December 30, 2009

TREASURE ISLAND (1950) - it be pirate gold!

(1950, USA)

This was a joy to watch because of the master of all pirate performances, Robert Newton as Long John Silver. Arrrrrr!

Why else am I recommending a 60-year old Disney film? Well, because it's action-packed fun, and... it's not very different from a classic Hammer film, honestly! Non-stop peril, death round every corner, insane characters, and menacing hand-to-hand combat. If you like the 'high adventure' Hammer films, like Captain Clegg and Pirates of Blood River (recently released on DVD), then this is practically the same in content and atmosphere!

For decades, pirate stories were a staple part of fantasy adventures for boys. Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island is the perfect example, a tight relentless story where a young boy is in the middle of pirates, treasure, villainy, mutiny and parrots on shoulders. Seeing this version in the cinema in the 1960s, I was transported to a faraway tropical island where pirates buried treasure. Watching it again, I now realise it was mostly filmed at Pinewood Studios, and in the same London park (with THAT lake) so familiar from many Hammer films. Another childhood dream smashed on the rocks!

Stevenson should be familiar to horror fans because his stories also spawned dozens of adaptions of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as well as Val Lewton's The Body Snatcher (1945).

Treasure Island was the start of a hugely successful pirate theme for Disney, long before Pirates of the Caribbean the ride, let alone the movies. It also predates the historical high sea adventure 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Captain Hook and his pirate crew in Peter Pan. It was Disney's first completely live-action film, made to compensate for the huge cost of making animated films. Director Byron Haskin (in the 1984 booklength DGA interview) also recalls that Disney saw it as a gangster picture, and called in Haskin for that reason.

Such a perfect adaption of the classic tale, it was still playing in cinemas when I saw it on a double-bill with Sleeping Beauty. Watching it again recently, I was amazed that I could remember so many scenes so vividly: Jim Hawkins getting into peril so often, the fear of his close scrapes must have imprinted themselves. We're not talking 'mild scenes of danger', but more like horror movie strength terror - as Jim gets repeatedly cornered by bloodthirsty pirates with guns, sabres and nasty-looking knives. People getting shot in the face, skewered with swords, spiked with daggers... It's astonishing this still sells under the lowest film classification in the UK!

Treasure Island looks spectacular, being filmed in three-strip Technicolor, when that was a hugely expensive process to use. Special optical effects help to recreate period towns and ships, mostly by using beautiful matte paintings. Byron Haskin had plenty of technical expertise with visual effects - three years later he made the original The War of the Worlds. There's a strange over-reliance on jarring back-projection. But if you want Black Park in the background, why not shoot in Black Park? It's right next to the studio!

The casting of the actors is painstakingly apt for every character - this production nails every single one... to the yard arm. Robert Newton was English, but found fame in America. Anyone who's ever imitated a pirate by going "arrrrrr" owes him a debt. This is THE movie pirate with the missing leg, the crutch, the green parrot on rhe shoukder ("pieces of eight") and THAT pirate accent. Definitive, hilarious and creatively used in the film. "Arrrrr-men!"

Bobby Driscoll as young Jim 'awkins was already child star for Disney, his most famous role would later be the voice of Peter Pan. He was also the child lead in Disney's first feature-length live-action movie The Song of the South (1946) which is currently 'out of circulation' while Disney decide whether the depiction of African-Americans can be unleashed on the public again. With it's pioneering mix of live-action and animation and positive portrayals of a largely black cast, especially the sensitive performance by star James Baskett, who won an Academy Award as Uncle Remus, there's no question it should be released on DVD.

Shot in England, the rest of the cast is made up of British character actors, many familiar from children's TV, such as Sam Kydd (Orlando, Island of Terror). John Laurie as Blind Pew has such an hilariously thick, Scottish(?) accent that he's almost completely unintelligible. Frightening though. (When did American audiences lose the willingness to understand regional British accents?) Laurie's long career spanned from early Alfred Hitchcock films to Hammer horror (The Reptile). Though he's most famous for the sitcom (and spin-off movie) Dad's Army.

Over a decade before he was the second Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton has a great scene as a fearsomely swashbuckling pirate. A serious character actor, he also appeared in Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts and Hammer's Scars of Dracula.

