Sci-fi from the Vault: 4 Films

by Glenn Erickson Feb 25, 2023

Mill Creek’s latest disc collection gathers three Columbia Sci-fi faves and throws in a Blu-ray debut for a fourth. It’s a good selection: two giant Ray Harryhausen monsters, one marginal bad-taste Sam Katzman zombie epic, and a quirky Lou Costello comedy with Dorothy Provine doing a wholesome take on Allison Hayes’ biggest role. Do these encodings measure up to fancier editions?  We give them a spin.

Sci-Fi from the Vault: 4 Films
Creature with the Atom Brain, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock
Mill Creek Entertainment
1955-1959 / B&W / 303 min. / Street Date February 14, 2023 / Available from Mill Creek Entertainment / 29.99
Starring: Richard Denning; Kenneth Tobey & Faith Domergue; William Hopper & Joan Taylor; Lou Costello & Dorothy Provine.
Directed by
Edward L. Cahn, Robert Gordon, Nathan Juran, Sidney Miller


Disc collectors are now tempted weekly by plenty of interesting disc releases . . . enough to clean out anyone’s bank account. Even if we could afford all the desirable movies on offer we’d not have time to see them all. It wasn’t long ago that we were scouring nabe record stores for used discs at giveaway prices.

It also made sense to check out boxed set collections, as there was usually some kind of price break involved. Mill Creek has been repackaging desirable titles on DVD and Blu for a long time, in some cases giving collectors first peeks at pictures not yet remastered for Blu-ray. Shout! Factory once did this — I remember grabbing a four-disc DVD just to see the once-elusive Beyond the Time Barrier.

This neatly appointed Sci-Fi from the Vault: 4 Films collection gives us three favorite late 1950s Creature Features, previously reviewed before. That allows me to link to older reviews and concentrate on new comments and ruminations. The fourth show, an oddball comedy item, is a disc debut and gets a full appraisal.

Charlie Largent will be following up shortly with a 2-part review of Mill Creek’s eight-title Thrillers from the Vault Blu-ray collection.



We first reviewed Creature with the Atom Brain in 2007 on a Columbia Icons of Horror Collection DVD set. Charlie Largent gave it a fresh perusal just two years ago in a swank Arrow Films Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman review.

1955 / 1:37 flat open matte !!! / 69 min.
Starring: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye, Linda Bennett, Tristram Coffin, Harry Lauter, Charles Horvath, Nelson Leigh.
Cinematography: Fred Jackman Jr.
Art Director: Paul Palmentola
Film Editor: Aaron Stell
Special effects: Jack Erickson
Written by Curt Siodmak
Produced by Sam Katzman
Directed by
Edward L. Cahn


A real hoot when screened at The American Cinematheque, Creature with the Atom Brain was the first picture in Sam Katzman’s leap onto the monster/sci-fi bandwagon. It was made to be co-featured with the second film in this collection, and directed by a pro who could turn features around with incredible speed. Edward L. Cahn made pictures just the way Katzman liked them made — fast. The two must have got their jollies by seeing just how little production value a picture could have, without mass audience walk-outs. Writer Curt Siodmak must have made a two-picture deal with Katzman. Atom Brain is a pastiche that joins Siodmak’s classic Donovan’s Brain concept with a giddy, tasteless zombie idea. Earlier serial producers would have rejected it as unfit for general audiences.

Mobster Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger) has a simple plan to get revenge against his enemies: he steals eight corpses from the morgue. Ex-Nazi doctor Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gay) fills their brains with radiation and directs them to murder via radio and television. Police doctor Chet Walker (Richard Denning) and his partner Captain Dave Harris (S. John Launer) follow clues at gruesome crime scenes to locate Steig’s secret zombie lab. Buchanan retaliates by turning Captain Harris into an atomic zombie and dispatching him to murder his own best friend.

We’re fairly certain that Creature from the Atom Brain was not promoted by Annette Funicello on TV’s Mickey Mouse Club show.

