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.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

1966: The Chase, Hurry Sundown, Harper ...

Here's 3 big dramas from that terrific year 1966 - see previous posts below. I didn't see either THE CHASE or HURRY SUNDOWN (filmed in 1966, released here early 1967) at the time, but remember liking HARPER or THE MOVING TARGET as it was called here, with Paul Newman as Ross McDonald's laconic private eye, with 4 terrific dames in tow (Bacall, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Shelley Winters). First though, Penn's riveting THE CHASE, a Sam Spiegel production for Columbia, scripted by Lillian Hellman from Horton Foote's story - add in a powerhouse cast and a John Barry score and watch sparks fly ...

The moral foundation of a small Texas town is torn apart in this explosive drama about power and greed. Sheriff Calder isn't the only person chasing Bubber Reeves when he escapes from prison. Oil and cattle baron Val Rogers wants Bubber out of the way to cover up the love affair between his son Jake and Bubber's wife Anna. THE CHASE is on. When bigotry and booze propel the townsfolk into a vigilante mob, Calder's wife tries to convince her husband that he doesn't have to bring Bubber in alive. But the sheriff is fighting for justice and he won't be stopped until the shattering climax. No one escapes untouched in acclaimed director Arthur Penn's action-packed drama. 

That about sums it up .... the stunning cast here comprises Brando in one of his better '60s roles (he was back in the deep south the next year in Huston's REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, in a totally different role and milieu... as we will discover in due course), with Angie Dickinson terrific as ever as his wife. Brando has another great scene where he is beaten up (as in ONE EYED JACKS); the town bullies are a venal mob fuelled by booze and their dissatisfied wives - Martha Hyer is terrific as a drunk, and Janice Rule scores too. Miriam Hopkins has some good moments as Bubber's mother, E.G. Marshall is the local Mr Big with Robert Duvall an employee. At the centre of the film though are a terrific trio: young Robert Redford as blighted golden boy Bubber, Jane Fonda in one of her better roles as his wife, having a long romance with Jake, - James Fox, surprisingly effective in this milieu, after his roles in THE SERVANT and KING RAT (see below). 
The core of the film is the meeting of this trio at the local junkyard before the mob turn up .... the drunken violence that escalates is brilliantly depicted by Penn - who of course went on to BONNIE & CLYDE next. I don't know why I didn't see this at the time, I would have enjoyed it a lot, with that cast - but its certainly worth seeing now. For a 1966 film it also prefigures those political assassinations in 1968 - as one just knows what is going to happen as Bubber is being brought in. The portrayal of small-town bigotry, duplicity, jealousy, betrayal, and infidelity is well-done, with great scope and colour, and the spectacular junkyard climax is a chilling finale.... the ironic aftermath shows the Sheriff and his wife leaving town, which is certainly a circle of hell as depicted here.  THE CHASE aims for significance and I think achieves it, a key mid-'60s American film, whereas HURRY SUNDOWN falls flat on its face, a hilariously awful cartoon ...
Jane Fonda was back down south in Otto Preminger's production HURRY SUNDOWN, which is a prime slice of southern trash now. This is a much reviled film and finally seeing it one can see why .... as in THE CHASE the 'n' word is used a lot (as of course was 'fag' in those movies like THE LOVE MACHINE). This though is a lurid potboiler with all the usual Preminger finesse, which Horton Foote also had a hand in writing. Otto is a curious case, after his '40s classics like LAURA and his "interesting" '50s films like CARMEN JONES he seemed to hit his peak for me with ANATOMY OF A MURDER and ADVISE AND CONSENT (review at gay interest label) (I missed and never cared for EXODUS) while THE CARDINAL was more tedious histrionics (but at least had Romy Schneider) .... I still have one of his last and reputed worst SKIDOO to see, some rainy day, or snowy night by the fire ...

