Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '65 - Kimberly Lindbergs ""

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Underrated '65 - Kimberly Lindbergs

Kimberly Lindbergs writes regularly for Turner Classic Movies (she's a Movie Morlock!) and her personal blog can be found at Cinebeats.com

This list was originally posted over at the venerable Movie Morlocks site here:
http://moviemorlocks.com/2015/07/02/underrated-65/ 
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THE 10TH VICTIM (1965; Elio Petri)
Richard Connell’s short story The Most Dangerous Game has been adapted for the screen many times since its release in 1929 but my favorite take on this twisted tale is Elio Petri’s LA DECIMA VITTIMA aka THE 10TH VICTIM. Petri’s futuristic pop art inspired extravaganza stars Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress who have rarely looked lovelier, as two participants in the 'Big Hunt' where humans are fair game. This incredibly stylish and clever film is an international cult favorite but I am always surprised by the number of people I encounter who haven’t seen it. Backed by an unforgettable score composed by Piero Piccioni, THE 10TH VICTIM makes for one wildly entertaining and eye-opening night at the movies.


BRAINSTORM (1965; William Conrad)
William Conrad is probably best remembered today for his acting talent but he was also a prolific TV director and in 1965 he made three interesting low-budget thrillers back-to-back. The films included TWO ON A GUILLOTINE, MY BLOOD RUNS COLD and BRAINSTORM. All three are worth seeking out but my favorite of the bunch might just be this this nifty neo-noir starring Jeffrey Hunter as a scientist named Jim who falls for a dangerous dame (Anne Francis) trapped in an unhappy marriage to a tyrannical business tycoon (Dana Andrews). When her husband refuses to grant her an amicable divorce, Jim comes up with a bizarre murder plan that lands him in a psychiatric hospital with the hope that he’ll eventually be reunited with his ladylove. But is he just pretending to be mad or has Jim really lost his mind along with his heart? Drenched in sixties paranoia and fueled by fear, BRAINSTORM remains a fascinating response to some of decade’s worst crimes including the assassination of an American President.


BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965; Otto Preminger)
Much like THE NANNY (included below) which was also based on a book by Merriam Modell, Otto Preminger’s gripping film explores many similar themes including the helplessness and deep-seated fear that can occur when figures of authority don’t believe what you’re saying. In this case it is a desperate mother (Carol Lynley) trying to convince a British police Superintendent (Laurence Olivier) that her young daughter ‘Bunny’ (Suky Appleby) has gone missing. With help from her brother (Keir Dullea), Lynley’s character tries to overcome her trauma by solving the mystery of Bunny’s disappearance herself as she makes her way through a strangely sinister London and the results of her search are both shocking and incredibly grim. Preminger’s smart and assured direction is matched by Paul Glass’ sophisticated score and Lynley, Oliver and Dullea are all in top form.


DEVILS OF DARKNESS (1965; Lance Comfort)
This odd little British horror film directed by B-movie maestro Lance Comfort tends to get lost among the numerous Hammer and Amicus thrillers that were released during this period but it’s well worth seeking out for fans of sixties horror. William Sylvester stars as a hapless American tourist on holiday with a group of friends who find themselves hunted by a cult of witchy vampires led by the malevolent Count Sinistre (Hubert Noël). It’s a great looking low-budget picture with some nice color photography that references Roger Corman and Mario Bava’s best work and contains some rather dark plot twists as well as a swinging party scene that was typical of the times.


THE FOOL KILLER (1965; Servando Gonzalez)
Mexican filmmaker Servando González directed this southern gothic nightmare starring young Edward Albert (Eddie & Margo Alberts’son) who was just 12-years-old when shooting began. Albert plays an abused youngster who leaves home and makes his way across the war-ravaged American south where he befriends a troubled veteran of the Civil War named Milo, played superbly by Anthony Perkins. As the film progresses the young boy becomes obsessed with a folk tale about the Fool Killer who will “kill anyone who perpetrates some particularly monumental piece of foolishness.” Milo has been told he’s foolish so many times that he begins to believe it and fears he will be murdered as a result. Unfortunately, his fears hold some weight when the mythical Fool Killer of his imagination begins to materialize. I strongly suspect that this deeply unsettling and eerie film influenced Jim Jarmusch's much lauded DEAD MAN (1995).


