1960

Charlotte and Her Lover (1960, Jean-Luc Godard)

Somewhere around minute seven–of an unlucky thirteen–Charlotte and Her Lover's ending started to seem inevitable; predictability makes the last six minutes even more tiresome. Writer, director, and de facto lead Godard (he looped in the ranting monologue for onscreen lead Jean-Paul Belmondo) could have done the whole thing in three minutes and maybe gotten away with it. At thirteen minutes, it's just annoying (though I guess it does move fairly fast).

The short opens with Anne Collette, who's not very good but how could one tell given she mostly just makes cute little noises and has maybe two actual lines before Lover's punchline. She's going to Belmondo's apartment, where he's chewing on a cigar–sometimes a cigar's just a cigar but not here–and being a soulful unpublished novelist. They're former lovers. She left him for a successful movie guy. He rants and raves at her for eleven minutes, saying very little of content. Given Godard then dubbed all the audio, it seems like Lover had an actual script, but… wow, if it did. It's real, real bad. Ad-libbing it maybe you could forgive some. But Godard intentionally writing out the rant for someone to deliver aloud?

Icky bad.

Nothing Belmondo says matters in the end because of the punchline. But it's mostly pseudo-macho blather with some nice passive (and active) misogyny thrown in. Though Godard presents Collette from Belmondo's perspective–she's an adorably dressed nitwit who has what seems to be a clown's theme accompanying her on the soundtrack. Again, if it were ten minutes shorter… might work. Ten minutes shorter with a minute for the opening and closing titles. So two minutes instead of thirteen. At that length, the lack of character for Collette might be all right and Godard's delivery of the monologue might not grate too much.

Alas, it's that thirteen.

Lover doesn't just not have the script going for it–and an entirely dialogue-based short with a lousy script is already circling the bowl–it also doesn't have any visuals going for it. Godard's composition and stage direction aren't any better than his dialogue (or his performance).

Like I said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but sometimes it's a metaphor for the short being a turd taking thirteen minutes to finally go down.

Charlotte and Her Lover is risible.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard; director of photography, Michel Latouche; music by Robert Monsigny; produced by Pierre Braunberger; released by Unidex.

Starring Anne Collette (Charlotte) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (Jules).


Love Exists (1960, Maurice Pialat)

With a title like Love Exists, it seems reasonable the short might turn around and stop being so intensely depressing, but no. The film, written and directed by Pialat with narration by Jean-Loup Reynold, starts with people leaving the city (Paris) proper for their night in the suburbs. It’s not clear yet what the narrator’s take on the workers’ commute is going to be but there’s some definition foreshadowing. Pialat does some visual foreshadowing throughout, but never as much as at the beginning.

Once the film arrives in the suburbs, the narrator talks about growing up there and how it used to be. Pialat juxtaposes the contemporary with the memories, using the sound effects to bind the two. Sound is very important in Love Exists, especially in the first half, as Pialat and Reynold take us through these neighborhoods, introduce us to the people living there. The mostly poor, the mostly uneducated, the workers. They spend their lives on the commute, hoping to survive to retirement age, their lives as unchanging as their ancestors, the fourteenth century farmers.

Contrasted with the plight of the working class is the build-up of Paris. The build-up of some suburbs. Next to the brutal new housing structures, where the children play amongst the concrete and steel, on their way to becoming good worker drones too, are the shanty towns. The debris isn’t from the war, it’s from the constructed. It’s not from the past, it’s from the future, which leaves out the workers.

Just when you think Pialat can’t get any more depressing, he looks at the situation of the older adults, the workers who made it to retirement, who exist in homes. Casted off once they’ve survived. The last moment manages to be even more devastating.

And Pialat and Reynold get to that devastation with the melancholic Georges Delerue score, which ought to work against Exists, but doesn’t. The music never overpowers the narration, the narration never overpowers the sound design. Nothing can approach Pialat and cinematographer Gilbert Sarthre’s shots either. Early on, it seems like the world can only exist in the black and white of the short, but by the end it’s hard to imagine the world actually existing in color.

Great editing from Kenout Peltier.

Love Exists is an extraordinary, rending twenty minutes.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Maurice Pialat; director of photography, Gilbert Sarthre; edited by Kenout Peltier; music by Georges Delerue; produced by Pierre Braunberger for Les Films de la Pléiade.

Narrated by Jean-Loup Reynold.


