#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)

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#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)

#192 Peeping Tom

Watched: July 11 2018

Director: Michael Powell

Starring: Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer, Maxine Audley

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Man with daddy-issues goes on killing spree. Hated by critics.

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“Oh, this pointy thing? I just use it to get the best possible angle for a portrait shot.”

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For those of you who want more context than the initial summary, Mark Lewis (Böhm) is an aspiring film maker who shoots soft porn during the day and murders at night. His neighbour Helen (Massey) takes an interest in the socially awkward weirdo, and we learn that Mark was used as a guinea pig by his psychiatrist father who studied fear.

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Daddy also filmed the child abuse. Father of the year!

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Peeping Tom was initially hated by critics and basically killed the career of its director, but time has worked in its favour and it is now a beloved classic. And we absolutely loved it!

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We loved this movie almost as much as this guy loves his camera. Which is a bit of a love/hate-relationship to be honest.

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We were enthralled from the very beginning, with the camera point-of-view, and we were on the edge of our seats throughout. Mark is a complex and strange character; is the real him the awkward and timid man he is in social situations, or is it the dynamic take-charge man we see when he’s about to commit murder?

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We’re sure this woman was super-impressed by his sudden alfa-maleness just before she was brutally murdered

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As horrible as Mark is, we’re also forced to sympathise with him learning his backstory, and Helen (who we really liked) actually falls for the guy.

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Who wouldn’t fall for a guy with such an impressive set-up?

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It’s a must-see for horror fans (or movie fans in general), and it works fantastically as a double bill with the upcoming Psycho. Get out your blankets, wine (or tea – we don’t judge) and snacks, and enjoy!

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It’s also very pretty. Just saying.

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What we learned: First rule of serial killing: lock your damn door!

Next time: Psycho (1960)

Bonus: The Mouse that Roared

Watched: July 7 2018

Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, Jean Seberg, William Hartnell, David Kossoff

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 23min

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The tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick is in a financial crisis after their sole export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine, is priced out of the market by a cheap American imitation. Their solution: declare war on the United States, lose, and collect aid from their former “enemy.”

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And with a well-equipped and modern army such as this, how could an invasion go wrong?

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Unfortunately, through a series of unlikely events they end up winning, and Prime Minister Count Mountjoy (Sellers), Grand Duchess Gloriana (Sellers), and Field Marshall Tully Bascomb (Sellers) must find a way out of their newfound power and notoriety.

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“Good lord! Only a true megalomaniac would want to rule to world! Or the USA…”

 

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The Mouse that Roared is no longer on the list, but we post this in our we-already-bought-the-fucking-DVD-so-we’re-watching-it-dammit category. It’s a very silly and very enjoyable comedy with an excellent Peter Sellers. We loved all the characters, especially the Duchess; the narration, the fox, the army uniforms, and the peace treaty. While no longer deemed good enough to occupy a precious space on the list, it’s still very much worth watching. Such fun!

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For those interested, this is how we usually dress up for a movie night. Furs, flags and all!

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What we learned: Do not wage war unless you’re prepared to win.

Next time: Beat Girl (1960)

#181 Sapphire

Watched: June 28 2018

Director: Basil Dearden

Starring: Nigel Patrick, Michael Craig, Yvonne Mitchell, Paul Massie, Bernard Miles, Earl Cameron, Olga Lindo

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 32min

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A young woman is found murdered in Hampstead Heath with nothing to identify her but a monogrammed handkerchief. Investigators Hazard (Patrick) and Learoyd (Craig) identify her as Sapphire Robbins and start trying to find the truth behind her death.

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“Fill up on pipe tobacco! We shall get to the bottom of this!”

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They track down her devastated boyfriend, David Harris (Massie), and her big brother Dr Robbins (Cameron), but surprises keep coming. First off, the autopsy reveals that Sapphire was pregnant at the time of her death, and the investigators are then baffled when her brother comes in as he is black and Sapphire appeared to be white.

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“…and you’re absolutely sure none of you were adopted? And that you’re not using the word ‘brother’ in a wider sense..?”

