Category Archives: 1962 Movie reviews

Dr. No-1962

Dr. No-1962

Director-Terence Young

Starring-Sean Connery, Ursula Andress

Reviewed July 27, 2017

Grade: A-

Watching the 1962 film that launched the James Bond franchise into the legendary status that it has since become, Dr. No is rich in history and is a blueprint of what the Bond films would encompass in the decades to follow. Admittedly more basic in comparison to the more sophisticated and fleshed-out chapters to come, the film is nonetheless a superb entry in the franchise and a chapter to be cherished on its own merits.

Charismatic Sean Connery, soon to forever be identified in the role of James Bond, fills the role with a suave, masculine, confidence oozing from the screen in each and every scene. In fact, his performance in the role is so seamless, one might assume he had been playing Bond for years, rather than being a novice. And who can forget the characters first entrance- in a casino, confidently gambling, and introducing himself to Sylvia Trench, a character originally slated to be his steady girlfriend.

The film version of Dr. No is adapted from the first Ian Fleming spy novel of the same name, which is clever. As the years have gone by, the Bond films were modified a great deal from the original written pages, so it is cool and original to have the film closely mirror the book.

Lacking a hefty budget, the action mainly takes place in both London and Jamaica, and at Crab Key, a fictional island off of Jamaica. When Strangways, a British Intelligence Chief, is killed and his body taken by assassins known as “the Three Blind Mice”, who also steal files related to Crab Key island and a mysterious man named “Dr. No”, Bond is summoned to his superior’s (M) office in London and tasked with determining whether the incident has anything o do with radio interference of missiles launching in Cape Canaveral.  Natural, it does and the adventure sets off  a series of dramatic events involving henchmen, scrapes with death, and  Bond’s bedding more than one beautiful woman, before facing the ultimate showdown with the creepy title character., who is missing both hands.

Notable  and distinguishable to the film are the fabulous, chirpy, child-like songs featured in the film. From the tuneful, harmonic, nursery rhyme, “Three Blind Mice”, sung calypso style, to the sexy and playful, “Under the Mango Tree”, both are light, yet filled with necessary mystery too. The fact that the former is featured in the beginning of the film and implies that the named the same villains are joyfully singing the happy tune, is a good indicator.

Dr. No is also inspired for the introduction of the crime organization, SPECTRE, that any Bond aficionado knows very well is a staple of the franchise. Joseph Wiseman, as Dr. No, is well cast, though sadly, we only see him at the latter part of the film. Much more character potential is left untouched, though the mystique of knowing the man exists, but not what he looks like is worth mentioning.

Admittedly, rather silly is the assumption that the audience will not be witty enough to realize that both  the characters of Dr. No and Miss Taro (a villainous secretary) are  clearly caucasian actors wearing unconvincing makeup. Why the choice was made not to cast authentically ethnic actors is unclear. My guess is the powers that be wanted to go a safer route due to the uncertainty of the franchise at that time.

Still, for a first try, Dr. No gets it just about right. What woman in 1962 was sexier or cast more perfectly than Ursula Andress as the gorgeous and fiery sex kitten, Honey Ryder? This casting was spot on and who can forget her sultry introduction to the film as she emerges from the roaring waves on the beach in a scantily clad bathing suit. The set designs and locales also work well in the film. Contemporary are the set pieces, specifically the spacious prison apartment Bond and Honey briefly reside in. Sleek and sophisticated, the sofa, rug, and tables all exude luxury and class.

Dr. No is a worthy film on its own merits and a fantastic introduction into the world of James Bond and the many trademark elements and nuances that the films contain.

To Kill a Mockingbird-1962

To Kill a Mockingbird-1962

Director-Robert Mulligan

Starring-Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall

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Reviewed August 25, 2016

Grade: A

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 1962 film based on the renowned novel penned by Harper Lee, and released only two years earlier in 1960. The novel was certainly groundbreaking and the film is equally so as race and racism are front and center in the storyline The film really still is a marvel as the story is told through the eyes of a child- in present times an adult- as she reflects on her past experience. The film is set in the 1930’s in a very small Alabama town.

