Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

Lonely Are the Brave
Directed by David Miller
Written by Dalton Trumbo from a novel by Edward Abbey
1962/USA
Joel Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Paul Bondi: Are you sure you didn’t get kicked in the head?

Jack Burns: What do you mean?

Paul Bondi: You act like a man who thinks he’s going to break out of jail.

Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) is a modern day cowboy who has a conversational relationship with his disobedient horse, Whisky.  He rides into town to attempt to break his friend Paul out of jail, where Paul is serving two years for assisting illegal immigrants.  First he stops and visits with Jerry (Gena Rowlands), Paul’s wife and Jack’s ex-girlfriend.  She is not eager to have her husband escape from prison.  Paul must get into a couple of fights to get into prison.  Once settled there, he finds that Paul has no desire to escape either.  Both Paul and Jerry know that this can only make matters worse.

Jack carries on though and successfully breaks out.  He then follows an escape route through rugged and isolated mountains riding old Whisky.  He hasn’t counted on modern police methods or helicopters.  With Walter Matthau as a sheriff, Bill Bixby as his deputy and Carroll O’Connor as a truck driver.

Kirk Douglas plays one of the nicest guys in his whole career in this movie.  That makes his dilemma and fate all the more poignant.  I knew it was one of those End of the West Westerns going in and was surprised it wasn’t a bit more hard-hitting.  In Trumbo’s vision, the old ways go out not with a bang but with a wimper.  It’s a perfectly solid watch.

This film marked the big-screen debuts of Gena Rowlands, Carroll O’Connor and Bill Bixby.

Trailer

Harakiri (1962)

Harakiri (Seppuku)
Directed by Misaki Kobayashi
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto and Yasuhiku Takiguchi from Takiguchi’s novel
1962/Japan
Shochiku Eiga
Repeat viewing/Filmstruck

Hanshiro Tsugumo: Who can fathom the depths of another man’s heart?

Few films have moved me as did this perfectly beautiful masterpiece.

It is best to come into the film knowing as little as possible about the story.  The plot develops like peeling layers off an onion to reach its core.  So I’ll be fairly brief.

It is 1630, a time of peace in Japan.  Hanshiro Tsugumo’s master was disgraced and his house disbanded, leaving Tsugumo a masterless ronin.  Many thousands of other samurai were without work leaving it almost impossible to find a job.  Tsugumo has been destitute for the last eight or nine years.  He approaches the Lyi clan and requests permission to die an honorable death by harikiri in their courtyard.  An official attempts to dissuade him by telling the story of Motomo Chijiwa, the last ronin to make such a request.

Tsugumo is not to be dissuaded and permission is finally granted.  The courtyard is set up for the ritual suicide.  Tsugumo is calm and ready.  But first he wants to tell the assembled audience a true story …

This film asks the question “What is real honor?” Certainly it is not rigid adherence to a traditional code.  Kobayashi condemns all those who put pride above people.  He does this in a way that goes straight to the heart,

The first time I saw this film I knew I would love it within the first two minutes.  The images are simply exquisite.  We get a lot of formal compositions that could come straight out of a 16th century painting flowing by Kobayashi’s moving camera.  He is also great with composing people in the courtyard and with samurai action.  Nakadai is fabulous – he manages to look completely different in each of his roles.

There is a scene of harakiri in this film and of a particularly disturbing sort.  It lasts less than five minutes and is discretely shot.  The final thirty minutes of the film are packed with intense swordplay.  My highest recommendation.

Clip

This Is Not a Test (1962)

This Is Not a Test
Directed by Fredric Gadette
Written by Peter Abenheim, Betty Laskey and Fredric Gadette
1962/USA
GPA Productions
First viewing/YouTube

 

Cheryl Hudson: Wake up, Joe. I think our luck just ran out.

A truly annoying cop gets his in this apocalyptic tale.  That’s by far the best thing about it.

A deputy sheriff gets instructions to set up a road block in the hills close to a major city. He is looking for a murderer that’s on the loose in the area.  We meet him but he’s not the main attraction.  Shortly thereafter, the radio announces “Condition Yellow” and the deputy’s job changes to maintaining law and order during evacuation of the city.  The handful of people he stopped are already “evacuated” of course.  The deputy comes up with a brilliant plan requiring these folks to empty a container truck where they will shelter for two weeks after the H-bomb hits.  Most of his helpers aren’t buying it.  We get some mini-romances along the way.

