Saturday, August 15, 2020

RICHARD DENNING: HIS SCIENCE FICTION AND HORROR FILMS

Richard Denning had been on a 1948 radio program "My Favorite Husband" with Lucille Ball. The program would transfer to television, without Denning, as "I Love Lucy". From 1952 through 1954, he portrayed publisher turned amateur detective "Jerry North" and Barbara Britton portrayed his wife "Pamela". This was on the very popular television series "Mr. and Mrs. North". Which was based upon an even more popular radio program going back to 1936 and small 1940's movie series.

In 1959 Richard Denning starred as "Dr. Greg Graham", "The Flying Doctor", on a short-lived television series. That was followed, a year later, as detective "Michael Shayne". A character created in the 1930's by pulp fiction writer Brett Halliday. "Shayne" had appeared in a series of 1940's motion pictures played by Lloyd Nolan and Hugh Beaumont, television's "Leave It to Beaver". Then Denning was promoted to the governor of the State of Hawaii in the original "Hawaii Five-O". Around his television appearances Richard Denning was still appearing in several "A" and "B" motion pictures that went back to his first in 1937.

Specifically between 1948 and 1963, Denning made seven motion pictures. Three of the seven are pure Science Fiction, two are pure Horror, the first is described as a "Adventure-Horror-Romance" and another is described as a "Crime-Science Fiction-Horror" feature. This is a look at this group of feature films.

Richard Denning in Beyond the Blue Horizon (1942)

Above Richard Denning in 1942's "Beyond the Blue Horizon".


UNKNOWN ISLAND released October 15, 1948

This is the picture described as an "Adventure-Horror-Romance". Although I feel it is more "Science Fiction" than "Horror".



The motion picture was produced by Albert J. Cohen. Between 1940 and 1965 Cohen produced 47 low budget features including, as associate producer, the John Wayne 1944 "The Fighting Seabees". As a producer there was 1950's "Prehistoric Women" and the 1952 Western "Horizons West" starring Robert Ryan, Julia Adams, more on her later, and Rock Hudson. Additionally Cohen made the Robert Ryan and Anthony Quinn 1953 "City Beneath the Sea" and a very interesting Civil War-Western, "The Great Sioux Uprising". That starred Jeff Chandler, Faith Domerque and Lyle Bettger.

The screenplay was by Robert T. Shannon and Jack Harvey. Both low "B" writers of forgotten motion pictures such as this feature.

The movie was directed by Jack Bernhard. Among his 13 credits are the 1946 Film-Noir "Decoy", and 1959's "Gigantis, the Fire Monster". That re-edited and dubbed movie was actually the second "Gojira (Godzilla)" feature from Toho Studios made in 1955. Point of fact, although the original picture was directed solely by Motoyoshi Oda. Bernhard was one of four non-screen-credited American directors on the feature. The other three are Sam Newfield, Hal Roach, Sr. and Hal Roach, Jr.

Ellis Berman is credited as the "Special Effects Photographer and Creator". This was one of only four motion pictures Berman was involved with that gave him on-screen credit for his work. The other three were Universal Pictures 1941 "The Wolfman". In which he designed and made "Larry Talbot's" cane and was also the special effects technician. Berman additionally worked for Universal Pictures,  with their famed make-up artist Jack Pierce, on the make-up for 1942's "The Ghost of Frankenstein" and, later, created the dinosaur sequences for Roger Corman's 1958 "Teenage Cave Man".


The cast:

Virginia Grey portrayed "Carole Lane". Grey was a solid "B" leading lady and "A" list supporting actress by this time and her work goes back to 1927. Among Grey's films are the Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy 1938 "Test Pilot", the Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell 1939 "The Women", 1942's "Mr. and Mrs. North", 1942's "Tarzan's New York Adventure" with Johnny Weismuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and John Wayne's 1945 "Flame of the Barbary Coast",



Philip Reed portrayed "Ted Osborne". Reed was both a "B" second lead and a character actor who appeared in the occasional "A" feature. Among his best known roles are as Native American's and Mexican-American's. Such as "Joaquin Murietta" in 1950's "Bandit Queen", or as "Uncas" in the Randolph Scott 1936 version of James Fenimore Cooper's "The Last of the Mohicans". Reed was also "Lieutenant Carlos Ortega" in 1947's "Pirates of Monterey" starring Maria Montez and Rod Cameron and "Red Hawk" in 1950's "Davy Crockett, Indian Scout" starring George Montgomery.



Above Phillip Reed and Virginia Grey.

Richard Denning portrayed "John Fairbanks". Denning had just starred in the forgotten 1948 "B" Mystery "Lady at Midnight" and would finish 1948 starring in another forgotten feature "Disaster". As a wrongly accused construction worker, that is alleged to have caused an under construction building to collapse and kill people.

 


Above Grey and Denning.

Barton MacLane portrayed "Captain Tarnowski". The familiar face of MacLane was usually as a heavy in several movie genres, but he is remembered as "Lieutenant of Detective Dundy" in director John Huston's classic 1941 "The Maltese Falcon". That same year he was in Huston's "High Sierra" also starring Humphrey Bogart and completed the triple with Huston and Bogart's 1948 "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre".




The Plot:

Adventure-seeker "Ted Osborne" and his fiancee "Carole Lane" are in a bar in Singapore. They're looking for a charter to take the two to an island supposedly inhabited by living dinosaurs. They meet the tough "Captain Tarnowski" and ask him to drop them off at the island. He initially refuses, but then agrees after "Osborne" tells the Captain of an experience he had during World War Two. While flying over a Pacific Island "Osborne" observed living dinosaurs. "Ted Osborne" then produces a photo he took. "Tarnowski" wants to take along his friend "John Fairbanks". It seems that "Fairbanks" was actually on that island and the only survivor of a shipwreck.



