Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '66 - Jason Hyde ""

Monday, October 31, 2016

Underrated '66 - Jason Hyde

Jason Hyde is a top shelf cinephile. He has a become a regular contributor here at RPS and I am always happy to have him. He has done many cool lists for RPS over the years - check em out:

WILD WILD PLANET (1966; Antonio Margheriti)This first film in the Gamma I Quadrilogy of loosely-linked, crazy, colorful Italian sci-fi flicks is gloriously insane pulp nonsense of the highest order. Sure, the acting may not be much to write home about (although a young Franco Nero pops up in a supporting role), but it's more than made up for by all the pop-art color, crazy costumes, and not making much sense at all, in the grand Italian sci-fi tradition. There's a mad scientist carrying out eugenics experiments that require bald aliens with four arms to run around shrinking important officials for some reason. There's also an army of future babes with beehive hair and mini-dresses and a huge blood flood at the climax. Sadly, the other Gamma I films are a bit dull and don't measure up to the madness on display here.
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QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966; Curtis Harrington)
Easily the best of the movies that exist because Roger Corman got his hands on some Soviet sci-fi films, cut out all the Sovietness, and had guys like Curtis Harrington and Francis Ford Coppola shoot some new footage to go around the impressive effects shots. Also the only movie with John Saxon, Dennis Hopper, and Basil Rathbone in it. And a key influence on ALIEN as well. Queen of Blood's got a lot going for it. Even though the new footage by Curtis Harrington is clearly a lot more low budget than the Russian scenes, they're integrated pretty well and the story, about a space expedition to meet an alien species that ends up bringing on board a beehived-haired, green-skinned space vampire (the amazing Florence Marly) who feeds on the crew one by one until it's down to Saxon and Judi Meredith to stop her. The color is gorgeous and the music is creepy. Easily one of Harrington's best, which is saying a lot.
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MODESTY BLAISE (1966; Joseph Losey)
Pretty dubious as an adaptation of the terrific classic comic strip, but delightful by an sane standard of measuring such things, this high-camp confection from the always-interesting Joseph Losey has been a favorite for years. It's a bit weird seeing Monica Vitti engaging in such campy hijinks after all those Antonioni films, but she pulls it off for the most part, and Terence Stamp is a blast as Modesty's partner Willie Garvin. Their singing's maybe not the best, though. This film really belongs to the great Dirk Bogarde, though, who just takes the camp factor and runs with it. His effete, squeamish Gabriel one of my absolute favorite movie villains of all time. There's so much to love in this film from the gorgeous locations to the amusing performances and top-notch soundtrack.
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CIRCUS OF FEAR (1966; John Llewellyn Moxey)
An odd sort-of entry in the German Edgar Wallace series. This was shot in Britain with some familiar faces from the German films (Klaus Kinski, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent) mixing with the likes of Christopher Lee and Suzy Kendall. It's a fun mystery about the spoils of an elaborate bank robbery ending up in a circus company at its winter headquarters, and the string of murders the follow. Scotland Yard is on the case, and there's no shortage of suspects, Is it a shifty character played by Kinski? Or maybe the masked animal trainer played by Lee? Well, obviously not, but I'll admit the final revelation of the killer's identity did surprise me the first time I saw this film, which is well-written and atmospheric, but apparently not actually based on anything Edgar Wallace ever wrote, which didn't stop them from advertising it as such in its German release.
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THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM(1966; Michael Anderson)
A superb entry in the more downbeat, down-to-earth series of spy thrillers that tried to provide a more realistic alternative to the flashy antics of James Bond and company. This one's not as well-remembered or highly-regarded as THE IPCRESS FILE or THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, but it's still excellent stuff. George Segal stars as Quiller, an oddly American agent for British intelligence who goes to Berlin to snuff out a gang of Neo-Nazis led by Max von Sydow's sinister Oktober. Along the way he meets and falls for a pretty teacher played by Senta Berger. The plot is superb and constantly engaging and the Harold Pinter screenplay is basically exactly what you'd expect from a spy thriller written by Harold Pinter. There's also terrific color cinematography that makes the most of the beautiful bleak post-war Berlin settings and a lovely mournful theme from John Barry. Alec Guinness is also excellent as Quiller's snobby superior Pol.
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DALEKS - INVASION EARTH 2150AD (1966; Gordon Flemyng)
The second of the two cinematic adaptations of the BBC's Doctor Who is definitely the better one. While it lacks the almost-psychedelic colors of the first film, it makes up for it with a better story with much more Dalek mayhem than the first film. Peter Cushing is back as Dr. Who, and he tones down his performance a bit from the first film, where he seemed a bit on the silly side. He gets excellent support from Andrew Keir and Bernard Cribbins, who would later go on to a memorable supporting role as Wilf on the revived BBC series. The plot, involving the Daleks' plan to blow out the molten core of the earth and then fly it around like a spaceship, is admittedly bonkers and raises all kinds of questions that are never really answered, but the special effects are a lot better than what the TV series was able to do in 1966, and you get a scene of Andrew Keir and Roberta Tovey running over Daleks in a truck, so I'd say it all evens out.

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