Category Archives: 1969 Movie reviews

Scream and Scream Again-1969

Scream and Scream Again-1969

Director-Gordon Hessler

Starring-Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

Scott’s Review #899

Reviewed May 16, 2019

Grade: B+

Any film that features horror heavyweights and great actors like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing is well worth the price of admission for the name status alone. Each is a mainstay attraction in his own right and combined, results in an orgy of riches. Scream and Scream Again (1969) sputters by limiting the on-screen interaction between the actors but after a reflective pause I realize the picture is to be revered for its creativity and use of intersecting plot lines into a thrashing crescendo of a surprise ending.

The audience is offered three segments of story, each periodically revisited as stand-alone segments that culminate into overlapping components. An athletic runner trots along the streets of London suddenly suffering from an attack only to awaken in the hospital with no legs. Elsewhere, a deadly intelligence operative reports back to his repressed Eastern European country only to murder his commanding officer with a deadly paralyzing hold. Finally, a London detective investigates the brutal deaths of several young women in metropolitan nightclubs.

Cushing, reduced to merely a cameo sized role as the ill-fated officer, is barely worth mentioning and adds little to the film besides appearing in it. Lee, as Fremont, the head of Britain’s intelligence agency, plays a straight role with not much zest. Price, with the meatiest role as a mysterious doctor specializing in limb replacement, can give anyone the creeps with his scowling and eerie mannerisms, but the film strikes out by wasting the talents of the other legendary actors.

The film is not at all what a fan of Hammer horror will expect especially based on the horror familiar cast and the gory sounding title. Heaping buckets of blood or ghoulish vampires are what was on the anticipated menu but that does not mean the film fails to deliver. It may not please a fan of traditional horror films since the genres of political espionage and science-fiction come heavily into play. The fantastic and peculiar nightclub serial killer story line will satisfy fans eager for a good kill or two.

My initial reaction to Scream and Scream Again was that of over-complicated writing and too much going on simultaneously especially for a film of said horror genre. After the film concludes and the surprise ending is revealed I realized that the numerous tidbits are necessary to achieve the desired result and events will make the viewer ponder when the film ends.  Not to ruin the big reveal but the film makers borrow a healthy dose of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) in a more macabre way, naturally.

Fans of the 1960’s British television series The Avengers will be pleased with Scream and Scream Again as a similar tone exists with both. The distinctive musical soundtrack, trendy for the 1960’s time-period works well, and the nightclub sequences and some of the detectives feel reminiscent of the show. The feel of the film is not limited to an episodic television story but contains a similar style. High British 1960’s fashion is also prevalent and pleasing to the eye.

A couple of supporting characters strike a fascination in small and almost entirely non-verbal performances. A sexy red-headed hospital nurse with superhuman powers and a penchant for removing limbs, combined with a brooding and mysterious serial killer provide dubious intrigue as to who the true characters are. What is their motivation? Do they work for someone or something sinister? Questions like these will keep the viewer occupied and thirsty for an explanation.

In bizarre fashion, British film and television director Gordon Hessler crafts an implausible yet fascinating story that keeps the viewer guessing. Featuring horror superstars Price, Cushing, and Lee would seem like an assured horror masterpiece but due to the stars limited time on-screen brings the overall project down a notch. Scream and Scream Again (1969) still achieves a good measure of worthy entertainment.

Women in Love-1969

Women in Love-1969

UPDATED REVIEW

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed

Scott’s Review #766

Reviewed June 2, 2018

Grade: A

Women in Love (1969) is a British romantic drama film that is truly one of a kind. The film is quite cerebral and requires a bit of thought which undoubtedly will lead to good conversation with film connoisseurs everywhere following a viewing. The four central characters are complex and flawed and intersect in each other’s lives in dramatic fashion making the film a “thinking mans” feast. The film is adapted from a popular D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name.

