Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - Films from Fifty Years Ago ""

Monday, June 15, 2015

Underrated '65 - Films from Fifty Years Ago

I have a very conflicted relationship with the films of the 1960s on the whole. While there's some great cinema to be found throughout the decade, it also contains a lot of hippies. Now I enjoy a good story with counterculture characters and a progressive point of view, but sometimes I find the portrayal of hippies in 60s films to be nearly unbearable. Not sure why this is the case. I can watch much older movies and they don't seem nearly as dated to me as films with hippie characters in them. It's a weird hangup and maybe it's just that I've gotten cynical as I've grown older, but their attitudes and beliefs often seem obnoxious to me now. Regardless of all that, hippies can often been quaint and enjoyable in small doses in a lot of these movies. You don't see them quite as much in films until the later 1960s, so it's not quite as much of an issue. All that crap aside, there were some pretty spectacular movies that came out fifty years ago. Lots of films with young directors making their early films which might function as gateways to bigger things. Here are some of my favorites that don't get enough attention:

MIRAGE (1965; Eward Dmytryk)
NORTH BY NORTHWEST gets plenty of attention, but MIRAGE is a solid Hitchcockian thriller not made by the master of suspense. It's got a lot less humor to it, but it still has a great paranoid vibe and a killer cast of bad guys.

A THOUSAND CLOWNS (1965; Fred Coe)
A former TV writer lives an eccentric life of work avoidance with his 12 year old nephew. When social services comes after him, he may be forced to get a job and live a more conventional hum-drum life. Jason Robards is utterly delightful in this film and it really resonated with me when I saw it for the first time a few years back. Hoping it'll get a Blu-ray from Twilight Time or Kino Lorber Studio Classics at some point.

THE KNACK...AND HOW TO GET IT (1965; Richard Lester)
This film was Richard Lester's follow-up to A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (he also made HELP! in 1965). It is a story of swinging London and a sexual conquest competition between three roommates. One of them is a reserved nerdly type played by Michael Crawford (CONDORMAN). Fun, energetic Black & White farce.

THE NAKED PREY (1965; Cornel Wilde)
Cornel Wilde stars in and directs this raw and dangerous tale of a man on the run from cannibals. It's sort of a "Most Dangerous Game" kinda thing. Much of the movie plays out with little to no dialogue. Just a whole lotta running. Wilde was 53 years old when he put himself through this. Powerful stuff and a film in need of a Criterion Blu-ray upgrade.

MICKEY ONE  (1965; Arthur Penn)
Kafka-esque, paranoid, surreal noir drama from director Arthur Penn ( a few years before he broke through with BONNIE AND CLYDE). Features kaleidoscopic visuals, philosopical elements and an excellent improvisational jazz score by Stan Getz. Simply fascinating. Not the kind of film you'd expect to star Warren Beatty, which is part of its charm.

HAVING A WILD WEEKEND (1965; John Boorman)
The Dave Clark 5 have quite the swinging pad in HAVING A WILD WEEKEND. It even had a trampoline, which is used several times to fun effect. Overall, the film isn't quite as energetic and frenetic as A HARD DAYS NIGHT, but it still moves along at a good clip, has some interestingly edited bits and features some undeniably catchy tunes by the band themselves. It is certainly more poignant than HARD DAYS though. The "plot" is odd but memorable in that it centers around the boys (of the band) who are working a short stint as stuntmen in commercials for this "Meat Counsel" whose goal is to brand and continue a series of print and TV ads to sell more meat to the public. This was John Boorman's first feature and the thing that lead Lee Marvin to selecting him to direct POINT BLANK.