The incredible Geoffrey Wilkinson almost leaps off the screen as Ben Gunn, but only has one movie credit on IMDB (a mistake?). An incredibly lunatic performance, his voice, manner and obsession with treasure reminded us immediately of Andy Serkis as Gollum. He gets some priceless one-liners, "Many a night, I dreamed of cheese". Haskin mentions that they almost got Alec Guinness for the role! In honesty, I don't think he could have matched Wilkinson's level of manic insanity!

Screengrabs of all the characters can be seen at
Aveley man.

The DVD (pictured as top) is presented 4:3 full-frame, which is how early 1950s films were usually framed. In Britain it has U certificate - the censors somehow allowed the pistol shots in the face...

In 1954, Newton appeared again in two non-Disney sequels, both called Long John Silver. One was also directed by Byron Haskin, and featured a completely unrecognisable Rod Taylor (The Birds, Inglourious Basterds) as a blinded wildman. While it picks up from the events of Treasure Island, it's very slow-going until the last half hour, when they eventually reach the island! The other was a B-movie starring Tab Hunter. Newton also starred in an Australian TV series, The Adventures of Long John Silver. Sadly this late career spurt ended with bankruptcy, and he was dead through alcoholism, aged 50. Dammit.

His definitive portrayal of the ultimate pirate lives on, anywhere there's fancy dress, a crutch and a parrot. Arrrrrrrr!

December 26, 2009

THE CASE OF THE MUKKINESE BATTLE HORN (1956) - a missing link in spoof comedy

(1956, UK)

Before Airplane, The Naked Gun, and even Monty Python, were The Goons...

Why is this not on DVD? It's like it disappeared completely. Constantly funny and fantastic, hysterical and historical! The roots of popular surrealist British comedy stems from The Goon Show - a hugely popular radio show that combined the talents of Peter Sellers mad knack for comedy voices and the startlingly inventive scripts of Spike Milligan. While several attempts were made to catch their insanity on film, this short feature is by far the most successful. The Goons had to disband when Peter Sellers movie career took off.

Insane comedy, where the actors often sent up their own movie, dates back to the silent genius of Buster Keaton, through The Marx Brothers movies and Olsen and Johnson's live-action looney toon movie Hellzapoppin'. In Britain, it was The Goons that took surreal and satirical comedy to extremes, inspiring the TV comedy of Monty Python's Flying Circus among many others. Hence Spike Milligan's cameo in Life of Brian, an onscreen tribute.

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn takes The Goons brand of comedy an important step further. Not only does it attempt to visualise a few of their famous radio characters, it adapts effortlessly into film. Fast-paced gags, asides to camera, lampoon, and twists on movie conventions. It's a clear forerunner of the straight-faced send-up of movie cliches, later monopolised by Airplane! and The Naked Gun, some of the most successful comedies ever. It hits a fast gag-a-minute pace that every comedy hopes for.

In fogbound London, a priceless but unwieldy antique disappears from a museum. A bumbling detective (Peter Sellers) and his dimwitted assistant (Spike Milligan) eventually investigate ("A robbery? Anything stolen?"). The trail leads to a pawnbrokers shop that has not three but four balls hanging outside ("Business must be good!"). From Scotland Yard to sleazy Soho, which of their suspects would steal this priceless musical monstrosity?

Superintendent Quilt is an obvious forerunner of Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau character, who first appeared in The Pink Panther (1963), and then in the even better A Shot In The Dark (1964). The series often featured Sellers' love for heavily disguised characters, buried under wigs, moustaches, humps and hats. These props are also on display in Battle-Horn as Sellers portrays his effete boss Assistant Commissioner Jervis Fruit (in blond wig, above) and the crumbling hunchbacked pawnbroker Henry Crun. While made up as caricatures, his performances aren't overplayed like his co-stars. There's still a sense that these could be real characters, and Sellers is ready for acting them out on the big screen.

Besides playing his enthusiastic but stupid sidekick, writer and lunatic Spike Milligan successfully visualises his beloved character Eccles, an absolute idiot. His star turn in the film is as an unemployed silent movie actor...

Leading Goon member Harry Secombe is notably missing (the producer suggests that he wanted too much money). But he's ably replaced by multiple-personality TV comedian Dick Emery (above left), a big influence on Harry Enfield's TV sketch shows. Emery effortlessly fits into the madness, and it's a great shame he didn't collaborate further in anything else this mad. Harry Secombe had appeared in the previous Goons movie Down Among The Z-Men but it never impressed me as being nearly as successful or funny, strung out to feature-length - wedging Goons characters into a standard formula Brit-com. Secombe's better remembered as a powerful singer, and his role in Oliver! ("You want moooooore?").