The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)

The Apartment does whatever it can to remain a dramatic comedy when it shouldn’t be anymore. And sort of isn’t. When the film shifts into real drama, there’s no going back. Director Wilder gets it too. The film has a good comedy opening, a breathtaking dramatic middle, and a decent comedy end. The comedy in the opening and the end is very different. The opening comedy is sort of bemused–oh, isn’t it funny how office drone Jack Lemmon gets into management because he lends out his apartment to company managers to use with their girlfriends. You know, away from the wives.

Now, there’s drama of some kind forecast in the opening comedy. The comedy, drama, and comedy split doesn’t exactly fit the three acts. But is sort of shoe-horned to fit. Anyway. There’s some inevitable character drama forecast during the comedy. Lemmon’s got a crush on elevator girl and confirmed non-dater Shirley MacLaine. Turns out she’s not a non-dater, she’s just more discreet than the rest of the office staff. And by office staff, there are thousands of employees. An absurd number of them, actually, for the space. Because before The Apartment becomes a romantic pursuit comedy, it’s a modern office comedy.

Writers Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond do pretty well at the modern office comedy. It all hinges on Lemmon, who’s really got to do everything for twenty-five minutes. It’s a two-hour and change film. So the first fifth is all Lemmon and the modern office comedy involving his apartment. MacLaine shows up, but she’s just another piece of the office comedy.

It’s when Lemmon finally gets busted and big boss Fred MacMurray demands use of The Apartment does the film start moving. All the setup is Lemmon–quite spectacularly–spinning his wheels. There’s no narrative drive to Lemmon’s promotion goals because it’s unclear they’re goals. Certainly why they’d be goals. Lemmon’s character is the force of his personality and performance. It isn’t until the scene with MacMurray Lemmon has to do anything different. That scene changes the whole movie.

Then there’s sort of this mini-first act to the dramatic material, moving the film away from the comedy, bringing in MacLaine’s story. Told in exposition. There’s a lot of character revelations through exposition in The Apartment and they’re often spectacular, but never explored. Lemmon and MacLaine never get to develop in their scenes together. They spend most of the dramatic middle together. The middle of The Apartment is this short film within the film, where the direction changes, the script changes, the performances change.

And the middle is wonderful. Both Lemmon and MacLaine are fantastic. They have this parallel development arc. Lemmon’s falling for MacLaine, MacLaine’s getting back together with MacMurray. There are dramatic stakes involved; the film doesn’t prepare for them. Wilder and Diamond have some absurdism at the beginning, then they’ve got some shock value. But all very mild. The script relies on these sturdy narrative devices, but always carefully; making sure they never creak.

Wilder’s direction is outstanding. He, cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, and editor Daniel Mandell create a seamless visual experience. So seamless when it detaches from Lemmon and MacLaine in the last third, the second comedy section, it does so ahead of the story. The filmmaking and the writing are both phenomenal. Even when The Apartment is skipping character development for these short, tragic, cynically comedic set pieces in the last third. Wilder and Diamond make the film into a drama–almost entirely straight drama–in the middle, then try to avoid having to do a dramatic finish.

Because they want to do the romantic comedy, which is cute–Lemmon and MacLaine are cute, MacMurray’s great as the sleazebag boss–but they haven’t really set up. There are some big Lemmon revelations in the finale and they don’t fit with the rest of the character. Not how Wilder and Diamond handled him in the opening. The script also has a problem with MacLaine’s naiveté. Sometimes she has so much she couldn’t have gotten to where she’s gotten. She also gets some big revelations, but in the middle dramatic area–so not played for comedy like Lemmon’s later revelations–and they scuff with some of the earlier character development; the finale could fix it. But doesn’t. Because as much as the final third distances itself from Lemmon, it abandons MacLaine.

And when she is in it, Wilder and Diamond keep her as flat as possible. It’s very strange. The finale just feels perfunctory. Technically inspired, beautifully written, but perfunctory. The film stops worrying about its characters and concentrates on the most efficient way to finish things up.

The acting’s all great. Lemmon, MacLaine, MacMurray (whose paper thin character never gets any thicker). David Lewis and Ray Walston are awesome as a couple of Lemmon’s apartment leches. Jack Kruschen and Naomi Stevens are Lemmon’s neighbors, who think he’s a sex addict with all the activity in his apartment; they play a big part in the middle. They go from being bit comedy background to this spectacular dramatic support.

Hope Holiday is hilarious. It’s kind of an extended cameo; the part’s beautifully written and Holiday’s fantastic. The other thing about The Apartment is how little Wilder and Diamond try in the final section. They employ these particular, different, precise narrative devices–always beautifully executed–and then they give up on trying for new ones in the finale.

