#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)

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#226 Jason and the Argonauts

Watched: March 02 2019

Director: Don Chaffey

Starring: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond, Laurence Naismith, Niall MacGinnis, Patrick Troughton, Nigel Green, Honor Blackman, Douglas Wilmer

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 44min

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Rejoice! Sister the Youngest is back in Norway and all is well. So here’s a classic action adventure to mark her return.

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Pictured: artist rendition of Sister the Youngest’s attempted return from her travels. It was epic.

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Zeus (MacGinnis) is throwing out prophecies to anyone who will listen, and as one would expect, some of them lead to murder. Pelias (Wilmer) decides to slaughter the entire royal family of Thessaly as its throne is his “destiny,” but one tiny baby escapes. Also, during the slaughter, Pelias manages to desecrate the temple of Hera, which pisses off the goddess, who vows to protect baby Jason (Armstrong. Well, once he grows up, that is).

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Growing up is such a relative term though

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Years later, Jason saves Pelias from drowning but the latter realises who his saviour is. When learning that Jason is interested in travelling to find the mythical Golden Fleece, Pelias sees an easy way to get rid of our hero, and he even sends his own son Acastus (Raymond) to make sure Jason fails. The gods offer their help as well, and Jason gathers a strong and brave crew and goes on one of the most epic journeys ever put on tape.

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Among their many obstacles: Ridiculously Ripped Metal Man

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Jason and his crew of Argonauts (named for the ship on which they travel) face many dangers, such as living statues, harpies, evil oceans, Triton himself (though benevolent in this case), traitors, love interests, Hydra, and fighting skeletons.

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“That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!”

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We went into Jason and the Argonauts fully expecting a documentary about a bunch of people, possibly led by a “Jason,” going into Argos for an epic shopping spree, and boy were we disappointed!

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We were really looking forward to the fight against Agros’ own Scary Lamp Shade Lady™

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Despite our initial disappointment with the subject matter, we ended up really enjoying the squabbling Greek gods, the stop-motion special effects, the harpies and the skeleton army (we want one for Christmas if anyone’s feeling generous). It’s a fabulous epic in glorious Eastman color and a must for any fan of Ray Harryhausen. Or mythology.

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Please? Just a tiny little skeleton army? We promise to take good care of it and only use it to fight evil. And slightly annoying people who get on our nerves.

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Oh, and here’s Jason as we realise now that we’ve managed to not actually show his face in any of the pictures…

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“How dare you neglect my heroic visage!”

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What we learned: Hail Hydra! Oh no, wait. She’s dead.

Next time: Shock Corridor (1963)

#225 From Russia With Love

Watched: February 16 2019

Director: Terence Young

Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 55min

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James Bond is back indeed. And boy is he sexist!

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Sexist? Who? Me? Come on now, little lady. Give us a smile.

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SPECTRE are angry with Bond (Connery) for doing his job and killing Dr No in the last movie. Rude. They decide to take revenge by killing him, but first seducing him to get some sort of plot device. So they send Tatiana Romanova (Bianchi) to do the latter and Donald Grant (Shaw) to do the former.

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One is more successful than the other

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Of course, Romanova instantly falls for the irresistable (and slightly rapey) Bond, and she betrays everything she has been brought up to believe in for that sweet, sweet D. Grant is not so lucky.

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Given five more minutes, Bond would have bedded this guy as well. The signals are clearly there.

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Plots thicken, gadgets are used, people are betrayed and double-crossed, enemies are slain and cats are cuddled. It’s everything you’d expect from a James Bond movie, but not everything has aged well.

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We’re not just talking about the incessant smoking, although you’d have a hard time getting that approved now

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Let’s start with the things we liked about this movie. We loved the cat, Klebb (and her glasses), all the gadgets, Miss Moneypenny (who doesn’t love her?), the furniture, the helicopter shoot-out and the action in general. All of that was amazing and fun.