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These new revelations lead to an investigation which encounters racism and prejudice, both from the white and black communities and even from within as not all investigators manage to stay neutral. But was her ethnic background motivation for murder? And if so, who was enraged enough by her “transition” from black to white to murder the young girl?

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Look at this happy family she was about to marry into! There’s no way anyone in this blissful household would ever kill anyone.

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We love a good murder mystery, and we love it even more when it deals with real political and social issues. Sapphire may be from 1959 and deal with racism and prejudice in the wake of the first waves of Commonwealth immigration in Britain, but there are parallels to be drawn to recent debates considering Brexit.

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We’re sure there are lots of idiots out there who would love it if all non-whites had stayed in their own clubs like this one…

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We were also reminded of Sarah Jane although her and Sapphire’s stories are different and so are their societies. A great mystery movie with real social and political commentary, we can definitely recommend this.

What we learned: School teachers are very respectable and a bit above the rest. Thank you! Also, racism sucks and we need to stop this shit already!

Next time: Some Like it Hot (1959)

#177 Imitation of Life

Watched: April 28 2018

Director: Douglas Sirk

Starring: Lana Turner, John Gavin, Juanita Moore, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 5min

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On a busy beach, aspiring actress/model Lora Meredith (Turner) is looking for her daughter. She finds the girl in the company of an African-American lady, Annie Johnson (Moore), who she hires as a live-in babysitter after learning she and her daughter are homeless.

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Ah – the good old days when you could invite random people you met at the beach to come live in your home and it didn’t end in murder-robbery but lifelong friendship.

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Lora goes to see a theatrical agent, Allen Loomis (Alda), who basically tells her that to succeed she must prostitute herself, something she’s not yet quite desperate enough to do. However, she gets a break when a playwright likes her honest critique of his play, and is soon catapulted to stardom, much to the chagrin of love interest Steve Archer (Gavin) who’d rather have her be a stay-at-home mom and his wife.

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“Why would you possibly desire to have your own career and make your own money when you can just shack up with me? I forbid it!”

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Lora and Annie stay friends for the next 10+ years, as the former finds success and the latter eventually gets paid for being her maid. Their daughters grow up, but while Lora’s daughter Susie (Dee) is a well-adjusted blonde with a private school education, Annie’s daughter Sarah Jane (Kohner) is light enough to pass for white and develops some serious identity issues.

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“This is America! There’s no way anyone will treat you differently just because they find out that you are black!”

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As is tradition, we loved this Sirk film more than we thought we would. Sarah Jane, though an atrocious dancer and slightly annoying, is a tragically intriguing character, Annie is just the best, Susie is pluckily charming, and Lora is self-centred yet understandably ambitious. And there are also some men there, more often than not screwing up the women’s lives.

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There are also gorgeous costumes and sunglasses to die for

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Lora and Annie’s friendship seems to be fairly mutual even though Annie works for Lora, but we learn that Lora knows absolutely nothing about her friend’s life outside of the house, which is very telling.

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“Friends? What friends? But you cease to exist when I leave the house, don’t you?”

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Imitation of Life is about friendship and family and heritage and sexism and racism and authority. And probably lots of other things as well. We loved it, and we’re now off to plan our funerals. Those things are not to be left to chance.

What we learned: If you love someone, apparently it gives you the right to decide for them. And control them. And be petulant if they make their own decisions. Also, racism sucks!

Next time: North by Northwest (1959)

#139 Forbidden Planet

Watched: September 29 2017

Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis, Walter Pidgeon, Robby the Robot

Year: 1956

Runtime: 1h 38min

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Commander Adams (Nielsen – before he became everyone’s favourite deadpan comedy actor) and his crew are travelling through space to a distant, Earth-like planet in order to rescue any survivors from a previous mission.

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Earth technology circa year 2300. Can’t wait!

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When they reach their destination they find only two survivors; the mysterious Dr Morbius (Pidgeon) and his young attractive daughter Altaira (Francis). They live alone with their robot Robby and a menagerie of wild animals while Dr Morbius explores the remains of an advanced ancient civilization which used to inhabit the planet. Also, there’s a killer monster roaming around, but the good doctor and his daughter seem somehow immune to it. Curiouser and curiouser.

