#161 Dracula

Watched: January 7 2018

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 22min

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The story of Dracula hardly needs another recap, but if you still have no idea what this is all about, check out our previous entries on the same story, Dracula (1931) or Nosferatu (1922). We’re pretty sure we summarized the story in at least one of those.

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Blood, fangs, crazy eyes and just a hint of sexy. Really all the info you need.

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That being said, Terence Fisher and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster took some liberties with their 1958 version, mainly concerning some characters and their relationships. Lucy, Mina and Jonathan Harker in particular have gone through some changes.

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Van Helsing is his old, charming self though

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Well-known story and some artistic liberties aside, Hammer’s Dracula (a.k.a. Horror of Dracula) is one of our favourite versions of Bram Stoker’s novel. Christopher Lee is sexy, suave and animalistic as the count, and Peter Cushing is magnetic and dynamic as his arch nemesis.

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We’re honestly not entirely sure how we would react if this guy showed up in our bedroom… Sure, he’s deadly, but what a way to go!

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We absolutely love this movie. There’s nothing like a good vampire story (emphasis on the “good”), and we appreciate that Jonathan Harker is as useless and boring as we’ve always thought he was even as they’ve tried to make his character a bit more interesting.

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Going from accountant to vampire-fighting librarian might sound cool on paper, but he can’t even resist one scantily clad woman. Giles he’s not!

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Now, our eternal love for Gary Oldman is well documented, but even we have to admit that Christopher Lee’s vampire count may be on par with Oldman’s. And despite the many changes to characters etc. made in this version, it stays true to the original story. There’s nothing not to love, and if you’re only going to watch one version of the ultimate vampire romance, you could do a lot worse than this.

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Pro tip: if you have no reflection in the mirror, take a full bath before bedtime. It’s so easy to miss a spot of blood.

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What we learned: If you’re trying to kill a powerful nemesis and his much weaker sidekick, perhaps it is a good idea to take out the main threat first..?

Next time: Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

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#158 Wild Strawberries/Smultronstället

Watched: January 28 2018

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Jullan Kindahl, Gunnar Björnstrand

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Dr Isak Borg (Sjöström) has one son, one daughter-in-law, one mum, one housekeeper, and one dead wife. He is a disillusioned man with very creepy dreams. He also has an honorary degree, which he will travel to Lund to accept. After a last minute decision not to fly, he goes on a road trip with daughter-in-law Marianne (Thulin) and various other passengers they pick up on the way.

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She’s thrilled to be stuck in a car with him for several hours

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The two stop at his childhood summer home where Marianne goes swimming while Isak has flashbacks of his summers there, and of his cousin Sara (Andersson) who he was to marry. That was, until she went for his brother Sigfrid instead and left Isak emotionally cold and detached.

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“I couldn’t help myself. He assaulted me, and you know what the Bible says about those situations.”

 

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After reliving the emotional trauma from his youth, Isak and Marianne pick up a bunch of hitchhikers mirroring his various relationships, and pay a visit to his cold, distant mother before arriving at the home of his equally cold and distant son. We see a pattern.

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Modern day Sara seemed more fun than olden day Sara, to be honest

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We had actually never seen this before, probably because it seemed a bit too “drama,” but we ended up loving it. Wild Strawberries is very engaging, sad, melancholy, funny and at time unsettling.

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Such as this creepy guy, shown completely without context

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Isak is a tragic figure who has cut himself off from all human emotion since his childhood sweetheart left him and his wife cheated on him and later died. His relationship with his housekeeper closely resembles a marriage though, and the two seem to be fairly happy together despite their bickering.

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Our favourite character and everything we aspire to be

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The second Ingmar Bergman entry on the list taught us that our dog has a more refined taste in movies than us. He was completely riveted by this – especially the dream sequence which he paid full attention. Then again, he is technically 77 years old, so he probably related more to the main character than we did. Either way, our conclusion is that Bergman appeals to older dogs and (somewhat) younger humans alike. It’s a win-win!

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Older dogs and younger humans. It’s a beautiful thing.

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What we learned: Be careful, because you shape your children.

Next time: A Night to Remember (1958)

#155 The Seventh Seal/Det Sjunde Inseglet

Watched: December 17 2017

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Knight Antonius Block (von Sydow) returns to Sweden from the Crusades only to find a country ravaged by the black plague and Death (Ekerot) waiting for him personally.

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Stranger Danger! Stranger Danger!

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Block, who is apparently quite familiar with death as a concept (he returns from war after all), is not fazed by the ominous man, but challenges him to a game of chess. The wager: if Block wins he gets to return to his family, but if Death wins, Block will go willingly to meet his demise.

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“So… I poke it..?” “No, man. It’s called a fist bump. You literally make a fist and bump mine. It’s all the rage in the Crusades.”

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The chess game drags on and between moves the knight travels homeward with his philosopher squire Jöns (Björnstrand, who looks like a mix between Tony Robinson as Baldrick and Rhod Gilbert). Along the way, they gather a posse consisting of traveling performers Jof (Poppe) and Mia (Andersson) with their infant son, as well as an assorted collection of other Swedes.

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#SquadGoals

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While on the surface The Seventh Seal might seem a very existential, dark and serious film, it’s not as daunting a watch as many might suspect. In fact, there’s lots of humour in it, and Swedes have the best insults. And while it explores themes of life and death, good and evil, religion and God, it’s not too heavy or too depressing (well, sort of, but not completely without hope).

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Look! There’s song and dance! With absolutely no sinister context whatsoever.