It’s not easy to make a dull movie about impending nuclear disaster but the filmmakers succeeded in sucking every vestige of suspense out of the story.

Advise and Consent (1962)

Advise and Consent
Directed by Otto Preminger
Written by Mendell Mayes from a novel by Allen Drury
1962/USA
Otto Preminger Films/Alpha Alpina
First viewing/Netflix rental

Senator Seabright Cooley: Haven’t had this much fun since the cayenne pepper hit the fan!

I don’t know how I waited so long to see this fascinating political nail-biter.

The ailing President of the United States (Franchot Tone) makes a controversial pick for Secretary of State in Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda).  He has the luxury of also being in the majority party in the Senate which must advise on and consent to the appointment.

Nonetheless, it will not be easy.  Senator Seabright Cooley (Charles Laughton) a Southern Conservative, will use every trick in his considerable arsenal to block the appointment of a man he believes to have Communist leanings.  He is ably fought by Senate Majority Leader Bob Munson (Walter Pidgeon).

Leffingwell is fanatically supported by Senator Fred Van Ackerman (George Grizzard).  Van Ackerman wants to chair the Senate Sub-Committee on the matter but Munson passes him up for his junior, Senator Brigham Anderson (Don Murray).  The young Senator happens to be an idealist.  He also has a secret and has made an enemy in Van Ackerman.  With Lew Ayres as the Vice President, Paul Ford as the Majority Whip, Peter Lawford as a Senator, Gene Tierney as a Washington society hostess, and Burgess Meredith as a witness.

This was Laughton’s final film.

Well Hollywood and American certainly came a long way from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!  I can guarantee right now that this will be on my 2017 Best New-to-Me Film list.  I loved every minute of it.

The ensemble cast really shines.  My favorite was Charles Laughton, who captures the accent and mannerisms of a Southern “gentleman” wheeler-dealer perfectly.  Pidgeon, who I am generally not a big fan of, was also perfect in his part.  The script is smart and cynical and is beautifully shot.  Most of the principals are big fans of the expedient lie, which has never fallen from fashion in Washington.  HIghly recommended.

Trailer – SPOILERS

Wild Guitar (1962)

Wild Guitar
Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler
Written by Arch Hall Sr. and Bob Wehling
1962/USA
Fairway International Pictures
First viewing/Amazon Prime

 

Steak: This is Daisy, she’s gonna teach you how to swing.

Starting off 1962 with an inane, but fun, little film from the bottom of the barrel.

Bud Eagle (Arch Hall Jr.) arrives in Hollywood from Swordfish, South Dakota with little more than his guitar and his dreams.   Practically the first person he meets is the cute Vicky, who has a gig as a dancer on TV.  He goes with her and when one of the acts falls ill takes the stage himself.

He is spotted by unscrupulous record company owner Mike McCauley (Arch Hall Sr.), who immediately set about exploiting him.  He assigns his right-hand-man “Steak” (played by the director) to watch over Bud at all times.  Somehow the guitarist ends up making him big bucks while simultaneously owing him more than he can ever repay.  How will Bud fight back?

This looks like what it was – a movie produced by a doting father to promote his wannabe son, who also happens to have had the wildest blonde pompadour in pictures.  It has enough bizarre moments to hit the bad movie gold meter though.  Sort of a time capsule of the early sixties teen culture seen through the eyes of an inept outsider.

Clip – love the guy in the suit and tie and what is with those feathers?

1962

In 1962:

36-year-old sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was discovered dead in her Brentwood bungalow of an apparent drug overdose, a death the coroner ruled as “a probable suicide.” Speculations arose over her associations with President John F. Kennedy and his brother. Director Michael Curtiz died at age 75.

Universal was purchased by talent agency MCA. Later that year, Congress prohibited studios from operating their own talent agencies.  After producing independent films for six years (mostly in Europe), former Fox studio VP Darryl Zanuck took over financially-troubled 20th Century Fox (at the time of the making of the expensive flop Cleopatra (1963)).