With rushed shooting on Columbia’s ‘TV Land’ neighborhood backlot on Burbank’s Hollywood Way, Atom Brain features a lot of middle-aged men in suits and hats, as in a ’40s serial. The main laugh point are some of the film’s logical non-sequiturs. Foremost among them is Chet’s inability to see that his pal Dave is a zombie, even though his head is cleaved with a suture line and stitch marks, just like the handiwork of the devious Dr. Hfuhruhurr . When the Atom Killers’ reign of terror arrives, Katzman’s editors hit us with a brain-numbing montage of near-random disasters and vintage cop car stock shots. We’re surprised that the show doesn’t show the Hindenberg disaster, and claim it as the work of nefarious atomic saboteurs.

Variety: ”. . . things get rather distastefully violent . . .’

Parents dropping off kids to see this Columbia double bill may not have realized how trashy it was. It’s more horror than science fiction, right from the start when we see a man ‘broken in two’ via a shadow on a wall. The finale is a zombie massacre complete with gunshot squib hits. The melee features a platoon of emotionless, shambling Atom-Brain guys . . . a pre-echo of zombie hordes to come. Played by stocky stuntmen, the hulking brutes ‘can’t be killed’ until handsome Chet manages to throw the atom power switch, shutting them down like electric appliances. Where’s Betty White?


Creature with the Atom Brain gets this Vault set off to a rocky start, with an incorrect flat full-frame 1:37 scan. It looks like an older Sony transfer, perhaps the same one from the 2007 DVD. The picture looks decent on a 40″ monitor, but shows its rough edges on bigger screens — could it possibly be an up-rez?  When this kind of thing used to happen, we assumed that someone ordered up the wrong entry in a vault database. But it’s also possible that Arrow partly underwrote the beautiful widescreen transfer on the 2021 disc, a transfer not cleared for use by another disc company. (That’s just a thought — CineSavant is a recidivist when it comes to unsubstantiated theories).

Mill Creek gives the show an engaging ‘party’ commentary with Phoef Sutton and Mark Jordan Legan of the ‘Film Freaks Forever’ podcast. They’re not stingy with interesting information — I liked learning that the first perforated-forehead zombie assassin is the same stunt man who doubled Bert Lahr’s superb window-smashing leap in The Wizard of Oz. Phoef and Mark also have fun pointing out the film’s amiable idiocies, and I can see the track being welcomed by monster fans wanting a good time.



We never reviewed the octopoidal Harryhausen opus It Came from Beneath the Sea on DVD, but we pecked out reviews for two different Blu-ray releases, on a 2008 Sony Ray Harryhausen Collection, and once again with a Charlie Largent perspective for a 2017 Powerhouse Indicator box, The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Vol. One: 1955-1960.

1955 / 1:85 widescreen / 79 min.
Starring: Kenneth Tobey, Faith Domergue, Donald Curtis, Ian Keith, Dean Maddox Jr., Chuck Griffiths, Harry Lauter, Richard W. Peterson. Tol Avery, Roy Engel, S. John Launer.
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Art Director: Paul Palmentola
Film Editor: Jerome Thoms
Special effects: Ray Harryhausen, Jack Erickson
Written by George Worthing Yates, Hal Smith story by Yates
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Directed by
Robert Gordon


With It Came from Beneath the Sea the Mill Creek Sci-fi box moves into favored Ray Harryhausen territory. The masters used for the Blu-ray encodings improve as well. Not included are the revisionist colorized versions that were part of earlier DVD and Blu-ray packages, but I can’t say they are missed.

The story tells of the detection and pursuit of a giant undersea monster, told with a stentorian narration and great quantities of military stock footage. Navy submarine skipper Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey) woos marine biologist Lesley Joyce (Faith Domergue) as they track various marine disasters leading toward San Francisco Bay; her theory of a giant cephalopod is initially discounted. Naval defenses detect but cannot stop a colossal octopus, which wrecks the Golden Gate Bridge before stretching its enormous tentacles ashore at the Embarcadero near Market Street!

