Category Archives: 1960s

#330 The Sound of Music

(1965, Robert Wise)

“The hills are alive with the sound of music”

So, my original intention was to get this review up for Christmas, because my usual Christmas review is a family movie that people may sit down to watch for the holiday. The Sound of Music is one of those films. It’s a classic musical that always gets chucked onto Christmas TV schedules because it’s long and it’s family-friendly and it’s feel-good. But I got sick, so this review got delayed. But the sentiment remains. Time to look at this family favourite in a little more detail.

The Sound of Music stars Julie Andrews as a nun named Maria who is trouble for the other nuns because she daydreams and wanders off into the fields to sing and prance around while she’s supposed to be praying and being reverent. To deal with this, she is sent to live with the Von Trapp family to act as the new governess to look after the seven children of Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), who controls them using whistles and makes them wear uniforms as some bizarre way of grieving for his late wife. Maria sets out to bring some joy into the children’s lives again, mostly through singing and prancing about.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t particularly like musicals as a general rule, but I tried to give this one some degree of respect because, well, it is a beloved classic and many of its songs have entered public consciousness for eternity. I tried. Honestly, I did. But my god, The Sound of Music was not the musical to win me over to musicals.

First of all, Maria. Jesus Christ, Maria. She is the epitome of the boring wholesome Mary Sue protagonist. She prances around singing a lot, she goes gooey-eyed over nature, she apologises profusely to the stuffy nuns (who we’re supposed to dislike but quite frankly I sided with) and is all about being sweet and lovely. And oh my god, is she annoying. There are Disney Princesses who look at this girl and think she needs to tone it down with all the twee.

What’s worse, the movie wants us to like her unquestioningly because she’s the assigned protagonist. But she has no real character traits beyond being generically nice, and it’s very easy to feel tired of her within the first 30 minutes.

Not that many other characters are better. Georg is a typical stern military dad who undergoes a massive personality change into the same generic niceness somewhat early in the movie for no real reason. The children are precocious brats who also seem to exhibit the same generic niceness underneath an implied, but rarely seen, love of pranking governesses.

And of course, everyone is singing all the time. I know, I should expect it from a musical, but this takes it to such extremes that it felt like a parody. What’s more, even though I knew many of the songs, hearing them in context and hearing them constantly made me realise that, controversially, I didn’t think any of them were very good. From “My Favourite Things” helping to cement Maria’s rather dull and somewhat air-headed personality (“when bad things happen I think of kittens and instantly feel better tee hee”) to “The Do-Re-Mi” song featuring the laziest lyric in the history of music (“La, a note to follow So”), these songs just got tedious and annoying, much like how I felt about Maria herself.

And then there’s the plot, which is devoid of any conflict because god forbid things stop being generically nice for even a second. There’s a love triangle aspect here, where Georg is engaged to a baroness but falls for Maria, that gets resolved entirely in a five minute conversation between Georg and the baroness, the latter of whom has the reaction “oh okay, carry on then” when faced with the fact her fiancée is dumping her. And that, of course, comes after Georg stops being a grumpy sourpuss when…he hears a song. Yes. He hears a single song and then thaws. Did he never hear a song before?

And then there’s the fact that this movie failed to make the Nazis threatening. Let that sink in. The people behind the Holocaust failed to come across as a threat here. I know I’m not a fan of many World War II movies either, but I’d take more movies that had effectively terrifying Nazis over this. Their attempts to escape from the Nazis look less like desperate innocents trying to escape a fascist genocidal political army and more like a fun family day out in the countryside.

Obviously, many of my criticisms here are those of a self-confessed cynic who doesn’t like the genre, but I tried to find something to like. It’s a film with a huge following and it is a good film on a technical level. But on a personal level, I had too many problems with The Sound of Music to be able to truly enjoy it.

Starring Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer
Written by Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse (musical) and Ernest Lehman
Produced by Robert Wise
Music by Rogers & Hammerstein (songs) and Irwin Costal (score)
Cinematography by Ted D. McCord
Edited by William H. Reynolds

Favourite Scene: I tried, but nope.
Scene That Bugged Me: That whole business with “teaching the kids to sing” when the eldest daughter was seen singing exactly two scenes before.

