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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Detective > Comedy > British > Outer Space > Science Fiction > Fantasy > Spy > Romance > Adventure > The Alphabet Murders (1966/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/First Men In The Moon (1964/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959 remaster/Fox/Twilight Time

The Alphabet Murders (1966/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/First Men In The Moon (1964/Sony/Columbia/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959 remaster/Fox/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/That Man From Rio (1964)/Up To His Ears (1966/Cohen Media Blu-ray Set)

Picture: C+/Blu-rays: B Sound: C+/B/B/B-/B- Extras: C-/B-/B-/B- Films: B/B-/C+/C+/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The First Men In The Moon and Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959 remaster) Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, are limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while The Alphabet Murders DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here are some very name genre films for you to know about and see...

Frank Tashlin's film of Agatha Christie's The Alphabet Murders (1966) is a very special gem of a detective mystery film. Made by MGM's British division when they had Margaret Rutherford making a series of decent Miss Jane Marple feature films (reviewed elsewhere on this site), former comedy animation genius Tashlin moved into live action filmmaking (only Brad Bird very, very recently has done the same and succeeded) and made some great, underrated films as a result. Re-teaming with the underrated Tony Randall from their darkly hilarious Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (also reviewed on this site), they decided to make a film of one of Christie's greatest books, the 1935 hit The A.B.C. Murders.

Instead of doing it in an outright manner, they filled the script with little twists, turns, in-jokes, gags, intertextual references and a love of the genre and Christie that has rarely been equalled in any film or TV adaptation of the work of the all-time Queen Of Crime. They get started in a comical way and for 90 energetic, amusing minutes, the film starts and never stops. Though some were disappointed that it was not more like the later 1974 Murder On The Orient Express, it does not matter because it captures the spirit of Poirot that has been lacking in later adaptations (sorry David Suchet) which can miss the finer points of what Christie achieved, still the biggest selling female writer of all time and creator of two of the greatest fictional detectives of all time.

Warner Archive has thankfully issued the film on DVD as the early 1980s BBC Marple series seasons hit Blu-ray and the film also stars Anita Ekberg, Robert Morley, Guy Rolfe, James Villiers, Clive Morton, Cyril Workham, Patrick Newell (just before joining The Avengers) and a young Julian Glover already becoming cast on the villainous side. This was not enough of a hit to spawn any sequels or series of Poirot films, but for all involved, a real gem to be proud of. Definitely see it!

Sadly, the Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Nathan Juran's First Men In The Moon (1964) starts out as what will seem like a serious space adventure about the first time man lands on the moon, complete with news reports, ballyhoo and science, but things quickly take a humorous, even bizarre twist when a dirty British Union Jack flag is found just as the astronauts are to celebrate. How did it get there? We land up in a home of the elderly where an eccentric man who has been known for telling wild stories might be telling the truth after all. The rest of the film (save the last few scenes) is told in flashback at the end of the 19th Century where a man experimenting with things scientific (Lionel Jeffries in fine form) claims to have a new flying machines he is preparing, though it looks like a metal ball with spikes.

Neighbors (Edward Judd and Martha Hyer) brush it off, worried more about him blowing up the neighborhood despite the vast yards each home has, but soon they are all inside the contraption and LIFTOFF!!!

As soon as the comedy kicks in, this film joins the cycle of British whimsy films made at the time (think Around The World In 80 Days, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even musicals like Oliver!) That is not always counted since it is an outright fantasy film with science fiction elements and some of the best stop-motion animation in the long, great history of work by the ingenious Ray Harryhausen. Things get eerie when the trip gets to the moon and though some effects may have dated, others have not and many visuals are as creative and even visionary as they are charming. This is a little gem worth going out of your way for based on the H.G Wells book from 1901! Get it before they run out of them and look for an uncredited Peter Finch too.

Extras include another nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and another solid Julie Kirgo essay, while the Blu-ray adds Randall William Cook introducing the film, Tomorrow The Moon featurette, Original Theatrical Trailers, a feature length audio commentary track with Cook and visual effects master Ray Harryhausen and an Isolated Music Score track of the exceptional music by Laurie Johnson.

Henry Levin's Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959) sold out in its first limited edition Blu-ray release from Twilight Time sold out, though it was a rather basic edition and had a mixed transfer. Now, Fox has remastered the film in a new, upgraded edition and it too is another Limited Edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time. Here is our coverage of the older edition, which sold out quickly...


That edition was a little rough, but it seemed the DeLuxe Color film was looking about as good as it could without a serious upgrade and money to fix it if a newer print could be found. Now we have a new edition with a much better image and sound that is a major improvement as well.

