#233 A Fistful of Dollars

Watched: June 10 2019

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, José Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Not Toshirô Mifune

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 39min

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A lone rider in the Wild West (Eastwood) arrives in a one horse town. On his mule, so he doesn’t accidentally upgrade the town’s status, mind you. He’s very considerate like that. He learns from an innkeeper that the village is plagued by two rival families vying for control, and decides to clean up the town before he moves on.

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“Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from Cotton-Eye Joe”

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To get rid of the Baxters and the Rojos, the rider (a.k.a. Joe and/or The Man with no Name depending on who you ask. We strongly feel that the first option sort of cancels out the second and vice versa, so we’re very confused) will offer up his services to one family, then to the other, trick them and watch them undo each other. And he will look good doing it, dammit!

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Good luck teaching your kids that smoking isn’t cool…

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There’s the innkeeper, a coffin maker, a young mother who’s been gambled away in a game of cards, a brutal beating of our hero and a long, secret convalescence before the final showdown. Sound familiar? Akira Kurosawa thought so too…

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“So, you mean this is not an original story?” “Well, we’ve added guns, Mexicans, sheep skin vests and the most luscious head of hair this side of the Rio Grande. I think we’re in the clear.”

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The story is not just inspired by Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, but a blatant rip-off. Despite that, it is still a great movie in its own right. We love a good spaghetti western as those were the movies we grew up with, so while we still prefer the Japanese original (swords beat guns any day) we really enjoyed revisiting A Fistful of Dollars.

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It’s always nice noticing new details, such as how ridiculously happy “El Indio” is to be on a wanted poster

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We adored the young Clint Eastwood (and his luscious, luscious hair), his poncho, the noose when he rides into town, the weatherbeaten faces of the townspeople (although we think Kurosawa did even that a bit better), the dubbing, the soundtrack (by Ennio Morricone of course), and the finale. Such fun!

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“Oh man, the only thing that could have possibly improved this is replacing guns with swords. Can you imagine how good that movie would have been..?”

 

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What we learned: Clint Eastwood is cool. Very cool. But not even he is as cool as Toshirô Mifune.

Next time: A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

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#225 From Russia With Love

Watched: February 16 2019

Director: Terence Young

Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 55min

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James Bond is back indeed. And boy is he sexist!

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Sexist? Who? Me? Come on now, little lady. Give us a smile.

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SPECTRE are angry with Bond (Connery) for doing his job and killing Dr No in the last movie. Rude. They decide to take revenge by killing him, but first seducing him to get some sort of plot device. So they send Tatiana Romanova (Bianchi) to do the latter and Donald Grant (Shaw) to do the former.

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One is more successful than the other

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Of course, Romanova instantly falls for the irresistable (and slightly rapey) Bond, and she betrays everything she has been brought up to believe in for that sweet, sweet D. Grant is not so lucky.

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Given five more minutes, Bond would have bedded this guy as well. The signals are clearly there.

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Plots thicken, gadgets are used, people are betrayed and double-crossed, enemies are slain and cats are cuddled. It’s everything you’d expect from a James Bond movie, but not everything has aged well.

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We’re not just talking about the incessant smoking, although you’d have a hard time getting that approved now

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Let’s start with the things we liked about this movie. We loved the cat, Klebb (and her glasses), all the gadgets, Miss Moneypenny (who doesn’t love her?), the furniture, the helicopter shoot-out and the action in general. All of that was amazing and fun.

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Pictured: our new style icon

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However, there are so many things that are questionable. From Romanova’s complete surrender after one encounter with the charsmatic spy, to the (completely gratuitous) gypsy girls “gifted” him to have his way with, the portrayal of women reads like an immature boy’s fantasy. One who’s never met an actual real-life woman and certainly never had a relationship.