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It’s gorgeous and iconic, and a film everyone should watch at least once. Don’t be put off by the dark subject matter – it’s really entertaining. Also, it’ll make you feel totally cultural and deep, so you can speak pretentiously about Bergman at parties and become the sort of person everybody loves.

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“Oh God, just shut up about that damned movie already. EVERYBODY has seen it! It does not make you special!”

 

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What we learned: You can’t cheat Death.

Next time: Throne of Blood (1957)

#104 A Place in the Sun

Watched: May 13 2017

Director: George Stevens

Starring: Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters

Year: 1951

Runtime: 2h 02min

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George Eastman (Clift) is hitchhiking to see his rich uncle who has promised him a job in his bathing suit factory. He is given an entry level job and is expressly forbidden to mix with the girls working there. So the first thing he does is flirt with colleague Alice Tripp (Winters) and they soon start a secret relationship.

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So inconspicuous

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Not long after, George’s ambition and family ties get him promoted. He moves through the ranks both professionally and socially with an invitation to one of his rich and powerful family’s parties. There, he meets wealthy socialite Angela Vickers (Taylor) and he falls in love with her, but not before impregnating his working class girlfriend. Apparently his religious mother never taught him about protection…

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Who can resist a girl with cake, though?

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With his new girl happily unaware of his relationship status (it’s complicated), and his old girl demanding marriage, George is torn between his guilt and desire to do the right thing, and his ambition and attraction to Angela.

1951: Film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift (1920-1966) star in the Paramount melodrama 'A Place In The Sun'.
When faced with the choice between a girl who packs bathing suits and one who wears them…

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A Place in the Sun has illegitimate pregnancies, ambition, love triangles, lots of foreshadowing, loose morals (and we’re not talking about Alice here), and a suspenseful scene in a boat which reminded us a great deal of Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. Even our dog was transfixed by this one, although that could have been due to the soundtrack dogs barking throughout some of the more tense scenes.

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It’s also possible the dog was outraged by Elizabeth Taylor wearing his friend as a cape

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What we learned: Don’t get a girl pregnant when you are secretly in love with another girl. That’ll get you into all sorts of trouble.

Next time: Ace in the Hole (1951)

#75 La Belle et La Bête/Beauty and the Beast

Watched: January 8 2017

Director: Jean Cocteau

Starring: Josette Day, Jean Marais

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Belle (Day), the beautiful young daughter of a merchant, is being Cinderella’d by her rooty tooty snooty sisters after their family’s fortune was lost at sea. As her father gets word of one of his ships having reached port safely, he travels to the city to regain some of his fortune, only to find it has all been seized in payment of his debts. Returning home through a scary forest in a storm, he seeks shelter in a castle which seems abandoned yet has a marvelous feast set out for him.

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There’s nothing at all sinister or creepy about the place

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He spends the night in the castle and, when leaving the next morning, picks a rose for his daughter as that was her only request for a present. Big mistake. A frightful Beast (Marais) sets upon him and tells him he must die for this offence. The merchant manages to make a deal to go home home to see his family if he promises to return promptly or send a family member in his place. Belle, being the good daughter, offers to go to the castle instead of her ailing father.

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The pretty dresses and jewellry sort of make up for the creepy living statues and ornaments of her new home.

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Instead of finding a primitive beast ready to devour her, Belle meets a gentlemanly one who proclaims her mistress of the castle and himself her humble servant. She stays with him for months, and though every night she refuses his marriage proposal, they develop a friendship and companionship which is quite mutual, despite him looking like he’s always on the verge of reciting Shakespearean soliloquies. Case in point:

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We’d like to think his tendency to lurk behind her is more a kindness so that she won’t have to look at him, rather than something sinister. Despite the neverending marriage proposals.

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After a while, Belle finds out that her father is grievously ill and asks to go home to see him. The Beast agrees on the condition that she returns one week later, and gives her a magic mirror to see him, his glove which will return her to the castle whenever she’d like and, for some reason, the key to his fortune.

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“I’m sure there’s no way anyone would abuse that power”

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Of course, Belle’s cunty sisters, her idiot brother and his friend Gaston, uh, we mean, Avenant (also played by Marais), persuade her to stay on a bit longer, steal her key and decide to go kill the Beast and steal his fortune. However, Belle sees the Beast half dead from grief in her magic mirror and uses the magic glove to return to him at the same time her brother and Avenant arrive to dispose of him. There are declarations of love, the Beast transforms to his true princely form and all live happily ever after. Except for the intruders, one of whom is himself transformed (to take the Beast’s place as guardian of the castle? Of the afterlife? Of purgatory? Who knows?), but that’s their own fault.

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“Them bitches had it coming, trying to interfere with our strange and possibly Stockholm syndrome-induced romance!”

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Cocteau’s version is a very faithful adaptation of the traditional French fairy tale despite him, naturally, having taken some artistic licenses. Visually, this film is wonderful with amazing details, especially in the enchanted castle which is like Barbie’s Gothic Dream House – creepy but luxurious. The disembodied arms which act like servants and the half-living statues that adorn the halls and rooms are fantastic (in all senses of the word) and add an extra layer of surrealism and magic to the film. The costumes are extravagant, if not necessarily always flattering, and the beast is superbly made up.

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The food even looks appealing in black and white, which is impressive in itself

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If your only cinematic experience of Beauty and the Beast is the 1991 Disney version, we really recommend this one as well, as it is a very different perspective on the same story.

What we learned: women must learn to look beyond physical appearance, but the same is not necessary for men. Also, don’t trust your relatives – them bitches be greedy!

Next time: Notorious (1946)