In 1920, set in the Midlands section of central England, sisters Ursula (Jennie Linden) and Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) attend the wedding of an acquaintance, Laura Crich. The Crich family are enormously rich and own a good portion of the mining town. During the ceremony, Gudrun and Ursula fantasize about Gerald Crich (Oliver Platt) and Rupert Birkin (Alan Bates), respectively. When the foursome cross paths again at Rupert’s pretentious girlfriend’s party, attractions and conflict arise.

The film being described as “character driven” does not begin to do it justice. Each of the four principle characters are richly written with intelligence and gusto. All of them are either flawed or insecure in some way, while the fact that Gerald and Rupert share sexual attraction for each other is another nuance explored throughout the film. In fact, Rupert is confident and outspoken about his bisexuality- extremely rare for a 1969 film. In this way, Women in Love is ahead of its time.

The major themes in Women in Love are commitment and love and how each character handles these emotions-sometimes either embracing them or running away from them. Clearly, Gudrun and Gerald are in love with each other, while Rupert and Ursula are too, but one couple is unsuccessful at reaching any sort of bliss. The characters possess a bevy of emotions making their happiness almost impossible and the characters feel doomed to failure from the onset. This is an example of the tremendous writing on the part of Larry Kramer and bringing the characters to the big screen in a memorable way.

Jackson’s Gudrun and Bates’s Rupert are my favorite characters because they appear to have slightly more depth to them and feel like the standouts. Gudrun appears to have love/hate feelings toward Gerald and often is downright cruel to him. As they vacation in the Swiss Alps, Gudrun purposely and inexplicably flirts with a gay artist leaving Gerald insanely jealous and resulting in tragedy. Counter-balancing Gudrun’s anger, Rupert showers in fun and zest for life, happily bi-sexual and thinking nothing of it, enjoying his sexually charged affections for both men and women.

The supporting characters, specifically of snobbish Hermione and mentally unstable Christianna Crich are examples of perfect casting. Eleanor Bron plays Hermione as garish, mocking, and teetering on unhinged. As she psychologically bullies poor Ursula when it’s clear Rupert prefers the more innocent woman, Hermione becomes frightful. Actress Catherine Willmer takes Christianna to a new level in creepy. Already appearing psychotic, when her daughter tragically drowns the woman goes over the edge, unleashing vicious dogs on any visitors to her estate. Both actresses give unforgettable performances.

Women in Love contains a scene that may very well be the most homo-erotic scene in film history. As Rupert and Gerald decide to partake in a Japanese style wrestling match one evening, they strip completely naked and grapple in front of a roaring fire. In this lengthy sequence, both front and rear nudity is provided, leaving nothing to the imagination. When Rupert suggests they swear eternal love for each other, Gerald cannot commit to the emotional union. One wonders if this outstanding scene influenced 2007’s Eastern Promises.

1969’s Women in Love is an amazing film with terrific acting all around. Taking romantic drama to an entirely different level and setting a new standard for brilliant complexities in film, the work of art from director Ken Russell is peppered with nuances making it rich with great story telling and character development. The fact that one couple ends in bliss and the other in tragedy is sheer excellence.

Women in Love-1969

Women in Love-1969

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Glenda Jackson, Jennie Linden

Scott’s Review #553

Reviewed December 20, 2016

Grade: A

Women in Love is a shamefully, by and large, forgotten gem- except for the obscure cinema lover- made in 1969. The film is a British art film and way ahead of its time. Despite the title it is anything but a romantic comedy- quite dark in content actually. The film is adapted from a D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name.

The story is of two sisters, Gudrun and Ursula, living in a small mining town. They gather at the wedding of a friend and each become enamored with a member of the wedding party. Later, at a swanky dinner party, the girls meet the men. The film tells of the sisters individual relationships with each of the men (played by Alan Bates and Oliver Reed) as well as the men’s relationship with each other. All of the relationships are very complex and filled with emotion-some tender and some quite violent.

