Summer Break

Greetings, good People of the Internet.

As summer is upon us, with constant rain and temperatures around 9°C in Trondheim, we are taking a (well deserved, we think) break from blogging to go traipsing around Asia for a while. Thus, there will be no updates for the coming month or so. But despair not! In mid-August we will be back with renewed energy and an overabundance of plucky can-do attitude, ready to dive into 1964 and bring you the next chapter in our movie watching odyssey.

Until then, have an excellent summer. Read, watch movies, cuddle a dog or ten, and just have an amazing time. We know we will.

We love you all!

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#234 A Hard Day’s Night

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Richard Lester

Starring: The Beatles, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington, John Junkin

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 27min

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It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright

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“Wait, why are we all running in the same direction if I’m going home to my girl..?”

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You know I work all day to get you money to buy you things
And it’s worth it just to hear you say you’re going to give me everything
So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone
You know I feel ok

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“Finally. We’re alone…”

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When I’m home everything seems to be right
When I’m home feeling you holding me tight,

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“tight, yeah!”

 

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It’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright, oww!

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“So, turns out I have to find my own girl to go home to. I can’t share Ringo’s. Any takers?”

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So why on earth should I moan, ’cause when I get you alone
You know I feel ok

When I’m home everything seems to be right
When I’m home feeling you holding me tight, tight, yeah

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“Now pout for the camera, boys!”

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Oh, it’s been a hard day’s night, and I’ve been working like a dog
It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log
But when I get home to you I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright
You know I feel alright
You know I feel alright

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“So, we’re all happy with these lyrics?” “Sure!” “Yeah!” “Love ’em!” “I mean, they are a bit repetitive maybe…?” “Shut your filthy mouth! This is perfection!”

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Very silly and charming, and an inspiration for so many different genres. Definitely watch this. Such fun!

What we learned: The Spiceworld of its time was almost as good as Spiceworld! But of course, Paul, John, George and Ringo will never be as charismatic and popular as Ginger, Scary, Sporty, Baby, Curly, Moe, Larry, Huey, Louie, Dewey, Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey, Doc, Posh and all the other Spice Girls.

Next time: A Shot in the Dark (1964)

#233 A Fistful of Dollars

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, José Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Not Toshirô Mifune

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 39min

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A lone rider in the Wild West (Eastwood) arrives in a one horse town. On his mule, so he doesn’t accidentally upgrade the town’s status, mind you. He’s very considerate like that. He learns from an innkeeper that the village is plagued by two rival families vying for control, and decides to clean up the town before he moves on.

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“Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from Cotton-Eye Joe”

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To get rid of the Baxters and the Rojos, the rider (a.k.a. Joe and/or The Man with no Name depending on who you ask. We strongly feel that the first option sort of cancels out the second and vice versa, so we’re very confused) will offer up his services to one family, then to the other, trick them and watch them undo each other. And he will look good doing it, dammit!

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Good luck teaching your kids that smoking isn’t cool…

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There’s the innkeeper, a coffin maker, a young mother who’s been gambled away in a game of cards, a brutal beating of our hero and a long, secret convalescence before the final showdown. Sound familiar? Akira Kurosawa thought so too…

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“So, you mean this is not an original story?” “Well, we’ve added guns, Mexicans, sheep skin vests and the most luscious head of hair this side of the Rio Grande. I think we’re in the clear.”

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The story is not just inspired by Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, but a blatant rip-off. Despite that, it is still a great movie in its own right. We love a good spaghetti western as those were the movies we grew up with, so while we still prefer the Japanese original (swords beat guns any day) we really enjoyed revisiting A Fistful of Dollars.

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It’s always nice noticing new details, such as how ridiculously happy “El Indio” is to be on a wanted poster

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We adored the young Clint Eastwood (and his luscious, luscious hair), his poncho, the noose when he rides into town, the weatherbeaten faces of the townspeople (although we think Kurosawa did even that a bit better), the dubbing, the soundtrack (by Ennio Morricone of course), and the finale. Such fun!

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“Oh man, the only thing that could have possibly improved this is replacing guns with swords. Can you imagine how good that movie would have been..?”

 

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What we learned: Clint Eastwood is cool. Very cool. But not even he is as cool as Toshirô Mifune.

