Tuesday, February 7, 2017



Peter O'Toole leads the charge as Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia is truly a one-of-a-kind epic. Beautiful photography, expansive settings, gripping story, first-rate cast, direction by David Lean, etc...You almost can't beat it for epics. You basically couldn't do this movie today without relying heavily on CGI, but everything you see in Lawrence of Arabia has an authentic feel to it (Where did they get all those camels?) There is an awful lot of plot to lug around at times, but its worth the effort even if you need a scorecard to keep up with who is representing which warring tribe or the political ramifications as to which city is being sacked at what time, and certainly a film to see at least once for any moviegoer.

I first saw Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen in 1989, which is really the best way to see it if the opportunity ever presents itself.

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey at the garden club lecture
in The Manchurian Candidate
The Manchurian Candidate, a political thriller based on Richard Condon's book, has the plot of a brainwashed soldier being set up to be a key part of a political assassination in the United States. Even though I've seen this movie before, I liked watching it again to see how all the pieces to the complex conspiracy reveals itself. The cast is highlighted by Laurence Harvey as Col. Shaw, the unwitting accomplice to the plot and Angela Lansbury as his conniving mother. My favorite scenes (or set of scenes) involve the brainwashing of the soldiers around Chinese and Soviet conspirators that interchangeably revert to a lecture at a ladies' garden club at different times during their indoctrination.

Of course, most 1962 films didn't make the 1001 movie cut. Here are some that I've seen at some point in the past.
1. Advise and Consent
I included a picture of Allen Drury's book Advise and Consent, because it always seemed to show up every year at our library book sale in one edition or another. No, I haven't got around to reading this epic tome yet, but Otto Preminger's movie featuring Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and many others is a pretty good political intrigue picture if memory serves.

Original 1959 cover of the novel which is
probably still on one of my shelves somewhere.

2. 300 Spartans
After seeing the movie 300, I decided to watch the the 1962 Cinemascope film based on the same Persian War storyline. Verdict: I prefer 300, comic book overtones and all.

3. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die
Made in 1959, but not released until 1962, this silly science fiction film is best know in my house as the first Mystery Science Theater episode that featured Mike Nelson after replacing Joel Hodgson. It should be described in your house that way, too!

"Jan in the Pan" from The Brain that Wouldn't Die via
Mystery Science Theater

4. Cape Fear
Revenge drama about a criminal (Robert Mitchum) coming back to seek revenge on the lawyer (Gregory Peck) who convicted him. I actually  prefer Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake more. I think preferring a remake in two of the first four listings here is more coincidence than trend.  

5. Carnival of Souls
One of my favorite low-budget cult horror movies ever. I guess others agree, since it actually got released on Blu-Ray from the high brow Criterion Collection in 2016. Carnival of Souls on Blu-Ray from Criterion? You gotta love that!
Who needs The Walking Dead when you've just
paid admission to...Carnival of Souls?

6. Days of Wine and Roses
Well respected film dealing with alcoholism that I'm really surprised isn't listed in the 1001 book. Probably worth a revisit.

7. Dr. No
Things that happened in October, 1962:
First James Bond movie
Johnny Carson takes over Tonight Show
Cuban Missile Crisis
I was born

First Bond girl Ursula Andress in Dr. No set a standard
of voluptuousness that was hard to duplicate in my book

8. Follow That Dream, Girls, Girls, Girls or Kid Galahad
I now realize listing the Elvis movies I've seen in the years of doing this blog are starting to all run together. I think I've seen Follow That Dream...or have I?

9. Five Weeks in a Balloon
Sort of a rip-off of Around the World in Eighty Days. The release date of this movie makes me realize I've had a crush on Barbara Eden for about fifty years now. (Maybe not quite that long)

Barbara Eden in Five Weeks in a Balloon

10. David and Lisa
I remember thinking this film of two young people with mental illnesses finding romance was pretty good. Definitely one I need to revisit.

11. How the West Was Won
I've always liked this expansive Western epic ever since the first time I saw it as a kid on television. Definitely a movie that had quite the all-star cast from Gregory Peck to Debbie Reynolds to John Wayne to Jimmy Stewart. In fact, I remember seeing this for the first time with my brother, who actually knew who all these larger than life stars were. I think the conversation went something like this.

Me: Who is that?
Brother: That's Karl Malden.
Me. Who is that?
Brother: That's Walter Brennan.
Me. Who is that"
Brother: That's Richard Widmark.
Me: Who is that?
Brother: Would you shut up and let me watch the movie?

Jimmy Stewart chases the varmint for the last time
after he meets Carroll Baker in
How the West Was Won

12. Hatari!
Pretty fun John Wayne adventure about  people who capture animals for zoos. My favorite part is the scene where a drunk Red Buttons keeps asking "Tell me about the rocket? What did it look like?" I can't even remember the context, but it was funny...trust me. 

