Manfish


1h 16m 1956

Film Details

Also Known As
The Menfish
Release Date
Feb 1956
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Planet Filmplays, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Jamaica,British West Indies
Screenplay Information
Adapted from the short stories "The Gold Bug" by Edgar Allan Poe in The Dollar Newspaper (Philadelphia, Jun 1843) and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe in The Pioneer (Boston, Jan 1843).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Synopsis

When an official from Britain's Scotland Yard arrives in Jamaica to extradite a criminal, known there as "Professor," to stand trial in Britain on embezzlement charges, the local police chief tells him why he is unable to hand over the professor: Brannigan, the rough-edged captain of the fishing boat Manfish , is in debt to Bianco, a local Jamaican businessman. After Brannigan attempts to pick up Alita, the young girl friend of a man known only as "Professor," he and the professor become involved in a brawl. The next day, Brannigan sets out on the Manfish with his first mate "Swede" and two divers, Domingo and "Big Boy," to fish for turtles. The scuba divers are successful, but after an encounter with a shark, they are further shaken when they come upon a human skeleton on the ocean floor. When Brannigan dives to investigate, he discovers that the skeleton is holding a bottle in its hand. Upon returning to the surface, Brannigan breaks open the bottle and finds a map, in French, and a ring inside. He recognizes the ring as matching one that the professor wears. Back in port, Brannigan asks his girl friend Mimi, who understands French, to look at the map and she tells him that it appears to be only part of a map containing highly coded clues to the location of a buried treasure. After Brannigan and Swede locate the professor on a nearby island, the professor tells him that he found his ring in a nearby cove. When Brannigan dives there, the professor follows him and attempts to kill him with a spear gun. The ensuing fight between the two men is cut short with the arrival of Alita, who admits that they have the other part of the map. The professor then agrees that they should become partners with Brannigan. On board the Manfish , the professor tells Brannigan that the map belonged to the notorious, French pirate, Jean Lafitte, and that it uses riddles, mathematical formulae and the two rings to conceal the location of Lafitte's buried treasure. Being better educated than Brannigan, the professor states that he will attempt to break the codes. The next day, however, Brannigan is dismayed to discover that the professor, in order to ensure that Brannigan does not kill him, has memorized the entire map and then burned it. Brannigan, the professor, Alita, who is playing both men against each other, and Swede then sail to an island where the professor suspects the treasure is hidden. After deciphering the map's various codes and clues, the professor tells Brannigan and Swede to dig at a specific spot and soon they unearth a small chest full of gold jewelry. The professor then advises Brannigan that there is another map under the gold with clues to a bigger treasure. Before seeking that chest, however, they decide to return to port where Swede is assigned to sell some of the trinkets to raise more money. When Swede and Alita leave the boat to meet Aleppo, their potential buyer, the professor kills Brannigan with his spear gun and temporarily conceals the body until he can dump it overboard. Aleppo tells Swede that Brannigan is likely to lose the boat, Swede's only love, as Bianco is filing papers to seize it. After several interruptions, including the arrival of Mimi looking for Brannigan, the professor eventually slips the body overboard. However, when an oxygen cylinder, used to weigh the body down, fractures slightly on impact with the ocean floor, a small stream of bubbles begins to rise to the surface, alarming the professor. The professor then ties a rope around the treasure chest, hides it and, upon Swede's return, tells him that Brannigan has left with the chest and its contents and has deeded the boat to Swede. Swede does not believe him, however, and refuses to move the boat from the harbor. Meanwhile, the incessant sound of the bubbles rising to the surface maddens the professor. The next day, when Bianco arrives with a magistrate's order allowing him to seize the boat, Swede notices that an air tank is missing, spots the bubbles, dives in and recovers Brannigan's body. After the now insane professor is arrested and dragged away, Alita gives one of the gold bracelets to Mimi, saying that Brannigan had wanted her to have it, but Mimi throws it away. The money Swede received from Aleppo covers Brannigan's debt to Bianco, who then gives the boat to Swede. As Swede and his diver friends leave harbor, Swede cuts a rope that is fouling the propeller, and the chest, which the professor had hidden under the boat, sinks to the bottom.

