Favourites #201 to #250

Slowly but surely we have reached another 50 film milestone! Huzzah! True to tradition, here’s a recap of those we enjoyed the most. Turns out the 1960s were a good decade for films, so there are quite a lot. Happy reading!

 

#250 Darling

Watched: December 30 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, José Luis de Vilallonga, Roland Curram

Year: 1965

Runtime: 2h 08min

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Diana Scott (Christie) is being interviewed for “Ideal Woman,” telling the story of her life. And what a life! From a “normal” life and a normal marriage, she becomes friends, and later lovers, with reporter Robert Gold (Bogarde). The two of them move through in the London art scene in the swinging sixties, partying and being adored.

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“My career goals? Model, actress or princess. Yes, I’m a grown woman. Why do you ask..?”

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They both leave their spouses for each other and move in together. However, Diana becomes very jealous when Robert goes back to his ex to see his kids. In fact, she decides to have her own child, but changes her mind when it becomes a reality.

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“You know what they say – bringing a baby into a troubled relationship always saves the day.”

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Diana, bored with Robert who likes to stay home and write, continues to seduce and be seduced to further her own modelling and acting career. She moves up in the world one man at a time while not playing very well with other women at all, all of whom she sees as threats. But what does she really want from life?

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“Oh, I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”

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Darling is fascinating and engaging, and the contrast between Diana’s words and actions is very interesting to watch. The stories we tell ourselves and others are clearly just a version of the truth.

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“Did I leave the iron on..?”

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We loved the clothes, the decadence and hypocrisy, the out and proud gay people, and all the fake books hiding vices throughout the movie. Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde are wonderful as Diana and Robert, with both good and bad qualities.

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“Just think of all the ways we could eventually hurt and devastate each other!”

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Thematically, there are parallels to Bitter Harvest, but Diana is treated much better than Jennie. Jennie is pretty much a victim, while Diana is the author of her own destiny – for better or worse.

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“Bitch, I’m fabulous!”

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What we learned: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?

Next time: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

#249 Bunny Lake is Missing

Watched: December 30 2019

Director: Otto Preminger

Starring: Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Noël Coward

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 47min

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When Ann Lake (Lynley) comes to pick up 4 year old Bunny from preschool, the child is nowhere to be found. Not only that – she has not been seen by anyone the entire day.

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“Hi! It’s my daughter’s first day of school in a new country! I couldn’t find anyone, so I left her to her own devices in an empty room. I’m sure someone will come find her eventually. If not, maybe you can check in on her at some point during the day, random stranger. Gotta dash! Ladida, mother of the year!”

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As she desperately starts searching for her girl, Ann finds that she has trouble convincing people that Bunny really exists. Apart from her brother Steven (Dullea), no one in England has ever seen the girl since they came over from the USA – not even the audience.

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“Darling sister – are you sure you remembered to take her with you when you moved..?”

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Even Bunny’s things have gone missing from their new house, and supercreepy landlord Horacio Wilson (Coward) cannot remember seeing them despite being very invasive while Ann was unpacking her toys and clothes. And now we are no longer sure there ever was a girl. But fear not! Superintendent Newhouse (Olivier) is on the case and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery!

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“And when she said her daughter was missing, what did you do then?” “Well, I tried to dick her, of course!” “Ah yes, naturally. “

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We loved this SO much! The characters are amazing and the mystery is very well done. Carol Lynley is wonderful as the increasingly frustrated and desperate Ann (while looking very much like a 1960s Keri Russell. Or the other way around, we suppose). Noël Coward is Creepy McCreeperson, Keir Dullea is slightly sinister, and Laurence Olivier’s Newhouse is likable from his very first appearance.

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“I’m a motherfucking legend!”

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AND HERE THERE MAY BE SPOILERS:

Trying to figure out who to believe and what is really going on was fun and kept us guessing (although our suspicions were eventually confirmed. Yay us!) Despite her slow start, Ann turned out to have agency and cunning – she was not just a damsel in distress!

