#250 Darling

Watched: December 30 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, José Luis de Vilallonga, Roland Curram

Year: 1965

Runtime: 2h 08min

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Diana Scott (Christie) is being interviewed for “Ideal Woman,” telling the story of her life. And what a life! From a “normal” life and a normal marriage, she becomes friends, and later lovers, with reporter Robert Gold (Bogarde). The two of them move through in the London art scene in the swinging sixties, partying and being adored.

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“My career goals? Model, actress or princess. Yes, I’m a grown woman. Why do you ask..?”

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They both leave their spouses for each other and move in together. However, Diana becomes very jealous when Robert goes back to his ex to see his kids. In fact, she decides to have her own child, but changes her mind when it becomes a reality.

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“You know what they say – bringing a baby into a troubled relationship always saves the day.”

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Diana, bored with Robert who likes to stay home and write, continues to seduce and be seduced to further her own modelling and acting career. She moves up in the world one man at a time while not playing very well with other women at all, all of whom she sees as threats. But what does she really want from life?

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“Oh, I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”

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Darling is fascinating and engaging, and the contrast between Diana’s words and actions is very interesting to watch. The stories we tell ourselves and others are clearly just a version of the truth.

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“Did I leave the iron on..?”

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We loved the clothes, the decadence and hypocrisy, the out and proud gay people, and all the fake books hiding vices throughout the movie. Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde are wonderful as Diana and Robert, with both good and bad qualities.

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“Just think of all the ways we could eventually hurt and devastate each other!”

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Thematically, there are parallels to Bitter Harvest, but Diana is treated much better than Jennie. Jennie is pretty much a victim, while Diana is the author of her own destiny – for better or worse.

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“Bitch, I’m fabulous!”

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What we learned: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?

Next time: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

#249 Bunny Lake is Missing

Watched: December 30 2019

Director: Otto Preminger

Starring: Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Noël Coward

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 47min

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When Ann Lake (Lynley) comes to pick up 4 year old Bunny from preschool, the child is nowhere to be found. Not only that – she has not been seen by anyone the entire day.

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“Hi! It’s my daughter’s first day of school in a new country! I couldn’t find anyone, so I left her to her own devices in an empty room. I’m sure someone will come find her eventually. If not, maybe you can check in on her at some point during the day, random stranger. Gotta dash! Ladida, mother of the year!”

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As she desperately starts searching for her girl, Ann finds that she has trouble convincing people that Bunny really exists. Apart from her brother Steven (Dullea), no one in England has ever seen the girl since they came over from the USA – not even the audience.

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“Darling sister – are you sure you remembered to take her with you when you moved..?”

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Even Bunny’s things have gone missing from their new house, and supercreepy landlord Horacio Wilson (Coward) cannot remember seeing them despite being very invasive while Ann was unpacking her toys and clothes. And now we are no longer sure there ever was a girl. But fear not! Superintendent Newhouse (Olivier) is on the case and determined to get to the bottom of the mystery!

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“And when she said her daughter was missing, what did you do then?” “Well, I tried to dick her, of course!” “Ah yes, naturally. “

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We loved this SO much! The characters are amazing and the mystery is very well done. Carol Lynley is wonderful as the increasingly frustrated and desperate Ann (while looking very much like a 1960s Keri Russell. Or the other way around, we suppose). Noël Coward is Creepy McCreeperson, Keir Dullea is slightly sinister, and Laurence Olivier’s Newhouse is likable from his very first appearance.

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“I’m a motherfucking legend!”

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AND HERE THERE MAY BE SPOILERS:

Trying to figure out who to believe and what is really going on was fun and kept us guessing (although our suspicions were eventually confirmed. Yay us!) Despite her slow start, Ann turned out to have agency and cunning – she was not just a damsel in distress!

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Even surrounded by eerie dolls, she puts to shame all those men who question her sanity. Take that, woman-not-being-believed-by-authorities-when-she-worries-about-her-child-trope!

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What we learned: Junket is junket. Also, trust no one.

Next time: Darling (1965)

#248 Zulu

Watched: November 17 2019

Director: Cy Endfield

Starring: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 18min

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The year is 1879. In South Africa, imperialism rules, but Zulus have attacked a white settlement and won, which inspires another tribe to do the same to a nearby mission/military hospital.

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“Yippee ki yay motherfuckers!”

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At the mission, Lieutenants Chard (Baker) and Bromhead (Caine) must learn to work together and cooperate if they are to defend themselves from the 4000 advancing Zulus with their own measly 150 soldiers, many wounded.