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Pictured: our new style icon

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However, there are so many things that are questionable. From Romanova’s complete surrender after one encounter with the charsmatic spy, to the (completely gratuitous) gypsy girls “gifted” him to have his way with, the portrayal of women reads like an immature boy’s fantasy. One who’s never met an actual real-life woman and certainly never had a relationship.

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“Let’s take you girls on a test drive to decide who is worthy of marrying the prince”

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Now, we expect a bit of casual sexism in our old-timey action movies, and we’ve seen the Bond films years ago so we should have remembered, but this was just ridiculous. It’s so over the top that it almost seems like a parody, but a parody of itself. A very strange viewing experience indeed. And while it isn’t a movie we particularly liked, it is certainly an interesting one to view in 2019. In a strange way we’re actually looking forward to the rest.

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And this is how we’ll drink our wine watching them.

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What we learned: Not all cool things from the 60s have aged particularly well…

Next time: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

#224 Charade

Watched: February 16 2019

Director: Stanley Donen

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 53min

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Reggie Lampert (Hepburn) is on a skiing holiday when she decides she wants a divorce from her husband. She is spared the paper work when he turns up dead, leaving her nothing but a letter and a stripped apartment.

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Reggie had the foresight to pack her couture funeral outfit so at least she was appropriately dressed for the occasion

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Peter Joshua (Grant), a charmer she met on holiday, tries to help her adjust to her newly widowed life. Meanwhile, CIA agent Hamilton Bartholomew (Matthau) warns her that she is in danger from her late husband’s WWII buddies who thinks she’s concealing a fortune they stole during the war.

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We’re torn on the villains. On the one hand, they kidnap an innocent kid to force Reggie’s cooperation, which is a serious faux pas. On the other hand however, they actually treat him quite well and keep their word. So, all in all, about a 5 on the villain-scale.

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This is how you do a spy thriller/screwball comedy! There’s twist after twist after twist, and the movie is dripping with the charm of the lead actors and the fantastic supporting actors.

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They have so much chemistry we didn’t even consider the dodgy 25 year age gap

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Charade is one of those movies you just have to see for yourself and no review can do it justice. Suffice to say, we loved the characters, the intro, the banter, the funeral, all the eating and the costumes by Givenchy.

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And the hilarious shower scene.

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It’s just a must-watch. So good, and a world away from the misogynistic and outdated world of James Bond, which we’ll get to next time…

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“I’ve had a chat with Ian Fleming, and he thinks you should sleep with me. Since I’m an agent and you’re an attractive female, it’s your duty.”

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What we learned: When your murdered husband inevitably turns out to be a secret agent, be careful who you trust.

Next time: From Russia With Love (1963)

#217 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: John Ford

Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode

Year: 1962

Runtime: 2h 03min

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Shinbone, somewhere in the Wild West. Senator Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Miles) arrive to attend the funeral of old friend and town loner Tom Doniphon (Wayne). Together with former sheriff Link Appleyard (Devine), they recount to reporters the reason they returned to pay their last respects to Doniphon.

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“That man could grow a cactus like no one I ever met.”

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Flash back 25 years, and Stoddard is an idealistic lawyer ready to start his practice in the then lawless Shinbone. On the way into town, his stagecoach is ambushed by local gang leader Liberty Valance (Marvin). After refusing to yield to the bully, Stoddard is brutally beaten and left to die in the desert. He’s found by Doniphon and nursed back to health by Hallie.

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“I have a good mind to throw this dish in your face, you dirty rotten scoundrel, you!”

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Once he recovers his strength, Stoddard decides to go ahead and open his law practice, as well as start a school to teach all the locals to read, something Valance is not happy with. Doniphon tries to tell Stoddard that he needs to use force in order to deal with the outlaw, but Stoddard is sure that the only way is the way of the law. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between “Ranse” and Hallie, although Doniphon is also in love with the only eligible woman in town.

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After all, Hallie is of Norwegian ancestry. We’re scientifically proven to be irresistable [citation needed].