"Tarnowski" informs the other two, that nobody believed the story "Fairbanks" told and he took to drinking. However, "Osborne", has now confirmed the truth in "John's" story.. The Captain tells "Ted" and "Carole" that except for them, "John Fairbanks", and his first mate, "Sanderson", portrayed by Dick Wessel in the above still, no other member of the expedition, or his crew is to know their destination.

 

On the voyage "Fairbanks" is getting close to "Carole", but still showing his fear to "Captain Tarnowski" of the dinosaurs and returning to the island. "John" is afraid the island may not be a safe place to land, or a good place to be taking "Carole".

Members of the crew realize that they're heading for an extremely dangerous island and mutiny. However, they loose the fight and return to their duties. The ship arrives at the "Unknown Island".

Once off shore, "Captain Tarnowski", "Ted", "Carole" and "John" go ashore with members of the crew and set up camp. Next the group starts to explore the island proper.









The biggest danger to the group and their camp comes from a giant sloth.





There are the usual problems with the crew in the camp and "Captain Tarnowski" making a play for "Carole Lane" and her refusal. There's a accidental fire in the camp causing problems and attacks by different dinosaurs and crew members being killed.







The climax comes as a Dimetrodon attacks the camp as "Tarnowski" is making another play for "Carole". This results in a fight between the Captain and "John" as "Carole" picks up "Tarnowski's" rife and kills the Dimetrodon. Then the giant sloth appears and the "Captain" goes for the creature to permit "Carole" and "John" to get away, but he is killed and eaten by the sloth. 



In the end only "Ted Osborne", "Carole Lane", "John Fairbanks" and one other person are left. They take the lifeboat and go to the ship. The fade-out has the four looking back towards the island that is slowly disappearing over the horizon.

Six years later during the final season of "Mr. and Mrs. North". Richard Denning was part of the cast of what became a classic monster entry from Universal Pictures. The question is do you classify the motion picture as "Science Fiction", or "Horror"? Most film historians cop-out and classify this feature as a "Science Fiction-Horror" motion picture



THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON released February 12, 1954

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)


This was an entry from the outstanding producing and directing team of William Alland and Jack Arnold. For Universal Pictures their output included, 1953's "It Came from Outer Space", both 1955's "Tarantula" and "The Revenge of the Creature" and for Paramount Pictures the very good, but overlooked and forgotten, 1958 "The Space Children".

In 1952 Robert Stack starred in the first commercial 3-D motion picture "Bwana Devil". "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" would be the second 3-D film for Alland and Arnold. My concise article "THIRD DIMENSION the Golden Age of 3-D Motion Pictures 1952 - 1955" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/08/third-dimension-golden-age-of-3-d.html


The Cast:

Richard Carlson portrayed "David Reed". The year before this picture Carlson had starred in two 3-D motion pictures, "The Maze" and "It Came from Outer Space". Right before this release he was seen in, and also directed, producer Ivan Tor's second part of his "Office of Scientific Investigation" trilogy, "Riders to the Stars". In 1953 Carlson had starred in the first part, "The Magnetic Monster", but would not be in the final entry, the 3-D feature "GOG". For anyone interested in this trilogy my article "Ivan Tors "Office of Scientific Investigation" Trilogy" may be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/07/ivan-tors-office-of-scientific.html

Actor Carlson started out as an academic and never planned to go into acting. His story "Richard Carlson the Academic Turned Actor" can be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/08/richard-carlson-academic-turned-actor.html



Julia Adams portrayed "Kay Lawrence". Julia would become "Julie" starting in 1955 with the Tony Curtis vehicle "Six Bridges to Cross". For 21 of her 149 roles, Betty May Adams, was "Julia". Starting in 1955 Adams' primary roles were all on television including an episode of Richard Denning's "Michael Shayne" in 1960. During this period she had a recurring role on several episodes of Raymond Burr's "Perry Mason" and co-starred on "The Jimmy Stewart Show".

Julie Adams in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Richard Denning portrayed "Mark Williams". Released just before this picture was another 3-D movie "Jivaro". Denning had 5th billing behind Fernando Lamas, Rhonda Fleming, Brian Keith and Lon Chaney.



Antonio Moreno portrayed "Carl Maia". Born in Madrid, Spain, during the silent era Moreno was considered a rival to Rudolph Valentino. He had started acting in 1912 and appeared as a leading man for both Lillian and Dorthy Gish, Clara Bow, Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford.

Of course he appeared in many Spanish language motion pictures, but, also as a character actor, portrayed "Cochise" in 1942's "Valley of the Sun" starring Lucille Ball, James Craig and Sir Cedrick Hardwicke. Moreno portrayed a Spanish nobleman in the Tyrone Power 1947 "Captain from Castile" and in the excellent, but overlooked story of "The Lost Dutchman Mine", starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino, 1949's "Lust for Gold",  the Spanish actor portrayed "Ramon Peralta" the mine's original owner.

Julie Adams and Antonio Moreno in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Nester Paiva portrayed "Lucas". Paiva was a familiar face to Universal Picture Science Fiction and Horror fans of the 1950's. Besides this picture, he was in the first sequel, 1955's "Revenge of the Creature" and the same years "Tarantula". He was also in 1956's "The Mole People" and was an "Alien Commander" in 1962's "The Three Stooges in Orbit". However, starting in 1950 the actor was switching to roles on television and they became his primary source of income.

My article "NESTOR PAIVA: Skipper of the "Rita" vs The Creature from the Black Lagoon" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2020/02/nestor-paiva-skipper-of-rita-vs.html 



Above Nestor Paiva is making sure Richard Denning gets the point of their conversation.

