Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

Lonely Are the Brave
Directed by David Miller
Written by Dalton Trumbo from a novel by Edward Abbey
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.


Harakiri (1962)

Harakiri (Seppuku)
Directed by Misaki Kobayashi
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto and Yasuhiku Takiguchi from Takiguchi’s novel
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.


This Is Not a Test (1962)

This Is Not a Test
Directed by Fredric Gadette
Written by Peter Abenheim, Betty Laskey and Fredric Gadette
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
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
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?