The script for It Came must have sounded like a multi-million dollar production, the last thing in the world Sam Katzman’s pinchpenny ‘Clover Films’ unit would tackle. Tyro producer Charles H. Schneer had to have Ray Harryhausen in mind from the beginning, for only the precedent of the enormously popular Beast from 20,000 Fathoms could get Katzman’s attention. Who knew that Hollywood was ignoring Ray Harryhausen’s potential to generate show-stopping monster spectacles?

Old dog Sam Katzman must have been impressed by young Schneer, for he promoted him to full producer for this monster show. Schneer gave wunderkind FX whiz Harryhausen the exact backing he needed to create a new movie monster on an even tighter budget than Beast (which was filmed independently, we’re told). Schneer filled in the semi-doc elements for their ‘Navy vs. an Octopus’ thriller by using military stock footage for whole sequences, not just the usual Katzman montages. The good news is that the stock film source is of excellent quality — in crisp, clean B&W 35mm. We’re surprised that we don’t see Air Raid wardens looking out for the undersea monster.

Schneer also talked Katzman into second-unit location shooting in San Francisco, unheard-of at this level of production for anything but westerns. Harryhausen reportedly animated the octopus completely on his own in a rented storefront down on Washington Blvd.. He needed absolute isolation to accomplish his intense animation tricks. The secrecy also hid Ray’s shop from Union reps who would have demanded that this signator production hire ten Guild members to work Harryhausen’s ‘special shoots.’ Guild protectionism and featherbedding may also explain why Harryhausen is credited as ‘Technical Effects Creator.’ His do-everything work also encompassed the roles of director, lighting director of photography, art director, camera operator, you-name-it.

Variety: ‘Towards the conclusion, some strain is put on credibility . . .’

Harryhausen again delivered spectacular scenes, to matinee audiences that knew astounding thrills when they saw them. But some trade reviews missed the significance of Harryhausen’s achievement. The Variety coverage for Beast from 20,000 Fathoms had made special mention of Ray’s input, but the review for It Came dismisses Harryhausen as merely ‘taking care of the chiller aspects.’ You’d think Katzman asked the paper to not praise the effects too much, to keep Ray from asking for more money.

It’s not every day you see the Golden Gate Bridge wrecked by giant sushi. It Came performed well, launching Harryhausen and Schneer as a solid team. It gave Harryhausen the career leap that was denied his mentor Willis O’Brien. The old master behind King Kong spent thirty years seeking in vain for what Ray found right away, a supportive and trustworthy producer.


It Came from Beneath the Sea fares just fine in this collection — the 1:85 HD image and audio are as solid as the earlier Blu-rays, even if video techs can discriminate the finer points of digital video images.

C. Courtney Joyner and Justin Humphreys’s audio commentary is cheerful in tone but less of a party track than the other two tracks on the collection. They rightly do their best to honor the work of the amazing Ray Harryhausen, while offering plenty of facts and observations. I always wonder why It Came is described as having a novel documentary approach. That’s putting everything backwards. Producer Schneer started out trying to find a way to take the Katzman stock footage philosophy to a higher level, by incorporating reels of military footage available for 25¢ a foot. The narrative ‘approach’ is more like that of an educational film — see a duck, say a duck, then have Faith Domergue give us a Kindergarten lesson about ducks.

It’s difficult to compare It Came with the more gritty docudrama approach taken by the same year’s The Quatermass Xperiment, especially when top-level scientist Donald Curtis demonstrates how an octopus propels itself, by inflating a rubber balloon and letting it loose: Pflooloosh.

Schneer and Harryhausen’s economizing is really impressive. After watching many low-end Columbia crime films from the 1950s, we recognize an impressive marble arch exterior set, that’s seen in so many pictures that it could have been right on the Columbia lot, next to a loading dock. For It Came Harryhausen built an identical miniature of the arch for a tentacle to snake through … it matte-matches well with live-action of the real backlot set.