Next time: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone,  John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Dick Miller

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 19min

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Doctor James Xavier (Milland) is getting an eye exam in anticipation of doing some sort of experiment on himself. His mission, should he choose to accept it (which he probably will as he is the one who came up with it in the first place), is to attempt to expand the spectrum of human vision.

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In other words: he wants to be able to see through people’s clothes at parties

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After a fatal test run on a monkey, he goes straight to a human test subject: himself. Which seems a bit presumptive given the fatality of the first test, but hubris has always been a great blinder. As are, it turns out, the eye drops he uses to change his own vision.

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“It’s so weird how the same eye drops that killed the monkey have some averse effect on human beings too! As a scientist, I never could have anticipated that.”

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Sure, at first the main effect of the drops is a new ability to check people for diseases, broken bones, internal injuries and unflattering underwear, but Xavier soon grows addicted to the drops, and his vision changes for each new dose. How far is he willing to go?

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Creepy, shiny, slightly cross-eyed contacts-far? Or even further?

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is just the right amount of fun, silly, schlocky and overly dramatic to appeal to our sensibilities. Add to that a wonderful cameo by Dick Miller, eating as per usual, and Ray Milland as the eccentric genius and we’re completely sold.

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We also enjoyed the effect created by the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-3D “Spectarama”

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes reminded us quite a bit of The Invisible Man, although the main character is slightly less crazy. Slightly. We loved the circus act, the amazing dancing at the party, the creepy contacts, and the drama of it all. This may no longer be on the list, but we’re not ones to turn down a Roger Corman movie if we have an excuse for one. A good choice if you’re looking for something a bit silly for a lost weekend. (See what we did there?)

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This is a man who has survived a Roger Corman movie marathon

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What we learned: The main character is called Dr Xavier and can see what others cannot, similarly to Professor Xavier from X-Men. This movie was released in September 1963, just like the first X-Men comic which featured Professor Xavier. Mind. Blown.

Next time: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Bonus: Bitter Harvest

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Peter Graham Scott

Starring: Janet Munro, John Stride, Terence Alexander, Anne Cunningham, Alan Badel

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Jennie (Munro) is a small town girl living in a lonely world. She takes the midnight train going anywhere. Well, actually, she gets a drunken ride with a couple of older men to their apartment in London and is raped and abandoned. But that doesn’t sound as nice.

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“What do you mean, raped? A beautiful young ginger girl who deliberately drank champagne in the company of strange men cannot possibly be raped.”

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Her whole life she has dreamed of the luxury and fame she’s been sold in commercials and movies, but when she tries to pursue it, she is brutally punished by every man she meets. After the rape, she meets barman Bob (Stride) who invites her to stay with him, and the two start a relationship. However, Jennie is not satisfied with just staying at home and being a girlfriend – she wants a career of her own, which Bob sees as a threat to their relationship. Actually, he sees everyone as a threat to their relationship, and would rather have Jennie stay at home and never talk to anyone but him ever again. When she meets abusive producer Karl Denny (Badel), she immediately (and completely out of character) surrenders to him and leaves Bob.

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“Well, I just figured one abusive asshole is as good as the next. At least he can make me famous.”

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Now, Bitter Harvest is an interesting one. Everything we’ve read about this movie (which, granted, isn’t a lot, but still) seems to suggest Jennie is a manipulative, selfish young woman who will do anything to get ahead, and who doesn’t appreciate what she has. But this is not how we read it at all.

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Even her obliviousness to the attempted seduction when she’s caught in the bathtub seemed genuine and not manipulative

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What we saw was a young, sweet and naïve, though willful, girl who stood up for herself and dreamed of a more exciting life. When she told “nice guy” Bob she was pregnant at their first meeting, she wasn’t lying but thought she told him the truth – she had had sex (read: had been raped) and thus she must be pregnant.

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It’s bad enough waking up naked in a strange man’s bed without having to worry about pregnancy

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Also, she never lies to Bob about what she needs money for, or where she’s going. She just (rightfully) assumes that this is her choice to make, and that if he loves her, he will support her choices. However, despite his kindness in taking her in when they both think she’s pregnant with another man’s child, Bob is a controlling and condescending asshole who resorts to threats and violence when Jennie makes her own choices. When she refuses to leave with him, he tries to strangle her, suggesting he’s not really the nice guy he is painted to be.