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Even surrounded by eerie dolls, she puts to shame all those men who question her sanity. Take that, woman-not-being-believed-by-authorities-when-she-worries-about-her-child-trope!

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What we learned: Junket is junket. Also, trust no one.

Next time: Darling (1965)

#248 Zulu

Watched: November 17 2019

Director: Cy Endfield

Starring: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 18min

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The year is 1879. In South Africa, imperialism rules, but Zulus have attacked a white settlement and won, which inspires another tribe to do the same to a nearby mission/military hospital.

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“Yippee ki yay motherfuckers!”

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At the mission, Lieutenants Chard (Baker) and Bromhead (Caine) must learn to work together and cooperate if they are to defend themselves from the 4000 advancing Zulus with their own measly 150 soldiers, many wounded.

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“You think you’re so cool, riding in here with your title and rank and stupid sexy hair…”

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Zulu is a famous epic depicting real events with surprisingly little racism considering the subject matter and the time. Sure, we do not really see the Zulus’ side of the story, and they are a nameless, faceless, personalityless mass for most of the movie. However, they are also intelligent, strategic, cultured and honorable, which makes the film a lot less dated than we’d expect.

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Basically, they are people. And treated as people. Which should be a given but sadly is not.

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The cinematography is gorgeous, the characters are great (Bromhead is a very shady queen!), and the suspense is real. Also, fun fact, the Zulu king Cetshwayo kaMpande is played by his real life grandson Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

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However, no fun fact can compare to the glorious moustache of Colour-Sergeant Nigel Green

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We loved the arrival of the Zulu, the British adherence to protocol even in a crisis (proper tunic etiquette is to be observed at all times!), the action, and the game we made up wherein we recast the movie using only Monty Python members (they all correspond perfectly with a character in the film!). And did we mention it is gorgeous? Well worth a watch!

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“We’re knights if the round table, we dance whene’er we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable…”

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What we learned: Invade someone’s land and they might be a bit pissed off.

Next time: #249 Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

#247 Topkapi

Watched: December 17 2019

Director: Jules Dassin

Starring: Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley, Jess Hahn, Gilles Ségal, Akim Tamiroff

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 0min

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Elizabeth Lipp (Mercouri) has an obsession. Emeralds. And no emeralds are greater than the ones adorning the dagger of Sultan Mahmud I, currently on display at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. But how will she get her hands on it?

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“No locks or security measures are a match for my intense stare.”

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To execute a heist, she recruits ex-boyfriend Walter Harper (Schell) who in turn enlists a motley crew of amateurs. There’s mechanical magician and toy maker Cedric Page (Morley), mute acrobat Giulio (Ségal), and muscle man Hans (Hahn). Together, they will switch out the dagger with a replica and get away before anyone knows a robbery has even taken place. Or so they plan.

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Before any heist can be done, one needs to find one’s James Bond-looking ex to sort out the details.

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In order to get the weapons they need over the border from Greece, they pay small-time con man and designated “schmo” Arthur Simpson (Ustinov) to take a car across the border. However, when customs find the guns, the hapless Arthur is engaged as a spy for the Turkish government who fear an assassination is about to take place.

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Few things scream “International Man of Mystery” like this guy

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Arthur successfully infiltrates the group and becomes an integral part of their plan. But will they succeed? Will Arthur betray them? Will their cook Gerven (Tamiroff) ever shake his alcoholism? These are the questions which will haunt you. Until you watch the excellent Topkapi, that is.

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“Subtlety is my forte”

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This one had us hooked from the beginning. We loved the colourful, strange and magical opening and Elizabeth’s monologue to the camera. The kaleidoscopic filter added to the surreal feeling, and we were in for the ride!

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Much like Arthur himself!

