Mike’s Top Ten of 1965
Another contender for strongest year of the 60s. The top ten isn’t as classic-heavy as ’62, but what it lacks in those it makes up for in straight up gems that not enough people know about. This year is so full of amazing movies that are on that level of “Oh my god, how did I not know this existed before?” Those are my bread and butter.
The thing you really notice in a year like this is that the films are starting to (and you’ll notice a parallel to the current day here) exist in one of two forms: huge scale blockbusters or small independent movies. There’s no real middle class here. Either they’re these realistic, gritty little movies with great performances and (for the time) experimental (or should I say, less rigid) filmmaking, or they’re huge (and at times, bloated) epic-scale movies in ultra widescreen designed to get asses in the seats because TV is taking people away.
Pay attention to the non-top ten entries this year. They’re stronger than most.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1965
The Flight of the Phoenix
For a Few Dollars More
The Great Race
A Patch of Blue
The Sound of Music
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
- Honorable Mention to: A Charlie Brown Christmas
11-20: 36 Hours, The Cincinnati Kid, The Hill, Inside Daisy Clover, The Ipcress File, Pierrot le Fou, Shenandoah, The Shop on Main Street, The Slender Thread, A Thousand Clowns
Tier two: The Agony and the Ecstasy, Battle of the Bulge, Bunny Lake Is Missing, Cat Ballou, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Help!, How to Murder Your Wife, In Harm’s Way, A High Wind in Jamaica, King Rat, Lady L, Mickey One, The Naked Prey, None But the Brave, Promise Her Anything, The Sandpiper, Shenandoah, Ship of Fools, The Sons of Katie Elder, Von Ryan’s Express, What’s New Pussycat?
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1. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
“Innocent people die every day. They might as well do so for a reason.”
The greatest of the John le Carré films. I love Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I still think this one tops them all. One of Richard Burton’s finest performances, and just gorgeously directed.
Burton plays an agent who botches a mission and then is basically left in the equivalent of a desk job. Miserable, he becomes an alcoholic and suicidal. He thinks they’re forcing him out. What they’re really doing is carefully staging a cover to make him a prime target for East German agents to try to get him to defect. The idea is to put him out there as bait, and then when they come to try to get him, for him to hook them with the notion that he has information that one of their top agents is actually a double agent working for the British. It’s — incredible. Burton is Oscar-worthy, Oskar Werner is amazing as the guy sent to be Burton’s handler/interrogator to prove his information, and Claire Bloom is great as Burton’s communist girlfriend.
It’s — it’s John le Carré, so don’t expect smiles and sunshine at the end. But man, is it fucking great. My absolute favorite film of 1965, and this is a year with some great movies.
2. The Sound of Music
“The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears”
It’s impossible to discuss the film musical without almost immediately getting to this movie. It’s one of the five greatest film musicals of all time. You may not love the film and it may not be in your personal top five, but in the objective sense of the greatest musicals ever made, this is a top five film.
Pound for pound, this has some of the greatest songs ever written. I can think of only one or two other musicals where the songs (I think) are overall better.
“The Sound of Music,” “(How Do You Solve a Problem Like) Maria,” “I Have Confidence,” “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “So Long, Farewell,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Edelweiss.” I knew all of these songs before I’d ever seen the movie!
This is one of those films so famous (it was the highest grossing movie of all time for about five years) that everyone knows the story. It’s in that tier of films where, if you’re a movie buff, it’s automatically assumed that you have to see it. Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music. These films aren’t even mentioned because everyone knows they must be seen.
Oh, and have I mentioned? It’s GREAT.
“That gun, it looks more fitting for a woman.”
“You know much about guns, Mr. Bond?”
“No, but I know a little about women.”
Bond’s fourth outing and now we’re firmly into “classic Bond” territory in terms of format. Great pre-credits sequence that has nothing to do with the movie, fantastic title song and opening credits sequence, and then all the usual goodies. Every Sean Connery Bond movie is going to make my top ten because they’re all wonderful films. Hell, every Bond movie is gonna make the top 20 except like, four total.