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“Let’s take you girls on a test drive to decide who is worthy of marrying the prince”

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Now, we expect a bit of casual sexism in our old-timey action movies, and we’ve seen the Bond films years ago so we should have remembered, but this was just ridiculous. It’s so over the top that it almost seems like a parody, but a parody of itself. A very strange viewing experience indeed. And while it isn’t a movie we particularly liked, it is certainly an interesting one to view in 2019. In a strange way we’re actually looking forward to the rest.

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And this is how we’ll drink our wine watching them.

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What we learned: Not all cool things from the 60s have aged particularly well…

Next time: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

#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)

Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Somewhere in 18th century Spain, a beggar (Wordsworth) goes to a castle to ask for some food and/or money. But the marquis (Dawson) is a cruel man and a bully, and he imprisons the beggar and promptly forgets about him. Left in the dungeon for fifteen years, the poor man is forgotten about by all but the jailer and his mute daughter.

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One look at this man and we would have run for our lives. Unfortunately the beggar didn’t share our instincts for people.

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After those fifteen years, the daughter (Romain) refuses to be raped by the marquis, and he throws her in the dungeon with the beggar. Apparently, he has forgotten all about the girl’s kindness to him and rapes her himself, and then dies (karma’s a bitch!).  The girl is sent back to the marquis so that he can have his way with her, but having been raped once already, she’s not about to let the bastard win, so she kills him and flees.

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Sometimes it’s a good, and righteous, thing to be a backstabbing bitch

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The runaway girl, now pregnant, is later found in the woods by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and Teresa (Talfrey) who take her in and, when she dies in childbirth on Christmas Day, take on the responsibility of her newborn son.

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“Say, Teresa, do we know who the boy’s father is..? I only ask because he seems to be displaying some rather unusual dental development here which has me quite confused”

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Turns out though, unwanted children born on Christmas Day are cursed to be werewolves. Which makes us wonder why lycanthropy isn’t a bigger social problem than it currently seems to be. While young Leon (Reed) at first manages to keep his condition under control, once he grows up and faces adversity as well as love, he loses what little control he has and all hell breaks loose.

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Honestly, we were half expecting him to break into song once he had climbed the bell tower. Colour us disappointed.

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The Curse of the Werewolf was removed from the list after we’d already bought it, so as is tradition, we’re doing it anyway, dammit! And we’re glad we did. We loved the opening credits with the sad werewolf, the interesting explanation for the condition, and Leon’s partner in crime (not literally though) José.

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Also, even though it preceeds it by almost 5 decades, this is yet another werewolf better than the atrocity in The Prisoner of Azkaban. No, we’re still not over it.

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In many ways, it’s more a drama than a horror, except the ending which is very Frankenstein. But we believe it works for fans of both genres. Well worth watching! Even though there are apparently at least 1000 films which are better than this one… Let’s call it number 1001 and recommend it anyway. Happy New Year!

What we learned: Don’t give birth to unwanted children on Christmas day. We know, it’s a bit late for 2018, but keep it in mind for next year.

Next time: Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

#210 West Side Story

Watched: December 16 2018

Director: Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise

Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, Simon Oakland

Year: 1961

Runtime: 2h 33min

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New York City, some time in the 1950s. The Jets, possibly the least intimidating gang in movie history, are out jazz dancing and generally being a minor nuisance. When they bump into the equally graceful Sharks, it culminates in an epic dance-off.

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Even their dedication to their ballet lessons couldn’t keep them off the streets

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After the two gangs’ confrontation, former Jet Tony (Beymer) is asked to accompany Jet leader Riff (Tamblyn) to a dance, in order to challenge their rivals to a rumble (which apparently was 1950s slang for a dance battle, possibly involving weapons). Tony has turned his life around and left his gang for a job, but has sworn allegiance to Riff “from womb to tomb” and thus agrees to come.

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The kids didn’t let the fact that the basketball was nowhere to be found stop them from trying to score.

