Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Favorite Films, Part VIII

The latest addition of my 100 favorite movies, in chronological order part 8. We’ll stay in the 1960s for this batch.

“The Sundowners” (1960). I’ve blogged about this movie before. I love every frame of this movie and I wish more people were aware of it. Set in the 1920s, it deals with a family of Australian nomadic sheepherders, played by Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr and Michael Anderson, Jr. There’s really no plot, just their adventures on their travels. I was very surprised to read Mitchum did not think much of this role. It’s been said artists are often not the best judge of their works, and that’s true here. It’s one of his very best performances.

“The Time Machine” (1960). I watched this recently, and it really holds up. This was another one shown on Family Classics every year that was as eagerly anticipated as Christmas Day. Classic science fiction based on the H.G. Wells story with Rod Taylor is the ideal brave scientific inventor, and Yvette Mimieux is the lovely Weena. Marvelous production design and special effects showing us what life might be like in the year 802,701.

“Mysterious Island” (1961). One of my favorite Ray Harryhausen movies, this is an exciting tale based on Jules Verne’s novel, about a group of men who escape from a Confederate prison via a hot air balloon and find themselves on the title locale, in an uncharted area of the Pacific Ocean. Gigantic creatures abound, courtesy the special effects wizardry of Mr. Harryhausen, all backed by one of Bernard Herrmann’s most evocative scores. Giant monsters, a pirate attack, an exploding volcano, a beautiful girl in a short animal skin dress – everything you could possibly want in a movie. Plus the great Herbert Lom as Captain Nemo. A wonderful movie.

“The Music Man” (1962). One of the best Broadway translations ever, and thankfully recording for posterity Robert Preston’s dynamic performance as Professor Harold Hill. Some of the direction is more than a bit stagebound, but all is forgiven when surrounded by such energy and good spirits.

“Ride the High Country” (1962). A wonderful western that gave us a one-time teaming of western greats Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea. They both saw the handwriting on the wall. This was Scott’s last film and McCrea only gave us token appearances in a few more films. A beautiful elegy courtesy director Sam Peckinpah. The final image of McCrea slowly sinking out of frame is one for the books.
"To Kill A Mockingbird” (1962). A wonderful book made into an equally wonderful movie. Rarely have events seen through the eyes of a child been captured so well. Gregory Peck well deserved his Oscar as Atticus Finch. Composer Elmer Bernstein deserved a Best Score Oscar that year for his beautiful score, but he lost to Maurice Jarre for his music for “Lawrence of Arabia.” Well, OK, I can’t get upset about that. The other competition that year in this category:. Franz Waxman for “Taras Bulba”, Bronislau Kaper for “Mutiny on the Bounty” and Jerry Goldsmith for “Freud.” Compare that list to what we get today and weep.
“Jason and the Argonauts” (1963): Another dynamic Ray Harryhausen/Bernard Herrmann collaboration, this is one of the best and most colorful fantasy films of all time. I like the treatment of the Greek gods and goddesses in this, looking of humans as amusing playthings and realizing that soon mankind will not need them anymore. This contains some of Harryhausen’s best work, including the 200-foot statue Talos which comes to life, winged harpies, and the amazing duel at the end between Jason and two companies and an army of skeletons. Wilkie Cooper’s gorgeous cinematography is the type often ignored at Oscar time, because it’s not for a “prestigious” film. It shouldn’t have been.

“Goldfinger” (1964): One night I came home real late from work and turned this on. I think it was on TBS. It was past 10:30 p.m., I had been at work since 8:00 that morning, I hadn’t eaten dinner and I was exhausted. I had seen “Goldfinger” multiple times, owned it on VHS and DVD, and guess what? I still got caught up in it, and stayed and watched it, complete with commercials, to the very end. Why oh why can’t we have Bond title songs like this anymore? Remember that God-awful song from “Quantum of Solace”? It was like having lye poured into one’s ear drum.

"A Hard Day’s Night” (1964): Starring The Beatles and a movie brimming with unbridled energy and the celebration of life. Director Richard Lester lets the boys run amok via a freewheeling style of photography and editing, backed by one of the most awesome song scores of all time. Like earlier musicals, one guaranteed to chase away the blues.
“Planet of the Apes” (1968): The first film in one of the best science fiction series ever. Charlton Heston delivers one of his all-time best performances as the cynical astronaut Taylor who finds himself abandoned…well, you know the rest. Great production design and music help define the setting. Equally good performances under convincing ape make-up by Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans. The third and fourth films are exceptional as well, with the second and fifth films being less satisfactory, but the entire series remains splendid, thought provoking entertainment


Dees Stribling said...

P rhymes with T and that spells trouble.

Don't short the '70s in your next post. A decade with quite a few good titles, I think.

Kevin Deany said...

Actually, the 1970s is one of my favorite decades for film, and the next 10 are almost all 70s movies...but not the kind of titles that won any Academy Awards. Remember, this is a list of favorites, not greatest films and, as such, is a highly individual list.

The final group of 10 condenses the last three decades. My friend Dawn once told me I was born a 40-year-old man and she may be onto something.