Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (1963)

Ingmar Bergman Makes a Movie (Ingmar Bergman gör en film)
Directed by Vilgot Sjöman
Sveriges Radio
First viewing/Netflix rental


To shoot a film is to organize an entire universe. — Ingmar Bergman

Anyone who has an interest in the filmmaking process or in Bergman owes it to himself to see this film.

The movie in question is Winter Light (1963).  We follow the production from an interview with Bergman on scripting, to selecting locations, to rehearsals and actual shooting.  We see the same short scene rehearsed many times and then shot over several takes.  This could be tedious but is fascinating.

The action then moves to the editing process with Bergman sharing additional insights on adding dynamics and rhythm through cutting.  After additional post-production, Bergman is interviewed on his expectations for the film’s reception and his relations with his critics.

I love Bergman and my respect for him went up a notch after watching this documentary. It’s so interesting how the little things matter.  Very highly recommended.


The House Is Black (1963)

The House Is Black (Khaneh siah ast)
Directed by Forugh Farrokhzad
Written by Forugh Farrokhzad
Studio Golestan
First viewing/Netflix rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


Narrator: I said, if I had wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would go far away and take refuge in the desert. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. For I have seen misery and wickedness on Earth.

This short documentary about people in an Iranian leper colony melds life’s tragedy and God’s love.

Images of people and their daily activities are accompanied by Farrokhzad’s poetry and what I assume are verses from the Koran.  There is a continual stream of gratitude and praise of God accompanying people doing their best to get along.

This could have been just another in a series of 1963 downers provided by the List. Instead, I found it inspiring and thought-provoking.  It’s not an easy film to watch but is a worthwhile experience.



The Skydivers (1963)

The Skydivers
Directed by Coleman Francis
Written by Coleman Francis
Crown International Pictures
First viewing/YouTube

Joe Moss: Coffee? I LIKE coffee!

The director’s Beast of Yucca Flats was so bad it was good.  This later effort is just plain bad.

One has to work pretty hard to find the plot.  I think it goes something like this.  A married couple is running a sport skydiving business.  It is failing largely because fatalities keep it shut down while the FAA investigates.  For some reason not related to their physical attractiveness each of the spouses is hit on by outsiders whom they reject.  Acid does not react well with parachute material.

Harry Rowe: Suzy, you’re a broad. Get lost!

Unlike most ultra-low budget dreck this film has a cast of thousands.  Not a one of them can act.  I watched the Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff-track of the movie after seeing the film straight and it was an improvement.


The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The Comedy of Terrors
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Written by Richard Matheson and Elsie Lee
Alta Vista Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Felix Gillie: [stuck on a roof] Why did I ever escape from prison? It was so peaceful there.

With this cast and director you can’t help having fun.

The deaf and ancient Amos Hinchley (Boris Karloff) and Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) are partners in a mortuary firm.  Waldo came into the business via a marriage to Hinchley’s daughter Amaryllis, whom he despises more every time she opens her mouth.  Hinchley’s assistant Felix Gille admires Amaryllis from a far.

The business is far from prospering.  Understandable since they reuse the same coffin for each burial, Amos can’t deliver a eulogy to save his life, and Amaryllis insists on singing over the body.  Finally. landlord John Black (Basil Rathbone) demands the rent money or else.  Waldo decides that doing away with Jack will kill two birds with one stone.  But Black’s catalepsy throws a spanner in the works.

This isn’t exactly laugh out loud hilarious but it is fun to see all these folks do their stuff.  My favorite was Karloff as a thoroughly befuddled old man.  I hadn’t seen him like that before and he has nice comic timing.


The Yesterday Machine (1963)

The Yesterday Machine
Directed by Russ Marker
Written by Russ Marker
Carter Film Productions
First viewing/YouTube

Police Lt. Partane: Yesterday should be left alone because today the world has enough problems just trying to make sure we’ll have a tomorrow.

By 1963, poor Tim Holt had been reduced to playing bit parts in bad Nazi time travel flicks.

Their car breaks down when two teenagers are on the way to the big football game – thus giving us the opportunity to watch the long baton twirling performance of the young lady. They foolishly disregard the no trespassing sign to seek help at a farmhouse.  Before they can get there, they are waylaid by ruffians in Civil War uniforms.  The boy survives a scuffle but the girl goes missing.

A reporter and the girl’s sister – a nightclub singer so we can catch her act – join the police to solve the mystery.  This involves a mad Nazi scientist whose experiments in time travel are designed to create an eternal Third Reich.

Very bad indeed with the excess of filler characterizing these things.  There are some camp pleasures to be had however.

Clip with new soundtrack

Twice Told Tales (1963)

Twice Told Tales
Directed by Sidney Salkow
Written by Robert E. Kent from stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Robert E. Kent Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental


Beatrice Rappaccini: Your daughter is a fine specimen, too, isn’t she father? A specimen of the most deadly thing that was ever given life.

Vicent Price stars in an omnibus production of three mildly scary tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The first story comes from “Dr. Heddiger’s Experiment” in which a scientist (Sebastian Cabot) who lost his beloved on their wedding day comes across a liquid that can turn back time.  The second, is “Rappaccini’s Daughter”.  A scientist (Price) seeks to keep his child eternally faithful buy making her very touch deadly poison.  The final story is from the novel The House of the Seven Gables, about a family cursed through many generations by its greed and evil.

