The War Lover
Directed by Philip Leacock
Written by Howard Koch from a novel by John Hersey
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Columbia British Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
Captain Buzz Rickson: Lady, I belong to the most destructive group of men the world has ever known. That’s my work.
I wasn’t quite prepared for a movie where I felt like slapping Steve McQueen throughout.
The story is set prior to D-Day while the US Air Force is conducting bombing runs out of Britain. Buzz Rickson (McQueen) is an ace pilot. He is also an arrogant a-hole and miserable human being. Even his co-pilot Ed Boland (Robert Wagner) is getting sick and tired of him. Buzz spends his off hours playing humiliating pranks and pursuing women. Ed meets Daphne (Shirley Anne Field), an upper-crust intelligence worker, and spends his off hours being in love with her. Buzz wants everything he can’t have.
About half of the film is comprised of bombing runs. The other half follows the love triangle and Buzz’s general ass-hattery. With Michael Crawford in a small part as a raw recruit.
McQueen plays the kind of guy I love to hate. He is evidently so damaged that the only pleasure he can get is from destruction. This serves him well as a bomber pilot – less so as a human being. McQueen does well as an anti-hero and it’s a solid film but not one I will likely watch again.
That Touch of Mink
Directed by Delbert Mann
Written by Stanley Shapiro and Nate Monaster
Granley Company/Arwin Productions/Nob Hill Productions Inc.
First viewing/Netflix rental
Connie Emerson: [talking to Cathy] For 2000 years we’ve had their children, washed their clothes, cooked their meals and cleaned their houses. And what did they give us in return? The right to smoke in public. We sold out for a cigarette – and you don’t even smoke!
Right before being a 40-year-old virgin was just plain embarrassing, Doris Day was tempting some mighty handsome man to the altar in just that condition. Cary Grant makes a more than adequate stand-in for Rock Hudson.
Cathy Timberlake (Day) is an unemployed career woman with a great wardrobe and apartment. One day, her immaculate attire is doused when fabulously wealthy Phillip Shayne’s (Grant) limo speeds through a large puddle. He sends his minion (Gig Young) out in search for her to make things right. Once he sees Cathy, though, he has more than mercy on his mind. For her it is love at first sight. That’s why she allows him to treat her to a deluxe romantic getaway in Bermuda.
Somehow, our heroine manages to maintain her virtue. The rest of the story follows the wrangling and misunderstandings that usually lead to a happy ending. With Audrey Meadows as Cathy’s friend.
This is up there with the Rock Hudson-Doris Day rom-coms of the period. Grant is always a joy to watch. Nice for a weekday afternoon.
That Touch of Mink was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; and Best Sound.
Damn the Defiant! (AKA “HMS Defiant”)
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Written by Nigel Kneale and Edmund H. North from a novel by Frank Tilsely
First viewing/Netflix rental
Captain Crawford: [Crawford smacks his desk, jumps up and approaches Scott-Padget] I will say this to you only once, sir: I will not be bullied or threatened and I intend to be obeyed! Your friends in London mean nothing to me! I assure you that while you serve aboard this ship, they will mean absolutely nothing to you! You can go now.
With Billy Budd and Mutiny on the Bounty, Damn the Defiant completes a trifecta of 1962 films about brutality aboard British warships during the Napoleonic Wars. It’s a worthy entree to the genre.
Captain Crawford (Alec Guinness) is a veteran seaman with great pride in his ship. Times being what they were the only way to fill the crew is to simply press gang (kidnap) likely men. Crawford sees this as a necessary evil. Second in command Lieut. Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde) gets sadistic pleasure from the exercise. One voluntary member of the crew is Crawford’s son who is getting his sea legs as a midshipman.
Scott-Padget rules the men with an iron hand and plenty of lashings. When the Captain insists on disregarding Scott-Padget’s advice in favor of his orders, the younger man takes it out on the twelve-year-old boy. Scott-Padget has friends in high places in London (is he the illegitimate son of an Admiral?) but this cuts no ice with Crawford.
Scott-Padget’s main aim seems to be to avoid engagement with the enemy. Nonetheless, the Defiant prevails in two different sea battles. Below deck, the ill-used crew is planning mutiny.
I thought this was a nice entertaining adventure. It’s hard to go wrong with Guinness and Bogarde. Bogarde plays his part as a suave young gentleman with a heart of stone.
Varan the Unbelievable
Directed by Jerry A. Baerwitz (Ishiro Honda uncredited)
Written by Sid Harris
Cory Film Corporation/Dallas Productions Inc./Toho Company (uncredited)
First viewing/Amazon Prime
The scariest monsters are the ones that live within our souls. — Edgar Allen Poe
Obake didn’t want his name used in this terrible movie so he’s called Varan in the poster art.