Film Details

Also Known As
The Menfish
Release Date
Feb 1956
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Planet Filmplays, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Jamaica,British West Indies
Screenplay Information
Adapted from the short stories "The Gold Bug" by Edgar Allan Poe in The Dollar Newspaper (Philadelphia, Jun 1843) and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe in The Pioneer (Boston, Jan 1843).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Articles

The Lon Chaney Collection - Lon Chaney, Jr. in "The Indestructiable Man" & 3 Other Obscure Horrors in THE LON CHANEY COLLECTION on DVD


The Lon Chaney Collection is the generic name given to a dual-sided disc featuring a hodge-podge of obscure performances by character actor Lon Chaney, Jr. The disc's accurate sub-title declares "Four Rare Films," and this release certainly highlights a welcome aspect of DVDs: the opportunity to view items so rare that even many old-time collectors of tapes and 16mm films haven't heard of them.

Three of these offerings were transferred from 16mm, in fact, so let's start with the one that isn't. The Public Domain Indestructible Man (1956) has often been released on tape and DVD, usually in terribly inferior picture and sound quality. The version on this disc, (billed as a bonus feature), is a transfer from a wonderful 35mm print. The picture is sharp, and the sound crystal clear. The film has long been a delight for connoisseurs of low-budget 1950s shockers. It was one of only two movies ever directed by Jack Pollexfen, better known as a writer and producer. (Films among Pollexfen's many writer-producer credits include two directed by the much more capable Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man from Planet X 1951 and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll 1957). Chaney's performance in Indestructible Man is one-note, sort of a replay of his earlier Man Made Monster (1941). Aside from one line at the beginning, he is mute; and he is not very well served by Pollexfen, who keeps inserting a miss-matched close-up of a manic, disheveled-looking Chaney at every opportunity. The film provides several great views of downtown Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. Chaney tromps along the streets in shots that were clearly filmed sans permits, with real passers-by instead of paid extras. Locations viewed include the Bradbury Building, and the extinct Angel's Flight Railway in Bunker Hill.

The other feature-length film on this Retromedia disc is Manfish, released in 1956, the same year as Indestructible Man. This is not a horror film, in spite of supposedly being based on two stories of Edgar Allan Poe. It is a distinctly low-budget B-grade adventure picture, with Chaney in a supporting role. Manfish was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, who was literally Billy Wilder's less talented brother. The film, shot on location in Jamaica, features Chaney as the likable but slow-witted first-mate, caught between John Bromfield as the captain of the boat that bears the film's title, and Victor Jory as a professor. The male leads are at each other's throats over a potential undersea treasure. The characters played by Bromfield and Jory are thoroughly unlikable, so the viewer roots for Chaney by default. The print here, unfortunately, is not the revelation that Indestructible Man is. Most glaringly, it comes from a black-and-white 16mm print, and yet the film was shot in "Color by DeLuxe." It is also somewhat scratched and battered, with occasionally murky sound. The film is not nearly as fun as its co-feature, and one of the biggest attractions – the exotic location and underwater shooting – is sadly lacking the intended color photography. It is certainly a rarity, however, so this will have to do until a color print turns up.

The other two featured films on The Lon Chaney Collection are episodes from 1950s TV shows, again taken from 16mm prints. The lesser of these is an episode of Lock Up, a long-forgotten series from 1959-1961 starring Macdonald Carey as roving defense attorney Herbert L. Maris. Apparently, a typical episode would play out in an improbable fashion: police detective Jim Weston, played by co-star John Doucette, would throw a criminal in jail and his friend Maris would investigate and determine the innocence of the accused, freeing them from custody – each time in 24 minutes! The episode here, "The Case of Joe Slade," has Chaney as a local good-ol-boy-style sheriff intent on keeping his railroaded suspect behind bars. Chaney is fun to watch, as the sheriff tries every style of persuasion to keep the town's goings-on under his control, but the piece is ultimately a minor curiosity.

