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Elvira Madigan (1967)
This was THE date movie for sensitive 60s high school students
Lots of dreamy soft-focus shots of the two principals wandering across landscapes and through towns, gazing at each other lovingly, oblivious to the fact that their love can go nowhere. In the end, they are faced with only the option of suicide, and the soldier shoots first Elvira then himself; I recall that the spot of blood on her blouse was touchingly filmed as a coda to their doomed affair. Frankly, this film would have been relegated to the curiosity pile long ago and forgotten, except for the fact that the soundtrack featured the highly talented pianist Geza Anda playing, repeatedly, the languid and lovely second Andante movement of Mozart's achingly beautiful piano concerto in C, K467. The soundtrack made such a huge impression that generations of movie-goers who had never heard Mozart before may have been inspired to give him a listen -- so much so that Deutsche Grammaphon, the producer of the album, named the Mozart K467 concerto the "Elvira Madigan" concerto, and so it has been informally known ever since to much of the public.
The film is so-so but the story is wonderful
This is a film that deserves to be available on DVD or at least on VHS because it's a reasonable--not great, but reasonable--attempt at bringing Waugh's delicious novel to the screen. It shows its basis in the 60s clearly, and the acting talent walks through the production (although these are actors who by and large are incapable of doing a BAD job, they could certainly do better) without exerting themselves unduly.
Yes, the director is mediocre, the cinematography is workmanlike but not inspired, and it goes without saying that the novel is far better than the film. Having said all this, I would recommend this effort as worth a watch because, even with all its failings, it's still a highly entertaining story.
Ace in the Hole (1951)
A great film
One of Billy Wilder's great movies, with a superb acting job by Kirk Douglas as the cynical, glory-seeking and even desperate reporter whose only goal is get back in the limelight by regaining his former big-city news desk job.
The idea of such a newspaper reporter manipulating events to stretch out a story at the expense of and disregard for the victim still seems nearly inhuman, but Douglas' performance makes it instantly believable. The story scenario in which locals, then passers-by and finally distant tourists gravitate to and then make a festival or circus out of the event (the film was also released under the title "The Big Carnival") is supported by the real events on which the story was most likely based: the West VA mine disaster in 1925 that trapped miner Floyd Collins and was reported for 17 days, much as in the film, by local newspaperman Skeets Miller, who crawled into the mineshaft for face-to-face interviews with the trapped and doomed Collins.
This movie fits nicely into the Film Noir genre, although it takes place largely under the hot, harsh glare of the Arizona sun, highlighting the sweat and grime visible on the characters' skin and creating a visual metaphor for the sorry state of their souls. I wonder if Henri-Georges Clouzot saw this film before he began filming "The Wages of Fear," because the visually pervasive atmosphere of sweat and filth and opportunism are equally present in both.
Peter Pan (1960)
A delightful production
The teaming of Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard as Pan and Hook, along with the wonderful songs in this musical version, make this production a fondly
remembered treat -- one which ought to be available on video and DVD for
modern viewers. This production was aired on TV around Christmas for several
years in the 1960s as I recall, but has onlr rarely been shown since. It's
interesting that the most current version of Peter Pan (2003) and this 1960
version (a TV production of the 1955 Broadway musical in which Ritchard won a best supporting actor Tony for his role as Hook/Darling) are similar in plot and tone, both being based on Barrie's play, and each standing well above both the lightweight 1953 Disney animated film and the other more recent treatments
such as "Hook". Watch this version once and you'll always remember Miss
Martin's grand voice crooning "It's not on any chart, you must find it in your heart: Never, Neverland..."
The Rogues (1964)
Witty, wonderful, wry, well-acted comedy series
The Rogues was one of the best comedy series ever to appear on US television, being a blend (in spirit) of a good Blake Edwards comedy film, "The Avengers," and any number of David Niven's 1950s comedies ("Bedtime Story" with Marlon Brando of course comes to mind). It's a great shame we can't have TV like this today, with actors the caliber of Charles Boyer, David Niven and Dame Gladys Cooper, supported by the fine skills of Gig Young and the always fine John Williams. The only series later to attempt a simulation of the jet-setting, witty skulduggery of "The Rogues" was perhaps "The Persuaders" (Roger Moore, Tony Curtis). It's a great disappointment that as of this revised comment (December 2005) this fine series isn't even available on VHS, let alone DVD. If you ever have a chance to see it in rerun somewhere, don't miss it.
Nothing But the Best (1964)
an outstanding black comedy
Although this film appears on TV only rarely, I remember almost everything about it from my most recent of several viewings 10 years ago. A young Alan Bates plays an ambitious but lower middle-class clerk in a posh and stuffy London commercial real estate firm. Doomed to menial work by his low class, Bates encounters a poor and alcoholic -- but decidedly upper class -- Denholm Elliot, and makes him a proposition: free room and board and booze money in exchange for lessons on how to dress, talk and act like a proper "Public School" upper-class chap able to socialize with the ruling classes and thus climb the ladder of success. As his lessons progress, apt pupil Bates becomes more and more involved in the lifestyle of his betters, and romantically involved with a beautiful blonde to the manor born. When Denholm Elliot decides to move on with his life and take back his Saville Row suit, gold half-hunter watch and other accoutrements lent to Bates, there's only one thing for Bates to do: murder poor Denholm (and then roger their suspicious but lustful landlady to buy her silence). Things get REALLY fun from here on in, and the question is, will Alan Bates will get caught, or will he get the girl, the partnership position, the Rolls Royce and the country manor? Witty, well-acted, fast-paced, one of the best, most sparkling British comedies of the 60s, and well worth lobbying for to be released on video or DVD!
The Haunting (1963)
The supernatural doesn't get more disturbing than this...
One of the finest and most unsettling tales of the supernatural ever filmed, almost as good as Shirley Jackson's masterful book on which it's based. The bleak B&W cinematography matches the outstanding acting (especially by Julie Harris and Claire Bloom), and while Russ Tamblyn may have been miscast, the overall effect of this film is disturbing and frightening -- all without the viewer ever seeing a single "ghost."
Decision Before Dawn (1951)
Exceptionally realistic and well-acted anti-war film
Decision Before Dawn, released in 1951--only 6 years after the end of WWII--is set in the final months of that war, and relates the story of three soldiers who go behind German lines as spies. Richard Basehart plays an American intelligence officer, with Oskar Werner and Hardy Kruger as two German POWs who have volunteered to accompany him for reasons of conscience. The protagonist is the Oskar Werner character, playing a young German Medical Corps Non-commissioned officer. In the course of his task, which is to locate a specific Panzer division and report its position back to Basehart, he undergoes a range of experiences that paint a realistic picture of the last days of wartime Germany. His pacifism and loyalty to his country and family (whom he visits) are challenged by his decision to help his American captors and the necessity to perform all that entails. Well acted, scripted and very realistically propped and photographed, Decision Before Dawn ranks very high on the list of thoughtfully made and thought provoking war films.