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A girl who doesn’t do what you tell her and goes out to see people to further her career even though you told her not to? And then has the audacity to talk back to you, the good guy, when you stalk her to drag her back home? Better strangle that bitch!

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Jennie’s willful and autonomous side is also what makes her complete surrender at Denny’s slap seem out of character. Personally, we feel that in order to control her like that, he needed to build up to it, not slap her on the first night. However, perhaps her hope of a better life blinds her.

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We’re just saying, the Jennie from the first part of the movie would never let herself be slapped into submission. At least not on the first date.

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Finally, just a couple of words about the popular interpretation of her “little black book” that the police find in her apartment: we didn’t interpret that as evidence of her “promiscuity” as many suggest, but as evidence of Denny prostituting her. However, none of us has read the book the movie is based on – our interpretation is based solely on the movie we watched. And in that, we think Jennie has been unfairly treated by several viewers.

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Unfair or not, she gets her punishment in the end, as all willful and ambitious girls must.

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As mentioned, there are some similarities between Jennie and Patsy from The Small World of Sammy Lee, made especially clear to us as we watched them as a double feature. The difference is that Patsy stumbles into the sex trade because of her love for a man, while Jennie falls into it due to ambition and a hope for a better life for herself. Thus, Patsy makes it out while Jennie must be punished. Really – give us time and money and we can probably write a thesis on this. Although we suspect this has already been done many times over…

So, how do we feel about Bitter Harvest? We think it’s an interesting film to watch, but it’s problematic enough that we can see how it has been removed from the list.

What we learned: Apparently, girls should be satisfied with what they have, whether it’s an uneventful life in a small, dead town or as a spouse to a man prone to violence whenever he doesn’t get his way.

Next time: Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

#232 The Small World of Sammy Lee

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Ken Hughes

Starring: Anthony Newley, Julia Foster, Robert Stephens, Wilfrid Brambell, Warren Mitchell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 47min

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No, we are not dead. We just had to take a small hiatus due to exams and related stress enducing activities which take a lot of time away from writing. But things are calming down (only two weeks until the summer break for some of us!) and we’re ready to get back into it. And we do so with classic British crime film The Small World of Sammy Lee.

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A.k.a. The Loneliness of the Gambling Debt Runner

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Patsy (Foster) arrives at a Soho strip club looking for Sammy Lee (Newley), the compère at the club who she had a fling with, and a job. Unfortunately for her, he’s off gambling and getting further into debt with a local kingpin, so she’s left with his sleazy boss instead.

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Despite Sammy’s absence, Patsy gets an “interview” and is promptly hired.

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Returning to work, Sammy is not overly pleased to learn that Patsy has found a job there, but at least she’s hired as a waitress rather than a stripper. For the time being. Additionally, he receives a call informing him that his debt of £300 is to be collected immediately. Although he does manage to talk the debt collectors into giving him 5 hours to come up with the money.

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“Um, yeah, I totally have that amount of money lying around and will have absolutely no trouble getting my hands on them within the next five hours. Just you wait!”

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Sammy has to pull all his strings, exhaust all his contacts and juggle all his ideas to make the money in the allotted time in order to survive the night. As the night goes on, the deals get shadier and shadier, and he will pull all those who love him down with him.

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Including young, naïve Patsy

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Sammy Lee is charming and funny, but a selfish bastard. His contact with his brother is limited to asking for money, and he has lots of acquaintances and very few friends. He pleads with the men in his life for money, but dismisses all the women who want to help him, probably out of some false sense of chivalry. Poor Patsy deserves better.

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As does Sammy’s ever faithful and loyal friend/sidekick Harry

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The Small World of Sammy Lee is tense and engaging, and we enjoyed it a lot. We also secretly liked the gratuitous strip tease scenes with the elaborate scenarios, despite our lack of understanding of their sexual appeal (might be a gender thing). We loved the properly choreographed numbers, the clear themes, and the contrast between the show and everything happening backstage.

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Note to all: no man is worth participating in an Arabian Nights themed strip tease. If you’re gonna do that, do it for yourself.

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And while we weren’t necessarily fans of Sammy, we really enjoyed Newley’s performance and the character’s ingenuity in trying to raise the money. We watched this as a double feature with Bitter Harvest, and to us, this reads a bit like an alternate reality version of that (which we’ll come to in a few days) with Patsy as a less driven and less autonomous Jennie. But we’ll explore this further in the next blog post.