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“You think you’re so cool, riding in here with your title and rank and stupid sexy hair…”

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Zulu is a famous epic depicting real events with surprisingly little racism considering the subject matter and the time. Sure, we do not really see the Zulus’ side of the story, and they are a nameless, faceless, personalityless mass for most of the movie. However, they are also intelligent, strategic, cultured and honorable, which makes the film a lot less dated than we’d expect.

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Basically, they are people. And treated as people. Which should be a given but sadly is not.

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The cinematography is gorgeous, the characters are great (Bromhead is a very shady queen!), and the suspense is real. Also, fun fact, the Zulu king Cetshwayo kaMpande is played by his real life grandson Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

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However, no fun fact can compare to the glorious moustache of Colour-Sergeant Nigel Green

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We loved the arrival of the Zulu, the British adherence to protocol even in a crisis (proper tunic etiquette is to be observed at all times!), the action, and the game we made up wherein we recast the movie using only Monty Python members (they all correspond perfectly with a character in the film!). And did we mention it is gorgeous? Well worth a watch!

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“We’re knights if the round table, we dance whene’er we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable…”

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What we learned: Invade someone’s land and they might be a bit pissed off.

Next time: #249 Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

#244 The Naked Kiss

Watched: October 22 2019

Director: Samuel Fuller

Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Betty Bronson, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereaux

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Apologies for the long break – there have been some family stuff as well as day jobs which have required all our energy for a while. So our posts might be a tad sporadic for the time being, but we have not given up. Promise!

Kelly (Towers), a working girl, arrives in a new town. First off, she makes good (i.e. sleeps) with local law enforcement Griff (Eisley) who advises her to practise her profession in the neighbouring town, lest she destroy the reputation of this one. The men of this town only like to fuck harlots – not see them around when they go shopping!

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“Sure I’ll sample the goods, but then you have to leave”

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But Kelly is traumatised by and tired of her days as a prostitute and wants a different life for herself. She is also smart, strong and resourceful. So when she sees that the town has a children’s hospital, she applies for a job and is hired on the spot. Not only hired – she is a huge success!

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“If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your fe… Oh…”

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Through her work and her new friends, she is introduced to Grant (Dante), the richest man in town, and the two fall hard for each other. However, Grant’s best friend Griff is not too impressed by his friend’s choice of romantic interest…

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“I’ve done things. Things I’m not proud of.” “Like what? Wear white after Labour Day..?”

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From the jazzy opening scene onwards, we were thoroughly enthralled by The Naked Kiss. Melodramatic though it may be, it is also intensely watchable and engaging. It constantly goes off in unexpected directions and keeps you on your toes.

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You’ll never guess who she’ll end up with in the end!

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We loved Miss Josephine, Mac, Kelly – basically all the women in this. We also loved the noiry feel of the movie, and the sense of doom and destruction we felt throughout. It’s shocking and pulpy in just the right ways, but it also has great performances, gorgeous cinematography, a musical number, and a bald prostitute beating a man with a frying pan. So if that doesn’t make it a must-watch, we don’t know what will.

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“Honey, you know you wanna watch me kick some ass!”

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What we learned: Men are mostly assholes. But some of them eventually come through!

Next time: The Pawnbroker (1964)

#242 Seance on a Wet Afternoon

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Bryan Forbes

Starring: Kim Stanley, Richard Attenborough

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 01min

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Myra Savage (Stanley) holds seances in her house for a living, but she feels very underappreciated. With her gift she should be more famous! Luckily her “spirit guide” has an excellent idea. Why not assist in a kidnapping case and get loads of publicity?

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“It is my right. I am a special snowflake. The spirits tell me so.”

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The unfortunate lack of local missing children will not stop this gal – if no children are willing to go missing for such a noble cause, she will just have to rope her submissive husband Bill (Attenborough) into taking care of it.

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“Don’t think of it as a felony. Think of it as a bonding exercise to save our marriage. 9 out of 10 therapists recommend trying new things together!”

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With little Amanda Clayton safely stashed in the nursery, Myra contacts the anguished parents to offer her services. For free, of course. She would never consider making money off of other people’s misery.

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“Why, officer, that would be completely immoral. I would not dream of charging this wealthy couple for helping them. But there’s nothing wrong with getting my name in the paper, is there?”