THAT DARN CAT! (1965; Robert Stevenson)
When I was a kid, we lived on live-action Disney movies. We saw everything they ever put out on VHS. I developed a crush on Hayley Mills pretty early on and so her movies often found their way into our rental stack again and again. I must have watched this film a ton because upon a recent revisit I found myself remembering much of the dialogue (and I haven't seen the film for 2o years)! One thing that stood out this time is how fantastic the supporting cast of the film is. I mean you've got Frank Gorshin and Neville Brand as bank robbers, Roddy McDowall as a pompous pigeon-keeping yuppie plus Elsa Lanchester and 
the great William Demarest as nosy next-door neighbors. This is a delightful movie and one that ended up having an enjoyable remake as well (with a script but Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander). Also - Dorothy Provine is in this, another of my Disney actress crushes.

TWO ON A GUILLOTINE (1965; William Conrad)
The presence of Dean Jones in this one makes me want to think of it as a Disney movie, but it's a bit edgier than anything they were making around this time (years later they'd enter this territory with WATCHER IN THE WOODS though). It's like Disney by way of William Castle. The basic plot is that a young girl (Connie Stevens), estranged from her eccentric magician father (Cesar Romero), comes home to attend his funeral and finds that he's left her some things in his will. It has one odd provision though: she must stay for seven days and nights by herself in her fathers creepy old mansion. The house is filled with lots of dark corners and lots of weird magician's toys and gadgets (including a guillotine with a sinister backstory). It's all very Scooby-Doo, which is I'm sure part of its appeal for me. Plus, I kinda love this kitschy tagline from the poster:
"Attention: Guillotine-agers! Wouldn't you like to learn how to flip your lid? If you're chopping for for entertainment, here's the super-shocker of them all."
Directed by William "Cannon" Conrad.

OPERATION CROSSBOW (1965; Michael Anderson)
A British WWII spy-thriller with George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard and Tom Courtenay? Okay, I'm interested. Co-written by Emeric Pressburger you say? Go on please. Directed by the guy who did ORCA, LOGAN'S RUN and DOC SAVAGE: MAN OF BRONZE? Alright, you've sold me.

Two with Jerry Lewis:

BOEING, BOEING (1965; John Rich) 
Starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis, this one is based on a French stage play. It's the farcical tale of a man (Lewis) who goes to visit his womanizing journalist buddy (Curtis) who has a swanky bachelor pad in Paris. During this particular visit, the womanizer's ingenious plan to be engaged to a trio of stewardesses suddenly comes to a wacky climax when all three gals end up in town on the same day. Crass and imbued with a very 1960s sense of male chauvinism, this one is an interesting and occasionally hilarious artifact of its time. Thelma Ritter saves it a lot. Interestingly, this was the last movie that Paramount made with Jerry Lewis.

THE FAMILY JEWELS (1965; Jerry Lewis)
Lewis himself directed this one and played seven (!) roles in it!  A young girl inherits $30 million and must choose between one of her six uncles (all played by Lewis) to become her new dad. It's a wacky little showcase for Jerry as he pulls out all the stops in his portrayals of all these oddballs. Cute and very kiddie. 

1 comment:

kenter canyon said...

America was having it's cinematic arse kicked in the early 1960s. My favorite anecdote about the time period comes from Bogdanovich who was still interviewing aging studio era directors when he somehow got around to Norman Taroug, who's ecareer reached back into the silent era but was left to direct Elvis movies and beach-blanket fare in his later days. He was making plans to meet when Norman said something about how his driver would pick one of them up, and Peter B said, "oh, it must be nice to have a driver...." and Taroug told him it was not "nice" it was necessary as he was nearly totally blind by that point. So yeah, the studios were still trying sputter along on a system so outmoded that BLIND directors were getting to make movies while those with the pulse of the day were struggling to make exploitation films to get a foot in the door. (Meanwhile, in places like Czechoslovakia, the entire state for a brief shining moment aligned behind art pictures and was beginning to fully enjoy the fruit of a great independently organized film school, and with access to studio infrastructure built by the Nazis as a refuge from bombing campaign runnier wartime Germany. As fun as these films are, and you have a decent list here I suppose, these movies are fourth tier at best compared to the cinema of so many other nations.