#267 The Ipcress File

Watched: April 15 2019

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Frank Gatliff, Freda Bamford

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Dr Radcliff boards the 7.55 to Nottingham and then promptly disappears – the last in a long line of misplaced scientist working for the British government.

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Pro tip: if scientists are disappearing at an alarming rate, try diversifying your reading material when in public.

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After a long and strange morning ritual (who goes through all that trouble to grind beans and make French press coffee and then NOT let it steep??? You’re basically drinking beige water at that point), Sergeant Harry Palmer (Caine) of the Ministry of Defence goes into work and is given a new mission recovering the misplaced scientific equipment.

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“He’s about yea high, grey hair, glasses, sort of sciency-looking..? Yeah, we keep losing him, so give us a call if someone turns him in, ok?”

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The “insubordinate trickster” Palmer starts to track down the main suspect, Albanian scientist-stealer “Bluejay” (Gatliff), alongside fellow spies and officers, including love interest Jean Courtney (Lloyd). However, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a mole inside the British Army. Who can it be?

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In real life, our money would be on the guy with the obviously fake glasses.

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Can you do better than The Ipcress File if you’re in the mood for an espionage thriller with brainwashed scientists, sexual tension, double crossing weasels, cheeky yet charming scoundrels, and some sort of cooking fetish? Possibly. But you can certainly do a hell of a lot worse!

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We think this picture speaks for itself

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Michael Caine is more likable than he has any right to be, and we enjoyed the bureaucracy of espionage – you never see a single L101 in a Bond-film! We also loved the exchange in the parking garage, the library (we want one!), the bowler hats, all the lamps, the shot composition, and the sort of jazzy/noiry music.

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So many lamps. We kind of regret not counting them. Hit us up if you are bored enough to do that very thing! #coronahobbies

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Double this with The Manchurian Candidate for the perfect cold war/paranoia/science-gone-wild/brainwashing thriller evening. And kids? Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands and watch excellent movies.

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Make yourself a pot of stronger coffee than Harry and have yourself a marathon!

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What we learned: Don’t slouch like a pregnant camel. Also, Sister the Youngest learned the advantages of a revolver vs. an automatic for when you want to get away with a crime. Sister the Oldest has known for a very long time…

Next time: The Knack… And How to Get It (1965)

#265 The Collector

Watched: March 19 2019

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Freddie Clegg (Stamp) is a socially awkward butterfly collector who’s convinced that the only reason he can’t get a date is because women won’t take the time to get to know him. Then one day he wins a large sum of money, buys a remote farmhouse, and decides to test his theory by kidnapping Miranda Grey (Eggar) – an art student he’s been stalking for a while.

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“Stop..!. struggling..! I am a nice.. *hnng* ..guy – I’m doing this for your own good.”

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After the initial shock of having been drugged and taken by a psychopath, Miranda decides the only way she’ll leave the house alive is if she plays along with her deranged “host.” She agrees to stay for four weeks, during which time Freddie believes he can Beauty-and-the-Beast her into falling in love with him.

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“Oh, you’ll be quite happy here in this cold, damp cellar prison I made you. You’ll have a bed, clothes, art supplies – everything a young woman could possibly need! Now love me. “

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The Collector may be from 1965 (based on a 1963 novel) but the parallels to certain contemporary movements are impossible to ignore. Freddie definitely doesn’t see himself as a bad guy (he’s a Nice Guy, you see – just misunderstood), but he also doesn’t see Miranda as human. She is only there to fulfill his needs – she has none of her own. And when she fails to act the way he wants her to, she has no more value to him.

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Trying to flood the house to get the attention of a neighbour when your host is finally letting you have a bath? Where were you raised???

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We absolutely loved this one, and were on the edge of our seat throughout. Terence Stamp was amazing as the psychopathic Freddie – his physicality as well as his sudden and chilly shifts in mood and attitude were fascinating to watch.

