Lilies of the Field (1963)

Lilies of the Field
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Written by James Poe from a novel by William E. Barret
Rainbow Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental


Mother Maria: [upon first meeting Homer] God is good. He has sent me a big strong man.

Here’s another one I saw in my youth.  I still love the humor and Sidney Portier’s performance.

Homer Smith (Portier) is driving through the desert when his car overheats.  The nearest civilization is a small convent run with an iron hand by Mother Maria (Lilia Scala).  The nuns escaped East Germany in order to reach America and this dry property that had been left to them.  Mother Maria’s dream has been to build a chapel – the parish is currently served by a priest who conducts mass from the back of a trailer.  She sees Homer as the answer to her prayers.  He wants to keep moving on, then agrees to work for hire for a few days.  Mother Maria has no money to pay him but is not about to get let him get away.

Bit by bit the Baptist Homer is lured into building the chapel and a community of workers forms around him.  His affability wins him friends with everyone except Mother Maria.  She insists on seeing everything he does as the will of God.

This is a simple story, full of heart  If you are looking for a feel good movie look no farther.

Sidney Portier won the Oscar for Best Actor.  The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actress (Lilia Scala); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Daisan no kagemusha (1963)

Daisan no kagemusha (The Third Shadow Warrior)
Directed by Umetsugo Inoue
Written by Seiji Hoshikawa and Norio Nanjo
Daiei Kyoto
First viewing/FilmStruck


Nobukado Takeda: The shadow of a man can never stand up and walk on its own. (From Kagemusha (1980) directed by Akira Kurosawa)

A bloodier take on the Kagemusha source story also made by Akira Kurosawa in 1980.

A humble farmer longs to be a samurai.  A warlord’s retainers promise him a job but it turns out to be to serve as a double and decoy for the warlord.  Much bloody fighting and maiming ensues.

This was well-made but too gruesome for my taste.


Black Sabbath (1963)

Black Sabbath (I tre volti della paura)
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Marcello Fondato, Alberto Bevilacqua and Mario Bava
Emmepi Cinematografica, Galatea Film, etc.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Mary: [to Rosy] You have no reason to be afraid.

This is OK horror, stylishly presented by Mario Bava.

There are a trio of stories here, all introduced by Boris Karloff.  “The Telephone” concerns a call-girl whose calls turn threatening.  Are they from a man she helped put in jail?  In “The Wurdulak”, the head of a large family (Boris Karloff) may have been transformed into a vampire.  In “The Drop of Water” a corpse returns to take revenge on a woman who stole a ring from its dead finger.

This didn’t grab me in any way but is nice to look at thanks to the talented Bava.

I watched a sub-titled version.  There’s an interesting commentary on the DVD.


The Thrill of It All (1963)

The Thrill of It All
Directed by Norman Jewison
Written by Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart
Ross Hunter Productions/Arwin Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

Dr. Gerald Boyer: I’m the kind of a husband who likes to see his wife. Not staring at him from a billboard, or looking up at him from a magazine ad. I want to see her, and I want to see here in person and often.

I found it difficult to laugh very hard at a comedy whose main point seems to be that a wife’s place is in the home.

Beverly Boyer (Doris Day) and her obstetrician husband Gerald (James Garner) have the idyllic marriage, complete with two adorable small children.  Although they have a live-in housekeeper (Zasu Pitts), Beverly keeps busy cooking and making her own ketchup.  One day at a party she inadvertently endorses the host’s brand of soap and ends up becoming the company’s spokesperson.

Beverly’s new job makes her better paid than Gerald and takes her away from the family even more that his night deliveries.  Hilarity ensues as the couple squabble.

I like Day and Garner and they have excellent chemistry.  It’s just hard to get behind a plot that keeps teaching Day over and over that “doctor’s wife” is a fulfilling career in itself.

The Disaster Artist (2017)

The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber from a book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Good Universe/New Line Cinema, etc.
First viewing/theatrical showing


Greg Sestero: Tommy, dude, this really isn’t necessary.