The highlight for me is to see Sellers perform onscreen a regular Goon Show character - the very, very deaf and dusty, senile, doddering Henry Crun. While trying to tempt a cat out of a gramophone using a saucer of milk, he fails to communicate with his equally deaf and senile (offscreen) wife Minnie.

Trivia-wise, this short film also marks Michael Deeley's first production credit. He went on to produce, among others, The Italian Job, The Deer Hunter and Blade Runner, no less. In his amusing, recently published autobiography, he mentions Battle-Horn as the first film he ever produced - an unsuccessful attempt to pilot a Goons TV show to the US.

Battle-Horn took its structure and presentation from the Edgar Lustgarten Scotland Yard true-crime short films, which were also being shot at Merton Park Film Studios. More about the horror films also shot at Merton Park here.
The entire script is online here.

Apologies for the poor screengrabs, but I haven't found a better way to illustrate this.

It was a kick to see this in the cinema as a supporting feature when Monty Python and the Holy Grail was first released. Very little else came close to being a suitable second film.

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle-Horn used to appear on TV, but has since disappeared from view, surfacing once on home video on VHS (pictured). I'd hope this gem would be enjoying a better showcase by now. Not a broken one with a brick in it.

The British Film Institute have screened it recently, using a print donated by Michael Deeley. Hopefully they will also restore and release it for wider consumption...

There's a short clip on YouTube here...

December 23, 2009

December 18, 2009

THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975) - the first incarnation

(1975, USA)

Soon to be remade - but not on DVD

I must have just missed this in the cinemas back in 1975, but I caught the paperback (UK edition, pictured above). The photos spread in British monster mag World of Horror #9 (see below) intrigued me enough to want to see it.
But I never found it on British TV and so, thirty years later, I look around for a DVD to find it's not been released. This is why I'm still buying VHS! Back to eBay, and I found an 1980s' US release (with really nasty artwork, pictured below).

In recent years, there've been several films about Buddha plus Vincent Ward's spectacular What Dreams May Come, all of which treated reincarnation fairly straightforwardly. But in the 1970s, the only genre interested in 'life after death' was horror. The Reincarnation of Peter Proud wasn't a big hit, so it's a surprise to see that director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) is currently interested in a remake. it's an odd choice, but could be very interesting if it happens.
Peter Proud is having recurring dreams, of places he's never been, people he doesn't know, and in a time before he was born. Vividly, he also feels that he's been swimming in a lake at night, just before being violently murdered. While he tries to stop the dreams through sleep therapy and psychoanalysis, he starts to recognise elements of these dreams in real life. They're not in his imagination after all. A car, actual landmarks and eventually faces that are all familiar.

Past-life regression was one of many psychic bandwagons that got popular. Hypnotism helped people remember the experiences of their former selves (just before they started remembering alien abduction scenarios). When science fails him, Peter has to seek the advice of less conventional experts... But he quickly (too quickly) decides he's reincarnated and sets off in search of who he was in his previous life...

This is a very seventies, very adult thriller, strong on a sexual theme. It's a good example of just how far you could go in a mainstream film. While the men flashed their chests and bums, the women were expected to go further, more often - while baring their chests was a big deal,
full frontal nudity was both encouraged and permitted.

Two of the actresses seem to have been picked for their willingness to get sexual, rather than be able to act.
The result is that the film opens rather shakily with some rather flat punny dialogue. Not helped by Corinne O'Neil (Peter's girlfriend, Nora) who exclaims her way through the early scenes. But she looks good in bed, so she got the part I guess. There's a bizarre scene where even a helpful teenager tries to vamp Peter, and seems disappointed that she doesn't get jumped. Her only reason to be in the film is for a car washing scene in cutoff denim shorts - all very seventies. She's useless to the plot, except for making Peter look less like Mr Average and more like James Bond.

The acting settles down when Margot Kidder (inbetween Black Christmas and The Amityville Horror) and Jennifer O'Neill (before Scanners and Cover Up) get involved, though both get compulsory sex scenes. Kidder famously also gets very naked in the bath, during a flashback of a sexual assault. In true 70s style, it's ambiguous whether she's actually enjoying the memory.