Watch it if: You like twee musical escapism
Avoid it if: You really can’t stand musicals

#321 & #322 Night Of The Living Dead & Dawn Of The Dead

(1968/1978, George A. Romero)

“They’re coming to get you, Barbra”


So while other movie blogs have seen reviewers watch horror movies all through October, I kept up my regular thing of a special horror review on Halloween itself. But I reviewed Halloween last year, so where could I possibly go this year? A quick glance at the 1001 Movies list showed me that two of George Romero’s Dead movies were on my to-watch list, so I figured, how about a double review of these classic zombie movies?

After all, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid zombie fiction lately what with the success of games like The Last of Us and The Walking Dead being one of the most popular shows on TV right now. So why not spend this Halloween taking a look at where the modern zombie image came from?

Night Of The Living Dead, the first in the series, starts out with siblings Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) visiting their father’s grave. Soon things turn sour when Johnny is attacked and murdered by a strange, lumbering man. When Barbra runs away, she finds herself trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by more of these murderous people with a man named Ben (Duane Jones), an embittered married couple with a sick child, and a teenage couple who fled when they heard emergency broadcasts. Then shenanigans.

Dawn Of The Dead, released ten years later, is set in the midst of the zombie outbreak, and two SWAT team officers, Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott Reiniger), join forces with two employees from a local TV station who have stolen the station’s helicopter, Stephen (David Emge) and Francine (Gaylen Ross). Together they journey to a shopping mall for supplies, and decide to turn it into their own personal base to hide out from the apocalypse. Then shenanigans. Read the rest of this entry

#299 La Jetée

(1961, Chris Marker)
“This is the story of a man…and of a woman’s face”

I know of La Jetée for three reasons. First of all, I’ve reviewed director Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (and wasn’t impressed). Secondly, I’m a fan of the band Pure Reason Revolution, and their track “Blitzkrieg” samples dialogue from this movie (the page quote, which is actually two sections of dialogue fused together). And finally, the much more well-known Terry Gilliam movie 12 Monkeys draws heavily from La Jetée. So there’s a lot to be interested in there, so let’s take a look.

Set following World War III, a nuclear war that destroyed much of the planet and its population, La Jetée examines the attempts of scientists in the future to send people back in time to correct the mistakes and stop the war from happening. The main character, The Man (Davos Hanich), is chosen for this purpose because of a stark image of a woman (Helene Chatelain) he remembers seeing in his childhood, prior to the war, which provides him a direct link to the past.

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#276 The Producers

(1968, Mel Brooks)

“Congratulations! Hitler will run forever”

Two days ago, I reviewed a silly movie which featured Mel Brooks in a cameo and said how much I enjoyed it. Now it’s time to review a silly movie directed by Mel Brooks. But did I enjoy The Producers?

The Producers, one of Brooks’ earlier works before much of his work consisted of direct parodies of existing movies, stars Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, a Broadway producer down on his luck. Unable to produce a hit for a while, and reduced to romancing old ladies for money to fund future projects, he hits upon a new scheme thanks to a visiting accountant, Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder). Bloom discovers that by over-budgeting, it’s possible to make more money with a flop than with a hit. And so the duo set out to make the worst Broadway play possible – Springtime For Hitler.

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#270 Planet Of The Apes

(1968, Franklin J. Schaffner)

“Take your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!”

Imagine if you will, a strange planet far beyond the stars where evolution did something very silly and made apes the dominant species instead of humans. Now imagine your reaction when you discover that planet WAS EARTH ALL ALONG! Yes, today we’re looking at Planet Of The Apes, with one of the most-spoiled endings of all time. It’s even on the cover of the DVD box these days! But even with the ending spoiled, how is it? Is it still good?

A group of astronauts led by George Taylor (Charlton Heston) set off on a long mission to the far reaches of space, climbing into hibernation while the ship steers them to a distant planet. When they wake up, they find themselves on a desolate world. After wandering through the desert, the astronauts are all captured by strange ape men, who view Taylor with great curiosity. Taylor must now figure out how to survive in this strange new world WHERE APES EVOLVED FROM MEN?!?!

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#259 Peeping Tom

(1960, Michael Powell)

“Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It’s fear”

We’ve talked about The Archers before. A British production duo consisting of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with Powell doing the directing and Pressburger doing the production, and the two of them sharing writing duties. Their films were typically very stuffy British movies about things like ballet and nuns.