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At the tense dance, Tony meets newly arrived Puerto Rican Maria (Wood), the sister of Sharks leader Bernardo (Chakiris), and the two instantly fall in love. But while this could have been a golden opportunity for the two gangs to put aside their differences and join forces, the romance is not accepted by either side and the lovers are forced to part.

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We can sort of understand the scepticism of their friends though. The couple has barely exchanged three words with each other before they start planning their wedding. Kids!

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Based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story is a fantastically colourful and energetic musical version of the classic play. We absolutely love the dancing, the transitions, the music, the colours, the humour, and the costumes. And Anita (Moreno), Bernardo’s feisty girlfriend.

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Sassy, independent, gorgeous, feisty and talented. Naturally, her character is raped. Women like that must be punished.

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It’s a tragic love story, but it also points out different forms of racism in the USA. In fact, the gangs might be bad news, but the real villain of the piece is racist Lieutenant Schrank. And discrimination in itself.

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Racism and discrimination may well be the villains, but dance is the hero!

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We love all the music in West Side Story (in fact, some of these songs make the perfect soundtrack when you clean the house), but our favourite songs are probably the one the gang sings about Officer Krupke, and I Feel Pretty. The latter because it’s the first time we see any real personality in Maria, who is often a fairly bland character. She does show some industry in the end though, which redeems her somewhat.

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Gone is the innocent, naïve girl in the white dress, to be replaced by a woman in red

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All in all, this is a fantastic movie in which everyone will find something to enjoy.

What we learned: Anything can be solved with a dance-off. And if these people had stuck to that bit of wisdom this whole affair would have ended very differently. Also, play it cool.

Next time: Yojimbo (1961)

#196 Spartacus

Watched: August 18 2018

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Tony Curtis, John Gavin, Nina Foch, John Dall

Year: 1960

Runtime: 3h 17min

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In the days of the Roman Empire, Spartacus (Douglas) is born into slavery and sold to a gladiator school after exhibiting some disobedience. Batiatus (Ustinov), the owner of the school, sees some promise in him and provides him with training and a prostitute – anything he could possibly crave.

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Along with some fancy body paint, of course

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Trainer and former gladiator Marcellus is not a fan of his new pupil though, and when he notices Spartacus’ feelings for servant Varinia (Simmons) he makes a point of keeping them apart.

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Ah, the feelings one can convey with only a glance when one is fearing for one’s life…

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One day, a bunch of rich bitches come by and demand a fight to the death. One of the chosen fighters is our hero, but when he loses the battle, his fellow gladiator refuses to kill him and charges the spectators instead.

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Draba just couldn’t let Spartacus go to his grave in that outfit, citing the theory that your ghost form will forever wear the clothes you had on when you died and no one deserved that fate

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After Draba’s death, and the continued mistreatment of the gladiators, Spartacus leads a rebellion and marches on Rome, freeing and recruiting more slaves on the way. Their plan is to amass enough riches to hire pirates to take them all back to their countries of origin. However, the Roman leaders are furious that someone dares defy them and set out to capture and/or kill them all, particularly Roman Braveheart Spartacus.

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“They make take our lives. But they may never take our freedom!”

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Spartacus is an epic not unlike Ben Hur, and apparently it was Kirk Douglas’ response to not getting the part of the Judean hero. Clocking in at well over 3 hours each, we’re grateful to Edgar Wright and the list for finally convincing us to watch them because they are fantastic.

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As an added bonus, Roman uniforms always remind us of Asterix

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We loved the political games, the old slave couple, Batiatus (for some reason, ’cause he’s a bit of a bastard. We think it was the actor who saved him), the humour, all the men looking for consent from the women before sexy-times (as a powerplay, but still!), and the epicness of it all. If you have 3+ hours to spare, Spartacus is the way to go. It’s impossible to dislike a story of people who are mistreated and repressed and who fight back.

