Category Archives: 1966 Films

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-1966

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly-1966

Director Sergio Leone

Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef

Scott’s Review #1,320

Reviewed December 9, 2022

Grade: A

Any film lover cannot view The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) without realizing its enormous influence on Quentin Tarantino, one of the greatest filmmakers of modern times.

Obsessed with the ‘spaghetti western’ a derogatory categorization for cheaply made Italian western films with lousy lip-syncing and an over-the-top stylization, he made them ‘cool’ and interspersed moments and film scores from some of these films.

Director, Sergio Leone also created brilliant films like Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984) and was famous for his sprawling epics at great length.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is top-notch in nearly every way. The instantly recognizable hauntingly operatic score is to be revered. It brings dubious and edgy energy that defines the entire film representing the title characters.

Unfortunately, the film received mixed reviews at best upon initial release but is now considered a masterpiece.

The sprawling landscape represents the American Western territory with lush mountains and desert dryness. In reality, the film was shot mostly in Spain but you’d never know it. It’s a pleasing feeling to possess this knowledge since it makes for more fun and comparisons to the fake world of the frontier.

The creative sweeping widescreen cinematography is also a major win. Combined with violent, stylized gunfights, the use of close-ups and long shots makes the film unique.

Story-wise, during the bloody Civil War, a mysterious stranger, Blondie ‘the Good’ (Clint Eastwood), and a Mexican outlaw, Tuco ‘the Ugly’ (Eli Wallach), form an uneasy partnership. Blondie turns in the bandit for some reward money, then rescues him just as he is being hanged. When Blondie’s shot at the noose goes awry during one escapade, a furious Tuco tries to have him murdered.

The men re-team abruptly, however, to beat out a sadistic criminal named ‘Angel Eyes’ (Lee Van Cleef) or ‘the Ugly’ and the Union army and find $20,000 that a soldier has buried in the desert.

The hook is that each of the three principal characters is looking for loot, specifically a buried cache of Confederate gold. This plot enhances the duels and peril along the way which is surely a selling point to the viewer.

The finale and paired ‘noose sequence’ is the highlight of the film.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is purely a ‘guy’s film’ though this is not to say females who appreciate influential cinema will not get something from it. Even if the plot is a one-trick pony the other aspects of the film quality are worthy of admiration.

In 1966 Clint Eastwood was not the big Hollywood star he would soon become and certainly hadn’t tried his hand in the director’s chair.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is very early Eastwood, and worth noting that it’s the film that propelled him into a rebellious action hero he cemented with Dirty Harry (1971).

Studying the characters may be a superfluous approach for a film like this but Blondie’s nickname of ‘the Good’ is laughable. He’s a pure anti-hero and joins forces with ‘the Ugly’ a known criminal. Sure, he spares lives but he’s not exactly a goody two shoes. That just makes the character more appealing in my book.

Spaghetti westerns were derided and scoffed at when they were originally released. Nobody could have predicted that decades later a film like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) would be revered and influential.

The great filmmakers who appreciated this film mirrored their own after it.

The Sand Pebbles-1966

The Sand Pebbles-1966

Director Robert Wise

Starring Steve McQueen, Candice Bergen, Richard Attenborough

Scott’s Review #1,257

Reviewed May 18, 2022

Grade: A-

The 1950s and 1960s can collectively be defined as the two decades representing the grandiose film epic, which are instantly recognizable cinematic sprawling, lengthy efforts and frequently encompassing a time.

The Sand Pebbles (1966) safely falls into this category especially because it’s a war film and one minute shy of a three-hour extravaganza.

The film was a critical and commercial success at the time of release and received several Academy Award nominations (see more below) but is not remembered as well as one might expect despite being a fantastic watch.

There is something that makes the film fly somewhere under the radar and I’m not sure why that is. It might be that an anti-war message film was not as common as it would become. In 1966 there had only just begun to be a United States movement questioning the government and war in general.

It wasn’t cool or acceptable yet.

