20 Million Miles To Earth Is A Must See For Any Lover Of Classic Cinema And Sci-Fi

Courtesy:  Mill Creek Entertainment

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

The annual countdown to Halloween is on once again. With Halloween only a few more weeks away at the time of this review, everyone’s busy looking for a way to bring some frights and fun to their yearly celebrations. Mill Creek has given audiences two more wonderful options for their Halloween parties thanks to its release of the Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature. This new double dose of classic monster movies includes two of Ray Harryhausen’s great sci-fi/horror classics in the form of 20 Million Miles to Earth and It Came From Beneath The Sea. The second of the features will be discussed at a later date. For now, the focus will be solely on the first in the pair. 20 Million Miles To Earth is a wonderful watch not only for those Halloween parties this year, but for anyone that is a lover of classic cinema in general. The main aspect of this classic sci-fi flick that makes it work is its script. Yes, there’s at least one minor issue with the writing. That will be noted later. But by and large, the script for this movie is a big part of why audiences will love it. Just as important to the whole are the movie’s special effects. Compared to nearly every one of today’s way-over-the-top special effects blockbusters, the effects used in this piece are outstanding. And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the movie’s cast. The movie’s lead actors were no strangers to their crafts. They were quite versed as a matter of fact. The importance of this aspect will also be noted later. Suffice it to say that all three of these factors together make 20 Million Miles to Earth a must see whether at this year’s Halloween get together or any other time of the year by any lover of classic cinema. And together with its companion piece It Came From Beneath The Sea, it makes Mill Creek’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature an absolute must see.

Mill Creek Entertainment’s recently released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature is an absolute must see by any lover of classic cinema. While not the first time that the movies in this set have seen the light of day, they are very difficult to find on DVD or Blu-ray. So taking that into consideration, anyone with any love for the golden age of cinema will appreciate this double movie presentation. Looking specifically for now at the first of the features, 20 Million Miles to Earth, this movie works so well here for a number of reasons. One reason that it works so well is its writing. The story behind this movie was nothing new for the film industry when it debuted in June 1957. It sees an ever-growing lizard creature from Venus terrorizing the Sicilian countryside after having been released by a young boy named Pepe. The end result is the hunt and eventual killing of the unnamed creature. Legendary B-movie director Roger Corman had already churned out ten sci-fi classics when this movie debuted. And It Came From Beneath The Sea, the other film featured in this collection, had already debuted two years previous. Adding in to the believability of the story, the birth of the “space race” was only months away as Russia went on in October of that year to release Sputnik, the world’s first satellite. So it goes without saying that the fascination with worlds and beings other than our own was at an all-time high when this movie made its premiere. That makes the movie’s very plot so fun.

The plot behind 20 Million Miles to Earth, when set against the other B-movies of its era, is just as enjoyable as those churned out by fellow sci-fi legend Roger Corman and by Harryhausen himself. The plot is just one minute part of what makes this script work, too. The manner in which the movie’s writing team executed the story adds to the overall enjoyment. If not for young Pepe’s greed (he even tries to extort money from the American military officers when they come to investigate the crash), none of what happened might have happened. In turn there might not have been a story. One could argue that if not a child, then an adult might have done the same thing as Pepe. That’s true, too. So taking this aspect of the movie’s writing into consideration, one can’t help but wonder if the writers were trying to make a statement about the cost and danger of human nature a la 1951’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.   In the same vein, Col. Calder (played wonderfully here by William Hopper) makes a statement regarding the creature being docile unless provoked right before provoking the creature so as to capture it. That is so subtle but so powerful a statement about human nature, too. If Calder knew the creature was docile, why not try a peaceful means to corral it? Some might argue this to be a major plot hole. A more thoughtful analysis though, reveals that it could have been another lightly veiled commentary about the contradictory nature of humans in terms of their behaviors and thought processes. It’s really something to think about. It is that writing and commentary (intended or not) that along with the script makes 20 Million Miles to Earth such a wonderful watch.

