#195 Shoot the Piano Player

Watched: August 26 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Albert Rémy

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 21min

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Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan (Aznavour) is a piano player in a dive bar, but a former classical concert pianist. When his brother Chico (Rémy) seeks him out to shelter him from a couple of gangsters he’s pissed off, Charlie gets dragged back into the criminal family he’s avoided for years.

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“Just ran into the weirdest dude out there. Told me all about his marriage and his wife, completely unprompted. Oh, and also, I’m chased by some thugs and I need you to help me escape.”

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Simultaneously, the shy and slightly awkward musician strikes up a relationship with waitress Léna (Dubois), but the gangsters follow them one night and the couple are kidnapped. However, they get on surprisingly well with their kidnappers.

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Although not as well as Charlie gets on with his friendly neighbourhood prostitute next door

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They get out of that fix unharmed, but as the gangsters become more and more determined to use Chico’s family members to track him down, Charlie realises he must flee and leave his girlfriend behind. Lest she ends up like his first wife…

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“So, first there was the wife. That ended badly.” “How badly?” Well, she’s dead. Then there’s my neighbour Clarisse, but she’s more of a very good friend.” “How good?” “Oh, very, very good… But I swear I’m actually a good guy. Just very unlucky.”

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Shoot the Piano Player is very different from our last encounter with Truffaut, The 400 Blows. It’s a bit Noiry, with the flashbacks, the past the main character cannot escape, the general bleakness and the occasional voiceover narration.

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The trigger happy gangsters complete the picture (we loved them, although their casualness and easy conversation with their victims made them even scarier than your normal movie thugs)

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It’s often sad, dark and depressing, but there are some fantastic laugh-out-loud moments which help alleviate the whole affair somewhat. We’ve been missing the noirs a bit lately (there were so many of them for a while there!), so we really enjoyed this one. Worth watching for fans of French New Wave, Film Noir, thrillers, dramas, and Truffaut in general.

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Or fans of pianos. Or, indeed, people who hate piano players with a fiery vengeance.

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What we learned: Even super polite and likable kidnappers can be ruthless killers.

Next time: Spartacus (1960)

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#194 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Watched: August 25 2018

Director: Karel Reisz

Starring: Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts, Hylda Baker, Norman Rossington, Bryan Pringle, Edna Morris

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Arthur Seaton (Finney) is an Angry Young Man who works in a factory and spends his weekends drinking, annoying the neighbours, and sleeping with his coworker’s wife, Brenda (Roberts).

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He’s also heavily into competitive drinking, which never fails to impress the ladies

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Even striking up a relationship with the charming and beautiful Doreen (Field) does nothing to break his illicit affair. However, he runs into trouble when Brenda becomes pregnant while Doreen is ready to go to the next level.

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After months (?) of courtship, she’s ready to actually let him in the door

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Arthur is immature and oppositional, but he’s charming and seems to have a good heart. Although it’s sometimes deeply buried… His greatest fear is to turn into his parents, who he feels have not really lived life – just survived it. Still, getting away from that life is harder than it seems, and while he has ambition, he has no real outlet for it, or any sort of plan to alter the direction of his life.

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It’s hard to save up for adventure and excitement when you drink up your paycheck every weekend

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is an early British New Wave kitchen sink drama (check out our terminology!), and the very sophisticated, educated and cultural Sister the Oldest actually read the book at some point. Oh yes.

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It was during one of her breaks from watching television, which are few and far between…

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It’s an engaging film, and we loved it. When it comes to social realism, none of them would be our first pick for weekend entertainment, but we never regret watching them. This particular one was also not quite as bleak as we were afraid it would be, although we suppose Arthur’s greatest fears were likely to come true judging by the ending…

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One man’s dream is another man’s nightmare. We’re just not sure which side of that Arthur is on right now.

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What we learned: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Next time: Shoot the Piano Player/Tirez sur le pianiste (1960)

#193 Psycho

Watched: August 4 2018 (and many other times)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Man with mommy issues goes on killing spree. Loved by critics.

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“Mommy issues? Who has mommy issues? I’m just a normal, stable, sane boy.”

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Psycho probably needs no further introduction as it’s one of the most watched, loved and spoofed/homaged films of all time. Still, for those hermits who have been living secluded lives in the woods for the past 60 years but have also inexplicably stumbled upon this blog (hello, stranger! To be honest, you’re probably better off crawling back under that rock, given the current state of the world), we’ll give a very brief synopsis.