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This movie is so good! It’s an intriguing and engaging psychological thriller, and very atmospheric. Thematically (and atmospherically) it would go excellently with The Haunting and The Innocents for a creepy-and-suspenseful-with-possible-supernatural-elements British triple feature extravaganza. A little Halloween tip for all you non-party people out there.

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This is our perfect Halloween. Preferably with even fewer people.

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We loved the mysterious start and the gradual exposition. The relationship between Myra and Bill is fascinating, manipulative and very unhealthy, and it is extremely well portrayed by the two stars.

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“Look dear, when I said I wanted you to dress up in a nurse’s uniform this was NOT what I had in mind!”

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What we learned: The best laid plans… Also, does “The Swan and Edgar” still exist? ‘Cause that’s a name we can get behind! (Apologies if this is like a super-famous place that we Norwegians have somehow missed. Our cultural knowledge is vast yet limited.)

Next time: The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

#241 Red Desert/Il deserto rosso

Watched: October 16 2019

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 57min

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Giuliana (Vitti) is not doing too well. After a car accident she has not been herself, according to her husband Ugo (Chionetti). But was it the accident that changed her? Her conversations with her hubby’s business partner Corrado Zeller (Harris) reveal that all may not have been peachy even before the incident.

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“Oh, I’ve never had any ill effect from being the only dab of colour within miles. Never bothered me at all, no way!”

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Whatever the reason might be, she is clearly not completely stable, and Ugo is incapable of helping – or even understanding his wife. Corrado seems more sympathetic but he cannot help her either. Even the prospect of group sex cannot cheer her up, so you know it’s serious!

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Just one pineapple short of being a proper swingers party! (Yeah, this will probably only make sense to people in Molde, Norway. Thanks, Eirik!)

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All around Giuliana, nature is being ruined by industry and she is falling apart with it. She is utterly diconnected from her husband and most other people – even (or perhaps particularly?) her son. The only one she does connect with is Corrado, but it is a relationship which can’t save her.

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You cannot be saved by a man who enthusiastically engages in breaking apart and burning up your sexy, red bedroom cave for momentary warmth and comfort.

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Red Desert is beautiful, fragile and mesmerizing. The bleak environment feels a bit alien in many ways and the film is strangely hypnotic. As often before, we weren’t overly keen to start it (two hours of Italian drama is a lot on a Wednesday night after work) but we were drawn in from the beginning and we really loved it.

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We do enjoy a good fog!

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We loved the music, the long takes, Monica Vitti, and the slow development of the affair. Although we found the sex scene very uncomfortable – we’re still not quite sure this was what she wanted..?

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Her look suggests “trapped animal” more than “sexually aroused woman”, but perhaps we’re reading her wrong…

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Definitely one to rewatch at some point!

What we learned: It’s hard to manoeuvre through life with a broken gyroscope.

Next time: Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

#240 Onibaba

Watched: September 30 2019

Director: Kaneto Shindô

Starring: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satô, Taiji Tonoyama

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Sometime in the fourteenth century (we think) a mother-and-daughter-in-law team kill stray samurai and sell their stuff for food. The bodies? Dumped in a convenient hole and left to rot.

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Our disbelief was not quite suspended yet five minutes into the film, so the only thing we could think of at this point was that the dry grass must have really cut into the actors’ backs! Tres uncomfortable!

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A neighbour returns with news of their son’s/husband’s death, and the two women dispair. For a few days. And then the new widow starts sneaking off in the night to get her rocks off with the neighbour.

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The Queen of Eyebrows does not approve

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Mother worries that her partner in crime will leave her to her own devices now that she has a new lover. But when she meets a strange samurai with an even stranger mask she hatches a devious plan.

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Her new hobby: hanging out in fields at night with an unknown light source popping up at just the right time!

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Onibaba was strangely unsettling and it stayed with us for a long time after the credits rolled. From the animalistic lives of the two women in the beginning, to the demonic mask and the creepy ending, we were completely engaged.

 

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Admittedly, we thought Sir Brags-a-lot kind of had it coming, the way he treated his guide

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We loved the contrasts of light and dark, the intense music, the non-sexualised nudity, the mask, the epic eyebrows, and the general disconcerting feel of the entire piece. This is one of those movies we would probably never have watched if it weren’t for the list, so thank you Edgar. We loved it!

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If you’re wondering, the sexually frustrated tree-humping women did not strike a cord as much as the horror elements of the demon mask. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

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What we learned: Don’t shame two single, consenting adults for enjoying a healthy sexual relationship.