Robert Anderson adapted the screenplay from the 1962 novel of the same name by Richard McKenna which I understand is very similar.

Robert Wise, famous for directing the very memorable The Sound of Music just one year prior in 1965 and the legendary West Side Story in 1961 is at the helm resulting in a superior direction, especially in the exterior sequences and the lush, oceanic sequences.

Star, Steve McQueen was at the height of popularity when this film was made which undoubtedly helped get butts in the seats to drool over the blue-eyed actor in his Navy attire.

The Sand Pebbles has a heavier touch and promotes an anti-war viewpoint from its main character. Therefore, it has a good solid message to go with the expected aspects of a war film.

It’s not dissimilar to The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) made nearly a decade earlier.

Not lost on the viewer will be the Asian locales and the parallels with the controversial Vietnam conflict happening at the time.

We go back to 1926 when the USS San Pablo was patrolling the Yangtze River during the clashes between Chiang Kai-shek’s communists and Chinese warlords.

Eight-year veteran machinist Jake Holman (McQueen), new to the self-named “sand pebbles” crew, immediately draws deep suspicion due to his independent streak.

Ordered to protect Americans, including schoolteacher Shirley Eckhart (Candice Bergen), Jake and the gunboat crew are unwittingly drawn into a bitter nationalistic feud that holds grim consequences.

Besides his unforgettable turn in The Getaway in 1972, the role is McQueen’s finest and I’m not the biggest fan of his nor feel he is the greatest actor.

But, in The Sand Pebbles, he has tremendous material to work with and hits all cylinders throughout. The character is rootable and relatable to the audience.

The film also presents a fascinating look at Navy life with the camaraderie and depth of the supporting characters. There is comedy and drama and the additions of Richard Attenborough and Richard Crenna are stellar.

Naturally, Bergen is the romantic love interest for McQueen as Shirley and Jake have fledging feelings for each other.

Though the film ends abruptly there is enough pain, death, and confusion to leave the viewer thinking afterward and that is always an aspect of the film that I champion.

The Sand Pebbles (1966) is an underrated production that simmers beneath some other classics from the same decade but is a terrific watch for many reasons. It has an old-world feel despite being extremely timely representing a forage into the dangerous early 1970s history still to come.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Steve McQueen, Best Supporting Actor-Mako, Best Art Direction-Color, Best Cinematography-Color, Best Film Editing, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound

Modesty Blaise-1966

Modesty Blaise-1966

Director Joseph Losey

Starring Monica Vitti, Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde

Scott’s Review #1,243

Reviewed April 9, 2022

Grade: B

Loosely based on a British comic strip of the same name, Modesty Blaise (1966) is a campy, over-the-top escapist film that features a relaxed style but a convoluted plot.

The story doesn’t matter much and the film feels based on the James Bond film series with some Dick Tracy and Brenda Starr comic elements thrown in.

Throughout the action, I chuckled at the situation comedy antics of the characters. Both heroes and villains get mixed up in one hokey situation after another and all of the actors seem well aware that they are not performing Shakespearean comedy.

They forge ahead with gusto making it as much of a zany offering as humanly possible.

I mused at how much the film was reminiscent of television, Get Smart, a foolish but sweet-natured 1960s spy-genre offering.

I challenge the odd decision to make a film of this genre a bloated one hour and fifty-seven minutes. A spry ninety or ninety-five minutes would have been more than ample time to wrap up the experience and allow audiences to head for the exits.

This might prevent some from realizing how silly a film they’d just sat through

Modesty Blaise is not a traditionally good film but grooviness and pizazz are the main attractions as characters indulge in an orgy of colorful situations, and preposterous setups.

Lavish locales like Amsterdam, London, and the roaring beaches off the coast of the Meditteranean Sea bring the film back from going too far off the rails and pepper it with some cultivation.

If one is in the right mood Modesty Blaise is a chuckle fest but if aching for high art don’t waste your time. The psychedelic and groovy art design and Mad Men-like sets won me over as I quickly forgot to try and piece together the overcomplicated plot.