Studly, masterful Cmdr. James Bradley lives a perpetual honeymoon with his submissive Japanese wife Anna on a remote Japanese island where he conducts desalinization experiments. He appears to command the Japanese military on the island, possibly in all Japan. The experiments involve dumping chemicals in the local sacred lake, which the natives believe to be occupied by a monster named Obake. Bradley’s plans involve evacuating the villagers but Anna pleads for them so he merely quarantines the lake. We can all see where this is going.
Every ham-fisted step Bradley takes to deal with his ensuing problems makes matters worse until he outsmarts both the military and Obake to save the day.
For now, this one holds the title as worst kaiju movie I have ever seen. It is perhaps unfair as the Americanization seems to have removed about 75% of the Japanese original and replaced it with utter inanity. Watch at your own risk.
Panic in Year Zero!
Directed by Ray Milland
Jay Simms and John Morton from stories by Ward Moore
Roger Corman Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Dr. Powell Strong: Now, you stay on the back roads. And you keep your gun handy. Our country is still full of thieving, murdering patriots.
This movie says more about the Alpha-male’s obsession with his gun than it does about nuclear apocalypse.
Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland) is a man’s man and the unquestioned head of his household. This is made up of wife Ann (Jean Hagen and teenagers Rick (Frankie Avalon) and Karen. The story begins with Harry barking out orders as the family readies itself for an early morning departure to Harry’s favorite fishing spot in their camper. The family is well out of town when it spots a mushroom cloud in the distance. Ann convinces Harry to turn back out of concern for her mother but before long Harry has formulated his master plan. It is basically every man for himself until the return of civilization.
Harry was carrying hunting rifles with him for the vacation and swiftly picks up handguns and ammo. He descends on an out-of-the way town which has not heard the news and buys a huge stockpile of food and provisions. When his money runs out, he simply appropriates the necessaries at gun point. Rick soon follows in the footsteps of dear old dad
Ann pleads to deaf ears for some return to humanity. Finally, the family sets up housekeeping in a cave near the fishing spot. All encounters with other survivors are met with hostility. Finally, an appropriate object for violence presents itself in the form of some JD punks who have their eye on daughter Karen.
If I had had a father or husband like Ray Milland’s character, my only prayer would be for immediate disintegration by the bomb. The type was, of course, more common in 1962 and perhaps this is a kind of critique of survivalist gun nuts. On the other hand, the little family does survive. Any way, it is a well-made movie and worth seeing if you are interested in the topic or genre.
The Day of the Triffids
Directed by Steve Stekeley
Bernard Gordon from a novel by John Wyndam
Allied Artists Pictures/Security Pictures Ltd.
First viewing/Amazon Prime
And I really got hot/ When I saw Janette Scott/ Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills – “Science Fiction Double Feature”, lyrics by Richard O’Brien
Well, I can hardly think of anything cooler than a story about a small band of survivors that tries to battle carnivorous plants in a world gone blind.
As the story begins, the world is being treated to the most spectacular meteor showers in recorded history. All eyes are glued on the heavens. All, that is, except for a few lucky people. Naval officer Bill Masen (Howard Keel) was recovering from eye surgery and blind folded. When he wakes the next morning he cannot rouse the doctor or anyone else from the clinic. He unwraps his own bandages and discovers a London that seems entirely populated by blind people. Eventually he meets up with a little girl who spent the night of the meteor shower stowed away in a freight car. The two go on to meet up with huge, and mobile, carnivorous plants that seem determined to wipe out humanity. As they try to find help outside the city, they eventually come across a few other survivors nursing a number of blind people in a mansion.
On a separate track, marine biologists Tom (Kieron Moore) and Karen (Janette Scott) Goodwin conduct research in an isolated light house. Tom is evidently trying to drink himself to death and has no inclination to see the light show. Karen stands by her man, wringing her hands. But the Triffids have found even their little island and Tom finally has to put on his big boy pants and get to work.
It’s got a certain amount of cheese and the bi-furcated solution to the problem doesn’t bear much scrutiny. No matter, I loved this thing. Just the idea of all these newly blind people bumping into each other while being pursued by plants caught my fancy.
The Day of the Triffids was the last movie referenced in the song “Science Fiction Double Feature” that I had left to watch. If you would like to pursue this quest you will end up seeing: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); Flash Gordon (1936); The Invisible Man (1933); King Kong (1933); It Came from Outer Space (1953); Doctor X (1932); Forbidden Planet (1956); Tarantula (1955); Day of the Triffids (1963); Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (1957) and When Worlds Collide (1951). Anyone interested in seeing some really classic sci-fi could do far worse than this list.
“Science Fiction Double Feature” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Intruder (AKA “I Hate Your Guts”, “The Stranger”, and “Shame”)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles Beaumont from his novel
Roger Corman Productions
Adam Cramer: No matter how much you hate me, blame me, and want to shoot me – it wasn’t all my fault!
Roger Corman and William Shatner went way outside their comfort zones to make this little exploitation flick the best work of either.
