Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Five Weeks in a Balloon ( 1962 )

Producer Irwin Allen, best known for his "disaster films" of the 1970s ( The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure ) also made a number of entertaining sci-fi and adventure films in the early 1960s, including The Lost World and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. One of his lesser-known films of this period is Five Weeks in a Balloon ( 1962 ), a fluffy juvenile adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, which he also directed.

Cedric Hardwicke stars in the film as Professor Furgusson, a stiff-lipped Englishman who has invented a balloon named The Jupiter which he intends to explore East Africa with. Joining him on this journey is his assistant Jacques ( Fabian ), and American playboy Donald O'Shea ( Red Buttons ). On the day that they are prepared to depart, the British prime minister interferes, commissioning the Jupiter to venture to West Africa to claim uncharted land before a band of slave traders stake the territory as their own. Before they know it, their five-week aerial journey becomes fraught with hazards as they attempt to fulfill their mission for the glory of the British Empire. 

"Cinq Semaines en Balloon", published in 1863, was the novel that launched Jules Verne to international stardom as an author and it included all of the magic ingredients that went into his later works. Irwin Allen's version of Five Weeks in a Balloon departs from Verne's original plot considerably, with the Professor attempting to beat the claims of a slave trading expedition instead of merely racing against other explorers to make a name for himself. The film also added the presence of two females ( Barbara Eden and Barbara Luna ) both of whom are rescued en route by the balloonists from these slave traders.
During much of the production, Allen was involved in a race against the Woolner Brothers, other producers, to be the first to release a film adaptation of "Five Weeks in a Balloon". The Woolner Brothers won this race, releasing Flight of the Lost Balloon ( starring Marshall Thompson ) in 1961, but Allen - with the force of 20th Century Fox behind him - managed to block the team from using the name of Jules Verne in their title or any of their publicity material. 

Perhaps it was due to this rushed production, but Five Weeks in a Balloon never really lifts off and soars to the heights it could have reached had it been filmed with care. 20th Century Fox had scored a hit with another Verne novel adaptation, Journey to the Center of the Earth, in 1958. That film had the perfect combination of adventure, comedy, thrills, and romance. It featured great special effects, a highly-entertaining script, and most importantly, a powerful lead actor - James Mason. An engaging actor such as Mason is sadly missing from Five Weeks in a Balloon. Sir Cedric Hardwicke simply doesn't cut the mustard. 

What Five Weeks in a Balloon does possess is an impressive array of supporting players which include Richard Haydn ( always a delight ), Peter Lorre, Billy Gilbert, Henry Daniell, Herbert Marshall, Reginald Owen, and Raymond Bailey. It also features colorful settings, a catchy theme song, spunky title credits, and some clever special effects. The scenes that utilize the balloon are quite good, especially the opening sequence. 

The box-office sales were so disappointing for Five Weeks in a Balloon that Irwin Allen decided to quit the motion picture business for a while and turn his attention to television, where he scored a hit with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants and, his most famous series, Lost in Space...which featured another "Jupiter", the Jupiter II spacecraft. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Land that Time Forgot ( 1975 )

The year is 1916. Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, a German U-boat torpedoes a supply ship and captures its survivors. Among these survivors is Bowen Tyler ( Doug McClure ) who, with a few other surviving crew members, manages to take command of the vessel. However, he soon becomes allies with the U-boat's commander, Captain von Schoenvorts ( John McEnery ),  when the ship's compass is sabotaged and they find themselves off course and heading towards Antarctica. A narrow underwater passage leads them into an uncharted subcontinent known as Caprona where they work together to search for fuel for the return journey while battling dinosaurs and dangerous tribes of primitive men. 

The Land that Time Forgot is a campy adventure film with rubber dinosaurs and hoards of hairy cavemen, and it probably has the most appeal to those who grew up with the film from childhood, but even a first-time viewer will discover some exciting moments in it....such as this man-eating prehistoric Loch Ness monster. 
Edgar Rice Burroughs, the man whose imagination gave birth to Tarzan, penned "The Land that Time Forgot" in 1924. The novel's premise is a clever blend of adventure, sci-fi, and World War I drama and director Kevin Connor did a fair job of transferring that to the screen. But overall, it lacks the spit and polish ( and the pinch of humor ) that could have made it a really memorable classic. While McClure was a talented actor, he didn't exude the heroic charm of an Errol Flynn or Stewart Granger, which the lead character deserved to have. 
Nevertheless, the box-office receipts were so good for The Land that Time Forgot upon its release that Connor turned out two more Edgar Rice Burroughs-based films for American International Pictures: At the Earth's Core ( 1975 ) also starring Doug McClure, and The People that Time Forgot ( 1977 ) with Patrick Wayne, which was the most entertaining of the three. 

Susan Penhaligon also stars as the requisite love-interest, with Keith Barron, Anthony Ainley, Godfrey James and Roy Holder rounding out the cast.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Hoorah! Someone deserves a good applause... but who? and just what did they do? If you've seen this film then you know what this mystery person accomplished. Put on your ski caps - I mean your thinking caps - and see if you can name this movie.

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

GAME OVER. Congratulations to Tiffany who has correctly guessed "Snowball Express" ( 1972 ). This band of skiers was applauding Dean Jones' aerial stunts on skis, not aware that he was a helpless victim of being pushed down the mountain...backwords! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Paradise for Three ( 1938 )

MGM had a knack for making great comedies and, during the 1930s especially, the studio was churning them out a dime a dozen. Paradise for Three aka Romance for Three was a particularly fun MGM comedy that featured the always delightful duo of Robert Young and Florence Rice. Its Alpine setting and the presence of no less than seven great character actors make it stand out among all the other top features MGM released in 1938. 