I simply didn’t care who was who or who was trying to outwit who and why. And I was okay with that.

Gorgeous Italian actress Monica Vitti leads the charge followed by the dashing English actor, Terence Stamp. Together, they make a lusty and good-looking pair though Vitti gets no acting accolades from me.

Her looks are the primary reason for her casting win.

The actress plays a  beautiful former criminal named Modesty who decides to go straight and work for the Secret Service. They send her to infiltrate a ring of jewel thieves. She is not especially respected by the stuck-up older regime but she shrugs it off and offers her best services.

Soon after she joins the gang, sophisticated and dangerous head honcho Gabriel (Dirk Bogarde) grows suspicious of his new charge, and Modesty realizes that British Intelligence gave her a mission they could care less if she survives.

She then enlists her former partner in crime, Willie (Stamp), to help her out of her peril while outsmarting both sides.

Most of the action scenes are ludicrous. The likelihood of any of the stories being true is slim to none. Plenty of sequences take place on a luxury yacht or some other water transportation so that viewers can see Vitti and Stamp clad in as little as possible.

I smirked at more than one James Bond nod though I dare say some influence on the still-to-be-made Diamonds Are Forever (1971) is noticed.

If I’m making Modesty Blaise out to be a terrible film, it’s not.

The gimmicky angle of having Modesty appear with a different hairstyle in every sequence is clever and enjoyable (my preference is for her as a blonde).

When she is imprisoned in a spiraling-colored basement cell and must climb out the roof for help it’s one of the best-looking set designs I’ve ever seen. The creative team gets an A-plus for expressiveness and imagination which is the reason Modesty Blaise is so damned fun.

The cartoonish criminals Gabriel and Clara, played by Dirk Bogarde and Rossella Falk, are deliciously wicked. I was amazed at Gabriel’s towering purple cocktail and craved trying a sip of it to see exactly what he was drinking.

Satisfyingly, both main villains get their comeuppance.

The film is foolish, campy, and a silly time wrapped up in amazing artistry from a creative team who deserves more credit than they probably received.

Modesty Blaise (1966) is a messy film that I enjoyed and found endearing way more than I probably should have. It’s the guiltiest of pleasures in a chest full of sub-par spy comedy films.

The Bible: In the Beginning-1966

The Bible: In the Beginning-1966

Director John Huston

Starring George C. Scott, Ava Gardner

Scott’s Review #1,139

Reviewed May 5, 2021

Grade: A-

An epic of grand proportions that nearly rivals the magic cinematography of Lawrence of Arabia (1963), The Bible: In The Beginning (1966) embraces its definition of majestic, magnificent, and sweeping.

The story follows the chronological telling of The Bible book, beginning with Adam & Eve.

Important to remember is that one need not be of Catholic, Christian, or any religious persuasion to enjoy the rapturous beauty encompassing the film.  The pious and the non-believers alike can enjoy the experience though there is a hint of the unbelievable and suspension of disbelief in some of the stories gracing the “good book” by director John Huston.

He also narrates some of the stories and appears as Noah.

Nobody is mocked for their beliefs and the film is a straight-ahead interpretation of the first twenty-two chapters of the Book of Genesis, covering the stories from The Creation and Adam and Eve to the binding of Isaac.

Abraham (George C. Scott) and Sarah (Ava Gardner) are heavily featured.

The film strongly focuses on five main sections: The Creation, Garden of Eden, Cain, and Abel, Noah’s Ark, and the story of Abraham. Some other stories are given less screen time and attention but are featured.

Speaking of Adam & Eve (Michael Parks & Ulla Bergyrd), they kick off the action with the fateful decision to pick and taste the luscious fruits dangling in front of their eyes as the Serpent fiendishly looks on. God punishes Adam & Eve for their temptations setting off a common theme amidst the film, and certainly of the good book, of resisting pleasures of the flesh and of being punished for caving into desires.

Aod is happy when people are unfulfilled and joyless. Sadly, some have taken this too much to heart.

