Category Archives: 1962 Films

The Notorious Landlady-1962

The Notorious Landlady-1962

Director Richard Quine

Starring Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire

Scott’s Review #1,390

Reviewed August 16, 2023

Grade: B+

If viewers can look past the messy nature of The Notorious Landlady (1962) and the schizophrenic pacing that appears intermittently then the film is enjoyable.

It’s not platinum status but a decent enough flick, especially for fans of Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon who were big stars at the time. This is the third and final film that the duo starred in.

Like the film, their chemistry goes in and out but appealing is to see Novak in a comic role whereas the genre is familiar territory for the funny Lemmon.

After her husband mysteriously disappears, Carly Hardwicke (Novak) finds it impossible to rent a room in her lovely London apartment, because everyone assumes she’s responsible.

American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon), is new to the city and desires a residence with her. It doesn’t hurt matters that Carly is very easy on the eyes. William becomes smitten with her unaware of her troubles.

When his boss, Franklyn Ambruster (Fred Astaire), learns what Gridley has stumbled into, the two men try to clear her name. A series of lies and misunderstandings catapult events into a compelling mystery.

Even though neither William nor Carly are British the foggy locale works well providing foreign mystery. They reside in a courtyard type of home where neighbors can see in or they can see out to other apartments. This comes into greater play towards the end of the film.

This is just one example of an Alfred Hitchcock influence from 1955’s Rear Window which director Richard Quine heftily borrows from. He’s wise to do so since he secured Novak, fresh from her role in Vertigo (1958) two years earlier.

Shit, even the title ‘The Notorious Landlady’ borrows the title of the 1946 Hitchcock masterpiece, ‘Notorious’.

There’s also a secret locked door that Carly references and forbids anyone from entering adding suspense and foreboding.

Despite tepid chemistry between the stars I ultimately enjoy their romance. It’s a hard sell that the gorgeous Carly would fall head over heels for the everyman William but she does.

They win me over during a dramatic scene where an attempted romantic dinner of steaks goes awry and instead, a massive fire erupts. The burgeoning lovers cling together in a sweet embrace that cements their appeal.

The tension is supposed to be about whether Carly murdered her husband and has designs on William. Red herrings like kitchen poisons and the like make an appearance but I was more interested in the impending mystery of said husband than really believing she’d want to kill William.

The last act brings the reemergence of a threatening character, an unexpected villain, and a race to save another character who’s in dangerous peril.

A courtroom scene also adds to the tension.

The central storyline is satisfying, edge of your seat, and suspenseful, just what I assume Quine was going for…..ultimately.

Within the story, The Notorious Landlady shifts genres a whopping three times! The tone of the film is all over the place, first romantic comedy, then suspense and drama, and finally slapstick.

During the finale when Carly and William race to a retirement community and scramble to stop an out-of-control wheelchair, I half expected Laurel & Hardy or The Little Rascals to make a cameo.

Poor Fred Astaire has little to do and struggles to keep up any relevance as measured against Novak and Lemmon’s characters. At times I’d even forgotten he was still in the film.

The Notorious Landlady (1962) is an entertaining vehicle and a must-see for fans of Novak or Lemmon eager to see a largely forgotten film that has something fun to offer.

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

The Phantom of the Opera-1962

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Herbert Lom, Michael Gough, Heather Sears

Scott’s Review #1,254

Reviewed May 12, 2022

Grade: B+

Probably not the best-known film adaptation of the famous 1910 French novel written by Gaston Leroux, but likely the most horrific. Hammer Horror Productions getting their hands on this is a significant win since the story is perfectly suited for the horror genre.

I’ve not yet seen the 1925 silent film version of The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney which I hear is wonderful so I cannot compare that to this.

The possibilities for a macabre telling are endless and director Terence Fisher, a familiar director in Hammer films, is back at the helm to mix the dreariness of a musty London theater with the creepy face mask of its lonely and wounded inhabitant.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating in this review. It’s impressive to notice the astounding achievements the Horror films obtained by making lemonade out of lemons from a budget perspective. The limited funds necessitated creativity which can be seen in every series frame, especially the colorful sets and costumes.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) is no different and is even better than some others in the brilliant mix of mood and sympathy for its main victim, specifically the luminous and disfigured ‘phantom’ played by Herbert Lom.