Whit Bissell portrayed "Dr. Thompson". Character actor Bissell started on-screen acting in 1940 with the Errol Flynn movie "The Sea Hawk" in the role of "A guard". He became a familiar face, if not name in 321 roles into 1984.

For fans of Science Fiction and Horror. The actor was seen in the 1954  Mickey Rooney nuclear bomb comedy "The Atomic Kid". In 1956 it was Don Siegel's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and in 1957 Bissell turned Michael Landon all hairy in "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and played the great grandson of the original "Dr. Frankenstein" in 1957's "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein". Whit Bissell portrayed one of the skeptics to Rod Taylor's inventor in producer George Pal's "The Time Machine",



Above left to right, Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning and Whit Bissell.


The Plot:

"Professor Maia" and his two Amazon native assistants are digging on a hillside by the river. They find a fossilized skeletal hand of some amphibian creature. 





He leaves the two men in camp and flies to the United States to a California Marine Biology Institute. There, he shows the hand he found and tells his story. With the help of "Dr. David Reed" the two convince "Dr. Mark Williams" to get financing for an expedition. The goal is to find the rest of the skeleton that appears to be a missing link between amphibian and land animals.



While this is happening the camp is attacked by a living amphibian and the Professor's two assistants murdered. 





The scientific expedition heads to the camp on the "Rita" skippered by "Lucas".



After the camp is reached and the discovery of what appears to be an animal attack. The scientists start to work on the spot the skeletal hand was found.



All the work only turns up rocks and "Mark Williams" is ready to leave the dig. While "David Reed" argues for more time. There has been tension between the two related to both work and "Kay", "Mark's" assistant and secretary.

"David" asks "Lucas" where the river goes too? The reply is a place nobody has ever returned from, "The Black Lagoon". Now curious, "Mark" asks "David", what he's thinking and the answer is that perhaps millions of years ago a portion of the formation broke off. With the rivers currents it is possible that portion ended up at the dead end, "The Black Lagoon". The "Rita" is moved into the lagoon with its one entrance-exit.



While the others work on locating the formation under the lagoon's water and collecting samples of the lagoon's bottom. "Kay" takes a swim and is watched and followed.

Julie Adams and Ricou Browning in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)





"Lucas" calls "Kay" back to the "Rita" as she is too far off. "Mark" and "David" are back on board arguing over their next move when something gets caught in the ships drag line.

Whit Bissell, Julie Adams, Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Bernie Gozier, Antonio Moreno, and Nestor Paiva in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Pulling the net in, the group finds it torn as if they had something had been in the net and broken free. Then it is noticed that a part of a claw is stuck to the netting. There is only one conclusion that some amphibian creature is still alive in the lagoon.



Next the creature makes it way onto "The Rita" and attacks two crewmen killing one.





"Mark" and "David" go back underwater to photograph the creature, but when the film is developed its not on it.



"David" wants to leave, but "Mark" argues against that by reminding everyone of what a living creature would do for the Institute? "Lucas" has a plan to use a chemical that stuns fish. The chemical is prepared and "Mark" and "David" go out in a small boat to drop the substance in the water.



The stunned creature floats to the surface and is placed in a cage.



At night the creature has revived and is testing the cage for a break out. On deck "Dr. Thompson" is smoking his pipe by himself.



The now released creature attacks him and in the scuffle knocks over a lantern causing a fire and burning "Dr/Thompson's" face and hands.

 

After attending to "Thompson's" wounds




"David" decides that they must leave the lagoon and return with a properly equipped expedition. "Mark" argues against that, but "Lucas" using his knife and reminding him that the "Captain" of the "Rita" is in charge on the water. The "Rita" gets under way only to find their exit obstructed by logs and branches by the under intelligence rated creature.

They use the wench to pull up the obstruction, but the wench starts overheating and it becomes clear the obstruction must be cleared from underwater. "David" and "Mark" go into the water.



"Mark", while "David" clears the obstruction, will guard him with a spear gun. The creature attacks and "Mark" is killed. "David" comes up with a plan of diluting the remaining stunning compound and spraying it directly at the creature to make him groggy. Then "David" can remove the remaining portion of the obstruction.

The obstruction is cleared, but the groggy creature manages to get himself on the "Rita", grabs "Kay", and jumps into the water. This leads to a final confrontation with "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" in a cave with an underwater and land entrance. "David" rescues "Kay" and the creature is shot, but left to go into the water and die.








Six months after the final episode of "Mr. and Mrs. North" was the Science Fiction picture--

TARGET EARTH released November 7, 1954




This very low budget talk fest was produced by Herman Cohen. Among his 25 produced films for what eventually became American International Pictures. Are the two previously mentioned Whit Bissell 1957 teenage monster entries and the same year's "Blood of Dracula". Which started out entitled "I Was a Teenage Dracula". Then there was the clever 1958 "How to Make a Monster" featuring both the teenage werewolf and Frankenstein. Followed by 1961's "Konga" and Joan Crawford's 1967 "Berserk" and Crawford's 1970 "Trog".

My article on the Teenage Horror and Science Fiction movies of the late 1950's. With actors like Michael Landon, Robert Vaughn and of course Steve McQueen: "I Was a Teenage Werewolf: 1950's Teenage Horror Movies" can be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/06/i-was-teenage-werewolf-i-was-teenage.html

One of the four writers for this picture was James H. Nicholson a very good publicity man. Who with Samuel Z. Arkoff took the Independent film company that made this picture, several other indies, and consolidated them under the banner of "American International Pictures".