We could debate religion until the cows come home, and many have, but I became aware of a hint of ridicule or at least strong questioning on the part of Huston.

He creates scenes that most would deem ridiculous if not written in the words of the Bible. Again, Huston is careful not to mock anyone, shrouding any antics in good, stylized 1960s film, but a woman being turned into a pillar of salt for looking at the sky could be found amusing.

Admittedly, some chapters are better than others.

The trials and tribulations of Abraham & Sarah get off to a slow start as Abraham and company traverse miles and miles of the lonely desert so much so that I was left wondering if they were on the road to nowhere.

Finally, the action takes off as Sarah realizing she is barren, makes her maid conceive a child with Abraham. I never knew this saga had so much in common with the Hulu hit The Handmaid’s Tale but the similarities are eerie and uncanny.

Noah and his Ark is also a very good sequence and brings more humor than might be necessary but I guess this is to counterbalance more serious stories. Noah adores animals, especially cats, and lions and he treated them beautifully choosing to save and live in harmony with the creatures. They love him. The flooding scenes related to this chapter are exquisite and adventurous.

The film depicts God as a bit of a son of a bitch as he calls Abraham to lead his only son to a high mountain and sacrifice him. This tests Abraham’s will and is somber and thoughtful.

If one notices many of the actors look Italian it’s because they are. Noah’s wife for example is played by Pupella Maggio, famous for her role in Fellini’s Amarcord (1973).

Much of the film was shot in and around the Italian city of Rome.

Huston not only narrates some of the sections but appears as Noah himself!

The Bible: In the Beginning (1966) is exquisite to look at and pleasing cinematically. Many fans of religious cinema will prefer the more conventional The Ten Commandments (1956) to this one and, while slow at times, by the conclusion the film has aged like a fine wine and had me enthralled and appreciative of its achievements.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Music Score

The Reptile-1966

The Reptile-1966

Director John Gilling

Starring Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel

Scott’s Review #978

Reviewed January 10, 2020

Grade: B

While watching a Hammer horror film production, there are always little treats offered and enjoyed. The budgets are always small which only adds to the mystique and the fun and the wonderment of what can be done.

Impressive is how creative they get with a shoestring budget.

The Reptile (1966) is a nice offering with enough murder and intrigue to mildly satisfy, though many plot holes and illogical sequences occur.

The British class and murky locales are fantastic.

Set in Cornwall, England, events begin in a macabre way when a middle-aged bachelor hears noises coming from a nearby estate. When he investigates, he is bitten by a demonic figure and rapidly develops the “Black Death” which kills him.

Many locals succumb to a similar fate. The bachelor’s brother, Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett), inherits his brother’s cottage and moves in despite the warnings of the resident tavern owner, Tom (Michael Ripper), the only one of the townspeople to befriend Harry and his wife, Valerie (Jennifer Daniel).

Meanwhile, the sinister Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman), the owner of the nearby estate, is the only resident near the cottage and he lives with his daughter Anna (Jacqueline Pearce). The Doctor treats his daughter with contempt as she is attended to by a silent servant (Marne Maitland).

When Anna asks Valerie for help, this leads Valerie and Harry to the estate where dire events occur, but could this be a trap?

The setting of the coastal town is well created and scenes in cemeteries, par for the course with Hammer productions, add a good vibe. The cottage and the estate are well-manicured, and the film simply feels like a British gem.

Since the sets are low-budget, the exterior sequences add a great deal to The Reptile. Assumed is that the film was shot with a “day for night” technique, a trick used to simulate a night scene while filming in daylight. This makes for positive cinematography.

The final thirty minutes or so is the best part of the film when Harry and Valerie are invited to dinner at the doctor’s estate. Banished to her bedroom for most of the evening, Anna emerges looking ravishing in an evening dress but is soon revealed to have been met with a curse and sheds her skin and becomes a frightening reptile.

The servant has a hold over Anna and her father, while a sweet black kitten comes into play.

The characters are interesting. Benevolent Harry and Valerie mix well with the dark and cynical Dr. Franklyn and the servant. Franklyn is irritable and the servant, though he does not speak, is devious and riddled with mystery.