The second TV episode on the disc proves to be a real find. It is from a rare anthology series called Telephone Time, which was filmed at Hal Roach Studios and aired on CBS from 1956 to 1958. The host was John Nesbitt, the voice of dozens of MGM shorts from the 1930s and 40s in the Passing Parade series. Telephone Time was evidently a direct descendant of those shorts, as it shares the same earnest tone and deliberate pace. The episode at hand is called "The Golden Junkman," and it must be the high point of Chaney's TV career. He plays Jules Samenian, a poor Greek immigrant whose wife dies, leaving him to raise two young sons by himself. He throws himself into the task of becoming the most prosperous junk dealer in town, so that he can send his spoiled sons to the finest schools. As teenagers, the boys are ashamed of the old man's occupation and lack of education, so their energetic father embarks on a path of self-improvement. Chaney is an absolute delight to watch in this role; the determined enthusiasm of the Junkman borders on pathetic, yet he remains sympathetic and even lovable. (You also yearn for someone to slap around his unappreciative sons). This is a fine example of the sort of low-key, non-exploitive episodic television that was commonly produced for many years, but now comes across as a relic from another era. The original commercials are intact in this piece for maximum impact. The picture quality on both of the TV episodes is quite soft, and each contain a few splices, brief audio glitches and other flaws, but they are acceptable viewing.

The main bonus feature on The Lon Chaney Collection is a short interview with Gary Graver, who was the cinematographer on Chaney's last film, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971). That film was an Al Adamson ultra-cheapie which Graver shot in 16mm. The reminiscences are interesting, but inappropriate for this disc – they cover co-star J. Carrol Naish as well as Chaney, and would have been better left as a bonus on a DVD of the Adamson film.

The Lon Chaney Collection is a mere snapshot of a long career – the two features and one of the TV shows are all from the year 1956 (although Indestructible Man was actually shot in 1954) – but it is a pleasant visit with a sentimental favorite of many horror film aficionados.

For more information about The Lon Chaney Collection, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Lon Chaney Collection, go to TCM Shopping.

by John M. Miller

The Lon Chaney Collection - Lon Chaney, Jr. In "the Indestructiable Man" & 3 Other Obscure Horrors In The Lon Chaney Collection On Dvd

The Lon Chaney Collection - Lon Chaney, Jr. in "The Indestructiable Man" & 3 Other Obscure Horrors in THE LON CHANEY COLLECTION on DVD

