A Woman Is a Woman (1961)

A Woman Is a Woman
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard
1961/France/Italy
Euro International Films/Rome Paris Films
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Alfred Lubitsch: Make up your minds. I’d hate to miss “BREATHLESS” – it’s on T.V.

Godard’s second feature is bright, shiny and brings us the lovely Anna Karina.  It’s even more meta than Breathless and I’m still not buying it.

Stripper Angela (Karina) is locked in a perpetual, playful battle of the sexes with stuffy live-in lover Emile Recamier (Jean-Claude Brialy).  She is also in a long-term flirtation with Emile’s friend, Alfred Lubitsch (Jean-Paul Belmondo).  Angela has decided she wants a baby.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Angela’s light-hearted attempts to play the two men against each other until she gets what she wants.

As always, this is an exercise in style and the style is certainly innovative and fun.  Godard is the star of all his films.  Here he enjoys making references to his contemporaries in the French New Wave, going so far as having a character meeting a cameo Jeanne Moreau in a bar and asking her how Jules and Jim is going.  I like some meat on the bones of my movies and am afraid Godard might never be for me.

Trailer

Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1961)

Chaudhvin Ka Chand (Full Moon)
Directed by M. Sadiq
Written by Saghir Usmani
1961/India
Guru Dutt Films Pvt. Ltd.
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

“Sometimes the sky looks so beautiful and at the same time earth also looks so beautiful and finally we look so beautiful as well! By just looking at the nature you become the nature itself! Look at the beautiful full moon, you become a beautiful full moon!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

I wasn’t in the mood to watch a 2 1/2+ romantic Bollywood musical.  This one quickly captured me though.

The characters are predominately Muslims living in the northern India city of Lucknow.  The mother of Nawab Pyare Mian has two dreams in life.  One is to see her son married and the other is to fulfill her religious obligations by making the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.  By now she is infirm but can visit Mecca by proxy through her priest.  The problem is the priest is unwilling to travel while his daughter is unmarried.  This has a simple fix.  Mom asks the Nawab to marry the daughter.

In the meantime, the Nawab caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman who briefly unveiled her face at the market place.  He is now totally obsessed with finding her.  He easily convinces his best friend Aslam to marry the priest’s daughter Jamila.  But a series of misunderstandings means that Aslam discovers that Jamila was actually the beautiful lady at the marketplace.  The Nawab is making plans to marry someone he thinks is his dream woman.  This leaves Aslam, who is madly in love with his wife, with a terrible dilemma.

I thought this would be one I watched to get it over with but I was charmed.  The Muslim angle is unusual and the story is sweet and tragic.  There is a little of the obligatory comic relief but a refreshing lack of silliness and not too much dancing.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)

One-Eyed Jacks
Directed by Marlon Brando
Written by Guy Trosper and Calder Willingham from a novel by Charles Neider
1961/USA
Pennebaker Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rio: You may be a one eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face.

This is an OK Western but I think I could have died without seeing it.

As the story begins, Rio (Marlon Brando) and Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) are on the run following a bank robbery.  They end up stranded in the desert with one lame horse between them.  Rio suggests a game to determine who will go out in search of fresh horses.  He rigs the outcome so Dad will be forced to stick his neck out for the dangerous mission.

Ironically, Dad makes it to a ranch where he requisitions horses at gun point.  He then makes off with the stolen loot, abandoning Rio to the Mexican police and an eventual five year sentence in a Mexican jail.

Upon his release, Rio joins up with another gang of bank robbers in the States.  They know of substantial deposits in a town’s bank.  Dad has gone more-or-less straight and is now sherriff of that town.  This suits Rio fine since he has dreamed of killing Dad for the last five years.

We follow planning for the robbery and Rio’s dealings with Dad, wife Maria (Katy Jurado) and stepdaughter Louisa.  Naturally, Rio and Louisa fall in love.  With Slim Pickens as Dad’s mean and corrupt deputy.

This is not bad but nothing too special either.  Brando does well with a Texas accent.  He and the scenery look gorgeous in Technicolor.  The movie seems to meander for a lot of its 2 1/2 hour running time.

One-Eyed Jacks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Color.

Trailer

So Evil, So Young (1961)

So Evil, So Young
Directed by Godfrey Grayson
Story by Mark Grantham
1961/USA
Danziger Productions Inc.
First viewing/YouTube

 

The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Possibly the tamest women-in-prison movie ever made.

Ann (Jill Ireland) is framed for robbery and sent to prison where she is forced to wear a pink dress and be scolded by the guards.

Even the worst women-in-prison movie generally offers some fun.  This one put me right to sleep.  I will not be catching up on the parts I missed.