The dramatics on show here play like a demented comedy now as we watch Alfie and Barbarella and her blonde angel with Bonnie Parker ... Michael Caine is the hissable cartoon villain and Jane Fonda is wasted as his wife, apart from that scene with the saxaphone! are the rich folk, while John Philip Law in dungarees and Faye Dunaway in her first main role are the dirt poor relatives on that plot of land which Caine just has to get for the evil company who wants it and the neighbouring plot by poor but honest black folk Robert Hooks and his soon-to-expire mother, Beah Richards, who was Fonda's Mammy. Sassy Diahann Carroll is soon on their side as unscrupulous Caine will stop at nothing, not even that Southern accent of his!
This is comedy drama with broad brushstrokes as the whites are depicted as venal and corrupt and bigoted, and the blacks are all noble salts of the earth .... Burgess Meredith chews scenery as a corrupt judge with Jim Backus on the side of the good folk, while George Kennedy is the sleazy local chief of police, fond of getting down with the coloured folks, and Madeleine Sherwood reprises her Sisterwoman from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Fonda finally comes to her senses and leaves her snivelling husband who has one more ace up his sleeve in flooding the land .... while Law and Dunaway share their passion on his return from combat overseas - this is all supposed to be 1945 but hardly looks it. HURRY SUNDOWN is a delicious piece of southern fried trash then - one should ask friends around and serve appropriate food and drink and howl along with it .... particularly when Caine is in full panto villain mode ...

HARPER: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband. Jack Smight's 1966 thriller is still a nifty piece of cinema catching Newman in his prime - remember how he retrieves yesterday's coffee grounds from the trashcan to make some more coffee, as the credits unroll?. This time the in-joke is that it is Lauren Bacall as the rich dame who hires him to solve the case (she played the daughter of General Sherwood who hires Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP), Janet Leigh is effective as his ex-wife frying those eggs, Shelley Winters is the ex-child movie star "who got fat", and best of all, Julie Harris as the junkie jazz singer singing that song "Living Alone", words by Dory and music by Andre Previn (they also did "You're Gonna Hear From Me" from that year's INSIDE DAISY CLOVER (Natalie Wood label), another Warner biggie then. 
Add in Robert Wagner, Rober Webber, Strother Martin and sizzling young Pamela Tiffin and the scene is set for a tightly-plotted detective scenario. Smight of course went on to the delicious NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (Remick label). Newman is in his prime here after HUD and went on to LADY L with Loren, and COOL HAND LUKE, and of course had done TORN CURTAIN with Julie Andrews for Hitch ...the one Hitch movie I had no interest in seeing. Good to see him here with marvellous Julie Harris (see Harris label), he had tested for EAST OF EDEN, as per those tests with James Dean. Nice also to see Jacqueline De Wit again (the fearsome Mona Plash in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, Rock Hudson label).
HARPER is still a terrific movie with a great cast in their prime, even for non-Newman devotees like me, and catches that mid-'60s vibe nicely (where Americans were growing Beatle haircuts and dancing the frug) like the next year's IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Photographed by Conrad Hall with a cool score by Johnny Mandel.

Next 60s: SHIP OF FOOLS, THE COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, and more Deep South shenanigans with REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, TOYS IN THE ATTIC and SUMMER AND SMOKE, and Lumet's THE SEAGULL and THE DEADLY AFFAIR - '60s dramas at their best then.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