The sparkling George Oppenheimer-Harry Ruskin script ( based upon Erich Kastner's novel "Three Men in the Snow" ) follows the escapades of a wealthy industrialist named Tobar ( Frank Morgan ) who decides to go slumming by taking a vacation in the Alps in the guise of a poor villager. While on holiday he becomes smitten with a gold-digging divorcee ( Mary Astor ) and befriends a poor but intelligent young man ( Robert Young ) who just so happens to be in love with his daughter ( Florence Rice ). Ah yes, romance has a way of blossoming even in the snowdrifts. 

"Yodeling around with that hussy!"

Every decade gave birth to its own unique style of films and Paradise for Three is certainly a product of its time. Like the music of the era, it is bouncy bubbly entertainment that leaves you with a marvelous carefree feeling. 
Young and Rice received top-billing on the credits but Frank Morgan is the true star of the picture. Morgan was excellent in just about every film he made, but none showcases his fine comedic flair as well as Paradise for Three. Tobar is the perfect role for Morgan, a bumbling and sometimes silly, but lovable and respectable businessman. 

This was the fifth film that united Young and Rice, who made a lovely screen-couple. Supporting them were Edna May Oliver ( always a hoot ), Sig Rumann, Reginald Owen, Herman Bing, and Henry Hull. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

British Pathé - Beat the Bandit ( 1961 )

Talk about the long arm of the law! These crime-fighters know how to handle bag-snatchers in London with their new invention. This 1-minute long 1961 British Pathé newsreel entitled Beat the Bandit showcases an amazing security case that literally sprouts arms the moment a bandit takes hold of it.... and it crushes the culprit's fingers in the process, too. Case closed! 

This would certainly make even today's criminals think twice about snitching a bag left at a bus terminal or airport. There are not many places one can escape to with a three-armed bag attached to the hand! 

It seems like an invention Scotland Yard may have stolen from C.O.N.T.R.O.L, but obviously works so I won't knock it. 

Hands off, Buster!

Ready to see it in action? Simply click on the link below : 

British Pathé - Amazing Anti-Theft Security Case! 

Other similar British Pathé clips : 

Carry Safe ( 1951 ) - 0:53 minutes

Stop Thief! ( 1938 ) - 0:48 minutes

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Darling, How Could You! ( 1951 )

Scottish novelist James M. Barrie is today best remembered for penning the children's classic "Peter Pan" ( 1905 ), but during the turn-of-the-century he was one of the most popular playwrights in England writing such plays as "The Little Minister", "Quality Street", and "The Admirable Crichton". He had a flair for comedy and one of his best comedic plays "Alice-Sit-by-the-Fire" ( 1905 ) - a story of a couple's reunion with their children after several years absence - was brought to the screen in 1951 as the charming Darling, How Could You! which starred John Lund and Joan Fontaine.

Dr. Mark Gray ( Lund ) and his wife Alice ( Fontaine ) return home to Boston after having spent five years in Panama aiding in the yellow fever epidemic during the construction of the Panama canal in 1900. Their three children, Amy ( Mona Freeman ), Cosmo ( David Stollery ), and baby Molly ( Maureen Lynn Reimer ) had remained in Boston and were being cared for by Mark's mother and a nursemaid ( Angela Clarke ).

Both Mark and Alice are impatient to be reunited with their children, but while Mark builds a rapport with the children in a snap, Alice is overly-anxious for instant love and finds the initial greetings awkward. She also has to contend with jealousy from the nursemaid who grew attached to baby Molly while they were away. Meanwhile, their imaginative daughter Amy is convinced their mother is having an affair with a friend of the family ( Peter Hansen ) after having accidentally seen a theatrical play that portrayed the "seamy side of life". 

Darling, How Could You! is a little-remembered comedy today and yet it boasts a great cast of pros that handle their parts with ease and features some very humorous moments ...two qualities which should make it more memorable. John Lund is especially charming as the understanding Victorian father of the family, Dr. Gray. He cuts a dashing figure and is an admirably loving husband to Alice. Joan Fontaine didn't often get a chance to play comedy parts so she tackled her part with gusto and looked particularly beautiful while doing so. And the children were perfectly cast : David Stollery, later a veteran of Walt Disney television series such as Spin and Marty, is adorable as Cosmo, their little tough-talking son, while the underrated Mona Freeman displays perfect comedic timing as their winsome teenage daughter Amy. 

It may seem strange today that any young couple would choose to be separated from their children, but James Barrie's original play was set in London with the Grays returning home from British India. It was quite common at the time for couples who were residing in India to send their children back to England to be cared for by family members or nannies due to the risk of disease or uprisings. For the film, the setting was changed to Boston to appeal to American audiences, and so the yellow fever epidemic in Panama was given as the reason for the Grays absence for such a long period. Pretty clever. 
While the film starts off rather slow it builds up considerably when Lund and Fontaine enter the scene and ends with a tickling good comedic sequence involving Alice's misunderstood romantic entanglement.

Darling, How Could You! is currently not available on DVD but can be rented and viewed online through Amazon. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

From the Archives : George and his Gal in Bullet Code ( 1940 )

George O'Brien and Virginia Vale make a handsome rootin'-tootin' couple in this still from the 1940 RKO western Bullet Code. 

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: