The Film Detective has gathered and remastered eight complete episodes of the Groucho Marx and George Fenneman comedy game show, You Bet Your Life!, for DVD release on Sept. 12.
It may have been a “game show,” but most everyone tuned in each week to watch comedy ad-lib antics of Groucho Marx, who was able to verbally feed off the studio contestants. Of note, according to several sources, the show was filmed before a live audience, but not shown live. Instead, the film from the show each week was screened and then edited to take out broadcast code-related issues and dull portions … there was always plenty to work with.
The Film Detective is presenting the eight episodes complete with the commercials from the period — which are often, in retrospect, as funny as the show itself.
In other release news from The Film Detective, Aug. 15 marks the arrival of five new film restorations on DVD. So let’s take a look at what film buffs can expect on that date.
Before Ed Wood laid claim to being the worst filmmaker of the 1950s — only by his sheer tenacity in cranking one “cult” film after another — there was his contemporary, Phil Tucker, who produced and directed the 1953 “cult” sci-fi classic, Robot Monster, which is the lead film in The Film Detective’s Aug. 15 film restoration parade.
Notice how the word “cult” is used to describe both the collective films of Ed Wood and Phil Tucker’s Robot Monster … it is much akin to how motorists always slowdown to take a gander at a car wreck on the freeway.
Also of note, Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda opened theatrically in April of 1953 and Tucker’s Robot Monster made its theatrical debut two months later. Both, by any standard, are truly bad films (aka: “cult”), but the big difference between the two is that Robot Monster was profitable … so much so that Tucker went on a rampage of filmmaking over the next 18 months and directed such gems as Dance Hall Racket (noted for starring Lenny Bruce and his “former” stripper wife, Honey), Broadway Jungle, Dream Jungle and the “After Midnight” gems, Tia Juana After Midnight and Baghdad After Midnight. He then took the rest of the 1950s off, which gave Wood free reign to establish himself as the king of bad filmmaking.
As to Robot Monster, when you make a hit theatrical release that is so bad that it is good, you are bound to get plenty of ink (critical writing) over the next fifty years on the film itself. In other words, there is plenty of history on this golden treasure and any genre fan knows that if you don’t have a decent copy of Robot Monster in your film library, then you are simply not all that serious about your film library, or for that matter, movies in general.
The film was shot in the 3D process over a 96-hour period in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles — notably Bronson Canyon and Chavez Ravine (the future home of Dodger Stadium). 96 hours from start to wrap, Stanley Kubrick could take 96 hours just to get one scene right!!
The film had a zero budget — the honey wagon alone at a major Hollywood production blows through the Robot Monster budget in the same 96 hours and little if anything gets on film. So by any standard this is keeper.
Robot Monster, Aug. 15, The Film Detective, that is all that you need to know. Circle the date on your calendar. You know you want it!
Also heading to retail on Aug. 15 is director Lambert Hillyer’s 1938 gangster tale, Gang Bullets, starring Morgan Wallace as “Big Bill” Anderson, a notorious racketeer, who opens up shop in Bridgetown, much to the disgust of the local DA, Dexter Wayne (Charles Trowbridge) and his chief of staff, John Carter (Robert Kent), who is engaged to Wayne’s daughter, Patricia (played by Anne Nagel).
The local newspaper, run by Jim Wallace (Joseph Crehan) starts receiving — and publishing — a series of letters from the mysterious “Junius” (the middle name of Lucius (Junius) Brutus) — which are highly critical of the DA and his efforts in stopping Anderson’s ever-growing crime network.
If the letters were awful, what follows next is even worst for the DA … he gets caught (on tape) of accepting a bribe from Anderson. Both are swiftly convicted and are bound for prison, but Anderson has other plans, which includes escaping and the murder of the now disgraced DA.
So who is the mysterious “Junius” and will “Big Bill” Anderson make good with his plans … you’ll have to pick up your copy of Gang Bullets on Aug. 15 to find out!
The other three entries in The Film Detective’s Aug. 15 line up of new films restorations on DVD are: Range Busters (1940, the first of 24 films in the “Range Busters” Western series starring Ray “Crash” Corrigan, John “Dusty” King and Max “Alibi” Terhune), The Return of Casey Jones (1933, starring Charles Starrett and Ruth Hall, with Robert Elliott as the legendary Illinois Central train engineer) and Riders of the Deadline (1943, William Boyd stars as Hopalong Cassidy).