The “white” public schools in a small Southern town are about to be integrated under then-current Supreme Court decisions. There is no love lost between blacks and whites in the town but the whites basically accept the action because, after all, it is the law. This creates a gap that “social reformer” Adam Cramer (Shatner) is aching to exploit.
In his shining white suit, Cramer preaches conservative values and race hate and manages to stir up violent opposition on the first day of school. He soon finds out a mob is a dangerous thing and can turn on a dime.
The first time I saw this I was amazed at how powerful it was. It held up very well to a second viewing. Shatner plays one of the most repellent rats in movie history and is excellent at it. If you have a strong aversion to use of the “n” word and racial slurs, even though necessary to the plot, this might not be for you. Otherwise, I recommend it.
Having survived a bout with pneumonia, I will be catching up on the B science fiction films I watched on my tablet in the hospital over the next couple of days before starting again on the regular rotation.
Tears on the Lion’s Mane (AKA “A Flame at the Pier”) (Namida o shishi no tategami ni)
Directed by Masuhiro Shinoda
Written by Ichiro Mizunuma, Masuhiro Shinoda, Shuji Terayama
The fall of the Berlin Wall makes for nice pictures. But it all started in the shipyards. Lech Walesa
For me, there seems to be a real cultural disconnect that prevents me from understanding Shinoda’s films. Here is another very dark, sex-fueled expose of corruption in the Japanese shipping industry.
Super-cool some-time rock singer Saburo Murakami is the right hand man to a man living off graft on the docks. His main occupation is as a strike breaker. The boss man has convinced Saburo that he saved him from fire-bombing as a toddler and thus owes him his life. Between beating up people, Saburo just happens to fall in love with the cute daughter of one of the union organizers.
Of course, the organizer has to be Saburo’s next target. Heartbreak ensues.
I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was a vibe in 60’s Japan that just does not compute with me. A lot of what the people do in these films is clearly meant to be “cool” but simply baffles me. I keep watching them but wish they were more like the older generation of film makers I love so much.
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Leigh Brackett; story by Harry Kurnitz
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
Sean Mercer: Oh this is gonna be great! The Indian is knocked off, I’ve got a woman photographer on my hands,now you and the Frenchman break out in monkey bites and we’re a month behind already!
If you like Africa, wild animals or John Wayne this could make an enjoyable light afternoon at the movies.
Young Brandy De la Court has inherited a ranch in Africa from her father. Sean Mercer (Wayne) helps her run the business – capturing wild animals for zoos – with the assistance of Pockets (Red Buttons) and a old-timer called “The Indian” (Bruce Cabot). By the time the film is fairly started the crew has picked up a German and Frenchman, who inevitably become rivals in love, and beautiful wild game photographer “Dallas” (Elsa Martinelli).
We follow the adventures and misadventures of these folks for the rest of the film. The entire cast seems to be having a ton of fun and nothing is taken too seriously.
According tothe trivia, the wild animal captures were all accomplished as shown on screen by the actors and the African Masai that come along for the ride. Obviously no killing is involved, but we do witness all these creatures running in panic in high speed chases by jeeps until they are exhausted. This looks like no fun at all for the animals and highly dangerous for the cast. Yet these scenes did not take away from the essential light-hearted camaraderie of the piece.
Hatari was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color.
Sweet Bird of Youth
Directed by Richard Brooks
Written by Richard Brooks from a play by Tennessee Williams
Roxbury Productions Inc.
First viewing/Netflix rental
Alexandra Del Lago: No. No, I must look hideous in it.
Chance Wayne: Oh, no, honey. You just look exotic. Yeah. Like a princess from Mars or a… big magnified insect.
I’ve loved many movies based on Tennessee Williams plays. Unfortunately, his crazy lady plot had run out of steam long before 1962.
Chance Wayne (Paul Newman) drifts back into his home town with washed-up movie star Alexandra del Lago (Geraldine Page) in tow. She is deeply into the sauce and assorted controlled substances and when she comes to she has little memory of how she got there. Chance’s plan is to blackmail Alexandra into giving him a boost toward his own dream of movie stardom.
Alexandra may be a drunk but she is nobody’s fool and things backfire badly on Chance. In the meantime, Chance’s reappearance gives “Boss” Finley, the most powerful man in town, a chance to get vengeance on the drifter for trifling with his daughter (Shirley Knight).
One of the things that throws the film off from the get go is that Page is supposed to be an aging movie star and Paul Newman a much younger man. Trouble is that Page was only a year older than Newman and they looked like a perfect match sexually. More fundamentally, we’ve seen this story too many times before. Billy Wilder did it much better in Sunset Blvd. I think I had seen bits of pieces of this on TV before. I always lost interest before seeing the whole thing. Now that I have, I can see why.
Ed Begley won the Oscar for Best Actor in a supporting role. Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Actress and Shirley Night for Best Supporting Actress.