Next time: Red Desert (1964)

Bonus: Bitter Harvest

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Peter Graham Scott

Starring: Janet Munro, John Stride, Terence Alexander, Anne Cunningham, Alan Badel

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Jennie (Munro) is a small town girl living in a lonely world. She takes the midnight train going anywhere. Well, actually, she gets a drunken ride with a couple of older men to their apartment in London and is raped and abandoned. But that doesn’t sound as nice.

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“What do you mean, raped? A beautiful young ginger girl who deliberately drank champagne in the company of strange men cannot possibly be raped.”

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Her whole life she has dreamed of the luxury and fame she’s been sold in commercials and movies, but when she tries to pursue it, she is brutally punished by every man she meets. After the rape, she meets barman Bob (Stride) who invites her to stay with him, and the two start a relationship. However, Jennie is not satisfied with just staying at home and being a girlfriend – she wants a career of her own, which Bob sees as a threat to their relationship. Actually, he sees everyone as a threat to their relationship, and would rather have Jennie stay at home and never talk to anyone but him ever again. When she meets abusive producer Karl Denny (Badel), she immediately (and completely out of character) surrenders to him and leaves Bob.

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“Well, I just figured one abusive asshole is as good as the next. At least he can make me famous.”

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Now, Bitter Harvest is an interesting one. Everything we’ve read about this movie (which, granted, isn’t a lot, but still) seems to suggest Jennie is a manipulative, selfish young woman who will do anything to get ahead, and who doesn’t appreciate what she has. But this is not how we read it at all.

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Even her obliviousness to the attempted seduction when she’s caught in the bathtub seemed genuine and not manipulative

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What we saw was a young, sweet and naïve, though willful, girl who stood up for herself and dreamed of a more exciting life. When she told “nice guy” Bob she was pregnant at their first meeting, she wasn’t lying but thought she told him the truth – she had had sex (read: had been raped) and thus she must be pregnant.

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It’s bad enough waking up naked in a strange man’s bed without having to worry about pregnancy

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Also, she never lies to Bob about what she needs money for, or where she’s going. She just (rightfully) assumes that this is her choice to make, and that if he loves her, he will support her choices. However, despite his kindness in taking her in when they both think she’s pregnant with another man’s child, Bob is a controlling and condescending asshole who resorts to threats and violence when Jennie makes her own choices. When she refuses to leave with him, he tries to strangle her, suggesting he’s not really the nice guy he is painted to be.

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A girl who doesn’t do what you tell her and goes out to see people to further her career even though you told her not to? And then has the audacity to talk back to you, the good guy, when you stalk her to drag her back home? Better strangle that bitch!

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Jennie’s willful and autonomous side is also what makes her complete surrender at Denny’s slap seem out of character. Personally, we feel that in order to control her like that, he needed to build up to it, not slap her on the first night. However, perhaps her hope of a better life blinds her.

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We’re just saying, the Jennie from the first part of the movie would never let herself be slapped into submission. At least not on the first date.

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Finally, just a couple of words about the popular interpretation of her “little black book” that the police find in her apartment: we didn’t interpret that as evidence of her “promiscuity” as many suggest, but as evidence of Denny prostituting her. However, none of us has read the book the movie is based on – our interpretation is based solely on the movie we watched. And in that, we think Jennie has been unfairly treated by several viewers.

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Unfair or not, she gets her punishment in the end, as all willful and ambitious girls must.

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As mentioned, there are some similarities between Jennie and Patsy from The Small World of Sammy Lee, made especially clear to us as we watched them as a double feature. The difference is that Patsy stumbles into the sex trade because of her love for a man, while Jennie falls into it due to ambition and a hope for a better life for herself. Thus, Patsy makes it out while Jennie must be punished. Really – give us time and money and we can probably write a thesis on this. Although we suspect this has already been done many times over…

So, how do we feel about Bitter Harvest? We think it’s an interesting film to watch, but it’s problematic enough that we can see how it has been removed from the list.

What we learned: Apparently, girls should be satisfied with what they have, whether it’s an uneventful life in a small, dead town or as a spouse to a man prone to violence whenever he doesn’t get his way.

Next time: Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

#232 The Small World of Sammy Lee

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Ken Hughes

Starring: Anthony Newley, Julia Foster, Robert Stephens, Wilfrid Brambell, Warren Mitchell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 47min

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No, we are not dead. We just had to take a small hiatus due to exams and related stress enducing activities which take a lot of time away from writing. But things are calming down (only two weeks until the summer break for some of us!) and we’re ready to get back into it. And we do so with classic British crime film The Small World of Sammy Lee.