Edie Adams is good as MacMurray’s secretary. She too goes from background to… well, not support, but also not background. The way the script makes room for bigger parts for the characters is another phenomenal quality of it. And another one the finale ignores.

The Apartment is rather frustrating. It’s spectacular film. Masterfully, exquisitely produced. But still disappointing. It pulls off this great transition from comedy to drama and then shrugs at the transition back. It never runs out of enthusiasm just ambition.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Billy Wilder; written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond; director of photography, Joseph LaShelle; edited by Daniel Mandell; music by Adolph Deutsch; released by United Artists.

Starring Jack Lemmon (C.C. Baxter), Shirley MacLaine (Fran Kubelik), Fred MacMurray (Jeff D. Sheldrake), Jack Kruschen (Dr. Dreyfuss), Edie Adams (Miss Olsen), Naomi Stevens (Mrs. Mildred Dreyfuss), Ray Walston (Joe Dobisch), David Lewis (Al Kirkeby), Johnny Seven (Karl Matuschka), and Hope Holiday (Mrs. Margie MacDougall).


Inherit the Wind (1960, Stanley Kramer)

A lot of Inherit the Wind is about ideas and not small ones, but big ones. Director Kramer is careful with how big he lets the film get with these ideas, because even though Inherit the Wind is about Darwin vs. the Bible as its biggest idea, the smaller ideas are the more significant ones. And when Kramer’s got Fredric March in a bombastic performance on the side of the Bible, Kramer’s careful to put him in front of those smaller, more important ideas.

The film’s impeccably acted, not just by March or Spencer Tracy as his pseudo-alter ego, but also Gene Kelly as a newspaperman and Florence Eldridge as March’s wife. Amid all these big ideas and small ideas and top-billed stars are Dick York (the small-town teacher teaching Darwin) and his fiancée Donna Anderson (who’s the preacher’s daughter).

Inherit the Wind has something of an anti-climatic finish, just because Kramer and the screenwriters want to let the viewer figure it out. Kramer sets up the film larger than life then, gently, reveals the film’s never larger than life, just the viewers’ expectation of it. There’s depth to the grandiosity and everyone should have been paying attention.

A great deal of the film is listening and watching people listen. Almost all of Harry Morgan’s time is spent listening (as the judge). It’s all important. Kramer’s trying to figure out how to make this too big story work. And he does. Mostly.

Great Ernest Laszlo photography.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer; screenplay by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee; director of photography, Ernest Laszlo; edited by Frederic Knudtson; music by Ernest Gold; production designer, Rudolph Sternad; released by United Artists.

Starring Spencer Tracy (Henry Drummond), Fredric March (Matthew Harrison Brady), Gene Kelly (E. K. Hornbeck), Dick York (Bertram T. Cates), Donna Anderson (Rachel Brown), Harry Morgan (Judge Mel Coffey), Claude Akins (Rev. Jeremiah Brown), Elliott Reid (Prosecutor Tom Davenport), Paul Hartman (Bailiff Mort Meeker), Philip Coolidge (Mayor Jason Carter), Jimmy Boyd (Howard), Noah Beery Jr. (John Stebbins), Norman Fell (WGN Radio Technician), Gordon Polk (George Sillers), Hope Summers (Mrs. Krebs – Righteous Townswoman), Ray Teal (Jessie H. Dunlap), Renee Godfrey (Mrs. Stebbins) and Florence Eldridge (Sarah Brady).


Wild River (1960, Elia Kazan)

Director Kazan opens Wild River with newsreel footage of the Tennessee River at flood. The film is set in the 1930s, something else the newsreel footage establishes. Kazan and screenwriter Paul Osborn spend the least amount of time possible setting up the film. The newsreel takes care of setting, when lead Montgomery Clift starts his new job, he talks to his secretary, taking care of ground situation. River’s quick start lets Kazan fill every minute of the film.

The Tennessee River floods and the dam Clift’s federal employee is in town to build are barely subplots by the end of the film. They’re details, because it turns out–even though the ground situation’s established–River is more about what happens after Clift decides to poke around in it (since he’s new). That poking around leads to Clift meeting Lee Remick and Wild River is really their relationship and how it affects, and is affected, by the events occurring around them.

There are subplots with Remick and Jo Van Fleet (as her grandmother, who won’t leave her land), Van Fleet and Clift and then Clift and his forced desegregation of the town. Osborn and Kazan never force anything dramatically; the film has a very specific setting, geographic and in time. What could be melodramatic shortcuts are instead sublime, sometimes painful details.

