Here's where I (again) sing George Arlisspraises. I don't know another before-camera artist so meticulous, so knowing of just what registered best to moviegoers he never saw. Ringing applause over years on stage taught Arliss what effects worked best, so imagining on-set how a thousand-strong would later react came easy to him. A laugh line had no greater master. Who knewVoltaire was funnier than most that worked at comedy? I recently watched on TCM for a third or so time, and still had forgot how effective this played. Arliss for me occupies a small clutch of players whose stuff is evergreen-watchable, his well of tricks' bottom so far (by me) unreached.
What producer would today back a theatrical release about Voltaire? Past no one knowing who he was, there's anchorage of powdered wigs, poufy sleeves, etc. Arliss makes grand sport with these. Few wore costumes with such aplomb. Bits he does with props is joy unbound for watching. Quill pens, coffee service, a snuff box --- all put before GA to grand comic effect. Arliss was live action's Popeye for a throwaway line, an under-spoke aside (maybe the animated sailor, arriving in 1933, learned from George). Those unacquainted with Arliss err in assuming he was a serious ac-tor, with pitfalls that entailed. Not so. He was light and deft and readier with a quip than most clowns who tried harder. Seeing Voltaire in a crowded house would be some kind of blast. Talk about laughter as contagion --- I didn't measure Arliss pauses for crowd reaction, but I'll bet he factored them in more precisely than even Hope and Crosby later would.
Negative cost of Voltaire was $310K. That was top-end expense for Warners in 1933. Only Busby Berkeley musicals and one or two others cost more. But George Arliss was a money star. I found none of his entered in red ink save Alexander Hamilton (and thatbarely below break even). Voltaire returned $765K in world rentals. Euro revenue was always stout for Arliss. In fact, he was Warner's #1 man for overseas income. So how is it Arliss clicked as well with gum-poppers over here? Maybe it was common touch he applied despite uber-Brit-ness and high flown diction. They knew GA wasn't taking any of it too seriously and was there after all to show humblest of us a good time, which he surely did, in spades.
Voltaire sets were designed by Anton Grot. He should be credited as much as any director for the look of Warner output. Grot made program pictures look like specials. Voltaire used furniture and period knick-knack from 1927's When A Man Loves, according to Robert Fell's fine book, George Arliss: The Man Who Played God. Did Warner brothers collect antiquities during Euro trips like MGM execs? The latter was said to have gathered much across ponds for use in studio historicals. WB wouldn't attach undue importance to Voltaire and kin --- it runs only 72 minutes --- other Arlisses came in even under that (The King's Vacation an hour long). Notable too is how briefly Voltaire and kin stayed in Depression theatres, two days an average with bills shared by news of the day, a cartoon, whatever extras could make a dime seem money's worth.
There was confidence enough not to mislead patrons beyond adding The Affairs Of ... before the title. His public surely knew that whatever affairs an Arliss as Voltaire engaged would be political ones, romance confined as often was case to his being Dan Cupid for younger players. A WB pressbook made suggestions for selling, these not necessarily heeded, though I'd like to think at least a few showmen tied-inwith book merchants to promote The Best Known Works Of Voltaire in its bargain-priced eight volume edition. Arliss was a modern Voltaire after all, his dialogue mightier than swords wielded by other leading men. You'd not accuse 30's patronage of narrow tastes so long as Arliss clicked. I'm only surprised Voltaire was his last at Warners. Did GA, like George Bancroft at Paramount, price himself out of contract renewal? WB would blanch at terrific receipts rival Twentieth-Century Pictures took with The House Of Rothschild and two further Arliss hits the newly-formed and Zanuck-run company produced (according to Fells' book, Warners lodged complaint before the Academy Board for 20th having conducted a "talent raid").
Publicity positioned Arliss as a stickler for dignity and decency, and indeed, his vehicles could as easily have fallen to either side of Code enforcement without notice. Said Voltaire's press release: He allows nothing suggestive or vulgar to appear in any production with which his name is to be associated. He never swears on the screen. Acknowledging GA as being human however, he has been known to do so in real life. Interesting here was WB having forgotten Arliss' "She would probably have been a damn nuisance" curtain line from 1930's The Green Goddess, a finish that surely would have been modified had Code edicts been observed that year as resolutely as they would be after mid-1934.
THE BLACK BIRD (1926)--- My standing rule re
Chaney reads thus: All footage with him is of interest, even scraps off the floor.