Harryhausen’s 20 Million Miles to Earth qualifies as a special favorite. We covered it for the first time on a 2002 Columbia Tristar DVD, and followed that up with a 2007 50th Anniversary Edition DVD from Sony. The Blu-ray we reviewed is in the same The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Vol. One: 1955-1960 collection.

1957 / 1:85 widescreen / 82 min.
Starring: William Hopper, Joan Taylor, Frank Puglia, John Zaremba, Thomas Browne Henry, Tito Vuolo, Jan Arvan, Arthur Space, Bart Bradley.
Cinematography: Irving Lippman, Carlo Ventimiglia
Art Director: Cary Odell
Film Editor: Edwin Bryant
Special effects: Ray Harryhausen, Lawrence Butler
Written by Christopher Knopf, Bob Williams story by Charlott Knight
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Directed by
Nathan Juran


Skipping over Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, 20 Million Miles to Earth sees Ray Harryhausen perfecting his Dynamation process for B&W . Charles H. Schneer advanced a big step with the Columbia brass — to a producing relationship independent from Sam Katzman, with the new company name Morningside Productions. This time the second unit went to Italy, where Harryhausen oversaw the filming of scores of background plates to put his monster ‘Ymir’ in the midst of the Rome Zoo, various national monuments, and even the Tiber River. They got in hot water, too — ‘cooperative’ Italian NATO tanks reportedly damaged the street surface around the Colosseum.

20 Million shows that Harryhausen never slacked off in his mission to improve the look of his re-photographed miniature rear-projections . . . his RP composites are more stable than ever, with more variety of lighting and atmosphere. So is his overall storyboarding and blocking of the monster scenes. Angles in Earth vs. were often dictated by whatever stock shot of a forest fire or crashing plane was available; most visuals here were designed from the ground up. Oddly though, the first shots seen behind the main titles are stock footage taken from the title sequence of Fox’s earlier The Day the Earth Stood Still.

This time Schneer hired a director committed to quality, not just a production schedule. He would later clash with directors that expected more authority (Cy Endfield, especially) but found ex- art director Nathan Juran an excellent collaborator. The brilliant designer Juran may have contributed to more than just the live-action filming. The claustrophobic ‘barn and pitchfork’ scene is blocked with a keen dynamism — right down to the use of a wide-angle lens for a pole-poking shot. The huge close-up of the Ymir advancing is a match for the Cyclops’ medium close entrance shot in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. That big snarling face is of a puppet maybe 8 inches wide, tops. 

Variety: (It has) ”. . . realistic special effects providing strong exploitation potential.’

20 Million still has a ‘B’ movie sci-fi screenplay. Producer Schneer intuited that B&W monster pictures had limited sales potential, even when made with greater quality. Harryhausen had finally found the best film stocks, etc., to optimize his special visual tricks, but Schneer knew it was time to move up to color going forward. That gave Ray an enormous hurdle to clear, as the fine-grain color film stocks available were not going to be easy to work with. But Schneer also knew that Harryhausen couldn’t resist the proposed subject matter — mythological fantasy instead of sci-fi monsters. Instead of going stale, Schneer and Harryhausen would take on new challenges.

As before, some trade paper reviews did not rush to applaud a film artist working in an area that the industry considered a ‘craft service’ to be handled by below-the-line hirelings. The Variety review this time out didn’t even mention Ray Harryhausen by name. As much as we love Sci-fi thrills, producer Schneer was right to move on to greener subject matter.


As with the other Harryhausen picture 20 Million Miles to Earth has been given a perfectly fine widescreen encoding. Of the three Columbia B&W pictures this one has always looked the best, not only because Harryhausen’s work is more exacting, but also because there are fewer stock shots — he’s not combining his models with ‘found’ film of jet planes, etc.. The Columbia top brass clearly believed in what Schneer/Harryhausen were doing, even if they didn’t know how best to use them.

