Tuesday, February 14, 2017



You really can't talk about films from 1965 without mentioning the perennial family classic, The Sound of Music, one of the most popular family films of all-time and the Oscar winner for Best Picture from that year.

After watching The Sound of Music again, I found myself talking to a friend about it the next day and tried to make the case that it was really a pretty edgy film. They raised a skeptical eyebrow to that. But my point was that the film was edgy because it was just so damn unedgy! It doesn't try to be anything other than what it is: The story of a nun who falls in love with a rigid guy, who falls in love with her. He's got these rowdy children who are in reality darn near perfect. The guy is marrying a baroness, who is supposed to be the heavy, but steps aside when she sees the guy is in love with the nanny/nun. And there is plenty of uplifting music: Maria, Do-Re-Mi, My Favorite Things and Climb Ev'ry Mountain, a song I couldn't hit the notes on in high school chorus.

They do get chased by Nazis...I guess that's kind of edgy.

Also, the picture above is one of the most popular memes on the Internet. For those not hip to it, you are supposed to add in something to the effect of "This is me not caring anything about a particular subject. These kids and their memes...

This is a strange screen shot of a fade-in I took of The Sound of Music.
It looks to me like Maria and the Von Trapp children are ghosts appearing
in a graveyard of some kind...I think I've been taking too much cold medicine

Orson Welles as Falstaff wearing his "crown" in Chimes at Midnight

It's a little funny that I grew up hearing about Orson Welles as basically a one-hit wonder and becoming pretty marginalized as a film-maker after that film was released. But what about Touch of Evil? The Magnificent Ambersons? The Lady from Shanghai? Or Chimes at Midnight? It seems like only recently has Chimes of Midnight gotten the appreciation it deserves thanks in part to a wonderful restoration and distribution from the Criterion Collection. The film is a brilliant hybrid presentation of several of Shakespeare's plays with Falstaff  (also played by Welles)  that the director somehow manages to meld into a cohesive whole. The photography, acting (John Gielgud as the King is a standout), and characterizations put this near the top of must see Shakespeare adaptations. The muddy, ugly battle scene is one of the best ever filmed. And the relationship between Prince Hal and Falstaff supplies the important and ultimately tragic center of this classic film. Jaunty score by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino.


Here are some other films released in 1965 that I've seen at some point in the past that didn't make the 1001 movie cut. I'll mention something about the music in each film since a lot of movie title music is running through my head as I go through the titles.

1. The Cincinnati Kid
The reputation of this film seems to be as a poor man's version of The Hustler, substituting poker for pool. I actually saw The Cincinnati Kid before I saw The Hustler and like it just as well as the more noted film. Steve McQueen heads an all-star cast and the plot is interesting even if it comes to a statistically improbable solution. (Drawing for an inside straight flush?)
Music: Soulful opening theme from Ray Charles

You're good kid, but as long as I"m around, you're only second best.
Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) teaches
Cincinnati Kid (Steve McQueen)  an important life lesson.

2. The Family Jewels
Been a long time since I saw this one. Jerry Lewis playing seven roles is something that is something to love or hate. I'll let you decide.
Music: Speaking of family, Jerry's son Gary and his band The Playboys perform their biggest hit "This Diamond Ring," in the film.

3. Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion

I may or may not have seen this film, but the series it spun into (Daktari) was one of the favorite shows of my childhood. The plot features a doctor and his family protecting animals and curing the locals, but I mostly liked it for the appearances by Clarence and Judy the Chimp.
Music: The theme of the show featuring African drums and something that always sounded like a xylophone would always get me primed to watch the show. Play it now and I'll still come running and salivating like Pavlov's dog!

Clarence, the Cross Eyed-Lion appears to be giving
some Mustafaish advice to his adopted family.
4. For a Few Dollars More
The middle film in Sergio Leone's dollar trilogy isn't quite as majestic as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but doesn't have the plagiarism issues of A Fistful of Dollars, either. But really, all three of these films should be on any film buffs watch list.
Music: Ennio Morricone doing the theme for a Sergio Leone film. Hard to beat that.

5. Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine
The story of a mad scientist who builds sexy robots to rob men won the Best Picture Oscar of 1965. Vincent Price also won Best Actor for his role and...okay, I'm lying about this silly film winning any Oscars. It is kind of fun to watch Vincent Price ham it up as the sinister Dr. Goldfoot. 
Music: I remember the theme song, but I hadn't realized it was done by The Supremes. If you are thinking about The Supremes greatest hits, you probably don't think of the theme from Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine first, but I admit it is kind of catchy.

Vincent Prince in Dr. Goldfoot. Love ya anyway, Vinnie!

6. The Greatest Story Ever Told
George Stevens's star-studded epic about the last year of Jesus is the one I still probably consider the definitive Jesus movie. It seemed to always be shown in two parts when it was on TV in the seventies. The all-star cast seemed pretty cool at the time, but was probably a bit of a distraction. The oddest casting choice was John Wayne as a Roman guard at the crucifixion, though my personal favorite from the cast is Telly Savalas as Pontius Pilate. Score by Hollywood music legend Alfred Newman.

7. Help!

The Beatles film Help! has always paled in comparison to A Hard Day's Night for me, but I might need a reviewing of this one. It certainly has some great songs: Lennon's "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," McCartney's "The Night Before," Harrison's "If I Needed Someone." And how could I not mention Ringo's "Act Naturally?"

So much younger than today...The Beatles in Help!