The Lon Chaney Collection is the generic name given to a dual-sided disc featuring a hodge-podge of obscure performances by character actor Lon Chaney, Jr. The disc's accurate sub-title declares "Four Rare Films," and this release certainly highlights a welcome aspect of DVDs: the opportunity to view items so rare that even many old-time collectors of tapes and 16mm films haven't heard of them. Three of these offerings were transferred from 16mm, in fact, so let's start with the one that isn't. The Public Domain Indestructible Man (1956) has often been released on tape and DVD, usually in terribly inferior picture and sound quality. The version on this disc, (billed as a bonus feature), is a transfer from a wonderful 35mm print. The picture is sharp, and the sound crystal clear. The film has long been a delight for connoisseurs of low-budget 1950s shockers. It was one of only two movies ever directed by Jack Pollexfen, better known as a writer and producer. (Films among Pollexfen's many writer-producer credits include two directed by the much more capable Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man from Planet X 1951 and Daughter of Dr. Jekyll 1957). Chaney's performance in Indestructible Man is one-note, sort of a replay of his earlier Man Made Monster (1941). Aside from one line at the beginning, he is mute; and he is not very well served by Pollexfen, who keeps inserting a miss-matched close-up of a manic, disheveled-looking Chaney at every opportunity. The film provides several great views of downtown Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. Chaney tromps along the streets in shots that were clearly filmed sans permits, with real passers-by instead of paid extras. Locations viewed include the Bradbury Building, and the extinct Angel's Flight Railway in Bunker Hill. The other feature-length film on this Retromedia disc is Manfish, released in 1956, the same year as Indestructible Man. This is not a horror film, in spite of supposedly being based on two stories of Edgar Allan Poe. It is a distinctly low-budget B-grade adventure picture, with Chaney in a supporting role. Manfish was produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, who was literally Billy Wilder's less talented brother. The film, shot on location in Jamaica, features Chaney as the likable but slow-witted first-mate, caught between John Bromfield as the captain of the boat that bears the film's title, and Victor Jory as a professor. The male leads are at each other's throats over a potential undersea treasure. The characters played by Bromfield and Jory are thoroughly unlikable, so the viewer roots for Chaney by default. The print here, unfortunately, is not the revelation that Indestructible Man is. Most glaringly, it comes from a black-and-white 16mm print, and yet the film was shot in "Color by DeLuxe." It is also somewhat scratched and battered, with occasionally murky sound. The film is not nearly as fun as its co-feature, and one of the biggest attractions – the exotic location and underwater shooting – is sadly lacking the intended color photography. It is certainly a rarity, however, so this will have to do until a color print turns up. The other two featured films on The Lon Chaney Collection are episodes from 1950s TV shows, again taken from 16mm prints. The lesser of these is an episode of Lock Up, a long-forgotten series from 1959-1961 starring Macdonald Carey as roving defense attorney Herbert L. Maris. Apparently, a typical episode would play out in an improbable fashion: police detective Jim Weston, played by co-star John Doucette, would throw a criminal in jail and his friend Maris would investigate and determine the innocence of the accused, freeing them from custody – each time in 24 minutes! The episode here, "The Case of Joe Slade," has Chaney as a local good-ol-boy-style sheriff intent on keeping his railroaded suspect behind bars. Chaney is fun to watch, as the sheriff tries every style of persuasion to keep the town's goings-on under his control, but the piece is ultimately a minor curiosity. The second TV episode on the disc proves to be a real find. It is from a rare anthology series called Telephone Time, which was filmed at Hal Roach Studios and aired on CBS from 1956 to 1958. The host was John Nesbitt, the voice of dozens of MGM shorts from the 1930s and 40s in the Passing Parade series. Telephone Time was evidently a direct descendant of those shorts, as it shares the same earnest tone and deliberate pace. The episode at hand is called "The Golden Junkman," and it must be the high point of Chaney's TV career. He plays Jules Samenian, a poor Greek immigrant whose wife dies, leaving him to raise two young sons by himself. He throws himself into the task of becoming the most prosperous junk dealer in town, so that he can send his spoiled sons to the finest schools. As teenagers, the boys are ashamed of the old man's occupation and lack of education, so their energetic father embarks on a path of self-improvement. Chaney is an absolute delight to watch in this role; the determined enthusiasm of the Junkman borders on pathetic, yet he remains sympathetic and even lovable. (You also yearn for someone to slap around his unappreciative sons). This is a fine example of the sort of low-key, non-exploitive episodic television that was commonly produced for many years, but now comes across as a relic from another era. The original commercials are intact in this piece for maximum impact. The picture quality on both of the TV episodes is quite soft, and each contain a few splices, brief audio glitches and other flaws, but they are acceptable viewing. The main bonus feature on The Lon Chaney Collection is a short interview with Gary Graver, who was the cinematographer on Chaney's last film, Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971). That film was an Al Adamson ultra-cheapie which Graver shot in 16mm. The reminiscences are interesting, but inappropriate for this disc – they cover co-star J. Carrol Naish as well as Chaney, and would have been better left as a bonus on a DVD of the Adamson film. The Lon Chaney Collection is a mere snapshot of a long career – the two features and one of the TV shows are all from the year 1956 (although Indestructible Man was actually shot in 1954) – but it is a pleasant visit with a sentimental favorite of many horror film aficionados. For more information about The Lon Chaney Collection, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Lon Chaney Collection, go to TCM Shopping. by John M. Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film was The Menfish. The onscreen credits mistakenly list director of photography Charles S. Welbourne as "Chas. S. Wellborn." The film starts with the British official's arrival, then goes into a flashback and never returns to the present. The film was shot entirely in the British West Indies. Although the print viewed bore a 1955 copyright registration to Planet Filmplays, Inc., the film was not registered for copyright protection. Contemporary reviews list the running time of Manfish as 76 or 78 minutes, but the black-and-white print viewed ran 87 minutes. That approximates the film's running time in Britain where it was released as Calypso.
       A Hollywood Reporter production chart lists Arnold Shanks, who is credited onscreen as "production supervisor," as "assistant." Although Manfish was not Barbara Nichols' first screen appearance, it was her first significant role. In the credits, Clyde Hoyte is billed as "Clyde Hoyte and his Calypsos."