If there is one bit of esoteric classic movie stuff that simply fascinates me, it’s the trilogy of films directed by veteran actor William Conrad—and all released in 1965. They’re the three of only four feature films directed by Conrad, who spent all of his other directorial adventures on the small screen. The late William Conrad was a famed actor, playing Matt Dillon on the original radio version of “Gunsmoke,” and coming to full pop culture fame on TV in “Cannon” & “Jake and The Fat Man.” For this writer, Conrad will always be immortal for being the narrator on “Rocky & Bullwinkle.”
The three films in question all were released by Warner Brothers—where Conrad had a production office it seems—and are: “Brainstorm,” “Two On A Guillotine,” and the film I’m going to talk about today, “My Blood Runs Cold.” One of the reasons I’m fascinated by these three films is my built in soft spot for 1960s, black and white horror fare with crazy, bombastic promotion. I adore the films of William Castle, with his bag full of gimmicks and fright house fun, and there’s on some part an attempt it seems to position Conrad as the next Castle—whose films made serious bank at the box office. Publicity from the era refers to Conrad as “The Sultan of Shock.”
Another reason why I suspect there was an attempt to hone Conrad in the Castle vein is that most of his films star people who had distinct teenager appeal—Castle was tremendously popular with teenage movie goers. “Two on a Guillotine” stars Connie Stevens and Dean Jones, whilst “My Blood Runs Cold” stars both Joey Heatherton and Troy Donahue. “My Blood Runs Cold” is about a bunch of loaded WASPs on the California coast. Heatherton plays the spoiled young heiress who one day accidentally crashes her car into a random dude on a motorcycle (Donahue).
Donahue looks at spoiled Joey and immediately recognizes her from their great love from the past. The far past. The 1800s to be exact. Has love been reincarnated? Did he come back from the dead bridled full of passion? You’ll have to watch the film to see, which was one of the first DVD releases from Warner Archive. It’s not a great movie, but it is a fun one. Goofy, drive in movie fare. Honestly, I’d take a goofy atmospheric chiller most days than I would a genuinely good one. The DVD looks really sharp too, the well shot black and white image is rendered in a lovely 16x9 transfer. The film fits nicely in the Conrad ’65 trilogy, and one day I’ll get to the bottom of how this all came to pass. Pick up a copy and investigate with me.
Also from Warner Archive, I recently viewed the Hildegard Withers Mystery Collection. This set collects a series of six B programers from the 1930s, about a schoolteacher who finds herself in the middle of a murder now and then. These films feel a bit like a beta version of “Murder, She Wrote” and the 1960s “Miss Marple movies.” They can be a bit dry at times, to be honest, but they are filled with a veritable who's who of 1930s Hollywood character actors.
The two disc DVD sets features a decent looking picture across the films, taken from elements that have held up well for their ages, and for a somewhat obscure film series. I can’t honestly say these got me going too terribly much, but if you like a cozy mystery, you should check them out.