Merian C. Cooper Reviews

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The Last Days of Pompeii

Review No Description Available.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Rating: NR
Release Date: 22-NOV-2005
Media Type: DVD
The Last Days of Pompeii (1984)

Review Fresh off their monumental success with King Kong, producer Merian Cooper and director Ernest Schoedsack teamed again on The Last Days of Pompeii, another big-scale offering with a special-effects emphasis. Nominally based on the Bulwer-Lytton book, the film invents a new storyline much in the spirit of the Cecil B. DeMille religioso-melodrama school. Preston Foster plays a pacifist blacksmith whose life is ruined by fate; he turns his fighting skills to the gladiatorial arena and raises a foster son. A cameo appearance by Jesus Christ affects the boy but not the man, and it all comes a-cropper years later when Mount Vesuvius gets restless outside Pompeii's city limits. Fond childhood memories of the volcano's eruption should be tempered by the fact that the effects (designed by Kong man Willis O'Brien) are limited to the final 20 minutes of the film, and that the preceding 75 minutes are a slow ride indeed. This film's creakiness makes you appreciate how good DeMille was at whipping up entertainment out of historical yarns. One definite bright spot: Basil Rathbone, bringing his equine deliberation to the role of Pontius Pilate. --Robert Horton
The Sign of the Cross

Review KING KONG COLLECTION - DVD Movie
Last Days of Pompeii

Review The two features on this Blu-ray publication honor the extraordinary lives of filmmaking team Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack as their distant, difficult and dangerous productions evolved from pure documentary (Grass), through semi-documentary (Chang) and semi-fiction (The Four Feathers), to their fictional apogee in King Kong (1933). The Most Dangerous Game (1932, 63 min.) is a superb pre-Code action-adventure film. Based upon a famous short story by Richard Connell, it follows big game hunter, Bob Rainsford, (Joel McCrea), as he becomes quarry for another, the opulently deranged Count Zaroff (floridly played by Leslie Banks). Utilizing some of the amazing sets made for King Kong, the film is sometimes thought of as a place-holder to keep key cast and crew available during Kong s lengthy animation schedule. This included actors Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson and Steve Clemento, as well as editor Archie Marshek, composer Max Steiner, sound effects expert Murray Spivak, illustrators Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe, and optical effects wizards Vernon Walker and Linwood Dunn. The strong story and theme, excellent production values, vigorous action and fast pacing make The Most Dangerous Game an exciting and more than satisfying entertainment after eighty years. Both picture and sound are scrupulously restored in high definition by Lobster Films from the original 35mm studio fine grain master positive, and there is a full-length optional audio essay by Rick Jewell, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of RKO Radio Pictures: A Titan Is Born (University of California Press, 2012). GOW (1931, 61 min.) is not only a true curiosity but also in many ways a key influence on later Cooper and Schoedsack productions including King Kong. The footage in Gow was produced by Edward A. Salisbury, a wealthy British adventurer, who in 1920 set sail in an 80-ton yacht equipped with a motion picture laboratory to, in his words, catch and hold for history a photo record of the fast-disappearing races of the South Seas Islands. Cooper and Schoedsack were among the cameramen on this two-year expedition that documented genuine head-hunters and cannibals along its route. The material was originally released as four separate films in the silent era and was consolidated as the film Gow, The Headhunter for an illustrated lecture by expedition member William Peck. Peck recorded his own cringe-inducing commentary in 1931. Gow was reissued as an exploitation film into the 1950s under the title Cannibal Island, but it was made with a serious purpose. True to Salisbury s intent, it indeed documents vanished cultures and is brilliantly illuminated here with an exclusive audio essay by Matthew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University and author of The Island Melanesians. Gow is mastered for this edition in high definition from the original 35mm fine grain master positive BONUS FEATURES: In addition to the two full-length audio essays, this set also features a booklet containing notes by Merian C. Cooper as quoted in David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ronald Haver; an essay by Emerson College professor, Eric Schaefer, author of Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! : A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959; and a slideshow with audio excerpts from an original interview with Merian C. Cooper conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow.
Caltiki The Immortal Monster (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]