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In short, wood dwelling hermit: if you see this place, just keep driving. Or walking. Or riding your tame bear.

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Marion Crane (Leigh) is having an affair with Sam Loomis (Gavin) but they cannot afford to get married. When Marion gets her hands on $40 000 at work, she decides to steal the money and run away to elope with her beau. She is caught in a rainstorm and checks in for the night at the secluded Bates Motel.

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Bad, bad idea

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Marion is reported missing by her sister Lila (Miles) and wanted by the police for theft. Lila decides to investigate the disappearance herself with the help of Sam and private investigator Milton Arbogast (Balsam) who is also on the case. What they find is not what they expected…

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It’s not what anyone would expect, really

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There’s nothing not to love about Psycho. It lulls you into thinking that you’re watching just another crime movie, and then BLAM! Creepy horror film!

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Hitchcock also managed to insert a T-1000, but we feel that subplot is vastly underdeveloped.

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The shower scene is perhaps the most famous scene in cinematic history, and no matter how many times you’ve seen it or its various recreations, it still has impact. As does Norman Bates’ transformation from sweetly awkward and likable young man to creepy insane murderer.

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He actually seems quite charming at first, making Marion supper and all

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As mentioned in our last entry, this goes perfectly as a double feature with Peeping Tom, if you want a night filled with serial killers and crazy. And who doesn’t?

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“We’re off to see the killer! The wonderful killer of girls!”

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What we learned: We all go a little mad sometimes. Also, if it doesn’t jell it’s not aspics.

Next time: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

#192 Peeping Tom

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Michael Powell

Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Man with daddy-issues goes on killing spree. Hated by critics.

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“Oh, this pointy thing? I just use it to get the best possible angle for a portrait shot.”

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For those of you who want more context than the initial summary, Mark Lewis (Böhm) is an aspiring film maker who shoots soft porn during the day and murders at night. His neighbour Helen (Massey) takes an interest in the socially awkward weirdo, and we learn that Mark was used as a guinea pig by his psychiatrist father who studied fear.

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Daddy also filmed the child abuse. Father of the year!

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Peeping Tom was initially hated by critics and basically killed the career of its director, but time has worked in its favour and it is now a beloved classic. And we absolutely loved it!

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We loved this movie almost as much as this guy loves his camera. Which is a bit of a love/hate-relationship to be honest.

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We were enthralled from the very beginning, with the camera point-of-view, and we were on the edge of our seats throughout. Mark is a complex and strange character; is the real him the awkward and timid man he is in social situations, or is it the dynamic take-charge man we see when he’s about to commit murder?

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We’re sure this woman was super-impressed by his sudden alfa-maleness just before she was brutally murdered

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As horrible as Mark is, we’re also forced to sympathise with him learning his backstory, and Helen (who we really liked) actually falls for the guy.

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Who wouldn’t fall for a guy with such an impressive set-up?

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It’s a must-see for horror fans (or movie fans in general), and it works fantastically as a double bill with the upcoming Psycho. Get out your blankets, wine (or tea – we don’t judge) and snacks, and enjoy!

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It’s also very pretty. Just saying.

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What we learned: First rule of serial killing: lock your damn door!

Next time: Psycho (1960)

#191 La Dolce Vita

Watched: August 5 2018

Director: Federico Fellini

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée, Yvonne Furneaux

Year: 1960

Runtime: 2h 54min

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Jesus is out flying in Rome, followed by journalist Marcello Rubini (Mastroianni) whose pursuit of religious iconography is momentarily distracted by a bunch of sunbathing girls on a rooftop.

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The failure of all major religions: not enough sex appeal

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We continue to follow Marcello as he chases stories, fame, love, sex and meaning, and on the way he encounters a series of more or less fortunate events.

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The most famous of which is fountain-bathing sex-symbol Sylvia (Ekberg)

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In addition to the failed seduction of Sylvia, Marcello hangs out with intellectuals at a party, sleeps with an aristocrat in a prostitute’s bed, and saves his girlfriend’s life when she tries to kill herself (because of his philandering).

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It’s challenging keeping your affairs secret when all your best friends are photographers and all your lovers are famous enough to get their pictures printed in magazines

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Among his other adventures are reporting on children who see the virgin Mary (and others killed in stampedes brought on by this), partying with daddy and some showgirls, kicking it with aristocrats and film stars, ghost hunting, lover’s quarrels, murder/suicide, drag queens and growing into a proper douchebag.

