1967

Wonder Woman (1967, Leslie H. Martinson)

Here’s a weird one. A short pilot for a “Wonder Woman” sitcom. Ellie Wood Walker’s Diana Prince lives at home with her mother (Maudie Prickett), who wishes her daughter would just find a man.

The pilot consists mostly of their bickering, which isn’t unfunny–thoroughly modern Walker versus nagging Prickett. But once Walker changes into Wonder Woman, the pilot becomes very strange.

Yes, she’s a superhero, but she also sees herself as “beautiful.” At this point, neither Walker nor Prickett had called Walker homely; it’s unclear until the narrator explains.

Obviously, if the pilot had been picked up, it would have been a lousy show, but the idea is interesting. An otherwise completely confident woman whose superhero alter ego includes wish fulfillment unrelated to the “duties” of a superhero.

Walker is appealing until the plot twist. Prickett balances annoying and funny pretty well….

It’s a strange few minutes of television.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Leslie H. Martinson; screenplay by Stan Hart, Stanley Ralph Ross and Larry Siegel, based on a character created by William M. Marston; produced by William Dozier.

Starring Ellie Wood Walker (Diana Prince) and Maudie Prickett (Diana’s mother).


You’re in Love, Charlie Brown (1967, Bill Melendez)

As hard as director Melendez tries, there’s not much he can do with “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown.” The special’s two salient problems are the animation and the writing. Melendez comes up with some truly stunning shots in the special; for example, he closes with a beautiful zoom out with a lot of activity. But the actual animation–the movement, the illustration of the characters and settings–is bad.

But he could probably overcome that one, especially since the music from Vince Guaraldi is particularly excellent.

Charles M. Schulz’s writing, however, is insurmountable. Over the first half is spent on Charlie Brown whining about no one liking him and how much he likes the Little Red-Haired Girl. It makes Peter Robbins’s Charlie Brown unlikable.

The final ten minutes pick up a little, thanks to Melendez’s ambitions. The special doesn’t succeed, but Melendez is able to keep it from failing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Gail DeFaria (Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt) and Ann Altieri (Violet).


Hotel (1967, Richard Quine)

Hotel comes from that strange period of Hollywood cinema just between the Technicolor melodramas and the seventies realism. The film’s still in Technicolor of course–and Charles Lang’s cinematography is fantastic. He makes the New Orleans location shooting look just wondrous.

But it deals with racism in a very matter of fact way, not to mention the frequent tawdriness. It’s still got the Technicolor sheen to it.

Anyway.

Quine’s got a good handle on the material–he frequently treats Hotel like a silent, with Karl Malden’s hotel thief being the slapstick character. While Malden’s never played for laughs, it’s always clear how much he’s enjoying giving his performance.

It’s maybe the most likable I’ve ever seen Malden.

There are some weak directorial choices–the frequent tilt up and down before scene transitions–but the film’s got a lot of charm and it’d take more than those camera movements to really hurt it.

Rod Taylor does a great job in the lead. He brings a gravitas to it… and still has fun. Melvyn Douglas is excellent as his mentor and boss. Kevin McCarthy’s got a really flashy role here–and must have worked out for it, he spends a quarter of his scenes without a shirt on–he’s great too.

Catherine Spaak is, unfortunately, only okay as McCarthy’s companion who finds a kindred spirit in Taylor… it seems like she’s giving a better performance when speaking French.

The end’s a great twist.

It’s a fine film; nice Johnny Keating score too.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Quine; screenplay by Wendell Mayes, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Sam O’Steen; music by Johnny Keating; produced by Mayes; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Rod Taylor (Peter McDermott), Catherine Spaak (Jeanne Rochefort), Karl Malden (Keycase Milne), Melvyn Douglas (Warren Trent), Merle Oberon (The Duchess Caroline), Richard Conte (Detective Dupere), Michael Rennie (Geoffrey – Duke of Lanbourne), Kevin McCarthy (Curtis O’Keefe), Carmen McRae (Christine), Alfred Ryder (Capt. Yolles), Roy Roberts (Bailey), Al Checco (Herbie Chandler), Sheila Bromley (Mrs. Grandin), Harry Hickox (Sam), William Lanteau (Mason), Ken Lynch (Joe Laswell), Clinton Sundberg (Lawrence Morgan), Tol Avery (Kilbrick) and Davis Roberts (Dr. Elmo Adams).


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The Elephant Spider (1967, Piotr Kamler)

Even though The Elephant Spider clearly takes place in a three dimensional world, it’s hard to think of it working if the animation weren’t so two dimensional.

The short takes place around the Big Bang… probably before. A poor creature called the Elephant Spider spends its life walking in one direction (see why the dimensional aspect is important) and the short recounts what happens when it runs out of a place to walk.