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A.k.a. The Loneliness of the Gambling Debt Runner

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Patsy (Foster) arrives at a Soho strip club looking for Sammy Lee (Newley), the compère at the club who she had a fling with, and a job. Unfortunately for her, he’s off gambling and getting further into debt with a local kingpin, so she’s left with his sleazy boss instead.

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Despite Sammy’s absence, Patsy gets an “interview” and is promptly hired.

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Returning to work, Sammy is not overly pleased to learn that Patsy has found a job there, but at least she’s hired as a waitress rather than a stripper. For the time being. Additionally, he receives a call informing him that his debt of £300 is to be collected immediately. Although he does manage to talk the debt collectors into giving him 5 hours to come up with the money.

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“Um, yeah, I totally have that amount of money lying around and will have absolutely no trouble getting my hands on them within the next five hours. Just you wait!”

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Sammy has to pull all his strings, exhaust all his contacts and juggle all his ideas to make the money in the allotted time in order to survive the night. As the night goes on, the deals get shadier and shadier, and he will pull all those who love him down with him.

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Including young, naïve Patsy

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Sammy Lee is charming and funny, but a selfish bastard. His contact with his brother is limited to asking for money, and he has lots of acquaintances and very few friends. He pleads with the men in his life for money, but dismisses all the women who want to help him, probably out of some false sense of chivalry. Poor Patsy deserves better.

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As does Sammy’s ever faithful and loyal friend/sidekick Harry

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The Small World of Sammy Lee is tense and engaging, and we enjoyed it a lot. We also secretly liked the gratuitous strip tease scenes with the elaborate scenarios, despite our lack of understanding of their sexual appeal (might be a gender thing). We loved the properly choreographed numbers, the clear themes, and the contrast between the show and everything happening backstage.

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Note to all: no man is worth participating in an Arabian Nights themed strip tease. If you’re gonna do that, do it for yourself.

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And while we weren’t necessarily fans of Sammy, we really enjoyed Newley’s performance and the character’s ingenuity in trying to raise the money. We watched this as a double feature with Bitter Harvest, and to us, this reads a bit like an alternate reality version of that (which we’ll come to in a few days) with Patsy as a less driven and less autonomous Jennie. But we’ll explore this further in the next blog post.

What we learned: What a compère is. And also, don’t gamble. Although we already knew that.

Next time: Bonus: Bitter Harvest (1963)

#231 The Servant

Watched: April 23 2019

Director: Joseph Losey

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Wendy Craig

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 56min

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Tony (Fox) has recently bought a house and like all houseowners he is now in dire need of a manservant. This need is met in the form of Hugo Barrett (Bogarde) and he is immediately hired. Tony seems content with his new employee and they fall into their roles quite naturally.

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One: the careless sleeper. The other: the sinister observer

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Despite playing his devoted servant-role to perfection, whenever Tony is not around, we see a different Barrett: he drinks, smokes and even moves differently. Tony’s girlfriend Susan (Craig) seems to be the only one who picks up on the more malevolent side of Barrett, and she soon becomes directly hostile towards him. We can’t blame her though – he goes out of his way to ignore her, even when she speaks directly to him.

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Personally, we tend to be careful about insulting the man in charge of the wine, but we admire her courage.

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Then, when Barrett moves his “sister” Vera (Miles) in, the tension in the household reaches new heights. Tony and Vera soon have an affair, then Tony catches Barrett with Vera (who, of course, is not actually his sister), and gradually the power in the relationship shifts from one man to another.

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“What does the fact that we have both slept with my ‘sister’ say about the nature of the tension between us..?”

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The Servant might start off like Jeeves and Wooster, but then it goes oh so dark. Bogarde is wonderfully creepy as Barrett, and there’s an air of malice and threat about him which we absolutely loved.

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Even his shadow is menacing

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The house is wonderful and practically a character in it self, and the dinner scene where we caught glimpses of people’s lives was amazing. We also loved the tension built by the dripping sink, as well as the Pinocchio nose shadow, the use of mirrors, and the score.

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We enjoyed this awkward seduction too. How many suggestive and impractical poses can one girl strike on a kitchen table before she is kissed?

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It’s a slow build, but exceedingly enjoyable, full of detail and hugely suspenseful. Just a beautifully successful union of writer, director and stars.

What we learned: It’s just as well we cannot afford servants… Also, deep focus was all the rage in the 1960s!

Next time: The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)