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We weren’t kidding about the douchebag thing

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There’s been so much said about La Dolce Vita by people much smarter than us that there’s really very little we can add. We loved Iris and the costumes, and while the movie is almost 3 hour long, it never gets boring. Marcello is somewhat hard to read, but the society falling apart all around him is oh so easy to see.

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Nothing says “disillusioned” like sitting down in the sand in a white suit

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It’s a fantastic movie and you can see its influence in numerous other films and other works of art. It’s one of those classics where even if you haven’t seen it, you still sort of have. However, if you really haven’t, it’s well worth your time.

What we learned: If your man is a serial adulterer, don’t try to kill yourself. Just leave him. You’re better than that. Live your life! Also, fucking paparazzi, man. Oh, and also modern society and stuff, etc.

Next time: Peeping Tom (1960)

#190 Eyes Without a Face/Les yeux sans visage

Watched: August 4 2018

Director: Georges Franju

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob, Juliette Mayniel, Béatrice Altariba

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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A woman dumps a faceless body in the middle of the night. The body is found and identified as Christiane Génessier (Scob) by her father, Doctor Génessier. Her face was destroyed in a car accident caused by the doctor and she is presumed to have killed herself.

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“Yes, yes, definitely my daughter. I would recognize her lack of face anywhere.”

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The body is buried and no one questions its identity, but what is the deal with all the missing girls in the area? The ones who resemble the presumably dead girl? The one with the ruined face and the surgeon father..?

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They’re certainly not having their faces removed and transplanted to Christiane. No siree!

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Doctor Génessier is riddled with guilt and hubris, and despite his daughter’s protests he’s trying to repair the damage he’s done, leaving in his wake a trail of faceless bodies. With the help of former patient Louise (Valli), he kidnaps young women, removes their faces, and tries to transplant them onto his own daughter who he keeps locked up in the house like the stray dogs he experiments on.

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At least the prisoners can take comfort in each other’s company

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We love everything about this film! The circusy music, the surgery shown in excruciating detail, the haunting mask and outfits of Christiane which make her look like a doll, and the ending with the gorgeous final shots – there’s nothing here not to love.

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She’s like the adorable ghost of a life-sized doll wandering about the mansion, bonding with animals Gothic Disney-princess style.

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Daddy is a giant douche whose pride is more important than the happiness of his daughter, even if he tells himself he’s doing this for her. Also, there’s some seriously shoddy police work going on – we mean, why would they send in Paulette (Altariba) for a consultation with the doctor without keeping an eye on her or instructing her to report back when she was discharged? Amateurs.

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“Yeah, this is what you get for shoplifting!”

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Terribly unprofessional police work aside, Eyes Without a Face is a haunting horror movie which should be on everyone’s to-watch list. It’s terrible and beautiful, and it reminds us of a twisted and dark fairytale. Love it!

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We prophesize a Disney remake

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What we learned: Looks aren’t everything.

Next time: La Dolce Vita (1960)

#189 Breathless/À bout de souffle

Watched: July 19 2018

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Michel (Belmondo) steals a car and sings and narrates his way towards Paris. The misogynistic crook ends up shooting a cop who catches up with him and is soon wanted all over France.

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“No worries. I’ll just don a hat and some shades and Clark Kent my way out of this mess”

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For such an unlikable man, Michel has a way with the ladies and manages to get some money out of one female friend before moving on to the main object of his desires, American journalism student Patricia (Seberg). He tries to convince her to run away with him while she tries to figure out how she feels about the man she spent a few nights with.

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“Eyes up here, tiger!”

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Michel wants to be a tough guy and he models himself on Humphrey Bogart. Patricia is also trying to figure out who she is – perhaps the Bonnie to his Clyde? With the police closing in, they are running out of time and decisions must be made. Who are they really?

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I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Humphrey-and-Audrey

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Breathless is stylish and artsy, sometimes with a documentary feel to it, while other times it feels more like a romantic comedy or a noir. We love how cool it is, the breaks in the fourth wall, the cuts and close-ups, the opening line and Patricia’s gorgeous stripy clothes (really – she only wears stripes).

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With many to choose from, this dress remains our favourite

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It’s definitely a must-see for anyone with even a slight passing interest in French new wave cinema.

