Mike’s Top Ten of 1961
This is one of the strongest years at the top of the 60s. This is like when a famous band that’s been around a long time plays a concert and then starts playing the major hits one after another. It’s just banger after banger.
The year as a whole isn’t as strong as some of the other 60s years. You don’t go ten deep of classics. But still, there’s cool shit here. The 60s isn’t so much about the major stuff — since we can all pretty much agree on that — it’s about the gems that are below the surface that no one remembers anymore. They’re not as numerous as they were in the 50s, so they’re more pronounced. And because they’re not as much a product of the studio system as they were (since the studio system at this point is decaying and will be gone before the end of the decade), they’re all really interesting, subject wise.
But really, the best part of 1961 is getting to talk about the top tier films. Because man, are those all-timers.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1961
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Children’s Hour
The Guns of Navarone
Judgment at Nuremberg
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
One, Two, Three
Splendor in the Grass
West Side Story
11-20: Divorce Italian Style, The Great Impostor, The Mark, One-Eyed Jacks, The Parent Trap, Pocketful of Miracles, A Raisin in the Sun, A Taste of Honey, Town Without Pity, Yojimbo
Tier two: The Absent-Minded Professor, Atlantis the Lost Continent, Bachelor in Paradise, Black Tights, Blast of Silence, The Comancheros, El Cid, Flower Drum Song, The Last Sunset, Last Year at Marienbad, Lover Come Back, The Misfits, Mysterious Island, Paris Blues, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Something Wild, Two Living One Dead, Two Rode Together, Underworld U.S.A., Viridiana
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1. West Side Story
“There’s a place for us,
A time and place for us
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there
One of the five greatest stage musicals ever made, and if it’s not one of the five greatest film musicals ever made, it’s certainly in the top ten. Everything about this musical is perfect.
Everyone knows this story. The Jets, the Sharks, Tony, Maria — street gangs of New York. Romeo and Juliet in the city. Every song in this movie is beyond famous and most people could sing them from memory. And, let me be one to say it — I’ve seen a remastered version of this film, and it’s legitimately one of the five most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. This movie is stunning.
This movie won 10 Oscars, out of 11 nominations (only losing for Screenplay, understandably, to the #4 film on this list). Truly, this is one of the 100 most important and greatest American films ever made.
2. The Hustler
“Fat man, you shoot a great game of pool.”
“So do you, Fast Eddie.”
This is (falsely) put on the list of the greatest sports movies ever made. It’s not a sports movie. But if ranking it there (like Raging Bull) allows more people to discover it and see it, be my guest.
Paul Newman is “Fast” Eddie Felson, a pool hustler, who comes into town to challenge Minnesota Fats, generally regarded as the greatest player in the country. He’s cocky, and actually gets way ahead, but eventually loses. The film is about him learning to accept his flaws and grow as a person. Jackie Gleason is great as Fats, Piper Laurie is great as an alcoholic woman Newman meets while at his lowest and begins a relationship with, and George C. Scott is incredible as a gambler who stakes Newman on his way back up to challenge Fats.
This movie is perfect. It’s a real classic. I’d say this is Paul Newman’s signature character, but to be perfectly honest, he’s got like three or four of those. This is just one of them. This is the character for which he ultimately won his Oscar, but in the sequel to this movie, 25 years after this.
The real strengths to this film, which often go unheralded — the cinematography and the editing. Not only does this movie look amazing, but the way it’s edited really helps draw you into the story. To me, this is one of the absolute greatest American films ever made.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end,
Waiting ’round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend
Moon River, and me”
One of the most iconic films of all time. Audrey Hepburn’s signature character. The image of her standing at the window at the beginning of the film is one of the most famous in all of cinema. The song — its nuts how much of the stuff in this movie is ALL-TIME famous. (Or infamous.)
Not everyone realizes that Blake Edwards actually directed this movie. He was quietly one of the more versatile filmmakers out there. He directed this, then a horror movie (which we’ll talk about next year), then Days of Wine and Roses (also next year), and then The Pink Panther. And they’re all great.
Also, this is based on a Truman Capote novella, which I think most people know. But he wanted Marilyn Monroe cast, which is about as opposite of Audrey Hepburn as you could possible get.
Hepburn is Holly Golightly (basically a prostitute, but never stated as such), who strikes up a friendship (and potentially more) with a neighbor. That’s really all you need, if for some strange reason you haven’t seen this movie already. Though if you’re into film or attended a college where at least one of your female friends had this as a poster in their dorm room or dressed up as the character for Halloween, chances are, you know all about it.