The seemingly lightly veiled commentary aside, another reason that the script’s writing works so well is that the movie’s writing team even made certain to explain how the unnamed lizard creature managed to grow so fast. As was explained by one character, the Earth’s atmospheric make up was to blame for the creature’s growth. As long as it was breathing the air on Earth, it would keep growing every day. That most important of all of the story’s aspect is answered so quickly and easily. It’s one more way in which the movie’s writing team made sure to cover all of its bases when crafting the story. It’s the final part of the movie’s writing that makes the script (and the movie in whole) so enjoyable so many years after its premiere.

The writing that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth is a big reason for the movie’s success nearly sixty years after it debuted. That should be obvious by now. Another reason that the movie continues to be so beloved to this day is its special effects. Special effects have evolved so much throughout the history of the movie industry. While the special effects used in movies such as this might be considered simplistic by some, it is that simplicity that makes them so wonderful. The special effects of today’s major name blockbusters have completely jumped the shark for lack of better wording. They are almost entirely created via computer. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion special effects in this movie (and others that he worked on) were done entirely by hand. Sure there was some movie magic incorporated along the way to help. But again in comparison to so many of today’s special effects extravaganzas, those effects are a product of their time. They are used as a part of the overall story rather than as the star of the film. Today’s action blockbusters are the polar opposite. That factor alone makes 20 Million Miles to Earth worth the watch. Together with its outstanding writing, the movie’s special effects make this movie even more of a must see for any lover of classic cinema and sci-fi.

The writing and the special effects that went into 20 Million Miles to Earth both play their own important role in the movie’s overall enjoyment and success. As important as both factors are to the whole presentation, there is still one more aspect worth noting in examining the movie. That final aspect is the movie’s lead cast. Anyone with any love of classic movies and television will appreciate the history lesson presented through just the movie’s cast. William Hopper leads the movie’s cast as Col. Robert Calder. Hopper is best known for his role of Private Detective Paul Drake in the classic courtroom drama Perry Mason. Drake was a major character in that series as he helped Mason solve a number of cases throughout the show’s run. Perry Mason, by the way, can still be seen today on Me-TV. He also starred opposite film legend James Dean in the 1955 hit drama Rebel Without A Cause. He starred alongside a then young Natalie Wood as the father to her Judy. On a side note, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island) also starred in that movie. Adding to Hopper’s resume, 20 Million Miles to Earth wasn’t Hopper’s first creature feature. He starred in another well-known creature feature that premiered only months before this one. That movie, released by Universal Pictures, is called The Deadly Mantis. For those that haven’t seen that movie, imagine Godzilla with a giant, radioactive praying mantis in place of the giant, radioactive lizard. Yeah. And instead of taking place in Japan, the giant mantis thaws out in the North Pole and comes to America to cause all kinds of havoc. It’s still a great watch, regardless. These are just some of the pieces in which Hopper starred. It goes without saying that Hopper’s experience in both action and drama roles proved him to be a good choice for his role. His wasn’t the only good choice, either. Hopper’s co-stars Joan Taylor, Thomas Browne Henry, and John Zaremba starred together in another of Ray Harryhausen’s hits Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in 1956. So they were both just as natural for their roles in this film, too. It was probably Zaremba’s work on these sci-fi favorites that led to his casting in the cult hit sci-fi series Time Tunnel. That series ran for only one year from 1966 – 1967. It is still a fan favorite to this day, though. The movie’s other cast members each starred in some of the movie industry’s biggest names, too. Arthur Space played the supporting role of Dr. Sharman in 20 Million Miles to Earth. Only months before, he starred alongside famed actor James Stewart in The Spirit of St. Louis as Donald Hall, the chief engineer of Ray Airlines. There are plenty of other actors whose resumes add plenty of credit to 20 Million Miles to Earth. But it would take far too long to note each one and their resume. Needless to say, one should have quite the clear picture by now of just how important the cast of 20 Million Miles to Earth was to the movie’s success. The cast’s collective experience shines through from start to finish here making it entirely clear once more just why this movie is still one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films in modern film history and why this movie was a wise addition to Mill Creek’s newly released Ray Harryhausen Creature Double Feature.

