#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)

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#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)

#164 The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Watched: February 19 2018

Director: Nathan Juran

Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Torin Thatcher

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Sinbad the Sailor (Mathews) is doing what he does best: sailing the seas. It’s not his best work though – he and his crew have run out of food and are desperate for land. Luck is on their side, however, and they come upon an island. But what sort of an island is it..?

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We reiterate: not his best work. The island is decidedly treacherous.

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The sailors save a stranded magician, Sokurah (Thatcher), from the island’s local cyclops, but during the commotion Sokurah loses his magic lamp to the monster. Sinbad refuses to go back for it as he has onboard his ship Princess Parisa (Grant) and does not want to risk her life. Especially as he is going to marry her and it would be a shame to be a widower before his wedding.

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“Darling, I love you, but if we’re gonna get married we need to lose the old woman. And that weirdo hairdo you’re sporting.”

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Sokurah is an unscrupulous bastard, and once they reach the safety of Baghdad he uses his magic to shrink Parisa in order to blackmail Sinbad into going back. Which works, as a marriage to someone 15 cm tall would be somewhat problematic.

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“But think of the money we’d save on food! And cinema tickets! You could just smuggle me into any venue in your pocket.” “Yeah, but… I foresee a host of other problems…”

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Sinbad does not want to risk the lives of his crew and recruits “volunteers” among the prison population of Baghdad, who immediately start plotting a mutiny. After an eventful journey, they eventually reach Colossa and go lamp-hunting. It turns out the island is home to more threats than a cyclops and an evil magician…

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Pictured: angry-eyebrow-skeleton-dude

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The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is a fun adventure with cool monsters and a simple but sweet princess. There are cyclopes, a genie (Eyer), caliphs, dragons, huge three-headed birds and skeletons. We’re slightly miffed we never watched this as kids, because we would have absolutely loved it. We did now too (though the white people playing Arabs have become a bit dated), we just wish we had watched it back when we used to read and love these stories.

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What we wouldn’t give to watch this epic battle between a dragon and a cyclops when we were innocent, sweet little children!

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Ray Harryhausen’s “Dynamation” technique is still magical, and we’re very glad we ended up having to buy this DVD. We’ll definitely watch it again, and introduce it to our niece and nephew once they’re old enough.

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“Stupid aunties making me wait until I’m old enough to watch people being barbequed by a huge monster.”

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What we learned: Don’t mess with magicians. Also, what happened to the first 5-6 voyages..?

Next time: The Fly (1958)

#134 The Court Jester

Watched: September 24 2017

Director: Melvin Frank & Norman Panama

Starring: Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, Cecil Parker, Mildred Natwick

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 41min

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A Royal child has survived the massacre of his family, and is being kept safe in the forest by Not-Robin-Hood “The Black Fox” and his singing, dancing and fairly merry men. The usurping king is not very happy about this and sends out his men to track down and kill the child who bears the tell-tale birthmark “The Purple Pimpernel”

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We chose this image to avoid being banned for lewd pictures, but it gives you a certain idea of where the birthmark is placed

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Among The Black Fox’s merry men is carnival performer Hubert Hawkins (Kaye) – a minstrel who really wants to fight for the rightful heir but who is tasked with entertaining the troops instead. Along with Captain Jean (Johns), he is sent to smuggle the child to safety, but as the pair run into the new unrightful king’s new jester, they make their own plans.

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Guess who’s going undercover!

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Once at the court, complications arise as Sir Ravenhurst (Rathbone) thinks he’s an assassin, Princess Gwendolyn (Lansbury) thinks he’s her one true love, and her Nanny Griselda (Natwick) hypnotizes our hero to be all those things. Additionally, Jean is kidnapped into prostitution at the castle, and the infant King must be kept hidden under the nose of his would-be killer. Let the farce commence!

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The prostitution-thing is not explicitly stated, but very heavily hinted at

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The Court Jester is very silly and very funny, with great musical numbers (we especially loved the opening song) and gags galore! It’s a swashbuckling adventure which reminded us in style of The Adventures of Robin Hood (we’re guessing not accidentally) and in humour of Mel Brooks – particularly Men in Tights, of course.

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Also, the inspiration for a certain famous scene with dancing, singing “knighets”!

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A fun family comedy recommended for all who love a bit of well-executed silly in their lives.

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And Murder, She Wrote-fans looking to justify their love for Angela Lansbury

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What we learned: Kings can be overthrown by dwarves and birthmarks. Also, Danny Kaye invented the drop-crotch trousers.

Next time: The Ladykillers (1955)

#123 Seven Samurai

Watched: July 26 2017

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura, Daisuke Katô, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, Minoru Chiaki, Keiko Tsushima, Kamatari Fujiwara

Year: 1954

Runtime: 3h 27min

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Arguably Kurosawa’s most famous film, Seven Samurai, tells the story of a 16th century Japanese village on a deadline to be attacked by bandits. In order to save themselves and their crops, the villagers decide to hire samurai to protect them, and three of them go to a nearby town to find rōnin/samurai hungry enough to work for food.

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“Free rice, you say? Count me in!”

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While no easy task, the villagers eventually recruit old rōnin Kambei (Shimura) and he, with the help of his eager new apprentice Katsushirō (Kimura), manage to gather another four samurai. Their party of six now includes stoic but brutal warrior Kyūzō (Miyaguchi) as well as three (slightly more interchangeable) friendly samurai Shichirōji, Gorobei and Heihatchi (Katô, Inaba and Chiaki, respectively).

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“Come rain, come shine, we’ll fight all you bitches!”