There is the one thing everyone has to mention when talking about this movie — Mickey Rooney. That… I think everyone involved with that went back and apologized for it, because… wow. If you can get past that, it’s an absolutely lovely movie.
Great story: apparently one of the studio executives wanted them to cut the song from the movie. He told Edwards and Henry Mancini after a screening that he wanted it out. And Hepburn is there too and stands up and says, “Over my dead body!” Glad that turned out the way it did.
4. Judgment at Nuremberg
“There are those in our own country too who today speak of the ‘protection of country,’ of ‘survival’. A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is ‘survival as what’? A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.”
This is a Stanley Kramer film about the Nuremberg trials. Specifically the third one of the twelve. The Judges’ Trial. It’s one of the greatest trial films ever made, and it’s a film that everyone needs to see. For history purposes.
Spencer Tracy plays one of the judges, Burt Lancaster plays one of the defendants, Maximilian Schell is the defense attorney, Richard Widmark is the prosecuting attorney. Marlene Dietrich is a German woman who befriends Tracy during his stay in Germany. Montgomery Clift plays a witness, as does Judy Garland. It’s one of the greatest films ever written, and it’s just astounding. Amazing performances all around, and it’s an all-time classic. No film buff can get by without this one.
5. Splendor in the Grass
“Is it so terrible to have those feelings about a boy?”
“No nice girl does.”
Elia Kazan is one of those filmmakers who always makes good films. And some of them are underrated hidden gems, but the others, like this — they’re great. Like all-time great. Dude was a master.
This is one of the great romantic dramas ever made. One of those movies like Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Where we begin with a couple madly in love, with their entire future ahead of them, only to see absolutely terrible things happen to them and see them denied of their love.
The couple here is Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty. He’s rich, she’s poor. They’re in love. Her mother tells her not to give in to his desires to take he virginity, while his father tells him to find a girl willing to put out. They try to listen to their parents, but all it leads to is heartbreak. It’s a really beautiful and tough movie to watch. But stunningly acted and directed. I love this movie. It’s a masterpiece.
6. The Guns of Navarone
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think we could do it.”
“To tell you the truth, neither did I.”
Mark this one under the category of “badass war films.” This movie is so good.
A bunch of British sailors are marooned on a Greek island. They can’t be rescued because, on a nearby island, the Germans have two giant super guns that will massacre any ship that gets near it. So, they send in a commando unit to take out the guns. That includes: Anthony Quayle (the c.o.), Gregory Peck (a spy), Anthony Quinn (a Greek soldier), David Niven (an explosives expert), Stanley Baker (an engineer who is great with knives) and James Darren (a native). And that’s the film. They travel to the island where the guns are, trying to avoid the Germans and complete their mission. And it’s awesome.
There’s a run of big budget war movies during this era, and they’re all great. The real key to a movie like this isn’t the action so much as it’s the interaction between characters. And look at who’s in this — it works. That’s the real joy of this movie. This is one of those movies that just makes me happy when I think about it.
7. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
“Cruella De Vil
Cruella De Vil
If she doesn’t scare you
No evil thing will
To see her is to take a sudden chill
She’s like a spider waiting for the kill
Look out for Cruella De Vil”
Classic Disney, again. What’s crazy about this one is that it’s about a woman who wants to capture and murder dogs to turn them into fur coats. But somehow it’s not that weird when Disney does it.
There’s not a whole lot to talk about here. It looks great. And most of what I’d want to talk about is how they made it. Since this was the first film that used xerox to transfer the drawings of animators directly onto cels. Which gives the film a distinct look that isn’t really repeated in anything else they’ve done.
8. One, Two, Three
“When will papers be ready?”
“I’ll put my secretary right to work on it.”
“Your secretary? She’s that blond lady?”
“That’s the one.”
“You will send papers to East Berlin with blond lady in triplicate.”
“You want the papers in triplicate, or the blond in triplicate?”
“See what you can do.”
Billy Wilder. Because we’ve done it to now, and because I truly want everyone to understand just how amazing this man’s films are — he’s, to this point, made 17 films in America. 12 of those have been top ten films for me. 3 of them were 11-20. One was a tier two (and that tier two contains one of the single most iconic images ever photographed) and only ONE movie failed to end up anywhere on the list for its year. So out of 17 movies, there’s only one that is just ‘fine’ and doesn’t range from ‘very good’ to ‘absolute masterpiece’. Dude’s my personal hero.
