The Birds (1963)

The Birds
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Evan Hunter from the story by Daphne de Maurier
Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Annie Hayworth: Don’t they ever stop migrating?

Not my favorite Hitchcock but undeniably made by a master.

Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is a rich San Francisco socialite.  As the story begins, she goes to a pet shop with the intention of buying a mynah bird for her aunt.  While there, Mitch Brenner approaches her as if she was a sales lady and asks about buying love birds.

She is clearly out of her depth but goes along with him.  It turns out Mitch knew who she was all along and was playing with her due to a dislike developed when he saw her in court.  Melanie decides she will get even by buying the love birds for him (?!) but finds she must deliver them in the small seaside town of Bodega Bay where he spends the weekends with his mother (Jessica Tandy) and younger sister (Valerie Cartwright).

Melanie continues her lying ways.  She winds up staying overnight in the house of local teacher Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette) who is still carrying a torch for Mitch after a failed love affair years previously.  By all movie logic, Melanie and Mitch must fall in love and they do.  But their romance does not amount to a hill of beans next to an unexplained phenomenon which is causing birds to mass together and become killing machines.

I’ve been considering why I have never really warmed to this movie.  I think it’s because the characters do not appeal to me.  I find both Melanie and Mitch to be almost insufferably smug.  Really the only character I really like in the movie is Pleshette’s.

That said, there’s some very effective horror to be had here.  It probably works best the first time around.

The Birds was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Visual Effects.


Le joli mai (1963)

Le joli mai (The Merry Month of May)
Directed by Chris Marker and Pierre L’Homme
Written by Chris Marker and Catherine Varlin
First viewing/Netflix rental

Narrator (English version): Why search for beauty in a dove and poetry in poets? When you have owls, painters, cosmonauts, inventors, lovers…

Chris Marker and company make a beautiful documentary about a beautiful city and its people at a particular time.

The setting is Paris.  The time is May 1962.  President de Gaulle advocated independence for Algeria.  The French overwhelmingly voted for independence and an end to the war in April but feeling still ran high.  Progress continued on rehousing Parisians suffering a crunch dating from WWII.  Lovers loved, poets wrote, and the average Joe tried to make ends meet while having a good time.  All these facets of Parisian life are explored in the film accompanied by striking images of Paris’s grand and not-so-grand locales.

This is very much a film of its time and my appreciation could have been heightened by more of a knowledge of French history.  I love Paris and I enjoyed it very much anyway.  Recommended.


Palm Springs Weekend (1963)

Palm Springs Weekend    
Directed by Norman Taurog
Written by Earl Hamner Jr.
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

P.S. I Love You – Palm Springs city slogan

I live 25 miles from Palm Springs so naturally I had to watch this sitcom of a movie.

It is Easter Break in early 60’s Palm Springs.  Stephanie Powers’ father is the Chief of Police.  He looks askance at all the rowdy goings on.  Basically this a a Where the Boys Are style plot.  The boys are Texan Ty Hardin, odd-ball Jerry Van Dyke, nice-guy Troy Donahue and bad-boy villain Robert Conrad.  The girls are Powers, pseudo-sophisticate Connie Stephens and “plain-Jane”  Zeme North.  There’s a sub-plot about a middle-aged hotel owner and the chaperon/coach of the boys.  She has an obnoxious bratty son played by Billy Mummy.

Every year in the Coachella Valley we celebrate Mid-Century Modernism week celebrating the style and architecture of exactly this era.  Palm Springs was in its hey day in 1963.  The scenery and style made it fun for me to watch.  The story on the other hand is a piece of fluff made worse by Jerry Van Dyke’s style of “comedy”.



Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Written by James Edward Grant
Batjac Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

George Washington McLintock: I’ve got a touch of hangover, bureaucrat. Don’t push me.

John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara get the sparks flying once again.

G.W. McLintock (Wayne) is the richest man in the territory.  He has been living as a bachelor for two years since wife Katherine (AKA Katie – O’Hara) walked out on him without explanation.  Daughter Becky (Stephanie Powers) returns after finishing college back East and so does her mother.  Becky promptly falls for the son of GW’s housekeeper, Devlin.

Both GW and Devlin find that the way to a strong woman’s heart just happens to be a coal shovel applied with gusto to the back side.  With Yvonne De Carlo as the housekeeper, Patrick Wayne as Devlin and a host of familiar faces including Chill Wills, Jack Kruschen, Edgar Buchanan, Bruce Cabot and Struther Martin.

Imagine the sexual politics of The Quiet Man ratcheted up a notch and moved to the Old West.  If you think brawling can be hilarious you will love this movie.  It’s OK for light-hearted entertainment on a gloomy fall day.