The highlights of this one include Tom Jones’s title song, the great underwater sequences, the incorporation of a Bond girl who actually has a character arc, and multiple people being harpooned to death!
Not much more to recommend here — either you’re already in because it’s Bond, or you don’t really care because you don’t care about the franchise. For what it’s worth, this is still a top ten entry for the franchise.
4. Doctor Zhivago
“Yuri, there’s an extraordinary girl at this party.”
“I know. I’m dancing with her.”
Love it. David Lean. A Lean night!
I always refer to his trilogy of epics as: Bridge on the River Kwai is almost perfect. It doesn’t get to full perfection, but it’s almost at the peak. Then Lawrence of Arabia is a perfect entity. And then Doctor Zhivago — it goes just past perfection and feels just a little bit overdone. The fact being that all three are incredible films, but that’s just how they seem to me in terms of overall quality.
The movie is ostensibly about the love affair between Yuri Zhivago, a doctor and poet, and Lara, the woman who inspired his most famous poems. The film also traces Russian history pre-World War I, through the Russian Revolution and into I think the 30s. It’s an absolutely stunning movie, with gorgeous production design and costumes (you have to realize — Lean’s previous two epics took place in a prison camp and the desert, so there wasn’t much room for gorgeous sets and costumes), an unforgettable score, and just brilliant moments throughout. There are still moments I see when I rewatch it that I can’t believe they were able to capture on film.
This is one of those movies that everyone owes it to themselves to see. It might not be your favorite, but you need to see the absolute beauty and artistry that went into it. David Lean was a master filmmaker, and this is one of his true masterworks.
“Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at the same time.”
A double dose of Julie Christie. Fun fact: both films she was in (Zhivago and this) won the two Screenplay Oscars for 1965. She won the Oscar for this film, and it’s still one of my favorites of 1965. It doesn’t have the profile of Sound of Music and Zhivago, but it’s incredible. John Schlesinger directed the hell out of it an most people forget this was a Best Picture nominee in its own right.
Christie plays a model who is bored. Bored with her life, bored with her marriage, bored with everything. She gets interviewed for a TV program and begins an affair with the guy interviewing her. The rest of the film is her basically sleeping her way to the top. She’s completely amoral and does whatever she needs to do to get ahead. And the most interesting part — it doesn’t even seem like she really wants it. It’s just sort of what she’s doing to pass the time. A fascinating performance and that, coupled with the way Schlesinger shot it, is wonderful.
One of those movies that kind of got lost to time because it’s so representative of its era that people look at it as dated now. I still love it. I think this is one of the best films of this year. Plus, Julie Christie — wow.
6. The Great Race
If you ever wanted to turn Wacky Races into a movie, this is it.
This movie (and you can tell when you watch it) was hugely influential on that show. It’s about an automobile race from New York to Paris. There are seven contestants, but only three matter. The main two are Tony Curtis (the clear hero), Jack Lemmon (the clear villain) and Natalie Wood (the journalist and heroine). Lemmon is so obviously the influence on Dick Dastardly you can’t see anyone else, and Natalie Wood is Penelope Pitstop. The film is an epic comedy about Lemmon trying to sabotage everyone else and win for himself, and the heroes overcoming it. Playing the role of Muttley in the movie is Peter Falk. Also, it was directed by Blake Edwards and also stars Keenan Wynn and Arthur O’Connell.
Honestly, if you enjoy Wacky Races, you’re gonna enjoy the hell out of this. It’s also loaded with a bunch of slapstick gags and crazy stuff. There’s a giant pie fight in the movie! Just about every “classic” movie scene is in here, and it totally works. Just a great, fun comedy that everyone can enjoy.
7. For a Few Dollars More
“When the chimes end, pick up your gun. Try and shoot me, Colonel. Just try.”
The second movie in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy. This one has Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef on the same side. It’s also got Klaus Kinski in it. Eastwood and Van Cleef are bounty hunters both looking for the same man. How awesome is the gimmick where Van Cleef plays music before gunfights?