This is a Cold War screwball comedy, and James Cagney’s last film before retiring. (Though he would come out of it for Ragtime, 20 years after this.) Cagney is a Coca Cola executive in West Berlin who has to babysit his boss’s daughter. Things get complicated, however, when she shows up, married to a communist. Hilarity ensues.
It’s one of Wilder’s lesser-known films. But it’s a lot of fun. Most people who see this are gonna really enjoy it. This is in that tier of Wilder films like Five Graves to Cairo, Love in the Afternoon and The Spirit of St. Louis — you may have came across them, but most people haven’t seen them, and they’re great.
9. The Children’s Hour
“God will punish you.”
“He’s doing all right.”
Based on the play by Lillian Hellman, they’d already adapted this once into a play. This is the version everyone sees, because it’s able to truly deal with its subject matter the way the original does.
It’s about Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, two friends who run a boarding school for young girls. Hepburn is engaged to James Garner, and MacLaine is eternally single. After disciplining one poorly-behaved student, the girl, feeling vindictive, tells her grandmother that the two women are lovers, blackmailing a fellow student into corroborating the story. This causes a scandal, naturally, and brings certain… other stuff… to light. Which I won’t get into, but it’s great.
Great performances by all the leads, and directed by William Wyler, too. One of those classic dramas people get to at some point because of the people involved. But I’m here to try to speed up that process. Because this movie’s great.
“It’s not dying I mind. It’s giving up life that annoys me.”
This is an interesting film, in that it’s based on a trilogy of French plays: Marius, Fanny and Cesar. They took all three plays and turned them into a musical. And then they based the film on the musical, but cut out all the songs. Funny, how Hollywood works.
The film was directed by Joshua Logan, who wrote the play Mister Roberts and directed a lot of Broadway. He also had a great run of films — Picnic, Bus Stop, Sayonara, South Pacific. This was his fifth film. It stars Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer and Horst Buchholz.
It’s about a couple of characters who live in a French seaside town. Buchholz is the son of Boyer, an innkeeper. Caron is Buchholz’s childhood friend, who has been in love with him for years. Buchholz wants to be a sailor more than anything. Chevalier is an old rich guy who offers to marry Caron, even though he knows she loves Buchholz.
It’s a good film. It looks great, Caron is always good, and you get fun performances out of Boyer and Chevalier. It’s one of those movies I really enjoyed and just happened to crack the top ten because nothing else from this year was something I ended up liking better.
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Divorce, Italian Style — Classic comedy. One of Marcello Mastroianni’s best performances. Pietro Germi and Mastroianni were both nominated for this one. It’s about an Italian man who falls in love with his cousin. He wants to marry her, only there’s one snag… his wife. Divorce is illegal in Italy, so he does the only thing he can do… plots to murder her. He tries to manufacture an affair with his wife and another man so he can catch them and, in the heat of the moment, murder his wife and be totally justified. (Because, you know, “honor killing.”) Naturally this all goes horribly wrong. The film is so funny. You gotta see it.
The Great Impostor — A comedy that you knew nothing about. If you like Catch Me If You Can, you’ll like this. Tony Curtis stars, and it was directed by Robert Mulligan (just before he directed Mockingbird). It’s based on the exploits of a real guy. He begins by joining the army and faking his background so he could get a higher rank. He gets caught, so he runs away and becomes a monk. And we watch him ping pong his way into and out of trouble, becoming friendly with people and then using what he learned from them to impersonate them. It’s a very fictionalized movie, but it’s so much fun. Plus, loaded with great actors. Edmond O’Brien, Karl Malden, Raymond Massey and Arthur O’Connell. Highly recommended hidden gem.
The Mark — Stuart Whitman was nominated for an Oscar for this role, and it was the role that took him from middling minor player to leading man status. He plays a convicted child molester — oh, did I mention the incredibly progressive subject matter? — who is just out of prison and trying to start his life over. He eventually does. He finds a job, a place to live, and even a girlfriend. However, a child gets molested and the police pick him up as a suspect (even though he obviously didn’t do it), and this threatens to ruin everything he’s done to get himself back on the right track. It’s a really great drama, and similar to other child molester films you’ve seen, like The Woodsman with Kevin Bacon. Whitman is tremendous, and the film, while somewhat dated, definitely sticks out for being unlike most other films of its time.