20 Million carries no commentary. Mill Creek chooses what looks like an Australian poster for their menus, one that carries a ‘MegaScope’ logo. It’s not a bogus credit, as Columbia employed the same logo for later anamorphic Hammer co-productions. CineSavant friend and Columbia employee Wayne Schmidt remembers long ago retrieving a Sony file print of 20 Million for producer Jon Davison to screen. Davison reported back that the print was an oddball adapted-scope copy, taking a horizontal 2:35 slice out of the film. The movie may have been shown this way in parts of Europe, too. Re-formatted for MegaScope, 20 Million must have been . . . a real mess.



The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock

Mill Creek’s disc appears to be a Blu-ray debut.

1959 / 1:85 widescreen / 73 min.
Starring: Lou Costello, Dorothy Provine, Gale Gordon, Jimmy Conlin, Charles Lane, Robert Burton, Will Wright, Lenny Kent, Ruth Perrott, Peter Leeds, Robert Nichols, Veola Vonn, Joe Gold. Doodles Weaver.
Cinematography: Frank G. Carson
Art Director: William Flannery
Film Editor: Al Clark
Music: Raoul Kraushaar
Special effects: Irving Block, Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin
Written by Rowland Barber, Arthur A. Ross story by Lawrence A. Goldman from an idea by Jack Rabin & Irving Block
Produced by Lewis J. Rachmil
Directed by
Sidney Miller


Oh please, not another one of those ‘I saw this when I was a kid’ reviews!  Yes, I’ll save those comments for the end.

They say that the Internal Revenue Service provided the motivation for famed comic Lou Costello to launch himself into The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock. A year after his final breakup with Bud Abbott, Costello said Yes to the team of Louis De Witt, Jack Rabin and Irving Block, special effects specialists with ambitions to produce. One of them must have been a great pitchman, for Irving Block had scored a story credit for Forbidden Planet, and talked Roger Corman into building a couple of movies around their special visual talents. Their ‘DRB Productions’ came together for Lou Costello’s one solo starring feature — which turned out to be his last. If the IMDB is correct, the show was released five months after the beloved comedian’s death.

The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock is a cute but not particularly bright comedy. Its fantasy premise connects with the Meet the Monsters riff of A&C movies since 1948. There’s also an undeniable link to the ‘giant people’ movies of Bert I. Gordon, and especially to a certain micro-budgeted recent hit starring Allison Hayes. Lou’s small town nobody shares the spotlight with his cute problem wife: after entering some kind of ‘atomic cave’ she experiences a sudden ’embiggening’ crisis.

The show is pitched at the level of previous A&C family material: endearingly silly characters, TV comedy exaggerations and a constant flow of weak jokes made tolerable by our affection for Lou. He’s the meek Artie Pinsetter, garbage man for the desert burg of Candy Rock (hmm — is that anyway near our beloved Sand Rock?) Artie is a genius with a photographic memory, but some folk treat him as an idiot pariah. First on that list is the local bigwig ‘Uncle’ Raven Rossiter (comic Gale Gordon), presently posturing to run for Governor. Artie loves Rossiter’s niece Emmy Lou (Dorothy Provine). She loves Artie back, and wants to get married ASAP.

The giant Emmy Lou naturally provokes the comedy situations. When Artie tells Raven that Emmy Lou is getting bigger, all assume that she is pregnant. Raven’s goofy, myopic assistant Magruder is played by Preston Sturges’ key stock comedian Jimmy Conlin. Magruder officiates over Artie and Emmy Lou’s marriage ceremony, with a metal hoop serving as a wedding ring. The hoop is actually part of an antenna for Max, the talking computer-robot that Artie has built, that’s just as confused as he is. Besides a gorgeous, oversized wife and a wisecracking computer, Artie also has a cute dog, Corporal.


