#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)

#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)

#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)

#222 Billy Liar

Watched: March 02 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Gwendolyn Watts, Helen Fraser, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies, Finlay Currie

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 38min

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Meet Billy (Courtenay). Billy lives with his parents and works at an undertakers’. Billy juggles girlfriends/fiancées Barbara (Fraser) and Rita (Watts) while harbouring a secret crush on free spirit and original manic pixie dream girl Liz (Christie). He also lies through his teeth.

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Why on earth this lovely, innocent girl would let this man bring her to a cemetery is beyond us. Here, she clearly only has a few minutes left to live.

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Billy has an imaginary world where he is not only king, but pretty much every inhabitant, at least any person of note. This kingdom of Ambrosia is his escape from his boring, average life, as well as an outlet for his creativity. And a source of frustration for his fed up family.

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Who hasn’t dreamt of being a hero, loved and admired by men and women alike?

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Sexually frustrated ladies man, compulsive liar, rebellious teen and part time sociopath, Billy’s fantasies often end in him gunning down everyone around him, especially those who inconvenience him. He lies to protect himself and to seem more interesting. He’s not too good with criticism or confrontation, and he dreams of a more exciting life which he is too scared to actually pursue.

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We get it, Billy. It’s much easier to be the fictional ruler of Ambrosia than to actually go out and take chances with your life, risking defeat. Go Liz!

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Oh, did we mention he also tries to drug one his girlfriends to have sex with her? Which definitely ranks in the top three of “the worst thing that can happen when a man brings a woman to a cemetery”-list.

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Lucky for her he bought bad drugs. And also didn’t know which part of her to suck…

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You can probably tell that we’re not quite sold on the character of Billy… In fact, we found him somewhat sinister at times. However, there are still a lot of things to enjoy about this movie. As always, we loved Tom Courtenay’s face(s), we loved the banter in the funeral home, the twist dancing, and the flashes between reality and Billy’s fantasy world.

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For all his faults, it’s hard to completely hate a man who is so overly dramatic and extra.

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We also liked Liz. Where Billy had only his dreams, Liz had the guts and the follow-through. He talked a good game, but she actually went out and did things with her life. The only thing that confused us about her was why she would be interested in someone like him.

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“Shit! I just realized I’m Julie Motherfucking Christie! So long, sucker!”

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It’s an interesting movie and well worth watching. Apart from his treatment of the women in his life (this goes for girlfriends as well as his mother and grandmother), Billy is relatable in a lot of ways. Frustrated with his mundane working class existence, he retreats into his fantasy world where he can actually achieve and experience things. We can understand that. But like the demolition work going on all around him, he has a destructive streak, and it’s a dark one…

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Why can’t it be both..?

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What we learned: There’s a fine line between having an active imagination and being a compulsive liar.

Next time: Black Sabbath (1963)

#204 A Taste of Honey

Watched: October 30 2018

Director: Tony Richardson

Starring: Rita Tushingham, Dora Bryan, Murray Melvin, Robert Stephens, Paul Danquah

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jo (Tushingham) is an artistic sixteen-year old girl who’s neglected by her mother Helen (Bryan) and tired of the way her life is going. Following the girl’s short romance with black sailor Jimmy (Danquah), Jo is kicked out from her home when her mother marries a disaster of a man, Peter (Stephens).

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Strangely, it wasn’t the affair that dissuaded Peter from taking her on as his new daughter. It was her resting-weird-face which freaked him out.

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Jo moves out, gets a flat and a job in a shoe shop, as well as a new gay best friend in Geoff (Melvin). In short, she’s pretty much living the outcast girl’s dream. There’s one problem though – her romance with Jimmy left her pregnant.

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No inexperienced teenager would have stood a chance with this guy…

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Like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Taste of Honey was familiar to the extremely sophisticated Sister the Oldest from her literature studies, but only in writing. The film version of Shelagh Delaney’s play was no disappointment and we both enjoyed it a lot.

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On the question of favourite character we’re torn between both these two

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We can imagine that this one would have been at least a tiny bit controversial upon release with its depictions of sexuality (both young girls and homosexuals should keep that to themselves, thank-you-very-much!), interracial relationships and horrible parenting.