13. The Intruder
Racist Yankee with a questionable hairpiece convinces a bunch of hicks to elect him their leader. Now, now...I'm not talking about the 2016 Presidential election. This low budget American International movie which I originally watched on Night Flight on the USA network during the 80's, is actually pretty sound and surprisingly poignant film.

Captain Kirk before he saw the light in
The Intruder

14. King Kong vs. Godzilla
I really can't remember who wins.

15. Lonely are the Brave
Film of a modern day Cowboy (written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Kirk Douglas) who just can't fit into the modern world is one of those films that I would have bet would have been in the 1001 book.

Another round for Mr. Douglas
in Lonely Are the Brave

16. The Miracle Worker
First film telling of the Helen Keller/Annie Sullivan story. Originally on Broadway in 1959, and a theater staple ever since.

17. The Longest Day
Star studded retelling of the D-Day Invasion featuring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton and many others. The invasion probably seems tame after you've seen Saving Private Ryan, but it's a pretty good film in its own right. I seem to remember seeing this for the first time with my brother, who actually knew who all these larger than life stars were. I think the conversation went something like this.

Me: Who is that?
Brother: That's Robert Ryan.
Me. Who is that?
Brother: That's Curt Jurgens.
Me. Who is that"
Brother: That's Peter Lawford.
Me: Who is that?
Brother: Would you shut up and let me watch the movie?

John Wayne at Normandy in The Longest Day

18. Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Lighthearted Jimmy Stewart comedy. I admit to watching it...and not remembering much about it.

19. The Music Man
Classic musical that gets extra points for having a librarian as a lead character and has one of my favorite all-time musical numbers Rock Island, which features the cast singing about that out-of-town salesman in rhythm to the train that they are moving on. One day...one day...I'd like to be in a production of this and perform this song!

Marion the Librarian and the con man in
The Music Man
20. Ride the High Country
Early addition to the Sam Peckinpah cannon...yet, another one that needs revisiting.

21. Requiem for a Heavyweight
Sad story from a Rod Serling story about how a washed up boxer has to cope with life after his ring career is finished. Between Requiem for a Heavyweight, Lawrence of Arabia, The Guns of Navarone, and Zorba the Greek, this was a pretty good period for Anthony Quinn.

Anthony Quinn faces the end of his career in
Requiem for a Heavyweight

22. State Fair
There really wasn't anything better on that time I watched State Fair with Pat Boone? It did have Ann-Margaret in it. Maybe that's why I watched it.

23. Sanjuro
It's interesting that neither Sanjuro or Yojimbo make the 1001 book like so many other Kurosawa films did. Both are excellent films in their own right.
Sanjuro: Kurosawa...Mifune...Samurai...sign me up!
24. Term of Trial
I remember this film with Laurence Olivier as being a pretty powerful drama when I first saw it. That's been over thirty-five years ago...so don't hold me to it.

25. The Trial
Orson Welles doing Franz Kafka seems like a pretty righteous teaming to me. But the film is confusing and often doesn't make sense. But in this case, that's a good thing. You understand? Or if you don't understand, maybe that's good, too!

Tony Perkins about to go on an existential trip in The Trial
Goodbye, 1962 and stay safe, everyone!


  1. The Manchurian Candidate is an excellent film, Angela Lansbury’s performance couldn’t be better but everyone is terrific if not quite her match.

    I am most definitely NOT a fan of Lawrence of Arabia however. O’Toole is very good, the cinematography is marvelous and what a cast but I was bored to tears by it. I realize I’m in the minority…but also that I’m not alone.

    There are some other really wonderful films in that list.

    Advise & Consent isn’t perfect but taking into consideration the period it was made a compact drama, and hey how often do you get to see Betty White play a Senator!

    The Days of Wine and Roses is magnificently acted but I can’t imagine ever wanting to watch it again. So grim.

    Lonely Are the Brave is such an unappreciated film. Its Douglas’s favorite of his film with what he considers his best performance and I don’t think he’s wrong. It’s at least one of his best.

    The 60’s Jimmy Stewart comedies like Mr. Hobbs and Dear Brigitte were hardly a stretch for him but they are pleasant watches.

    The Music Man is one of those rare stage to screen adaptations that manages to retain much of the original magic. Shirley Jones had such a beautifully pure voice.

    I LOVE How the West Was Won!! Big and occasionally lumbering but it’s also rollicking and endlessly entertaining. The most surprisingly simpatico pairing is Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck. On paper they seem an odd match and he’s almost a foot taller than she, though that’s handled well by the way they are shot, but they share a nice somewhat spiky onscreen chemistry and there’s a carnality to their scenes with her sly sexiness and him playing it rascally. I love that she’s the through line for the film too making it all into a piece at the end. The film is just loaded with performers that I love and the entire film is a visual treat.

    Those dialogs with your brother about these all-star epics are funny. I’ve had the same ones with my sister although she’s the older and I’m the one telling her to shut up and let me watch the film!

    1. I appreciate all your observations! I do admit I really have to be in the right frame of mind to watch Lawrence. I know some will disagree with you on How the West Was Won, but I'm with you on that one.