Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

3 late '60s treats ...

Let's stay with the '60s a bit longer ... that late '60s era had some great little (often low-budget) movies, some of which are nowhere to be seen now. Movies did not have to open big then but often built up word of mouth (HAROLD AND MAUDE, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE - review at gay interest label, or the delicious NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY - Lee Remick label, and the plethora of cinemas (busy local cinemas, revival houses) in that pre-video age meant there was a wide choice available. It was good for the actors too as they could move from movie to movie - big or small - (like Michael York for instance) without the risk of being associated with a flop.  Here are 3 I like:


When a mentally disturbed young man new in town tells a pretty girl that he's a secret agent, she believes him, and murder and mayhem ensue. She turns out to be more psychotic than he is....
After PSYCHO Tony Perkins had a good stint in Europe - those films with Bergman, Mercouri, Loren, Bardot, Welles' THE TRIAL (there's one to re-see!) and some with Chabrol (review of GOODBYE AGAIN at Ingrid Bergman label). Back in America in 1968 PRETTY POISON is his single finest, gently nuanced and most sympathetic post-PSYCHO role, he plays a formerly institutionalized dreamer (or loony neurotic) who meets his match in Tuesday Weld’s secretly warped girl-next-door high school princess. Quickly engaging in spy games that are very real to him, and a fun small-town diversion for her, the two mesh into a heaven-sent couple — until the real world starts to encroach on a deadly scale. 
This brilliant post-noir study from 1968 directed by Noel Black, is a psychological black comedy featuring finely-tuned performances from every single member of its cast, from its small supporting players all the way to Weld’s iconic psychopath - we can see she too would have been an ideal Bonnie Parker (and had been the first choice for Beatty's film). There is that chilling scene where she gleefully shoots her mother (Beverely Garland) who has been spoiling her fun .... Perkins is ideal as the dreamer who is soon out of his depth. Tuesday has always been mesmerising ever since WILD IN THE COUNTRY with Elvis or even earlier ....


During summer vacation on Fire Island, 3 teenagers - a girl and two guys in thrall to her - become so close that they form a sort-of threesome. When an uncool girl tries to infiltrate the trio's newly found relationship, they construct an elaborate plot that has violent results.
This 1969 drama from a novel by Evan Hunter is a vivid memory, though I have not seen it since then.  Frank and Eleanor Perry’s LAST SUMMER is surely one of the lost gems of American cinema, and a perfect 1969 film, which resonated a lot with me in my early 20s

Frank Perry is probably best known today as the helmer of that trash classic MOMMIE DEAREST but the first decade of his career – from DAVID AND LISA in 1962 to DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE in 1970 – in which he collaborated with his then-screenwriter-wife Eleanor, represents an amazing run of unusually sensitive, offbeat and mesmerizing films. 

LAST SUMMER is a coming-of-age film about three teenagers -- Sandy (Barbara Hershey), Peter (Richard Thomas), and Dan (Bruce Davison) – who befriend each other one summer in a beachside community, just as they’re discovering the awesome power of their own sexuality. The story plays out as a series of games these characters play with each other and with others; their made-up world of cruel games only reinforced by the isolation around them. Then Rhoda (Catherine Burns) arrives - a plump, precocious and troubled young girl who seems a lot wiser than these kids but also, perhaps, more trusting: when she chooses to play their truth game, she opens up in a way none of the others ever have. As in LORD OF THE FLIES with its cruel games, things move to a shocking climax, as Peter, the one we identify with, realises they have gone too far. The 4 leads are all astonishing - we should have seen a lot more of Catherine Burns. Barbara Hershey of course changed her name to Barbara Seagull, in tribute to the gull that gets killed here.  Davidson had some good later roles as in LONGTIME COMPANION, while Thomas went into THE WALTONS!


Another perfectly 1969 movie, the first directed by Alan J Pakula, and Liza Minnelli's first leading role, for which she was nominated as best actress - if only for that stunning telephone scene. (She also did Otto Preminger's TELL ME YOU LOVE ME JUNIE MOON that year but that farrago quickly sank without trace). THE STERILE CUCKOO was titled POOKIE here, Liza plays Pookie Adams, another of those kooky, lonely misfits with no family and no place to go. She calls all those she does not like "weirdos," and clings to a quiet studious Jerry (Wendall Burton) at a nearly university; he though has the ability to make friends and has to decide whether to live in Pookie's private little world or be part of the society that Pookie rejects. She is one of those girls who do not let go ...
Pookie is of course another damaged girl (like Sally Bowles) needing her father's love but not getting it. Both leads are ideal here and there are some amusng scenes, like Pookie promising to be quiet for the weekend if she can stay with Jerry while he studies, but of course she is not able to. There is a terrific song too "Come Saturday Morning" penned I think by Dory Previn, which perfectly captures the mood and that late '60s feeling. Liza would have to wait for CABARET 3 years later in 1972 for her Award, 1969 was after all Maggie Smith's year. ... POOKIE (sorry, THE STERILE CUCKOO) is a fascinating discovery now. Pakula of course had astonishing rapport with his actresses - just think Jane Fonda in KLUTE. It is quite a timeless story really and would resonate just as much as teenagers today - as I see my own nephew setting off to start his University years ...
Soon: some other '60s oddities: LORD LOVE A DUCK (more Tuesday Weld!) and Tony Richardson's all-star THE LOVED ONE - both on their way to me - but where is Roz Russell's extravaganza OH DAD POOR DAD MAMMA'S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELING SO SAD ?

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