20 Million Miles to Earth is one of the greatest sci-fi flicks in modern movie history. So much went into the movie in such a small span of time. Its writing was simple yet so in-depth. The special effects headed up by screen legend Ray Harryhausen are so much better than those presented in today’s major blockbusters. Harryhausen’s special effects are part of the story rather than the star. They do so much to help advance the story. And last but not least of all is the movie’s cast. The cast—both the lead and supporting cast—came into the movie with quite the collective resume. That vast amount of experience shared between the movie’s cast shines through here from start to finish. It is the last touch in a movie that any lover of classic cinema and of sci-fi in whole must see at least once. Now that Halloween’s on its way again, that’s one more reason to pick up this new release from Mill Creek Entertainment. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Mill Creek Entertainment at http://www.millcreekent.com/20-million-miles-to-earth-it-came-from-beneath-the-sea-ray-harryhausen-double-feature.html. More information on this and other titles from Mill Creek Entertainment is available online at:

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Olive Films Goes “Big Time” With New Mickey Rooney Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Officials with Olive Films announced this week that the classic cinema company will release Mickey Rooney’s 1959 crime thriller The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray this fall.

Olive Films will release The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, September 16th. The late actor, who was best known for his role as Andy Hardy in the Andy Hardy films, stars in this crime thriller as Little Joe Braun. Braun is a union boss who is the most crooked figure since Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront. He is trying to get out of a federal corruption probe. And only two men can stop him—factory workers Fred MacAfee (Mel Torme—Night Court) and Bill Gibson (Steve Cochran—Private Hell 36). This movie was an attempt by Rooney to escape the shadow of his Andy Hardy figure and show that he could successfully play a more mature, grown up figure. It mixes classic film noir style film making with an A-List cast that includes the likes of Mamie Van Doren (High School Confidential), Vampira (Plan 9 From Outer Space), Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo), and Jackie Coogan (The Addams Family) for a film that has earned the title of being one of the best B-flicks ever made.

The Big Operator will retail for SRP of $29.95 on Blu-ray and $24.95 on DVD. More information on this and other releases from Olive Films is available online at http://www.facebook.com/olivefilms and http://www.olivefilms.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series Is Loads Of Fun And Laughs

Courtesy:  MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

Courtesy: MPI Home Video/Lucille Ball Productions, Inc./gab entertainment

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) used to be one of the greatest networks on television.  Classic dramas and sitcoms such as: Route 66, Star Trek, Gilligan’s Island, and I Love Lucy among so many other greats.  Compared to the glut of crime and medical procedurals that clutter CBS’ weekly programming schedule, as well as the largely boring sitcoms—save for perhaps Big Bang Theory—it is increasingly clear that CBS’ best days are sadly behind it.  Of course those that would argue against this are likely also the same audiences that are fans of the cookie cutter programming currently filling CBS’ weekly schedule.  Thankfully MPI Home Video has given fans of CBS’ golden era yet another piece of that era in the form of Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series.  The six-season box set was released on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014.  And it is a box set that is fully worth the $100+ price tag.  The primary reason for this is the show’s writing.  Audiences will notice a brand of comedy very similar to that of the comedy from I Love Lucy.  Yet despite this, they writers managed to keep from simply recycling episodes of I Love Lucy in this series.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this set is the bonus material included throughout each season.  And last but not least, audiences will especially appreciate the box’s packaging.  Each of these factors by themselves carry their own weight in the series’ success.  Together, they make Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series a must have for anyone that is looking for an escape from all of the oversexed, overly violent programming currently dominating the broadcast and cable ranks.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is a welcome breath of fresh air from all of the oversexed and overly violent programming currently dominating so much of the broadcast and cable ranks today.  The main reason for this is the series’ writing.  The writing used throughout the series is quite similar to the writing that made I Love Lucy such a hit and keeps it a fan favorite today.  The physical comedy is there.  So are the wacky situations into which Lucy gets herself.  From losing an envelope full of money given to her by her boss and brother-in-law, and thinking her teenage daughter was going to get married to playing landlord and more, the scripts crafted for this show’s six season make for way more than their share of laughs.  Even more interesting about the writing is the fact that Lucy’s character, Lucille Carter, was a divorced, single mother.  It was a reflection of sorts of Lucy’s own personal life.  She and Desi had gotten divorced by the time that Here’s Lucy came on the air.  Even without Desi in the picture, the writers were able to find a fitting replacement for him in the part of Gale Gordon (Dennis The Menace).  Gale played Lucille Carter’s brother-in-law (and boss) Henry. So taking all of this into consideration, the writers behind Here’s Lucy clearly did their homework. The proverbial icing on the cake that is the series’ writing is the fact that the writers didn’t allow the series to become a serial. Lucy’s daily life working for Henry and her life at home are both chronicled throughout the series. But at no point do the writers allow the series to become a serial. In an era today when almost every series on television is a serial requiring people to watch every week, having such a stand-alone series is a breath of fresh air.