During the filming of Cleopatra (1963), in April of 1962, Pope John XXIII issued a denouncement of the rumored illicit affair between its two main stars, then-married Elizabeth Taylor and future husband Richard Burton.  Taylor was accused of “erotic vagrancy”(!) by the Vatican. The two married in 1964 after divorcing their spouses.

Marlon Brando was paid $1.25 million for his role in MGM’s flop Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) as Fletcher Christian.  He was the first actor to break the $1 million threshold.

Sixteen-year-old Patty Duke became the first minor to win a competitive award when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker.

The Bay of Pigs Fiasco ended when 1,113 prisoners taken during the attempted invasion were exchanged for $53 million in food and medicine.  The Cuban missile crisis occupied the attention of the world in October and November and was finally resolved when the USSR removed the ICBM’s located there on November 20th.  (I clearly remember my elementary school teacher telling us that we might be bombed soon!)

John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.  James Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.  President Kennedy proposed a “Consumer Bill of Rights”.

The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows won for Drama.  The instrumental “Stranger on the Shore” headed the Billboard Hot 100, despite spending only one week atop the charts.  “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles and “Sherry” by the Four Season tied for most weeks at number one, with five weeks each.  Pope John XXIII was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.

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1962 looks like it will be one of the better years in cinema.  The films I will select from can be found here.

Montage of Photos from Oscar Winners

Montage of photos from major Oscar Nominees

1961 Recap and Ten Favorites List

I have now watched 102 films that were released in 1960.  A complete list can be found here.  It was an average year and I had 12 films for my favorites list.   The two films I didn’t have room for are: Leon Morin, Priest and Judgement at Nuremberg.  The list is no particular order.  I had a hard time deciding whether to put The Hustler or Yojimbo in first place and used my usual tie-breaker – if I could rewatch only one of the films it would be Yojimbo.

10.  Il Posto – directed by Ermanno Olmi

 

9.  The Steamroller and the Violin – directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

8.  West Side Story – directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

7.  The Innocents – directed by Jack Clayton

6.  A Raisin in the Sun – directed by Daniel Petrie

5.  The End of Summer – directed by Yasujiro Ozu

4.  Through a Glass Darkly – directed by Ingmar Bergman

 

3. Divorce Italian Style – directed by Pietro Germi

2.  The Hustler – directed by Robert Rossen

1. Yojimbo – directed by Akira Kurasawa

 

The Children’s Hour

The Children’s Hour
Directed by William Wyler
Written by John Michael Hayes from the play by Lillian Hellman
1961/USA
The Mirisch Corporation
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Mrs. Lily Mortar: God will punish you.

Martha: He’s doing all right.

In which we meet a child more evil than little Rhoda in The Bad Seed.

Karen Wright (Audrey Hepburn) and Martha Dobie (Shirley MacLaine) have been friends since college.  They are now teachers and have opened a private girls school together. Karen is engaged to local doctor Joe Cardin (James Garner).  The women are saddled with Martha’s querulous, grandiose aunt Mrs. Lily Mortar (Miriam Hopkins).

The school is finally turning a profit, spurring Karen to set a wedding day with Joe.  This puts Martha in a very bad mood, one that aunt Lily proclaims is “unnatural”, along with Martha’s lack of interest men.  The argument is overheard by two of the little girls who unfortunately repeat it to the uncontrollable brat Mary.  When Mary is punished for one of her many acts of misconduct, she reports this – with embellishments – to her grandmother (Fay Bainter).

The grandmother checks out the story with aunt Lily, who has just been asked to return to New York, and she corroborates the argument with Martha.  Within days, every single student has been pulled out of school.  Although the accusation is completely untrue, things continue to go downhill for everybody concerned.

This film has held up quite nicely.  Did Wyler ever make a bad picture?  The acting is great, with MacLaine being the standout acting against type, and the story is powerful.  I got so involved I could have strangled that child if she was in the room!  Recommended if the subject matter appeals.

The Children’s Hour was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Bainter); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White; and Best Sound.