We follow the lives of Atticus Finch, respected lawyer and father, and his two young children- Scout and Jem. Gregory Peck as Atticus is the moral center of the film. Scout (Mary Badham) narrates and her innocence makes the story that much more compelling and less like a preachy vehicle for a social topic, which it could have been. The Finch’s are a tight family unit as Atticus is widowed, leaving Jem and Scout motherless. A poor black man-Tom- is accused of raping and beating a white woman, also poor, coached into the accusations by her racist father. We accept that the woman had designs on Tom and when caught by her horrified father, was beaten, with Tom left to take the blame.

A good deal of the film, but not too much, takes place in the courtroom, as we hear testimony by the poor woman, her father, and Tom. Not to be missed is that every juror is a white man- a sad reminder of the racism that existed and one argues still exists, though clearly not as blatant in today’s modern world. One cringes when the black attendees are forced to sit in the upper portion of the courthouse, an obvious way to demean and lessen them, and which speaks volumes for the town- we realize Tom does not have a chance, yet we hope against hope for his acquittal.

Wisely, I do not feel the point of the film is the outcome of the trial- we know what will result. But rather, the film teaches us a lesson in reality and that life is often unfair and painful. It is the after effects of the trial that is the most interesting part of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Gregory Peck was awarded the Best Actor Oscar for 1962 as he plays the liberal, progressive, honorable man. He can do no wrong and is a wonderful example for his kids. A black maid, Calpurnia, works for him, he treats her like family, and I could not think that she really is the mother figure in Jem and Scout’s lives. Atticus does the right thing, treating everyone fairly, and living a moral life. He is a wonderful example and it is no wonder why Peck won the trophy.

A sub-plot involves a mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, feared by the town kids, but turning out to be a protector and companion to Scout and Jem. This role was the first for acclaimed actor Robert Duvall- the actor having a tiny yet important role and does a great deal of expressive acting without uttering a line. The title of the film is poignant and important to the ending.

The film is really about Jem and Scout and their quick journey into the pains and unfairness endured by adults- once innocently enjoying the summer, playing games and making friends with a visiting young boy, they are exposed to evil and a hate filled racist town, which they slowly come to realize exists.

Filmed in black and white, this quality enhances the picture as the blowing leaves and dark shadows add much to the impressive cinematography and gives the film a dark quality that color would have ruined. The time period of the 1930’s is very authentic.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a timeless film containing an important message about the world, and is a film that ought to be viewed by children and adults of every generation for a lesson in empathy and compassion. The film is not ugly or raw, but is truthful and  still feels fresh. It will resonate with all audiences patient enough to give it a good watch.

Lawrence of Arabia-1962

Lawrence of Arabia-1962

Director-David Lean

Starring-Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif 

Top 100 Films-#82

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Reviewed February 12, 2017

Grade: A

Lawrence of Arabia is quite a grand film and one that must be seen on the large screen in order to fully appreciate the enormous scale of the production. Numerous shots of objects appearing in the distance are featured and the small screen dulls the experience. A wonderful film from top to bottom and groundbreaking at the time by the scope and vast proportions of the production, Lawrence of Arabia achieves its place in the annals of cinema history, and is a treat to revisit from time to time. The film is divided into two parts divided by an intermission as was the case with epics nearly four hours in length.

Peter O’Toole stars as T.E. Lawrence, a bored British Army Lieutenant, who talks his way into a transfer to the Arabian desert. As the film opens, it is 1935, and Lawrence has just been killed in a motorcycle accident. This concept of revealing the ending of the story and working backwards, common in current films, was a novel experience in 1962, when the film was made.

While in Arabia, Lawrence successfully bands together bitter rival tribes to work together in order to unite against Turkish oppression during World War I. While there he meets two young guides, and other central characters such as Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) and Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif). Much of the film features the many battles that occur between the rival tribes and the peace that Lawrence to achieve. Also, a multitude of location sequences of Lawrence and company traveling across the miles and miles of hot desert are featured.

