#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

Source

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.

servant2
One: the careless sleeper. The other: the sinister observer

Source

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.

servant3
Personally, we tend to be careful about insulting the man in charge of the wine, but we admire her courage.

Source

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.

Servant4
“What does the fact that we have both slept with my ‘sister’ say about the nature of the tension between us..?”

Source

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.

servant5
Even his shadow is menacing

Source

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.

Servant6
We enjoyed this awkward seduction too. How many suggestive and impractical poses can one girl strike on a kitchen table before she is kissed?

Source

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)

Advertisements

#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

haunt

Source

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.

haunt1
“To adventure! And possibly gruesome death.”

Source

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.

haunt2
“No, no, no! Nothing so dramatic has ever happened! I’m not dramatic! Shut up or I’ll jump!”

Source

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.

haunt3
“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..?”

Source

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.)

haunt4.jpg
“Sure is good we’re not all siblings, what with all the sexual tension and such.”

Source

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?

haunt5
Ghosts or good old-fashioned “female hysteria”?

Source

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…

haunt6
Even Mrs Dudley is more likable, and she’s not exactly a laugh riot.

Source

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

great

Source

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

Great2
German definition of “high security” for officer POWs: everything you need to brew up a feast but, like, with barbed wire on the perimeter

Source

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.

great3
Pfft. As if I could possibly be any cooler

Source

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

great4
“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!”

Source

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.

great5
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.

Source

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.

great6
We absolutely loved this relationship too

Source

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.

great7
To her, this is still the epitome of sex appeal

Source

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

birds

Source

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.

birds1
Cause stalking is cute when a pretty, rich girl does it, but when we try it we’re slapped with a restraining order…

Source

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).

bird2
“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..?”

Source

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

birds3
“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.”

Source

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.

birds4
And it’s a good public service reminder to always close up your fireplace when not in use.

Source

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.

birds5
That poor kid didn’t know what she signed up for

Source

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!

birds6
Any movie which can make us fearful of these cute little things is a winner in our book

Source

What we learned: Nature is scary, yo.

Next time: The Great Escape (1963)

#227 Shock Corridor

Watched: February 18 2019

Director: Samuel Fuller

Starring: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Larry Tucker, Hari Rhodes, Paul Dubov

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 41min

shock

Source

Reporter Johnny Barrett (Breck) goes undercover as a patient in a mental hospital to solve a murder and win a Pulitzer. His girlfriend Cathy (Towers) is against it, but is finally pressured into acting as his sister to get him admitted for incestuous thoughts.

Shock2
“It’s not my fault, doc. She regularly shrinks down and seductively dances on my chest. How is a guy supposed to react to that?”

Source

Once inside, the ambitious reporter tries to make sense out of the three witnesses to the murder: Stuart (Best), a former soldier brainwashed by the Koreans into communism and then branded a traitor; Trent (Rhodes), an African American who imagines himself as a Ku Klux Klan member after a horrible time as one of the first black students in a segregated college; and Boden (Evans), a nuclear scientist whose guilty conscience regressed him to the mental state of a child.

Shock3
Interestingly, while the men’s ward has patients with a variety of fascinating problems, all the female patients suffer from the same affliction: zombieism nymphomania.

Source

With unreliable witnesses, dire circumstances and an opera singing “sidekick,” will Barrett solve the murder and win his prize? Or will he lose his mind, his girl and his career trying?

Shock4
“Your guess is as good as mine, ghost-and/or-racist-guy!”

Source

We loved Shock Corridor despite the fact that it features one of the worst reporters in the history of reporting. Seriously, each one of the stories he encounters from the patients he interviews is easily as interesting and important as the story he is chasing, but he is too focused on his goal to see it.

Shock5
Any personal history which led to this scenario would be Pulitzer worthy in our book

Source

The voice-over is very noiry, which we always enjoy, although we did feel like it made the movie a bit “tell, don’t show” at times. Still, we loved the dream sequences and how we could see what went on in the characters’ heads. We also loved the WTF choreography to Cathy’s striptease, the rainy corridor, and the backstories of all the patients. And we were glad that the horrible, horrible rape scene was portrayed as a nightmare rather than a dream…

Shock6
Though while we appreciate the aesthetics of such a scene, we are always left wondering who are the poor people tasked with cleaning up after?

Source

What we learned: Who defines insanity?

Next time: The Birds (1963)