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New Releases From Alpha Video, Week of 9/29/09

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Comedies and dramas kick off the assortment of Alpha Video’s new releases for this month. Several powerful-but-now-forgotten dramas are included in the September 29th batch, starting with Sea Racketeers (1937), a riveting action/drama with Irish character actor J. Carroll Naish. In it, a Coast Guard captain declares war on a group of gangsters operating a gambling boat. The film features an unbilled appearance by Dorothy Appleby, and is also the second credited film of future Three Stooges co-star, Christine McIntyre.

The Academy Award-nominated biopic, Martin Luther (1953) stars Niall MacGinnis, and was one of the last films made by director Dracula’s Daughter actor Irving Pichel, who also has a role in the film. Turning back the clock a few years, we have 1932’s Behind Stone Walls, a story of infidelity and murder among powerful ranks of the city’s most prominent members.

Bridging the gap between comedy and drama is done by one of the greatest Kings of Comedy ever: Jack Benny. But in The Medicine Man (1930), one of Jack’s earliest film appearances, the well-known comedian plays the head of a traveling medicine show — which takes on two new protégés in the form of a brother and sister duo, escaping from their abusive shopkeeper father. Yeah, OK, so it’s more of a drama than a comedy, but it’s still a chance to see Jack Benny when he actually was in his thirties. Plus, the Alpha DVD contains two vintage episodes from Benny’s immortal television show as a bonus.

Meet The Mayor is an alternate title for the seldom-seen 1932 film, A Fool’s Advice. Written, produced by, and starring vaudeville comedian Frank Fay (who at one point was married to Barbara Stanwyck), this political comedy co-stars Nat Pendleton and George Meeker.

Fans of classic animation will no doubt want to pick up Aesop’s Fables, a collection of 21 cartoon shorts from 1929 to 1931 made by the famous Van Beuren Studios. Musical lovers are also in for a treat this month, as Alpha unleashes two musical double features. The first pairing, from the ‘40s, consists of Breakfast In Hollywood (1946) — with ZaSu Pitts, Spike Jones, and Nat “King” Cole — and the Academy Award Nominated Minstrel Men (1944) featuring I Love Lucy’s William Frawley. The second musical double feature is from the ‘30s, pairing two items from Poverty Row: and Sitting On The Moon (1936).

Of course, there is no better kind of comedy than the unintentional kind. If there was one filmmaker that could pull it off, it was Texas Z-Grade auteur, Larry Buchanan. In the mid-to-late ‘60s, Buchanan was hired by American International Pictures TV to produce several films that would serve as late-night TV fodder. Most of Buchanan’s films from this period were nothing more than uncredited remakes of Roger Corman films from the ‘50s — only without the low budgets Corman worked with. One such result was Zontar: The Thing From Venus (1966), a hilariously bad sci-fi film based off of Corman’s It Conquered The World. Starring the great John Agar, Zontar has achieved an impressive cult following over the years — and has had a magazine named in its honor, as well as receiving a wonderful send-up on SCTV. But, since a single Larry Buchanan film is only enough to drive you mad, Alpha goes one step further by adding a second 16mm Texas-made thriller to drive you flat-out insane. In The Year 2889 (1967) — another uncredited remake of a Corman flick (The Day The World Ended) is also on-hand for more schlock sci-fi fun.

Vintage TV releases from Alpha for September include The Adventures Of Robin Hood: Volume 20, The Adventures Of Ozzie & Harriet: Volume 15, and a bundle pack of Ozzie & Harriet including Volumes 6 thru 11.

One of these days, Alpha Video is going to run out of forgotten B-Western films to distribute. I can’t say I see the day coming any time soon, however — since there literally thousands upon thousands made during the ‘20s and ‘30s alone. And so, for now, we can all rest easy, knowing full well that each month will bring us more treasures from the land of the B-Western quickies. This month’s roster includes Bob Steele’s Feud Of The Range (1939), Buster Crabbe in Sam Newfield’s Thundering Gun Slingers (1944), the “Range Busters” feature Land Of Hunted Men (1943), and the early color classic, The Phantom Of Santa Fe (1936).

B-Western double features for this month include the Bill Cody pairing, Six Gun Justice (1936) and Texas Rambler (1935); two of PRC’s “Texas Rangers” entries starring Tex Ritter and Dave O‘Brien, Marked For Murder (1945) and Bad Men Of Thunder Gap (1943); the back-to-back showing of Roy Rogers’ Ridin' Down The Canyon (1942) and On The Old Spanish Trail (1939); and a couple of Cowboy Rarities from the ‘30s: Code Of The Fearless (1939) and Songs And Saddles (1938).

Simultaneously wrapping up Alpha’s September and B-Western releases are the Lee Powell Collection (with two full-length features as well as a chapter of the lost Lone Ranger serial), and a bundle pack of Johnny Mack Brown cowboy pictures. These titles will be available in stores on September 29 and are already up for grabs at Alpha Video’s website, www.oldies.com. Enjoy!

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.