Ignoring warnings to flee the town, never to return, the newlyweds refuse, blissful in their new cottage and filled with the promise of fresh life. Their spirit counterbalances their neighbors and when the characters intersect the real fun begins.

The creature is a tad on the corny side and is hardly scary. The makeup, reportedly difficult for actress Jacqueline Pearce to wear looks amateurish. The cover art makes the creature look much better than in the film, but again, the budgetary limitations made things tight.

Kudos for the idea for the creature to be a female. It was tough to either root for her or against her though since we know little about why she turns from gorgeous to evil.

From a plot perspective, the viewer is encouraged not to try too hard to figure out how circumstances relate to one another. Why and how did Anna become cursed? Did the servant curse her and why is he there? Is the group of caged animal creatures that Anna eats?

It is mentioned that Anna needs a hot environment- is the hot molten in the basement to keep her human? These and many other inquiries could be made, but it roesn’t matter too much.

The Reptile (1966) is worth a watch, especially for fans of classic, Gothic horror. With an unfamiliar cast, the project would have been assisted by the additions of Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee, mainstays of Hammer films in either of the central male roles.

Still, the film succeeds with unpredictability and the low budget creates a fabulous texture. The main appeal is that it is a good, fun horror film with little expectations.

An American Dream-1966

An American Dream-1966

Director Robert Gist

Starring Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker

Scott’s Review #879

Reviewed March 19, 2019

Grade: C-

An American Dream (1966) is a film version of the Norman Mailer novel of the same name. Directed by Robert Gist its cast includes Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, and Eleanor Parker, who do what they can with mediocre writing, uneven pacing, and an unsatisfying ending.

Roles suffer from miscasts and misfires and the film plays out as more of an episodic television detective show or a darker version of a television movie than a compelling feature.

Except for one terrific high-rise scene, the film is largely a waste of time.

Stephen Rojack (Whitman) is a decorated war hero who returns to Los Angeles to embark on a career as a journalist. He publicly criticizes the police for failing to accost a known crime lord named Ganucci (Joe De Santis), which angers the mobster.

Simultaneously, Rojack’s alcoholic wife, Deborah (Parker), flies into a drunken rage when he asks her for a divorce resulting in her toppling from a swanky high-rise to her death. Riddled with guilt, Rojack resumes a relationship with his former girlfriend and Ganucci’s ex, Cherry (Leigh).

The best scene of the film is the intense confrontation between Rojack and Deborah. The sweeping, expansive balcony and the open-air locale overlooking dazzling Los Angeles should be a major clue that something dire will transpire, especially as Deborah is drunk beyond belief and filled with fury.

Her lavish apartment is decorated adequately in the latest 1960s style giving the scene a plush sophistication. The vicious death scene is wonderfully done as the woman not only falls to her death but is subsequently run over by a car adding insult to injury.

The scene is also the crux of the entire film.

Harboring the thrill of the climactic scene, however, is Parker’s jarring overacting performance making Deborah appear crazed and animal-like. The display is understood as making the character unlikable and unbalanced- the hunky gigolo in her bed also makes her unsympathetic-but the cartoon acting seems amateurish and beneath the fabulous actress.

Remember, this is the same woman who made the character of “the Baroness” in The Sound of Music (1965) sophisticated and memorable.

The premise of the film is illogical and unbalanced as, to my eyes, it appears Deborah falls to her death accidentally, but the reasoning of the film portrays Rojack as riddled with guilt for causing her death.

He even admits his guilt to her father in one scene. His claim to the police that Deborah committed suicide is of course untrue, but the unnecessary guilt seems implausible and too much a stretch at creating the main plot point.

The biggest negative to An American Dream is the casting of Janet Leigh in the role of Cherry. Wearing an unappealing and silly wig the Hollywood star seems unbelievable and just wrong as a mob girlfriend.

Her soft features and petite frame do not fit the part and her lip-syncing of the Oscar-nominated theme song “A Time For Love” does nothing to elicit credibility from either the character or the actress.