Women in Love is one of the first films to feature tons of nudity, but not so much in  a gratuitous fashion. The film’s theme are love, hatred, and the trials and tribulations of the English upper class are explored. The film is a love of mine since it is character driven, told from each of the characters perspectives, and is quite the intense experience. Glenda Jackson won the 1970 Best Actress Oscar- deservedly so.

Fellini Satyricon-1969

Fellini Satyricon-1969

Director-Federico Fellini

Starring-Martin Potter, Hiram Keller

Scott’s Review #530

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Reviewed November 30, 2016

Grade: A

Fellini Satyricon is a fascinating experience and is a great  film, but only for the very broad minded and patient viewer- it is more of an “experience” than watching a conventional start to finish type finish. It is nothing of that nature.

I both loved the trip and was fascinated by the creativity and depth of it- dreamlike is a word that immediately springs to mind. The story does not make perfect sense, nor does it need to. The fact that it is set some two thousand years ago is fantastic in itself as the sets are filled with decadent imagination.

The film is certainly not for everyone and is a fairy tale for adults. It tells of a journey through Ancient Rome and is divided into nine chapters. A scholar (Encolpius) and his friend (Ascyltus) traverse the land in the hopes of winning the heart of a young boy (Giton). They are both in love with him and the topics of bisexuality, public sex, slavery, and brothels are explored.

I love Fellini films as they are wild, dream-like, fantasy-like, with odd characters. Is Fellini Satyricon strange? Absolutely. But that is to its credit- this film is highly imaginative, wild, and will leave one pondering its beauty afterwards.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?-1969

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?-1969

Director-Sydney Pollack

Starring-Jane Fonda

Scott’s Review #474

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Reviewed September 6, 2016

Grade: A-

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a tragic, riveting film, set in Depression-era 1930’s centering on a group of contestants entering a Dance-athon for an enormous cash prize. Most of the film is set in and around the dance floor itself. Contestants bring themselves to the brink of exhaustion to win the coveted money and the desperation of the characters is horrific.

Jane Fonda leads the pack as a depressed, sarcastic, aspiring actress, who desperately needs the cash prize. The dark nature of the film is mesmerizing, though it is a difficult film to watch. I found the periodic parts of the film that seemed to drag ,effective, as the contestants grew more weary as each hour drags on. It also felt like a pre-cursor to the reality television craze that has swept the nation since the 1990’s.

A tragedy, yes, but an effective and worthwhile film about the depression and the struggle to survive. And a sad reminder of brutality as a form of entertainment.

La Femme Infidele-1969

La Femme Infidele-1969

Director-Claude Chabrol

Starring-Stephane Audran, Michel Bouquet

Scott’s Review #397

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Reviewed April 23, 2016

Grade: A-

Another gem by French director Claude Chabrol, La Femme Infidele (The Unfaithful Wife) is a 1969 film later remade in the United States in 2002, directed then by Adrian Lynde. Having seen the remake a few times before watching the original, I cannot help but compare the two films, which in itself is fun for me since both films are vastly different from one another, especially as I find myself further pondering each. One is more conventional- the other more psychological in nature.

Successful insurance executive Charles Desvallees lives in the suburbs of Paris with his beautiful wife Helene and their young son. Life is seemingly idyllic, as they enjoy every luxury imaginable-an exquisite house with beautiful landscape, and a dutiful maid. Charles has a sexy secretary, smokes, drinks, and enjoys life at work and Helene frequently goes to Paris for shopping sprees, beauty treatments, and to attend the cinema.  What could be missing from their lives?  Helene is a bored housewife and has embarked on an affair with Victor Pegalla, a writer who lives in Paris. When Charles grows suspicious of Helene, he hires a private investigator to track her activities and reveal the true story of how she spends her time.