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Helen may look caring and worried, but only as long as Jo’s needs don’t interfere  with her own

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Despite the somewhat bleak subject matter, A Taste of Honey is not as depressing as it could easily have become. The dialogue is funny and witty, and the characters are interesting – especially the women and Geoff.

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Peter’s just your run-of-the-mill misogynist bastard though

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We loved Jo – she’s awkward, insolent, insecure, independent, stubborn, sharp and fabulous, partly thanks to Tushingham’s performance. This movie is a great little slice of kitchen sink drama with a fantastic cast and a strange but interesting peep show scene set in Blackpool. Not sure why we point that out that in particular, but it seemed worth mentioning. Definitely recommended.

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What we learned: Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it. And sometimes you make the same mistakes as your mother.

Next time: Lola (1961)

#203 Zazie dans le Métro

Watched: October 8 2018

Director: Louis Malle

Starring: Catherine Demongeot, Philippe Noiret, Hubert Deschamps, Carla Marlier, Vittorio Caprioli, Yvonne Clech

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Zazie (Demongeot), a charming ten-year-old precocious brat, is left with her uncle Gabriel (Noiret) in Paris for the weekend so that her mum can get some sexytime with her new lover.

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All you need to take over the world is a jaunty hat and absolutely no shame

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Zazie’s only goal for the weekend is to go on the metro, so she is less than impressed when it is closed due to a strike. On her first morning at her uncle’s place, she sneaks off to explore the city on her own and try to find an open metro, but instead she finds a very creepy stranger (Caprioli) and lots of trouble.

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We were surprised to find where we’ve gone wrong trying to attract guys…

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The creepy stranger may or may not be a paedophile, may or may not be a cop, and may or may not also be attracted to Zazie’s aunt and a merry widow they encounter on their adventures. It’s all a bit fuzzy and bewildering.

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We’re not sure if we ever got an explanation of the furry

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While we didn’t quite understand what was happening half the time, Zazie dans le Métro was a wild ride from start to finish. The visual comedy of it reminded us a bit of Hulot, and we loved the silliness of it all, although we’re pretty sure we saw a poor lady stabbed at some point. And there’s an attempted rape. And there’s a fairly big chance Zazie is a victim of abuse or a psychopath, judging from her reactions to people and events. Now that we think about it, are we sure this is a comedy..?

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Trust us – this girl has seen some shit!

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Still, we loved the cuts, the speeding up and slowing down of the film, the absurdity, the chaos and the colours, and the assortment of strange and unusual characters.

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Such as the dapper drag queen uncle who has a huge problem with other people’s personal hygiene

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There’s a reason this film keeps playing in film clubs and cinemas to this day, and it’s well worth catching. Enjoy a strange romp through an even stranger Paris!

What we learned: Not everything needs to make sense all the time. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride.

Next time: A Taste of Honey (1961)

#200 The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film

Watched: September 22 2018

Director: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers

Starring: Richard Lester, Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dick Bentley and a bunch of others, all uncredited

Year: 1960

Runtime: 11 min

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Hooray! We’ve reached number 200 on the list! 20% done! 200+ blog entries! And many, many hours spent in front of the TV! Tonight, we shall toast with bubbles and celebrate, but not before bringing you another very short film review of a very short film.

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Skål!

The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film is a series of strange and absurd slapstick comedy skits shot in the English country side. The title is almost longer than the film itself, and there’s very little we can say about it other than that it was amusing and reminded us a bit of Monty Python, so we would not be surprised if this was an inspiration for the comedy group. Which, if we’d bother looking it up, we’re sure we’d find was true.

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It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite gag, but this one is up there

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You can watch the whole thing here, and we recommend that you do so.

What we learned: Not a whole lot, really. Perhaps that once you shoot something, you own it..? Or don’t go towards someone beckoning you if they’re wearing boxing gloves..?

