1962 Recap and Ten Favorite Films

I have now watched 116 films that were released in 1962.  A complete list can be found here.  It was a strong year and I had 19 films for my favorites list.   They could have been sliced and diced in any number of ways – I aimed for a balance between List and non-List films.  The  films I reluctantly left off my Top Ten were: An Autumn Afternoon; Advise and Consent; Sanjuro; Gypsy; The Music Man; Jules and Jim; The Longest Day; Cape Fear; and Vive le tour .  The list is no particular order though Harakiri would remain at the top no matter how I compiled the list.

10.  A Long Day’s Journey Into Night – directed by Sidney Lumet

9.  Whatever Happened to Baby Jane – directed by Robert Aldrich

8.  The Days of Wine and Roses – directed by Blake Edwards

7.  Cleo from 5 to 7 – directed by Agnes Varda

6.  The Manchurian Candidate – directed by John Frankenheimer

5.  The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner – directed by Tony Richardson

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird– directed by Robert Mulligan

3.  The Miracle Worker – directed by Arthur Penn

2.  Lawrence of Arabia – directed by David Lean

Harakiri – directed by Masaki Kobayashi

 

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

The Trial of Joan of Arc (Procès de Jeanne d’Arc)
Directed by Robert Bresson
Written by Robert Bresson from the transcript of the trial
1962/France
Agnes Delahaie Productions
First viewing/FilmStruck

 

Jeanne d’Arc: My voices were from God. All I did, I did at God’s command. My voices did not lie. My visions were from God.

As with many of Bresson’s films, this is slow going but beautiful.

Most of the dialogue was taken from the actual transcript of Joan’s trial.  The English are, naturally, cast in a very bad light and possibly Bresson wrote the behind the scenes parts. The story concludes with Joan’s martyrdom at the stake.

Bresson directs in his usual “non-acting” style which is always distancing for me. Thankfully, the images were enough to keep me engaged.  I had never noticed before but, at least in this one, Bresson focuses a lot of his attention on feet, cutting off the heads and torsos of his actors while they are in motion.  His camera is much more lively than his actors or plot.

Hell Is for Heroes (1962)

Hell Is for Heroes

Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Robert Pirosh and Richard Carr
1962/USA
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Pvt. John Reese: The outfit I came from was a real dilly. There was a general, a major, two captains, two lieutenants, and me. There’s a squad for you, buddy-o.

Platoon Sgt. Bill Pike: Sounds like a court martial board.

Steve McQueen is the ultimate bad boy soldier in this low-budget combat drama.

Everybody in a platoon situated on the Siegfried Line believes their squad will be sent home shortly.  Instead Sgt. Pike (Fess Parker) announces they are going back into battle. Before they do, they are joined by the surly Pvt. Reese (McQueen).  On the front, six of the men learn they will stay behind to divert the enemy while the bulk of the force is sent elsewhere.  This is truly hell.  Reese only makes it more hellish by trying to wage one-man warfare.  With Charles Coburn, Bobbie Darin, and Bob Newhart as other GIs.

IMDb trivia: At one point, a columnist was visiting the set, and he mentioned to another observer that Steve McQueen seemed to be his own worst enemy. Co-star Bobby Darin overheard the comment and quickly replied, ‘Not while I’m around’.”

Don Siegel certainly knew how to direct action and the combat scenes here are solid despite some financial limitations.  The GIs conform to stereotypes that were born 20 years before but it’s kind of fun to see a cast that would carry us through the next 10-20 years do its stuff.  I particularly liked Newhart, though admittedly his routine does not fit in with the tone of the film as a whole.

The Dungeon of Harrow (1962)

The Dungeon of Harrow
Directed by Pat Boyette
Written by Pat Boyette and Henry Garcia
1962/USA
Herts-Lion International Corp.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Cassandra: You’re quite safe now. You’re in the castle of Count Lorente De Sade.

Writer/director Pat Boyette gives Ed Wood a run for his money in the bad movie department.

As the film begins, the dying Aaron Fallon bemoans the end of his line.  We segue into flashback.  Fallon and the captain are the only survivors of a shipwreck (which seems to have been staged in a bathtub).  They wash up on the island of the evil Count de Sade.  His companions all seem to be slaves with no hesitation to carry out his maniacal orders.  We eventually learn that there is a deadly secret locked up in the Count’s basement.