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The switches between childlike, innocent happiness and icy calculation are very creepy

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Samantha Eggar is similarly engaging as Miranda – she never loses her defiance despite having to negotiate and play along with her kidnapper. She, like us, never quite loses hope that she might eventually escape this hell.

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Despite her fear, Miranda tries to connect with and manipulate Freddie – anything to regain her freedom

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If you’re a fan of psychological horror and/or serial killers, The Collector is a classic and you simply must check it out. And what better time to watch a movie about someone being held against their will in a remote house than in the midst of a pandemic in which we’re being forced to stay inside our houses? If nothing else it will put your own isolation into perspective. (We hope you’re doing well though, and that you’re not too lonely, wherever you are. Stay inside and stay safe!)

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And even if you’re stuck inside, it’s still nice to occasionally dress up for dinner. Especially if you’re alone and not with the psychopath who abducted you… If that is the case, eat in your PJs. You deserve it.

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What we learned: NEVER hit them once and then try to run. You keep hitting until there’s nothing left but splattered brain matter (theoretically of course. Please do not organize a raid on our apartments. Or search our basement).

Next time: The Hill (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)

#247 Topkapi

Watched: December 17 2019

Director: Jules Dassin

Starring: Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley, Jess Hahn, Gilles Ségal, Akim Tamiroff

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 0min

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Elizabeth Lipp (Mercouri) has an obsession. Emeralds. And no emeralds are greater than the ones adorning the dagger of Sultan Mahmud I, currently on display at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. But how will she get her hands on it?

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“No locks or security measures are a match for my intense stare.”

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To execute a heist, she recruits ex-boyfriend Walter Harper (Schell) who in turn enlists a motley crew of amateurs. There’s mechanical magician and toy maker Cedric Page (Morley), mute acrobat Giulio (Ségal), and muscle man Hans (Hahn). Together, they will switch out the dagger with a replica and get away before anyone knows a robbery has even taken place. Or so they plan.

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Before any heist can be done, one needs to find one’s James Bond-looking ex to sort out the details.

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In order to get the weapons they need over the border from Greece, they pay small-time con man and designated “schmo” Arthur Simpson (Ustinov) to take a car across the border. However, when customs find the guns, the hapless Arthur is engaged as a spy for the Turkish government who fear an assassination is about to take place.

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Few things scream “International Man of Mystery” like this guy

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Arthur successfully infiltrates the group and becomes an integral part of their plan. But will they succeed? Will Arthur betray them? Will their cook Gerven (Tamiroff) ever shake his alcoholism? These are the questions which will haunt you. Until you watch the excellent Topkapi, that is.

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“Subtlety is my forte”

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This one had us hooked from the beginning. We loved the colourful, strange and magical opening and Elizabeth’s monologue to the camera. The kaleidoscopic filter added to the surreal feeling, and we were in for the ride!

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Much like Arthur himself!

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The heist was very exciting, and we also loved the colours, the humour, the suspense, Gerven the drunken cook, the sunglasses-wearing Turkish agent-dude, and the homoerotic oily wrestling. Not to mention 1000-films favourite Peter Ustinov. The man won Oscars and a knighthood, and has even been quoted on Criminal Minds! Which is among the greatest honours a person can receive.

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Pictured: his greatest achievement

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The only drawback was actually the person who promised to be the most intriguing – miss Elizabeth Lipp herself. Sure, the idea for the robbery was hers, and she opened the movie very strongly, but after recruiting her ex to plan the heist, she basically did nothing. Walter was the one to come up with the plan and get the others involved. Her role after the start was just to make out with all the men in turn and seduce a poor lighthouse keeper. And she had so much potential. Although she did redeem herself a bit in the end. All in all, another great heist movie from Jules Dassin.

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This scene alone is worth the investment of two hours of your life

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What we learned: Plan meticulously, execute cleanly, don’t get caught before, during or after.

Next time: Zulu (1964)

#243 The Masque of the Red Death

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Patrick Magee (double feature night with Seance – we had a Magevening!), Nigel Green, Skip Martin

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 29min

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An old woman is given a rose by a red-cloaked figure and all hell breaks loose.