Some complain that Lawrence of Arabia is too slow moving a film, but to me that is its selling point. I find the scenes of the group languishing across the desert incredibly lush and rich in meaning. The intense heat and the beating sun are fantastic in their cinematic grandeur. The film is meant to take its time- exactly how the experience in the Arabian desert would really be like and the mountainous sand dunes and swirling winds are brilliantly filmed. David Lean is the king of the sprawling epic and Lawrence of Arabia is his crown achievement.

The character of Lawrence is written well and he is a layered and complex individual- he is not easy to describe or to understand and that is also to the films credit. The sheer weight loss that O’Toole went through over the course of the two years that it took to Film Lawrence of Arabia is impressive enough, but he is also a tortured soul emotionally.

An epic film of the grandest proportions, Lawrence of Arabia required a half day of dedicated viewing, but is worth each and every minute. For a reminder of what a true, breathtaking film really looks like- sans the oversaturated CGI and quick edits, one should take a deep breath and appreciate this work of art for its majestic look.

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)-1962

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)- 1962

Director-Sidney Hayers

Starring-Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair

220px-Night-of-the-eagle-poster

Reviewed January 1, 2016

Grade: B

Burn Witch Burn- re-titled for U.S. release from the original title of Night of the Eagle, is a 1962 black and white horror film.  It is based on a 1943 novel entitled Conjure Wife. The film is quite decent and delves into the interesting, and arguably unusual, subject of witchcraft, but is careful not to be too dark a film and resembles more of a long episode of the Twilight Zone- a very good episode. I enjoyed how the film had a wit and a charm to it never taking itself too seriously, instead had a humor and lightness to it.

Norman, a psychology professor at the local university, is intelligent, successful, and well-adjusted. He has a blonde, pretty, sophisticated wife named Tansy. The perfect housewife, she coordinates Friday night bridge parties with fellow professors and staff and is a Mrs. Cleaver type- the mother character from the famous 1950’s television series, Leave it to Beaver. When Norman discovers Tansy is practicing witchcraft and possesses various charms, dolls, and weird things, he forces her to destroy all of them. This leads to a series of bad events. Norman is accused of rape by a students and other dire circumstances occur. This is assumed by Tansy to be the result of the destruction of her witchcraft.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun film- it does not take itself too seriously, despite the heavy subject matter. Tansy certainly does not look like the stereotypical witch. In fact, she looks more like a PTA mom. We almost cheer for her. At the same time, the film is not so over-the-top that it becomes ridiculous either. I found the film to be entertaining, but certainly not a masterpiece or at all scary.

As the film progresses, I found the action to be a bit confusing from a story-line perspective, but that was admittedly okay. I simply went with it and enjoyed. For instance, the plot thickens when some enormous eagle affixed on the front of the university building comes into play. Or the sinister university secretary’s motives are revealed.

Worth mentioning are the thunderstorm special effects and ambiance. I found the heavy storm to be crucial in making Burn Witch Burn and effective horror film. It gave a heavy dose of spookiness to events and the atmosphere was spot on.

Burn Witch Burn is a fun, late-night horror flick that does not take itself too seriously, but is a worthy film for horror fans to partake in and enjoy. An under-appreciated  flick.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-1962

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-1962

Director-Robert Aldrich

Starring-Bette Davis, Joan Crawford

Top 100 Films-#71     Top 20 Horror Films-#18

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Reviewed November 14, 2014

Grade: A

Kicking off a trend, prominent throughout the 1960’s, of aging Hollywood actresses starring in horror films (interestingly Bette Davis and Joan Crawford each did two- the others being Dead Ringer and Strait-Jacket), with varying degrees of success, Baby Jane is top of the heap.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, directed by Robert Aldrich, stars aforementioned Davis and Crawford as, ironically enough, two aging Hollywood actresses, Jane and Blanche Hudson. Jane (Davis), a child star in the 1920’s nick-named Baby Jane, with an adorable signature song, “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy”, has long since faded from the spotlight, but continues to dress in her Baby Jane costume, consisting of a little girl dress with hair in curls and ribbons. Blanche, however, garnered her success as an adult in the 1930’s and until a tragic accident, which left her wheelchair bound and subsequently ruined her career, was a popular film star- much more popular than Jane. Blanche and Jane now wither the years away in a crumbling mansion in Los Angeles. Blanche is completely dependent on her unbalanced sister for care. Jane, resentful of Blanche’s success and popularity, plans to re-launch her career in her once famous alter ego.