Clip – credits and opening

Immortal Love (1961)

Immortal Love (Eien no hito)
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
Written by Keisuke Kinoshita
1961/Japan
Shochiku Ofuna
First Viewing/FilmStruck

 

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Healthcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.” ― Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Ever-lasting love is not an entirely good thing in this melodrama.

Sadako (Hideko Takamine) is the beautiful daughter of a tenant farmer.  She is in love with Takashi who is away at the front.  Heibei (Tatsuya Nakadai), the lame son of a wealthy landowner, is in love with her.  Frustrated by her consistent refusals of his marriage proposals, he rapes her.  She becomes pregnant and they marry.

Almost immediately thereafter, Takashi returns.  He begs her to run away with him but she is prevented.  He marries another.  Years pass.  He has a son and she has two sons and a daughter.  All concerned, including the spouses and children, remain mired in resentment for most of their lives.

This is more nuanced than your average doomed romance and has an unusual, refreshing outcome.  Given the personnel involved, you know going in that the acting will be outstanding and the cast does not disappoint.  Not a masterpiece, but recommended if the plot appeals.

Immortal Love was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

 

 

Master of the World (1961)

Master of the World
Directed by William Witney
Written by Richard Matheson based on two novels by Jules Verne
1961/USA
Alta Vista Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

 

Vincent Price and Charles Bronson liven up a fantastic voyage that cashes in on popular Jules Verne adaptations of the day.

The movie begins with a bunch of historic footage of unsuccessful attempts at heavier than air flight.  We then move on to 1868 Morgantown, PA.  The townspeople are astounded to hear a great rumbling and a menacing biblical quotation emanating from a nearby mountain.  They assume it indicates volcanic activity.  Department of Interior official John Strock (Bronson) arrives to investigate.  He soon becomes acquainted with arms manufacturer Mr. Prudent (Henry Hull) and his daughter Dorothy.  Prudent and Dorothy’s fiancé Phillip constantly bicker about the hot air baloon Phillip has designed.

Struck convinces the three to take him up in the balloon to take a peak at the crater. Before they know it, the balloon has been downed and they are prisoners inside a giant air ship, The Albatross.  The Albatross’s captain is Robur (Price), a man with a mission — to end war through threats and violence.  He simply sinks war ships with all hands on deck if they do not heed his warning to abandon ship.  Mr. Prudent’s party must figure out how to a) escape and (b) destroy the Albatross – preferably both.  Meanwhile there is a mild love triangle between John, Phillip and Dorothy.

I thought this was much more entertaining than its mediocre IMDb rating would imply.  The special effects are not so special but there is an atmosphere of adventure that is very appealing.  Also, just watching Price do his thing is generally a treat for me.  The young Bronson is magnetic – even a bit sexy.

It was fun to spot stock footage taken from The Four Feathers (1939) all these years later!

Trailer

Victim (1961)

Victim
Directed by Basil Dearden
Written by Janet Green and John McCormick
1961/UK
Allied Film Makers
First viewing/Netflix

 

Frank: Well it used to be witches. At least they don’t burn you.

Dirk Bogarde is fantastic in this exploration of the consequences of intolerance.

As the story begins, we are introduced to Barrett, a young man on the run.  He keeps calling barrister Melville Farr (Bogarde).  When Farr finally does take his call, he threatens to call the police if Barrett calls again.  This does not deter Barrett from calling Farr’s house and leaving a message with his wife Laura (Sylvia Syms).  We gradually learn that Barrett is fleeing the police who are after him for embezzlement.  The police also suspect that he is a blackmail victim since he lives simply.  Barrett’s arrest leads to tragedy.

Farr is a closeted homosexual (who denies ever succumbing to his desires) and the tragedy moves him to take action.  This takes him and us into London’s gay subculture. Most of its denizens would prefer paying blackmail to jail where revelation of their “crime” would surely take them.  With Dennis Price as a gay actor.

Victim is a sad but powerful film.  I love Bogarde and he is at his haunted best here.  The stigma of being gay hurt so many people, including the women caught up in the struggle to appear “normal”.  I’m glad I have lived to see a new day.

This was an immensely brave film for its time – the first to utter the word “homosexual” and to treat homosexuals sympathetically.  Bogarde was brave to have made it.  Straight actors had rejected the part and it could have lead to unpleasant suspicions about Bogarde, who was gay himself.

I rented this but it is also available on FilmStruck.  Recommended.

Trailer

One, Two, Three (1961)

One, Two, Three
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond from a play by Ferenc Molnar
1961/USA
Bavaria Film/The Mirisch Corporation/Pyramid Productions
Repeat viewing/YouTube

Otto Ludwig Piffl: Is everybody in this world corrupt?

Peripetchikoff: I don’t know everybody.

Wilder moves back into Ninotchka territory with this rapid-fire Cold War farce.