But there's also man-flesh. Michael Sarrazin (pictured below on the CD cover) was a body beautiful back then, swanning around in a towel in Eye of the Cat, and being the perfect physical creation for Frankenstein - The True Story. But his physique is outclassed by actor Tony Stephano (also in Tron but nothing else), who reminds me a lot of Joe Dallesandro (Blood for Dracula, Flesh For Frankenstein) who, as far as I'm concerned, looked like raw sex. Stephano was also extremely fit and gets to show it all off, well, almost all. I also think that it's Stephano who's in the 'screaming' movie poster, and not Sarrazin.

From the end of the sixties (They Shoot Horses Don't They?, The Flim-Flam Man) through most of the seventies (For Pete's Sake, The Gumball Rally) Michael Sarrazin was a leading man. But none of his films have endured with any sizable success to keep his career outside of TV work, or ensure any sort of comeback like, say, Burt Reynolds. But at the time he was big and almost always the star. Good in both comedy and drama, he also did mainstream fantasy - Peter Proud, Frankenstein, Eye of the Cat and The Groundstar Conspiracy (where, after he survives a huge explosion, the authorities aren't sure whether or not he's an alien). I last saw him in the two recent Harry Alan Towers adaptions of Harry Palmer novels (Bullet To Beijing, Midnight In Saint Petersburg), the return of Michael Caine's cold war spy.

The excess of swinging sex is matched by 70s visuals, mostly frantic intercutting as the past 'flashes' into the present, when Peter's "pre-natal memories" start catching up on him. Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he accidentally catches one of his dreamed images on TV. Like Friday the 13th, the trail of clues leads to Crystal Lake... I'm not making this up, see it for yourself!

The film is quite hypnotic. Maybe because it's from a different era (it feels odd to be looking back in time at a film that's looking back in time), but it has plenty to offer as a mystery, as to how it's all going to pan out. Also, it's not coy! I don't think there's nearly as much sex or nudity in mainstream horror (or thrillers) at the moment. There are some surprises from the director J. Lee Thompson (Happy Birthday to Me, Cape Fear (1962), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes) as well as the actors. Interesting to see Margot Kidder playing in two different timeframes, old and young - let down slightly by the old-age make-up.

The rather linear, inevitable storyline has only one place to go... I guess An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (1962, a short film showcased in The Twilight Zone) could've been more of an influence here than any real-life case.

For me the film was also spoilt by most of the publicity shots coming from the closing seconds of the movie!
Audrey Rose (1977) also presented reincarnation as horror material and was a much bigger hit, perhaps because Anthony Hopkins was already a bigger star, but it bored me tears at the time and was certainly not as downright dirty.

Once again, the soundtrack was released on CD (pictured) while the film hasn't made it to DVD. Jerry Goldsmith's haunting score helps the film immeasurably, and includes some spooky burbling synthesizers to clue us in that we're on the edge of something strange.
As far as I can tell, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud last surfaced on home video in America on VHS. Hopefully David Fincher's project will revive interest in Max Ehrlich's novel, and inspire a DVD release. But perhaps Margot isn't keen on any more exposure...

This 1975 issue of World of Horror gave me an appetite to see The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. Full of cartoons, fiction, movie news and gory colour photos, you can see that Fangoria wasn't the first magazine to have shocking front covers. The cover girl is Sheila Keith in Frightmare! Very eye-catching!

December 15, 2009

IT! (1967) - the golem from Merton Park Studios

(1967, UK)

Not the one with the killer clown...

 I wouldn't have bought this on DVD if IT! hadn't been on a double-bill with The Shuttered Room. But seeing a decent presentation of IT! has actually increased my appreciation of IT!. I used to dismiss this as one of my least favourite British horrors, but now IT!'s looking better than ever.

IT!'s still not great, but IT!'s never boring. I'm fascinated that IT! was made close to where I live. IT!'s also the only English-language movie about the golem, the mythical avenger from Jewish legend (more about the golem movies here).

After a warehouse fire, the museum owners are relieved and a little perplexed that a statue has survived completely unscathed. A further surprise is that the statue can be reanimated, follow orders and is virtually indestructible. Knowledge is power, but the only one who knows about it has small dreams, using the golem to get his boss's job and the girl of his dreams.