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The heist was very exciting, and we also loved the colours, the humour, the suspense, Gerven the drunken cook, the sunglasses-wearing Turkish agent-dude, and the homoerotic oily wrestling. Not to mention 1000-films favourite Peter Ustinov. The man won Oscars and a knighthood, and has even been quoted on Criminal Minds! Which is among the greatest honours a person can receive.

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Pictured: his greatest achievement

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The only drawback was actually the person who promised to be the most intriguing – miss Elizabeth Lipp herself. Sure, the idea for the robbery was hers, and she opened the movie very strongly, but after recruiting her ex to plan the heist, she basically did nothing. Walter was the one to come up with the plan and get the others involved. Her role after the start was just to make out with all the men in turn and seduce a poor lighthouse keeper. And she had so much potential. Although she did redeem herself a bit in the end. All in all, another great heist movie from Jules Dassin.

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This scene alone is worth the investment of two hours of your life

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What we learned: Plan meticulously, execute cleanly, don’t get caught before, during or after.

Next time: Zulu (1964)

#246 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg/Les parapluies de Cherbourg

Watched: November 11 2019

Director: Jacques Demy

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Marc Michel, Ellen Farner, Mireille Perrey

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Geneviève Emery (Deneuve) lives with her mother Mme Emery (Vernon) in Cherbourg, selling umbrellas. Not umbrellas, bags, shoes, and raincoats, or anything which might help them actually earn a living. Nope. Just umbrellas. We’ve never been to Cherbourg, but now our impression is that of a rainy town filled with forgetful and/or wasteful people.

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“Maman! Maman! I think I see a raincloud! If someone didn’t check the forecast before they left the house today we might actually eat something this week.”

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Not surprisingly, the mother-daughter-team struggle to make ends meet and Maman wants her daughter to marry rich. Specifically Roland (Michel), a character we remember from Lola, who has taken a fancy to the young umbrella salesgirl. Geneviève on the other hand is in love with mechanic Guy (Castelnuovo) and plans to marry him, money be damned!

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“Don’t worry about money, my love. The constant rain makes the roads very slippery, so my mechanics business is thriving!”

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Then, Guy is drafted into the army and sent off to fight in the Algerian War. A few months later, Geneviève confesses to her mother than she is pregnant. She is also worried about Guy who only answers her letters sporadically.

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“You did actually get something in the mail, but it’s possible all the wallpaper in this house has damaged your eyesight to the point that you cannot read simple letters”

 

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Roland (who may or may not have grown up a bit since the last movie where he famously made his unrequited feelings for Lola her problem instead of dealing with it on his own) is still willing to marry Geneviève despite her being pregnant by someone else. He offers security and comfort. So what should she do?

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Just try to blend in and wait for all this to blow over.

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Oh, and did we mention that all of this is conveyed to us through the medium of song? Because it is. Every single word in this movie is sung (not necessarily by the actors), and continuously accompanied by the wonderful score. Additionally, the photography and colours are so bright and vivid that you can’t help being sucked into the story.

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It’s enough to give you a toothache. But, like, a good one.

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We loved the colours, the music, the random interruptions by passers-by during Geneviève and Guy’s date, the wallpaper (we want ALL of it – we don’t care if it blinds us!), and drama queen Auntie Élise (Perrey).

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“As I keep saying, I’ll probably die soon. Most likely when you’re away. When that happens, be a dear and send all my capes to a couple of sisters in Trondheim, Norway.”

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a sort of continuation of Lola (1961), and also connected to the upcoming The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). It’s an intriguing universe filled with men befriending the mothers of young girls, and storylines that don’t always go where you expect them to. It is a universe we recommend you visit at some point.

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Gorgeous!

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What we learned: Use protection. Also, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. But it might be OK after all.

Next time: Topkapi (1964)

#245 The Pawnbroker

Watched: November 28 2019

Director: Sidney Lumet

Starring: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Jaime Sánchez, Thelma Oliver

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 56min

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Ready for some holiday cheer? You’ve come to the wrong place. After watching this, we could certainly need some cheering.