I don’t have much to say about this one.  It is OK, with Price in fine form.  There are more horror moments than perhaps Hawthorne intended but it’s a little too camp to be really chilling.


Cleopatra (1963)

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall, and Sidney Buchman based on ancient histories and a book “The Life and Times of Cleopatra” by Carlo Maria Franzero
Twentieth Century Fox/MCL Films S.A./Walwa Films S.A.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Marc Antony: [his last words] A kiss… to take my breath away…

An all-out spectacle without the energy to support it.

As the story begins, Cleopatra’s (Elizabeth Taylor) brother Ptolemy has ousted her from their joint throne.  The joint monarchy in Egypt was guaranteed by Rome.  When Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) arrives in Alexandria, the wildly ambitious Cleo schemes to make herself undisputed queen of Egypt and, if possible, first lady of an Imperial Rome.  She gets part way there with a “marriage” to the already wed Caesar and later birth to his only throne.  The Romans are not enthusiastic about Caesar’s new plans to make himself Emperor and he is famously assassinated.

Years later, Marc Antony (Richard Burton) arrives in Egypt on a military mission.  He beholds the comely Cleo and it is deja-vu all over again.  With Roddy MacDowell as Octavius.

Everything about this three-plus hour movie struck me as false.  The acting and dialogue manage to veer wildly from 1963 to Shakespearean and back again in a single scene.  The production is the thing here.  Although I doubt that ancient times were quite that splendid, it is still something to behold.

Cleopatra won Academy Awards in the categories of Best Cinematography, Color; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; and Best Effects, Special Visual Effects.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actor (Harrison); Best Sound; Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Score – Substantially Original.


This Sporting Life (1963)

This Sporting Life
Directed by Lindsay Anderson
Written by David Storey
Independent Artists;Julian Wyntle/Leslie Parklyn Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Frank Machin: We don’t have stars in this game, Mrs Weaver, that’s soccer.

Mrs. Anne Weaver: What *do* you have?

Frank Machin: People like me.

It’s hard to find love when you are filled with rage.

Frank Machlin (Richard Harris) works as a miner and lodges with young widow Margaret Hammond and her two small children.  He does everything in his power to ingratiate himself but Margaret is still mourning the death of her husband and keeps him at arms length.  Machlin plays rugby on the side and finally brings himself to the attention of a professional team.  He proves to be very talented at a brutal game and soon has some money and status as a result.

But money and fame mean nothing if he cannot attain the unattainable Margaret.  Finally, he wears her down to allowing intimacy but she cannot bring herself to love him.  In the meantime, Frank is spinning out of control.

Richard Harris’s work in this film is some of the best I have ever seen by an actor.  The mixture of tenderness, confusion, anxiety, and anger he portrays is perfection.  Roberts is every bit his equal.  It’s not a particularly easy movie to watch but is gripping throughout.  Highly recommended.

Richard Harris was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Rachel Roberts was nominated for Best Actress.


Suzanne’s Career (1963)

Suzanne’s Career (La carriere de Suzanne)
Directed by Eric Rohmer
Written by Eric Rohmer
Les Films du Losange
First viewing/FilmStruck

We have to show what lies beyond behavior, while knowing we can’t show anything but behavior. — Eric Rohmer

A fan girl rekindles her love affair with Rohmer from near the beginning.

Bertrand is a reserved and serious young first year pharmacy student.  His friend Guillaume is a self-styled ladies’ man and player.  For some reason, Guillaume finds it necessary to draw Bertrand into a chaste threesome with the somewhat naive Suzanne.  Guillaume is not a nice person and he enlists Bertrand in convincing Suzanne to finance some high times over a few weeks.  But Suzanne gets the last laugh.

Over the next few “years” of viewing my readers will become accustomed to my gushing over the films of Eric Rommer.  This is not among the strongest of these but still enjoyable. I love the way the director captures the fumbling cluelessness of cock-sure young lovers.

Clips from the six moral tales

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

Bye Bye Birdie
Directed by George Sidney
Written by Irving Brecher from a book by Michael Stewart
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Kohlmar-Sidney Productions

Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant

Harry McAfee: The next time I have a daughter, I hope it’s a boy!

This blast from the past is enjoyable, if for no other reason, watching Ann-Margret take off!

Albert F Peterson (Dick Van Dyke) is a failing song writer who would really rather be engaging in bio-chemistry experiments.  His overbearing mother (Maureen Stapleton) has been standing between him and marriage to the long suffering Rosie (Janet Leigh).  Rosie gets a brainstorm.  Rock star Conrad Birdie has been drafted.  She pitches an idea to have a representative teenager give him a farewell kiss while he is singing a song written by Albert for the occasion on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Amazingly Sullivan buys it.

The lucky girl selected is small-town teenager Kim MacAffee (Ann-Margret).  The media circus complicates her relationship with new steady Hugo (Bobby Rydell) and with her father (Paul Lynde) and mother.

This is yet another show I was in in my teens.  Actually, the stage play is better and less crazy than the movie version.  We did not, however, have the incandescent Ann-Margret!  Nostalgia made it an enjoyable watch for me.

Bye Bye Birdie was nominated`for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment and Best Sound.