#297 The Firemen’s Ball/Horí, má panenko

Watched: June 1 2021

Director: Miloš Forman

Starring: Jan Vostrcil, Josef Sebánek, Josef Valnoha, Frantisek Debelka, Josef Rehorek, Jan Stöckl, Frantisek Reinstein, Frantisek Paska, Josef Kolb, Frantisek Svet, Josef Kutálek, and a bunch of other guys probably called Jan, Josef and/or Frantisek.

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 13min

Our small city of Trondheim has been relatively unaffected by Covid for the past few months – we’ve had few infections and most of our businesses have run more or less like normal. In fact, it’s been a source of pride for many local politicians and citizens how well we’ve handled all of this. But those of us who watch a lot of movies know all too well the price of hubris… It was only a matter of time before a new wave hit, which happened recently. This time with fun, new mutations! The result of all this is that while the rest of the world is slowly opening up again, we’re going in the opposite direction: many places are shut down, we’re in and out of quarantines, and things are far from normal. But at least we’ve got movies, right?

Kidnapping rates are thankfully also low, due to the whole don’t-leave-your-home-thing. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

After a wait list period (who else checked out this movie in 2021???) we just managed to get our hands on The Firemen’s Ball before the libraries closed down. And was it worth it? Well, probably.

It has certainly become more complicated to use library services since the right wing government came into power…

OK, we’ll be honest – The Firemen’s Ball needs context to work, at least it did for us. With no context, it’s a farce about a bunch of bumbling, incompetent firemen trying to throw a ball, while being both stupid and a little bit sexist about it. And we’re not really big fans of farces – we tend to find them annoying (and sometimes sad) rather than funny.

It’s probably our critical and analytical stares, here perfectly captured by Forman.

However, context is important. This movie was made in Czechoslovakia in 1967, and the Communist Party was not amused by the depiction of bureaucratic idiocy and inadequate leaders. In fact, they were so unimpressed that Miloš Forman ended up in (self-imposed) exile in the wake of it. Which makes the whole thing pretty badass, even if the movie itself isn’t really our cup of tea.

“To reflect our high status and importance in society, we’ve moved away from the traditional fireman helmet into a design more befitting our station. No pun intended.”

So basically, watch this if you’re interested in history and/or like farces. But if you don’t like either, maybe skip it…

Some things work best with context. While other things, like this picture, are just as good or better without.

What we learned: “Uzenka” means “sausage”. We’ll never again starve or go horny for long in the Czech Republic.

Next time: The Graduate (1967)

#296 The Dirty Dozen

Watched: December 21 2020

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, George Kennedy, Richard Jaeckel, Trini López, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Clint Walker, Robert Webber, Tom Busby

Year: 1967

Runtime: 2h 30min

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We continue our criminal-men-do-fun-but-risky-stuff-together-while-paying-an-inordinate-amount-of-attention-to-their-attire with The Dirty Dozen – a suspenseful war drama featuring a host of well-known tough guys.

“We have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass . . . and bubblegum is heavily rationed so our options are limited.”

During WWII, Major Reisman (Marvin) is tasked with blowing up a French château housing a bunch of important Germans. To help with this suicide mission he enlists not the best of the best, but rather the worst of the worst: conviced rapists, murderers and other assorted criminals who are promised freedom should they happen to survive. What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?

It’s all fun and games until…oh… Eh, yes. Carry on.

A lot, it turns out. For some reason, these condemned sociopaths have trouble working together and listening to authority. Luckily, the Major understands them and knows how to get them all on the same page (hint: liquor and prostitutes will go a long way..). So gradually, they learn to cooperate, have each other’s backs, and the greatest bonding exercise known to man: burning Germans alive. Yay!

“How do I reach these kiiiiids?”

The Dirty Dozen was our family’s big Christmas movie this year and while it didn’t necessarily give us a lot of Christmas spirit, it was very good entertainment. While it all leads up to the mission itself, most of the film shows the teambuilding and training the soldiers/convicts are put through, and how their comradery grows as they get ready.

Nothing strengthens friendships like blowing shit up together. Takes us right back to our university days. Such carnage… Such bliss…

We loved the base building, the military band gag, Pinkley’s impersonation of a General (can’t go wrong with a Sutherland!), the opposition of Franko, the practise maneuvers, and of course George Kennedy. The movie is funny, exciting, tense, brutal, dramatic, ultimately heartbreaking, and we really enjoyed it.

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. Kamikaze soldier of the Allied Forces and proud owner of a pack of dental floss.”

What we learned: Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. Also, don’t entrust religious fanatics with sensitive missions… Or misogynists with anything, really.

