Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - John D'Amico ""

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Underrated '65 - John D'Amico

John D'Amico is a New York City based filmmaker and theorist who
writes for SmugFilm.com and ShotContext.blogspot.com. On Twitter @jodamico1.
Check out his Underrated '75 List here:
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The Bedford Incident (1965; James B. Harris)
Moby Dick on a submarine with Richard Widmark as Ahab and Sidney Poitier as Ishmael, how could you go wrong? Directed by longtime Kubrick collaborator James B. Harris, who doesn’t quite have the Strangelove director’s impeccable eye but does share his disgust of nuclear weapons.

The Debussy Film (1965; Ken Russell)
My favorite Ken Russell film. He elevates the movie-within-a-movie premise with his unpredictably beautiful camerawork and the equally unpredictable volatility of the great Oliver Reed. All of Russell’s BBC work is essential viewing and this is as good a place to start as any.

The DMZ (1965; Sang-Ho Park)
The only movie ever shot in the Korean DMZ, it’d be worth watching for the novelty even if it wasn’t good. Luckily, it’s very good. It follows two kids lost in the war - heart-wrenching, beautiful, and fantastical in all the best ways.

Godzilla vs Monster Zero (1965; Ishiro Honda)
Feels more structurally complete than any of the other post-original, pre-Hedorah Godzilla films. The pop art cinematography, the Twilight Zone plot, and the really fun acting all add up to one of the better monster movies of the era. Some of the compositions snuck their way into Kubrick’s 2001.

A High Wind in Jamaica (1965; Alexander Mackendrick)
It really couldn't work as well as the book, so much of which is totally unfilmable, but the actors are so damn good and the pacing so breakneck that it's damn near as good. Pair it with The DMZ for some pretty powerful and transgressive films about children.

The Hill (1965; Sidney Lumet)
Sidney Lumet has such a deep bench of greatness that even his forgotten stuff is often powerful. The Hill is the story of a British army disciplinary unit, it starts Ossie Davis, Michael Redgrave, and Sean Connery, who’s dying to get away from his image as Bond. It’s palpably hot and grimy, and just the kind of relentless and aggressive filmmaking that made the mid ’60s so memorable.

Planet of the Vampires (1965; Mario Bava)
Mario Bava created an alien world out of sheer will (“two rocks and a mirror,” is how they described the set). It’s one of those movies that has no logical reason to be successful but the clever premise and beautifully orchestrated production make it more eerie than you’d expect. The whole thing was stripmined to make the planetside sequence of Alien.

A Thousand Clowns (1965; Fred Coe)
A lot of quirky fun to be had in this early NY indie, it’s pretty much Big Daddy with Martin Balsam as the straightman and Jason Robards having the time of his life playing Sandler’s role. There’s still a  hint of the Beatnik resentment in the dawning hippy counterculture, which makes it all nice and prickly.

The War Game (1965; Peter Watkins)
Peter Watkins might be pound-for-pound the most underrated filmmaker in history. From Culloden in 1964 to La Commune in 2000, he’s essayed about a half-century of mockumentary masterpieces. None are more powerful than The War Game, a blitz-inspired nightmare vision of “limited nuclear war.” Banned by the BBC for 20 years, it survived by being played on sheets in coffee houses, The War Game remains the greatest anti-nuke film ever made. 

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965; Joseph Cates)
It’s not exactly publicized much, but the early ‘60s were a very accomplished time for sex movies. Rebel Without a Cause’s Sal Mineo gets to shine here in a sexploitation version of Taxi Driver that’s exactly as lurid and sweaty and uncomfortable and completely awesome as that sounds.

1 comment:

William K said...

Great post, thanks. How about a comparison of shots between '2001' and 'Monster Zero'? The great Stan K took liberal inspiration from any number of previous movies - consciously or not, we'll never know, but I'd hedge toward the former. Take a close look at certain shots in 'First Men In The Moon', or Tony 'Dawson' Margheriti's science fiction epics. Anyway, great work, thanks for the blog - one o' the best on the web!