One-Eyed Jacks — The only film that Marlon Brando directed. Now regarded as a classic for a lot of reasons. They juts restored it pretty recently too. If you get a chance to see it fully restored, take it. It’s quite good. Brando is a bank robber who pulls jobs with Karl Malden, his mentor. After one robbery, they get cornered by the cops, and there’s only room for one of them to escape. Brando lets Malden get away, though Malden is supposed to return with fresh horses so they both can escape. But Malden doesn’t. He turns and runs with all the money, leaving Brando to be captured. A couple of years later, Brando escapes from prison and finds Malden, living as a sheriff in Monterey. Things are pleasant between the two of them, but Brando knows Malden ran out on him and Malden knows Brando doesn’t believe his story. Brando is actually there to kill Malden and rob the bank in town. However, Brando starts to fall for Malden’s adopted Mexican stepdaughter, which complicates things. It’s a really good western with great performances. It’s got a bit of something for everyone, and there’s just so much of interest here. The cast (which also has Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens), the gorgeous cinematography, and the fact that the script was, at points, written by Rod Serling and Sam Peckinpah (neither of whom ended up with a credit). Oh, and the film was almost directed by Stanley Kubrick before Brando stepped in and did it himself. There are so many reasons to see this movie.
The Parent Trap — I (and I imagine most people around my age) grew up with the Nancy Meyers remake with Lindsay Lohan, which as we can all agree, is an incredible movie. But this was the original, and this was the first version of the classic story. Two girls meet at a summer camp, one American, one British, and discover that they’re identical twins whose divorced parents kept that fact a secret from them. So they decide to switch places, eventually forcing their parents to get back together. It’s an amazing story. Hayley Mills was made a child star from this movie (and from Pollyanna the year before this). Even cooler — do you know the story behind the book this was based on? Erich Kastner, a German author, came up with the idea and pitched it as a film during World War II, but the Nazis told him he wasn’t allowed to work. He was a pacifist and opposed the Nazis openly. So they kicked him out of the writer’s guild and burned his books and prevented him from working. So he waited until the war was over and turned it into a book. Which is pretty cool.
Pocketful of Miracles — This is Frank Capra’s last film, and a remake of Lady for a Day, from 1933, the film that I said at the time he never could quite crack. There are, I think only two films Capra remade. This and Broadway Bill/Riding High. Those were stories I think he realized he never quite got the first time and wanted to try again. But both times, they never quite reached the heights of his other films. This stars Bette Davis as an apple seller in New York. She gave her daughter up years ago so she could be educated and have a chance at a good life. She writes to her daughter (who is in Europe), pretending to be a high society countess and living this wonderful life. Her daughter surprises her by saying she’s engaged to a rich man and wants to come see her before the wedding. Davis freaks out, because she realizes her daughter will see her for who she really is and be disappointed in her. And worse, her rich husband will realize his fiancée comes from poverty and will refuse to marry her. Only, because it’s a Capra movie, Bette’s friends come through to help her out. One of her biggest customers is Glenn Ford, a gangster. He believes her apples bring him luck. So he organizes an entire party specifically designed for Bette’s daughter. They put her in a great apartment, they give her a makeover and put her in a nice dress, and they make it seem like everything is exactly as Bette had been lying about all the years previous. Of course, the planning goes comically awry, and it looks like everything is going to be a disaster right until the end. It’s a really nice film. It’s very good, but not great, but no one said very good was a bad thing. Ann-Margret plays the daughter, and Peter Falk plays Glenn Ford’s right hand man, who is the one dealing with most of the prep work and gets a lot of the comic situations throughout the film. It’s got a lot of the old standard character actors like Thomas Mitchell and Everett Edward Horton, and it’s just a good time at the movies.
A Raisin in the Sun — One of the greatest plays of all time turned into a classic film. It’s about a black family struggling to make ends meet who await an insurance check after the death of the matriarch’s husband. Each family member has different ideas of what to do with the money, but everyone agrees its their ticket out of the city and to a better life. It’s an incredible play, and the film is great. It stars Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Claudia McNeil. A true classic.
A Taste of Honey — A British New Wave film about a teenage girl whose mother is an alcoholic and has just remarried, making her home life not ideal. She meets a black sailor and falls for him and lives with a gay best friend. She soon discovers the sailor got her pregnant. It’s a slice of life kind of movie. More realistic people dealing with realistic problems. It’s good. Tony Richardson directs (coming off Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer) and it stars no real actors you’ve ever heard of, giving it an added level of authenticity. This is generally considered one of the better, if not best, British films ever made.
