Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - Luke Goodsell ""

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Underrated '65 - Luke Goodsell

Luke Goodsell is a freelance film editor and writer at Empire, Flaunt, MIFF, Movie Mezzanine and various disreputable places, but more importantly makes the tumblr He’s on twitter at @timebombtown.

Inside Daisy Clover (Robert Mulligan, 1965)—As Millie and Brian said, the '60s are an odd stretch for American cinema. With so much attention on the divide between lumbering epics and "youth culture" movies, it's easy to overlook the mid-range studio product that's often just as fascinating. Inside Daisy Clover feels rarely mentioned when it comes to dark showbiz dramas (one of my fave genres), which is pretty surprising. Natalie Wood's at the peak of her tough/vulnerable power as a stargazing tomboy singer who gets her big break only to become a puppet of the entertainment industrial complex, with Christopher Plummer as her controlling svengali Swan (was Brian De Palma a fan?) and a young Robert Redford as a fellow cog in the pop machine who's positively (for the time) played as bisexual. There's more than a dash of Mulholland Dr.(Wood's harrowing breakdown in the recording booth), a hint of Showgirls' nastiness and a helping of Robert Aldrich's actresses-in-peril, and no-one's more vibrant—or heartbreaking—to watch than Wood in this period. To this date, every time I walk out of a bad party I picture her skipping along the beach, her old house and life exploding behind her in a ball of flames.

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (Joseph Cates, 1965)—Speaking of tearjerkerRebel Without a Cause alums, this super-sleazy murder-thriller gives Sal Mineo one of his best roles post his '50s heartthrob moment—but sadly seems to have helped stalled his short-lived career. Juliet Prowse plays a Times Square DJ who starts getting creepy phone calls from Mineo's skeevy stalker, who's messed-up from caring from his mentally disturbed baby sister and possibly having sex with his mother. I can only imagine what Mineo's teenybopper fans would have made of this lurid pulp; not that anyone seems to have given it much love—it's been hard to find on DVD in the US for an age.

Sylvia (Gordon Douglas, 1965)—Gordon Douglas made two movies with Carroll Baker that year, but the one that seems like a no-brainer winner—Harlow, with baby doll in the role of Jean—fell pretty flat for me, save for Edith Head's costumes and the lush production design. By contrast, this more modest drama, with Baker as a beautiful young bride with a sordid past, is effectively cheap and troubling—and in my preferred mode of “unstable women under the influence on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” It's almost a fitting, though much tamer, psychological companion to Baker's performance inSomething Wild. I love Paul Anka’s title song, too.

Gypsy Girl aka Sky West and Crooked(John Mills, 1965)—A very different Hayley Mills from the cute-as-a-button Disney star of That Darn Cat!, here she's directed by her dad in an eerie little English countryside creeper in which she plays a traumatized (and mentally regressed) teenager with a penchant for dead animals and swooning over a very young Ian McShane in a neckerchief (hello, ladies.) By poking around in some precarious psychological terrain (Mills is not a girl, not yet a woman), the film inadvertently catches a child star on the verge of her weird sexualization in stuff like The Family Way and Twisted Nerve that followed.

The Nanny (Seth Holt, 1965)—All hail '60s Bette. I guess there's some perception that, Baby Jane and maybe Sweet Charlottenotwithstanding, Ms. Davis was slumming it in so-called "hagsploitation" (ouch) around this period, but it's one of—hell, it is—my favorite era of hers: Full-tilt derangement electrified by the pizzazz that only a Golden Age star could bring. Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster (Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, et. al.) wrote one of his best monsters for Bette, who goes from a troubled young family's genteel caretaker to, well, you get the picture, while an Anna Karina-looking Pamela Franklin (in between The Innocents and Legend of Hell House) feels like the pouty teen prototype to Lydia Deetz.

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