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a wonderful and tense Western where philosophies collide with the transition from old to new ideals. On the one hand, we have the old west represented by the rugged, stoic and righteous gunslinger Doniphon, and on the other we have the new hero and male ideal: the educated, sensitive and refined Stoddard.

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The two have much to learn from each other…

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Stoddard woos the girl and wins over the townspeople by teaching them about history and politics, and how to better themselves. Meanwhile, badass macho man Doniphon protects them with force and his own form of love: he works hard to build his farm in order to have something to offer Hallie, but he never actually got around to asking her to marry him, or to ask her what she actually wanted from him.

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She might have married him ages ago if he ever actually thought to ask her

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There are some not-so-subtle references to all men being created equal, which would have been very timely in 1962 and, sadly, also in 2019, and which we absolutely loved. We also loved James Stewart, but then again, we always do…

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Even injured and in an apron, 10/10 would marry!

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This movie has it all: sassy women (mother more than daughter), bad criminals, intriguing politics, a stoic gunslinger, a young idealistic educated man, a love interest, and a bumbling town marshal. And once again, we find ourselves loving a Western classic. Fantastic stuff!

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He’s only an elected official – he can’t make decisions on his own!

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What we learned: That they used “dude” in the 1800s in the Wild West. Also, a beer is not drinking.

Next time: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Somewhere in 18th century Spain, a beggar (Wordsworth) goes to a castle to ask for some food and/or money. But the marquis (Dawson) is a cruel man and a bully, and he imprisons the beggar and promptly forgets about him. Left in the dungeon for fifteen years, the poor man is forgotten about by all but the jailer and his mute daughter.

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One look at this man and we would have run for our lives. Unfortunately the beggar didn’t share our instincts for people.

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After those fifteen years, the daughter (Romain) refuses to be raped by the marquis, and he throws her in the dungeon with the beggar. Apparently, he has forgotten all about the girl’s kindness to him and rapes her himself, and then dies (karma’s a bitch!).  The girl is sent back to the marquis so that he can have his way with her, but having been raped once already, she’s not about to let the bastard win, so she kills him and flees.

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Sometimes it’s a good, and righteous, thing to be a backstabbing bitch

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The runaway girl, now pregnant, is later found in the woods by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and Teresa (Talfrey) who take her in and, when she dies in childbirth on Christmas Day, take on the responsibility of her newborn son.

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“Say, Teresa, do we know who the boy’s father is..? I only ask because he seems to be displaying some rather unusual dental development here which has me quite confused”

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Turns out though, unwanted children born on Christmas Day are cursed to be werewolves. Which makes us wonder why lycanthropy isn’t a bigger social problem than it currently seems to be. While young Leon (Reed) at first manages to keep his condition under control, once he grows up and faces adversity as well as love, he loses what little control he has and all hell breaks loose.

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Honestly, we were half expecting him to break into song once he had climbed the bell tower. Colour us disappointed.

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The Curse of the Werewolf was removed from the list after we’d already bought it, so as is tradition, we’re doing it anyway, dammit! And we’re glad we did. We loved the opening credits with the sad werewolf, the interesting explanation for the condition, and Leon’s partner in crime (not literally though) José.

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Also, even though it preceeds it by almost 5 decades, this is yet another werewolf better than the atrocity in The Prisoner of Azkaban. No, we’re still not over it.

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In many ways, it’s more a drama than a horror, except the ending which is very Frankenstein. But we believe it works for fans of both genres. Well worth watching! Even though there are apparently at least 1000 films which are better than this one… Let’s call it number 1001 and recommend it anyway. Happy New Year!

What we learned: Don’t give birth to unwanted children on Christmas day. We know, it’s a bit late for 2018, but keep it in mind for next year.

Next time: Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

#211 Yojimbo

Watched: December 17 2018

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Isuzu Yamada, Daisuke Katô, Seizaburô Kawazu, Takashi Shimura, Eijirô Tôno

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 50min

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Japan, 1860. Ronin Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Mifune) wanders the country side, choosing his way at random. The fates apparently guide him well, because he eventually arrives in a town in desperate need of his help.