Dastardly Composer Lord Ambrose D’Arcy, wonderfully played by Michael Gough, and his bullied backer, Harry Hunter (Edward De Souza), struggle to find a replacement for the female lead in their new opera after she quits and flees town in the wake of a gruesome theater murder.

When a new prospect, the virginal Christine Charles (Heather Sears), disappears after the advances of Ambrose, Harry cautiously investigates unaware that there is a lonely figure inhabiting the theater.

Meanwhile, a mysterious masked man (Lom) who is eerily familiar with the opera holds Christine captive and offers to groom her to play the part.

He is a mix of crazy and passionate and his plight is sympathetic when what he’s been through is finally explained.

But the atmosphere is what sets The Phantom of the Opera apart from other similar films of the 1960s, even Hammer films.

This is never more evident in an early scene when the camera follows the characters on the misty streets of London, the darkness and shadows becoming prominent as they walk through streets and dark alleys.

Fisher, now five years into his association with the production company has hit his stride. A limited budget might reduce another director to a fretting basket case but the result and ease that he parlays to The Phantom of the Opera are quite beautiful.

Many scenes take place in the theater itself adding a foreboding element to the events. Dusty yet brimming with musicianship and artistic pizzazz, it’s fun to watch the characters sneak around and scheme within the confines of this structure.

Therefore, the mood and trimmings are exquisite without actually being so.

The music sequences are impressive without going on for too long, and despite the locale being switched from Paris to London for obvious reasons, the main being that the actors are British, this doesn’t hamper the overall experience.

The best, and most gruesome scene, occurs when a poor chap swings across the theater stage in a neck rope, dead as a doornail. The creaking sound of the rope as the man swings back and forth is chilling and dubious.

Lom is my favorite actor in the film and his character’s backstory reveal is humanistic and impressive. Who can’t relate to at least once being swindled or cheated out of work that is rightfully theirs?

Gough, also familiar to Hammer Horror fans, is tremendous as the treacherous main villain.

Sears is okay but perhaps not the greatest actress nor the best choice for the role. She’s rather bland and unmemorable.

The Phantom of the Opera (1962) falters a bit when it ends too suddenly, though many Hammer films suffer the same fate.

This film is not for those expecting a grandiose Andrew Lloyd Webber-style musical but for fans of down-and-dirty horror it’s just what the doctor ordered.

The Music Man-1962

The Music Man-1962

Director Morton DaCosta

Starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones

Scott’s Review #929

Reviewed August 9, 2019

Grade: A

The big-screen offering of The Music Man (1962) is based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, written by Meredith Wilson, and one of the most upbeat and jovial of all the Hollywood renditions of stage productions.

Featuring talented stars like Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, the former appearing in the stage version, the film was one of the biggest hits of the year and can be watched and re-watched whenever the mood strikes for sing-along tunes and a cheery story told from a purely Americana viewpoint.

In the summer of 1912, deceitful traveling salesman Harold Hill (Preston) arrives in River City, Iowa, intent on swindling the town folks of their money. Masquerading as a traveling music instructor, he plans to bamboozle parents into enrolling their kids in a marching band and selling the instruments.

He uses scare tactics to incorporate fear into the gullible parents and romantically sets his sights on the local librarian, Marian (Jones). Marian, who is distrustful of men, slowly falls in love with Harold, as his plotting eventually is discovered resulting in a witch hunt.

Of the plethora of musical releases bombarding Hollywood throughout the 1950s and 1960s, The Music Man arguably possesses the catchiest tunes and the most jovial spirit.

Impossible not to hum along with or tap one’s foot to, the songs stick in the viewer’s heads for days after watching the addictive production.

My favorites are “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Gary, Indiana”, and “Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little” as each has distinctive melodies, rhymes, and rapid-fire dialogue.

The musical soundtrack always pleasures the gloomiest of days which speaks volumes of the legs the musical contains.

Besides the tunes, the best aspect of The Music Man is the romantic storyline at its core. The chemistry exists in full form between Preston and Jones and each is perfectly cast.