"Target Earth" was directed by Sherman A. Rose. Whose main output since 1937 were "B" Westerns and starting in 1950 with "The Gene Autry Show". Rose switched to television Westerns and other programs.

The Cast:

Richard Denning portrayed "Frank Brooks".

Kathleen Crowley portrayed "Nora King". She was mainly a television actress and is remembered for primarily for this feature.

Kathleen Crowley and Richard Denning in Target Earth (1954)

Above Kathleen Crowley and Richard Denning.

Virginia Grey portrayed "Vicki Harris". 

Richard Reeves portrayed "Jim Wilson". Reeves normally portrayed a television tough guy on shows like "The Adventures of Superman" and "Dick Tracy", but occasionally his comic timing appeared in a role.



Above Richard Reeves and Virginia Grey.

Whit Bissell portrayed "Tom, the leading research scientist".

Arthur Space in Target Earth (1954)

Above Whit Bissell with one of the "Venusian Robots" looking at "Lieutenant General Wood" portrayed by Arthur Space. The other officer is "Lieutenant Drake" portrayed by James Drake.


The plot:

A group of people are overlooked in Chicago during the evacuation of the entire city from a suspected invasion by the planet Venus. All the robots, actually only one was made, are played by Steve Calvert.

Steve Calvert in Target Earth (1954)

The film is nothing more than these different people interacting with each other and avoiding the robots.

The picture opens with the failed suicide of "Nora King". She awakes the next morning to a deserted city. Outside "Nora" trips over the body of a dead women and meets "Frank Brooks". Who just regain consciousness from a mugging the previous night. 

The two hear music coming from a deserted nightclub and discover another couple, "Vickie Harris" and "Jim Wilson". The four now walk the deserted streets and meet "Charles Ottis", played by Mort Marshall. "Ottis" confirms that all the cars on the street won't start for some reason. The group starts to feel apprehensive as everywhere they turn the city is empty and they're the only ones apparently in it.

Meanwhile, the military under "Lieutenant General Wood" arrives and a command post is set up.  Research scientist "Tom" is told to figure out how a robot with it's "Death Ray" could have been destroyed?



Meanwhile, our group of survivors discover that not all the people left in the city are good. They meet "Davis", played by Robert Roark, a psychotic killer. Who will be killed later by one of the many robots walking the streets of Chicago.



Kathleen Crowley, Richard Denning, Virginia Grey, Richard Reeves, and Robert Roark in Target Earth (1954)

Above Virginia Grey, Richard Reeves, Richard Denning, Robert Roark and Kathleen Crowley.

"Nora" and "Frank", the last survivors of their group,  join up with a military patrol that has a newly developed weapon, that produces a certain sound frequency, to use against the invaders.




The invasion is stopped and "Nora" and "Frank" go off together.

"Target Earth" was typical of the Space Invasion movies and television shows of the first half of the 1950's. For my reader interested in these sometime really low budget Science Fiction entries. My article "Invaders from Mars, Except When They Came from Venus, or Planet 'X'" can be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2015/07/invaders-from-mars-except-when-they.html


That "Crime-Science Fiction-Horror" movie I mentioned at my opening was next for Richard Denning.


CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN released in July 1955

Don't let the title put you off. This is actually a very well done low budget entry.



To begin with the motion picture was produced by Sam Katzman. He brought the original "Superman" serial to the movie screen in 1948 and Ray Harryhausen's "Earth vs the Flying Saucers" in 1956. On a double bill with Katzman's outstanding Horror entry "The Werewolf".

My article "Superman' Meets 'The Giant Claw' as the 'Earth vs the Flying Saucers': Executive Producer Sam Katzman" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2018/10/superman-meets-giant-claw-as-earth-vs.html

Next the original story and screenplay was by Curt Siodmak. Curt was the screenplay writer for Universal's "The Wolfman" and creator of the warning about "Wolfane blooming during a Full Moon". Over a lunch he came up with the idea for "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman". With his brother Robert Siodmak, a major director of Film-Noir, the two brought the audience Lon Chaney as the "Son of Dracula" and Curt came up with the reversal of "Dracula" to "Alucard".

My article "Curt and Robert Siodmak: Horror and Film Noir" may be found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/11/curt-and-robert-siodmak-horror-and-film.html

The Cast:

Richard Denning portrayed "Dr. Chet Walker".




Angela Stevens portrayed "Joyce Walker". Stevens was a "B" actress and most of her roles were so small that she received no on-screen credit. She appeared with "The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry and Shemp)" in the 1952 short "He Cooked His Goose", the 1953 short "Pardon My Backfire" and the 1955 short "Blunder Boys". Stevens also appeared in three shorts with comedian Joe Bessler. Who would replace the late Shemp Howard. Stevens' shorts with Bessler are 1952's "Aim, Fire, Scoot",  1953's "Spies and Guys", and 1956's "Army Daze". Then in 1959 she was in another "Three Stooges" short, "Tripple Crossed", which now starred Moe, Larry and Joe Bessler.

Linda Bennett, Richard Denning, and Angela Stevens in Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)

Above Angela Stevens, Richard Denning and Linda Bennett as their daughter "Penny Walker". This was Bennett's fourth motion picture out of seven. Plus one episode of television's "Leave It to Beaver" in 1961 to end her short acting career.

S. John Launer portrayed "Detective Captain Dave Harris". Supporting actor Launer is one of those faces you remember, but whose name you do not. He had only appeared once before in  a television show before this movie, but his films afterward included: 1956's "The Werewolf", 1957's "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", 1957's "Jailhouse Rock" and Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 "Marine".

Above Launer after he's been turned into one of the creatures.