It’s great. But by now, everyone knows how great this trilogy is and how amazing the films are. You don’t need me to tell you anything. Just listen to Ennio and feel happy:
8. The Flight of the Phoenix
A classic. Don’t even talk to me if all you know is the bad remake with Tyrese.
A plane full of passengers crashes in the desert, and they need to work together to rebuild the plane or else they’ll die. Simple, effective. Great cast: Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, Ian Bannen, Hardy Kruger, Dan Duryea and George Kennedy.
What’s best about it is how realistic it feels. We don’t stray too far from the site of the crash, and pretty soon we learn that they can’t go anywhere because they’ll never get anywhere before they die if they venture out from the shade. The only hope is to build a workable plane from the wreckage. And there’s tension between the characters — it’s one of those movies that everyone finds interesting because it’s just good.
9. A Patch of Blue
“I know everything I need to know about you. I love you. I know you’re good, and kind. I know you’re colored and I…”
“And I think you’re beautiful!”
“Beautiful? Most people would say the opposite.”
“Well that’s because they don’t know you.”
I fell in love with this movie pretty hard when I saw it. It stars Elizabeth Hartmann, Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters. Hartmann plays a blind girl who lives in a shitty apartment with her prostitute mother (Winters) and alcoholic grandfather. They leave her in the park all day while her mother takes customers and she makes necklaces out of beads to sell. One day, she meets Sidney Poitier. The two strike up a fast friendship. He likes her innocence and spirit and she likes his kindness and intelligence. They start meeting every day. And a sort of friendship/romance develops.
The film beautifully handles the topic of race and interracial relationships, and really does a great job handling all the characters in the film. Winters won an Oscar for her performance, which is just nasty, and Hartmann has a touching naiveté to her character that’s really effective. I really like what this movie did, and it’s one of those forgotten gems that this year is full of that I really think people ought to see.
10. The Collector
“Don’t worry. I’ll respect your every privacy.”
You have no idea what you’re in for with this one. I’ll give you the setup and nothing else: Samantha Eggar is a regular woman who is walking through town one day when she is drugged and abducted by Terence Stamp. He keeps her in a stone cellar in his house, not planning to do anything untoward to her except keep her there. It’s great.
What I like most about it is that it doesn’t follow all the bullshit horror tropes they’d have layered onto this had they made it any decade except this one. It was directed by William Wyler, who shot it very classically. The tension is in the situation. Watching her slowly try to figure out ways to escape, and his eerie calm throughout the film.
This is a movie you don’t want to miss. It’s one of the great thrillers you haven’t seen.
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Honorable Mention: A Charlie Brown Christmas
One of the essential viewings of the holiday season. The first Peanuts special to be made, and still the best thing they ever did. It’s an all-around classic that we can all basically quote from beginning to end.
Tell me this doesn’t make you happy:
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36 Hours — A great thriller. The Americans are planning D-Day and have been feeding the Germans false information, so that they expect the attack at another location. James Garner is an officer sent to confirm that the Germans are not on the trail of the real location. He is abducted and taken into Germany. When he wakes up, he’s in a hospital. He looks older, can’t see very well and doesn’t remember anything. He’s told it’s 1950, and Germany won the war. The doctors tell him they’re gonna try to get him to remember things from the period he doesn’t remember by doing memory exercises. What we find out is — none of this is true. The Germans are creating this entire facade to try to get him to reveal the actual landing spot for the invasion. So eventually it’s this match of wits — them trying to get the information out of him, and him (ultimately) trying to keep them off the trail long enough for the invasion to happen. It’s so good. Another movie that, in another year, would have been a top tenner for me. But instead, it has to settle for like, #12. Because I love it, but the year is just too strong. Either way, do yourself a favor and seek this movie out immediately.
