#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)

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#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)

#239 Goldfinger

Watched: July 5 2019

Director: Guy Hamilton

Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Bernard Lee, Harold Sakata, Lois Maxwell, Shirley Eaton

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 50min

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007 (Connery) is back, rising from the water with a bird strapped to his head as secret agents are wont to do. Under his wet suit an immaculate dinner jacket, and he is ready for a night of gambling and spying.

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“Carnation in place, now to complete the look with my duck hat!”

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The target, Auric Goldfinger (Fröbe), is cheating at cards so Bond takes one for the team and seduces his accomplice Jill (Eaton) to ruin Goldfinger’s winning streak.

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Anyone who’s ever been flirted with by a man in a powder blue playsuit knows that the success of this tactic is a clear testament to the magnetism of Sean Connery

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After a night of shenanigans, and a possible concussion, Bond awakens to find Jill dead, covered in gold paint. But who could have commited this golden crime? The prime suspect is none other than Gold Goldlimb himself.

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“However did you jump to that conclusion..?”

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On his quest to stop Goldfinger and his nefarious plans, Bond also encounters Pussy Galore (Blackman), his nemesis’ flying ace and all round brilliant lady.

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She came by her name honestly

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We enjoyed this a lot more than From Russia with Love, partly because no teenagers were forced to spend a night pleasing Bond in order to get married in Goldfinger. In fact, the women in this one have a lot more agency than those in its predecessor.

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We were huge fans of the ridiculously elaborate murder machines in Goldfinger’s possession. Someone actually had to construct this thing!

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We loved Pussy Galore, the title sequence, Oddjob, the gadgets, the golf game, the car chases, the pilots and of course the antagonist’s convoluted plot and his obsession with gold. And sure, we enjoy James Bond himself too, and this is definitely one of our favourite Bond movies. Although we would NEVER fall for a man in a baby blue playsuit. Never.

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You know a Delta Nu would never sleep with a man in a romper! We just liked to watch him swim around with a duck on his head.

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What we learned: Austin Powers makes a lot more sense after a few early Bond films.

Next time: Onibaba (1964)

#238 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Watched: August 25 2019

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, Peter Bull, James Earl Jones, Tracy Reed

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 35min

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General Jack D. Ripper (Hayden) has gone cray-cray trying to protect his precious bodily fluid from the commies, and orders an attack on the USSR.

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“No amount of phallic symbolism can protect me from their desecration of my precious bodily fluids!”

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Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers), on loan from the Royal Air Force, soon realises that the attack is Ripper’s doing and no orders have come from the President or Pentagon. He tries his best to stop the general before a full blown nuclear war breaks out, but this proves difficult as Ripper is the only one able to communicate with the attacking B-52 bombers.

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“Hello? I need to talk to the President! What do you mean he’s busy impersonating a British RAF officer?”

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Meanwhile at the Pentagon an emergency meeting is called, with President Muffley (Sellers) and General Buck Turgidson (Scott) in attendance. And also former nazi scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers). As if things aren’t complicated enough, the assembly learns that the Soviets have a “doomsday machine” which, if struck, will render the entire earth uninhabitable for close to 100 years.

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While this might be problematic for most people, some see the dismantling of society as a perfect dating opportunity

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This. This is the movie which sparked our love of classic movies back when we were young. It is just so damned entertaining, and strangely accessible, despite its serious subject matter (and black and white photography which will on occasion put people off).

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However, usually a bona fide war room will bring them right back in

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From the opening, to Vera Lynn, you will be completely engaged. It is beautifully and interestingly shot and the characters are utterly amazing – not just the ones played by Peter Sellers. Also, there’s a cowboy riding a bomb.

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Would we lie to you?

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Dr. Strangelove is frightening (the scenario was not entirely improbable and outlandish for a while), but also hilarious, sad and brilliant, and we love everything about it.

What we learned: Peace is our profession.