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Must be her scandalously short dresses keeping them safe. Monster doesn’t want to seem too forward.

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The all-male crew start creeping on Altaira pretty quickly, leading to the commander berating her for her short dresses. ‘Cause, you know, it’s her own freaking fault. Naturally, the two then fall for each other, and Altaira decides to leave her home and father for Earth. This does not please Father, nor the monster…

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You silly girl. You must understand that your dress is distracting my crew and this is your fault and not a great opportunity for us men to reconsider our view of women and our capability to control our urges. Go change.

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Forbidden Planet is an awesome sci-fi adventure, based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but greatly influenced by Freud as well. For its time, and genre, it had a big budget and is presented in colour and Cinemascope – quite rare for ’50s sci-fi.

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Not to mention Robby the Fanciest Robot!

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We’re suckers for old-timey sci-fi and so naturally we loved this film. Add to that Leslie Nielsen, mysterious monsters, ancient civilizations, action, a score of “electronic tonalities,” Freud, and incestuous undertones (again, Freud) and we have a winner.

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Also, Morbius the Creepy Science Guy

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Forbidden Planet has the honour of being the first film on the list where someone let us know when we started this project that they wanted to join us for the viewing, so we had a viewing party! Sort of… Well, three people and pizza constitute a party in our book. The next one which has sparked interest is Flash Gordon (1980), so we’re looking forward to that. In a few years. We don’t get out much.

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We’re pretty sure this kind of thing is waiting for us out there, so we prefer to stay inside where it’s safe…

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What we learned: We’re all monsters in our subconscious, but we have laws and religion to keep us under control. Also, never trust the sole surviving member of an exploration party where everyone else died under mysterious circumstances.

Next time: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

#126 Bad Day at Black Rock

Watched: August 19 2017

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, John Ericson

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 21min

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The tiny town of Black Rock is amazed to see the train actually stop for the first time in four years. Even more puzzled, and suspicious, are they to find a stranger getting off in search of a hotel room and a cab to take him to Adobe Flats.

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“I vote we just kill him now and get it over with. There’s no way we can share our one female resident with yet another man.”

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The stranger, John J. Macreedy (Tracy), is met with hostility from all sides, mainly led by Reno Smith (Ryan) who everyone seems to be afraid of. The hostility increases when Macreedy reveals he is looking for a Japanese-American farmer named Komoko, and he is served a story of Komoko being relocated in the wake of  Pearl Harbor.

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Pictured: tension. And not the homoerotic cowboy movie kind.

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As Macreedy is trapped in the town for the night and all lines of communication with the outside world are sabotaged by local followers of Smith, vet/undertaker Doc (Brennan) is the only one willing to help him. Doc reveals that Komoko is dead, although the details of his death are still unknown to our hero.

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Hint: there’s racism and bigotry at work. Thank God the world is not plagued by those kinds of outdated ideas anymore!

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Smith and his croonies, most notably Coley and Hector (Borgnine and Lee, respectively), no longer operate under any pretense of innocence, and the chances of Macreedy surviving the night grow smaller and smaller.

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It doesn’t help that our hero is a one-armed man trying to fight a pissed off Ernest Borgnine

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Bad Day at Black Rock is an exciting and tense murder-mystery-western with a crime at the centre of the plot which is strangely (and sadly) relevant to our own times and political climate. Macreedy is a stoic badass, yet you’re never sure things will go his way or who he can trust. The men in this one-woman-town must make some tough choices and decide whether or not to make up for the mistakes that were made four years ago.

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It’s hard to see how anything at all could happen in a town this small, let alone something horrible

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There’s nothing not to love about this film. It’s shot in Eastman Color and Cinemascope, and beautifully so. There are car chases, shoot-outs, bar fights, Dames (well – just the one dame, actually), murder, mystery, and mayhem, and we loved everything about it. Loved it!

What we learned: This is a local town for local people. There’s nothing for you here! Alternatively, they don’t take kindly to strangers round these there parts.

Next time: Blackboard Jungle (1955)