Contempt (1963)

Contempt (Le mepris)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard from a novel by Alberto Moravia
Rome Paris Films/Les Films Concordia/Compagnia Cinematografic Champion
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Camille Javal: If you love me, just be quiet.

Meta.  Godard. Ugh.

Arrogant American Producer Jeremy Prokosh (Jack Palance) has hired director Fritz Lang (played by himself) to direct a production of Homer’s Odyssey.  He is disappointed in the lack of sex and, well, “more” in the current script and hires playwright Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) to jazz it up.  Prokosh shrewdly assesses that Paul will be seduced by the money he needs to keep his beautiful wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot).

Soon Prokosh sets about seducing Camille with what looks like Paul’s passive assent. Nothing much else happens but what seems like hours of pointless marital arguments and philosophizing about cinema.

This irritates me more than any Godard film I have seen to date.  By far the best part is the long nude scene with Bardot that opens the film, though I am scarcely in the demographic that can enjoy that fully.

The rest of the film is filmed with too clever movie references (Paul has to wear a hat all the time like Dean Martin in Some Came Running, etc.) and deadly dull philosophy.  The nadir is a scene that stretches an argument between Camille and Paul to 34 deadly minutes – it’s one of those “You don’t love me any more” “what makes you say that?” “no you don’t” “yes I do” fights – that made me glad I don’t own a revolver to shoot out the TV screen.

There is some nice music and the cinematography is gorgeous.  This is the biggest budget and most successful film that Godard made.  It is somewhat comforting that even he hated it.

The Mouse on the Moon (1963)

The Mouse on the Moon
Directed by Richard Lester
Written by Michael Pertwee from the novel by Leonard Wibberley
Walter Shenson Films
First viewing/Amazon Instant

[repeated line] Grand Duchess Gloriana XIII: It’s that nasty tin thing again!

This was possibly more hilarious in 1963 than it is now.

The setting is The Duchy of Grand Fenwick as introduced in 1959’s The Mouse That Roared.  The duchy is still presided over by Grand Duchess Gloriana XIII (Margaret Rutherford) but Rupert Mountjoy (Ron Moody) has taken over as Prime Minister.  Mountjoy has determined that the tiny duchy needs new plumbing and once against plots to get the money out of the US.  This time the plan is to announce that Grand Fenwick needs cash for its space program.  This will give the Americans the chance to show “international cooperation” with a country that cannot really compete.

In the meantime, a scientist has in fact dreamt up a low-tech way to get to the moon and the US and USSR can’t risk coming in second … or third.  With Terry-Thomas as a birdwatcher.

This lost me shortly after it began.  There are some funny moments but the humor is perhaps too topical … and too British …to really work for this viewer at this late date.

The Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

The Kiss of the Vampire
Directed by Don Sharp
Written by Anthony Hinds
Universal International Pictures/Hammer Films
First viewing/Netflix rental


Dr. Ravna: [referring to Marianne] I will not say that she has not changed in any way., Mr. Harcourt. She has, as you may put it, grown up – tasted the more sophisticated, more erotic fruits of… life.

Gerald Harcourt: [realizing that she has been initiated into vampirism] Oh, my God!

Dr. Ravna: [officiouly] God is hardly involved, Mr. Harcourt.

Perhaps Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee could have injected some oomph into this underwhelming Gothic horror flick.

The story takes place in the early years of the last century.  As the film begins, we witness a professor driving a stake through a coffin just as it is about to be lowered into the earth – this will be one of the few evidences of blood shown in the film. We then follow the journey of newlyweds Gerald and Marianne who are motoring through Europe.  They run out of petrol and are forced to stay in a hotel that has fallen on hard times.  It contains only one other guest – the professor we saw at the beginning.

The local aristocracy reaches out to the couple, inviting the two to dinner and then a ball.  But it is soon clear that Dr, Ravna and his family have sinister intentions with regard to Marianne ….

This may be the least scary vampire movie ever made.  When I think Hammer horror I think gore and ominous atmosphere.  This movie is lacking in both as well as in good acting or storytelling.  A disappointment.

8 1/2 (1963)

8 1/2
Directed by Federico Fellini
Written by Federico Fellini, Tulio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Brunello Rondi
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Guido: When did I go wrong? I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same.

One of the few meta films that succeeds for me on every level.

Director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) attempts to take refuge from his many problems at a health spa.  He is pursued by his entire production company and various aspirants for parts in his film.  All these people want to know is what the film, which is actually in production, is to be about.  Guido is unable to tell them or to escape them.  To add to his problems both his mistress (Sandra Milo) and his long-suffering wife (Anouk Amie) have joined him.