Tommy Wiseau: No, no! Very necessary. I need to show my ass to sell this picture.

I and the rest of the audience of the showing of this movie at the Palm Springs International Film festival laughed our asses off.

This is the story of the friendship of cult director Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and actor Greg Sisteros (Dave Franco).  Both had an unlikely dream of making it in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Hollywood did not agree so Wiseau decided to do it himself by making The Room, now considered one of the worst movies ever made.

The plot delves into the inexplicable personality of the truly unique Wiseau with humor and some sympathy. We laugh at Wiseau’s clueless efforts while ultimately admiring his never losing faith in himself or his project.  The scenes of the friends are interspersed with the making of the movie.  Before the credits role we are treated to a number of shot-for-shot divided screen recreations of The Room.  If you liked Ed Wood (1994), you might like to give this one a try.

Wiseau has always refused to reveal much about his background or personal life and the film leaves many questions unanswered.  I had a hell of a good time though.  I hope Franco is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.  He makes the film work.

We were treated to a Q&A with the scriptwriters and Greg Sisteros after the film.

The Room (2003)

The Room
Directed by Tommy Wiseau
Written by Tommy Wiseau
First viewing/YouTube


It’s as if Ed Wood made a love-triangle soap opera punctuated with soft-core porn.

The movie takes place in an alternative universe masquerading as San Francisco.  Johnny is a bank employee who has been engaged to Lisa for the last five years.  They make love two or three times a day.  She is bored and starts an affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark on the eve of their nuptials.  When Johnny finds out about Lisa’s duplicity   SPOILER


he kills himself.

Obviously, the above is a pretty thin plot for a 99 minute movie.  So there are several other characters who drop in for little particular purpose.  What really adds to the running time however, are the endless soft-focus sex scenes featuring the aging Wiseau’s bare buttocks and with Mark, who is at least more attractive.  Wiseau also seems to like to toss footballs around more than the average guy.

I watched the movie alone and must admit it was an experience.  But it is even better with other people. I managed to find a youtube video with three young people commenting as they watched this for the first time that made me laugh pretty hard.

You have to admit the guy had a vision, demented as it may have been.  In the future, though, I will stick to my beloved bad sci-fi.

Montage of “worst” moments does not fully convey the impact of this terrible, terrible film

The Great Escape (1963)

The Great Escape
Directed by John Sturges
Written by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett from a book by Paul Brickhill
The Mirisch Company
Repeat viewing/Netflixrental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Hilts: I haven’t seen Berlin yet, from the ground or from the air, and I plan on doing both before the war is over.

I’ve loved this movie since I was a kid.

The German Luftwaffe gets the brilliant idea of putting all Allied POW escape artists into a single camp.  The theory is that they can be watched over better.  In practice, the officers are equipped to execute an audacious plan.  An RAF mastermind called “The Big X” (Richard Attenborough) is in charge.  The goal is to be able to tunnel 250 prisoners out of the camp.  The scheme relies on team work, with everyone assigned to a specialty. American Air Force Captain Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) isn’t playing.  His many solo escape attempts  earn him lots of time in solitary confinement and the title “The Cooler King.”

The first two acts of the story concentrate on the planning and details of tunnel construction.  The last part is the daring escape attempt itself when little goes as planned. With James Garner as a Scrounger, Charles Bronson as a Tunnel King, James Coburn as an Australian (!), Donald Pleasance as a Forger, and many other fine British character actors.  There are no female roles.

The film is almost three hours long but I’ve never felt it dragged at all.  POW and heist movies are a favorite of mind – I think because I enjoy learning the mechanics of complicated schemes. This was my introduction to McQueen, Coburn, and Bronson long before I knew they were super-cool.  I just liked them.  The whole thing works beautifully. The adventure is given the perfect underpinning with the iconic Elmer Bernstein score.