Michael Granger portrayed "Frank Buchanan". Granger was normally cast as a gangster, Western bad guy, or even as a Native American. He was "Ajawac" in 1952's "Hiawatha", "Sitting Bull" in 1953's "Fort Vengence", and "Chief Mike" in 1954's "Battle of Rogue River".

Gregory Gaye portrayed "Dr. Wilhelm Steigg". Gaye started acting in 1928 and during the 1930's was both a leading man and supporting lead in "B" films and several "A" lists. With his Russian accent, he was born in St. Petersburg, he appeared in films like Greta Garbo's 1939 "Ninotchka" and the same years "The Three Musketeers". However, in the 1940's Gaye started getting roles as a Nazi, or a Russian partisan. 



Above Gregory Gaye and Michael Granger observed a planned murder through the eyes of one of the creatures broadcast onto the television screen.

Tristram Coffin portrayed "District Attorney MacGraw". Coffin started acting in 1939 and was in the first "Dick Tracy" serial, "Dick Tracy's G-Men". He appeared in "B" Westerns and Detective drama's, but he was also the hero fighting Bela Lugosi in 1942's "The Corpse Vanishes".

However, it was portraying the detective hero and inventor "Jeffrey King" that the actor is best remembered for, in the Republic serial "King of the Rocket Men". Coffin was the first actor to put on the flying rocket suit. Which in 1991 the Walt Disney Corporation parodied in "The Rocketeer". My article "Republic Pictures: THE ROCKET MAN CLIFF HANGERS" can be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2019/09/republic-pictures-rocket-man-cliff.html



Above Trisram Coffin looks on as Richard Denning investigates.

The Plot:

Screenplay writer Curt Siodmak created a Zombie movie based upon a "Popular Science Magazine" article about tests being conducted on the human brain. Take away the "Science Fiction-Horror" aspect of the plot and the viewer has a tight Los Angeles Police Department Crime Lab story about a serial killer. Something right off the popular television series "Dragnet".

The film opens at a casino owned by gambler-crime figure "Hennesy". Who is getting the nights receipts and starts to place them in his safe. When through the window a man, unknown to him, comes into "Hennesy's" office and murders him, but the voice coming out the unknown killer is familiar and states his promise to get him.



Switch to the police at the scene and criminologist "Dr. Chet Walker" examining the body. The only clue to the killer are his fingerprints and they don't make sense, because they belong to a dead man.




The background is revealed that Crime Boss "Frank Buchanan", after a trial, was able to escape the country to Europe. There he met ex-Nazi Scientist "Wilhelm Steigg" and returned to the United States to get revenge on all those involved. "Steigg" has created an electronic brain that can be used to bring a dead man back to life in a Zombie like state and "Buchanan" can see through their eyes and speak in his own voice through the dead person's mouth.




Another murder takes place and another. "Chet Walker" and his good friend "Captain Harris" finally discover the connection to "Buchanan". Even, if the truth to how the murders are being committed is a little too fantastic to believe.



"Chet" shows "Dave", the District Attorney and Police Chief an x-ray taken on the head of one of the zombies re-killed by the police.





He explains how it appears a substitute electronic brain has been added to the body. Meanwhile, "Frank Buchanan" and "Dr. Steigg" continue preparing their next murder.



One of the murder victims is "District Attorney MacCraw" in his garage sitting in his car.



Shortly, after that murder, "Buchanan" and "Steigg" attempt to kill "Walker", but in error get "Captain Harris" instead. Which they take advantage of by turning him into one of the Zombies to be used to kill his friend "Chet Walker".



However, the Zombie "Dave", goes to "Chet's" house and meets his daughter and instead of killing her and her mother. He leaves as if some semblance of the real "Dave" remains inside the brain.



"Chet" comes home and sees "Dave" starting to leave and gets into the car with him,



"Chet" begins a conversation that leads to getting through to the real "Dave". Next, "Chet", brings "Dave" to a hospital for examination.





"Dave" is let go and followed to the hide-out of "Buchanan" and a battle with the Zombies takes place. Both the crime boss and Nazi scientist meet their deaths.







Lane Chandler, Richard Denning, and Pierre Watkin in Creature with the Atom Brain (1955)


"Creature with the Atom Brain" is part of my comprehensive article "ZOMBIES and Their Motion Picture Variations 1932 to 1968" at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2019/02/zombies-and-their-motion-picture.html



Probably as talkie as "Target Earth" was Richard Denning's next Science Fiction entry.


THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED released December 1955




This motion picture was another pre-"American International Pictures" release. As the name was yet to be used. The production was from the indie "Golden State Productions" and was distributed by "American Releasing Corporation". Which was founded on April 2, 1954, by Nicholson and Arkoff, and was still a year away from its name change to "AIP". When "The Day the World Ended" was released.

There were four producers on this feature. James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff I've already mention. Next was Alex Gordon and this film was his third production. Over time Gordon's films would include 1956's "The She Creature", the same years rock and roll feature "Shake, Rattle & Rock!" and 1959's "Atomic Submarine".

The fourth producer was also the feature's director Roger Corman. At this time Corman's name had been associated with films such as 1954's "The Monster from the Ocean's Floor", the 1954 Film-Noir, "The Fast and the Furious", starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone, 1955's "The Beast with a Million Eyes" and the 1955 Western, "Five Guns West", starring John Lund, Dorothy Malone and "Touch" Connors before he became "Mike Connors".

The special effects and monster costume were by, always overshadowed, Paul Blaisdell. Who also wore the suit. Among his other work are 1956's "It Conquered the World", 1957's "Invasion of the Saucer Men" and 1958's "It, the Terror from Beyond Space".

The Cast:

Richard Denning portrayed "Rick".