This movie is really terrible in all its aspects. The acting may be the worst part.  Some of the actors seem to have learned their lines phonetically.  The poor print and sound on the DVD I received did not help, though I strongly suspect that the quality may just reflect the original.  Is this bad enough to be enjoyable?  Just barely.

Clip – even the credits are terrible!

Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7)
Directed by Agnes Varda
Written by Agnes Varda
1962/France/Italy
Cine Tamaris/Rome Paris Films
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

The second time around seemed much funnier than the first but just as satisfying.

Cleo (Corrine Marchand) is a beautiful up-and-coming pop singer.  On this particular day, she is waiting to find out the results of medical tests that may show she has cancer.  The story plays out in almost real time over the last two hours before she is to get hold of her doctor.  Starting with a fortune teller, all signs point toward illness and death.  Cleo spends part of her remaining time making frivolous purchases, complaining, and otherwise indulging her ego and other vices.

Finally, she is so worried and fed up that she yanks off her hair piece, changes clothes, and heads off to see a girl friend.  The friend drops Cleo off in a park where she meets up with a young soldier who, though about to go off to war himself, is content to hear about the troubles of his new acquaintance.

I just love the sly way that Varda plays with expectations in this film!  I also liked the expose of the utter silliness that lies behind much feminine glamor and beauty.  I kept yelling at Cleo to do something about her hair.  When she did, my heart soared.  Another plus is the Michel LeGrand score.  I highly recommend this movie which puts the “new” in New Wave.

Trailer

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Robert Ardrey and John Gay from a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibañez
1962/USA/Mexico
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Moctezuma Films/Olallo Rubio
First viewing/YouTube rental

“Poor Humanity, crazed with fear, was fleeing in all directions on hearing the thundering pace of the Plague, War, Hunger and Death.” ― Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

This movie is just too darned long … and miscast.

I’m not familiar with the source novel or the 1921 original.  The film updates the story from WWI to WWII and presumably changes the plot in other ways as well.

The story begins in 1938.  Anyway, Grandpa Julio Madariaga (Lee J. Cobb) is a life-loving Argentine and the patriarch of a large family.  One of his daughters married Frenchman Marcelo Desnoyers (Charles Boyer) and bore playboy Julio (Glenn Ford) and idealist Chi Chi (Yvette Mimeaux).  The other daughter married German Karl von Hartrott (Paul Lukas) who bore Heinrich (Karl Böhm), an early Nazi supporter.  The Desnoyers end up moving back to Paris while the Hartrotts relocate to Germany.  It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.

Upon arrival in Pairs, Julio takes up a paintbrush but actually spends most of his time in the high life.  That is until he begins a tempestuous love affair with Marguerite Lanier (Ingrid Thulin), who is married to idealistic newspaper publisher Etienne Laurier (Paul Heinreid).  After France is invaded, Etienne is conveniently taken out of the picture by his activities for the French Resistance.  He is eventually imprisoned and released home.  Marguerite calls it quits and Julio is moved to join the Resistance himself.  And so on …

This movie is almost three hours long.  It could have been cut to two hours without sacrificing much but likely still would have been dull.  It was a major flop at the box office.

For me, one of the main problems was Glenn Ford.  The hero of the silent version was Rudolph Valentino.  By this point in his career, Ford was much too stodgy to play a dashing and romantic leading man.  I read that the director was keen on Alain Delon who would have been perfect in the part but was vetoed by the producers.

Trailer

 

Il Sorpasso (1962)

Il Sorpasso  
Directed by Dino Risi
Written by Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, and Ruggero Maccarri
1962/Italy
Incei Film/Sancro Film/Fair Film
First viewing/Netflix rental

Bruno Cortona: Put this one on. Its Modugno. Poetry doesn’t do much for me. I like music. This song’s really great. Mystical. Really gets you thinking. Ah, music. I really like Modugno. This song really drives me crazy. It seems so simple, but it’s got everything – – loneliness, inability to communicate, and that stuff that’s all the rage now – – alienation, like in Antonioni’s films. Did you see “L’eclisse”?