Review No Description Available.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Rating: NR
Release Date: 22-NOV-2005
Media Type: DVD
Pompeii - The Last Day/Colosseum - A Gladiator's Story

Review Fresh off their monumental success with King Kong, producer Merian Cooper and director Ernest Schoedsack teamed again on The Last Days of Pompeii, another big-scale offering with a special-effects emphasis. Nominally based on the Bulwer-Lytton book, the film invents a new storyline much in the spirit of the Cecil B. DeMille religioso-melodrama school. Preston Foster plays a pacifist blacksmith whose life is ruined by fate; he turns his fighting skills to the gladiatorial arena and raises a foster son. A cameo appearance by Jesus Christ affects the boy but not the man, and it all comes a-cropper years later when Mount Vesuvius gets restless outside Pompeii's city limits. Fond childhood memories of the volcano's eruption should be tempered by the fact that the effects (designed by Kong man Willis O'Brien) are limited to the final 20 minutes of the film, and that the preceding 75 minutes are a slow ride indeed. This film's creakiness makes you appreciate how good DeMille was at whipping up entertainment out of historical yarns. One definite bright spot: Basil Rathbone, bringing his equine deliberation to the role of Pontius Pilate. --Robert Horton
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) [Blu-ray]

Review KING KONG COLLECTION - DVD Movie
One Million Years B.C. [Blu-ray]

Review The two features on this Blu-ray publication honor the extraordinary lives of filmmaking team Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack as their distant, difficult and dangerous productions evolved from pure documentary (Grass), through semi-documentary (Chang) and semi-fiction (The Four Feathers), to their fictional apogee in King Kong (1933). The Most Dangerous Game (1932, 63 min.) is a superb pre-Code action-adventure film. Based upon a famous short story by Richard Connell, it follows big game hunter, Bob Rainsford, (Joel McCrea), as he becomes quarry for another, the opulently deranged Count Zaroff (floridly played by Leslie Banks). Utilizing some of the amazing sets made for King Kong, the film is sometimes thought of as a place-holder to keep key cast and crew available during Kong s lengthy animation schedule. This included actors Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson and Steve Clemento, as well as editor Archie Marshek, composer Max Steiner, sound effects expert Murray Spivak, illustrators Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe, and optical effects wizards Vernon Walker and Linwood Dunn. The strong story and theme, excellent production values, vigorous action and fast pacing make The Most Dangerous Game an exciting and more than satisfying entertainment after eighty years. Both picture and sound are scrupulously restored in high definition by Lobster Films from the original 35mm studio fine grain master positive, and there is a full-length optional audio essay by Rick Jewell, Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and author of RKO Radio Pictures: A Titan Is Born (University of California Press, 2012). GOW (1931, 61 min.) is not only a true curiosity but also in many ways a key influence on later Cooper and Schoedsack productions including King Kong. The footage in Gow was produced by Edward A. Salisbury, a wealthy British adventurer, who in 1920 set sail in an 80-ton yacht equipped with a motion picture laboratory to, in his words, catch and hold for history a photo record of the fast-disappearing races of the South Seas Islands. Cooper and Schoedsack were among the cameramen on this two-year expedition that documented genuine head-hunters and cannibals along its route. The material was originally released as four separate films in the silent era and was consolidated as the film Gow, The Headhunter for an illustrated lecture by expedition member William Peck. Peck recorded his own cringe-inducing commentary in 1931. Gow was reissued as an exploitation film into the 1950s under the title Cannibal Island, but it was made with a serious purpose. True to Salisbury s intent, it indeed documents vanished cultures and is brilliantly illuminated here with an exclusive audio essay by Matthew Spriggs, Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University and author of The Island Melanesians. Gow is mastered for this edition in high definition from the original 35mm fine grain master positive BONUS FEATURES: In addition to the two full-length audio essays, this set also features a booklet containing notes by Merian C. Cooper as quoted in David O. Selznick's Hollywood by Ronald Haver; an essay by Emerson College professor, Eric Schaefer, author of Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! : A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959; and a slideshow with audio excerpts from an original interview with Merian C. Cooper conducted by film historian Kevin Brownlow.

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