Town Without Pity — A great drama dealing with fictionalized versions of real issues. A group of soldiers in occupied Germany years after World War II are out drinking and rape an underage girl. The locals want justice. A court martial is adjourned and the soldier are put on trial. Kirk Douglas plays the man hired to defend the men, and the way in which he does it — let’s just say, no one ends up innocent in this story. It’s pretty fucked up how things progress, and if this movie does its job, it will really make you angry by its end. It’s a really strong film that’s barely remembered today.
Yojimbo — Kurosawa, man. He was the best. It’s about a ronin who arrives at a town that is run by two sparring criminal gangs. So he decides to integrate himself into the conflict and play the gangs against one another for the sake of the town. It’s amazing. Toshiro Mifune — it’s really good. They also remade it as A Fistful of Dollars, for those wondering why the story sounded familiar. There are a lot of looser adaptations of this story. Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis is essentially Yojimbo. As is the original Django movie with Franco Nero. That’s why Kurosawa was so great. He made quintessentially Japanese movies that were influenced by American movies, so all the stories were so universal they translated anywhere, despite the specificity of how he made them. That’s a master, folks.
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- The Absent-Minded Professor
- Atlantis, the Lost Continent
- Bachelor in Paradise
- Black Tights
- Blast of Silence
- The Comancheros
- El Cid
- Flower Drum Song
- The Last Sunset
- Last Year at Marienbad
- Lover Come Back
- The Misfits
- Mysterious Island
- Paris Blues
- The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
- Something Wild
- Two Living, One Dead
- Two Rode Together
- Underworld U.S.A.
Blast of Silence is a great noir. It’s told like an old-school noir but anticipates the neo-noirs of Taxi Driver, and those other films that show the seedy underbelly of New York. The kind where you can see the steam coming up from the manholes and feel peoples’ sweat. It’s about a hitman in town on a job. That’s really all you need to know. A terrific film, and one of the gems of the 60s and a hidden gem of the noir genre. The Comancheros is Michael Curtiz directing John Wayne. Wayne arrest Stuart Whitman, a gambler, but quickly they find themselves going undercover to take down some arms merchants. Also has Lee Marvin in it. Good shit. The Absent-Minded Professor is a story most of you might know by its remake, Flubber. Fred MacMurray plays a kooky professor who invents a substance that never stops bouncing. He calls it Flubber. And it causes all sorts of craziness. Fun movie. Disney family fun.
The Misfits is famous as being the final film of both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Directed by John Huston, it’s also got Montgomery Clift in it, as well as Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach. Most people don’t remember it past the first two, nor do they even remember what it’s about. But the cast is really incredible past Gable and Monroe, and it’s actually a good movie. It’s kind of similar in plot to Mogambo, which is what Gable had been playing for a while. He’s an aging cowboy who falls for an older woman despite trying to stay single. Clift plays a rodeo rider who hangs around with them, and it’s just a fun hangout kind of movie, even if there are pretty tragic overtones to the whole thing.
Something Wild is one of those films that really ushers in the types of films that would become the norm in the 70s. A lot of these are peppered into the 60s and are so unjustly overlooked now. This is about Carroll Baker as a college girl who gets raped while coming home one night. Scared, she hides all evidence of the crime, but continues to be haunted mentally by it. Slowly, it ruins her life and drives her down a path that seemed unimaginable when the film began. It’s really good, and Baker is terrific here. Definitely one of the 60s gems more people need to see. Paris Blues is a jazz film. Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier are musician friends in Paris. They both romance Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll, respectively. It’s a really great little gem that not enough people know about. Directed by Martin Ritt, who made six movies with Newman, the greatest of which, Hud, would come shortly after this one. Ritt also made Edge of the City with Poitier. The man made some really solid films throughout his career. This is one of the ones not many people know about.
Two Living, One Dead is a British drama about a holdup at a post office. One person is shot, another is knocked unconscious, and the main character, knowing money is insured and thinking about what his family would do if he were to be killed, allows the robbery to happen. Afterward, he is branded a coward by all and his life is slowly ruined, while the man who was knocked unconscious is labeled a hero and gets the promotion the main guy has been angling to get for months and months. It’s a really great deconstruction of how fucked up people are in situations like this. It takes a really great turn midway through the movie. Definitely recommend this one if you can find it. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone is Vivien Leigh as a woman whose husband dies suddenly on the plane as they travel to Rome. Now, in Rome alone, she ends up getting involved with Warren Beatty, a gigolo. It’s based on a Tennessee Williams play and also has Lotte Lenya (aka Rosa Klebb) in it as a scheming contessa. Worth it for fans of Leigh or Beatty.