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A town run by two strangely assembled crime syndicates

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Upon arrival, the ronin is advised to leave by inn keeper Gonji (Tôno) who tells him about the rival clans who terrorize the town and claims there’s nothing for him there. But the ronin has other plans. He decides to take on the responsibility of cleaning up the town and approaches one of the leaders to offer up his services.

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“Dude, listen to this. I’m gonna – no, listen! I’m gonna pretend to back each side. Right? Back each of them. But then I’m really not. Get it? Damn, I’m brilliant!”

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First, he convinces Seibê (Kawazu) to hire him as a swordsman, but overhears his wife Orin (Yamada) plotting to kill him once he has helped them kill their enemies. Then, when his new boss arranges for the two sides to meet in battle, Sanjuro quits his job and climbs up to watch the rival sides destroy each other.

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It would have worked too, if it weren’t for those meddling government officials.

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Unfortunately, this first plan is foiled by the arrival of some sort of official person who comes to inspect the town. So the samurai needs to rethink his strategy for the next attempt, using all his craft and cunning to save the innocent inhabitants of the small village. But with the odds stacking against him, can he complete his mission? And survive the ordeal?

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Honestly, he too cool to be killed. Look at this badass!

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We were thrilled to be taken back into the samurai world of Akira Kurosawa. Our earlier encounters (Rashômon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood) have been among our all time favourites, and Yojimbo definitely joins their ranks.

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We’re easy. Bring us a man with a sword and we swoon like teenagers.

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We love the costumes, the sword fighting, the characters, the actors, and the music. And we can easily see how this movie would inspire westerns (particularly A Fistful of Dollars, we seem to remember) – it’s the sort of story that works equally well in any setting in which there are lone gun-/swordmen and lawless societies.

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Don’t try to tell us this shot has not been recreated in a Sergio Leone movie!

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The main character is just so ridiculously cool that we cannot even find the words to describe him. He’s just cool. So very, very cool. And deadly. But in a good way. He’s just cool, man.

What we learned: We have a very strange crush on Toshirô Mifune…

Next time: Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

#206 The Guns of Navarone

Watched: November 4 2018

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Starring: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, Richard Harris

Year: 1961

Runtime: 2h 38min

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In 1943, British soldiers are stranded on the Greek island of Kheros, about to be blitzed by Germany but unable to leave due to the Axis controlled guns (as in big, massive cannons, not just a couple of revolvers, mind you) on the nearby island of Navarone. As no bombing missions have been successful, the British assemble a commando unit to infiltrate the island and take out the guns.

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“We’re rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves, drink up, me hearties, yo-ho!”

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The unit is a team of “pirates and cutthroats;” Major Roy Franklin (Quayle) Captain Keith Mallory (Peck), Corporal John Miller (Niven), Colonel Andrea Stavros (Quinn), “Butcher” Brown (Baker), and Spyros Pappadimos (Darren). Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to climb an unclimbable cliff to sabotage the guns.

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“I’m scared of heights…” “I think I left the stove on.” “Whose fucking brilliant idea was this, anyway???” “Tell my mum I love her.”

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The team is gathered, plans laid and events put in motion. They’re a ruthless but charming bunch, and they set out on their hazardous journey where they encounter storms, Germans, trust issues, dangerous climbs in awful conditions, injuries, capture, torture and romance.

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Among their many perils: armed women with minds of their own!

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The Guns of Navarone is an action packed movie about manly men doing manly things. We loved the long sequences without dialogue and the (often lack of) score. Among our favourite scenes were the storm with the subsequent shipwreck and climb, and the incredibly tense ending when we were waiting for the booby trap to be triggered. We were quite literally on the edge of our seats.

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We imagine it was a sensation not unlike being held at gunpoint, but as we lead very sheltered lives this is really just guesswork

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The tension is oftentimes palpable and this is a very entertaining war epic, not unlike The Bridge on the River Kwai. So if you’re looking for a WWII double feature and you have several hours to spare, the two might make an excellent combo. Just be sure to wrap up warm and bring a snack.

