About Bea

I've been a classic movie fan for more years than I'd care to mention. I am on a mission to see as many movies as I can get my hands on for every year from 1929 to 1970. This blog will record my reviews and some articles about people, places, and things I meet along the way. I'm a retired Foreign Service Officer living in Indio, California. I read, knit and look at birds when I'm not watching movies.

Pitfall (1962)

Pitfall (Otoshiana) 
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara
Written by Kobo Abe
1962/Japan
Teshigahara Productions/Toho Company
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

I have never yet heard of a murderer who was not afraid of a ghost. John Philpot Curran

There’s some effective filmmaking here but I failed to get the point if there was one.

A miner and his young son are wandering around looking for work.  They are told they can find some in a certain town.  When they arrive they discover it is a ghost town.  The only living soul they can find is the woman who operates the candy store.

Before very long, the miner is murdered by a mystery man in white.  The mystery man pays the candy store lady to deny he was ever in town.  The miner’s ghost observes the investigation.  A bunch of other stuff happens, somehow involving two rival miners unions and other ghosts.

I’m a big fan of Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dunes (1964) but I found his feature film debut underwhelming.  The staging and photography have some of the eerie feel of Woman but the story lacks the focus or power of that film.  It’s basically a loosely connected series of unpunished bad acts.  Not a favorite.

Trailer – no subtitles

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

King Kong vs. Godzilla
Directed by Ishiro Honda
Written by Shinichi Sekizawa
1962/Japan
Toho Company
First viewing/Netflix rental

Mr.Tako: King Kong can’t make a monkey out of us!

Wherever there is a giant ape, there must be some idiot who wants to make him a star. That he fights Godzilla is just the icing on the cake.

A pharmaceutical company has got its hands on some giant berries with potential as a tranquilizer.  It can’t get any more because the natives of its New Guinea island home need all they have to appease their god, King Kong.  The minute some promoters learn of this they must find the ape and bring it Tokyo.

Concurrently, Godzilla has awoken from the iceberg in which it was frozen and is making its way back to its homeland, i.e. Tokyo.  The authorities prepare for catastrophe while the promoters try to prevent molestation of Kong.  Unfortunately, the electric currents which repel Godzilla actually strengthen Kong.  The only hope is that they will destroy each other. Havoc ensues.

This is 91 minutes of dopey fun.  The promoters are some of the lamest comic relief ever.  I  smiled throughout but would not rank it in the top seven Japanese movies of all time.

Trailer

Mafioso (1962)

Mafioso
Directed by Albert Lattuada
Written by Rafael Azcona, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, story by Bruno Caruso
1962/Italy
Compagnia Cinematografica Antonio Cervi/Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Antonio Badalamenti: I may live in Milan, but I’m still Sicilian.

Antonio Badalamenti (Alberto Sordi) has made good by Sicilian standards.  He moved to Milan where he became a factory foreman and acquired a beautiful blonde wife and two angelic little girls.  After years of waiting, Antonio gets 15 days off for a vacation.  He is excited to introduce the wife and kids to his extended family.  Before he goes, his American boss gives him a letter for the local Don in his home town.

The affable Antonio rapidly adjusts to Sicilian life – his wife less so.  But even she relaxes into the earthy culture.  Antonio’s first duty call is on the Don, who helps him resolve a family land dispute.  But in Sicily all favors must be repaid and Antonio is unfortunately the best shot the town has ever known.  Before long he finds himself in a packing case off to perform some unknown mission for the Don.

Sordi’s charisma and the warmth and beauty of a small Sicilian town made this very pleasant viewing.  Before everything gets deadly serious, there’s also plenty of wry humor to enjoy.

Hands of a Stranger (1962)

Hands of a Stranger
Directed by Newt Arnold
Written by Newt Arnold
USA/1962
Glenwood-Neve Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

“Behold the hands, how they promise, conjure, appeal, menace, pray, supplicate, refuse, beckon, interrogate, admire, confess, cringe, instruct, command, mock and what not besides, with a variation and multiplication of variation which makes the tongue envious.” ― Michel de Montaigne

If you are in the mood for a hand transplant movie, do yourself a favor and watch Mad Love (1935).

Vernon Paris is a genius concert pianist.  He is about to see all his dreams comes true. Then the cab he is riding in crashes and he finds himself with completely mangled hands. His manager begs a surgeon to save his hands and the only answer is a hand transplant from a recently dead corpse.

Vernon is appalled rather than grateful to wake up with new mitts.  Instead of giving his new hands a chance to rehabilitate and practice, he goes about murdering everybody connected with his tragedy or his surgery.

Contrary to anything you may read on the poster, we never do find out whom the hands belonged to.  Thus we are never sure whether the hands or the pianist’s bitterness is responsible for his murderous tendencies.  This is moderately OK for a B-movie but nothing special.

Clip

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