When An American Dream bombed at the box office, the desperate distributors re-titled the film See You in Hell, Darling, but to little avail. Reduced to weekday airings on television did nothing to change the image of a low-budget made-for-television style look or the episodic detective tint.

The intended perception of a horror film is a strikeout as the film plays more like a tepid thriller.

For fans of Janet Leigh, An American Dream is not recommended.

The preferred suggestion is to skip this one and delve into other gems like the legendary Psycho (1960) or Touch of Evil (1958).

An American Dream (1966) caters not to the legendary actresses’ talents but rather delivers a forgettable film best left situated in the bargain bin.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Song-“A Time For Love”

Fahrenheit 451-1966

Fahrenheit 451-1966

Director Francois Truffaut

Starring Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack

Scott’s Review #728

Reviewed February 26, 2018

Grade: B+

Based upon the famous and fantastic classic 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451,  by Ray Bradbury, the film adaptation is futuristic and dystopian.

Directed by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut and starring the “it” girl of the late 1960s, Julie Christie, the film succeeds as a cool, new wave, edgy, progressive hybrid. Various elements aid in making the film seem set in the future, all with hints of the great director, Alfred Hitchcock sprinkled in the mix.

Certainly, the novel is superior, but Fahrenheit 451 is a worthy watch if only for Christie alone.

Christie tackles a dual role, as both Clarisse, a young schoolteacher with progressive and forbidden views, and Linda, the vastly different spoiled wife of the central character, Guy Montag, played by German actor, Oskar Werner.

The trio exists in a futuristic world where a totalitarian government has banned all literature deeming it bad for society. A force called Firemen, where Guy works has the right to search anyone at any time and burn all books as needed.

Clarisse and Guy begin to question the government’s motivations as Guy stashes a copy of Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, causing danger and peril for the pair.

What I think I like most about the film is the mysterious and foreboding concept, which is a downright scary notion. What if books were suddenly non-existent and forbidden?

The film does, as the novel did, provide references to luscious and brilliant literary works of art, so much so that the viewer will undoubtedly feel how this reality would be a devastating one.

As with similar titles such as “1984” and “Brave New World”, the futuristic world and the “Big Brother is watching” theme is a key to its success.

Director, Truffaut, an ardent fan of the master Hitchcock, seamlessly incorporates elements of suspense and key “Hitchcockian” moments, most specifically with the musical score.

Truffaut used Bernard Hermann, the same composer that Hitchcock used in 1966’s Torn Curtain, but more importantly, the prevalence of strings is reminiscent of classics like Psycho and Vertigo.

A fight scene behind frosted glass so that only shadows can be seen is a direct homage to Hitchcock’s famous style.

To go along with the Hitchcock comparisons, an interesting film anecdote is that legendary Hitchcock superstar, Tippi Hedren, was desired in the central dual role, but since at the time she and Hitchcock were embroiled in a feud, and she was under contract to him, he would allow none of it.

The mind wanders with the possibilities this would have presented. But alas, Christie is no slouch as the female star of the film.

Major kudos are deserved by Christie as she plays both of her characters to the hilt and is one of the best aspects of the film.

Anyone who has read Bradbury’s novel will understand how the character of Clarisse is expanded in the film, and one wonders if this was decided to showcase more of Christie.

Regardless, the characters of Clarisse/Linda are completely different from each other and the actress is superb. Unfortunately, this film is not front of the pack in Christie’s most remembered films.

My main detraction of Fahrenheit 451, the film, is only that, having recently read the novel, there is no comparison whatsoever, as the novel is far superior, however, the film is very good and contains some wonderful visuals and imagery.

So few times can a film usurp the beauties of the written word, and how ironic given the subject matter of the destruction of books.

Fahrenheit 451 (1966) is a stylistic, artistic film with a cool vibe and featuring a tremendous performance from one of 1960’s biggest talents.

The film initially received fair to middling reviews and is now largely forgotten, but it’s nice to take down from the dusty old shelves of the Hollywood obscure now and then.