The Cincinnati Kid — I love going over this one because I can sell it to you so easily. It’s The Hustler but with cards. Steve McQueen is an upstart poker player trying to take down Edward G. Robinson, the top dog in the game. It’s such a great movie. Directed by Norman Jewison (who would make In the Heat of the Night after this), it also has in it, aside from those two — Ann-Margret, Karl Malden, Tuesday Weld, Joan Blondell, Rip Torn, Jack Weston and Cab Calloway. Not only is it great, not only does it sound like a movie you want to see, but it’s also a movie real poker players consider to be one of the better poker movies out there. Sure, all of these movies have to have crazy hands in order be interesting — there’s gonna be a lot of full houses getting beat by four of a kinds and straight flushes, but that’s how it works. The movie’s great.
The Hill — Man, this year is just gem after gem after gem. Sidney Lumet directed this film. Does anyone even know what it is? The entire film is set at a British prison camp in Africa. Think POW movie meets Platoon. There’s the brutal sergeant and the nicer sergeant, and all the men are forced into extreme circumstances as both fight for power. Stars Sean Connery, Ian Hendry, Ian Bannen, Michael Redgrave, Harry Andrews, Ossie Davis and Roy Kinnear. It’s incredible. Highly recommended. One of the hidden gems of Sidney Lumet’s career. I can probably make a top ten list of just those.
Inside Daisy Clover — Great dark comedy. And when I say dark — the climax of the movie is a funny suicide attempt. Natalie Wood stars as a girl who grows up on a boardwalk in New Jersey with her mother, Ruth Gordon, who lives in a trailer and sells stuff on the boardwalk. She submits a demo tape (because she dreams of stardom), and actually ends up being signed to a Hollywood contract. Though as soon as she gets there, she sees the dark underbelly of Hollywood. They immediately change her look, give her an entirely fake background, prevent her from mentioning (and practically even talking to) her mother (who they put in an asylum to keep her quiet). She begins a romance with Robert Redford (a fellow up-and-comer), though he’s in the closet and mostly it’s for publicity. The whole thing is to show the dark side to Hollywood stardom. The more famous she becomes, the worse things get. It’s great. Directed by Robert Mulligan, who’s got a lot of nice gems on his resume past Mockingbird.
The Ipcress File — The first of the Harry Palmer films and the movie that made Michael Caine a star. If you like Cold War spy films, this is for you. It’s somewhere between a James Bond and a John le Carré. Not 100% serious and dramatic, but also not freewheeling and fun, either. It plays kind of like a mystery movie. Harry Palmer is a spy working for MI5, though not entirely willingly. He’s sent to investigate why a bunch of top British scientists have inexplicably left their jobs out of nowhere. It’s really great. It’s actually considered one of the best British films ever made. Caine made a trio of Palmer films. This one is the best. Funeral in Berlin is very good, and Billion Dollar Brain is also solid. This one will always be best though. If these kinds of movies are your thing, this is one not to be missed.
Pierrot le Fou — Love this movie. Might be my favorite Godard (though admittedly I have limited experience with his work at large) next to Breathless. It’s awesome. The movie is kind of the same broad plot as Breathless, but instead, it’s in color and there’s a lot more experimentation. It’s a very brash and bold film. Impossible to explain if you haven’t seen it. It’s like if you took Badlands, set it on the sets of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and made it like a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s nuts but it’s so memorable. It’s must-see, as far as Godard goes.
Shenandoah — Great Civil War movie about Jimmy Stewart as a patriarch trying to keep his family out of the war by not choosing a side, and the hardships he faces in doing so. Specifically when one of his sons is captured by Union soldiers and he has to go out and get him back. It’s a really fantastic movie. One of those movies I wasn’t expecting to like as much as I did.
The Shop on Main Street — This is a great movie. It’s a Czechoslovakian film about Nazi occupation. The Nazis take over and take over all the Jewish-run businesses. The film centers around one Czech man, who is sent to take over a seamstress’s shop. The old lady who runs it, Ida Kaminska, is near-senile and doesn’t really know the extent of what’s going on. She thinks he’s come to work for her. So they begin a weird little friendship. But eventually the day comes when the Nazis decide the Jews have to leave, and now the man is faced with a difficult decision, since he’s come to really like the old woman. It’s — a really terrific film with an incredibly heartbreaking lead performance by Kaminska. Do yourself a favor and see this movie immediately.