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“Falalalala-lala fuck you”

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Sol Nazerman (Steiger) is a holocaust survivor (with a slightly unfortunate name) living in New York. There, he runs a pawnshop while dabbling in whitewashing money for local gangster Rodriguez (Brock). Other than the business, he’s just going through the motions after losing his family, his friends and his will to live in Auschwich.

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No, we’re not able to identify various concentration camps on sight, but we are aware of the not-so-fun-fact that Auschwich was the only camp to use prison number tattoos. And we wish we didn’t have to know this sort of thing.

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Sol’s only employee Jesus (Sánchez) looks up to his boss, but he is also ambitious and has some less-than-savoury contacts. So he’s a bad choice waiting to happen. Meanwhile, Sol has repressed his memories and emotions, and that always ends well. Basically, you’re sitting on tenterhooks for 116 minutes, ready for tragedy.

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Look, we realise that you have nothing left to give to your fellow man, but please be nice to poor old Mr Smith. We love him.

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Ok, while this didn’t exactly get us into the Christmas spirit, The Pawnbroker is a really good movie. Sol, while anti-social and detached, is an intriguing character and we can see why everyone who came into contact with him was drawn to him. Probably mainly due to Steiger’s excellent performance – he’s marvellous.

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“I know you want nothing to do with me or any other human being, but you’re hypnotic and magnetic and I’m dying to be your friend”

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We loved the jazzy soundtrack, the menace of the lawnmower pawners (whose names escapes us), the quick-cut flashbacks with scenes from the camp, Mr Smith, and the contrast of the two sex scenes. It’s heartbreaking and horrible, but oh so good. Watch it, and then take a page out of the book of Penelope Garcia and go stare at pictures of puppies for a good half hour. You’ll need it.

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Alternatively, enjoy this photo of our late, great doggo watching “The Last of Sheila” and trying to figure out who dunnit.

What we learned: Everyone has a breaking point. And pushing people away has consequences…

Next time: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

#244 The Naked Kiss

Watched: October 22 2019

Director: Samuel Fuller

Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Betty Bronson, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereaux

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Apologies for the long break – there have been some family stuff as well as day jobs which have required all our energy for a while. So our posts might be a tad sporadic for the time being, but we have not given up. Promise!

Kelly (Towers), a working girl, arrives in a new town. First off, she makes good (i.e. sleeps) with local law enforcement Griff (Eisley) who advises her to practise her profession in the neighbouring town, lest she destroy the reputation of this one. The men of this town only like to fuck harlots – not see them around when they go shopping!

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“Sure I’ll sample the goods, but then you have to leave”

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But Kelly is traumatised by and tired of her days as a prostitute and wants a different life for herself. She is also smart, strong and resourceful. So when she sees that the town has a children’s hospital, she applies for a job and is hired on the spot. Not only hired – she is a huge success!

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“If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your fe… Oh…”

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Through her work and her new friends, she is introduced to Grant (Dante), the richest man in town, and the two fall hard for each other. However, Grant’s best friend Griff is not too impressed by his friend’s choice of romantic interest…

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“I’ve done things. Things I’m not proud of.” “Like what? Wear white after Labour Day..?”

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From the jazzy opening scene onwards, we were thoroughly enthralled by The Naked Kiss. Melodramatic though it may be, it is also intensely watchable and engaging. It constantly goes off in unexpected directions and keeps you on your toes.

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You’ll never guess who she’ll end up with in the end!

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We loved Miss Josephine, Mac, Kelly – basically all the women in this. We also loved the noiry feel of the movie, and the sense of doom and destruction we felt throughout. It’s shocking and pulpy in just the right ways, but it also has great performances, gorgeous cinematography, a musical number, and a bald prostitute beating a man with a frying pan. So if that doesn’t make it a must-watch, we don’t know what will.

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“Honey, you know you wanna watch me kick some ass!”

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What we learned: Men are mostly assholes. But some of them eventually come through!