Roberto Mariani: Yes

Bruno Cortona: I fell asleep. Had a nice nap. Great director, Antonioni. I saw him in his Flaminia Zagato once. I couldn’t stop gawking.

This is sort of a road movie in which a free-spirited Roman braggart drives a shy law student around the city and its environs.  Your opinion of the film will likely depend on your opinion of the braggart.  I couldn’t stand him.

The story begin when Bruno Cortona (Vittorio Gassman) talks his way into the apartment of law student Roberto Mariani to make a phone call.  It is a major holiday and the streets of Rome are deserted.  Bruno is not able to reach the people he was supposed to catch up with so he suggests that Roberto accompany him.  Roberto had set aside the time for studying but allows himself to be persuaded.  At first the idea is that the two will share a meal.  But once Bruno has Roberto in his clutches he decides that he must stay for the whole adventure.

Bruno is one of the least considerate most irresponsible drivers in movies.  He delights in driving at high speeds and feels compelled to pass anyone in front of him.  He also enjoys making insulting remarks and chatting up women.  Slowly Robert comes to admire Bruno’s life style and begins to loosen up a little himself.

I think the filmmakers mean us to believe Bruno has an admirable spontaneity and freedom that Roberto if not ourselves should immulate.  I disliked him thoroughly.  The ending of this film comes out of nowhere. It didn’t make me like the movie any more than I had but it made sense.

Opening Credits

All Night Long (1962)

All Night Long
Directed by Basil Dearden
Written by Nel King and Paul Jarrico
1962/UK
The Rank Organization
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Johnnie Cousin: Me? Oh, I belong to that new minority group: white American jazz musicians. They’re going to hold a mass meeting in a phone booth. [laughs]

Here’s a decent version of Othello with a modern twist.

The setting is the first anniversary celebration of the marriage of black jazz band leader Aurelius Rex and white singer Delia Lane.  Delia retired from singing when she married Rex.  Drummer Johnnie Cousin (Patrick McGoohan) is jealous of Rex and wants to start his own band.  He can get backing but only with the promise that Delia will return to sing with his band.  He doesn’t let his financier know that he has not been able make a deal with Delia though.

So Johnnie plots to break up her marriage by making Rex jealous of Delia’s relationship with Cass Michaels.  He resorts to some pretty underhanded means of doing this.  With Richard Attenborough as a wealthy fan and jazz greats Dave Brubeck and Charles Mingus in Rex’s band.

This was good if not great.  McGoohan makes an evil Iago and does well with an American accent.  Nice music throughout

Trailer

Being Two Isn’t Easy (1962)

Being Two Isn’t Easy (Watashi wa nisai)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Written by Natto Wada from a novel by Michio Matsuda
1962/Japan
Daiei Studios
First viewing/FilmStruck

 

The fundamental job of a toddler is to rule the universe. Lawrence Kutner

This is a totally charming movie for baby lovers everywhere.

The film looks at the development of a baby boy named Taro from birth to his second birthday, with emphasis on his second year of life.  We hear Taro’s perspective but also see through the eyes of his parents and eventually his grandmother.  It’s mostly every day stuff with a couple of crises thrown in for dramatic effect.

You really wouldn’t expect this from Ichikawa whose previous films included The Burmese Harp and Fires on the Plain.  The director showed he also had mastered gentle comedy.  I was completely won over.  Recommended.

 

Merrill’s Marauders (1962)

Merrill’s Marauders
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Written by Samuel Fuller and Milton Sperling
1962/USA
Warner Bros./United States Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Bannister: Do you know what I’m going to do after the war? I’m going to get married and have six kids. Then I’m going to line them up and tell them what Burma was like. And if they don’t cry, I’ll beat the hell out of them.

This may be one of Sam Fuller’s least Fuller-esque pictures.

This is based on the true story of an infantry unit that battled the Japanese in Burma.  Brig. Gen. Frank D. Merrill (Jeff Chandler) is given one impossible task after another.  All the grunts want to do is go home.  By the end, all they want is something to eat.

 

This is OK but is basically combat and explosions, only sporadically interrupted by story and dialogue.

Merrill’s Maraudes was Chandler’s last film.  He died at age 42 of blood poisoning shortly after production ended.

Trailer