Extras this time include a slight variation in art of the booklet from the original release with the same Julie Kirgo essay, Original Theatrical Trailer and Isolated Music Score of Bernard Herrmann's music for the film, but this remastered release adds a new feature-length audio commentary with lead actress Diane Baker, Film Scholar Nick Redman and Steven S. Smith, who is also a Herrmann scholar. That makes this the version to get, though it too will soon sell out, so get it if you are a fan.

Last but not least are two broad comedy films by Philip De Broca with Jean-Paul Belmondo that finally gave De Broca a hit in That Man From Rio (1964) with Francoise Dorleac and Adolfo Celi (a year before the Bond blockbuster Thunderball) in a film that owes something to the Bond films, Tintin comic strip, Donen's Charade (1963, reviewed elsewhere on this site), Topkapi, Rififi, The Thin Man and romanic comedy. Belmondo plays a military man who accidentally lands up on a plane to Rio where a crazy spy case is unfolding and he gets entangled without knowing it.

Beautifully shot and well made, it is far more about the comedy and any real action, suspense or strong plotting take a backseat to the whirlwind energy intended. That made it a hit, but not necessarily a great film. Despite its success, De Broca did not want to make a direct sequel, so he settled for Up To His Ears (1966), pumping up some of the action, leaving the free-flow behind and signing Bond Gal Ursula Andress as a sexy dancer who lands up with a bored rich guy (Belmondo again) in a different action spy romp.

Unfortunately, the tradeoff weighs it down a bit and it never takes off, but I liked how it was different and not just a tired repeat of the first. However, De Broca was getting disinterested in genre work and that would be the end of these films, but Cohen has issued the films as a double

Blu-ray set fans will enjoy and those who have not seen it should catch so nicely restored.

Extras include Theatrical Trailers (original and 2014 reissue versions) for both films, while Rio adds three making of featurettes (The Adventures Of Adrien: The Catalan Affair, Silly And Serious: The Collaboration Between Georges Delerue And Philippe de Broca & Brothers Of Cinema: The Collaboration Of Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Philippe de Broca) and Ears adds two (That Man From Hong Kong & From Cartouche to Cavaleur: The Collaboration of Jean Rochefort and Philippe de Broca).

The 1.78 X 1 black and white image on Alphabet looks good from a good print with some nice moments of detail, but it still lands up in last place here by default because the Blu-ray presentations (which I wish this were issued in as well) despite some fine shots throughout for the format as lensed by Director of Photography Desmond Dickson, B.S.C. (De Broca's King Of Hearts, Olivier's Hamlet, Konga, Horrors Of The Black Museum, A Study In Terror (1965) and some of those Rutherford/Marple films).

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Moon (in Panavision and Pathe Color) and Earth (in CinemaScope and DeLuxe color in a new 4K scan) are impressive throughout though Earth has more distortion using the older scope lens format. Versus the older Twilight Time Blu-ray, grain is lessened, color increased, depth & detail improved and the film saved. But Moon has even more incredible color (now the best example of Pathe Color I know of on any home video format) and despite a few rough patches, is an amazing performer with plenty of demo shots, so much so I almost gave it the highest rating here. The Director of Photography here was the great Wilkie Cooper, B.S.C. (Mysterious Island, 7th Voyage Of Sinbad, Jason & The Argonauts (1964) and key color Rigg/Peel episodes of The Avengers) with stunning work as usual.

From new 2K scans, the 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Rio and Ears (in EastmanColor) look nice, though Rio is a little smoother and more refined. This is laidback Eastman Kodak with flatter color than say, Kodachrome, but both also have some great shots. It could be argued that the color is a bit undersaturated, but if so, not by much.

As for sound, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Alphabet is fine for its age, but would likely benefit from a lossless presentation as the Blu-rays here do.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Moon (apparently from its 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects from the 70mm blow-up prints of the film) and Earth (from its 4-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects from the better 35mm presentations in its original release) have been nicely updated. Moon has never sounded so good down to the Laurie Johnson score, while Earth is a seriously solid upgrade from the DTS-MA lossless 4.0 sound of the older Twilight Time Blu-ray that did not have soundstage it should have had. That leaves Rio and Ears with decent PCM 2.0 Mono that is as good as it is going to get, including the Georges Delerue music scores sonically in the middle between the other Blu-rays and the DVD.

To order The First Men In The Moon and Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959 remaster) limited edition Blu-rays, buy them while supplies last at this link:


and to order The Alphabet Murders Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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