Sunday, July 15, 2018

Nugget Reviews - 25


The Private Eyes ( 1980 )   14k 


Scotland Yard detectives, Inspector Winship and Dr. Tart, are hired to investigate the death of Lord and Lady Morley at their English mansion. One by one all of their suspects die off, leaving Winship and Tart to face the real killer. Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Trisha Noble, Bernard Fox. The Private Eye Partners. Directed by Lang Elliott.

Don Knotts and Tim Conway were teamed up for the first time in Disney's 1975 comedy The Apple Dumpling Gang and really "clicked" together. Knotts, who always played the sidekick to Andy on The Andy Griffith Show, did a wonderful job of switching to the straight man and allowing Conway to take the laughs. The Private Eyes is a bit on the wacky side but it has its moments of humor, especially in the running gags throughout the film. 

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Blonde Fever ( 1944 ) 14k


A happily married couple who own a restaurant outside Reno finds their marriage on the rocks when a blonde bombshell who was hired as a waitress begins to split them apart. Mary Astor, Philip Dorn, Gloria Grahame, Marshall Thompson. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. Directed by Richard Whorf.

Gloria Grahame was making her film debut - along with Marshall Thompson - in this light-hearted comedy from MGM. With their performances, both of them steal the show from the pros Mary Astor and Philip Dorn. The story, which was based on a play, was tight and the film had its moments, but overall, it is quite forgettable and not up to MGM's usual standards when it comes to comedies. However, the great character actor Felix Bressart is in the movie, and his presence alone makes it worth watching!

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Five Little Peppers and How They Grew ( 1939 ) 14k


The wealthy Mr. King wishes to buy out the poor Pepper family's 50% share in a copper mine he owns but once he gets to know the family better and comes to love them, he changes his mind and invites them to live with him in his mansion. Edith Fellows, Charles Peck, Tommy Bond, Clarence Kolb. Columbia Pictures. Directed by Charles Barton. 

This first entry in what was to become a four-film series about Margaret Sidney's Pepper family, is very unassuming and quite entertaining. It packs in quite a bit of plot in its 58-minute runtime. There is some youthful romance between the rich Mr. King's grandson Jaspar and Polly Pepper, a good deal of drama during a family bout with measles, and innocent humor from the children's activities - especially from Dorothy Ann Seese who was quite a scene-stealer. 

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The Golden Blade ( 1953 ) Elect.


The young Harun enters Baghdad seeking information about the group of men who ransacked his tribe and murdered his father. In a quaint bazaar he purchases a magic sword and discovers that Fate has led him to aid the princess Khairuzan in order to discover the group he is after. Rock Hudson, Piper Laurie, Steven Geray, George MacReady. Universal Pictures. Directed by Nathan Juran. 

"Out of Bagdad's mystic past thunders the adventure of all ages!" So proclaims the poster to The Golden Blade. The screenwriter was banking on audiences ignorance of "Bagdad's mystic past" and decided to mix medieval and Mongolian ( ?) elements into the screenplay, making the film a pastiche of styles. Nathan Juran, an art director who would later direct the Ray Harryhausen classics The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and First Men in the Moon was just learning the ropes at this time so the film is rather bland in spots but not bad for a Sunday afternoon's viewing. 

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The Pink Jungle ( 1968 ) 14k


A photographer and his model get stranded in the South American jungle when their pilot takes off without them. There, they meet an adventurer who talks them into buying a treasure map and hunting for diamonds with him. James Garner, Eva Renzi, George Kennedy, Nigel Green. Universal Pictures. Directed by Delbert Mann.  

The Pink Jungle is one of many fun adventure films that were released in the mid-late 1960s and it plays out like an American version of That Man from Rio with non-stop action and comedy. Oddly enough, it is little known today despite its great cast and witty script. James Garner was ideal for parts like this and should have made more similarly themed films. Eva Renzi, a real fashion model, and George Kennedy were also perfect. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

From the Archives: Watusi ( 1959 )


What wild beast could be lurking in the African bush? George Montgomery ( the "Great White Hunter" ) is on a safari with Taina Elg and David Farrar and a bevy of native carriers when they encounter a dangerous animal in MGM's Watusi ( 1959 ). This film gave the studio an opportunity to reuse footage - lots of it - from King Solomon's Mines ( 1950 ). 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Johnny Tremain ( 1957 )

George Stevens and Frank Capra were two directors who really knew how to capture onscreen the essence of what being an American is all about. They made films about the love of one's hometown, one's family, about freedom and about helping one's neighbor. But when it comes to making films about American history, it is Walt Disney who deserves the accolades. His films sparked that pride we feel in being American and the thrill you get when you hear a stirring tale of American patriotism. 

Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, he brought many tales from American history textbooks to the motion picture screen - most of which were first adapted for television production, such as The Swamp Fox, Elfego Baca, Davy Crockett, and Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain was filmed as a two-part series for the Disney TV show, each segment lasting 40 minutes. Even though most people across the States had black-and-white television sets, Disney wanted the film to be shot in Technicolor so it could be issued in theatres as well. Since the production was so good, it ended up being released in theatres first - on July 4, 1957 - and then airing on television shortly after. 

Based upon Esther Forbe's 1943 novel of the same name, Johnny Tremain tells the story of an apprentice silversmith who comes to learn the true meaning of liberty and having "the rights of free men" through an encounter with some of America's founding fathers. The young lad finds himself wrongfully imprisoned for stealing a silver cup from a nobleman. He is touched when one of Boston's finest lawyers takes his case without fee, representing him solely for the sake of justice. It is then that he discovers that throughout Boston men are uniting throughout the city to fight against tyranny and injustice from the British. He joins these men, known as the Sons of Liberty, and helps take part in the Boston Tea Party and in the colonist's stand against British soldiers at Lexington Green. 
Actor Hal Stalmaster was a relative newcomer when Disney cast him as the lead character in Johnny Tremain. He has the same winsome ways about him as another Disney child-actor, Bobby Driscoll, but unfortunately, he only did a handful of other television productions ( including three episodes of The Swamp Fox ) before he retired from acting. Also in the cast is Richard Beymer, Whit Bissell, Sebastian Cabot, Jeff York ( as James Otis ), Luana Patten, Rusty Lane ( as Samuel Adams ) and Walter Sande ( as Paul Revere ). 

"Johnny Tremain is about the nameless, unsung patriots whose hunger for freedom made possible the independence that is enjoyed in America today." - Walt Disney

Walt Disney never watered down or changed the storylines of his films to make them more appealing to children. He knew that children would find them interesting if they could only relate to the main character and rightly so. Johnny Tremain unfolds at a slow pace but it is quite engrossing in spite of this and much of the credit for its entertainment can be attributed to the fine performances of all the actors and to director Robert Stevenson. This old British pro was making his debut with Disney studio and would go on to make 18 films for Disney over the next 20 years. 
Also contributing much to the production of Johnny Tremain was Peter Ellenshaw's beautiful matte paintings. These matte shots saved the studio unnecessary expenses and added a particularly charming touch to the film, making the scenes of historic Boston seem like a living painting. One scene in particular really stands out, that of the Liberty Tree in Old Boston aglow with lanterns hanging on its boughs. If you want to see a similar tree in person, complete with the lanterns, simply take a trip to Disney World, where within Liberty Square a 100-year old Liberty Tree proudly stands holding 13 lanterns to represent the original 13 colonies. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Hollywood Home Tour: Dick Powell & June Allyson

After the Hollywood Home Tour bus broke down last season due to mechanical errors, the tour was canceled until further notice, but I'm happy to report it has been repaired and is ready to set off once again. Our bus driver, Al, will tell you more about where the Greyhound will be heading this summer.....

"Welcome, passengers! We are in for an exciting tour this season for not only will we be driving by the homes of some of the most famous movie stars, we'll also trek to the outskirts of Hollywood to see some of the ranches and larger estates of the stars. In a few moments, we will be heading west of Los Angeles to drive by one of these larger spreads, the 68-acre estate of crooner Dick Powell and his wife June Allyson, affectionately known as 'Junie'. 

"This estate is often called Amber Hills and is an enormous 12,000 square-feet in size. It was built in the early-1940s and has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a library, its own private lake, tennis courts, and acres of land for horses to roam. 

3100 Mandeville Canyon Road
"Here it is now, folks, coming up on your left. These are just the front gates, the driveway is a quarter of a mile long before you reach the house. It overlooks a canyon and Robert Taylor's equally large spread, which we'll be driving by soon as well. 

"Dick Powell is a hands-on kind of guy and he likes to remodel parts of the house, take apart the furniture to refinish it, or chop down the trees on the property for firewood. He often uses the workshop on the property. 

"June Allyson recalled that Dick Powell had driven her to the property and asked if it was too remote for her, 'Heavens, no', she replied, 'It's a nice community. How many people live here?' Powell's response, 'Just you and I, Junie. It's our 68 acres.'