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“She loves me, she loves me not…”

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Prince Prospero (Price) is a villain and a tyrant. And a satanist. After the Red Death appears in the village providing for his castle, he burns it to the ground with the exception of three villagers. Francesca (Asher), her father Ludovico (Green) and her betrothed Gino (Weston) are taken to the castle to provide entertainment.

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“No, what I’m saying is I’ll never win an axe throwing competition in this corset!”

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Prospero throws decadent parties for his rich friends to distract from the plague ravaging the outside world. He enjoys humiliating and mocking his guests, but as they seem to have little in the way of dignity, they tend not to mind.

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“See? I knew that corset wouldn’t hold her back!” “I’d still prefer if she took it off…”

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The prince is into some dark shit though, and his new goal quickly becomes to turn the Christian Francesca to his own faith. His wife (?) Juliana (Court) senses competition and decides to go all in with the whole Satan-thing to please her man. But will their close, personal relationship with the Devil save them from the looming threat outside?

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“Oh ordlay, ivethgay usway ouryay essingsblay. Amen-ay!”

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Another Poe, Price and Corman collaboration, and we’re living for it. Vincent Price is his usual fabulous self, and we loved the colours, the clothes, the sets and the story.

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“My interior decorator was going through a symbolic phase.”

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The start was almost Bergmany with Death hanging around playing cards, and in the end it comes full circle with a bunch of colour-coded Deaths (Illnesses? Plagues?) marching away in a conga line of doom.

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“Day-o! Daylight come and me wan’ go home!”

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An excellent Halloween movie and wonderful entertainment all around, The Masque of the Red Death is everything you would expect and more. Love, love, love this.

What we learned: Don’t sell your soul to Satan over a guy. Do it for yourself!

Next time: The Naked Kiss (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)

#239 Goldfinger

Watched: July 5 2019

Director: Guy Hamilton

Starring: Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman, Bernard Lee, Harold Sakata, Lois Maxwell, Shirley Eaton

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 50min

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007 (Connery) is back, rising from the water with a bird strapped to his head as secret agents are wont to do. Under his wet suit an immaculate dinner jacket, and he is ready for a night of gambling and spying.

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“Carnation in place, now to complete the look with my duck hat!”

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The target, Auric Goldfinger (Fröbe), is cheating at cards so Bond takes one for the team and seduces his accomplice Jill (Eaton) to ruin Goldfinger’s winning streak.

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Anyone who’s ever been flirted with by a man in a powder blue playsuit knows that the success of this tactic is a clear testament to the magnetism of Sean Connery

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After a night of shenanigans, and a possible concussion, Bond awakens to find Jill dead, covered in gold paint. But who could have commited this golden crime? The prime suspect is none other than Gold Goldlimb himself.

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“However did you jump to that conclusion..?”

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On his quest to stop Goldfinger and his nefarious plans, Bond also encounters Pussy Galore (Blackman), his nemesis’ flying ace and all round brilliant lady.

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She came by her name honestly

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We enjoyed this a lot more than From Russia with Love, partly because no teenagers were forced to spend a night pleasing Bond in order to get married in Goldfinger. In fact, the women in this one have a lot more agency than those in its predecessor.

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We were huge fans of the ridiculously elaborate murder machines in Goldfinger’s possession. Someone actually had to construct this thing!

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We loved Pussy Galore, the title sequence, Oddjob, the gadgets, the golf game, the car chases, the pilots and of course the antagonist’s convoluted plot and his obsession with gold. And sure, we enjoy James Bond himself too, and this is definitely one of our favourite Bond movies. Although we would NEVER fall for a man in a baby blue playsuit. Never.

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You know a Delta Nu would never sleep with a man in a romper! We just liked to watch him swim around with a duck on his head.

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What we learned: Austin Powers makes a lot more sense after a few early Bond films.

Next time: Onibaba (1964)

#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)

#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)