Due to the studio wanting “a big name” Preston nearly didn’t make the cut, which would have been a shame. As he infuses life and humor into a character who could be perceived as dastardly, he tips the likability scale firmly his way, making the character the hero of the film.

Jones, a treasured singer, is just as good as Preston, playing the mousy and serious Marian believably. Her “slice of the mid-west” innocence and blonde hair portray her as corn-bred, but the actress makes the character work for her, and combined, the duo is sensational.

The best sequence the pair appear in is the wonderful “Marian the Librarian”, a sneaky and naughty number the most adult of all the renditions. Their mutual attraction becomes evident, this is the moment when the film brings the audience to its knees.

The musical is purely a slice of Americana, which may limit its popularity across oceans, but for Americans, it works and feels authentic. This is no surprise given that composer Willson hailed from the mid-west.

With an uplifting message and a nostalgic ode to a country once filled with promise and innocence, the film is arguably even more important in today’s divisive environment.

The piece wisely does not celebrate small-town cliches but instead offers a wholesomeness. The townsfolk sing and dance together and celebrate life as a neighborly bunch and this nuance is refreshing to see.

The supporting cast adds flavor and comedy to the production. A very young child actor, soon to be famous director, Ron Howard, offers a heartfelt performance of “Gary, Indiana”.

Character actors Paul Ford and Hermione Gingold offer delightful hysterics as Mayor Shinn and his wife Eulalie.

Thematically like Oklahoma (1955) and Picnic (1955), at least from geographical and time-period perspectives, but distant relatives as far as mood and drama, all three could be watched in one marathon weekend.

The Music Man (1962) provides the most warmth and will fill the most stone-faced of individuals with beaming smiles at its conclusion.

The film version is a perfect example of a stage musical successfully brought to the silver screen with energy, a bombast, and gorgeous singing and dancing.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment (won), Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, Best Film Editing

The Manchurian Candidate-1962

The Manchurian Candidate-1962

Director John Frankenheimer

Starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey

Scott’s Review #852

Reviewed January 3, 2019

Grade: A

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is an enthralling film that perfectly captures the political landscape of the time and continues to be relevant in present-day politics. Taut, mysterious, and filled with great twists and turns, the film flows at a nice pace and climaxes with a shocking crescendo.

With compelling performances by all and a brilliant musical score, the film fires on all cylinders and can be watched and enjoyed repeatedly.

Events began in 1952 during the bloody Korean War. A United States platoon consisting of several men is accosted by the Soviets and sent to communist China for experimentation.

Three days later the men return as if nothing happened and Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) is proclaimed a hero and awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the men’s lives. When the war ends the men return to the United States to resume normal lives.

Years later Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) suffers from recurring nightmares in which Shaw murders two missing soldiers in front of a panel in a bizarre brainwashing demonstration. When another soldier in the platoon has the same nightmares Army Intelligence begins an investigation.

Further complicating the plot is Raymond’s ambitious mother Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury) and her attempt to guide her husband Senator Iselin (James Gregory) to further power using any means necessary.

The Manchurian Candidate is a film that requires the utmost attention to fully appreciate and understand the events.

The plot is highly complex, but that is a testament to the composition of the film and hardly a complaint. The viewer must stay on course to appreciate the intricate details.

Director John Frankenheimer is fantastic at adding unique dramatic effects and imaginative film-making. A prime example is the brainwashing sequence as dialogue is interspersed between what the soldiers think is happening (a peaceful grandmotherly horticulture demonstration) and reality (a dastardly experiment involving murder and programming).

Despite Sinatra being billed as the lead in the film the most treasured props go to Lansbury as Eleanor and Harvey as Shaw. Raymond is the character most developed and we see several sides to him. Primarily a morose loner who appears cold and harsh, this is due to his being programmed to assassinate.

A sequence involving the love of his life, Jocelyn (Leslie Parrish), and a romantic summer they share is beautiful and innocent as it contrasts with the dismal and manufactured “new Raymond”.

Lansbury has never been cast in a more challenging role. Eleanor is determined to stop at nothing to ensure her husband will reach the presidency and connives and cheats her way to the top. Still, the part is written as such to avoid making her a complete one-note character despite her villainous ways.

In an eerie scene close to the finale she vows payback for what has been done to Raymond and then plants an incestuous kiss on his lips. An odd and disturbing moment, the scene also justifies in her mind the lengths she has gone to get what she wants.