Up-to-date Info: In 1962, Dick Powell and June moved to the Marie Antionette Apartments when effects from his lung cancer was getting the best of him. In the 1970s, the exterior of the house was used at the Harts property in the "Hart to Hart" television series. On June 25, 2018, the property went up on the market again - with a price tag of $35 million.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

From the Archives: Moon Pilot ( 1962 )


Tom Tryon, actor and author, dons a space suit as he poses at Cape Canaveral for this 1962 publicity photo for Moon Pilot, Walt Disney's comedy about an astronaut who falls in love with a beautiful alien ( Dany Saval ).

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store : http://stores.ebay.com/Silverbanks-Pictures

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Space Academy ( 1977 ) - Television Series

Shortly after Star Wars premiered in theatres in 1977, a space frenzy hit the entertainment industry and other similar-themed sci-fi films and television shows premiered, one of which was Space Academy. This half-hour production was aimed towards a juvenile audience and aired on Saturday mornings at 10:30am EST on the CBS network. It was set in the far far future and centered around a group of bright young students belonging to the intergalactic Space Academy ( "founded in the star year 3732" ) and the various lessons they learned from encountering strange beings from space and handling problems that arose on missions to different planets.

One of the heads of this academy was Commander Gampu, portrayed by none other than Jonathan Harris, the notorious Dr. Zachary Smith of Lost in Space. In Space Academy, his character is quite the opposite of Dr. Smith; he is a wise leader and a dear friend to all of the youngsters, especially little Loki, whom he rescued from the planet of Zalon. Indeed, it is Jonathan Harris' presence that makes the show so enjoyable.

This Filmation series featured excellent set design and special effects ( Space Academy had a $150,000 per episode budget ), especially considering this was a children's television show and not a feature film production. Most impressive are the shots of the Seeker, the Academy's smaller space-exploration vehicle ( the Ark II redressed ), returning to its port within the Space Academy's floating complex. 

Space Academy began its season with some clever storylines injected with appropriate morals but, as the series progressed, the scripts, unfortunately, became more and more juvenile in theme. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining series that has held up well over the years. 

Space Academy lasted but one season and then its spin-off Jason of Star Command took over its timeslot ( it was since moved to 12pm EST ) and this show did considerably better. The character of Commander Gampu was to have continued his leadership with a new group of students but Jonathan Harris had a "falling out" with Filmation and was replaced by James Doohan as Commander Canarvin, who was then replaced by the blue-faced Commander Stone ( John Russell ). 


The Characters 


Like Star Trek, each of the students belonging to Blue Team of Commander Gampu's squadron had various abilities as well as different character strengths and weaknesses. 

Commander Issac Gampu - Jonathan Harris

The 300-year-old Commander Gampu continually drives his cadets to do better and to think out problems for themselves. He is always there to dispense advice when needed and is an excellent leader, putting wisdom before action. 

Peepo

Peepo is a little robot that becomes indispensable to the Blue Team. He is actually a "self-determining type-A manu-droid" that Gampu had built years earlier. Peepo often displays human-like emotions such as happiness ( a high-pitched laughter sound ) and fear. Peepo is especially close to Laura. 

Chris Gentry - Ric Carrott

Chris is the captain of the Blue Team and chief pilot of the Seeker when they are sent out on intergalactic missions. He shares powers of telekinetics and astro-portation with his sister Laura. Chris also has a sweet-spot for Adrian. 

Laura Gentry - Pamelyn Ferdin

Laura is often placed second in command - "co-captain" - on missions and is a valuable team member, both on the Seeker and at the Academy where she helps to watch the monitors. She appears to be the most empathic of the group. 

Tee Gar Soom - Brian Tochi

Every team needs a good doctor. Tee Gar is not only the Blue Team's medical man but he is a whiz with electronics and karate as well. He carries out orders with promptness and is always there to give a helping hand. 

Paul Jerome - Ty Henderson

Paul comes from a "pioneer planet" where survival was of the utmost importance. After a rocky start with the Blue Team he comes to be relied upon as a trustworthy member of the team. He is often acting as co-pilot and is a role-model for little Loki. 

Adrian Pryce Jones - Maggie Cooper

Adrian is the scientist of the group, a geologist, and third in command. Whenever the team land on an alien planet, Adrian begins collecting soil samples and analyzing the minerals. She is also clever with gadgets and helps build devices that the Space Academy may use. 