That was until Powell decided to go solo and make Peeping Tom, a movie about a serial killer. So a detective movie then? A Hitchcock-style thriller of mistaken identity? Well, not exactly. The serial killer is the protagonist, and this controversial choice caused the end of Powell’s directing career as a result of the backlash the movie received. Interesting. Let’s take a look.

Peeping Tom follows Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), an amateur filmmaker in the process of making his secret masterpiece, a film about death that captures the expressions of women about to be murdered in gruesome detail. And how does he achieve these shots? Why, he goes out and kills women using a sharpened tripod, of course! Meanwhile, his neighbour Helen (Anna Massey) takes an interest in him and attempts to befriend him, unaware of his psychotic nature.

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#253 Midnight Cowboy

(1969, John Schlesinger)

“I ain’t a for real cowboy but I am one helluva stud!”

Cowboy? Oh great, another Western, just what I don’t want to watch. Wait, no, this name sounds familiar somehow. Hang on, is this the movie that made Nilsson’s version of “Everybody’s Talkin’” famous? I love that song! And it’s not a Western, it’s about a failed male gigolo living in New York? Well, that changes everything!

Midnight Cowboy stars Jon Voight as Joe Buck, a young Texan man who moves to New York to fulfil his dream of becoming a male prostitute catering to rich women. If that sounds like an odd dream to have, the movie shares details of his past that suggest he may have developed a slightly skewed view of sexual relationships. Failing to sell himself successfully, he ends up meeting a sickly man named Enrico Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), who steadily becomes his friend.

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#238 Persona

(1966, Ingmar Bergman)

“You should go on with this part until it is played out, until it loses interest for you”

Oh, Ingmar Bergman. You crazy Swede, with your vague films about things with incomprehensible images and people looking moody. What can I possibly say about your films without sounding like a philistine who doesn’t get TRUE ART? Well, guess we’ll find out as I take a look at Persona, which sadly doesn’t feature any disco ninja frogs or tomboyish schoolgirls obsessed with steak.

Persona primarily features two cast members, and barely anybody else. Alma (Bibi Andersson) is a mental health nurse who is instructed to watch over Elisabet Volger (Liv Ullman), an actress who one day just stopped talking. During a stay at a holiday cottage to allow Elisabet to recover, Alma struggles to cope and talks constantly to counter Elisabet’s silence. During the course of the film, their roles often end up reversed, with Alma becoming the distraught mental patient seeking answers from another.

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#234 Faces

(1968, John Cassavetes)

“I don’t feel like getting depressed tonight”

There have been a lot of independent arty films lately here on SvTM. We had the incomprehensible The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky and the rather strange experimental version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice by Jan Svankmejer, and now it’s time for a serious American effort. This one’s about disintegrating marriages and the failure of the American Dream. Or something. It’s Faces, directed by Rosemary’s Baby star John Cassavetes.

Faces tells the story of Richard (John Marley) and Maria (Lynn Carlin) Forst, a married couple who turn to cheating to find happiness in their increasingly loveless marriage. Richard falls for a high class call girl named Jeannie (Gena Rowlands) while Maria spends the evening with friends and a self-professed playboy they met in a bar. Cue lots of drunken conversations and arguments. And very little else.

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#228 Through A Glass Darkly

Såsom i en spegel
(1961, Ingmar Bergman)

“It’s so horrible to see your own confusion and understand it”

We’ve looked at a few films in the past that were based on the works of influential sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick, and it’s time to look at another film based on his works. Through A Glass Darkly is about an undercover cop trying to chase down a drug dealer responsible for spreading a powerful new drug named Substance D, but it becomes apparent that they are the same person and…what do you mean, I have the wrong film?

Oh wait, that’s A Scanner Darkly, which has nothing to do with this film beyond people losing their minds.

Through A Glass Darkly is actually an Ingmar Bergman film set during a 24-hour period, where a young woman named Karin (Harriet Andersson) has recently returned from a stay at a mental institute for schizophrenia, and is on holiday with her husband, Martin (Max Von Sydow), her father, David (Gunnar Björnstrand), and her brother, Minus (Lars Passgård). Over the course of the day, Karin’s disorder escalates while the men all come to terms with their own issues.

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