What we learned: Don’t fall for someone who generalizes about your gender every time you don’t do what they want.

Next time: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

#188 Black Sunday

Watched: July 19 2018

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 27min

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In 17th century Moldavia, Princess Asa Vajda (Steele) is sentenced as a witch by her brother and executed after having the “mask of Satan” nailed to her face. But before she dies, she curses her brother and all his descendants.

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To be fair, if someone tried to nail this thing to our faces, we’d probably curse them too

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Fast forward 200 years and two travelling doctors stumble upon her grave. One of them, Kruvajan (Checchi), is attacked by a bat which he kills over Asa’s tomb smashing the cross guarding it in the process. He then proceeds to remove her mask and spill blood on her.

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“Let’s open this tomb with the strangely preserved corpse and drip some blood on it” – a man who has never seen a horror film

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Kruvajan and his young companion Andre Gorobec (Richardson) then run into a mysterious young woman who bears a striking resemblance to the dead witch, Katia (Steele again) and Andre is smitten.

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It’s hard to resist a woman with two massive dogs

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After the meddling with the dead witch’s grave, the surviving members of the Vajda family start to experience strange phenomena, and it becomes clear that Asa and her companion Javuto (Dominici) are back for revenge.

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“Grrr rawr, I’m coming to get you, Barbara!”

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We’re back in our favourite genre with this horror film, and we have a bit of a thing for Mario Bava (especially Sister the Oldest), so naturally we loved Black Sunday. It’s an unsettling and atmospheric Gothic horror with gorgeous lighting and some very good effects. We loved Asa’s resurrection and Katia’s transformation, Barbara Steele’s eyes (emphasized by intense make-up) and the creepy castle.

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Not what most people associate with a “come hither look,” but strangely effective nonetheless

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Sure, there are some issues with this movie, such as the slightly iffy dialogue and the fact that everyone keeps treating Katia like an idiot child (even with everything going on and several corpses piled up, the men don’t really believe her when she claims to have seen someone in her room), but we still love it.

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In the men’s defence, Katia does tend to act a bit like an idiot child, so they may be justified

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Absolutely a must-see if you’re into Italian cult horrors. Which of course is everyone’s favourite genre, so why wouldn’t you watch it?

What we learned: Don’t remove all protective elements and then spill blood on cursed graves. Just don’t.

Next time: Breathless/À bout de souffle (1960)

#187 Beat Girl

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Edmond T. Gréville

Starring: Gillian Hills, David Farrar, Noëlle Adam, Christopher Lee, Adam Faith, Oliver Reed

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Jennifer (Hills) is a poor little rich girl with daddy issues and a need to distinguish herself and find her identity. She spends her time with sort-of boyfriend Dave (Faith), a musician with a magical guitar that can play all instruments, and his beatnik friends in a bar in Soho.

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As all teenagers, they are the only ones who have found the real answer to life. Skipping school and living for kicks, unlike those other squares!

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When her rich architect dad Paul (Farrar) brings home his new French wife Nichole (Adam), Jennifer is less than impressed. She rejects all of Nichole’s attempts at forming a relationship, even though her new stepmom might just be the only one who really tries to understand the girl.

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It helps that the daughter and the new wife are practically the same age

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Paul is more interested in his vision of a future city he wants to build than he is in his daughter, which drives Jennifer to increasingly risky behaviour to get his attention. When a local stripper recognizes Nichole, Jennifer makes it her mission to dig up dirt from her stepmother’s past, which puts her on the radar of dangerous strip club owner Kenny (Lee).

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“I am Dracu… I mean, I am Kenny! Dammit.”

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We really enjoyed Beat Girl despite our sympathy for Jennifer being a bit limited. Maybe we’re too old to empathise completely with a spoiled girl playing at being special and shocking, although we can understand her motivation and we like that she shows some spunk and self-preservation, especially in her dealings with Kenny.

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Pictured: not the father figure you’re looking for.

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Still, she’s a bit of a pretentious bitch. However, we loved the opening scene, the music (by John Barry), the now dated slang used by the teenagers, and the very salacious strip tease.

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FYI, if you like women who know their way around a sheet, this is the film for you!

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It’s a well-scored and interesting perspective on the disenfranchised post-war generation and well worth watching.

What we learned: Play with fire and you’ll get burnt. Also, we need Dave’s magical guitar!

Next time: Black Sunday (1960)