Quite an ambitious story for Merton Park Film Studios, this also has recognisable locations, by the River Thames at Hammersmith Bridge and in front of the Imperial War Museum. There are even a few visual effects of varying success, though nothing to match the potential scale of the story - especially in the climax. There's some simple modelwork on display and IT! has an impressive monster suit.

An added twist is that the man with the power is a little bit Norman Bates. He still keeps his mummified Mum around the house - a dessicated corpse almost more impressive than the golem outfit. I'd assumed that IT! looked melted because of the warehouse fire, but we soon learn IT!'s indestructible! I'm now guessing that the film-makers couldn't breach any copyrights by using the look from previous golem movies, hence the very different face.

With so much meat for a horror story, the film falls short by lacking in atmosphere and pulling its punches with any action scenes. There's plenty of murder but it's unimaginatively shot and mostly offscreen. It it wasn't for a semi-nude scene by Jill Haworth, IT! could easily pass with the lowest rating.

The fun is in the cast - Roddy McDowall is the main man, the year before he became his most popular screen character - an ape. As Cornelius, then Caesar, then Galen in the Planet of the Apes franchise, where he appeared in four of the original five films, as well as the TV series. He was also no stranger to the horror genre (like The Legend of Hell House, Fright Night) and is as famous for his voice (The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series and VINCENT in The Black Hole). Here he's at his paranoid best, especially in a nightmare scene that illuminates his character's obsessions far more than his dialogue does.

The obsessional love interest is Jill Haworth, who found fame in Exodus, but soon slipped into genre roles. She was in the classic The Outer Limits ('The Sixth Finger' episode), as well as Tower of Evil, and my favourite of hers The Haunted House Of Horror. In IT! she's less pro-active than her other roles, reduced to the classic 'mummy carrying a girl' cliche that ad-men loved to use in their posters.

Canadian-born Paul Maxwell was getting plenty of work in the sixties, adding an authentic North American accent to movies aimed at the international market. Here he gets some onscreen heroics to match his macho voice, which was so useful for beefing up Gerry Anderson's puppet characters. Maxwell voiced Steve Zodiac, the space-hero of Fireball XL5 and Captain Grey from Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Here's a chance to see him in the flesh.

Horror fans may spot a young Ian McCulloch, before he became one of TV's original Survivors and famously battled the Zombie Flesh Eaters, but he barely gets a word in, in this his movie debut.

The movie has been digitally remastered anamorphic widescreen, and definition and Eastmancolour have never looked better. IT! is on a double-bill DVD with the Lovecraftian The Shuttered Room (pictured above).

Now I'm off to look around for the strange castle used in the climax - it's got to be around here somewhere...

December 11, 2009

Horror in suburbia! The cult films from Merton Park Studios

My local horror film factory...

Merton Park had one of the many small suburban film studios spread around the outer reaches of London. They flourished when there was a demand for different weekly movies with full-length supporting B-movies. The government also had a tax incentive that ensured a regular proportion of films in British cinemas had been produced in Britain.

Operating between 1929 and 1967, Merton Park Studios had a long-running success with adaptions of Edgar Wallace crime dramas. But when I noticed the studios' name also cropping up on horror movies, I was excited that a few world-famous cult films had been made locally. Not necessarily 'cult' because they were any good, though!

Perhaps the best-known movie to be made here is the King Kong knock-off Konga, which used a 'man in a suit' years before Dino De Laurentiis visited Skull Island. It's a cheap monster movie but great fun for Michael Gough's cruel character and shouty performance. The guy in the gorilla suit is continually hilarious.

Of course, it's a different story from King Kong in that a scientist turns a baby chimpanzee into a giant gorilla (!!?). Konga doesn't climb the Empire State Building, he stands next to Big Ben while the army launch rockets past him. Well, actually Croydon High Street stood in for Westminster. I love the fact that places local to where I live have been seen around the world because of these films. (Full review of Konga here).

Low-budget producer Herman Cohen (Berserk!, Black Zoo) also shot Horrors of the Black Museum at Merton Park, also starring Michael Gough. It's infamous for the eye-gouging binoculars which caused a stir in 1959, with accusations of 'sadism' from film critics. The story's finale was filmed in South London's Battersea Funfair, just before Gorgo flattened it.

