Saturday, January 28, 2017


Innocence in La Dolce Vita

Partygoer: Will you be writing about the stupid and corrupt aristocracy?

Marcello, the journalist: First, I write about other things. Second, you aren't that interesting.

The above quote really sums up Fellini's three hour marathon on the decadence and emptiness of the rich and famous and those paparazzi (This film invented the term) that follow them. Opinions on this movie differ. Bosely Crother of the New York Times said it was "a brilliantly graphic estimation of a whole swath of society in sad decay and, eventually a withering commentary upon the tragedy of the over civilized." Film guru Gerald Mass was less impressed, "La Dolce Vita is a sterile thematic exercise, an overstated contrast of Sensuality vs. Spirituality."

Personally, I feel there is an awful lot there- Fellini's potpourri of characters, engaging performances, and symbolism that is almost always thought provoking...but  at almost three hours, the film is also way too long. My favorite scene is the miracle of the Madonna section, which was apparently largely improvised. The final image of innocence (above) that contrasts the main character's frivolousness  is reminiscent of Truffaut's 400 Blows.

The Age of Rocks vs. The Rock of Ages in
Inherit the Wind

A different type of movie that is one of my favorites from this year is Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind, which I've probably seen a dozen times. It is a fictional account of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. It's as straightforward as you can get and though some of it may be a tad overdone upon honest reflection, it is still a powerful piece overall. In fact,  the scene where Spencer Tracy (as Clarence Darrow stand-in Henry Drummond) interrogates the pompous Frederic March (as Williams Jennings Bryan stand-in Matthew Harrison Brady) is still one of my favorite scenes from any film...But the 1001 book doesn't include Inherit the Wind on the sacred list. It would certainly be on mine.

Like Inherit the Wind, there are many films from 1960 that are not on the 1001 list. Here are a few of those that I have seen before.

1. The Magnificent Seven 
First of all, this remake of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai certainly has many fans, but isn't in the same ball park as its predecessor no matter what my brother thinks! The Magnificent Seven does have a great cast and dramatic opening theme and certainly many fine moments, so it is worth seeing. Okay...Let's see if I can name the seven...Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughan, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz and Brad Dexter...I admit that I had to look up Brad Dexter.

The Magnificent Seven...Brad Dexter is third from the right

2. The Bad Sleep Well
Kurosawa's movie from this year has elements borrowed from Hamlet and is an interesting film, but is definitely second tier Kurosawa. Of course, second tier Kurosawa is still better than most.

3. Cinderfella
Boy, I saw this Jerry Lewis vehicle forty years ago. The title tells all in that it's a gender role reversal featuring the ever mugging Mr. Lewis re-enacting the fairy tale. I had thought a young Connie Stevens was in this film, but after further review, I was clearly thinking of another Lewis film, Rock a Bye Baby. We regret the error.

4. Elmer Gantry
Burt Lancaster won an Oscar for this well respected film adaptation of Sinclair Lewis's novel. Definitely one I'd like to revisit.

5. Little Shop of Horrors
I much prefer the musical remake to this original American-International release. Though the original does boast a great scene from an extremely young Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient.

Jack Nicholson gritting his teeth in  Little Shop of Horrors

6. House of Usher
The first and maybe the best of The Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories (Usually with Vincent Price). I was thinking my favorite of the group was The Conqueror Worm, but then looked up to find that that film was not even based on an Edgar Allan Poe work! First I get confused about Connie Stevens, now about Poe...My memory is slipping. Where's my medication!

7. The Last Voyage
I remember watching this movie about a sinking ocean liner on television while I was staying at my Aunt's house in the late 70's. I remember liking it, but am a little foggy on the details. I do remember Robert Stack was the star and there was a pretty cool scene with Stack trying to avoid a piano falling on his I look at what I just described, it might not be as cool as I remember.
8. Let's Make Love
One of Marilyn Monroe's last films and I remember it didn't make a big impression on me.

9. The Lost World 
No relation to the movie of the same name about dinosaurs based on the Michael Crichton book. Though this one was also based on a book by a famous author (Arthur Conan Doyle) and also had dinosaurs in it! It also isn't to be confused with the silent movie The Lost World, which is also based on the Doyle story! Did I get all that right?

10. The Time Machine
One of my favorite science fiction movies and would definitely be on my 1001 list. H. G. Wells (Rod Taylor) travels thorough time in his homemade time travel contraption to meet the evil* Morlocks and the complacent tribe of blondes including the lovely Weena (Yvette Mimieux). It's a rousing adventure and thought provoking.

*It is open to debate whether the Morlocks are actually the evil ones here. The hotness of Yvette Mimieux is not open for debate.
I think traveling 800, 000 years into the future
to meet Yvette Mimieux is a great use of a Time Machine

11. Midnight Lace
I guess this was kind of a thriller (If you can even call a movie with Doris Day a thriller) that I watched with my mother. I have a rule on this blog that I don't criticize movies I watched with my mother as a kid...moving on.

12. Pepe
Cantiflas was a legendary movie star in his native Mexico. He is best known in the U. S. for his role in the popular Around the World in 80 Days. His follow up American film, Pepe was not successful despite cameos from Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ann B. Davis and Jay North of Dennis the Menace! A 2014 Mexican film about the actor's life (simply titled Cantiflas) received greater critical acclaim than Pepe.

13. Two Women
Sophia Loren was one of the first in a long line of screen beauties playing a non-glamorous role on her way to an Oscar.

14. Where the Boys Are
Forerunner of beach movies of the 60's that became popular a few years later. This one had Yvette Mimieux, Connie Francis, Paula Prentiss And Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin in it for some laughs. When Where the Boys Are '84 came out, I thought there was a rule that this movie would be remade every twenty-five years of so. When Where the Boys Are '08 or '09 never materialized, I gave up on that theory.

15. The Virgin Spring

Oscar winning Ingmar Bergman film that apparently isn't held in high regard by Bergman himself, as well as the 1001 book, since it isn't on the list. I think it's one of his best there!

There's about to be trouble in The Virgin Spring

There's no debating that 1960 was a most interesting year for movies.
...Until next time then


  1. that scene of the miracle was my favorite as well. It is almost as if the children and the news media has worked together to conjure up a story out of nothing.

  2. Don't know if Virgin Spring is among Bergman's best, but it sure goes for the throat!

  3. TSorensen: It seems like a lot the best scenes in many movies were ones that weren't planned.

    Nicolas: On The Virgin Spring, I like the spiritually element combined with the cutthroat element of if that you mentioned.

  4. I LOVE Inherit the Wind! In and of itself it's an interestingly put together reenactment of the Scopes trial which has been proven by other versions I've seen with other excellent performers in the leads but none compare to that powerhouse team of Tracy and March. The two spark off each other keeping the action involving throughout, some credit for that of course must go to director Kramer.

    I'm also a big fan of March's real life wife Florence Eldridge as his wife Sarah here. Her part isn't flashy but she provides key details to the two man's history and her lovely gentle reading of the part helps you to understand that there must have been a time when her bloviating gasbag of a husband was a less rigid man to earn the love of someone so compassionate.

    1. Yes. There are a lot of good supporting performances in Inherit the Wind. I failed to mention Gene Kelly as the H. L. Mencken stand-in E. K. Hornbeck.