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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Thriller > Mystery > Cold War > Comedy > Heist > Horror > Supernatural > Monster > Camp > Action > Adventu > Assignment K (1968)/Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round (1966/both Sony/Columbia/Via Vision/Imprint Region Free Import Blu-rays)/Devil's Partner + Creature From The Haunted Sea (both 1961/Film Masters Blu-r

Assignment K (1968)/Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round (1966/both Sony/Columbia/Via Vision/Imprint Region Free Import Blu-rays)/Devil's Partner + Creature From The Haunted Sea (both 1961/Film Masters Blu-ray Set)/Tarzan The Ape Man (1932/MGM/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Wolf Pack (2022/Well Go Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B/B-/B-/B-/B- Sound: B- (Wolf: B) Extras: D/D/B/C+/C- Films: B-/B-/C+/C/B-/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Assignment K and Dead Heat... Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Via Vision Entertainment in Australia and can play all 4K and Blu-ray players, while Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here's a group of action thrillers, mostly restored vintage films you should all know more about...

Val Guest's Assignment K (1968) is a lesser-known spy film by the legendary journeyman director who has made several of them, including his participation in the infamous, comical 1967 version of Casino Royale, where he wrote on the screenplay and was one of no less than five directors who were credited for (trying?) to direct that semi-hit James Bond spoof. Following that up one year later with this more effective thriller about a spy (Steven Boyd) pretending to be a toy manufacturer and buyer in the industry at large, but really running a special, private, independently run spy unit.

He takes on dealing with some murderous East Bloc agents in all this and things start to become more entangled and problematic than expected, then personal to boot. The fight sequences are not bad, but the cast and locales make this worth revisiting. Camilla Sparv plays the woman he gets too personally involved with as all this is going on, with the film leaning more towards a Bond film than the likes of an Ipcress File, yet it has its moments and she more than holds her own. The supporting cast is also really good and strong, including Leo McKern (associated with Patrick McGoohan's brilliant TV spy classic The Prisoner at the same time,) Michael Redgrave, Jeremy Kemp, Jane Merrow, Basil Dignam, John Alderton, Robert Hoffman, Carl Mohner, Werner Peters, David Healy, Geoffrey Bayldon and Joachim Hansen. You may not know the names, but if you love movies or classic TV, you've likely seen them even if you cannot name them. It is an amazing cast if you know who they are.

Unfortunately, the plot falls short, cuts into Boyd's lead and has some moments that just do not work and are not believable, some of the characters doing things that do not add up or make sense. Had such moments been rewritten, this would have been a bigger, more memorable hit, but it is still an authentic, ambitious entry into the spy movie cycle of the 1960s and all serious movie and spy fans should see it at least once. Glad to see it again after so many years, restored and all.

There are sadly no extras, save the slipcase that comes with the Blu-ray case.

Bernard Girard's Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round (1966) is a fine heist thriller with James Coburn as a con artist who is just getting out of prison and already has a big money job planned for a bank at LAX (aka Los Angeles International Airport) planned in advance, but what he and his partners did not know about or count on is the arrival of a military official from the USSR (aka the former Soviet Union, now paired down to just Russia) that is arranged later. They skip abandoning the job.

Along the way, he meets a lady (Camilla Sparv again) he becomes interested in, but will he just use her too? What else can he expect, who else will he have to deal with and what else unexpected will happen? The screenplay is decent and has some interesting moments of humor, suspense and is written by mature adults for mature adults with a brain. Girard had started in feature films, only to do an amazing amount of work on TV until this film, which began a nice stint of feature films including The Mad Room, Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?, Mind Snatchers, A Name For Evil and Gone With The West, while still making more TV. He was a capable journeyman filmmaker and this is one of his best films.

The great cast also includes Aldo Ray, Nina Wayne, Robert Armstrong, Todd Armstrong, Severn Darden, Michael Strong, an uncredited Vic Tayback and look for Harrison Ford as a bellboy in a hotel. They are all good and up to the pace and energy of the film. Only a few small parts are a little off, but otherwise, it is a film that holds up better than one might expect and is worth rediscovering.

There are sadly no extras, save the slipcase that comes with the Blu-ray case.

Roger Corman's The Devil's Partner and Creature From The Haunted Sea (both 1961) are the latest double feature of Corman's work by the new Film Masters label. From the Film Group era of Corman films that helped him eventually break away from other studios and distributors, they are low budget B-movies and shamelessly so with Partner a would-be Satanic thriller where a gas station attendant (future movie and TV star Ed Nelson) has been messing with the pitchforked one more than anyone should have. Comedy legend Edgar Buchanan also turns up being more dramatic than usual, but being so naturally funny (and if anyone recognizes him from his many past film and TV appearances, or role on the huge hit TV sitcom Petticoat Junction) will be laughing unintentionally at some of his work. That will go with the other hoots you can get out of this one.

Creature wants to be a knock-off of the 1954 Universal classic Creature From The Black Lagoon, but to save money and show how little of it they had, the film begins with some Cold War nonsense about Cubans visiting the U.S. and a goofy spy plot that makes little sense, never adds up (as if one would expect it to in this case) and comes with other odd side items. By the time the monster shows up, he looks like a bad pre-Muppet rough draft that never made it to Sesame Street and we are all the better for it. Instead of being so bad its good, it is just usually bad with a few good moments, but they are few and far between. See it when you are not too tired and you might enjoy it a bit.

Extras are many include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text including a Tom Weaver essay, while the discs add a feature length audio commentary track for The Devil's Partner is by Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan and Matt Weinhold of the Monster Party podcast; theatrical-length commentary for Creature From the Haunted Sea is by fan favorite Tom Weaver, with contributions from Roger Corman, Kinta Zertuche and Larry Blamire, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures contributes Hollywood Intruders: The Filmgroup Story with Part III of the story, as well as their new interview with Roger Corman on the formation of The Filmgroup; recut trailers, based on the original theatrical trailers, an original Creature From the Haunted Sea Original Theatrical Trailer, (from 16mm archival elements scanned in 4K) and a full essay for The Devil's Partner by author Mark McGee.

W.S. Van Dyke's Tarzan The Ape Man (1932) finally gave the insanely popular novel series a movie that was as big a hit as the print hero had been. Edgar Rice Burroughs finally trusted the character to a big studio after attempting to make the films all on his own and MGM hit the bullseye when they cast Johnny Weissmuller in the title role. Though he was dumbed down to limited English speaking, he became the definitive Tarzan for decades since, even with more modern attempts, with the character becoming more popular than ever.

The film was a huge hit and spawned a series of feature films and TV series that finally ended at MGM in 1981 with the infamous Bo Derek film. Weissmuller was around for a good while, cementing the iconography, joined here by Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane and great supporting work from the perennial actor C. Aubrey Smith and then-big lead actor Neil Hamilton (Three Week Ends, Studio Murder Mystery, Dawn Patrol, Cat Creeps) as Harry Holt, who later got a second wind in his career playing Commissioner Gordon in the 1960s Adam West Batman series.

Weissmuller and O'Sullivan have chemistry and the makers keep coming up with the goods, including some interesting fighting sequences, though it also has more than a few moments that are condescending and even (proto-)racist. Still, when the film sticks to the actual storyline, it works well enough and that is why to this day, over nine decades later, it has never been totally surpassed, no matter how many have tried. MGM knew what they had and what they were doing.

The new Warner Archive Blu-ray is a solid restoration the film needed and goes well on the shelf with their other Tarzan Blu-ray releases and all the Tarzan films made since, animated included. No, Tarzan was smarter in the books, like Dr. Watson in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, et al. Still, it is a legendary film that holds up more than you'd think and everyone should see it at least once. Glad to revisit it, especially after seeing so many other versions.