Next time: Goldfinger (1964)

#237 Blood and Black Lace

Watched: August 19 2019

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Eva Bartok, Cameron Mitchell, Thomas Reiner, Arianna Gorini, Dante DiPaolo, Mary Arden, Franco Ressel, Claude Dantes

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Isabella, a model at a large fashion house, is brutally murdered and her body hidden in a closet. As the investigation gets on, it soon becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose. No gorgeous lady is safe!

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“Christ! He even killed the mannequin!”

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Isabella’s diary, where she had detailed every vice and sin of everyone connected to the fashion house, soon surfaces, which is not popular among her friends and colleagues. As the diary is passed around from model to model, the killer starts going after each one in turn, disposing of them in various brutal (and lurid) ways.

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Remind us never to buy from that fashion house. Every stitch of clothing rips apart the second a psycho tries to murder you. #notimpressed

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But who could be behind the murders? You’ll have a blast trying to figure that out in this atmospheric and stylish Italian masterpiece.

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Trust no one! Not even the creepy red child-but-with-boobs-dummy

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This movie was tailor made for us (no pun intended). Serial killers and gorgeous dresses? Those are our top two areas of interest and expertise! As always in Bava movies, we loved the colours and the lighting. We were completely in love with the red mannequins and all the curtains, and the scene where they prepped for the show was pure perfection.

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The killer’s mask is simple but amazingly unsettling

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For giallo and/or horror fans, if you have the opportunity (and the inclination), we would recommend you watch both the English and the Italian versions. You’ll get two slightly different stories and it’s very fascinating!

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But seriously: do not buy from “Christian’s Haute Couture.” Especially not tops. V low quality

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What we learned: “Must be a sex maniac in a homicidal rage” – our theory about everything from now on.

Next time: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (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)

#235 A Shot in the Dark

Watched: June 25 2019

Director: Blake Edwards

Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Burt Kwouk, our dad’s old guitar.

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 42min

We’re back! After charging our batteries in lovely Vietnam (you must go!) we’re ready for another year of classic A-, B-, and C-movies, starting with the very silly and charming A Shot in the Dark.

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We open on a series of illicit affairs and romances all taking place in the same building, and the scene ends in a shot. In the dark. And then a dead chauffeur. Enter Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers).

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Mustache and trenchcoat ready for beumbs and beumps!

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The incompetent and clumsy inspector is the only one convinced that main suspect, the beautiful maid Maria Gambrelli (Sommer), is innocent, and he sets out to prove this. In the course of his investiation, the bodies keep piling up and his superior, Commissioner Dreyfus (Lom), is gradually driven mad and homicidal by Clouseau’s apparent bungling of the case.

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“Bungling? Who’s bungling? This was always the plan. I am solving this.”

 

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The plot is not really that important though. This is all about the gags, and they are numerous and hilarious.

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Among our favourites: Kato. Everything related to Kato.

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There are so many things we adored in this movie. We particularly loved Kato and his sneak attacks, the lethal (and multicultural) date night, all Clouseau’s disguises, and the synchronising of the watches. However, the gags are too numerous to list, and the entire movie is just a masterclass in slapstick and physical comedy.

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Also, could it possibly be an inspiration for one of the murders in Hot Fuzz..?

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We were slightly traumatised by Sellers using our dad’s old guitar to cover up in the nudist colony (we swear it’s the exact guitar!) but otherwise we had a blast with this movie. Often, we become frustrated and annoyed with bumbling, incompetent characters and farces, but Sellers is so damned good that in this case we were just charmed instead. Well done, Edwards and Sellers!

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“I can’t believe that idiot inspector was an actual success! FML.”

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What we learned: We suspect everyone. And we suspect no one. Also, no fabric is safe around this man.

Next time: Band of Outsiders/Bande à part (1964)

#234 A Hard Day’s Night

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Richard Lester

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

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 27min

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

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

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

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“Finally. We’re alone…”

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

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“tight, yeah!”

 

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

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

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

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

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“Now pout for the camera, boys!”

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

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

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

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

Next time: A Shot in the Dark (1964)

#233 A Fistful of Dollars

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Sergio Leone

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

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 39min

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Next time: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Roger Corman

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

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 19min

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)