Director Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave

Scott’s Review #305


Reviewed December 21, 2015

Grade: A

Blow-up is a mysterious and compelling 1966 (the spawn of more edgy films) thriller that undoubtedly influenced the yet-to-come 1974 masterpiece The Conversation, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, as both films are tense tales of intrigue focusing on technology as a tool to witness a murder.

This film is legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English-speaking film and what a film it is.

Set in hip London in the 1960s, it certainly interestingly portrays the fashion world. The story is about a fashion photographer named Thomas, who is in high demand. He revels in bedding women so they may have their photos taken by this rock star photographer and is chased around London by gorgeous women.

He aborts a photoshoot one day because he is bored. He is not the nicest guy in the world and is rather an unlikable character.

But perhaps that is secondary or even intentional. While walking in Maryon Park one day, he comes upon a couple in the distance. They appear to be amid a secret rendezvous, nervously kissing,   so he begins photographing them.

The woman, Jane,  (played by a very young Vanessa Redgrave) realizes they have been snapped and is furious- demanding the film.

This sets off the mystery and the meat of the film.

The film is a tremendous achievement in cinematic intrigue. It is quite psychological and open to much interpretation, which is the genius of it. The main questions asked are “What exactly transpired in the park and who is responsible?”

We feel little sympathy for Thomas, which perhaps is intentional. and what about Jane?

Talk about mystery!

We know little about her other than she has secrets, but is she responsible for the crime? Thomas and Jane play a sort of cat-and-mouse game throughout the film, both seemingly trying to outwit and outmaneuver the other.

The unique aspect of the film is that the viewer will often ask questions- “Was there even a crime committed”? “Are the events all in Thomas’s imagination or has he misinterpreted the series of events”? One will revel in the magnificence of these questions.

Comparisons to The Conversation were apparent to me right away- both feature one of the senses as a means to solving or realizing the crime committed- in The Conversation, it is hearing, in Blow-Up it is sight.

In both, the main character uses these senses for a living and both are arguably not the most likable characters. Both films feature mimes.  Both films are quite cerebral and both are cinema gems for the “thinking man”.

Blow-Up has weird, little intricate moments- a very tall, female, Russian model experiences an odd photoshoot with Thomas. Later,  a giggling pair of young girls end up in a grappling match with Thomas after asking him to take their photos.  A topless (from behind) Jane prancing around Thomas’s apartment is an unusual scene.

As a first-time viewer, I adored this film and it is a good example of a film that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate and I look forward to doing just that.

A fantastic creative achievement, Blow-Up (1966) is a masterpiece that can be dissected with each subsequent viewing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Michelangelo Antonioni, Best Story, and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?-1966

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? -1966

Director Mike Nichols

Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton

Top 100 Films #41

Scott’s Review #200


Reviewed December 3, 2014

Grade: A

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate), is a dark film based on the play from the early 1960s.

Thankfully, by 1966, the Production Code had been lifted, allowing for edgier, darker films to get made- think The Wild Bunch or Bonnie and Clyde from the same period.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is dreary, bleak, and with damn good acting by all four principles.

George and Martha (Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) are an associate history professor and daughter of the college president respectively, living in a small New England town.

They have a bitter love/hate relationship.

One night they invite young newlyweds, Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis), a new professor and his wife, over for drinks at 2:00 in the morning.

From this point, a destructive night of verbal assaults and psychological games ensues with damaging and sad results for all parties involved, as their personal lives are exposed and dissected.

At the forefront are George and Martha, who have a relationship based on insults, neediness, secrets, and booze. After an evening out, they return home and have a vicious fight.

When their young friends arrive, the tension is thick.

Eventually, the young couple becomes sucked into the older couple’s web of dysfunction, aided by endless drinks throughout the night.

The film is shot very much like a play and filmed in black and white, which I found highly effective- most scenes take place in George and Martha’s house.

While all four actors are great (and were all Oscar-nominated), the standouts for me are Taylor and Dennis.