Does any personality other than senior Lon command rapt attention for mere
fragments when they're rediscovered? I'm reminded of bits thatKevin Brownlow
put into his LC documentary to which there was keen reaction --- a reel from
otherwise missing Thunder, a snippet of Chaney on a dance floor --- whatever exists of
him is precious. Talk all we please about weakness of his MGM features, not
exempting ones directed by legend Tod Browning, it's still Chaney, and he
compels whatever aridness of surroundings. The Black Bird is actually one of
the better ones. Lon performs again in dual capacity, so there's two flavors of
bizarre, one face a familiar crook guise, the other a twisted twin with
deformity to take breath away from even Chaney-goers who'd seen his 999 other
Turns out both are the same Chaney of course, his
transforms back and forth a chance to observe Jekyll-Hyding on LC's part that
make us regret he never played that role. Merciful heavens --- did Lon throw an
arm and leg out of joint to enact his cripple here? Audiences might have
thought so for body gymnastic done head-to-toe before us --- show me animal or
vegetable that could enact this so chillingly. The story is pulpy and flat
ludicrous at times, but who complains when it's genuine oddity of Browning in
author plus director mode? He must have lived at least partial of this stuff in
medicine show days when god knows what routinely went on. We imagine guys like
Tod and Lon knew life at least somewhat as folks now, though I'd say from
reading bios --- not. It's peculiarity of backstage beginnings that make what
they do on and behind cameras so utterly compelling. Chaney and Browning represent a
silent other-world not to be approached by movies, or moviegoers, again.
36 HOURS TO KILL (1936)--- G-Man Brian Donlevy
poses as newshound to get goods on public enemy Douglas Fowley. Gloria Stuart's
along for the train ride, on which Stepin' Fetchit is aslow-wit porter. All
aboard, then, for a competent hour long (give or take) Fox B, recently out from
their On-Demand program (quality excellent). 36 Hours is half set on rails,
this occurring to me as perfect alibi for cramped sets and budget reigned
tight. Donlevy in (comparative) youth was a livelier wire than later heavies
and Professor Quatermass he did, being an FBI man here, though not designated
as such. Did the Bureau nix Fox's use of their ID? A kind of story writers must
have dreamed up Thursday afternoon in order to collect paychecks on Friday, but
tol'able because of good people that play it. Having such back in circulation
is a kick, for when was the last time TV outlets showed 36 Hours To Kill?
BULLDOZING THE BULL (1938)--- What a high wire
Popeye walked, and for such a run of first-quality cartoons from his intro in
1933 till Paramount 86'ed the Fleischers nine
years later. It's subjective, I know, but my separation of duds from the lot
came to less than a handful, this out of a prolific total of over 100. An
"average" Popeye tends to be any other cartoon series'
"outstanding." Heaven-sent was TV packaging of the lot to syndicated
television in 1956. Stations that played them handily won time slots, whatever
the competition. Black-and-white Popeyes were among last to fall before TV's
scorched earth transition to all-color, littlest kids knowing that early ones
were the best. I remember at five years recognizing the open-close
ship doors as prelude to favorites. Bulldozing The Bull has Popeye verbal
asides in abundance, a bombard of wit that I understand was oft ad-libbed. What
genius it took to elevate, again and again, a formula that would calcify
in hands less capable than the Fleischers (and indeed did once Para took over to make them in-house). Warners' three DVD
volumes are one-and-all treasures.
THE WAGONS ROLL AT NIGHT (1941)--- Humphrey
Bogart was by now a star, just not a romantic star, so still did loser leads
where someone else got the girl and he'd die for a finish. Next-up The Maltese
Falcon would begin rescue from all that, and no more would Bogartbe shoehorned
into pics his kind of persona had little/no business in, like westerns,
cornpone musicals, even horror. Here he is at circus management, wrangling
lions and tamers of same, Wagons a remake of Kid Galahad wherein E.G. Robinson
was more believably the guy multiple women spurn. When a story was good,
Warners kept it coming, with sometimes mere seasons between update.
Sweet-sixteen Joan Leslie does intense emoting with Bogie, gets slapped by him
... I'll have to dig up interviews where she tells what that was like. Jungle
cats take the place of Galahad's gangland menace, Eddie Albert assuming the naïf
part done first by Wayne Morris. Mauling scenes we demand of such pics are
lovingly rendered, Bogie's double getting a face-full of claw. Wagons was
of a sort that made the star grouse loudest, but it's efficient by marginal-A
ways and does neither he nor good support players discredit. Warner Archives'
remastered DVD is fine.