Richard Denning in Day the World Ended (1955)


Lori Nelson portrayed "Louise Maddison". She was a Universal Pictures contract player and her first motion picture was the 1952 classic Western, "Bend of the River", directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julia Adams and Rock Hudson. That same year she appeared as the Ozark daughter, "Rosie Kettle", in "Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair" and as "Barbara Atwood" in "Francis Goes to West Point". That starred Donald O'Connor and "Francis the Talking Mule". Nelson's break came with fourth billing in 1955's "Underwater!". The three stars were Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland and Richard Egan. Nelson followed that film by co-starring with John Agar in 1955's "Revenge of the Creature". The second film of the "Creature from the Black Lagoon" trilogy.



Adele Jergens portrayed "Ruby". Jergens was a tough talking, no nonsense, "B" leading actress from the 1940's. He films include co-starring in the 1944 Western "The Black Arrow", co-starring with Evelyn Keyes and Phil Silvers in the comedy adventure, 1945's "A Thousand and One Nights", and co-starring with George Brent and Joan Blondell in the 1947 comedy mystery "The Corpse Came C.O.D.". In 1949 Jergens co-starred with Glenn Langan, 1957's "The Amazing Colossal Man", in the adventure film "Treasure of Monte Cristo".

Touch Connors portrayed "Tony Lamont". In 1957 he became "Touch Lash Connors" and by years end was billed as "Michael Connors". In 1967 with his television show "Mannix". His name became "Mike Connors". For the record he was born Krekor Ohanian in Fresno, California, in 1925.

Mike Connors and Adele Jergens in Day the World Ended (1955)

Above Adele Jergens and Touch Connors.

Paul Birch portrayed "Jim Maddison". Birch appeared in several classic Roger Corman features and the 1958 cult classic, "Queen of Outer Space", starring Eric Fleming and Zsa Zsa Garbor. My article "PAUL BIRCH: Roger Corman's Intergalactic Vampire" is found at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2018/04/paul-birch-roger-cormans-intergalactic.html



Above Paul Birch with his daughter portrayed by Lori Nelson.

Raymond Hatton portrayed "Pete". Hatton started acting in 1909 and was featured in Lon Chaney's 1925 "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and other forgotten silents, but he is remembered as a "B" Cowboy Side-Kick. Those roles started in the 1930's for Warner Baxter, John Wayne, Randolph Scott, John Mack Brown, Buster Crabbe and others.



Raymond Hatton is on the far right.

Paul Dubov portrayed "Radek". Character actor Dubov had started in films in 1938 and would become a familiar face, if again not a name, on many television Westerns and Dramas. 




The Plot:

The screenplay was by Lou Rusoff. Who would also write, among others, both 1956's "The She Creature" and "It Conquered the World". In 1959 he wrote the teen film "The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow" and in 1963 reworked that teen hot rod gang screenplay into a story about California surfers. The movie was called "Beach Party" and with third and fourth billing, behind Robert Cummings and Dorothy Malone, introduced the team of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. 

This screenplay starts with stock images of Atomic Bombs going off supposedly on "The Day the World Ended" in an atomic war. Switch to a box canyon that former Navy Commander "Jim Maddison" lives in his house with his daughter 'Louise". Whose fiance left the house, after the war ended, to investigate and never returned.

"Commander Maddison" was involved in the earlier testing of the bomb after the end of World War Two and speculated on what a nuclear war might look like. Their home is stockpiled with several food and other items for the planned three of, his daughter, her fiance and himself. Things do not go as planned.

To begin with geologist "Rick" finds his way to the house. As the story progresses "Rick" and "Jim" become close and "Louise" is falling in love with "Rick", but still coping with her missing fiance. "Maddison" has a ham radio set and has been attempting to locate other survivors.



"Jim's" concern is the radiation level starting three quarters of the way up the canyon's wall. Another concern is the lack of rain and although there is a fresh water pool near the house, if it should rain then even the house would be contaminated from the lingering fall-out and shortly, thereafter, the three of them would die from radiation poisoning.



Now two more people, "Ruby" and "Tony Lamont" make their way to the house. "Jim" wants to send them away, because their food supply would be cut short by the increase of two more people. Then a third shows up, an old prospector named "Pete" with his mule. 

Tension is created between "Rick" and "Tony", because the two-bit gangster wants to run the place and even with the goodhearted "Ruby" is thinking of exchanging her for "Louise".



Adding to the problems are the dreams "Louise" is having about something watching her.



Now "Radek" arrives and by his facial features it become obvious to "Jim" that he is changing from exposure to the radiated air above the canyon. "Radek" graves raw meat to eat and "Jim" now shows "Rick" some drawings he made of test animals retrieved after an atomic bomb test. They all are mutating and the monkey has developed a third eyes in its forehead and two finger like protrusions on both shoulders.

"Louise" and "Ruby" go for a swim, but cut it short, when something seems to be watching them.

 

The mutant, that they do not see, is a danger and will kill anything contaminated by the fallout. It can't eat anything that isn't and has to stay away from the fresh water swimming pool.

"Pete's" mule disappears with "Radek" and he goes after it and is killed. While the mutant now kills "Radek".



Next the mutant kidnaps "Louise", but while "Jim" and "Rick" hunt for them. The creature takes "Louise" to the fresh water lake and puts her down and starts to leave. It becomes clear that the mutation is really her missing fiance. 

Paul Blaisdell and Lori Nelson in Day the World Ended (1955)

Paul Blaisdell and Lori Nelson in Day the World Ended (1955)

Paul Birch and Richard Denning in Day the World Ended (1955)



While the mutant walks away and "Jim" and "Rick" bringg "Louise" back to the house. There "Tony" stabs "Ruby" to death and confronts "Jim". Who is slowly dying from radiation poisoning and can't walk very well. "Tony" now steals "Jim's" pistol and awaits to ambush "Rick".