Admittedly, I was highly influenced by Unfaithful, the 2002 remake starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere when I viewed La Femme Infidele. The remake is set in New York instead of Paris and is more polished and less psychological- a Fatal Attraction type slick thriller, if you will. The “other man” is much sexier, more passionate, and the connection is more primal than in the original. This changes the tone of the film from a sexual and lustful one to a more complex and  psychological dynamic- La Femme Infidele is a more thinking man’s film. Victor is handsome and well-groomed, but he is rather similar to Helene’s husband, so we wonder what the main appeal is- if she is seeking adventure. Lane’s 2002 character’s choice is easy- her affair is based on the physical attractiveness of the man. 1969’s Helene is not having her affair for that reason- in fact, the reasons, besides boredom, are unclear, making the film more complex.

When the main action (a death) occurs at the midway point, the film goes in a different direction and becomes complicated. No longer is the main plot Helene’s adultery, but rather what Charles has done and the repercussions bound to follow. Do we see Charles as the villain and Helene as the victim? Who do we feel sorry for? Do we root for anyone? Certainly the character of Victor is not explored in much depth. What are his motivations? Is he in love with Helene?

Helene is an interesting character. Is she meant to be sympathetic or hated? Or just complex?  One can interpret her in different ways- the woman has it all- beauty, a faithful husband, a wonderful home life- why does she risk sacrificing it all for a fling?  Does she dare to want more out of her life and have some adulterous fun? It does not seem that Helene is in love with Victor or has any desire to run away with him or leave her husband.

Charles is also a character to be analyzed closely. Throughout the first portion of the film he is seen as a victim- his gorgeous wife has mysterious contempt for him and plays him for a fool. She spends his money and cheats on him, while he adores her and resists his young, flirtatious secretary, who has a thing for Charles and wears short skirts seemingly for his benefit. She is much younger than Helene. Later, his character’s actions and motivations shift from victim to arguably brutish and primal. A momentary outburst changes his motivations and the character becomes calculating.

In the end Charles and Helene come together and resume normalcy in their lives, but will things ever be the same? Will trust ever reappear in their lives? Is Helene now afraid of or intimidated by her husband or rather, does she now have a new found desire for her alpha, take-charge husband?

The 1969 version of La Femme Infidele is layered, complex, interesting, and left me thinking about the film and that is a very good sign. The remake, while very good, is more of a blockbuster, produced kind of film, while the original goes more for thought. The lack of sex appeal in Victor is a negative of the film as is his motivations, but the character driven nuances of the other character’s make this a thought provoking watch.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service-1969

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service-1969

Director-Peter Hunt

Starring-George Lazenby, Diana Rigg 

Top 100 Films-#25

Scott’s Review #156

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Reviewed August 19, 2014

Grade: A

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is often shamefully derided by fans of the James Bond franchise, which is sad since artistically and story-wise it is top of the heap and is my personal favorite from the series.

Bond, now played by George Lazenby, is on the hunt for arch nemesis Blofeld, played by Telly Savalas. Blofeld is intent on securing amnesty for his past deeds and is threatening to ruin the world’s food supply if his demands are not met. Often known among Bond historians as “the one with George Lazenby”, who, if not for Sean Connery returning to the series in the next film, could have lasted much longer in the role, is a breath of fresh air and wonderfully cast. Lazenby brings his own form of charisma, great looks and charm to the role and Sean Connery is a tough act to follow, but Lazenby succeeds in spades.

Diana Rigg is one of the best Bond girls of all time as she is intelligent, sophisticated, confident, and beautiful, a great counterpart to Bond- she is more his equal, rather than simply just a conquest for him and the two actors have real chemistry. Telly Savalas is effective as the Blofeld, though not my all-time favorite Bond villain by any stretch- there is something missing in his performance.

In typical Bond fashion, the film begins in sunny Portugal, side steps to London, and finishes in cold Switzerland. I love the icy, snowy Switzerland locales in the film and the ski chase, downhill bobsled chase, and car chase on ice, and subsequent blizzard, which are brilliantly atmospheric.- a perfect film to view on a cold winter’s night!