UPDATE: BIRTH BACK TO NORTH CAROLINA--- Thanks to
generous offices of Mike Cline, proprietor of the outstandingThen Playingsite, we have another sampling of Birth Of A Nation as an ongoing theatre
attraction. In this instance, it's Salisbury,
N.C.'s State Theatre, where BOAN
began a two day encore bow on 5/19/40. Had 100 million people actually seen it by
1940? Not sure how the calculation was arrived at, but it makes good ad copy,
and it's sure that Griffith's
epic had by then achieved legend status among several generations. It seemed
everyone would catch the wonder show eventually, one way or the other. Then
Playing's Cline has researched the Birth rate in Salisbury and found it
getting repeated runs there, all the way up to the 1960's and remarkable
place among dusk to dawn drive-inning Ma and Pa Kettle At Waikiki, The
Road To Denver, Son Of Sinbad, and Escape To Burma. Now there's an ozoner
night for the books ...
SOCKING OVER SLEAZE--- You'd think these were
50's paperback covers at first glance, but it's actually a Warner combo circa
'54 for brass knucklers representing last gasp of a B unit the studio was
fazing out. Output from WB slowed drastic from 28 features in 1953 to only 20
in 1954 (not including reissues), part of an overall cutback as the industry
assumed a long-run, if not blockbuster, mentality. Cinemascope was part
responsible for changed attitudes; in any case, small pics like Crime Wave and
Duffy Of San Quentin got the hook. You could sell these as"shockers" for violent
content, if not sex lure indicated in this ad that wouldn't (couldn't under a
still-enforced Code) show up on screen. I just looked at Crime Wave and don't
recall Scream Baby, I Don't Mind anywhere in dialogue. There are
"Gutter-Guns" on view, I suppose, but no "Gang-Girls."
Still, Crime Wave is a honey (haven't yet seen Duffy). Shot in latter months of
1952 (November/December), but held for January '54 release, Crime Wave was
among few (any?) full-frame Warner pics playing off in an otherwise 1.85
season. Titled Don't Cry, Baby, then The City Is Dark before and during
production, the project was initially set for Humphrey Bogart, as would be
months-later The System, but HB was turning away everything Warners tendered,
so sour was he after years of servitude.
Eventually labeled Crime Wave thus
went on B schedule to be produced by Bryan Foy, who was seasoned at these.
Directing Andre De Toth had two weeks and a low budget (neg cost a piddling
$377K, by far a WB lowest for its release year). Worldwide rentals of $880K
meant profit; audiences could still trust Warner for bristling gang subjects.
Gene Nelson was given the ex-con lead, a depart from dance work previously
engaged. Like Gene Kelly at MGM, there was desire on both actor and studio
parts to widen range, thus the two detoured on occasion to rugged subjects.
Pace is quick: there wasn't time to dawdle, givenabbreviated schedule. Crime Wave has much location
and night shooting, a bighelp. Not much regarded then, but
Warner values CW now, as witness HD streaming on their Archive Instant arm.
THE HEART OF SHOW BUSINESS KEPT BEATING--- It's
May 9, 1957 in Cincinnati.
The RKO Albee has a bonus with Untamed Youth that I'd very much like to see
today, but where is The Heart Of Show Business, presented by Variety Clubs? A
forty-minute subject with such star power would make fascinating history today,
and I'm guessing names perform in addition to pitching for thecharity. IMDB
says Ralph Staub was the writer/director. Cecil B. DeMille shows up in it too.
Wonder what John Wayne does, or Jerry Lewis, or Roy Rogers. Oh, and there's
Technicolor as well. Variety Club was a long-time institution by 1957
(Greenbriar visited the topic hereand here). Everyone in show biz answered yes
when they called. My question: are there prints of The Heart Of Show Business
still around? Does Variety Club have a vault containing this and other
featurettes? It certainly wasn't the only one they made. Assuming the Club is still in the
business of raising donations, would a DVD release of The Heart Of Show
Business and similar subjects help toward that? I'd like to hear from anyone
who's just seen one of these.
