The Silver Emulsion Podcast: Ep. 81 – KaiJune Spectacular! The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

KaiJune returns this week on the Silver Emulsion Podcast! Stephen and I roll it all the way back to the first nuclear monster movie, 1953’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, featuring stop-motion FX from Ray Harryhausen! Godzilla took the idea and ran with it, making it an important movie to consider when stomping around in Kaiju Town. Listen and enjoy! 🙂

Also: the show is on iTunes! So if you feel like subscribing there, or rating/reviewing the show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Music Notes

Intro:

  • Beastie Boys – The Cousin Of Death

Outro:

  •  Leonardo “Flaco” Jimenez – La Feria De Las Flores
    • Summer Solstice 2: A Windham Hill Collection (iTunes, Amazon)

If you’ve got feedback, throw it into the comments below or email it to me via the contact page! We’ll include it in a future show!

The podcast is embedded directly below this, or you can go directly to Podbean (or use their app) to listen. If you want to subscribe, paste http://silveremulsion.podbean.com/feed/ into whatever reader you’re using.

The Command (1954)

thecommand_3Starring Guy Madison, Joan Weldon, James Whitmore, Carl Benton Reid, Harvey Lembeck, Ray Teal, Robert Nichols, Don Shelton

Directed by David Butler

Expectations: None.

twohalfstar


The Command features an interesting premise for a fairly standard “Cowboys & Indians” western: after the Captain of the cavalry unit is killed, the unit’s doctor is given command of the company until they reach Ft. Stark and a hard-earned rest. But along they way, the cavalry runs into an Infantry Unit escorting a wagon train of civilians through Indian country. The infantry commander requests the cavalry unit to provide support on their journey, so now what was to be a short career in command for Dr. Robert MacClaw (Guy Madison) becomes a test of the doctor’s ability to save lives on a massive scale through strategy and confidence, instead of healing.

This kind of story, where an unlikely hero rises to the occasion, is nothing new (even in 1954, I’m sure), and The Command doesn’t do a lot to separate itself from the pack. Guy Madison has a great presence as the doctor turned commander, evoking the sensitivity of a caring doctor well. The only problem is that he begins the film nearly as confident as he ends it, so his struggle to find strength is more of a red herring than it initially seems. The film is actually more about MacClaw proving himself and earning the respect of the men he’s leading through dangerous territory. This is further complicated for MacClaw with the introduction of the infantry, who apparently have a long-standing rivalry with the cavalry, so the Doc must also convince these infantrymen and their commander that he’s worthy of their trust and respect.

Continue reading The Command (1954) →

Scandal Sheet (1952)

scandal_sheet_xlgScandal Sheet (1952)
AKA The Dark Page

Starring Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek, Rosemary DeCamp, Henry O’Neill, Harry Morgan, James Millican, Griff Barnett

Directed by Phil Karlson

Expectations: Fairly high.

threehalfstar


At this point in my review series on the writing and story credits of Sam Fuller (that he did not direct), I’ve learned to expect few returns. The films rarely recall the work of Sam Fuller himself, as his fiery style had usually been watered down by a few studio writers before the films made it to the screen. But right from the opening scene, Scandal Sheet evokes the spirit of Fuller’s work. It definitely doesn’t feel like something Fuller made or anything, but there is a raw, pulpy vibe that will likely satisfy all but the most critical Fuller fans.

One of these critics was apparently Sam Fuller himself, as the film’s only mention in his memoir, A Third Face, is to quickly dismiss it as “disappointing.” I have no doubt that to Fuller Scandal Sheet was indeed a total disappointment. The film was based upon his first novel, The Dark Page, which he finished writing right before leaving for the front lines of World War II. While overseas, he learned that his mother had been successful in finding a publisher for the novel, and later (while Fuller was still at war) the novel’s film rights were sold to Howard Hawks, who hoped to direct a film version starring Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.

Continue reading Scandal Sheet (1952) →

The Tanks are Coming (1951)

tanksarecoming_6Starring Steve Cochran, Philip Carey, Mari Aldon, Paul Picerni, Harry Bellaver, James Dobson, George O’Hanlon, John McGuire

Directed by Lewis Seiler

Expectations: Moderate.

twostar


The Tanks are Coming is the epitome of a middle-of-the-road film (and no, that’s not intended as some dumb attempt at a tank pun… although if you laughed, I’ll take it!). This is a shame because there are a lot of great scenes of tank action that really deserve to be in a better movie. Many of the characters also show potential, but none of them ever fully realize it. So when it’s all over, and you realize that the whole she-bang is kinda mediocre, it’s more disappointing than it would normally be because you can almost see the better movie it could have been.