What we learned: What a compère is. And also, don’t gamble. Although we already knew that.

Next time: Bonus: Bitter Harvest (1963)

#231 The Servant

Watched: April 23 2019

Director: Joseph Losey

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Wendy Craig

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 56min

Servant

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Tony (Fox) has recently bought a house and like all houseowners he is now in dire need of a manservant. This need is met in the form of Hugo Barrett (Bogarde) and he is immediately hired. Tony seems content with his new employee and they fall into their roles quite naturally.

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One: the careless sleeper. The other: the sinister observer

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Despite playing his devoted servant-role to perfection, whenever Tony is not around, we see a different Barrett: he drinks, smokes and even moves differently. Tony’s girlfriend Susan (Craig) seems to be the only one who picks up on the more malevolent side of Barrett, and she soon becomes directly hostile towards him. We can’t blame her though – he goes out of his way to ignore her, even when she speaks directly to him.

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Personally, we tend to be careful about insulting the man in charge of the wine, but we admire her courage.

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Then, when Barrett moves his “sister” Vera (Miles) in, the tension in the household reaches new heights. Tony and Vera soon have an affair, then Tony catches Barrett with Vera (who, of course, is not actually his sister), and gradually the power in the relationship shifts from one man to another.

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“What does the fact that we have both slept with my ‘sister’ say about the nature of the tension between us..?”

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The Servant might start off like Jeeves and Wooster, but then it goes oh so dark. Bogarde is wonderfully creepy as Barrett, and there’s an air of malice and threat about him which we absolutely loved.

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Even his shadow is menacing

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The house is wonderful and practically a character in it self, and the dinner scene where we caught glimpses of people’s lives was amazing. We also loved the tension built by the dripping sink, as well as the Pinocchio nose shadow, the use of mirrors, and the score.

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We enjoyed this awkward seduction too. How many suggestive and impractical poses can one girl strike on a kitchen table before she is kissed?

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It’s a slow build, but exceedingly enjoyable, full of detail and hugely suspenseful. Just a beautifully successful union of writer, director and stars.

What we learned: It’s just as well we cannot afford servants… Also, deep focus was all the rage in the 1960s!

Next time: The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)

#230 The Haunting

Watched: April 21 2019

Director: Robert Wise

Starring: Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, Fay Compton, Rosalie Crutchley, Lois Maxwell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 52min

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Eleanor “Nell” Lance (Harris) has been oppressed and mistreated all her life – both by her abusive mother and her overbearing sister. So when she gets a mystical invitation to spend a few days in Hill House as part of an experiment, she “steals” her own car and sets off.

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“To adventure! And possibly gruesome death.”

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The experiment, led by Dr John Markway (Johnson), is looking for proof of the supernatural and Hill House was chosen for its history of madness, murders and suicides and its reputation for being haunted. Dr Markway explains that Nell was invited due to an event in her childhood where rocks had rained on her house, possibly because of Nell’s latent telekinetic powers, something she herself fervently denies.

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“No, no, no! Nothing so dramatic has ever happened! I’m not dramatic! Shut up or I’ll jump!”

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The other participants in this supernatural shindig include psychic Theodora (Bloom) and house owner’s nephew Luke (Tamblyn). Weird, fragile, abused Nell has lived too much in her own head and not enough out in the real world, and she struggles to form natural relationships with the rest of the group, especially Theodora who she seems to adore and detest in equal amounts.

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“She’s my best and only friend. I love her. Do I love her too much? No. But is Dr Markway in love with her? I hate her! Why don’t they love me? Did I kill my mom..?”

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Our guess is that for a large audience, Shirley Jackson’s classic horror story The Haunting of Hill House is possibly best known from the 2018 Netflix series, but do not be fooled. This is the real story and the adaptation closest to the original novel. (Ok, so the new version was scary and fun, but the ending was just all kinds of wrong. We’re still miffed.)

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“Sure is good we’re not all siblings, what with all the sexual tension and such.”

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We loved the opening voice-over telling the backstory, and the aging of Abigail. We loved the clothes, the mirrors, the black and white, the Dudleys, and the pounding on the door the first night. We loved the characters, the sets and the ambivalence – are we dealing with supernatural events or mental illness?

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Ghosts or good old-fashioned “female hysteria”?