Paul Birch and Mike Connors in Day the World Ended (1955)

However, the weaken "Jim" produces a second pistol and kills "Tony". It starts to rain and "Jim" runs some tests and realizes it's uncontaminated. As the mutant dies from the rain,  "Jim" tells "Louise" and "Rick" he will be dead within a few days and for the two to go out of the canyon into the now cleanse world and start their own life.

The film ends with "Louise" and "Rick" walking up the hill and the words appearing on screen:

The Beginning


Lou Rusoff provided the screenplay for the 1956 Western "The Oklahoma Women" that was directed by Roger Corman and starred Richard Denning and Peggie Castle. She would be teamed with Peter Graves in 1957's "The Beginning of the End". There was forgotten a prison film with Denning as a Priest and co-starring Adele Jergens and some television show appearances brought Denning to a Mexican-American co-production.


THE BLACK SCORPION released October 11, 1957




Above the United Kingdom poster with the "Cert X", nobody under 16 admitted.

"The Black Scorpion" was one of the last giant insect and bug movies of the 1950's. These films started in 1954 with "THEM!". For those of my readers interested in these special effects features. My article "THEM!', 'TARANTULA', 'THE MONSTER FROM GREEN HILL', 'THE DEADLY MANTIS', 'THE BEGINNING OF THE END', 'THE BLACK SCORPION', and 'THE EARTH VS THE SPIDER': In the 1950's Insects Bugged America" will find the article located at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/03/them-tarantula-monster-from-green-hell.html

The Special Effect's were by Willis O'Brien. O'Brien is known for 1933's "King Kong" and 1949's Oscar Winning "Mighty Joe Young". He was also the mentor of Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen. As with "Mighty Joe Young" that O'Brien used Harryhausen to actually animated his creation.

To do the actual Stop Motion Animation for "The Black Scorpion" Willis O'Brien used Peter Peterson. Who was a part of his team on the 1949 feature. Very noticeable are some scorpion sequences that were not completed with the actual animated arachnids and are just the black mattes due to budget cuts.

Willis O'Brien started Stop Motion Animation as far back as 1918 and his 1925 version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World" is a classic. Prior to this picture O'Brien was involved in a  version of his "Gwangi" story, 1956's "The Beast of Hollow Mountain". My article "WILLIS O'BRIEN: 1925's 'The Lost World" and the Story of Gwangi" may be read at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2020/06/willis-obrien-1925s-lost-world-and.html

The Cast:

Richard Denny portrayed "Dr. Hank Scott".




Mara Corday portrayed "Teresa Alvarez". Hispanic character's name aside, Mara Corday, was born Marilyn Watts in Santa Monica, California. Among her other feature films were 1955's "Tarantula", and 1957's "The Giant Claw".




Carlos Rivas portrayed "Dr. Arturo Ramos". Rivas in 1956 played Rita Moreno's lover in the movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I" starring Yul Bryner and Deborah Kerr. The same year he was in "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" co-starring Guy Madison and Patricia Medina. In 1959 Carlos Rivas appeared in several episodes of Walt Disney's television series "Zorro" and in 1969 was in both John Wayne's "True Grit" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Topaz".



Above Carlos Rivas and Richard Denning

Mario Navarro portrayed "Juanito". The eight years old actor had been in 1956's "The Beast of Hollow Mountain" and would be one of the young village boys that befriended Charles Bronson in 1960's "The Magnificent Seven".




The Plot:

A major Earthquake strikes Mexico and creates a new volcano. Geologists "Dr. Hank Scott" and "Dr. Arturo Ramos" have been sent to investigate the damage and the new volcano. The two come across a seemingly deserted village and a police car that couldn't have been destroyed during the Earthquake. 







The Black Scorpion (1957)



The Black Scorpion (1957)



Above "Dr. Scott" and the only apparent survivor, a baby, is taken to the church and "Father Delgado", played by Pedro Galvin, in the nearby town of San Lorenzo. The two now begin their survey of the area as Mexican soldiers arrive under the leadership of "Major Cosio", played by Arturo Martinez, to begin relief efforts.



As the two geologists survey the area they notice a horse throw off its rider and run away. The two go to the riders aide and meet local rancho owner "Teresa Alvarez". She thanks them, learning of their work, "Teresa" offers her rancho as a comfortable base of operations.



The two geologists accept and meet a young boy working the rancho named "Juanito". Now slowly begins a romance between "Teresa" and "Hank".


"Hank" and "Arturo" take some blood and tissue samples to "Dr. Delacruz", played by Pascual Garcia Pena, in San Lorenzo. He identifies them as coming from a scorpion of gigantic size. 



Meanwhile two telephone lineman are attacked and killed by the scorpions.



Then the scorpions move on San Lorenzo, but "Major Cosio" and his men are unable to stop them. The scorpions return to their underground cavern in the newly created volcano.

"Hank", "Teresa" and "Arturo" fly to Mexico City to meet renowned entomologist "Dr. Velasco", played by Carlo Muzquiz. 





"Dr. Velasco" needs "Hank" and "Arturo" to find a way into the cavern after they all return to San Lorenzo. Meanwhile, the scorpions attack a train on a bridge crossing and in a frenzy attack one another.



Not to say the budget was cheap, but note the coal car says "Lionel Lines" on it.













The entrance to the cavern is located and "Hank" and "Arturo" will enter it. This sequence was very close to the one Willis O'Brien started to create for the 1933 "King Kong", and again because of budget and time restraints, was shorten and in some released copies cut out entirely. When "Kong" was reconstructed not all that sequence, as originally released by RKO, could even be located.