A FORTY YEAR DELAYED BIRTH--- This is an 8/1/56 Cleveland, Ohio
ad for Birth Of A Nation's revival. At least I thought it was a revival
before discovering that D.W. Griffith's film had been shut out of Ohio since its initial
release back in 1915. Seems there was movement to ban Birth that wound ways to Ohio's
Supreme Court, their uphold of the state censorship edict coming in October of
'15, and remaining in effect all the way till '56. So lo and behold, the HeightsArtTheatre was an apparent first-run for Cleveland. The 40-year exile
had just been declared unconstitutional in another court decision that paved
ways for the Independent Theatre Owners Of Ohio to book Birth throughout member
venues in a special arrangement with the pic's distributor(they'd get
"booking priority"). A first "arter" playdate in Columbus, at the recently
opened Indianola Theatre, had a best boxoffice since the house opened doors,
according to Variety. The distributor added a forward to prints that would
hopefully cool controversy. So, query: How long did Birth Of A Nation continue
to receive mainstream bookings? My first ever exposure was at a Winston-Salem hardtop in
1969, a theatre that normally took first choice of biggest new product, so this
was some kind of anomaly, a real see it to believe it moviegoing experience.
Don't recall the crowd, if any, but the WinstonTheatre
(where I had lately caught 2001: A Space Odyssey) ran Birth's 1930 sound
reissue version, the print of which was in like-new shape.
THE JAZZ SINGER'S STANDOUT--- Again, it's Cleveland. The Stillman,
built in 1916, had become a Loew's house by 1927, seated 1,800, and was
considered the city's "first true movie palace." Any ad for The Jazz
Singer is noteworthy, each theatre wherever located selling it, for good
reason, as a show-world revolution. What strikes me here is management singling
out "the one scene in which Jolson "kids" his "mammy."
This was quoted from a review in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the critic and
Stillman staff noting audience response to the brief dialogue exchange that
history says gave viewers an even bigger thrill than songs Al sang. Such
natural exchange of talk waswhat patrons all went home raving about. Note too
the Stillman's boast of "improved" Vitaphone. Loew had wired the
house early in 1927,Don Juanhaving played there during February-March. Ads throughout
early intro of sound, for many theatres besides the Stillman, refer to upgrades
in voice reproduction. Quality had to have been an issuenearly everywhere,
this being such new and untried technology. Were these promises of a better
aural experience in response to complaints from customers who'd taken a chance
on talkies and been burned?
WHAT'S NEW AT THE SILENT COMEDY MAFIA--- This I
want to mention ahead ofCineventin Columbus.
Noted writer/historian Richard M. Roberts informs me that his new book, SMILEAGE GUARANTEED, PAST HUMOR, PRESENT LAUGHTER, THE
COMEDY FILM INDUSTRY 1910-1945, VOLUME ONE: HAL ROACH, will be available at the
show, where the author will also be on hand to sign copies. Roberts also
informs thatThe Silent Comedy Mafia, an online mainstay for vintage pic
discussion and scholarship, has widened its format to include non-comedy topics
such as sci-fi, horror, noir, and more. What's emphasized is that The Silent Comedy
Mafia will no longer limit content to just silents, or comedy. There is, for
instance, a vintage television category where I've this week seen some
fascinating, and till now elusive, stuff, including a 1961 TV pilot called Just
For Laffs, a comic assemblage that included Moe Howard and Mel Blanc trading
jokes. There's also a video segment from a 1963 series starring Fess Parker,
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,
in which Buster Keaton guests. Who knew Buster and Fess ever worked together?,
yethere it is. The SC Mafia has always been a regular stop for me; now there's
all the more reason to get there regularly.
THUNDERBALL (1965)--- The Bond that arrived at
a highest pitch of excitement for the spy series. I was Liberty-there on
2-26-66, the first through doors at 9:40 AM on a Saturday. How many movie mornings
can be recalled so vividly? 007 was worth waiting a year for. Substitutes,
other than reissued Bond pairs, wouldn't do. NBC broadcast clip-laden 007
specials to precede each new one, and large format mags put the agent on
covers. Advance publicity didn't suffocate as it now would thanks to fewer
outlets spreading word, 1965-66 still an ad world limited to print,
radio, and TV. I should add toys that inundated Christmas '65, Bond being much
aimed at kids from early on. What they offered wasn't mere gimcracks --- Santa
could bring little else down chimneys when youth asked for a 007 road race set
or attaché case, these representing expense beyond ordinary gifts.
Thunderball broke beyond success of so-far
Bonds. They spent more, and it showed to a point of making Goldfinger and
before look like programmers by comparison, but what choice was there? The
series was now a recurring event, and nothing less than spectacular would do.
Critics took harsh note, saying Connery's Bond was swamped by size and decor.