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Also, Tony Curtis is there, being all handsome and musical

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Now, we are sorry to end this blog entry on a sad note, but one of the reasons it has taken us two weeks to update this time is because our beloved doggo Dewin had to be put down last weekend. He was our trusty film watching partner, and the bestest boy, but he was old and sick, and in the end we had to do the only humane thing for our wonderful friend. We will always remember his enthusiasm when watching anything with animals, particularly westerns with lots of horses, and (for some reason) Ingmar Bergman films. He loved Bergman. He was a better and more sophisticated man than us. Thank you for the good times, Dewin. We love you.

 

What we learned: I’m Spartacus.

Next time: The Apartment (1960)

#180 Rio Bravo

Watched: May 17 2018

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Claude Akins, Ward Bond, John Russell

Year: 1959

Runtime: 2h 21min

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A brawl (of the murderous kind) in a saloon leads to the arrest of Joe Burdette (Akins), criminal brother of a local hot shot rancher. As many forces are looking to get Joe out, sheriff John T. Chance (Wayne) enlists the help of former deputy Dude (Martin) to keep him safely locked away, despite Dude’s alcohol problem and the fact that he was one of the reasons for the brawl in the first place.

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“We’re getting the band back together!”

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Together with comic relief Stumpy (Brennan) they must defend the jail, the sheriff’s office and the town, something which proves difficult when Joe’s henchmen and Big Brother Nathan (Russell) get involved. Reinforcements (reluctantly) arrive in the form of young gunslinger Colorado Ryan (Nelson) and, in another way, poker player Feathers (Dickinson).

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“Age gap? 24 years is no age gap! My last boyfirend was 78.”

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How will this ragtag team of alcoholics, kids, oldies, cripples and (gasp!) women manage to survive until the Marshall comes to pick up the condemned prisoner? Why, with song and explosions, of course!

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First we sing. Then we blow shit up.

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Rio Bravo has everything you could ever hope for in a western – rugged men; feisty women; fancy, semi-colour-coded hats; shootouts; explosions; horses; clearly defined bad guys and romance.

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One man learns that there exists a different kind of romance than that between a man and his horse

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We loved the silent scene at the start, the tension throughout, the character names (Chance, Stumpy, Dude and Feathers – are we sure this isn’t a cartoon?) and Angie Dickinson. Clocking in at well over two hours, this movie just flies by and was great family entertainment when we sat down to watch it with our parents and brother on May 17 – the Norwegian national day. After a day of wholesome fun with nephew and niece, what’s better than watching a bunch of manly, yet sensitive, men kill each other?

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“Hear that, boys? The crowd is ready for an encore!”

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What we learned: Wild West men were surprisingly sensitive and in touch with their feelings. Also, some will go to great lengths to ensure justice is served.

Next time: Sapphire (1959)

#164 The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

Watched: February 19 2018

Director: Nathan Juran

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

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 28min

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pictured: angry-eyebrow-skeleton-dude

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

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

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

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

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

Next time: The Fly (1958)

#153 The Bridge on the River Kwai

Watched: December 27 2017

Director: David Lean

Starring: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, Geoffrey Horne

Year: 1957

Runtime: 2h 41min

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Happy New Year, gentle reader! After a Christmas hiatus (and a ridiculously popular New Year’s tweet), we are finally back in business and continuing our journey through 1000+ films. And where better to start than David Lean’s classic WWII drama The Bridge on the River Kwai.

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Oh boy. Here we go again!

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During World War II, a British company led by Colonel Nicholson (Guinness) joins several other prisoners of war in a Japanese prison camp. The camp commander, Colonel Saito (Hayakawa), tasks the newly arrived company, including its officers, with building a railway bridge over the nearby river. Hence the title of the movie.

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“It’ll be fun! Like building legos! Also, you can get nekkid and swim. It’s by far the most fun you can have in a prison camp consisting entirely of men.”

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Nicholson refuses to build the bridge, citing the Geneva Convention which forbids officers from being used for manual labour while prisoners. Saito, unable to kill him outright due to witnesses, instead settles for prolonged torture of all British officers.