8.In Harm's Way
Yet another all-star cast epic from this era and features John Wayne and Patricia Neal at the center of this Otto Preminger film about Pearl Harbor. Jerry Goldsmith provided the musical score. Goldsmith was nominated for eighteen academy awards during his distinguished career. Some of my favorite scores of his are from Planet of the Apes, Papillon and Chinatown.

9. John Goldfarb, Please Come Home
Pretty goofy comedy (from what I remember) about a pilot who lands in an Arab country and involves blackmailing the United States to send over a football team or something to compete against...I can't remember really. I do remember the fun opening song by Shirley MacLaine.

Peter Ustinov, Richard Crenna and Shirley MacLaine consider wiser
career options in John Goldfarb, Please Come Home

10. The Knack and How to Get It
I've really got to have a 60's Brit Mod Movie marathon pajama party real soon. I was surprised that the score of this film was from John Barry.

11. McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force
I did a newspaper report in school once depicting the events of the week I was born. The two major events of that week were the Cuban missile Crisis and the network premiere of McHale's Navy. Looking back, I'm thinking the McHale's Navy premiere was probably the less significant of the two. It does seem odd that a theatrical version of the series was released in 1965. I honestly can't understand what was  the motivation was behind McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force. It's certainly no Munster, Go Home.

McHale's Navy: The Motion Picture
12. The Monkey's Uncle
One of those 60's Disney movies that I'm pretty sure I watched during consecutive Sunday nights on The Wonderful World of Disney. The title song is performed by Annette Funicello backed by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys! I just finished Wilson's memoir I Am Brian Wilson and he shockingly makes no reference to this film!

13. Monsters From the Surf a.k.a. The Beach Girls and the Monster
From The Beach Boys to The Beach Girls and the Monster! This Grade Z horror flick Is basically Beach Blanket Bingo meets Plan Nine from Outer Space. The music was provided by Frank Sinatra...Sinatra, Jr. that is! My favorite credit from the trailer is featuring "The Watusi Dancing Girls from Hollywood's famed Whiskey A-Go-Go!"

Monsters from the Surf...We got a monster costume and a girl in a bikini.
Let's make a movie!

14. Red Beard
The was the sixteenth and final collaboration between director Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune- one of the greatest actor/director teams ever. Masuro Sato did the Red Beard score and was a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. But before you think Sato's a bit too highbrow, I will point out he also did the scores for Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla!

15. A Thousand Clowns
One of my all-time favorite films from the sixties, A Thousand Clowns is about a non-conformist writer that has to choose between his values and doing what he needs to do to keep custody of his young nephew. Funny, moving and fine performances from Jason Robards (Murray, the Uncle) and Barry Gordon (Nick, the nephew). Herb Gardner wrote the screenplay based on his own play. The score was written by Jazz artist Gerry Mulligan, who juxtaposes a war-like theme set to the background of people going to work.

A Thousand Clowns
Murray: Nick, you are about to see a horrible, horrible thing.
Nick: What's that Murray?
Murray: People going to work.
16. Thunderball
One of the best of the early Connery Bond films. Also, one of the best Bond themes and sung by the one and only Mr. Tom Jones!

17. What's New Pussycat?
And speaking of Tom Jones, the Welsh singer also lent his vocal talents to the theme song (written by Bacharach and David) to this wacky comedy that is also noted for an early screen appearance by Woody Allen. The eclectic cast includes Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole and Ursula Andress among others. From what I remember, it was basically a screwball comedy on acid.

The Peters (Sellers and O'Toole) in What's New Pussycat

18. Beach Blanket Bingo, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
My goodness, were there really two Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies that came out it 1965? I guess they were kinda fun and did offer late supporting work for Buster Keaton. That's worth something.
Music: Beach Blanket Bingo featured the title song sung by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, as well as Harvey (Erich Von Zipper) Lembeck's song "Follow Your Leader." The Beach gang also teach you how to stuff a wild bikini in the title song of that film. The How to Stuff a Wild Bikini soundtrack also features what must be the only musical duet credit for Mickey Rooney and Brian Donlevy.

19. The World of Abbott and Costello
I bring up this film because it did come out in 1965 even though it featured clips from the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, probably the most popular movie comedy team of the 40's. I grew up watching A & C on television on Tuesday nights on TBS in Atlanta...Seemed like they showed a movie of theirs every week. Abbott was the straight man and Costello was the frustrated and hyper chubby one. They don't seem to be held in the esteem that other golden age comedians are...but really, the 1001 movie list couldn't list even one of their films to see?

Well, ll pick five of my favorites

1. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
2. Buck Privates
3. The Naughty Nineties (Mostly because it had the Who's on First routine.)
4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops
5. The Time of Their Lives (An offbeat one, but probably my favorite of the bunch.)
Music: I got nothing for the music here, though I did like Raoul Kraushaar's theme from the 50's Abbott and Costello Show.

Abbott and Costello: Does anybody really know who's on first? Does anybody care

20. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
Grim adaptation of John Le Carre's novel about an spy who goes undercover to infiltrate a Communist spy ring. The polar opposite of a James Bond spy film in that in shows the minutiae, danger and sometimes boredom that accompanies espionage work. A good film and does feature Richard Burton in one of his better roles and a cute Communist library employee played by Claire Bloom.
Music: The melancholy theme by composer Sol Kaplan is also keeping with the "This is nothing like a James Bond movie" theme.

Sexy librarian meets grumpy spy in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

1965 may not have been "The Greatest" movie year of all-time,
but it did bring back some great memories for me.

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