Partly that was true, as sets do dwarf he and co-stars much
of the time, but my recent view found 007's wit and personality much intact,
even as ceiling levels above him increased by a seeming thirty feet. What
series chroniclers forget is that we wanted Thunderball to be a most
extravagant of Bonds. Summer '65's run-up encore of Dr. Noand From Russia With Lovefound both wanting so far as fans (many) whose first exposure had been
slicker-than-either Goldfinger. How could movies but a couple years old
suddenly have seemed old-fashioned? Maybe Thunderball falls appropriately into
you-had-to-be-there category, and for having indeed been there, I treasure it
all the more.
THE VIRGINIAN (1946)--- Some have knocked this
remake of admittedly more memorable 1929 adapt of Owen Wister's story, but it's
such a natural for picture-telling that it's hard blaming Paramount for another go. Characters so vivid
would even tube-endure from 60's into early 70's weekly riding at NBC,
Universal being heir to the property thanks to MCA purchase of pre-48 Paras in
a meantime. Retroplex ran this '46 rendition in startling HD, a kickstart
toward enjoyment that made me happy to have waited lo these years to watch.
Joel McCrea takes Coop's part, Sonny Tufts isill-fated Steve (what's all this
bad actor stuff? --- he's fine here), and Brian Donlevy, kitted out all-black,
does Trampas for he and Joel's reprise of deathless When you call me that, smile.
Top-lined by Paramount in that biggest of all movie attending years,
gad-zillions saw this Virginian and likely recalled it better than an early
talkie original that had been out of wide-view since a '34 reissue. Big
westerns needn't be great westerns to be a joy, as proved by this and super-A's
Paramount did to showcase 40's stars (I'll wait now for Retroplex to H-Do
Whispering Smith with Alan Ladd, and maybe Streets Of Laredo).
THE MUMMY'S SHROUD (1967)--- This mummy has
been pilloried for loping about in a union suit (some have even detected
zippers). Hammer's Egypt
forays kept better faith with fans than did Universal with earlier, and
diminishing, Kharis chapters. Bray restaging of ancient environs came across
like English drawing rooms, a tomb just entered well lit and near-spotless
despite three thousand years' passage of time. Hammer hadn't run out of style
by 1967 --- far from it --- they could still do lush from a lemon budget, and
actors never played down to content, however ludicrous such often was (stalwart
Michael Ripper gives probably his best-ever performance here). You'd nearly buy
into this Mummy but for grievous shortcutthey took with his costuming, a fatal
decision to dress rather than wrap him. Would a Rugby uniform have been any less inapt? I skipped The
Mummy's Shroud in 1967 ... something about the trailer put me off. Others may
have done the same, as it earned but $256K in domestic rentals. Now I've
watched a gorgeous Region 2Blu-Ray, and thanks in part to that, The Mummy's
Shroud fills modest expectation nicely after a forty-six year wait.
SALT WATER DAFFY (1933)--- It's a "Big
V" comedy from Warners, now packaged by courtesy of their DVD Archive.
What a treasure find these are. Salt Water Daffy turns out to have been largely
remade as Buck Privates eight years later. Same set-up, a near identical first
half. Comic writers had long memories ... of other writer's stuff. Some of salt
water seems to have lodged in these clown's throats, as Daffy evolves into a
contest of harsh voicing by Jack Haley vis a vis tough drill master Lionel
Stander. Haley sure tamped down by the time he became the Tin Man. Here he
sounds more like Bud Abbott to come, another linkwith Buck Privates, to which
parallel add an awkward squad routine with Stander anticipating Nat Pendleton's
frustration. Funny after a curious fashion as oddball two-reelers invariably
are. We're disc-supplied with this because Shemp Howard's a clown in support of
Haley, which goes to further flavor an already must-see short. Is it a wonder
comedians worried of Shemp stealing their spotlight? He does so handily here, being among most naturally funny faces to ever go before a
The Three Worlds Of Gulliver may seem Lilliputian beside what's
spent on fantasies today, but for 1960, it was Columbia's biggest year-end gun next to Pepe,
a cameo-choked vehicle for funnyman Cantinflas from Around The World In 80
Days. Producer Charles H. Schneer had shown Gulliver to
studio brass during June of 1960 and was rewarded with a five-year contract to
replace his earlier deal for three, a pair of pics to be delivered per annum. Columbia now had a unit
in Schneer-Harryhausen to supply what had become an important segment of the
audience, namely young folk withallowance to spend. Other companies were
tapping a same market with overlap merchandise: Paramount via their Jerry
Lewis series, Universal and its sub-contract with England's
Hammer Films for chiller subjects (Columbia
had a relationship there as well), and of course, the dominating force for family/juve
that was Walt Disney. Columbia veepee in charge of publicity Rube
Jacktor took to roads on conviction that Gulliver "will far surpass"
1958's Sinbad hit, his confidence affirmed by dates in "400 key areas" for
Three Worlds. Christmas competition was keen, as 1960 proved a
dense year for product geared toward the young.