This role is Taylor’s finest acting performance in my opinion- she is overweight, bitter, angry, frustrated, drunk, and at times vicious to her husband. It is a different performance from many of her other film roles and it is just dynamite.

As her anger flares up, one can feel the heat and intensity oozing from the screen. She goes from vulnerable and soft one moment to a grizzled, bitter woman the next.

Dennis, conversely, is a pure innocent- kind, vulnerable, impressionable, and somewhat of a ninny. Having had too much brandy and spending more than one occasion in the bathroom, Dennis successfully plays giddiness and innocence to the hilt.

Both Martha and Honey harbor dark secrets, which eventually are revealed.

The ambiance is just amazing- black and white cinematography, a hot, suffocating feel to the film, it feels like a quiet little college hamlet, and the setting of the eerily quiet wee hours of the morning is conveyed successfully.

Each story told- mainly by George and Martha- is captivating in its viciousness (both usually belittling the other) that the film becomes mesmerizing in its shock value at the insults hurled.

What will they say or do next?

I loved the scene where Honey does an awkward dance at a late-night bar that the four of them go to. Also, the shotgun scene where George obtains the gun from the garage during one of Martha’s insulting tales is disturbing- what will he do with the gun?

The stories involving George and Martha’s son are sad and mysterious- the viewer wonders what is going on.

The final reveal still gives me chills.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) is one of the greatest film adaptations of a play that I have ever seen.

Oscar Nominations: 5 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Mike Nichols, Best Actor-Richard Burton, Best Actress-Elizabeth Taylor (won), Best Supporting Actor-George Segal, Best Supporting Actress-Sandy Dennis (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (won), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won), Best Film Editing

Torn Curtain-1966

Torn Curtain-1966

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Paul Newman, Julie Andrews

Scott’s Review #109


Reviewed July 15, 2014

Grade: A-

Torn Curtain is an under-appreciated and largely forgotten Cold War political thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock circa 1966.

The fact is, the film is very good but was troubled from the start, which presumably, has led to its poor reception and a trip to film oblivion.

The trouble with the film lies with the casting otherwise is a compelling, suspenseful adventure.

Starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews- two enormous stars at the time the film was made, both were chosen by the studio, and neither did Hitchcock desire on the set.

This led to conflict, especially with Newman, who disliked the script.

His continued script “rewrites” and method of acting annoyed the famous director.

Newman plays an American physicist, Michael Armstrong, who is attending a conference in Copenhagen. Andrews plays his assistant and fiancee, Sarah Sherman.

Michael mysteriously flies to East Germany, behind the Iron Curtain, unknowingly with a concerned Sarah in tow. This event sets off political intrigue and espionage as Michael attempts to secure a formula and return it to the United States.

But is he a patriot or a defector, colluding with the Germans?

Presumably, the main reason for the poor reviews for Torn Curtain is the lack of chemistry between Newman and Julie Andrews coupled with behind-the-scenes problems with this film (both stars were unhappy throughout the shoot and Hitchcock did not want either actor in the film).

In truth, there is little chemistry between the pair and I cannot help to think how delicious it would have been if Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren were cast instead! After all, this duo had great chemistry in Marnie, released just two years prior.

Despite the backstage drama, overall the film is complex, exciting, and taut, and the bus escape scene is the edge-of-your-seat fantastic.

The best scene though comes in the middle of the film when Michael is in East Germany. Revealed to be part of a syndicate enabling him to sneak out of the country, he goes to a remote farm, where he is involved in a tortuous fight with a security officer and a farmer’s wife.

The scene is spectacular in its long length and edge-of-your-seat drama.

The scenic locales are wonderful and the film is bright, colorful, and sharp, especially on Blu-Ray. The gorgeous opening scene is aboard a cruise ship in the breathtaking Fjords of Scandinavia.

Frankly, I am surprised this film has not been rediscovered on a larger scale. Along with Topaz (1969), Torn Curtain (1966) is another forgotten gem of Hitchcock’s, worthy of praise.