Guido tries to escape into childhood memories and various fantasies.  But he is constantly plagued by an internal and external critic who get the better of him before the glorious ending.

Fellini and I are on the same wave-length, at least through 1963, and I have loved this film since the first time I saw it.  I don’t think the black-and-white cinematography and production design has ever been bettered.  I find Guido’s creative and personal troubles and their resolution immensely satisfying.

8 1/2 won Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Director; Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, Written Directly for the Screen; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.  Nino Rota was clearly robbed for his fantastic score.

American trailer

Monstrosity (1963)

Monstrosity (AKA The Atomic Brain)
Directed by Joseph V. Mascelli
Written by Vy Russell, Sue Dwiggins, and Dean Dillman Jr.
Cinema Venture
First viewing/Amazon Prime

Narrator: As with the other bodies stolen from cemeteries, the nerve endings of the brain were too far gone to receive a proper transplant. The experiment failed to produce anything more than a walking, breathing zombie-like creature. But the doctor permitted her to wander about the laboratory – she was harmless and … [leering tone] at times even amusing.

Horror meets mild titillation in this truly weird and terrible brain transplant movie.

Dr. Frank’s experiments in atomic brain transplants are being financed Mrs. March, a wealthy, mean and nasty old woman.  She hopes to have her 80-year-old brain transplanted into a sexy young body so that she can at last be “loved for herself.” For now her needs are satisfied by craven gigolo Victor.

Dr. Frank has been somewhat successful with transplanting animal brains into dead bodies leaving a Wolf Man like monstrosity to do his bidding.  What he needs are some live bodies to work on.  These arrive in the form of foreign young women – from Britain, Austria, and Latin America – hired by Mrs. March as domestics.  On and on the story goes as experiments pile up, misfiring along the way to the fiery climax.

Once again the Random Number Generator has supplied a movie from the very bottom of the barrel to begin a new year.  This one is bizarre in the extreme.  The most amusing part is the sexy “British” girl’s – she’s named Bea! – sporadic attempts at an accent that range from Cockney to upper class.  But there’s something for every bad movie lover here.  It does drag at only just over an hour.

Clip – opening


In 1963:

Cleopatra, the most expensive film ever made to date, opened. It was one of the biggest flops in film history (cost-overruns made the $2 million budget become $44 million). The off-screen extra-marital affair conducted between stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton) was beneficial for the film’s bottom line.  Nevertheless, it took many years for the film to recoup its enormous costs.

Ampex began to offer its first consumer version of a videotape recorder, sold through the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue for $30,000.  The first theater originally designed as a multiplex opened – it was called Parkway Twin (for its two screens).

Sex symbol Jayne Mansfield appeared naked (breasts and buttocks) in the unrated sex farce Promises! Promises, making her the first mainstream actress to appear nude in an American feature sound film. (The honor would have been held by Marilyn Monroe in Something’s Gotta Give (1962), but she died during production.)  The provocative film was heavily publicized in Playboy‘s June 1963 issue, with pictures to prove it. That led to the magazine’s publisher Hugh Hefner being charged with obscenity (and later acquitted) — the only time in his life.

Actor/director Dick Powell died at the age of 58 in Los Angeles, CA — much too soon.

The biggest and saddest news of the year was the assassination of President John  F. Kennedy Dallas, Texas on November 22. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president later that day.  Shooter Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission officially concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin, but various groups contradicted the findings of the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy’s death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In Civil Rights, the year began with Alabama governor George Wallace declaring “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation for ever.”  On April 3, African Americans in Birmingham, Ala., began daily nonviolent demonstrations and sit-ins . Over 400 protestors were arrested, including Dr. Martin Luther King.  On August 28, King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. In September, Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.

“Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmore and the Fireballs was the #1 song on Billboard‘s 1963 Year-End Chart of Pop Singles.  The Reivers by William Faulkner won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Martin Luther King was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

The Beatles’  first full-length album “Please Please Me” was released in March.  It topped the charts in the United Kingdom for thirty weeks until replaced by another Beatles album, “With The Beatles.”  The band’s massive success in the USA would wait until 1964.

The Soviet Union launched the Vostok 6 spacecraft, carrying Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.  UK War Minister John Profumo resigned after admitting he lied about his relationship with Christine Keeler.  Call girl Keeler was simultaneously involved with a Soviet Navy officer and a drug dealer.


I have 139 films on my list for 1963, though I doubt that I will watch all of them.  It can be found here.

1963 Oscar Winners

1963 Nominees for Major Oscars