The Slender Thread — Sydney Pollack’s first movie. And it’s amazing. This is my #11 for the year and if the top ten weren’t as strong as it is, this would have for sure made it. It stars Sidney Poitier as a student working at a suicide hotline during the midnight shift. So pretty much all the calls he gets are drunk college kids and people who just want someone to talk to. However, he ends up getting a call from a woman (Anne Bancroft), who says she took a whole bunch of sleeping pills and is already dead and just wants someone to talk to on the way out. So Poitier has to keep her conscious and talking while he alerts his superiors, who alert the police, and then he has to get he to give him clues as to where she is so they can rescue her in time. It’s great. The entire film is basically Poitier and Bancroft’s interplay on the phone, and it’s riveting. This is a real gem, and I’m not even gonna make you see it. You’re either gonna do yourself the favor or you won’t. But man, is this a great movie.
A Thousand Clowns — Love this movie. Based on a play and basically forgotten now. Stars Jason Robards as a former TV writer for a kid’s show who quit. In the care of his nephew, he brings the kid out every morning to watch the parade of people leaving to go to work. He tells the kid they’re all suckers, that people who work are buying into a conformist system, as he gleefully collects unemployment insurance. However, when the kid starts espousing these values in his school essays, social workers are sent to check out the kid’s living environment. That’s when the hilarity ensues. Ultimately it’s about a dude who doesn’t want to work but also wants to keep his nephew and has to decide between the kid and responsibility. It’s fun.
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- The Agony and the Ecstasy
- Battle of the Bulge
- Bunny Lake Is Missing
- Cat Ballou
- How to Murder Your Wife
- The Greatest Story Ever Told
- In Harm’s Way
- A High Wind in Jamaica
- King Rat
- Lady L
- Mickey One
- The Naked Prey
- None But the Brave
- Promise Her Anything
- The Sandpiper
- Ship of Fools
- The Sons of Katie Elder
- Von Ryan’s Express
- What’s New, Pussycat?
Mickey One is a vastly underrated movie. Very 60s, and shot very surreally by Arthur Penn. It’s one of Warren Beatty’s more underrated films. The soundtrack of the film is incredible, and the way they shot it is absolutely amazing. Beatty plays a standup who has gotten himself in trouble with the mob. He flees to another city and takes a different name. He goes back on the stage, but is careful to not get too famous, lest someone come and recognize him. The entire film is a mix of the jaded life of a comedian and the paranoia of a man on the run. It’s like you walked into a crazy, 60s Kafka film. The climax of the movie is one of the greatest scenes I’ve ever seen — Beatty is sent on an audition and put in front of a brick wall with only a single, giant spotlight following him around the stage. And he has no idea if he’s gonna be killed or not. It’s one of the great scenes of all time and something that should be shown to every film student.
Speaking of vastly underrated — The Naked Prey is so dope. Cornel Wilde directed it and stars. It’s about a group of men on safari in Africa. They end up on the wrong side of the natives and most of the party ends up being slaughtered. Wilde, the guide, is the only one left alive. He’s given a chance to live by being put through a ritual — he’s sent, naked, into the bush, with a slight head start. The entire tribe stands behind an imaginary line, and a spear is thrown. Wilde is sent off running, and the tribe stays behind until Wilde reaches the spear. Then the first hunter is sent off after him. And when he reaches the spear, the next on is sent. And so on and so forth. So Wilde is running through the African jungle, completely naked, with armed natives chasing after him, and he has to survive. And the movie is awesome. It’s only 95 minutes, and I guarantee you that if I sat you down in a theater to watch this, you’ll be completely invested in it. It’s one of the great gems of the 60s and a movie you really should watch.