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Alternatively, combine it with Mamma Mia for a Greek Wedding extravaganza!

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What we learned: Sometimes, you need a team of pirates and cutthroats. Also, we need to step up our rope-climbing game. Who knew that dreaded P.E. staple could have real world applications?

Next time: The Hustler (1961)

#180 Rio Bravo

Watched: May 17 2018

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Claude Akins, Ward Bond, John Russell

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 21min

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A brawl (of the murderous kind) in a saloon leads to the arrest of Joe Burdette (Akins), criminal brother of a local hot shot rancher. As many forces are looking to get Joe out, sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) enlists the help of former deputy Dude (Martin) to keep him safely locked away, despite Dude’s alcohol problem and the fact that he was one of the reasons for the brawl in the first place.

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“We’re getting the band back together!”

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Together with comic relief Stumpy (Brennan) they must defend the jail, the sheriff’s office and the town, something which proves difficult when Joe’s henchmen and Big Brother Nathan (Russell) get involved. Reinforcements (reluctantly) arrive in the form of young gunslinger Colorado Ryan (Nelson) and, in another way, poker player Feathers (Dickinson).

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“Age gap? 24 years is no age gap! My last boyfirend was 78.”

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How will this ragtag team of alcoholics, kids, oldies, cripples and (gasp!) women manage to survive until the Marshall comes to pick up the condemned prisoner? Why, with song and explosions, of course!

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First we sing. Then we blow shit up.

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Rio Bravo has everything you could ever hope for in a western – rugged men; feisty women; fancy, semi-colour-coded hats; shootouts; explosions; horses; clearly defined bad guys and romance.

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One man learns that there exists a different kind of romance than that between a man and his horse

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We loved the silent scene at the start, the tension throughout, the character names (Chance, Stumpy, Dude and Feathers – are we sure this isn’t a cartoon?) and Angie Dickinson. Clocking in at well over two hours, this movie just flies by and was great family entertainment when we sat down to watch it with our parents and brother on May 17 – the Norwegian national day. After a day of wholesome fun with nephew and niece, what’s better than watching a bunch of manly, yet sensitive, men kill each other?

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“Hear that, boys? The crowd is ready for an encore!”

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What we learned: Wild West men were surprisingly sensitive and in touch with their feelings. Also, some will go to great lengths to ensure justice is served.

Next time: Sapphire (1959)

#178 North by Northwest

Watched: April 8 2018

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 16min

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Roger O. Thornhill (Grant) is a busy adman with a slightly exasperated secretary and a fabulous mother (Landis). During lunch, he is mistaken for a Mr Kaplan by a couple of thugs and whisked away on an adventure.

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“We’re off to see the Wizard! The wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

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Despite Thornhill’s insistence that they have the wrong guy, baddie Phillip Vandamm (Mason) is convinced his captive is lying. His suspicions are confirmed several times as Thornhill starts investigating and finds himself in the mysterious Kaplan’s hotel room, accepting his laundry and answering his phone. Idiot.

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“What sort of flying monkey is this???”

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Things go from bad to worse when Thornhill becomes a prime suspect for murder and must go on the lam. He ends up sneaking on to the “Twentieth Century” where he meets the mysterious and gorgeous Eve Kendall (Saint). She helps him elude capture, but now our hero is hunted by both criminals and law enforcement. What a pickle!

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Luckily, Thornhill is a master of disguise!

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North by Northwest is definitely among the funnier Hitchcock movies. The whole thing plays like a farce, and Cary Grant’s amazing face, sass and sarcasm keep the audience laughing throughout. We also loved his darling mother.

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“I’m a delight!”

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As with several Hitchcock films (and others), the opening credits by Saul Bass are fantastic, and the movie is suspenseful and exciting from beginning to end. Love this!

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So cool!

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What we learned: If you’re the victim of mistaken identity, try not to pretend to be that person… Also, high heels and rock climbing is a bad match. There goes our weekend plans.

Next time: Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)