VCI Entertainment scores with a trio of film vault treasures heading to DVD on June 4.
The spotlight is on director Kurt Neumann, a filmmaker who was somewhat unfairly tabbed as a B-movie maker, but the low budgets he was saddled with and the quick-turnarounds would be the envy of any studio today. He could work in any venue/genre … and do it well.
Consider this, Kurt Neumann was in the vanguard filmmakers that delivered sci-fi films in the early 1950s, specifically with his collaboration with blacklisted scripter Dalton Trumbo on the June of 1950 film release of Rocketship X-M — the film literally set off a 15-year cycle of forward-looking genre films that included the likes of The Thing, When Worlds Collide, The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds (and more, many more).
During the same post-war period he directed/co-produced four Tarzan films, some terrific Westerns, some cutting-edge social dramas and capped off the decade with such gems as She Devil, Kronos and The Fly.
In 1953 he returned to a post-war Germany (where he was born) and shot two films simultaneous — one in English (with American stars) and the other in German (with German actors) … and again, he worked with a screenplay in collaboration with Dalton Trumbo.
This is the film that VCI Entertainment has ready for a DVD launch on June 4, the English-language version, Carnival Story, starring Anne Baxter (nominated twice for Best Supporting Actress — All About Eve and The Razor’s Edge, winning in the latter, but deserving for both), Steve Cochran and Lyle Bettger.
This sexually-charged quasi-noir defies the norm of the period in that the traditional role of femme fatale has been flipped. The imperfect Willie (Anne Baxter) finds the charms of sociopath Joe (Steve Cochran) to be irresistible, even after Frank (Lyle Bettger) offers her redemption and a loving future.
Joe toys with her; can have her whenever he desires … she is weak. Murder follows in the wake of her moral failure and Joe’s unrepentant lust and intrigues. Audiences at the time hated Cochran for his performance (but would adore women doing exactly the same thing in film noirs of the period — go figure) … there was no pity for Baxter either.
The German-language film was titled Circus of Love and starred Curd Jürgens (whose career took off the following year with The Devil’s General … And God Created Woman, The Enemy Below, etc. quickly followed) and Eva Bartok. The German actors appeared in bit parts in Carnival Story and the American stars did uncredited cameos in the German-language version.
Tommy (Lalo Rios) is an East Los Angeles up-and-coming boxer … he sees it as his only path out of being stereotyped as just another Mexican. His manager (Gerald Mohr) and trainer (Robert Osterloh) treat him with respect and friendship, but they too see him as a vehicle for their own purposes.
Get this, his girlfriend, Lucy, is none other than future star Rita Moreno (Best Supporting Actress for the 1961 film, West Side Story).
The Ring is social commentary in a bottle … vintage 1952.
Rounding out the June 4 release schedule is 1936 “New Spain” 12-chapter serial adventure, The Vigilantes are Coming. It’s 1840, the 300-year tranquility of the Alta California rancheros are in turmoil … revolution in Mexico, Russian aggression from the northwest and the expansion of the United States from the east have created a volatile mix.
General Burr (Fred Kohler) allies himself with the Russians and their emissary, Count Raspinoff (Robert Warwick) and quickly does away with any opposition. Returning from a mission with Fremont, Don Loring (Robert Livingston) discovers his land confiscated and his father murdered. Unable to take on Burr and his minions head-on, he creates a Zorro-like character called The Eagle and begins to pick away at the Burr/Raspinoff alliance.
The Republic serial, co-directed by Ray Taylor and Mack V. Wright, plays it a little fast and loose with the actual historical events of the day (a little early on the gold rush aspects; the Colt revolver wasn’t perfected until 1847 … details, details), but delivers plenty of action and in many ways pays homage to the Valentino’s 1925 silent classic of the same name as Don Loring's mysterious masked crusader, The Eagle.
Kay Hughes co-stars as Doris, while Raymond Hatton is given plenty of chances to say, “That’s a good idee!” as Loring’s sidekick, Whipsaw.
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