, many of which included the CREATION footage in their collection of clips. Perhaps, when the DVD of the original KING KONG finally gets its years-overdue release, the CREATION footage will be restored and included among the extras.
How About a DVD Double Feature?
THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (the Hammer Films remake of 1945's THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET, based on the play by Barre' Lyndon) seems to be a forgotten fantasy-thriller. Often compared with Oscar Wilde's PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, this film rarely seems to get the same airplay on late night TV or on any of the "Shock Theatre" programs that many of the other Hammer horror hits did, and has yet to receive a home video release. With so much of the Hammer library now out on DVD, and since Paramount handled Hammer's distribution for this (as well as having produced the 1945 original), it would be nice to see the two films released to DVD as a double feature. (Much like the HOUSE OF WAX/MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM or the Frederic March and Spencer Tracy versions of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.)
The Man in Half Moon Street (1945)
An overlooked little jewel
THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET (later remade by Hammer Films as THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH) is an overlooked and under-appreciated little horror-fantasy. Sometimes compared with Oscar Wilde's PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, unlike many genre efforts of the era, the film rarely seemed to get the same airplay on late night TV or on any of the "Shock Theatre" programs that were so popular in the pre-cable/pre-VCR days of the 1960s & 1970s. With so many of the classic horror films of the '30s and '40s now on DVD, and since Paramount produced THE MAN IN HALF MOON STREET (as well as handled distribution for the Hammer Films remake), it would be nice to see this released to DVD (possibly as a double feature with the Hammer Film production).
The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
THE MASK OF FU MANCHU has recently had several minutes of missing material restored to it, footage that has not been seen in decades. This longer cut of the film is currently enjoying a limited theatrical release, and it would be nice to see that followed by a DVD release. Probably one of the best of the films to be based on author Sax Rohmer's stories (along with FACE OF FU MANCHU and DRUMS OF FU MANCHU), it would be nice to see a potential DVD release possibly include commentary by Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara, or a look at the making of the film. Karloff commented in interviews that MASK was a troubled production, with constant changes to the script throughout the filming. In spite of that, the final film manages to capture the feel of the pulp tales that inspired it.
Long overdue for DVD release
While it's been encouraging to see a number of George Pal's sci-fi and fantasy classics finally come to DVD, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM is one of many still waiting to debut in the digital format (along with HOUDINI, ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT, a complete PUPPETOONS collection, etc..) With Terry Gilliam's new THE BROTHERS GRIMM film in theaters, it would seem like the timing would be perfect for such a release.
Although available on VHS for some time, the tape doesn't do the film justice. GRIMM was shot using the three camera/three projector Cinarama process. With cast and crew members such as Russ Tamblyn (who provided commentary for Pal's TOM THUMB DVD) and stop-motion animator Jim Danforth still around, it would be nice to see Pal's fairy tale film get the deluxe DVD treatment, with the insight of surviving participants giving us a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie.
Doctor X (1932)
A film deserving of the DVD treatment
This is one of two Technicolor films to pair Fay Eray and Lionel Atwill with director Michael Curtiz (although Wray and Atwill would appear in the horror film VAMPIRE BAT, without the benefit of Technicolor or Curtiz). With DOCTOR X's companion film, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM now out on DVD (it's one of the bonus features on the Vincent Price version of HOUSE OF WAX), it would be nice to see this early Technicolor horror classic on DVD as well. They could double it up with the Black & White version filmed simultaneously. (Unlike HOUSE OF WAX, whose B&W print was taken from the same negative as the color version, DOCTOR X actually shot an alternate black and white version at the same time the color version was being filmed...a fact that annoyed Technicolor. A comparison of the two films shows various differences in camera angles, etc.) Perhaps, if there is room, they could even throw in the obscure Warner Brothers' RETURN OF DOCTOR X, notable as being Humphrey Bogart's only horror film.