September Storm (1960) Blu-ray 3D Review: The Stars That Didn’t Steal the Night Away

While perhaps best known for writing classic crime novels such as Little Caesar and The Asphalt Jungle ‒ to say nothing of the classic motion picture versions of his own celebrated work ‒ W.R. Burnett also managed to adapt a few titles from other authors for the silver screen. One such title, a modest little 3D production from 1960 entitled September Storm, fell through the slats of the proverbial pier many moons ago, only to recently reemerge from the deep thanks to some very devoted Kickstarter followers. In fact, were it not for the people behind this restoration, this September wouldn’t be worth remembering.

Strap yourselves in for a rough one, kids, because there’s a Storm about to blow!

Straight from the get-go, September Storm seems to be lost at sea, uncertain as to which direction it should take. This is even more noticeable when one dives beneath the surface of the film, wherein they not only discover its original (sillier) shooting title ‒ The Girl in the Red Bikini ‒ but also the amount of pride that was executed for this three-dimensional Stereovision CinemaScope title: none whatsoever. In fact, the movie was shot open matte with NaturalVision cameras, only to be given a faux widescreen aspect ratio in post-production via some very poorly executed cropping (note the abundance of headroom!).

Worse still, it wasn’t even sent to theaters in two-strip 3D like its more popular predecessors. Well, when it was projected in 3D, that is. Truth be told, most exhibitors didn’t bother, as the fad from the ’50s was already long gone by the time; September Storm‘s own advertising campaign was even available with a variety of snipes to paste over certain portions of posters. As far as the lazily filmed tale of greed itself, September Storm stars Joanne Dru as a model vacationing on the Spanish island of Majorca, where she meets a very eager to please local lad, as played by future real estate broker Asher Dann in his only big-screen role.

Soon after the sparks fail to fly off-screen between them (which has nothing to do with 3D, but rather, the lackluster direction by Byron Haskin), Mark Stevens appears as a sleazy fortune hunter who less-than-subtly leers at Ms. Dru throughout ‒ something his even sleazier partner in crime, Robert Strauss, soon perfects into an unsettling artform. Eventually, Markus Aranus assumes command of not only the vessel most of the movie centers around, but that of the entire movie itself, which he does after convincing his shapely top-billed star to use her persuasive female charms on the young Spaniard fellow so that they may set sail in search of lost gold doubloons.

Speaking of charm, Stevens’ own self-imposed allure begins to split more than just the randomly placed curly patches of natural hair protruding from his chest, culminating in a jaw-dropping change in wardrobe which should earn him the nefarious seafaring nickname of “Captain Cameltoe” in any ship’s log. But that’s just the tip of things, kids, as September Storm features more notably ridiculous moments worth mentioning, including what is undoubtedly the greatest fake-looking rubber shark I have ever seen captured on film (this, mind you, coming from a lad who saw Batman: The Movie more times than he will ever care to freely admit).

Meanwhile, off in a meandering subplot that actually opens the film, French actor Jean-Pierre Kérien (as the owner of the boat the movie’s whole budget was spent on renting, apparently) nauseatingly gets cutesy with future cheapo sexploitation guest star Véra Valmont and her prominent fripples, which must have been inserted as an afterthought once the producers realized how much their male star was exhibiting. Eventually, the half-assed portion of the movie (if such a thing is possible) merges with the sleep-inducing main portion of the feature, immediately frizzling up into nothingness, much like the tale’s very humdrum, eponymous squall does midway through.

And yet, despite all of its flaws ‒ or perhaps, because of them ‒ it was a blast to see this forgotten, mediocre underwater treasure flick from producer Edward L. Alperson, the very same man who brought us Irma la Douce and the original Invaders from Mars. Meticulously restored by the 3-D Film Archive and 3-D SPACE, September Storm has found a new harbor to anchor in ‒ footless flamenco dancers and all ‒ thanks to Kino Lorber. Making its official debut on home video for the first time, Kino Lorber has ensured all treasure seekers find what they are looking for in this title by offering it up in both 3D and 2D presentations.

Between the age and condition of the elements used in this transfer, to say nothing of the peculiar way the movie was manufactured in the first place, September Storm arrives on Blu-ray in what is undoubtedly the best it will ever look. The image itself varies from scene to scene, but is quite crisp and clear throughout, and the film’s annoying soundtrack (note how producer Alperson keeps pushing his son’s song “I’m Gonna Be By You” on us all through the movie, as if he predicted it was going to become a big hit on the charts) is offered up in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 selection. Sadly, no subtitles are included with this release, but we do get lots of extras!

The first special feature here is an interview with would-be actor Asher Dann, who sits with us for a 15-minute jot down memory lane which can be viewed in 3D or 2D. We also receive two rarely-seen shorts from the ’50s movie craze (also available in both 3D and 2D). The first is a trippy stop-motion animated 1953 short The Adventures of Sam Space, which didn’t make its debut until it was tacked on to booking dates with September Storm. The second short, also from ’53, is England’s musical variety act Harmony Lane. This short, as helmed by Lewis Gilbert, also sat unreleased for some time before being released in 2D.

Part of Harmony Lane was cut out of release prints as a result of being issued flat, which is how it is presented here: while most of it is available in 3D, there are a few minutes which are not. Harmony Lane‘s famous director, Lewis Gilbert, is featured in an archival interview from 1995, and the final remaining extras on this Blu-ray without any 3D options are two trailers. The first is a color theatrical preview for 3D release of the feature. The second is an open matte black-and-white TV spot for the 2D version of the film, which is quite interesting to see, as it’ll give you a great idea as to how much of the movie was cropped out for the final release print.

Despite being graceful with its well-known gimmick (read: don’t expect any 3D “money shots” where everything is deliberately pushed into the frame), as well as being the first 3D movie to feature some underwater scenes, there really is nothing to distinguish September Storm from any other bad movie about treasure hunters on the open seas. In many ways (and I’m sure the movie’s copyright came into play here), it’s rather shocking nobody tried to re-title and re-release it 15 years after its underwhelming premiere in an attempt to cash-in on Jaws, which is something many distributors did with other pictures of the same ilk in the mid to late ’70s.

That said, it is nevertheless a very noble effort on everyone’s part (from Kickstarter contributors to 3D restoration experts) that we are finally, at long last, able to see this silly little B flick afloat once again. And for that, if nothing else, I recommend this 3D Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

Well, that, and the fake shark. It totally makes the whole damn movie, believe me.

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Luigi Bastardo

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