The Agony and the Ecstasy is a film about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, starring Charlton Heston. Going in, I’d have told you there was no way I’d be interested in the subject matter. But somehow, I found this fascinating. Maybe it’s Carol Reed’s direction, maybe it’s the lush production design and costumes. I have no idea. But this movie is really good. Even if you’re like me and you don’t like overly religious subject matter – this one works. It’s about an artist creating a work of art, and that’s really what’s important. Help! is the Beatles’ followup to A Hard Day’s Night. As an album, Help! has better songs. Though in terms of film quality, there’s no question. A Hard Day’s Night is the one. This one — fun. It’s in color, it’s got a crazy plot (a cult is trying to sacrifice Ringo), and there are more Beatles songs. Don’t try to make sense of it and go along for the ride and it’s fine. Don’t expect the greatness of their previous effort and you’ll get the most out of it.
In Harm’s Way is an Otto Preminger war film with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda. Need more? How about Patricia Neal, Dana Andrews, George Kennedy, Slim Pickens and Burgess Meredith? It’s about Navy officers in the wake of Pearl Harbor. It’s awesome. Absolutely awesome. One of the great war films of the 60s. Highly recommended. Battle of the Bulge is an epic war film. You know what it’s about, and you know the model. The 60s is the era of the epic war movie about specific battles. This one stars Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Pier Angeli. You know what you’re getting here.
Bunny Lake Is Missing is a great psychological thriller. I first heard about it about thirteen or fourteen years ago when they were gonna remake it with Reese Witherspoon starring. I’m glad they didn’t make that version, because there’s no way it would have been nearly as good as this film is. It’s about a woman who reports her daughter missing, but is met by severe doubt because it seems like there’s no actual evidence that the child existed in the first place. Pretty soon, even she isn’t sure what the truth is. Carol Lynley plays the mother, Keir Dullea plays her brother and Laurence Olivier plays the cop assigned to investigate the disappearance. It’s really good. And directed by Otto Preminger. One of the gems of the 60s. The Greatest Story Ever Told is basically the story of Jesus. Max von Sydow plays Jesus. The 60s Passion of the Christ. George Stevens directed it, and the cast is stacked: Carroll Baker, Victor Buono, Jose Ferrer, Van Heflin, Charlton Heston, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowall, Dorothy McGuire, Sal Mineo, Donald Pleasance, Sidney Poitier, Claude Rains, Telly Savalas, Joseph Schildkraut, Shelley Winters, Ed Wynn and a cameo by John Wayne as a soldier at the crucifixion. Between the director, the cast and Max von Sydow as Jesus, what’s not to like?
How to Murder Your Wife is a great, underrated rom com. Jack Lemmon is a cartoonist who creates these elaborate setups to prove that his character can do whatever he puts in his strip. One night, after getting too drunk at a party, he wakes up to find that he’s married an Italian woman who doesn’t speak a word of English. This upsets him, because he’s a confirmed bachelor. Pretty soon, he starts creating an elaborate scenario for his character where he murders his wife… It’s absolutely hilarious and really underseen. One of those gems that not enough people know about. The Sandpiper is a Vincente Minnelli film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She’s a single mother and he’s the headmaster at her son’s school. Romance, etc. You know the drill. Not overly well remembered, but I liked it. And it has a killer theme song, “The Shadow of Your Smile,” which won an Oscar. This is more of a gear up for their magnum opus together the year after this, Who’s Afraid of Virgnia Woolf?
A High Wind in Jamaica is an absolutely crazy movie. A couple of schoolchildren traveling to England for schooling are on a ship hijacked by pirates. And the pirates take them in and take a liking to them. So the kids end up hanging out with pirates for the rest of the movie. You’d think it’s some kind of Disney/Treasure Island kind of plot. That’s what I thought. But holy fuck. The third act of this movie takes some crazy turns. You really don’t expect this movie to go the way it does. And you kinda wonder why they did let it go that way (even if it’s based on a book). Anyway, Anthony Quinn and James Coburn play some of the pirates. Which is really what you wanted to hear. Lady L is an odd little comedy with Sophia Loren as a woman recounting the loves of her life. She begins as a washwoman in a brothel who falls in love with Paul Newman, an anarchist. They have a volatile relationship. Then David Niven, an aristocrat, turns up, and we see her choosing between both men. It’s one of those “I’ve lived a colorful life” comedies, with good actors and some fun stuff. Also written and directed by Peter Ustinov, which is cool.
