Once again, we find ourselves nearing the end of another month. For all accounts and purposes, August has little to offer. Fortunately, Alpha Video is doing their best to rectify that situation with another line-up of new releases.
We begin with one of my all-time favorite genres: horror. More specifically, cheaply-made B-grade exploitation horror from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Alpha’s sole post-1950s release for August is a Horror Double Feature beginning with Night Train To Terror (1985), a cut-and-paste “anthology” job that uses footage from Scream Your Head Off, Cataclysm (aka The Nightmare Never Ends), the vastly underrated Death Wish Club, and features cheesy wraparound segments with God (Ferdy Mayne) and Satan (Tony Giorgio) on a train discussing the fates of the people from the other footage. Some of the few notable actors include Richard Moll, Cameron Mitchell, and Marc Lawrence. The second half of the Horror Double Feature is The Thirsty Dead from 1974, the story of four doomed lassies who are abducted by a blood-drinking cult. Featuring the talents of John Considine and the great Vic Diaz.
OK, so enough of the good ol’ bloody stuff — let’s dive into the nearly forgotten classic B-Movie gems that makes Alpha so unique. First off is The World Accuses (1934), the tragic tale of a woman (Vivian Tobin, one of the many Mrs. Errols in Leon Errol’s two-reelers) who loses custody of her son (Dickie Moore). Quite an odd subject matter when you consider how many mothers in the ‘30s simply left their kids on trains in suitcases. More custodial madness ensues in The Zero Hour (1939), with Otto Krueger and Frieda Inescort, when a stranger enters the home of a newlywed couple claiming their adopted child is his.
Now, with a name like White Legion (1936), you’d expect either a giddy exploitation quickie about the undocumented effects of cocaine use, or a disturbing look into a white supremacist group. Instead, White Legion is about doctors searching for a cure for Yellow Fever. You figure it out. Ian Keith, Suzanne Kaaren, Teru Shimada, Don Barclay, “Snub” Pollard and Jason Robards, Sr. are all featured in this one — with a then-unknown Ralph Byrd making an uncredited appearance. Then, from 1935 comes Mutiny Ahead, the story of a rich playboy who gets involved with a group of gangsters looking for hidden treasure. Batman’s own Commission Gordon, Neil Hamilton, stars.
Jumping into the 1940s, Alpha brings us a few more cinematic relics, beginning with The Woman Of The Town (1943), an Oscar-nominated western drama with Albert Dekker (as Bat Masterson), Claire Trevor, Henry Hull, and Barry Sullivan. Stolen Paradise (1941) stars radio voice actor Leon Janney, and involves a one young lad’s journey to Catholic salvation following a few misspent steps in life. Call Of The Forest (1949) is an adventure drama, with Robert Lowery (the 2nd Batman in film) as the leader of an expedition into the woods to find a lost gold mine. Ken Curtis co-stars, along with a lot of critters and a gang of bad guys (naturally). The film is more noted for its cinematography by Karl Struss than its animal co-stars.
Vintage television releases from Alpha this month include Northwest Passage: Volume 3, Mr. & Mrs. North: Volume 9, The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet: Volume 14, and The Man Behind The Badge: Volume 2.
Lastly for August, Alpha has unleashed another of lost B-Westerns from the Samuel Sherman Archives. The earliest feature is Tumbleweeds, a silent-era feature from 1925 starring cowboy legend William S. Hart. Another ‘20s-era classic, Call Of The Rockies (1926), is a rare sound-added release of Exodus To The New World, and is the second attraction in the “Forgotten Western Double Feature,” co-billed with Lure Of The Wasteland, a color (!) talkie from 1939. More double feature fun comes from western hero Tom Keene in Rebellion (1936) and Where Trails End (1942), a title that makes one want to say, “Um, at cliffs?”
Two Roy Rogers double features are sure to please fans of the King of the Cowboys: Southward Ho (1939) gets paired with Song Of Texas (1943), both of which were directed by cellist-turned-moviemaker Joseph Kane (who went on to produce and direct over 100 movies and television shows). The second Roy Rogers pairing brings Night Time In Nevada (1948) with co-star Andy Devine and Man From Cheyenne (1942). Further western thrills and chills are provided in The Men From Hell (1934); Six-Shooting’ Sheriff (1938) with Ken Maynard; and Under Cover Man (1936) with Johnny Mack Brown.
These titles are now available in stores and at Alpha Video’s website, Oldies.com. Enjoy!