Next time: The Pawnbroker (1964)

#243 The Masque of the Red Death

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Patrick Magee (double feature night with Seance – we had a Magevening!), Nigel Green, Skip Martin

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 29min

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An old woman is given a rose by a red-cloaked figure and all hell breaks loose.

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“She loves me, she loves me not…”

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Prince Prospero (Price) is a villain and a tyrant. And a satanist. After the Red Death appears in the village providing for his castle, he burns it to the ground with the exception of three villagers. Francesca (Asher), her father Ludovico (Green) and her betrothed Gino (Weston) are taken to the castle to provide entertainment.

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“No, what I’m saying is I’ll never win an axe throwing competition in this corset!”

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Prospero throws decadent parties for his rich friends to distract from the plague ravaging the outside world. He enjoys humiliating and mocking his guests, but as they seem to have little in the way of dignity, they tend not to mind.

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“See? I knew that corset wouldn’t hold her back!” “I’d still prefer if she took it off…”

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The prince is into some dark shit though, and his new goal quickly becomes to turn the Christian Francesca to his own faith. His wife (?) Juliana (Court) senses competition and decides to go all in with the whole Satan-thing to please her man. But will their close, personal relationship with the Devil save them from the looming threat outside?

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“Oh ordlay, ivethgay usway ouryay essingsblay. Amen-ay!”

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Another Poe, Price and Corman collaboration, and we’re living for it. Vincent Price is his usual fabulous self, and we loved the colours, the clothes, the sets and the story.

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“My interior decorator was going through a symbolic phase.”

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The start was almost Bergmany with Death hanging around playing cards, and in the end it comes full circle with a bunch of colour-coded Deaths (Illnesses? Plagues?) marching away in a conga line of doom.

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“Day-o! Daylight come and me wan’ go home!”

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An excellent Halloween movie and wonderful entertainment all around, The Masque of the Red Death is everything you would expect and more. Love, love, love this.

What we learned: Don’t sell your soul to Satan over a guy. Do it for yourself!

Next time: The Naked Kiss (1964)

#242 Seance on a Wet Afternoon

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Bryan Forbes

Starring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 01min

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Myra Savage (Stanley) holds seances in her house for a living, but she feels very underappreciated. With her gift she should be more famous! Luckily her “spirit guide” has an excellent idea. Why not assist in a kidnapping case and get loads of publicity?

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“It is my right. I am a special snowflake. The spirits tell me so.”

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The unfortunate lack of local missing children will not stop this gal – if no children are willing to go missing for such a noble cause, she will just have to rope her submissive husband Bill (Attenborough) into taking care of it.

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“Don’t think of it as a felony. Think of it as a bonding exercise to save our marriage. 9 out of 10 therapists recommend trying new things together!”

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With little Amanda Clayton safely stashed in the nursery, Myra contacts the anguished parents to offer her services. For free, of course. She would never consider making money off of other people’s misery.

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“Why, officer, that would be completely immoral. I would not dream of charging this wealthy couple for helping them. But there’s nothing wrong with getting my name in the paper, is there?”

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This movie is so good! It’s an intriguing and engaging psychological thriller, and very atmospheric. Thematically (and atmospherically) it would go excellently with The Haunting and The Innocents for a creepy-and-suspenseful-with-possible-supernatural-elements British triple feature extravaganza. A little Halloween tip for all you non-party people out there.

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This is our perfect Halloween. Preferably with even fewer people.

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We loved the mysterious start and the gradual exposition. The relationship between Myra and Bill is fascinating, manipulative and very unhealthy, and it is extremely well portrayed by the two stars.

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“Look dear, when I said I wanted you to dress up in a nurse’s uniform this was NOT what I had in mind!”

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What we learned: The best laid plans… Also, does “The Swan and Edgar” still exist? ‘Cause that’s a name we can get behind! (Apologies if this is like a super-famous place that we Norwegians have somehow missed. Our cultural knowledge is vast yet limited.)

Next time: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)