Comedy scenes are built around Artie securing a parachute to clothe the naked Emmy Lou, an aspect of the film that is handled without emphasis. Lou Costello performs no ‘wowee, lookee, GIRLS!’ double-takes, as in his earlier Abbott and Costello Go to Mars. There’s even a chaste shower scene when Artie mans a convenient fire hose, a spectacle observed by a pilot in an Army helicopter. The femme giant interrupts an Army war game exercise, causing a General Griffin (Robert Burton) to fret and wail like a Burlesque comic. Stingy Welfare Director Stanford Bates (Charles Lane) delivers food for Emmy Lou, and provides a flatbed trailer truck to transport her, Gorgo-style, to a barn that serves as a Honeymoon house.

Sexless sex comedies of the 1950s were obliged to confect reasons to keep the comic and the babe apart, the Sexus Interruptus formula. In 30 Foot the newlyweds’ size disproportion at least makes that believable. Normally blessed with an even disposition, Emmy Lou becomes jealous of another woman kissing Artie. She runs to town to proclaim her independence from both her cruel father and her spineless husband:

I’m me! And I’m a lot of woman!

Emmy Lou rips the top from a water tower and drenches the people that bother her. Tossing the tower lid like a giant Frisbee results in General Griffin concluding that a Martian invasion is under way. The retaliation includes Nike missiles and a bazooka, a threat defused / resolved with an old-fashioned, silly ‘merry chase.’ Weirdly enough, when Artie’s computer Max suddenly begins altering time and space, the main chase gag connects with one of Philip K. Dick’s slippier mind-warp ideas. Max time-shifts Artie and the pursuing troops into earlier representations of themselves: Civil War soldiers, Napoleonic soldiers, and finally, cave men. It isn’t exactly a meaningful comment on militarism.

With nonsense logic the little computer Max continues to do impossible things, like giving Artie the ability to fly. Little kids surely laughed when the airborne Artie momentarily joins a formation of ducks.  (Spoiler)  Max eventually restores Emmy Lou to her right proportions, which makes no sense but establishes Artie is a genius who will be able to support his wife. To our surprise, the film’s final joke is genuinely funny.

Lou Costello’s well-known anarchic, infantile personality is somewhat subdued here. Concerned husband Artie doesn’t pull any ‘wah wah’ crybaby schtick. The comedian looks healthy, but perhaps a little thinner than before. Gale Gordon and the supporting cast offer energetic mugging at the level of an A&C TV Show skit. It’s all professional but none of it is particularly witty. In what would also be his final film appearance, the great Jimmy Conlin must work with material that’s not very endearing. Our affection is reserved for Artie and Emmy Lou.

Dorothy Provine brings warmth and charm to a not-very-promising leading female role. Emmy Lou is agreeably dense and petulant. She adds a bit of an adolescent pout to her voice, which makes her even sexier. Provine has fun whining about being hungry, and she flashes dagger eyes at Artie when another woman kisses him. Always better than the material she was given, Ms. Provine had made little impact in the title role of The Bonnie Parker Story, but we loved her every week on TV’s The Roaring Twenties. Her biggest movie was It’s a Mad4 World. She nailed her show-stopping musical number in The Great Race, the Mancini-Mercer song ‘He Shouldn’t-A, Hadn’t-A, Oughtn’t-A Swang on Me.’ Ms. Provine brings a cheerful sweetness — and most of what’s good — to 30 Foot Bride.


The show is directed like a TV sitcom. It begins with an animated title sequence like those on Doris Day movies. Block, DeWitt and Rabin’s nicely planned and orchestrated effects insert a giant Emmy Lou into scenes in which people mostly stand still to exchange dialogue. The overall gigantism illusion is ‘sold’ with perhaps ten master wide shots. The ‘Wonderama’ and ‘Mattascope’ processes are just advertising words, but the standard- and travelling- matte work looks fine, even when there’s little direct interaction between Big and Small. Emmy Lou never picks up Artie like a doll, preserving a key rule of Burlesque: no physical contact that might suggest other things to the audience. One rear-projection shot of Artie talking to Emmy Lou as she reclines is near-perfect. 