It is immediately before the building of the Berlin Wall.  After suffering a couple of tours in Purgatory, Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney) is heading up the company’s Berlin office.  His great dream is a promotion to the London office.  The gatekeeper to his dream is his boss in Atlanta, Wendell P. Hazeltine.  So, when Hazeltine asks MacNamara to house and chaperone his wild daughter Scarlet (Pamela Tiffin) while she is in Berlin, he can hardly refuse.

The seventeen-year-old Scarlet is untameable.  MacNamara finally learns that she has been spending all the time she should have been at museums over in East Berlin.  Worse yet, she has married a committed Commie named Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buchholz) and is now pregnant.  And her father and mother will arrive in Berlin shortly …

MacNamara leaps into action, determined by hook or by crook to wrest Otto from East Berlin and civilize him immediately.  With Arlene Francis as MacNamara’s long-suffering wife.

I saw this years and years ago in my youth, perhaps my childhood, and have been unable to track it down ever since.  I jumped at the chance when I saw it was available on YouTube.  My viewing experience was not ideal as the movie occupied only a fraction of the frame and the already rapid-fire talking seemed to approach Chipmunks level.

Nonetheless, the movie was thoroughly enjoyable.  Wilder has fun harkening back to his own and Cagney’s Golden Age past.  The three Russian trade officials are something straight out of Ninotchka.  The director makes fun of all sides in the Cold War, skewering Capitalism and Communism with equal relish.  The dialogue just sparkles.  The film misses being top-tier Wilder only because of its lack of a black heart under the laughs.

By the time the film was released the Berlin Wall was up and few saw any humor in the subject matter.  It was one of Wilder’s few flops to date.  One, Two, Three was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Trailer

Clip

The Naked Witch (1961)

The Naked Witch
Directed by Claude Alexander and Larry Buchanan
Written by Claude Alexander and Larry Buchanan
1961/USA
Alexander Enterprises
First viewing/YouTube

 

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.” ― Neil Gaiman

Teenagers must have been vastly disappointed by this one, even in 1961.

This is the old story of a witch who returns from the grave to get vengeance on the descendents of those that burnt her at the stake.  The only difference is that she wears a see-through negligee most of the time.

If you watch the clip you will see the high point of the movie – and with better music.  Larry Buchanan went on to specialize in soft-core porn.  This isn’t quite that but has the same basic vibe.  Don’t waste your time.

It’s on to more mainstream viewing today!

Witch’s dance synched to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – pretty amazing synchronization!

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

The Beast of Yucca Flats
Directed by Coleman Francis
Written by Coleman Francis
1961/USA
Cardoza-Francis Productions
First viewing/Amazon Prime

Narrator: Flag on the moon. How did it get there?

This gem gets one star for quality and 4.5 stars for entertainment value!  I knew I had hit bad movie gold within the first two minutes.

The first thing you need to know is this movie was shot without sound so much of the “action” is narrated by the writer/director.  Most dialogue is spoken with the actors’ backs to the camera.  The story begins out of nowhere with a bare-breasted woman toweling off after a shower.  She moves from the bathroom to the bedroom, where, still wrapped in the towel, she removes her shoes (!).  Then mysterious hands strangle her and leave her dead in her bed.

We move into flashback where we learn that humanitarian Soviet scientist Joseph Jarvosky (Tor Johnson, an Ed Wood regular) has defected, taking with him secret photos of a flag on the moon in his brief case.  After a loooong and inept car chase with Soviet agents, he escapes into Yucca Flats where he immediately is exposed to an A-bomb test and transformed into a crazed Beast.  He is a victim of “progress”, as the narrator reminds us over and over.

Narrator: Boys from the city. Not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress. Feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs.

We have to assume he killed the girl in the opening scene.  His next victims are a couple stopped to repair a flat tire in the desert.  The Beast immediately kills the man and drags the woman into his cave.  Police find the body and the woman’s purse and begin the search for the culprit.

In the meantime, a family of four makes a stop in the desert and their two little boys run off to explore.  When the boys do not return, the father goes off to look for them.  Big mistake as one of the policemen is up in a helicopter looking for the killer and has instructions to shoot first and ask questions later.  He only wounds the man who manages to return to the car.  He leaves his wife alone (!) while he goes off to get help.

I won’t pursue this any farther except to say that the ending sequence with the jack rabbit is absolutely classic.

This looks and feels like something a maniac like Ed Wood could churn out in a couple of hours.  Coleman Francis possesses that special genius for the bizarre that is right up my alley.  I didn’t think I would find anything to compete with my beloved Robot Monster but this did.  The jury is still out because I would need to see if it holds up to repeat viewing like that film.

Somebody took the trouble to restore a pristine looking print which can be seen on Amazon Prime. The complete film is also available on YouTube, as is an MST3K version.

Trailer

Trailers from Hell