GUMNAAM (1965; Raja Nawathe)
Agatha Christie adaptations don’t get much looser than this Bollywood production based on And Then There Were None. Many will be familiar with the film’s first show stopping musical number, which played during the opening moments of GHOST WORLD (2001), but GUMNAAM is much more than just a footnote attached to Terry Zwigoff’s popular dramedy. Directed by Raja Nawathe and featuring a lively cast who seem game for just about anything, the film boasts numerous songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan, including a Hindi version of Henry Mancini’s Charade. 50-years later it remains one of the best looking films to emerge from India during the 1960s and it’s got a devoted cult following but more people need to spend time with this amusing, swinging and suspenseful Bollywood delight.


THE NANNY (1965; Seth Holt)
Bette Davis starred in a number of exceptional thrillers throughout the 1960s including WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) and HUSH... HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964), which were both nominated for Academy Awards. But I think her best and most nuanced performance during this turbulent decade can be found in THE NANNY. This black and white Hammer production is artfully directed by Seth Holt and stars 57-year-old Davies as a deeply troubled caregiver who may or may not be a child killer. Her performance is incredibly nuanced and downright chilling at times. Despite this, she manages to earn our sympathies without asking us to sympathize with her crimes. THE NANNY may not be a typical Hammer monster movie but Davies’ character remains one of the most sad and frightening creatures the studio ever created.


THE PARTY'S OVER (1965; Guy Hamilton)
Many films made during the 1960s explored the down side of recreational drug use and irresponsible alcohol consumption but few are as disturbing as THE PARTY'S OVER. Guy Hamilton directed this taut, dark British drama before he began working on numerous James Bond projects and there’s a roughness about the production that recalls popular Kitchen Sink Dramas of the period. The film stars Oliver Reed as the de facto leader of a group of shifty-eyed beatniks pinning after a posh American bird (Louise Sorel) who doesn’t want anything to do with him. After one particularly wild party, she vanishes and her fiancé (Clifford David) is left to piece the puzzling mystery of her disappearance together. John Barry’s jazzy score adds an element of improvisation to this unusually bleak film that was banned in Britain for two years before it was finally reedited and released.


THE SATAN BUG (1965; John Sturges)
After directing the hugely successful GREAT ESCAPE (1963), director John Sturges helmed this suspenseful cold war thriller involving a mad doctor (Richard Basehart) who steals a deadly virus known as the 'Satan Bug' from a top-secret germ warfare lab and threatens to release it on an unknowing populace. Thankfully, George Maharis, along with Anne Francis and Dana Andrews, are on board to try and put a stop to his evil plan but they’ll have to get past a mob of menacing baddies first that includes TV veterans Ed Asner and Frank Sutton. The plot of THE SATAN BUG might have seemed rather fantastic in 1965 but today it reads like a modern day newspaper headline making the film more relevant than ever. I don’t normally advocate for remakes but if a studio updated this film and released it today with a first-rate cast, I suspect they’d have a major hit on their hands.


THE SKULL (1965; Freddie Francis)
Peter Cushing stars as Dr. Maitland, a passionate collector of macabre esoterica who begins experiencing strange phenomena after coming in contact with the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade. This atmospheric and surprisingly adult Amicus horror film was directed by the Academy Award winning cinematographer Freddie Francis and benefits from his inspired camerawork, which includes shooting scenes from the POV of the skull, a particularly imaginative dream sequence and an inventive fatal fall through a stained glass window. Besides Cushing, the rest of the cast reads like a Who’s Who of British horror cinema and includes the recently deceased Christopher Lee along with Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee and Michael Gough.

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