Above "Major Cosio", "Dr. Velasco" and "Teresa" watch "Hank" and "Arturo" lowered in a basket by the crane into the cavern. What they don't know is "Juanito" is hiding in the basket.













In the end the three make it out safely and the army seals the entrance and destroys the cavern. Everyone feels a sense of relief and enjoys the nightlife of Mexico City, but then word comes that the largest of the scorpions escaped and is heading for the city.

The plan is to lure "The Black Scorpion" into the sports stadium and shoot a rod attached to an electrical cable into the soft spot in its neck. Then a very large electrical charge will be sent into the scorpion to kill it.









The scorpion is killed and "Teresa" and "Hank" leave together.

Between this feature and Richard Denning's final Horror movie were his two television series "The Flying Doctor", "Michael Shayne" and two forgotten motion pictures.


TWICE-TOLD TALES released October 30, 1963



This feature is often thought to be part of Roger Corman's "Poe Series". Mainly, because its star was Vincent Price. Corman had nothing to do with the three-section movie based upon three stories by Nathaniel Hawthrone.

The feature was not released by "American International Pictures", but "Allied Artists".

The executive producer was not either James H. Nicholson, or Samuel Z. Arkoff, but Edward Small. Small started in 1927 and some of his better known films are 1934's "The Count of Monte Cristo" starring Robert Donat, the same years "The Man in the Iron Mask" starring Louis Hayward and Joan Bennett, the 1948 version of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Black Arrow" also starring Louis Hayward. Later was the excellent adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel "Witness for the Prosecution", from 1957, starring Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. Then there was 1958's cult Science Fiction film "It, the Terror from Beyond Space", 1962's "Jack the Giant Killer". The starred Kerwin Mathews and Torin Thatcher from Ray Harryhausen's 1957 "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad". Then there was the same years remake of "The Tower of London" starring Vincent Price and directed by Roger Corman. Price had been in the original 1949 RKO picture starring Basil Rathbone as "Richard III" and in the remake Price had the role. 

The screenplay was written by Robert E. Kent. He was a low "B" writer in several genres. His screenplays include the 1939 serial "Flying G-Men", the comedy from 1945 "Zombies On Broadway" with third billed Bela Lugosi, and the "Cleopatra" story from 1953 "Serpent of the Nile". That starred flaming red head Rhonda Fleming in a black wig and Raymond Burr as "Marc Anthony". That feature was directed by William Castle. Robert E. Kent wrote the excellent screenplay for 1956's "The Werewolf". That is compared favorably to Curt Siodmak's "The Wolfman" by film historians.

The picture was directed by Sidney Salkow. Salkow was a low "B" director of detective and drama's. Like many others he became a television director in the early 1950's. His movies include the 1940 and 1941 "Lone Wolf" detective films with Warren Williams as jewel thief turned detective "Michael Lanyard". Along with a few early 1950's Pirate movies.

The two hour screenplay was divided into "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", "Rappacchi's Daughter", and the "House of the Seven Gables". Vincent Price is the only actor to appear in all three stories as "Alex Medbourne", "Dr. Giacomo Rappacchi", and "Gerald Pyncheon".

Richard Denning was in the last, "The House of the Seven Gables", portraying "Jonathan Maulle".

Richard Denning in Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Beverly Garland portrayed "Alice Pyncheon". Garland had co-starred in Roger Corman's 1956 "It, Conquered the World" and 1957's "Not of this Earth". She was also in 1959's "The Alligator People", but is known for starring in the 1957 through 1958 television police drama "Decoy". She  portrayed Bing Crosby's wife on "The Bing Crosby Show", 1964 through 1965, Fred MacMurray's wife on "My Three Sons", 1969 through 1972, and appeared in nine episodes of 1977's "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".



Above Beverly Garland and Richard Denning.

Jacqueline deWitt portrayed "Hannah Pyncheon" the sister of "Gerald". deWitt started her film career in producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur's 1943 "The Leopard Man", following that picture in different "B" and "A" character roles. Among these were Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 "Spellbound" starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, that same years "Saratoga Truck" starring Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper, 1950's "The Damned Don't Cry" starring Joan Crawford and 1955's "All That Heaven Allows" starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. Then like so many others deWitt turned to television programming for a living.



Above left Vincent Price and Jacqueline deWitt. Above right Beverly Garland and Richard Denning.

The Plot of the "House of the Seven Gables".

After being absence from the family house for 17 years "Gerald Pyncheon" returns with his wife "Alice". His sister, "Hannah", has been living in the house all this time and knows its secrets. She tells "Alice" about the curse that "Matthew Mullie" put on the "Pyncheon" men for cheating him out of the house.

"Jonathan Mullie", "Matthew Mullie's" descendant, arrives and "Gerald" offers him the house in return for the location of a vault that contains valuable documents and deeds. However, "Jonathan" refuses and "Alice" begins to be haunted by the spirit of the house. Which will lead her to the cellar and a map of the location of the vault. 



"Gerald" followed "Alice" and knows about the map. He murders "Hannah" to become the sole heir to the house and the deeds within the vault.



"Gerald" now traps "Alice" in the cellar and leaves with the map. He follows it to the study and opens the door to the vault he has sought, but just as he does a skeletal hand comes out and kills him.



"Jonathan" arrives and finds "Alice" in the cellar.



The house starts to shake and the two make it out, before it collapses.

In 1964 Richard Denning co-starred as the father of Debbie Watsonon the short lived television series "Karen" and then he became the governor of Hawaii on "Hawaii Five-O".

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