The solid and fully entertaining writing that went into Here’s Lucy is by itself plenty of reason for audiences to pick up the recently released six-season box set. It isn’t the only reason that audiences will want to check out this standout series. The set’s bonus features make the set even more enjoyable for audiences, whether they may be new to the series or not. All six seasons include brand new video introductions by Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. There are also introductions by other well-known starts who made guest appearances throughout the seasons. And they aren’t just introductions, either. There are also extra shared in the introductions. One example comes in the introduction to “Lucy Visits Jack Benny.” Lucy’s daughter Lucile shares with audiences the friendship that Lucy had with Jack Benny and other little extras. There is much more shared in the introduction of each episode. And audiences will get just as much entertainment from the introductions as the episodes themselves.

Also included throughout each season set in the box are segments from Lucy’s radio show, “Let’s Talk To Lucy.” The show was an interview style program in which Lucy interviewed not some of the biggest stars of the day. The segments included throughout all six seasons focus primarily on Lucy’s co-stars from the series. Along with these bonuses, there are also slide shows, original syndication promos for the show and much more added as bonus material. The noted bonus material is just the tip of the iceberg and the most important. It makes the overall viewing experience all the more enjoyable and the box set all the more worth picking up by anyone that is a fan of true classic and family friendly programming.

The writing that went into each episode of Here’s Lucy and the bonus features included in this recently released box set are both of equal importance in the set’s overall enjoyment. There is one last factor to consider in the set that viewers will agree seals the deal for the entire package. That final factor is the set’s packaging. While the set seems a bit bulky on the surface having all six seasons contained in one box, audiences will change their minds in looking at the packaging of each season. Each of the series’ six seasons received their own four-disc boxes. The discs themselves are separated from one another inside the cases on their own plastic inserts. They are placed on either side of the inserts with one disc on the top of one side and the other on the bottom of that same insert’s other side. While this is typically the standard for multi-disc sets nowadays, there are still companies out there that do not follow this rather wise ergonomic packaging model. It protects the discs from scratching each other. The end result is that it maintains the discs’ quality and in turn preserves the show for potentially a whole new generation to enjoy years down the road. Keeping this in mind, it makes this final factor in Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series just as important as those already noted. And alongside those previously noted features, the trio together makes this box set a must see for every family and every fan of classic television.

Here’s Lucy: The Complete Series is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered direct from MPI Home Video’s online store at http://www.mpihomevideo.com/Store/Detail.asp?ProdID=11176. More information on this and other releases from MPI Home Video is available online now at http://www.mpihomevideo.com, http://www.mpimedia.com, and http://www.facebook.com/pages/MPI-Home-Video/58189629179. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Timeless Media Group Announces Release Date, Details For I Spy Box Set

Courtesy:  Timeless Media Group

Courtesy: Timeless Media Group

Timeless Media Group will bring audiences yet another long lost piece of television history this Summer.