Lover Come Back (1961)

Lover Come Back
Directed by Delbert Mann
Written by Stanley Shapiro and Saul Henning
1961/USA
7 Pictures Inc/Nob Hill Productions/Arwin Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Peter ‘Pete’ Ramsey: I told you sex would get you in nothing but trouble.

This is the middle film of the three early 60’s “sex comedies” that Rock Hudson and Doris Day made together.  It bears a striking resemblance to Pillow Talk but I prefer the earlier film.

Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) is a wheeler-dealer ad man who snags clients with alcohol-fueled evenings and female companionship.  Carol Templeton is just breaking into the business and hates Jerry and all he stands for.  She finally convinces one of the women he has hired to show the client a good time to testify against Jerry before the ad council. Jerry fights back with a brilliant campaign for “VIP”, a product which has not yet been invented.  He hires Carol’s witness as the “VIP girl”.  After the spot is accidentally aired he hires a scientist to invent something to go with it.

Rock Hudson wears a beard for about half the movie

Carol attempts to steal the scientist and the product from Jerry’s agency.  Instead, she meets Jerry in his disguise.  A whole bunch of double entendres and bickering ensue.

Here, Rock Hudson’s character is a rat both the characters he plays.  I can’t understand why anyone with so much going for her would spend ten minutes with either one.  It must be his rugged good looks.  Other than that this stuff has been worked up to a winning formula in only two films.  Hudson and Day were made for each other and Tony Randall is a joy.  With Edie Adams as the VIP girl and Jack Kruschen as the scientist.

This was comic Jack Oakie’s last film.

Lover Come Back was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing – Screenplay and Story Written Directly for the Screen.

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

The Guns of Navarone  
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Carl Foreman from a novel by Alastair MacLean
1961/USA
Columbia Pictures Corp/Highroad Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Prologue – Narrator:  In 1943, so the story goes, 2000 British soldiers lay marooned on the tiny island of Kheros, exhausted and helpless. They had exactly one week to live for in Berlin the Axis high command had determined on a show of strength in the Aegean Sea to bully neutral Turkey into coming into the war on their side. The scene of that demonstration was to be Kheros, itself of no military value, but only a few miles off the coast of Turkey. The cream of the German war machine, rested and ready, was to spearhead the attack, and the men on Kheros were doomed unless they could be evacuated before the blitz. But the only passage to and from Kheros was guarded and blocked by two great, newly designed, radar-controlled guns on the nearby island of Navarone. Guns too powerful and accurate for any allied ship then in the Aegean to challenge. Allied intelligence learned of the projected blitz only one week before the appointed date. What took place in the next six days became the legend of Navarone.

This is a solid war movie with a fantastic cast and lots of explosions.

Mallory (Gregory Peck) is a multi-lingual can-do army officer who is also a genius mountain climber.  High Command summons him and orders him to join a team to take out the guns on Navarone.  He will be assisted by the wise-cracking explosives expert Miller (David Niven), Greek resistance fighter Andrea (Anthony Quinn), Black (Stanley Baker), and fresh-faced young Greek Pappadimos (James Darren).  The mission will be commanded by Franklin (Anthony Quayle).  Unknown to any of the others, Mallory already knows Andrea well.  The Greek blames Mallory for the killing of his entire family by Germans and has vowed to kill him after the war.

The action starts right away and never really lets up.  The men suffer a storm at sea that sinks their fishing boat.  They swim to the island but almost immediately on arrival Franklin falls of a cliff and breaks his leg.  The team end up dragging him on a stretcher for the remainder of the film.  There are many encounters with Germans to dodge.  Finally, the team meets up with the resistance fighters who will help them.  They turn out to be women – Maria (Irene Pappas) and the mute Anna.

All that’s left to be determined is if, and how, the guns can be neutralized.

This is a rip-roaring sort of film with an equally stirring score.  The whole cast is pretty great but I would give the nod to Quinn if I had to choose.  My favorite scene is when he starts “acting” in an attempt to distract some Germans.  I don’t think I’ve seen so much blood and violence in an American war film to date on my journey.  An entertaining film for fans of this kind of thing.

The Guns of Navarone won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Best Sound; Best Film Editing and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Trailer – colors are vivid on the DVD