The plot is one of the film’s main issues, because there really isn’t one. OK, there is one, but it’s incredibly brief. Here it is… ready? A few tanks from the Army’s 3rd Armored Division (nicknamed Spearhead) attempt to bust through Germany’s Siegfried Line and into Germany. As you can see, that’s more of a general goal than it is a plot. The Tanks are Coming is largely episodic in nature, but because of the clearly defined end-goal, the episodes feel more directly connected than in a traditional episodic film. In this way it’s kinda like an adventure across the countryside in tanks (not that war should ever be considered an adventure). Anyway, this episodic structure has been done effectively in war films, but in The Tanks are Coming the elements never congeal. We’re watching these guys go through many different situations, yet everything still feels somewhat disjointed and glossed-over. For me, this frustration is further compounded by the fact that the film’s story is credited to Sam Fuller, the man I consider to be not only the master of the realistic war film, but also the episodic, survival-based war film.

Continue reading The Tanks are Coming (1951) →

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

invasion-poster1Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan, Carolyn Jones, Jean Willes, Ralph Dumke, Virginia Christine, Tom Fadden, Kenneth Patterson

Directed by Don Siegel

Expectations: Very high.

fourstar


I can’t believe it took me this long to finally see Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I think at some point in my youth I did see it, but I was since replaced by a pod-person version of myself, thus erasing the memory of seeing this monumental film. I feel like I’ve actively avoided seeing this film in the years following this proposed switch. Even the other day when I decided to watch it, I only reluctantly picked it because it was expiring from Netflix Instant on October 1st. Well, whatever made me fight the stringent conditioning of the pod-brain I only just realized I have… Thanks! All kidding aside, I guess it wasn’t high on my priority list because I already knew the basic plot from beginning to end. I thought it’d be kinda crusty, too, with slow moments and charming but ugly FX. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a straight-up barn burner, even now almost 60 years on. The pace never once lets up. The film opens with Dr. Miles J. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) raving and screaming like a lunatic, rocketing us out the barrel and into the frenzy of living in a world inhabited by body snatchers. The cops get him to calm down enough to tell his tale, so the movie does the little underwater shimmering thing that they do in 1950s movies and we’re back at the calm beginning of Bennell’s story.

Continue reading Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) →

The Blob (1958)

theblob_5Starring Steve McQueen, Aneta Corsaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howland, Stephen Chase, John Benson, George Karas, Lee Payton, Elbert Smith, Hugh Graham

Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

Expectations: High. Genre movies don’t get Criterion editions too often.

threehalfstar


I expected The Blob to be about a slow-moving, unstoppable alien blob terrorizing a small town. What I wasn’t expecting was how well the film also integrates the ’50s juvenile delinquency film genre in with its horror, resulting in a film that works on both levels and entertains throughout. It seems pretty clear how this one gained such a big reputation, the genre crossover must have made it resonate incredibly well with kids who had a hard time getting their parents to listen to them. So basically: come for the killer blob, stay for the frustrated youths that you’ll probably relate to.

I’m not sure that a plot synopsis is necessary here, it’s The Blob. It’s kinda all right there. Well, not as much as it’s all right there in the title of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but how many things could a movie called The Blob be about? A stain on a shirt? That fat guy in the X-Men comics? … That’s all I got, and this movie isn’t about either of those. Y’see Steve (Steve McQueen) and Jane (Aneta Corsaut, The Andy Griffith Show‘s Helen Crump) are out smoochin’ under the stars when a shooting star bursts through the sky and lands somewhere close. Steve’s something of a stargazer, so off they drive in search of the rock from outer space.

Continue reading The Blob (1958) →

Giant (1956)

giant_6Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Judith Evelyn, Earl Holliman, Robert Nichols

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Low.

threestar


Giant is a Texas-themed soap opera about a cattle rancher named Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who marries a Virginian girl named Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) while he’s in town buying a horse from Leslie’s father. When they return as husband and wife to Bick’s ranch Reata, Leslie doesn’t quite fit in with all the Texas bigots. This, surprisingly, becomes an overarching theme of the film, but you’ve gotta sit through a whole lot of Texas-sized movie before it ever pays off. And — spoiler alert — even that payoff is less satisfying than I’d have liked it to be. In a film this long (201 minutes!), is it too much to ask that we actually build toward something worth waiting for? I guess if I was a hard-hearted racist jerk, it’d take almost 3½ hours to get me to understand why the film ends as it does, but I was already on-board right from the get-go.

What’s strange about the length of Giant is that it’s an epic unconcerned with being epic. There are moments when it slips into epic mode, but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward chronicle of 30–40 years in the Benedict family’s lives. So why is it as long as it is? The answer lies within the familial relationships of the Benedict family. Allowed extra space to breathe, Giant presents more nuanced and layered relationships than are usually seen in films — especially one from the ’50s. But even with its extended length, it still feels like it’s breezing through the years and could have easily been longer if it wanted to be.

Continue reading Giant (1956) →

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