1965 - Marie Chantal & King Rat

A detour from 1966 to a treat from 1965 which I just had to see right away: Claude Chabrol's MARIE CHANTAL VS DR KHA - thanks Jerry!, plus Bryan Forbes' KING RAT, not seen since 1965 ...
Dr Kha (Akim Tamiroff hamming it up) the evil mastermind sends out his minions, including the slinky Olga (Stephane Audran) to obtain the jewelled panther with ruby eyes which actually contains a virus that could wipe out all of mankind!  The man carrying the ornament knows he is being followed and strikes up conversation on a train to a ski-ing resort with the madcap Marie Chantal (Marie Laforet) travelling with her cousin and a mysterious stranger (Francisco Rabal) and persuades her to take the panther and hide it for him ...... there is derring-do on the train, and also in Switzerland on the ski-slopes. He gets killed of course and Marie Chantal realises she is in danger, but she is a resourceful girl and runs rings around all the others. We then head off to Morocco, with more danger in the souks ... Olga does her best to get the panther and faces the wrath of Dr Kha - Marie Chantal though takes the rubies from the panther and turns them into ear-rings! - so the actual panther is now worthless as the precious virus is stored in the rubies ! Finally she confronts the evil mastermind .... who will emerge triumphant ?
This is delirious fun - a comedy thriller by Chabrol, up there with the best of them, like his ROUTE TO CORINTH, another bright comedy thriller set in Greece with Seberg and Ronet in 1967, and like De Broca's L'HOMME DE RIO which did for Brazil what Chabrol does for Morocco here, with the perfect duo of Belmondo and Dorleac (French label). It is also rather like what Losey was trying to achieve in MODESTY BLAISE with his heroine (Vitti) outwitting the bad guys, and it is all very Austin Powers ... and the Moroccan backgrounds are even better than in MAROC 7 or DUFFY (60s labels)...
The attraction for me are 2 stunning French actresses - I was transfixed by Marie Laforet since I first saw Rene Clements' PLEIN SOLEIL as a child (see label), she is the original Marge, and looks as perfect as Delon, she also sings, in a French folk style - I have some of her albums and downloads. 
She has one of those perfect angular faces - then there is Audran, as cool and delicious as ever, just as she and Chabrol began that marvellous series of films in the late '60s (like LA FEMME INFIDELE, review at Audran label). Serge Reggiani, Charles Denner and Roger Hanin are also involved in this delirious spy spoof, which is a joy to see now. Chabrol himself puts in an appearance too ... This is really a "pulpy" genre item like the Eurospy Bond spoof (like DANGER DIABOLIK) filtered through Chabrol's arty sensibilities (as Losey was doing at the same time with MODESTY). For an arty Eurospy movie with a strong female lead MARIE CHANTAL is just the ticket, and an interesting addition to the Chabrol boxsets ... I will be looking forward to visiting Marie Chantal again before too long ...

Now for something completely different: KING RAT, from the James Clavell novel, set in Changi prison in 1945. This is not a GREAT ESCAPE kind of prison where everyone looks well fed - the heat and humidity are well conveyed in the black and white photography - and as in the same year's other war movie Lumet's THE HILL a terrific cast of army types is assembled. Bryan Forbes directs and keeps us engrossed. It is one of the few war films to depict the conflict in the East, like A TOWN LIKE ALICE or THE LONG AND THE SHORT AND THE TALL ...

When Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 the Allied POWs, mostly British but including a few Americans, were incarcerated in Changi prison. This was a POW detention center like no other. Included among the prisoners is the American Cpl. King, a wheeler dealer who has managed to established a pretty good life for himself in the camp. While most of the prisoners are near starvation and have uniforms that are in tatters, King eats well and and has crisp clean clothes to wear every day. His nemesis is Lt. Robin Grey, the camp Provost who attempts to keep good order and discipline. He knows that King is breaking camp rules by bartering with the Japanese but can't quite get the evidence he needs to stop him. King soon forms a friendship with Lt. Peter Marlowe an upper class British officer who is fascinated with King's élan and no rules approach to life. As the story develops, it reveals the hypocrisy of the British class system and for King, the fact that his position in Changi's "society" is tenuous as best.
George Segal is ideal as King, as are James Fox as Marlowe (whom King practically seduces with a fried egg first time we see him), while Tom Courtenay seethes with rage at being unable to pin a charge on King. Add in John Mills, James Donald, Alan Webb, Denholm Elliott, Leonard Rossiter, John Standing etc ... King is a cynical huster/wheeler-dealer, while the British officers try to maintain civilised behaviour and standards in a pitiless world.
KING RAT now seems a very under-rated almost forgotten '60s film, odd as Segal, Fox and Courtenay were leading lights at the time, and Forbes had several successes (SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND, THE L-SHAPED ROOM and went on to THE WHISPERERS, THE WRONG BOX, THE STEPFORD WIVES etc, but somehow it was Losey, Schlesinger and Lester who were the critics' darlings - with THE KNACK winning best film at Cannes - I liked it but did not think it was that good!  KING RAT though is fascinating to see now, the outcome and final scene between King and Marlowe being quite affecting ... Courtenay of course also had his Losey moment with Bogarde in 1964's  KING AND COUNTRY, I must one of the few to have seen that rarity! Fox and Courtenay had of course already played in the 1962 LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, Tony Richardson's downbeat drama from another Alan Sillitoe story, where resentful borstal boy Courtenay throws the race to spite his governor Michael Redgrave, Fox is the boy from the posh school who therefore wins ... According to Fox's biography KING RAT was made in Hollywood, and they were all on special diets to look suitably emaciated ....