The other horror films shot at Merton Park Studios may be less familiar...

Ghost Ship (1952) is an early drama made at the studios, but with extensive location work. It's an amateurish suburban mystery which pads out the running time at every opportunity. The saving grace is that this is the earliest film I've seen to star Hazel Court - predating even Devil Girl From Mars. Amazingly, it's on DVD in the UK.

Another B-movie quickie, made to support Horrors of the Black Museum, The Headless Ghost (1959) was also produced by Herman Cohen. Drearily-paced and unfunny, the only saving grace is having a spectral Clive Revill, a twist on his turn as a ghostbuster in The Legend of Hell House. Plus there's an uncredited appearance by Janina Faye (Horror of Dracula, Day of the Triffids). This is also on DVD in the UK!

The Projected Man (1966) and Devil Doll both starred Bryant Haliday, who had a short run of leading horror roles (with Curse of Voodoo and Tower of Evil). On DVD in the UK (but edge-cropped to 16:9 - only the UK VHS has the full 2.35 widescreen Techniscope image)

Devil Doll (1964) will only work if you're freaked out by ventriloquist dummies, but Dead of Night (1945) did it better. This is also inspired by Svengali, but John Barrymore did it better. William Sylvester (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Yvonne Romain (Curse of the Werewolf) in the cast help considerably. On DVD in the UK.

Hopefully the 'hospital' location in Invasion (1965) is still around for me to visit. In the story, the building is cut off from the outside world when two (Japanese?) aliens visit Earth. Invasion is a good example of the 'pub invasion' genre, where Earth-shattering events take place while witnessed from a confined space. 

First contact is made with a handful of humans, as opposed to the whole world like in The Day The Earth Stood Still. This scenario is of course perfect for low budgets (see also The Man From Planet X, Devil Girl From Mars, Target: Earth, Night of the Big Heat, and The Earth Dies Screaming). It stars the late Edward Judd of First Men In the Moon, Island of Terror and The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

While I'd once rated the golem horror IT! (1967) as one of the worst British horrors of this era, I've actually changed my mind since seeing the recent DVD. It stars the ever watchable Roddy McDowall and Jill Haworth. Full review here.


But The Frozen Dead (1966) is pretty bad. Plodding action and a complete waste of a good Nazi zombie idea. Bizarre that a young Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal) plays a mute zombie soldier. An extensive use of locations makes me wonder whether this was shot after the studios had closed - the interiors look like they might have been locations too. Maybe not as bad as The Blood Beast Terror (a killer moth) and The Vulture (a were-bird).

Merton Park's best known non-horror film must be The Leather Boys (1963). A 'kitchen sink' drama set in the South of England for a change. Rita Tushingham (from A Taste of Honey) accuses her new young husband that he'd rather hang out with another motorcycle buddy than stay at home with her. 

The original book was a little more explicit at hinting at the relationship between Colin Campbell and Dudley Sutton's characters. The movie is affectionately heralded for its snapshot of many bygone London locations, including bikers' hangout, the Ace Cafe, which is still there today.

Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man, 1955) stars Faith Domergue (This Island Earth) and Peter Arne in a twisty high-tech (for 1955) thriller that makes British B-movies look respectable! Full review here.

The Case of the Mukkinese Battle Horn (1956) is only twenty minutes long, but deserves a special mention for the blossoming talent that it captured. There's an early multiple role for Peter Sellers (Dr Strangelove, The Pink Panther) as well as an early producer's role for Michael Deeley, long before he made The Italian Job and Blade Runner.  It's also the best visual record of the influential humour of The Goons radio show. This short but very funny film is the rare jewel in Merton Park Studio's filmography. For a full illustrated review, follow the above link.

Devil Doll (1964)
The Projected Man (1966)
The Frozen Dead (1967)

This week, I visited the only building still standing from the studio complex. The Long Lodge (the long black building near the bottom of the map) was used as the studio's headquarters. The neighbouring Leather Bottle pub, (at the bottom left of the map) is also still around. The lodge can be found on the Kingston Road, opposite a small parade of shops between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, and has two commemorative plaques outside (pictured) which I feel rather sells it short.

For more information, here's a recent article by movie expert Tise Vahimagi, about the Edgar Wallace thrillers that were shot at Merton Park Studios.

The British Movie Forum has a short thread about the studios, through which I found the rare floor plan.