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Torture: the best diet! Tried and tested by prisoners of war everywhere.

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When Nicholson is finally released from the iron box in which he’s been enclosed, the two colonels make a strange deal that the captured officers will oversee the work and construct the best damned bridge Burma has ever seen, dammit!

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“There’s no way I’m building a bridge for the enemy to facilitate their warfare. Unless that bridge is gonna be the best one ever constructed. Yeah, that’ll show’em!”

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Meanwhile, (fake) U.S. Navy Commander Shears (Holden), who originally warned the British officers about Saito, has joined an escape party and actually managed to get away! Hurray! Once he reaches safety, he is recruited to return with a small special forces party to destroy the eponymous bridge, joined by Major Warden (Hawkins), Lieutenant Joyce (Horne) and a very unlucky soldier who dies en route.

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Manly men to the rescue, betches!

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The Bridge on the River Kwai is a true classic, and despite lasting for almost three hours, it’s engaging throughout. You’re sort of rooting for both Shears and Nicholson, even though the latter goes bat shit crazy with bridge-building pride. So, really, one roots for Shears. Though Nicholson is admirable as well. Even Saito, the natural antagonist, is humanized in the course of the film. It’s all very emotionally confusing.

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Yep. Sums it up.

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A great, if tragic, way to start the new year. Here’s to 2018!

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“So, you got any new year’s resolutions?” “Well, I’m gonna build a great bridge and not back down under threat of torture and death. Oh, and I’m considering quitting smoking. You?”

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What we learned: Live like a human being.

Next time: Bonus: The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

#144 Written on the Wind

Watched: 19 November 2017

Director: Douglas Sirk

Starring: Lauren Bacall, Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone

Year: 1956

Runtime: 1h 39min

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After a very brief encounter, aspiring ad-lady Lucy Moore (Bacall) marries philandering alcoholic millionaire oil-heir Kyle Hadley (Stack) when he promises to change for her… This despite her initial attraction to his best (but not as rich) friend Mitch Wayne (Hudson).

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“You are so charming! I hope you have a less handsome friend I can marry!”

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To both their credit, Kyle does change his game during their first year of marriage, and the two are quite happy together. However, when they fail to conceive a child and Kyle learns that the fault lies with him, he falls back into his old ways of drink and aggression.

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“My sperm doesn’t work. I am not a man. I must drink and by no means talk to the people who love me about my insecurities.”

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Meanwhile, Mitch is caught up in a love triangle (square..?); he loves Lucy, Lucy loves Kyle, Kyle’s psychopath sister Marylee (Malone) loves Mitch, and Kyle pretty much loves, but distrusts, all of them.

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Marylee masks her love for Mitch with a string of unsuitable lovers

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Like Sirk’s previous entries, Written on the Wind is a melodrama with lots of twists and turns, and you’re never sure whether or not it will have a happy ending. It’s visually beautiful and “soft,” and the costumes are gorgeous (and very symbolic). Despite Mitch and Lucy being the characters everything (and everyone) revolves around, the Hadley siblings are by far the most intriguing.

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Poor little rich kids

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Their insecurities are understandable and explained, although they both go way overboard in their efforts to compensate for them – Kyle by spending money and drinking, and Marylee by being promiscuous and sabotaging Mitch and Lucy’s lives.

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She is even sexual enough to kill her father. Quite an achievement.

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We loved the costumes, the calendar at the beginning, all the twists and turns, and the crazy Marylee (who we sort of felt sorry for…at first, at least). Also, the scene in the beginning with Lucy and Kyle in the taxi is oddly poignant in these times of sexual harassment allegations. It’s clear that Lucy is on her guard, and that this is not a situation she’s unfamiliar with… Which says a lot, we think.

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Must have been one hell of a conversation in the plane to go from this to marriage…

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What we learned: If you have a problem which affects your marriage, maybe talk to your spouse about it..?

Next time: 12 Angry Men (1957)