Timeless Media Group will release the classic series I Spy on Tuesday, June 24th. The classic dramedy series, starring Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids) and character actor Robert Culp. It could be argued that the show’s witty writing and equally strong acting on the part of Cosby and Culp were the influence behind hit dramedies such as Monk and Psych. The series ran on NBC from 1965 to 1968 and produced a total of eighty-two episodes in that span. It won countless awards over the course of its three-year run including: the Golden Globe® for Best Dramatic Series in 1967, three consecutive Prime Time Emmys® for Outstanding Lead Actor for Bill Cosby, and the Prime Time Emmy ® for Outstanding Musical Composition for Earle Hagen. Cosby’s co-star received his own accolades for his work on the show. He was nominated for a number of Prime Time Emmy® Awards including: three Outstanding Lead Actor nominations and one for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama.

Along with its groundbreaking acting and writing, I Spy also featured a number of guest stars that would go on to be some of Hollywood’s biggest names. Those names include the likes of: Gene Hackman (Hoosiers, Enemy of the State, Unforgiven), Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo, Gilligan’s Island), Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days), Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, The Raven), Martin Landau (Ed Wood, North by Northwest, Mission: Impossible), George Takei (Star Trek), Don Rickles (Toy Story 1 3), and Eartha Kitt (Batman).

The upcoming release will have all eighty-two episodes of I Spy contained on eighteen discs. More information on this and other releases, including pricing and how to order the box set, is available online at http://www.timelessvideo.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rescue From Gilligan’s Island Great For Nostalgia TV and Movie Fans

 

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

Gilligan’s Island is one of the greatest sitcoms in television history.  Even though it only ran a total of three seasons on television, the near one hundred episodes made for some of the greatest laughs of any sitcom ever created.  Keeping that in mind, one can only wonder about the first of three movies that would be spawned from this hilarious sitcom over a decade after it ended.

 

Rescue From Gilligan’s Island came nearly twelve years after the original Gilligan’s Island went off the air.  In the time between the series’ end and this movie, the cast had gotten noticeably older.  And actress Tina Louise was replaced by Judith Baldwin, allegedly due to Louise’s belief that her role as Ginger had ruined her career.  The made for TV movie isn’t a bad movie.  But anyone who has any knowledge of the original sitcom, it still pales in comparison, despite still being a family friendly film.  Long time fans of the show will remember in the show’s second season, there was an episode titled, “Quick Before It Sinks” in which Gilligan’s thoughtlessness causes the Skipper, Mr. Howell, and the Professor to believe the island is sinking.  As a result, the men build a hut that will hopefully float.  But thanks to a series of mishaps, it all falls apart, literally.  Of course, it turns out that the island never was sinking.

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

That story idea is used again in Rescue From Gilligan’s Island, only on a bigger scale.  Other than the story’s twist ending, that’s one of few links that this movie has to the original series.  What really makes the movie worth the watch are the castaways’ personal stories.  Having been away from civilization for fifteen years, the castaways return to a world that has greatly changed.  Ginger returns to acting, only to find that it is anything but the wholesome business that it had been before being shipwrecked.  The professor discovers that everything he had hoped to become famous for inventing while on the island has been invented during his absence.  Even the Howell’s themselves find that they have changed during a dinner with some old friends.  When they overhear their guests speaking poorly of Gilligan and the Skipper, the Howell’s toss out their guests.  And Mary Ann finds that she doesn’t love the fiancé that she had left behind all those years before.

The story behind this movie is simple.  But on a much deeper level, the story makes the movie (and the series) so much more important.  It comes across as a kind of social commentary.  Being on the island, the castaways learned to fend for themselves.  They became a family of sorts.  Having returned to civilization, each member of the group realizes that being on the island was perhaps less a prison and more a utopia.  They realize what was most important was being with each other, not the stresses of their new lives.  This concept has become the basis for countless term papers and theses.  And each one would be right.  Whether intended or not, what Rescue From Gilligan’s Island serves to do is to remind audiences to appreciate one’s family and friends, and the little things in life. It reminds audiences the unimportance of life’s daily stresses and pressures.  For that reason, Rescue From Gilligan’s Island is a movie that any Gilligan’s Island fan should see at least once, even if it isn’t as good as the series.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.