The acting’s amazing–Clift, Remick, Van Fleet. Remick’s probably the best.

Ellsworth Fredericks’s photography and Kenyon Hopkins’s music also exceptional. And Kazan nails every shot.

Wild River is superior.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Elia Kazan; screenplay by Paul Osborn, based on novels by William Bradford Huie and Borden Deal; director of photography, Ellsworth Fredericks; edited by William Reynolds; music by Kenyon Hopkins; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Montgomery Clift (Chuck Glover), Lee Remick (Carol Garth Baldwin), Jo Van Fleet (Ella Garth), Albert Salmi (Hank Bailey), Robert Earl Jones (Sam Johnson), Jay C. Flippen (Hamilton Garth), James Westerfield (Cal Garth), Big Jeff Bess (Joe John Garth), Judy Harris (Barbara Baldwin), Barbara Loden (Betty Jackson) and Frank Overton (Walter Clark).


Third from the Sun (1960, Richard L. Bare)

Third from the Sun suffers from a far too obvious ending. The episode forecasts it a few minutes early and then it all falls into line. However, it’s an obvious twist ending and it is a “Twilight Zone” after all, so who knows if it’s just predictable now because of the series having such an impact.

Mostly the episode is Fritz Weaver freaking out about coming nuclear war and having to convince his family they need to escape. Weaver does really well during his paranoia scenes, even though he eventually has to start sharing the episode.

Joe Maross and Edward Andrews show up about the same time. Well, Andrews has a long bit at the beginning too; he’s the villain. Maross is Weaver’s sidekick. Once the paranoia ends for Weaver, both Maross and Andrews have a lot more to do.

Bare shoots everything tilted (more obvious foreshadowing), but it’s good.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Richard L. Bare; teleplay by Rod Serling, based on a story by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Serling; director of photography, Harry J. Wild; edited by Bill Mosher; produced by Buck Houghton; aired by CBS Television Network

Starring Fritz Weaver (William Sturka), Joe Maross (Jerry Riden), Denise Alexander (Jody Sturka), Lori March (Eve Sturka) and Edward Andrews (Carling).


The Little Shop of Horrors (1960, Roger Corman)

The filmmaking economy in The Little Shop of Horrors is astounding. Most of the film takes place in one set–the titular shop–and Charles B. Griffith’s script works hard to imply the world outside that set. My favorite bit in the script is probably when leading man Jonathan Haze is shocked to discover peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. His mother (Myrtle Vail in one of Shop‘s only mediocre performances) only cooks food with healing properties, which they have because she adds medicinal ingredients. Griffith’s a funny guy.

Corman’s direction is best with the exterior scenes. The masterful chase sequence through a tire factory is stunningly out of place in a horror comedy. There’s also a great sequence with Haze meeting a loose woman (Meri Welles), who keeps magically popping into shots. Both of these sequences come in the second half of the picture; the first half just has to rely on the great acting.

Haze is fine, so’s Jackie Joseph as his love interest, but Mel Welles carries the whole Shop as Haze’s boss. He should be a buffoon–no one in Shop is wholly sympathetic–but Welles’s sincere performance makes the character the film’s most human.

In the supporting cast, there are good performances from John Herman Shaner and Jack Nicholson. Dick Miller’s great in a too small role. Griffith’s script makes sure Leola Wendorff gets a couple decent moments too.

Fred Katz’s music is awesome.

Shop is quite impressive; Corman, Griffith and Welles all do excellent work.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Roger Corman; written by Charles B. Griffith; director of photography, Archie R. Dalzell; edited by Marshall Neilan Jr.; music by Fred Katz; released by The Filmgroup.

Starring Jonathan Haze (Seymour Krelboyne), Jackie Joseph (Audrey Fulquard), Mel Welles (Gravis Mushnick), Dick Miller (Burson Fouch), Myrtle Vail (Winifred Krelboyne), Karyn Kupcinet (Shirley), Toby Michaels (Shirley’s Friend), Leola Wendorff (Mrs. Siddie Shiva), Lynn Storey (Mrs. Hortense Fishtwanger – Society of Silent Flower Observers of Southern California), Wally Campo (Det. Sgt .Joe Fink), Jack Warford (Det. Frank Stoolie), Meri Welles (Leonora Clyde), John Herman Shaner (Dr. Phoebus Farb) and Jack Nicholson (Wilbur Force).