Underworld U.S.A. is a Sam Fuller crime thriller about Cliff Robertson as a guy who saw some hoodlums beat his father to death when he was younger. Since then, he’s become a criminal himself, trying to get into that world to find out the names of the guys who did it. And along the way, he becomes as vicious and violent as the men he’s trying to find. Honestly, set this in the west, and you’ve got an Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart western. It’s great. One of Fuller’s best. Two Rode Together is a John Ford movie with Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark. Stewart’s a lazy, corrupt marshal, and Widmark is an army officer. Widmark’s C.O. is captured by some Comanche and Stewart is pressured into going with Widmark to negotiate the ransom. One of those ‘guy learns to do the right thing’ westerns. It’s fun.
Mysterious Island is a sci fi movie that’s basically a showcase for Ray Harryhausen’s effects. Based on a Jules Verne novel, it’s about a bunch of Civil War soldiers escape a storm in a hot air balloon (as you do) and end up being blown to a (insert title here). A lot of great creature stuff here and one of the better Harryhausen films. Which brings us to Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Not Harryhausen, but also an effects-driven movie. A Greek fisherman pick up a girl from a shipwreck, only to find out she’s from the city of Atlantis. He takes her home, whereupon he’s sent into slavery. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of political intrigue, and an uprising, all leading to the famous destruction told in myths (which is really what we all came for anyway). I like these campy sci fi movies. They’re just fun. And old school special effects make me happy.
Bachelor in Paradise is Bob Hope as an author who writes a lot of scandalous books. He comes to a California town to research the lives of the housewives that live there. So he goes undercover. And naturally hijinks ensue. It’s fun. Black Tights is a ballet anthology film. Cyd Charisse and Moira Shearer are among the dancers, and Maurice Chevalier narrates the film, because why not. It’s fun. I like anthology films, and I like these sort of ballet/opera films. It’s no Tales of Hoffmann, but it’s a nice little gem. Flower Drum Song is one of the first (and only) all-Asian cast films of the studio era. Based on the Rogers and Hammerstein musical. It’s about a Chinese immigrant who comes into the country with her father with plans to marry a nightclub owner. It’s a rom com type plot, with the whole ‘young characters fight against the adherence to tradition of their parents’ thing. The fact that it’s an entirely Asian cast is admirable, even if it gets pretty racist at times.
Last Year at Marienbad is Alain Resnais, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous film. Immaculately shot, it feels like a dream. A guy goes to a chateau and meets a woman, claiming they met there the year before, even though she insists they’ve never met. The film then goes off on a bunch of — well, just see it. It’s great and it’s better if you just experience it. You might think it’s profound, you might think it’s completely incoherent. Either way, you should see it. Virdiana is a Luis Bunuel film about a woman about to take her final vows and become a nun when her uncle invites her to visit. Her mother superior tells her she should go see him, so she does. While there, she gets drugged and told by her uncle that he raped her the night before (which he did not), which prevents her from becoming a nun. He then hangs himself, leaving his property to her. The film is about what happens to her after that. It’s really good, and won the Palme D’Or in 1961. So there’s that. El Cid is a big historical epic with a grand score and Charlton Heston at the center. And you get Sophia Loren as well. It’s no Ben-Hur, but it’s good.
Lover Come Back is a Rock Hudson/Doris Day rom com. They’re feuding ad executives. She does everything the right way — working hard, making a presentation, setting a meeting, and proving she’s the best person for the job. And she’s constantly thwarted by Hudson, who takes his prospective clients out, gets them drunk and gets women to fuck them in order to win their accounts. Stuck one day having sold an ad campaign without an actual product to back it up, he ends up meeting and falling for Day, and hilarity ensues. It’s one of their better pairings (also similar to Pillow Talk in terms of how things play out). The Last Sunset is a western with Rock Hudson and Kirk Douglas. Hudson is a lawman tracking down Douglas. He catches up to him on a cattle drive Douglas is running from Mexico to Texas for his old sweetheart’s drunk of a husband. Both Douglas and Hudson have eyes for the sweetheart’s daughter, agreeing to join the drive with a promise to bring Douglas to justice upon their arrival in Texas. There’s an absolutely bonkers finale in this movie that I don’t even wanna get into. It’s worth the price of admission alone. (One of the real ‘what the fuck’ endings I’ve seen.)
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