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The Haunting is everything we look for in a horror movie: intriguing characters, gorgeous and fascinating location, creepy atmosphere, chilling servants (never a good movie without them), good backstory, and an ambivalent explanation. Fantastic! Except Eleanor’s sister and brother-in law. They are just the worst…

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Even Mrs Dudley is more likable, and she’s not exactly a laugh riot.

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What we learned: Hill House had the most Extra decorator in interior design history. The set designers must have had a field day. Also, deep focus was all the rage in the 1960s

Next time: The Servant (1963)

#229 The Great Escape

Watched: February 17 2019

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Hannes Messemer, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, Angus Lennie, Nigel Stock, Robert Graf

Year: 1963

Runtime: 2h 52min

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It’s World War II and a gang of Allied prisoners of war are moved to a high security prison camp after numerous escapes.

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German definition of “high security” for officer POWs: everything you need to brew up a feast but, like, with barbed wire on the perimeter

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Right away, the prisoners start plotting their next breakout, although Hilts (McQueen) and Ives (Lennie) don’t have the patience for all that planning “Big X” (Attenborough) and his crew are into. They start an almost daily bolt for freedom, constantly landing them in the cooler.

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Pfft. As if I could possibly be any cooler

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Eventually, they all join forces to attempt the most daring and intricate prison camp breakout of the war. But will they succeed?

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“Right lads, we have all we need to make it. Camaraderie, a fancy pipe, spiffy hats worn at jaunty angles, and a plucky can-do attitude!”

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Now, we know we say this a lot, but this movie really is unmissable. Do not be put off by its almost three hour run time – The Great Escape is funny, exciting, suspenseful, sad, and extremely engaging. We promise the time will fly by.

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And if, against all odds, you do get bored, just turn off the sound and do a David Attenborough-style commentary to his big brother’s meerkatty exploits.

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We loved the tradition of escape, the five escape attempts in the first three minutes, the ingenuity, the humour, the action, the motorcycle chase and the characters – especially sweet, adorable Blythe and poor Ives.

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We absolutely loved this relationship too

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Also, bonus information for you, Sister the Youngest watched this in her early, impressionable youth and it sparked a lifelong crush on Steve McQueen. Consider yourselves warned.

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To her, this is still the epitome of sex appeal

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What we learned: It is the sworn duty of all captured officers to attempt escape.

Next time: The Haunting (1963)

#228 The Birds

Watched: March 4 2019

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 59min

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After a (slightly hostile) meet-cute, Melanie Daniels (Hedren), a socialite and prankster so good she makes news headlines, is intrigued by attorney Mitch Brenner (Taylor). She decides to stalk him, and follows him back to his weekend hideaway outside the city.

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Cause stalking is cute when a pretty, rich girl does it, but when we try it we’re slapped with a restraining order…

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Once there, Melanie ingratiates herself with Mitch’s ex and scores a dinner invite with his family where she learns that he is currently going through his Freudian phase – Melanie is the spit of his overbearing mother Lydia (Tandy).

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“Would you like to stay the night? I’m sure my mother can lend you some clothes. In fact, why don’t you check her closet right now? Put something on? Please..?”

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However, while Melanie and Mitch are flirting and working out their inner demons, the birds are starting to act strangely…

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“Alright, quiet down. I’m glad so many of you could make this assembly. First order of business: who wants to organize this month’s bake sale? Also, let’s kill all humans.”

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We don’t really need to say anything else about The Birds, do we? It’s one of the most well known and popular horror films in history, and also frequently referenced in other works. And while not all the special effects have aged gracefully, it’s still a fun watch.

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And it’s a good public service reminder to always close up your fireplace when not in use.

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Like Psycho, The Birds starts in one genre and ends up in a whole different place than where it was originally going. And while the eponymous birds are ever present, we’re almost halfway through the movie before they start constituting a threat and we’re reminded that we are indeed watching a Hitchcock film.

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That poor kid didn’t know what she signed up for

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We loved the very silly lovebirds-in-the-car-scene, Mrs Sholes the bird expert lady, the focus which was on everything but the birds until they attacked, the long siege without dialogue, and the fact that there is absolutely no explanation for the sudden viciousness of nature. Classic!

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Any movie which can make us fearful of these cute little things is a winner in our book

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What we learned: Nature is scary, yo.

Next time: The Great Escape (1963)