I love the inside quips in this one especially when Lazenby says “I bet this never happened to the other fellow” and “He had lots of guts” both are laugh out loud clever.

The shocking and tragic ending is uncharacteristic for a Bond film and a brilliant change from many of the films as Bond is humanized.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is more character driven then the other films in the franchise while still providing lots of adventure, and should be revered as a more layered Bond offering.

Topaz-1969

Topaz-1969

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring-Frederick Stafford, Karin Dor

Scott’s Review #108

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Reviewed July 12, 2014

Grade: A-

Topaz is an intriguing, suspenseful 1969 latter day Alfred Hitchcock film.  In the political thriller vein, the film typically suffers from being both overlooked and under-appreciated yet receives admiration from film buffs. It is certainly not one of his better known films and that is quite a shame. To be fair, as with many great films, it is complex and layered and requires close attention and even multiple viewings.

The issue with Topaz is that the film suffers from lack of recognizable stars- a trademark of Hitchcock films in his heyday. Frederick Stafford (Andre) and Karin Dor (Juanita) are the featured romantic couple. Despite his being married to another woman, Andre and Juanita is the couple the audience is intended to root for.

The story involves competing spies from France, the United States and Cuba all vying for government secrets concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960’s. Each spy does their best to obtain the secrets, some in sinister fashion.

The French accents especially can be tough to understand, but it is a thrilling film that traverses from New York City to Cuba to France. The main protagonist is Andre and Stafford has a high level of charisma and a suave manner. The character is quite similar to James Bond. In fact, the film itself plays out like a Bond film with the exotic locales, the beautiful women, and the political intrigue. As with most Hitchcock films the set pieces and art direction are beautiful and perfect. One highlight is a particular characters death scene in Cuba. Involved in a love story throughout the film, the death is tragic yet heartfelt and very surprising.

Topaz, sadly, was unsuccessful at the box office due to no Hollywood names attached to it and little promotion, although it made several top ten critics lists in 1969. Topaz is certainly one of the more obscure of Hitchcock films, but an excellent one to be discovered and revered.

Anne of the Thousand Days-1969

Anne of the Thousand Days-1969

Director-Charles Jarrott

Starring-Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold

Scott’s Review #56

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Reviewed June 22, 2014

Grade: A-

Anne of the Thousand Days is one of the better historical dramas I have seen. One could become absorbed in the history of royalty and learn much. It has a clear Shakespearean quality to it (tragedy) and is compelling in many ways. It tells the true story of the tumultuous relationship between Henry VIII of England and his second wife Anne Boleyn, whose union produced one of the most famous queens, Elizabeth I. Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine, is discarded amid much controversy and political intrigue.

The drama is part of what makes this film so interesting, along with the historical element. It is dramatic, but not a soap opera and the acting superior. The film has gorgeous costumes and cinematography too. Unfortunately, the finale of the beheading left too much to the imagination and a more graphic scene would have put it over the top. Near excellent though.

Midnight Cowboy-1969

Midnight Cowboy-1969

Director-John Schlesinger

Starring-Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight

Scott’s Review #24

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

Midnight Cowboy is a masterpiece from 1969 that remains the only Best Picture Oscar winner to be rated “X” and, sadly, would probably not be made today. It tells the tale of a friendly, trusting cowboy who moves from Texas to New York City and is challenged to survive the brutal streets any way he can. Throughout the film he meets several interesting, unsavory characters and experiences life in the bowels of NYC as drug use and prostitution are explored. Personally, I did not find this to be as much of a downer as many other people did, but rather, a story of survival.

The grittiness of NYC is wonderfully portrayed with many locales being used (Times Square). Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman are exceptionally cast and have great chemistry, though the film is by no means a “buddy movie”. It’s bleak, raw, and intense at times. Sylvia Miles has a memorable one scene feature. This is great filmmaking.