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But wait, you say! Isn’t the title Seven Samurai? Not six? It is indeed, gentle reader. As they make their way towards the village, the samurai are followed by crazy drunk Kikuchiyo (Mifune), who also claims samurai credentials. After pulling a stunt in the village, the others include him in their numbers, and then there were seven. Together, they will train the villagers, fight the bandits, and some will fall in love in the process. Though, sadly, not with each other.

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About to drop the hottest record of 1586!

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If the plot sounds familiar but you’re sure you’ve never seen this film, it may be because of John Sturges’ 1960 Western remake The Magnificent Seven, which takes the premise and sets it in a Mexican village with gunslingers instead of samurai. If you’re a fan of that one, we recommend you watch this original – it has drama, action, romance, comedy, and a host of colourful characters.

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There’s also incredibly cool shots like this one.

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We have a weakness for samurai, so this was perfect for us. Even with a running time of well over 3 hours, it’s engaging and interesting and never feels too long. It’s a popular film to screen in film clubs and cinematheques, so if you get the chance, you should watch it on the big screen. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re a grumpy bastard who doesn’t like fun.

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In which case, this guy is coming for you!

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What we learned: A lot about old Japanese hair customs. Also, given the right circumstances, floral prints can be manly as fuck.

Next time: Them! (1954)

#60 Road to Morocco

Watched: November 27 2016

Director: David Butler

Starring: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Dona Drake, Anthony Quinn

Year: 1942

Runtime: 1h 22min

Note: see note for Cat People. Yup, she was still gone.

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After their ship blows up, two stowaways find themselves on a raft discussing who will eat who first. Luckily, before it comes down to that, they find land and a very friendly camel to take them to Morocco. Yay camels!

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You haven’t lived until you’ve sung a song on the back of a camel. Fact!

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They arrive in a very Arabian Nights-inspired Morocco, complete with princess in distress and violent locals, where they get  up to all sorts of zany antics including, but not limited to, selling each other into slavery. Ah – men, am I right?

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At least, this particular form of slavery consisted of courting a beautiful princess. As far as human trafficking is concerned, it could be a lot worse.

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Once Jeffrey (Crosby) finds out the exact nature of the work he sold Orville’s (Hope) into, he inserts himself into the lives of the newly engaged couple to try to win princess Shalmar (Lamour) for himself. And he succeeds. Which is just as well, as Orville seems more interested in her handmaiden Mihirmah (Drake) anyway.

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Can’t imagine why

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Now, this is when things get really complicated for the two old friends. It turns out the princess is only interested in marrying Orville because a prophecy has foretold that her first husband will die after only a week of marriage, and she is really engaged to a local sheikh, Kasim (Quinn). However, the sheikh cannot compete with the natural charm and musical talents of Bing Crosby, and the princess decides to go with the penniless American instead. The sheikh does not take kindly…

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He doesn’t take kindly at all!

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He kidnaps the princess and her entourage, and leaves Jeff and Orville to die in the desert. It’s up to them to rescue their loves and save the day!

Road to Morocco is very silly, quite raunchy at times, and it breaks the fourth wall masterfully. There’s dancing, action, romance, and cool costumes as well as sometimes sweet, sometimes fun, musical numbers. A great hangover film for early Sunday afternoon. Or Tuesday morning. Whatever rubs your Buddha.

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We all know what he will be rubbing. Ooo – naughty!

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What we learned: make sure your telescope is clean before making life or death prophecies.

Next time: To Be or Not To Be (1942)

#45 The Adventures of Robin Hood

Watched: September 30 2016

Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, and Una Freaking O’Connor!

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: our first feature film in glorious technicolor! And what a film! Swashbuckling heroes, forbidden romance, great fight scenes and men in tights! What more can two ladies ask for on a Friday night?

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Perhaps a cheeky bastard defying authority while carrying a big piece of meat..?

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The evil Prince John (Rains) and his sidekick Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone) start a reign of terror against the Saxons in the absence of John’s brother, King Richard the Lion Heart, who’s in captivity after fighting in the crusades. However, one Saxon nobleman will not be subdued – Robin of Locksley, a.k.a. Robin Hood (Flynn), the sassy leader of a band of merry men who make it their mission to protect the people and defy the rule of the Norman upper classes.

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“We’ll start sharing our loot with the oppressed once we’ve paid off these matching outfits. We should have considered the price of green dye before deciding on this colour scheme…”

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Robin, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck and the other famous and beloved characters from the Robin Hood legends not only rob from the rich and give to the poor, they also assassinate all who threaten, torture and/or kill Saxons. Which John did in abundance.

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His mistake was going full oppressor. You never go full oppressor.

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This was one of the best Friday nights we’ve had in a while (sad, we know..). The colours are really vibrant (particularly after so many weeks of black and white films) and the characters are fun and cheeky – especially Flynn’s Robin. There’s bravery, political activist women (though turned that way by love for a man), the glorious Una O’Connor (imagine our happiness when we spotted her!), wonderful fight sequences (some in shadow), humour, romance, suspense and a great score.

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We must admit to a weakness for men who shoot arrows while on horseback. But only in historical clothing.

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Another interesting detail is that for macho men, the outlaws are very happy to be shown up by others. We think a lot of people can learn something from them about lightening up and not taking themselves so seriously…

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Like these guys.

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What we learned: unlike other Robin Hoods, he can speak with an English accent. (Okay, we’re Norwegian and not particularly good at distinguishing accents in English, and we know that Flynn was Australian so this may be a blatant lie, but dammit! Men in Tights [1993] is NOT on the list, and this may be our only chance to quote the great Cary Elwes in this blog, so we’re bloody well going to go for it!)

Next time: The Lady Vanishes (1938)