Extras include an Original Theatrical Trailer, two classic animated cartoon shorts in I Wish I Had Wings and Moonlight for Two and documentary featurette Tarzan: Silver Screen King Of the Jungle. We've also reviewed plenty of Tarzan releases over the years including good and low-budget DVDs, but you can read about the best releases to date besides this disc as follows, starting with The Tarzan Vault Blu-ray set that covers a nice bit of his movie appearances prior to this 1932 film...


The 1959 MGM remake of this film on Blu-ray, with the underrated, animated 1970s Tarzan Lord Of The Jungle TV series on DVD:


Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959) Blu-ray


Tarzan's Goes To India (1962) + Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963) Blu-rays


Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan Lord Of The Apes (1983) Blu-ray


and The Legend Of Tarzan (2016) Blu-ray


Lastly we have Michael Chiang's Wolf Pack (2022) has a physician who once was in the military searching for what happened to his father, only to uncover a deadly terrorist organization and then, a plot to set off an event that could harm thousands. That turns this action/revenge tale into a bigger actioner by the end of it all and after plenty of martial arts action.

Unfortunately, this has more cliches than punches and the action is not as well shot and edited as it could be, trying for a different impact approach that does not serve the film as well as much as the makers thought. There is some money in this, but it was just not that memorable and not able to compete with similar films of the last few years, as bad as moist of them have been.

Max Zhang, Aadif Lee and Jiang Luxia lead the cast.

A trailer is the only extra.

And now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Assignment K has some minor issues in a few more spots than I would have liked, but it was shot in 2-perf Techniscope and uses the wide frame very well and effectively. It usually looks really good and the color is a plus, originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor like the actual Bond films of the time. In many cases, you can see in many places how good it must have looked in such copies.

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on Dead Heat just manages to be the best looking transfer on the list, despite being a total Eastman Color (Kodak) production and shoot, it is a very consistent looking transfer with solid color, detail and depth. This looks even better than I remembered and you even get a few demo shots. Both films are here in lossless PCM 2.0 Mono sound from their original theatrical monophonic releases and sound about as good as they ever will.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 and 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on the Corman Film Masters films can show the age of the materials used, barely surviving and from the only existing materials left on the film that somehow survived. The featurette on Creature shows that some detail and richness in the Video Black was lost on the transfers, but they are all very watchable, with the 1.33 block style 'TV' versions showing the whole frame shot and the 1.85 X 1 version giving you a closer look at some things while losing other parts of the frame, as they were both shot in what is called soft matte. That means shooting as if it would be shown on old analog TVs, but leaving space at the top and bottom knowing it would get widescreen projection. The Directors of Photography did a good on on that too. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless sound mixes on both films do their best with the surviving theatrical mono sound they had and have restored it as best they could, but these were low budget films, so only expect so much sonically.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer on the 1932 Tarzan can obviously show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and much work has been done to fix and save the film. The rough stick footage is in worse shaper and we get plenty of it, but the film looks as good as I have ever seen it and only a mint condition film print (35mm or 16mm) could look any better. Some shots with the actors really impress and the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix has been restored as well as possible, so this is the best this early sound film will ever play back.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the only current production, the HD-shot Wolf Pack, but it is still a little softer than I would have liked throughout, even when the CGI is not there. The actual look is consistent enough, but not as much as it could or should be, but some might like it. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mandarin 5.1 lossless mix has the best sound here by default, being 54 years newer than the second-newest film on the list, has a decent-if-competent-at-best sound mix with a consistent soundfield and not much more. It has some punch at times, but nothing too memorable. The combination is OK, but I wonder if a 4K version, especially with DTS: X or Dolby Atmos, be able to help this one play better.

To order either of the Imprint import Blu-rays, Assignment K and Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round, try the following links for details and how to order:

Assignment K

Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round


...and to order the Tarzan 1932 Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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