Part of the reason 30 Foot diverges from the Lou Costello norm is that he is the straight man. Artie is frequently the reasonable adult, trying to calm his emotional new bride. Our hopes rise when Emmy Lou proclaims her independence, and stomps off to town:

I will not keep my voice down!  I kept my voice down too long!

Alas, one scene later Emmy Lou is whimpering and agreeing to be the obedient wife to Artie, who is of course will be the boss. A new remake would of course reverse everything.


The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock looks good in this B&W transfer, appropriately formatted for 1:85. Is the transfer and encoding slightly older?  It’s good enough to let us admire the clean special effects. They aren’t very ambitious but technically they better what’s seen in Bert I. Gordon shows. Emmy Lou is also a ‘solid woman’ — we never see through her the way we can Nancy Archer.

The ‘Monster Party Podcast’ commentary for 30 Foot is what it sounds like, some well-informed guys laughing it up, while dispensing information. We’re even given a Lou Costello vocal imitation. But they do have good facts to offer along the way, like the tidbit that the special effects process touted on the posters ignored ‘Wonderama’ and ‘Mattascope’ and substitutes something called ‘Amazoscope.’ For all we know, an under-paid, over-lubricated publicist mislaid his notes and coined a new word on the spot.

I gave warning earlier of an unsolicited personal memory. Released at the tail end of the ’50s monster cycle, Candy Rock was one of the first films this writer saw through the Air Force theater system. At age seven I didn’t know who Lou Costello was and knew nothing about styles of comedy, but I remember exactly the film’s B&W look and liked the WOW! special effects. When Artie mentioned a place called ‘dinosaur canyon,’ I remember being disappointed that no dinosaurs appeared. Of course, the adorable Dorothy Provine won my widdle heart.

Six months later I was still perplexed by movie effects, and accepted the illusions in shows like the Irwin Allen The Lost World as amazing miracles. I hadn’t yet realized that there was a movie projector in that window at the back of the theater. What fun it was to be so ignorant innocent and sheltered . . . our parents and our secure environment gave us terrific childhoods.



Mill Creek Entertainment’s Blu-ray disc set Sci-Fi from the Vault: 4 Films is a well-packaged group of desirable films. The one new-to-disc item will draw crossover sales from Abbott & Costello fans, who just last summer were able to add the restored version of the A&C fantasy Jack and the Beanstalk to their collections. Discriminating home theater types may already own slightly better encodings of the first three pictures.

In addition to the three commentaries Mill Creek gives us two Daniel Griffith Ballyhoo featurettes, both on the first disc with Atom Brain and It Came. They Came from Beyond is a 25-minute item discussing the career of Sam Katzman, all explained by Tom Weaver (off camera) plus C. Courtney Joyner and Michael Schlesinger (on camera, eek.) Fantastical Features gives us Mr. Joyner primarily, delivering a 15-minute career rundown on director Nathan (Hertz) Juran.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Sci-Fi from the Vault
Blu-ray 4 Film Set rates:
Movies: Atom Brain & Candy Rock Good; It Came & 20 Million Excellent
Video: Atom Brain Fair; It Came & 20 Million Very Good; Candy Rock Good+
Sound: Excellent
They Came from Beyond
Fantastical Features
Audio Commentaries:
‘Film Freaks Forever’ podcast host Phoef Sutton and Mark Jordan Legan on Creature with the Atom Brain
Justin Humphreys & C. Courtney Joyner on It Came from Beneath the Sea
‘The Monster Party Podcast’ (Larry Strothe, Matt Weinhold, Shawn Sheridan, James Goni) on The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (features only)
Packaging: Two Blu-rays in Keep case in card sleeve
February 23, 2023

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About Glenn Erickson

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Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.

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