The Sons of Katie Elder is a wonderful western. It was used as the template for the movie Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg some years back. John Wayne and Dean Martin star. Wayne is a gunman, Martin is a gambler, the third son is a salesman and the youngest is still in school. They reunite at their mother’s funeral and soon after find out that their father was murdered during a card game and was swindled out of the family ranch. So they set out to get revenge, all four brothers. The film also has George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, John Qualen and Strother Martin, in case you needed any more incentive to check it out. King Rat is a POW movie with George Segal as the guy in the camp who can get anything you want. Think William Holden in Stalag 17, though less of a comedy and he’s way more of a douchebag. It’s about him manipulating his way to the top of the camp. It’s fascinating. Also stars James Fox, Tom Courtenay, Denholm Elliott and John Mills. Directed by Bryan Forbes, who made a few gems throughout his career (The L-Shaped Room, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The Whisperers, and even The Stepford Wives).
Promise Her Anything is a rom com with Warren Beatty and Leslie Caron, directed by Arthur Hiller. She’s a widow with a child, and he’s a wannabe filmmaker who shoots pornos in his apartment. She decides to marry a doctor, but the guy hates kids, so for the time being she decides to keep the baby a secret, leaving him with Beatty while she’s in her apartment with the doctor. Little does she know, Beatty’s using the baby in his pornos. And hilarity ensues. It’s very 60s, and a lot of fun. Not great, but definitely of its era. Ship of Fools is an ensemble drama about a bunch of people on a ship headed for Nazi Germany in the pre-World War II days. It’s mostly about each of the passengers’ lives, cutting back and forth. The main story is Oskar Werner as the ship’s doctor and Simone Signoret as a drug-addicted countess who begin a romance. Also a nice performance by Vivien Leigh, in her final screen role. She plays a divorcée trying to recapture her youth. Overall, it’s too long and just too much in general, but it has its moments. Plus ensemble cast movies are usually somewhat interesting.
None But the Brave is the only movie Frank Sinatra directed. To his credit, he doesn’t star in it. He’s there, but it’s a very small role compared to what you’d expect. The film begins with a bunch of Japanese soldiers stranded on an island. The first twenty minutes or so is almost entirely the Japanese. They try to build a boat to get off the island. Then an American plane is shot down on the island, leading to an initial standoff between the two sides and an eventual, uneasy truce, as they try to work together without bloodshed. It’s a really surprisingly solid movie. Nothing amazing, but way better than I expected. And definitely not what I thought I was getting out of Sinatra the director. I feel like this is a cult classic type movie, that has an audience waiting for it if only they were able to uncover it. Von Ryan’s Express is a POW escape movie starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard. They escape onto a train and the film is about they trying to get to safety. It’s fantastic.
What’s New, Pussycat? is one of the weirdest comedies I’ve seen. It doesn’t fully work, but I love it because of all the crazy stories surrounding its production and the hodgepodge of people who are in it. First, it was based on an idea by Warren Beatty, who wanted to make a comedy about sex addiction (wonder why). The title came from what Beatty would say to women when talking to them on the phone. Then Beatty, seeing Woody Allen do standup at a club, hired him to write the script. Which he did, provided he could be in it. Pretty soon, Allen kept writing up his role and writing down Beatty’s, causing Beatty to leave the movie. Major rewrites occur, and now we’re left with a finished product that stars Peter O’Toole as a womanizing doctor trying to be faithful to his fiancée, despite the fact that every woman he meets falls in love with him. It also stars Woody Allen, in what is basically the Woody Allen role you’d come to expect from him. Though since this is a sex farce, it’s way creepier than you’d ever want it to be. And it stars Peter Sellers as O’Toole’s analyst. And the theme song is sung by Tom Jones. It’s the craziest cast of people you’d ever expect out of a sex farce. The film itself is amusing, but I’m just fascinated by the cast. I have no idea how this movie happened.
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