#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)

#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)

#241 Red Desert/Il deserto rosso

Watched: October 16 2019

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 57min

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Giuliana (Vitti) is not doing too well. After a car accident she has not been herself, according to her husband Ugo (Chionetti). But was it the accident that changed her? Her conversations with her hubby’s business partner Corrado Zeller (Harris) reveal that all may not have been peachy even before the incident.

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“Oh, I’ve never had any ill effect from being the only dab of colour within miles. Never bothered me at all, no way!”

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Whatever the reason might be, she is clearly not completely stable, and Ugo is incapable of helping – or even understanding his wife. Corrado seems more sympathetic but he cannot help her either. Even the prospect of group sex cannot cheer her up, so you know it’s serious!

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Just one pineapple short of being a proper swingers party! (Yeah, this will probably only make sense to people in Molde, Norway. Thanks, Eirik!)

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All around Giuliana, nature is being ruined by industry and she is falling apart with it. She is utterly diconnected from her husband and most other people – even (or perhaps particularly?) her son. The only one she does connect with is Corrado, but it is a relationship which can’t save her.

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You cannot be saved by a man who enthusiastically engages in breaking apart and burning up your sexy, red bedroom cave for momentary warmth and comfort.

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Red Desert is beautiful, fragile and mesmerizing. The bleak environment feels a bit alien in many ways and the film is strangely hypnotic. As often before, we weren’t overly keen to start it (two hours of Italian drama is a lot on a Wednesday night after work) but we were drawn in from the beginning and we really loved it.

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We do enjoy a good fog!

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We loved the music, the long takes, Monica Vitti, and the slow development of the affair. Although we found the sex scene very uncomfortable – we’re still not quite sure this was what she wanted..?

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Her look suggests “trapped animal” more than “sexually aroused woman”, but perhaps we’re reading her wrong…

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Definitely one to rewatch at some point!

What we learned: It’s hard to manoeuvre through life with a broken gyroscope.

Next time: Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

#240 Onibaba

Watched: September 30 2019

Director: Kaneto Shindô

Starring: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satô, Taiji Tonoyama

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Sometime in the fourteenth century (we think) a mother-and-daughter-in-law team kill stray samurai and sell their stuff for food. The bodies? Dumped in a convenient hole and left to rot.

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Our disbelief was not quite suspended yet five minutes into the film, so the only thing we could think of at this point was that the dry grass must have really cut into the actors’ backs! Tres uncomfortable!

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A neighbour returns with news of their son’s/husband’s death, and the two women dispair. For a few days. And then the new widow starts sneaking off in the night to get her rocks off with the neighbour.

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The Queen of Eyebrows does not approve

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Mother worries that her partner in crime will leave her to her own devices now that she has a new lover. But when she meets a strange samurai with an even stranger mask she hatches a devious plan.

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Her new hobby: hanging out in fields at night with an unknown light source popping up at just the right time!

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Onibaba was strangely unsettling and it stayed with us for a long time after the credits rolled. From the animalistic lives of the two women in the beginning, to the demonic mask and the creepy ending, we were completely engaged.

 

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Admittedly, we thought Sir Brags-a-lot kind of had it coming, the way he treated his guide

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We loved the contrasts of light and dark, the intense music, the non-sexualised nudity, the mask, the epic eyebrows, and the general disconcerting feel of the entire piece. This is one of those movies we would probably never have watched if it weren’t for the list, so thank you Edgar. We loved it!

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If you’re wondering, the sexually frustrated tree-humping women did not strike a cord as much as the horror elements of the demon mask. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

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What we learned: Don’t shame two single, consenting adults for enjoying a healthy sexual relationship.

Next time: Red Desert (1964)

#236 Band of Outsiders/Bande à part

Watched: June 26 2019

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur, Louisa Colpeyn

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 35min

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Odile (Karina) attends an English class where she meets would-be “American gangsters” Franz and Arthur (Frey and Brasseur, respectively). For some reason, she is charmed by these juvenile and annoying guys, and after being negged into submission she finds herself a key player in their “master plan” to rob her aunt’s employer.

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“And we’ll be like ‘Bang!’ and he’ll be like ‘Help!’ and we’ll be like ‘Give us all your money!’ and he’ll be like ‘Take it all!'” “Yeah, totally! We’re so cool.”

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Don’t get us wrong, there were things we liked about this movie. It’s very stylish, and there are fun and interesting bits such as the minute of (complete) silence. We really enjoyed the dance scene in the café (which you can watch here) and the record breaking tour of the Louvre as well.

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Heeeeey Macarena!

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We just could not deal with the characters. Odile is very simple, bland and easily manipulated, and Arthur is a negging dick, so they’re clearly meant to be. Franz is just boring, and both him and Arthur are playing at being American gangsters despite being far too old for that sort of behaviour (they both look about 40 but act like 15-year-olds). We’re at a loss to see how Odile would feel a need to impress these two and we fail to see her motivation.

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The only semi-charming thing they do with her is the Louvre run. Girl, you can do better!

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We just found them all really annoying and boring. Then again, this might be our own fault as we are probably expecting too much traditional character development from a French new wave classic.

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“OK guys, explain it to a simple Danish girl: what is the French fascination with love triangles?”

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We did love Mme Victoria (Colpeyn), the dog, the over-the-top death scene (won’t spoil it by saying whose), and the voice over – particularly at the end. It was just that the main characters irked us. A lot. And we found it difficult to see past that. Sorry, Godard (and Edgar)…

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No film with a random dance scene is a total waste though, so we’re glad we watched it.

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What we learned: Come on, Godard. Odile certainly was not thinking about her boobs all the time. Despite popular opinion, women spend very little time actually thinking about them. They’re just kind of there…

Next time: Blood and Black Lace (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

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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)