The film certainly has macabre comedic elements, but never veers too far over the edge as to reach camp or foolishness. It is also a very psychological film as Jane mentally abuses Blanche and plays mind games with her to achieve the upper hand. Davis obviously had a ball with this role as her appearance alone is frightful- a grown woman of a certain age in blonde curls, pancake makeup, and a baby doll dress- she looks positively hideous! What Ever Happened to Baby Jane reminds me quite a bit of Billy Wilder’s masterpiece Sunset Boulevard in several ways- both feature successful stars of years past with delusions of returning to their former fame, both feature older women more than a tinge unbalanced, and both films are set in sunny Los Angeles.

Two of the films supporting actors are well cast, adding much to this film and simply must be given recognition- Victor Buono, later made famous for his role of King Tut in the popular late 1960’s television series Batman, is highly effective as the opportunist sloth, Edwin Flagg, who aids Jane in her comeback attempt. Maidie Norman as the Hudson sisters black housekeeper, Elvira, loyal to Blanche, but never a fan of Jane’s, slowly becomes wise to Jane’s sinister plot and does a wonderful acting job when she stands up to the manipulative sister- for 1962, a black maid verbally assaulting a white woman employer was still rather taboo and kudos to the film for bravely going there in a highly effective scene. The fact that Davis and Crawford famously despised each other in real life adds an edge that does wonders for the audience during scenes where the two women fight and claw at each other, both physically and verbally.

The film has wonderfully quotable dialogue- “we got rats in the cellar”, Jane utters matter-of-factly, as she serves Blanche a cooked rat on a bed of lettuce for lunch one day and cackles fiendishly when she hears Blanche screams of disgust. One aspect of the film that has taken me three viewings to become aware of and that I simply love is the musical score throughout the film- it features multiple and creepy versions of Jane’s signature song “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” with varying tempos.

Certainly, suspension of disbelief must be used in this film- why couldn’t Blanche pound and scream at her bedroom window to alert the neighbor of trouble instead of casually tossing a note out the window? Blanche struggling to descend steps by sliding down them and then is unable to slide across the floor to escape the mansion is silly, but alas, the film is so gripping that I happily overlook these errors and instead enjoy the suspenseful film with two actresses, rivals onscreen and off screen, that make this film a bit too realistic, a realism that makes for delightful film watching.

Gypsy-1962

Gypsy-1962

Director-Mervyn LeRoy

Starring-Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood

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Reviewed December 23, 2013

Grade: A

The film version of the iconic Broadway production is a huge success, mainly due to the superb performance that Rosalind Russell gives as Mama Rose- a muscled, driven, stage mother in the Depression era show business world. She is mesmerizing in the role and very reminiscent of greats Joan Crawford and Bette Davis- both of whom also would have been wonderful in the role.

Clearly, Russell carries the film with her bombastic, loud, and determined performance- her children will become stars and Rose will get the stardom and spoils that she so richly deserves. She uses every nook and cranny to her advantage- from borrowing money from her father to scraping leftover Chinese food scraps and stealing silverware. Rose’s daughters, Baby June, and Louise (Natalie Wood) are in tow to help her achieve her goals- June the talented one and Louise along for the ride. When circumstances develop, Louise blossoms and become the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.

From masterpieces “Everything’s Coming up Roses” and “Some People” to her heartbreak at being a driven stage mom, Russell’s performance makes the film. Her best scene comes at the climax of the film- Rose, finally admitting to herself that she has spent her life with a need to be noticed, hits an empty theater stage, alone, and has an emotional breakdown.

Natalie Wood and Karl Malden certainly add depth to their characters, especially Wood, who goes from mousy wallflower to seductive stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

From a casting perspective, I am not sure Wood was quite right for the role- the second time in two years this would occur (her casting in West Side Story being the other misstep), but she was an enormous star at the time and was awarded juicy roles.

Gypsy is one of the great Hollywood musicals from the 1950’s/1960’s heyday. Witty, smart dialog help this film emerge to the top of the list of similar type films. Bravura!