The Great Escape was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting
Directed by Robert Wise
Written by Nelson Giddings from the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Argyle Enterprises
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Theodora: Haven’t you noticed how nothing in this house seems to move until you look away and then you just… catch something out of the corner of your eye?

Jack-of-all-trades Robert Wise made a haunted house movie truly scary through implication learned at the hands of Val Lewton.

Many residents of Hill House have died shocking deaths during the previous 90 years of its existence.  Local people are thoroughly convinced it is haunted and none will be there after dark.  Dr. John Markway, a researcher in the paranormal and supernatural, invites a carefully curated list of people with paranormal bents to spend a few days investigating the house.  In the event, all of these drop out save psychic Theodora (Claire Bloom) and Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris), an emotionally fragile “outsider” who somehow believes that the mansion may be her real home.  Along for the ride is skeptic Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) who stands to inherit the house and doesn’t want any dark rumors depressing its market value.

I’ll not reveal much more except that this film takes the haunted house concept very, very seriously while still leaving it open that some of the more horrific occurrences may be aided or created by Eleanor’s mental state.

It takes more and more to give me the shivers the longer I am on this journey.  This movie does the job right.  I was yelling at my TV set “don’t go up those stairs!”.  The acting is all great and the black-and-white cinematography super atmospheric.  Recommended.

Spencer’s Mountain (1963)

Spencer’s Mountain
Directed by Delmer Daves
Written by Earl Hamner Jr and Delmer Daves
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental


Miss Parker: The world steps aside to let any man pass if he knows where he is going.

This pleasant family film has the same homespun wisdom of The Waltons TV series which it spawned.

Granpa (Donald Crisp) and Grandma Spencer beget a brood of nine sons.  They all work in a quarry in the Snake River Valley.  Eldest son Clay (Henry Fonda) and wife Olivia (Maureen O’Hara) also have nine children, this time a mixed brood.  Clay’s dream is to build Livvie a dream house atop Spencer’s mountain.  The couple have the grander dream of seeing their children better off than they are.  Clayboy (James MacArthur) manages to graduate high school.  The family must overcome various adversity to send him to college.In the meantime, Claris Coleman relentlessly pursues the somewhat obtuse Clayboy in a bid for the altar.  With Wally Cox as a preacher.

This is a sweet movie with some beautiful mountain scenery.  It was hard to imagine Henry Fonda or Maureen O’Hara as hillbillies but they do pretty well at it.  I doubt if this will stay in my memory long.



2017 in Review – Top Ten New-to-Me Films


I slacked off somewhat on my movie watching for 2017 and have high hopes that I won’t be distracted so much by Real Life in 2018.  My viewing for the year began with 1960 and ended about half way into 1963.  I logged 381 films on Letterboxd.

I saw too many great films to count.  Since I’ve been seeking out classic movies for a long time, many of the best were re-watches.  Still there were many gems that were new to me. Films that I rated 9/10 that did not make this list are: Leon Morin, Priest (1961) The Steam Roller and the Violin (1961) and Vive le Tour (1962).

Here’s 10  favorite films I saw for the first time in 2016.   They are not ranked but in chronological order.

  1.  Wild River (1960) – directed by Elia Kazan

 2.  The Virgin Spring (1960) – directed by Ingmar Bergman

3.  Through a Glass Darkly (1961) – directed by Ingmar Bergman

4.  The Days of Wine and Roses (1962) – directed by Blake Edwards

5.  Advise and Consent (1962) – directed by Otto Preminger

6.  The Longest Day (1962) – directed by Ken Annakin, Ardrew Marton, and Bernhard Wicki

7.  America America (1963) – directed by Elia Kazan

8.  The Organizer (1963) – directed by Mario Monicelli

9. Judex (1963) – directed by Georges Franju

10.  Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie  – directed by Vilgot Sjöman



 A Happy Healthy and Prosperous 2018 to one and all!