Kamler’s certainly charming and he comes up with a lot of interesting visuals—mostly on the Elephant Spider and its immediate surroundings; the backdrops are somewhat weak.

There are two significant problems though. First, Kamler’s lack of scale. It might be cool to zoom in and have it be indistinguishable, but Elephant Spider is still a narrative. Why confuse the viewer?

Second is the sound design. Bernard Parmegiani’s music is amusing, but the sound effects are hideous.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed and photographed by Piotr Kamler; music by Bernard Parmegiani; released by Les Films Fernand Rivers.


Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB (1967, George Lucas)

Okay, why didn’t anyone tell me about Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB?

I mean, I knew of it, but no one ever sat me down and told me it was startlingly brilliant. From the opening second, the film is absolutely astounding.

The entire film is a chase sequence, though the protagonist (played by Dan Natchsheim, who also does a fabulous job editing the short) doesn’t appear for a while. He’s talked about; Lucas has these distorted offscreen voices explaining the film, though it’s difficult to understand them. Electronic Labyrinth takes place in the future and Lucas never spends a moment making his audience comfortable with it—the only mention is a subtitle giving the year.

Once Natchsheim shows up, the film cuts between him and his pursuers and the film takes a transcendent quality.

I knew Lucas was capable of great things, but Electronic Labyrinth surpasses any expectations I had.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by George Lucas; director of photography, F.E. Zip Zimmerman; edited by Dan Natchsheim; released by the University of Southern California.

Starring Dan Natchsheim (1138), Joy Carmichael (7117), David Munson (2222), Marvin Bennett (0480) and Ralph Stell (9021).


In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison)

Warren Oates can be affable. I had no idea.

In the Heat of the Night is a bit of a disappointment–not the acting, not the directing, just the script. The film plods as the script tries to come up with excuses to keep going. Stirling Silliphant’s dialogue is good, there’s no problem with it on that level–it’s just the plotting. The film’s a thriller masquerading as a social film. Every single thing in it turns out to be a red herring (I can’t even figure how the murderer had time to commit the crime, but it didn’t bother Sidney Poitier or Rod Steiger so I guess I shouldn’t worry).

Poitier and Steiger are both great–though Steiger’s got a better written role, which seems unfair since Poitier’s the lead and his story is potentially a lot more interesting–but the supporting cast is amazing too. Scott Wilson, Oates, Lee Grant, William Schallert… there are some fantastic performances here.

And then there’s Jewison.

Jewison was forty-one when Night came out, so he wasn’t a young Turk, but it feels like it. His composition is just amazing (especially with Haskell Wexler shooting it). Maybe Jewison’s career just went on too long. When I hear his name, I think of awful, trite eighties movies, but he once was an outstanding filmmaker. In the Heat of the Night really showcases it.

It’s a very good film; but it would have been amazing one if it were about two men working together.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Norman Jewison; screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by John Ball; director of photography, Haskell Wexler; edited by Hal Ashby; music by Quincy Jones; produced by Walter Mirisch; released by United Artists.

Starring Sidney Poitier (Virgil Tibbs), Rod Steiger (Gillespie), Warren Oates (Sam Wood), Lee Grant (Mrs. Colbert), Larry Gates (Endicott), James Patterson (Mr. Purdy), William Schallert (Mayor Schubert), Beah Richards (Mama Caleba), Peter Whitney (Courtney), Kermit Murdock (Henderson), Larry D. Mann (Watkins), Matt Clark (Packy), Arthur Malet (Ulam), Fred Stewart (Dr. Stuart), Quentin Dean (Delores) and Scott Wilson (Harvey Oberst).


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You Only Live Twice (1967, Lewis Gilbert)

My wife walked out on You Only Live Twice. She got up and left about forty minutes in. I finished it because I figured forty minutes was halfway and I could make it. It was tough.

The film’s memorable because of the beginning, where James Bond dies. It’s an interesting scene, even though it’s never explained. The ninjas are sort of memorable, but not specifically, because it’s a lame scene.

What stunned me about the film was how sexist it is. For a James Bond movie to be stunningly sexist, it has to be really sexist. The lack of distinguishable personalities for the two female leads–who, incidentally, were both in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Then there’s the scene where Bond’s Japanese counterpart makes a nasty remark about Moneypenny and Bond doesn’t defend her as a colleague. Also, there’s a lengthy sequence about Bond refusing his mission because he doesn’t think he’s going to get a pretty fake wife.

There are some cool sets at the end. It’s amazing how big Pinewood is–I can’t think of any other film, except maybe Eyes Wide Shut, making the studio seem so big.