A World of Difference (1960, Ted Post)

It’s another man in a weird world “Twilight Zone” from Richard Matheson. This time, Howard Duff is a regular American middle class guy who all of a sudden wakes up in a world where he’s an actor playing that regular guy.

There’s a lot of great panic from Duff–he’s startlingly effective. Matheson and director Post keep finding ways to make it even worse for Duff. Post’s direction Eileen Ryan’s scenes (as Duff’s alternate universe wife) is outstanding.

Matheson’s script leaves a lot unsaid, including any explanation for Duff’s character losing it, but the episode’s best moments are the ones when Duff visually responds without a dialogue. The madness plays across his face.

After Ryan departs, David White takes over as a somewhat supportive ear (another Matheson “Twilight Zone” norm), but he’s nowhere near as compelling. When Ryan starts doubting reality, she’s wondrous.

Besides a rush finish, Difference is excellent.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Post; written by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling; director of photography, Harkness Smith; edited by Joseph Gluck; music by Van Cleave; produced by Buck Houghton; aired by CBS Television Network.

Starring Howard Duff (Arthur Curtis), David White (Brinkley), Frank Maxwell (Marty Fisher), Eileen Ryan (Nora Reagan), Gail Kobe (Sally), Peter Walker (Sam), Susan Dorn (Marion Curtis) and Bill Idelson (Kelly).


The Last Flight (1960, William F. Claxton)

The Last Flight has some fantastic sound design. Especially at the beginning when Kenneth Haigh’s plane lands. He’s a World War I flier who journeys through time to the late fifties, landing on an American airbase. The sound for the base and the planes is just phenomenal. And the episode hasn’t even really started yet.

Richard Matheson’s script doesn’t concern itself too much with the time travel. Well, wait, it does. But more accurately, it concerns itself with the consequences of the time travel. Haigh figures the whole thing out in a rather long scene. He talks Simon Scott–as a modern Air Force major–into it. A little, anyway. He raises the question.

Great performances from Haigh, Scott and Alexander Scourby as the bewildered commanding officer.

There’s some decent shots from Claxton, but Last Flight succeeds because of Matheson’s script–which winds and unwinds–and the actors performing it.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by William F. Claxton; written by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling; director of photography, George T. Clemens; edited by Joseph Gluck; produced by Buck Houghton; aired by CBS Television Network.

Starring Kenneth Haigh (Lt. William Terrance Decker), Simon Scott (Maj. Wilson), Alexander Scourby (Maj. Gen. George Harper), Harry Raybould (Corporal), Jerry Catron (Guard) and Robert Warwick (A.V.M. Alexander Mackaye, R.A.F.)


Ski Troop Attack (1960, Roger Corman)

The best thing in Ski Troop Attack is a forty or fifty second conversation between two characters about mortality. Writer Charles B. Griffith has a few other good observations in the dialogue, but they don’t resonate. Nothing in Ski resonates except that one conversation. And the acting isn’t even good. I guess Wally Campo isn’t terrible, but Richard Sinatra’s redneck is awful.

Corman and Griffith give Sinatra a lot to do; the joke is he’s smart but he’s a redneck. It’s not funny the first time–Sinatra’s terrible–and it’s not funny the thirtieth time either.

There’s not much else good about Ski. Some of the shots are good, but only because Corman’s shooting it on a snow covered mountain. There’s bound to be some good shots. Anthony Carras’s editing ruins most of the action scenes, though it’s probably not all his fault. The budget’s probably responsible for a lot.

Not the acting though. Michael Forest plays the lieutenant, Frank Wolff plays the sergeant. From the first or second scene, there’s bickering about who knows better, regular army or the officers. The resolution to that argument’s interesting if only because it comes as a complete surprise. Corman and Griffith don’t build to it at all.

Wolff’s not terrible. He can’t hold up the picture, but he’s not awful. Forest is awful. Not as bad as Sinatra, but bad.

Wait, I was wrong–there is something else good about Ski. Fred Katz’s music.

Otherwise, Ski’s a very long, very boring hour.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Roger Corman; written by Charles B. Griffith; director of photography, Andrew M. Costikyan; edited by Anthony Carras; music by Fred Katz; released by The Filmgroup.

Starring Michael Forest (Lt. Factor), Frank Wolff (Sgt. Potter), Wally Campo (Pvt. Ed Ciccola), Richard Sinatra (Pvt. Herman Grammelsbacher), Paul Rapp (Pvt. Roost) and Sheila Noonan (Frau Heinsdorf).


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