G. Ulmer - The King Of The Bs (1939 - 1946/All Day Entertainment
DVD double set w/Strange Woman, Moon Over Harlem &
C/C-/C Sound: C/C-/C Extras: C- Films: C/C/B
the boxed set King
of the Bs,
All Day Entertainment has chosen three titles by the late director
Edgar G. Ulmer that show his career range. Strange
(1946) was a vanity project by actress Hedy Lamarr that is considered
one of the all-time bad films. Moon
is a race
with an all-star cast that is also the only feature Ulmer ever made
in 16mm. Bluebeard
(1944) is likely the most important film Ulmer ever made, arriving
one year after the original Val Lewton Cat
it offers John Carradine as the title serial killer of the
No film had even featured such a character, unless it was a mad
scientist or demonically possessed person.
place (we think) at the turn–of-the-century when a young woman
(Lamarr) keeps showing up where men die. Sure, some of them assault
her, while others are just plain idiots, but could it be her fault
when things go wrong? Even her husband, who is as young as she,
could land up dead. Are these coincidences? Is she cursed? Did she
really read the script? Lamarr was red hot at the time and did this
film through United Artists, read independent production, and she
personally hired Ulmer because she knew him. They were friends. Oh
an all black cast film that happens to have white director Ulmer
helming it. Like so many other productions of the era, the
characters are stereotypical, no matter how dignified they are
dressed, while the music is far more salvageable than the film or its
script. It was made so shockingly cheap, and on 16mm of the time,
that is somewhat remarkable for that reason, but jazz artist Sidney
Bechet is the only other standout in an otherwise poor film.
holds up very well for its age. Besides reasons aforementioned, John
Carradine is remarkable in a film that is a forerunner of so many
films to follow in the Horror and Crime genre. Of course, this
innovation had to take place in a B film, as Hollywood of the time
could not possibly handle what was an extreme character of the time.
The influence of the film surfaced as soon as Alfred Hitchcock's 1945
(reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), especially in terms of
some of the music, a flashback sequence and even camera choices.
This is Ulmer at his finest, a grossly under-seen classic that is not
too long (71 minutes), but a key film everyone needs to see.
three films are in black and white, as well as being full screen.
The condition of these prints average out, but Moon
has many problems. The print needs an amazing amount of work. 16mm
stocks of the time were not so good, so it will always have picture
limits. The sound is not in the best of shape, but both still look
like they are from DVD, not VHS…. Barely. That is why it just
escapes a D rating in both categories. The sound is lossy Dolby
Digital 1.0 Mono for all films, except lossy 2.0 Dolby Mono on
which still displays sound limitations from a problematic optical
track that cannot hold it sound when it gets loud. Chunky break up
occurs. The Harlem
sound is a mess, and Strange
has its own less severe background noise and limits, but Film Chest's
HD-upgraded DVD sounds and especially looks better, reviewed
elsewhere on this site.
are few extras, all of which could have fit on VHS. A brief Ulmer
description in a paper gatefold inside the DVD case accompanies the
Woman/Moon Over Harlem
double feature. Stills and a 6+ minutes piece by Ulmer's wife are on
the DVD. Bluebeard
offers an eight-page booklet that mostly offers the exploitation
material paperwork of the time on the film, plus a few credits
pertaining to the DVD. The DVD has a 12+ minutes piece on Ulmer and
the film, plus stills.
not a necessity, this boxed set does offer a crash course on Ulmer
and is among the DVDs All Day Entertainment has issued on the
director. At least see Bluebeard,
but enjoy what you can of the others if you get the box.