Next time: The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan (1960)

#199 The Little Shop of Horrors

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Myrtle Vail, Leola Wendorff, Jack Nicholson

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Seymour Krelborn (Haze) is a simple employee at Mushnick’s (Welles) failing floral shop on Skid Row, along with his crush Audrey Fulquard (Joseph). Their few customers are mainly limited to the unluckiest woman in the universe, Mrs Shiva (Wendorff), whose relatives keep dropping dead on a daily basis, and flower eating Fouch (Miller).

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Mushnick suffering his third mental breakdown of the day. They opened ten minutes ago…

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When Seymour is threatened with unemployment after screwing up yet another order, he reveals to his boss that he has been cultivating a new plant which he has named “Audrey Jr” and is told he can keep his job if he manages to popularize the plant and grow more of them.

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“She’s a fascinating creature, not at all bloodthirsty and creepy!”

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However, Audrey Jr is dying and Seymour struggles to find a food source for it. That is, until he cuts himself and the plant greedily drinks his blood… Having found sustenance for his creation, Seymour turns the shop and his unusual plant into superstars. But Audrey Jr craves more. And Seymour must provide…

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“What? No! It eats shoes. Shoes. Not dead bodies – no siree!”

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The 1960 original Little Shop of Horrors may not be as well known as the musical remake from 1986, but oh my did we love it! The characters, the plot, the script and the humour are all hilarious and we laughed so much that we were in pain at the end.

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Also, Jack Nicholson has a fantastically creepy and funny, though somewhat hyped up, small part as a masochist seeking dental care

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Roger Corman seems to love him some murderous simpletons who profit from their kills, as the main character shares some clear similarities with Walter Paisley (also Miller) in A Bucket of Blood. However, while Walter becomes a douchebag with his newfound success, Seymour seems to be more aware that what he is doing is wrong, and many of Audrey Jr’s meals are products of accidents rather than cold blooded murder.

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Most of them…

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We loved the investigators (especially the one who lost his kid), Mrs Shiva and her accident prone family, Fouch and his handy salt/pepper shaker, the flower floozies and generally everything about this. It’s in many ways a funnier version of A Bucket of Blood, and we cannot recommend it enough. And while we love the musical version, this one is somehow more charming and has become our favourite of the two. Go watch it!

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Like Audrey, it is an utter delight!

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What we learned: If a lifeform of unknown origin craves human blood to thrive, just walk away!

Next time: The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film (1960)

#198 The League of Gentlemen

Watched: August 7 2018

Director: Basil Dearden

Starring: Jack Hawkins, Nigel Patrick, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough, Bryan Forbes, Kieron Moore, Terence Alexander, Norman Bird, Robert Coote

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 56min

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A man climbs casually out of a manhole in his finest attire, gets into a car and drives off. When he comes home, he sends out seven packages containing the book The Golden Fleece, half of £50 (literally half, in ripped up bills), and instructions to an assortment of characters. So begins The League of Gentlemen.

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It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After an awkward dinner party.

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The ring leader, Norman Hyde (Hawkins), is ex-army and feels the world owes him something. The men he contacted are all former army officers as well, and they all have secrets or difficulties which make them fairly easy to persuade into joining Hyde for a bank robbery.

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Actually, they just pretend it’s the money they want. They were all on board the minute they saw these bitchin’ gas masks.

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Utilising all their combined skills, the officers-cum-robbers plan an elaborate heist with a possible outcome of £100,000 per participant. It’s enough incentive to sway them all, and the plan is put into motion.

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The plan includes, but is not limited to, peeling a whole bunch of potatoes

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How did we love The League of Gentlemen? Let us count the ways. The dialogue, the dishwashing scene, the naughty vicar, the prep, the military infiltration, the heist itself, the heroic music, the gas masks, and the complete and utter cheek of the whole thing were all amazing, and had us laughing throughout.

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This whole segment is a complete riot

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Combine that with the very real and palpable tension during the heist and you got yourself a winner. The characters, and their interactions, are fantastic and you find yourself rooting for them very quickly. Love, love, love this movie. Definitely something to check out if you’re not familiar with it.

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Pictured: you guys crawling out of the woodwork just to watch this gem. Hopefully.

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What we learned: There was a different class of criminals in the 1960s. Also, this is a local heist for local people. There’s nothing for you here!

Next time: The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)