The musical score is lovely and contradicts the dour backstabbing and espionage that takes place throughout. Romantic and sweet melodies abound and classic hymns like The Twelve Days of Christmas and The Star-Spangled Banner are included in the film.

As a result, The Manchurian Candidate’s score feels multi-faceted, patriotic as well and artistic with enchanting results.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is a stellar film with a perfect blend of thrills, deceit, politics, and creative filmmaking to make it a bold classic. The final sequence is jaw-dropping in its finality and brutality.

Remade in 2004 with a great cast yet a poor script, avoid that one at all costs and enjoy the power and lasting effects of the original.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Angela Lansbury, Best Film Editing

Dr. No-1962

Dr. No-1962

Director Terence Young

Starring Sean Connery, Ursula Andress

Scott’s Review #667

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 every scene. Hiss’s performance in the role is so seamless, that one might assume he had been playing Bond for years, rather than being a novice.

And who can forget the character’s 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 originally 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 to do with radio interference of missiles launching in Cape Canaveral.

Naturally, it does and the adventure sets off a series of dramatic events involving henchmen, scrapes with death, and  Bond’s bedding of 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 at the beginning of the film and implies that the same villains are joyfully singing the happy tune, is a good indicator.

Dr. No is also inspired by the introduction of the crime organization, SPECTRE, which any Bond aficionado knows very well is a staple of the franchise.

Joseph Wiseman, like Dr. No, is well cast, though sadly, we only see him in 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 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 is 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 (1962) is a worthy film on its own merits and a fantastic introduction to 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

Scott’s Review #468


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 is still a marvel as the story is told through the eyes of a child- in present times an adult- as she reflects on her experience.

The film is set in the 1930s in a very small Alabama town.

We follow the lives of Atticus Finch, a 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.

The Finchs 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 not as blatant in today’s modern world.

One cringe 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 instead, 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 exciting part of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Gregory Peck was awarded the Best Actor Oscar in 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 help but think that she 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 subplot 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 has 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 essential 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 give the film a dark quality that color would have ruined.

The period of the 1930s 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.

Oscar Nominations: 3 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Robert Mulligan, Best Actor-Gregory Peck (won), Best Supporting Actress-Mary Badham, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (won), Best Music Score-Substantially Original, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

Lawrence of Arabia-1962

Lawrence of Arabia-1962

Director David Lean

Starring Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif 

Top 100 Films #82

Scott’s Review #355


Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is quite a grand film and one that must be seen on the large screen 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 backward, 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 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 has to achieve.

Also, a multitude of location sequences of Lawrence and company traveling across miles and miles of hot desert is 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 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 film’s credit.

The sheer weight loss that O’Toole went through over 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 requires a half-day of dedicated viewing but is worth every minute.

For a reminder of what a true, breathtaking film 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.

Oscar Nominations: 7 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-David Lean (won), Best Actor-Peter O’Toole, Best Supporting Actor-Omar Sharif, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Music Score-Substantially Original (won), Best Sound (won), Best Art Direction, Color (won), Best Cinematography, Color (won), Best Film Editing (won)

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)-1962

Burn Witch Burn (Night of the Eagle)- 1962

Director Sidney Hayers

Starring Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair

Scott’s Review #316


Reviewed January 1, 2016

Grade: B

Burn Witch Burn- re-titled for U.S. release from the original British 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 adding humor and lightness.

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 1950s 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 student 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. 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 it.

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’s special effects and ambiance. I found the heavy storm to be crucial in making Burn Witch Burn an 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 underappreciated British horror 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

Scott’s Review #193


Reviewed November 14, 2014

Grade: A

Kicking off a trend, prominent throughout the 1960s, 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 1920s nicknamed 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 1930s 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 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 film’s 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 is 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.

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.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Actress-Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actress-Victor Buono, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won)



Director Mervyn LeRoy

Starring Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood

Scott’s Review #37


Reviewed June 18, 2014

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.

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 becomes 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 (1962) is one of the great Hollywood musicals from the 1950s/1960’s heyday.

Witty, smart dialog helps this film emerge at the top of the list of similar types of films.


Oscar Nominations: Best Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color