Next 1965 item: the also little-seen now Kramer extravaganza SHIP OF FOOLS where Simone Signoret, Vivien Leigh (her last fiilm), Oscar Werner, Lee Marvin, and Segal again all deliver powerful performances ...

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

1966 - an anti-smoking ad !

Everyone smoked in 1966, or so it seemed. I tried it myself but thankfully never got hooked, and being a pretentious young movie buff, the brand I had to be seen with was those French Gauloises or cool Menthol, trendy or what? ..... here is an amusing ad from the back page of a 1966 "Films & Filming" magazine .... I hope it got some to give up that disgusting habit .... and buy a nice record player instead ! (you may need a magnifying glass to read the text...)


What a year - surely the best, the apogee of the 1960s ? (though 1960, 1962, 1968 are pretty terrific too ...). I was there at the time, all of 20 and fairly new in London - seeing all these on cinema screens, including several of my favourite movies:

Antonioni - BLOW-UP (though it was actually 1967 when it opened in London)
Losey - MODESTY BLAISE (I saw Dirk with Rosella Falk on his arm at the premiere, but no Monica!)
Lelouch - UN HOMME ET UNE FEMME - these were favourite soundtracks too per previous posts on these. while THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE was being filmed over in Hollywood ...

It was a year of several major arthouse movies, plus big American hits too as the new American cinema was getting underway (BONNIE & CLYDE would be next year in 1967...), and lots of in-between stuff. Looking back now it seems there was not that much distinction between highbrow stuff and movies at one's local cinema. We had lots of cinemas catering to all tastes with lots of crossovers. How about this lot:

Arthouse biggies:

Bergman - PERSONA / Bresson - AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (French label) / Welles - CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT / Kadar - THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (An Oscar contender) / Pontecorvo - BATTLE OF ALGIERS / Tarkovsky - ANDREI RUBLEV / Menzel - CLOSELY OBSERVED TRAINS / Malle - VIVA MARIA (my pal Mike and I went to that; the cinema, The Curzon Mayfair, where I was recently, was sold out!) / Polanski - CUL DE SAC.

American biggies: 

Nichols - WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? / Preminger - HURRY SUNDOWN  / Penn - THE CHASE / Smight - HARPER (THE MOVING TARGET) - reviews of these 3 coming up soon.
Us young folk also loved Coppola's first feature YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW, as per review here, 1966 label ... ditto Lumet's THE GROUP.

Best of British:

Narizzano - GEORGY GIRL / Reisz - MORGAN A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT / Davis - I WAS HAPPY HERE (filmed in Ireland in '65, see frequent posts at Sarah Miles label) / Gilbert - ALFIE / Zinnemann - A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.