Sean Connery’s bored.

Lewis Gilbert’s direction is lousy. I got excited when I saw Gilbert’s name too; he must have learned subtlety later in his career.

The music’s okay.

The action sequence with the helicopter is good.

The plot lacks any movement, with Bond hanging out in Japan the entire runtime.

It’s boring me even to talk about it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lewis Gilbert; screenplay by Roald Dahl and Harold Jack Bloom, based on the novel by Ian Fleming; director of photography, Freddie Young; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.

Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Wakabayashi Akiko (Aki), Hama Mie (Kissy Suzuki), Tamba Tetsuro (Tiger Tanaka), Shimada Teru (Mr. Osato), Karin Dor (Helga Brandt), Donald Pleasence (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Charles Gray (Dikko Henderson) and Chin Tsai (Ling).


Play Time (1967, Jacques Tati)

Play Time opens as an attack on modernity worthy of George Amberson Minafer, dealing with the personality-free office place populated by cubicles, to the lines of similarly dressed men on their ways home after work or the same type of men all getting into the same kind of car after their work day. There’s some great stuff about television and how, of a collection of people living in the same apartment building, it is the thing they have most in common. The film, in scenic description of the first half, sounds more like a feature article in Harper’s discussing the “American Idol” phenomenon than anything else.

The film is split into two distinct sections. The beginning, featuring Tati’s M. Hulot’s adventures in a modern office building, these adventures juxtaposed with the experiences of a young America woman in a tourist group. She and Hulot meet over and over and Tati presents her in a particular light. She sees something wondrous when everyone else is too busy to look. M. Hulot’s adventures are quite different, more a comedy of errors, with frequent mistaken identities. Then the city goes dark and turns on the lights and the focus moves to a nightclub, opening for business when it’s not at all ready. Both Hulot and the American tourist end up at the nightclub and, after the incredibly impersonal, alienated world of the first forty-five minutes, Play Time slowly becomes celebratory of people. The nightclub scene brings together all of Play Time‘s characters and lets them get to know each other. Except the television people, Tati’s abandoned them.

I’d forgotten the nightclub scene. I remembered much of the film following that long sequence, but I didn’t remember any of the actual club scene, which is odd, since it’s the most important part of the picture. It’s here Tati gets to present his case–while the nightclub staff are frantic to create that alienating environment for the characters of the first part, they hadn’t counted on M. Hulot, who innocently brings the whole thing down. Thanks to him, the construction workers are drinking with the oil millionaires and the drunks off the street are drinking with the white collar drunks. All while the nightclub staff tries to keep the place from falling apart, while it becomes obvious entropy is what the people are looking for anyway.

The end–the nightclub changing the world–becomes a celebration of modernity. We see the world through something a lot like the American tourist would see it. The beauty in the cityscape. Still, while Playtime is Tati’s finest work I’ve seen, it’s also his least accessible. It doesn’t just require patience or listening, Tati uses the entire frame to tell his story and he only gives the viewer a few seconds to adjust to the frame’s contents. The viewer has to pay real attention, or he or she will miss something important. While the nightclub scene is a little less intensive, it’s definitely an active viewing experience.

Play Time is a profound piece of work and one of the times the five hundred odd words of a Stop Button post simply aren’t enough.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Jacques Tati; written by Tati and Jacques Lagrange, with additional English dialogue by Art Buchwald; directors of photography, Jean Badal and Andreas Winding; edited by Gerard Pollicand; music by Francis Lemarque; production designer, Eugene Roman; produced by Bernard Maurice; released by Specta Films.

Starring Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot), Barbara Dennek (Young Tourist), John Abbey (Mr. Lacs), Tony Andal (Page Boy), Yves Barsacq (Hulot’s Friend), Valérie Camille (Mr. Lacs’s Secretary), France Delahalle (Shopper in Department Store), Erika Dentzler (Mme. Giffard), Léon Doyen (Doorman), Yvette Ducreux (Hat Check Girl), Georges Faye (Architect), André Fouché (Restaurant Manager), Michel Francini (1st Maitre D’), Jack Gauthier (The Guide), Grégoire Katz (German Salesman), Billy Kearns (Mr. Schultz), Reinhard Kolldehoff (German Businessman), Jacqueline Lecomte (Young Tourist’s Friend), Rita Maiden (Mr. Schultz’s Companion), Marc Monjou (False Hulot), Georges Montant (Mr. Giffard), Laure Paillette (1st Woman at the Lamp), Henri Piccoli (An Important Gentleman), Colette Proust (2nd Woman at the Lamp), Nicole Ray (Singer) and France Rumilly (Woman Selling Eyeglasses).


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