What Variety called the "moppet trade"
was regaled by The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, A Dog Of Flanders, and The
Snow Queen for a first six months, and a second half of 1960 promised
Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, Tess Of The Storm Country, The Little
Shepherd Of Kingdom Come, and Freckles. To these were added star vehicles for
kid allure, specificallytwo from Jerry
Lewis, whose Cinderfella went to holiday mats with Gulliver. There was but
finite number of treats that could go in any child's stocking. For startling
then-to-now contrast, consider what Columbia
spent launching Los Angeles' 18-house saturation
date (December 21) for Gulliver: $22,000 went mostly to newspapers, but radio
and TV figured in heavily as well (Pepe had a $50,000 L.A.
ad budget, the largest Columbia
had so far set for that territory). There was also a first-ever network ad buy
by Columbia on
Gulliver's behalf, the spot to run during ABC's Walt Disney program to an audience
estimated at sixty million. Just measure these puny dollars against fortunes
spent per day (make that hour) to promote Iron Man 3.
1960's idea of a splurge, and it was in context
of that year and market, was Gulliver riding among floats in the Macy's
Thanksgiving Parade. This was an event seen by an estimated forty million
television viewers in addition to those lined up along Gotham
streets. The float was twenty-five feet long and the Gulliver figure at its
center towered to eighteen feet high. Similar flat-bed displays had been used
for The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad two seasons before, being a lure to kids for
whom such was like a circus arriving in town. The float was fiscally sound for
touring it could make between Thanksgiving and ultimate Christmas destinations
for Three Worlds. Usefulness was enhanced by its presence at Hollywood's
Santa Claus Lane
parade held in December, along with sixteen other suburban events around the Los Angeles market.
An issue for Three Worlds was audience
assumption, based on after-taste of the 1938 Paramount
release, that Gulliver would be a cartoon, this having to be overcome with ads
and TV saturation to assure patrons that here was a live-action story
and all-newbesides. Meanwhile, the full-length animation that was Gulliver's
Travels remained in revival circulation, thanks to NTA's reissueof same and
its lower cost to book. Another obstacle to any Christmas opening was weather,
especially in the Northeast where snowstorms could wipe out a weekend heavily
promoted over days before. This plus competition most
intense from Paramount's
Cinderfella made Gulliver's a high hill to climb. Both these pics were aimed at
a same market, namely kids and parents who'd bring them, but the juggernaut
that was Disney and Swiss Family Robinson was what drew family coin. It's
worth noting that 1960 was a peak year for Baby Boom attendance, millions of
moppets at ideal age to beg Mom and Dadfor accompaniment, or at least
transport, to local Bijous. Hollywood
was well aware of these demographics and may have crowded plates past appetites
of even said voracious market.
In the end, Gulliver and Cinderfella would share
a boxoffice fate, that being stout numbers for initial days followed by plunge
to disappointment totals. Second weeks tended to drop precipitously. Three
Worlds ranked #5 in nationwide boxoffice for December, but dropped out of the
Top Ten altogether in January. Did youngsters pass word that there were no
monsters to battle Gulliver? (other than a crocodile that was heavily
promoted). For Cinderfella's part, there was greater letdown, this being the
first Jerry Lewis solo feature besides Visit To A Small Planet to dip below
three million in domestic rentals. MysteriousIsland was already well
along when Gulliver opened. Effects work back in England was what prevented Ray
Harryhausen fromparticipating in US bally effort for Three Worlds. For his fan
base, The Three Worlds OfGulliver would remain a black sheep, despite work as
intricate as any the FX master applied over his long career. History's
sustaining verdict? Not enough monsters. Harryhausen's brand, then as now, was
freighted with expectation of that. A best aspect of The Three Worlds Of
Gulliver to modern viewing may well be a Bernard Herrmann score among the
composer's best. It's CD-available on the Varese Sarabande Film Classics label.
Gulliver plays in widescreen HD from time to time on Sony's Movie Channel.