Less than successful:

Hitchcock - TORN CURTAIN (I never wanted to see it, but might sometime) / Frankenheimer: GRAND PRIX / Truffaut - FAHRENHEIT 451 (even Julie playing two roles could not make this something I'd want to see again) / Chaplin - THE COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG - I must have another look at this Loren, not seen since then, Chaplin's film was just so old-fashioned then, I remember being in the crowd at the premiere, seeing Brando and the Chaplin family arrive, no Sophia though! ... / Hill - HAWAII, and Dassin's 10/30 PM SUMMER despite the magic trio of Mercouri, Finch and Romy Schneider playing Duras. 


Something for everyone, and a lot for young movie buffs such as I was .... yes, a good year to be 20 in a swinging city ! We saw the popular stuff on general release at our local Odeon or ABC, and ventured uptown for the more highbrow stuff ... but movies were movies then, one wanted to see them all. I had turned 20 and was finding my feet in the swinging city, having spent 1964 and 1965 on my own in North London. Now I had friends and was moving, first to Baywater where I could walk up to Notting Hill for their Classic cinema late shows; then to West Kensington, near to the block where Julie Christie lived, and then down to Clapham for the first of flat-shares with my best friend, Stan. I was now a South London boy .....
It was also a good theatre year, (as well as the World Cup British win which I saw on black and white tv), seeing the young Streisand in FUNNY GIRL on stage from the front row, and that terrific Robert Stephens ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN at the Old Vic.This was also my 'stage door year', where I had a lovely conversation with Jane Merrow (her boyfriend David Hemmings was filming BLOW-UP at the time), as well as the likes of Glynis Johns, Sheila Hancock, Michael Crawford etc. Miss Streisand proved more elusive though - we (my best friend Stan also tried) just could not pin her down, though her co-star Kay Medford proved more amenable ...

Monday, 22 April 2013

1966: Blow-Up people .....

I am starting a major retrospective on 1966 - that great year, maybe the best of the '60s (thoug'h '60, '62, '68 are pretty good too ...), here's a few scenes from Antonioni's BLOW-UP, not only a key movie for me, but for that swinging decade, to set the scene .... (next: 3 big American ones from '66: THE CHASE, HURRY SUNDOWN, HARPER).

Meanwhile, back to the park, the junk shop, that studio, Verushka and those models, the restaurant, the stoned party, the Yardbirds playing in the club, and another Antonioni dawn back at the park ... and those players in their prime: David, Vanessa, Sarah, and John Castle (who was also in THE LION IN WINTER and other goodies).  Watch the film, play the soundtrack .... use labels to bring up previous posts ... its the landscapes of London that fascinate here too, the new office buildings, Hemmings in his car with the two way radio (before cellphones!), the propellor, the painted streets and park, and "queers moving in with their poodle", "Nepal is ALL antiques" and "I AM in Paris"! The back of those buildings we see from the park is very evocative of that London too ...
The "Hollywood UK"  BBC tv series (TV label) has footage of the park as it looks now - Maryon Park, Woolwich, as well as interviews with Hemmings and Redgrave commenting on the film and how  Antonioni directed them.  
Above: Antonioni with Natalie Wood, plus Hemmings & Redgrave at the film's first screening in USA in Dec 1966, from David Hemmings book.

How they change - me actually ...

If it does not seem too narcissistic to posts photos of oneself (well, they do on Facebook all the time) ...

1950s - left - that idyllic childhood in Ireland.

1960s - right - London  boy

we did the hippie look, the long hair, the beads, beards in the '70s, moustaches in the '80s, letting it go gray in the 90s, cropping it back in the 2000s ... 
click images to enlarge.

A room in Chelsea: Draycott Place, SW3, 1972 - above
Milan, 1974 - above

Greece, 1978 - right
left: East (or West?) Wittering, Sussex, 1974.

 A farmhouse holiday in Wales, 1975 - above



 Paris, 1995 - above



  Back to Clapham Common, 1967, .... below, right
  with it all ahead of him.