Loki - Erik Greene

Named after the Norse god of mischief, this heavy-eyelashed youth was rescued from the planet Zalon by Commander Gampu and joins the Blue Team as their mascot, general errand boy, and chief troublemaker.

Merchandise 


Space Academy did not have the usual range of coloring books, posters, puzzles, etc, that most children's series inspired, but that is probably because the series ended after one season. The only collectible associated with the show that I was able to find was a series of dolls manufactured by the Aviva Toy Company of Hong Kong and distributed throughout the by F.W. Woolworth and Co. department stores. There were four dolls issued: Issac Gampu, Chris Gentry, Loki, and Tee Gar. They are quite valuable today since they are quite rare and were poorly made ( plastic deterioration is a concern ). 


Top 5 Favorite Episodes


Survivors of Zalon ( September 10, 1977 ) 

Unusual activity on Adrian's computer monitor suggests that there may be life on the planet Zalon, which is due to explode in 48 hours. Commander Gampu organizes a mission to Zalon with the Blue Team, and there they discover and rescue Loki, a curly-haired waif who has been tasked with guarding a pair of glowing crystals. 


Castaways in Time and Space ( November 17, 1977 )

Paul, a new recruit to the Academy, joins Chris and Tee Gar on a mission to rescue Commander Gampu and Laura who are stranded on an alien planet after entering a black hole with their Seeker. Paul and Chris share differences of opinion about risk, which relates to their backgrounds...Paul having come from a planet where personal survival is considered most important.


Countdown ( October 1, 1977 )

The Blue Team is sent in a Seeker to destroy floating space debris left-over from the Vegan Wars, three-hundred years ago. While surveying the surrounding area they discover a massive war vessel and explore it. Inside, in a freeze-chamber, is the body of a hostile Vegan named Roarg, and outside, attached to the hull, is an unexploded magnetic mine. 


The Rocks of Janus ( October 15, 1977 )

Two comets are hurtling towards the Space Academy and so Commander Gampu sends Blue Team out in a Seeker to plant explosive charges and destroy the comets before they come any closer. While Chris and the team set up the charges, Maggie and Laura take a rock sample - and discover that the rock they "tapped" bleeds! Once they discover it is a living organism they no longer wish to destroy it. 


My Favorite Marcia ( November 26, 1977 )

Commander Gampu leads a cadet team to study a star about to go supernova, when he determines that a "galactic distress beacon" has been activated on the fourth planet in a nearby star system. The signal is being sent by his old friend, Marcia, a rogue space trader who was hunting diamonds on the planet's surface when her spaceship's power was neutralized by an evil root - Robby the Robot ( of Forbidden Planet fame ).

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Bells of Astercote ( 1980 )

Penelope Lively's ghostly children's novel "Astercote" ( 1970 ) was brought to the small screen in 1980 as a one-hour television movie that aired the evening of December 23, following in the BBC tradition of airing ghost stories for the Yuletide season.

The Bells of Astercote, as it was renamed, was memorable to many of the little Brits who stayed up to watch it that night because of its unusual subject matter ( the Black Death ) and because it simply was an excellent production.

In the 1970s, many British childrens-based television productions were aimed towards mature youngsters, those of the 10-15 year-old age group, most of them being of the mystery, sci-fi, or "horror" genre. Unlike The Children of the Stones, the excellent 1977 mini-series that approached such diverse matter as black holes, occultism, time-loops, and energy-exuding rocks, The Bells of Astercote had a much simpler plot and yet still managed to pack in a fair amount of eeriness in its brief 50-minute run-time. It could have been an even more chilling and engrossing production had it been stretched to mini-series length like The Children of the Stones, but that did not happen. 
The Bells of Astercote tells the story of two children, Mair and Peter, who discover a simpleton named Goacher in a mysterious patch of woods. He guards a chalice that he believes protects the villagers from the Black Death, the plague. The children, who are fairly new residents of the village, are skeptical that the infamous plague of the 14th-century could return to modern-day England when so many antibiotics abound, but they soon come to realize that most of the villagers believe, like Goacher, that their health is safeguarded by that chalice. When the mysterious cup vanishes one day, Mair and Peter are as anxious as the villagers to discover its whereabouts and return the chalice to its rightful place in the forest.
The children who portrayed the lead characters, Siobhan Brooks and Ifor Williams, were quite convincing actors, as are all of the adults. Even though it is a television production and the budget was obviously limited, it is more entertaining than many of the feature films that were released that same year.  

Also in the cast is John Branwell ( The Return of the Antelope ), Davyd Harries, Kristine Howarth, and Janis Winters. 
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