Next time: The Firemen’s Ball (1967)

#295 Robbery

Watched: March 30 2021

Director: Peter Yates

Starring: Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay, Barry Foster, William Marlowe, Clinton Greyn, George Sewell

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 50min

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A bomb is planted in a car. We follow it through the streets of London. When the countdown reaches zero, instead of an explosion, gas is released and knocks out the driver and his passenger. Enter our heroes/gangsters in their fake ambulance. And that, our friends, is how you kidnap someone in broad daylight!

“Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to rob we go! We’ll get some cash to build our stash, heigh ho, heigh ho!” “Come on guys! Join in! Remember we have that recital on Monday.”

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But even a well-planned and perfectly executed heist is not foolproof. The police are onto them, leading to an adrenaline-filled and insane car chase. After they get away (spoiler! Sorry!) and have cooled down a bit, it is time to plot, plan and rehearse the actual heist – one very much inspired by the Great Train Robbery of 1963.

“Actually, this is all just an excuse to show off our new range of dapper outerwear: The Heist Line™ – available now in a variety of styles and colours, such as Blend-in Beige™, Camouflage Camel™, and Blot-out Black™. Not to mention the highly sophisticated Covert Cream™.”

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Robbery is very much in the tradition of Topkapi, Rififi, and even Gambit. There’s an elaborate scheme which has been planned to the last detail, there’s a motley yet lovable crew of misfits – each hand picked for their job, and there’s a lot that could go wrong. There’s also a kinda, sorta love story here, but honestly it seemed a bit forced. It certainly wasn’t necessary for the plot.

Now, we all want more women in film, and more good roles for women, but this subplot felt a bit unnecessary. Not because of the lovely Joanna Pettet though – she’s fantastic. Here pictured in Veiled Viridian™.

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Our favourite scenes were the opening heist and the subsequent car chase, as well as the prison break. We also loved the meticulous planning and the main heist, of course. Robbery touches on most clichés within the heist movie genre, but it does it well and it’s thrilling from start to end, so we have no complaints.

“I see you went for the Obscure Oxblood™ with the Inconspicuous Ivory trim™. Brave choice!”

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What we learned: Our money’s on the pill. Also, use the discount code HEIST10 for 10% off of all items in Mysterious Mauve™

Next time: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

#294 Quatermass and the Pit

Watched: March 19 2021

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Andrew Keir, James Donald, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 37min

Hobbs End: a lone bobby is walking along the wet London street, making this the most British opening scene ever. Then: Ape men! Buried in the underground! This is gonna be goooood.

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Along with the five million year old ape man remains, there’s some sort of a device found buried in the mud. And, since this is the cold war, the military jumps right on that in case it’s some sort of a bomb or missile. Or even better – something they can use to put Britain on the nuclear superpower-map along with the USA and Soviet. But doctor Roney (Donald), Barbara Judd (Shelley) and professor Quatermass (Keir) have other ideas.

“Sure, it could be the skull of an unfortunate German pilot left here to rot since the war. But what if, and bear with me here, it’s the only earthly remains of a humanoid ape race who secretly ruled the world five million years ago and who were controlled by extraterrestrial insects..? I believe that theory has just as much merit. “

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Quatermass is right. Naturally. The device is a martian space ship, piloted by large bugs who kidnapped apes from earth, did some selctive breeding, then returned them to earth to repopulate our planet with these martian-earthling-combo-creatures who are probably our ancestors. Yup. That would have been our first guess too.

Oh. Well, I’ll be damned… They were right all along.

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Further research shows that the fictional Hobbs End has been plagued by evil spirits and scary supernatural phenomena for centuries, specifically deformed ghosts walking through walls and strange aural disturbances. Can the extraterrestrial find and the spooky apparitions be related somehow?

Aliens and demons and devils, oh my!

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We love us some Hammer horror! Sure, Quatermass is from the same tradition as the original Doctor Who – the era when the educated, privileged, white, middle aged man was the only possible voice of reason… But despite that, we really enjoy the Quatermass movies, even though this one also tends to perpetuate the stereotype of women feeling and men thinking.

“Thank Jesus we had this emotional lady hanging around. Our logical man brains were way too rational to pick up the hive memory of our collective past and solve the mystery.”

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Does Quatermass and the Pit make sense? Not quite. But it is a great ride. There are clearly fake insect monsters, very cool poltergeist activity, panic on the streets of London, and extreme Britishness. It had humanity pegged too. We quote: “‘If we found out the world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do?’ ‘Nothing. We’d just go on squabbling about it as usual.'” Yeah… Things haven’t changed much since 1967.

“You’re all doomed”

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What we learned: Satan’s just an oversized bug.

Next time: Robbery (1967)

#293 Privilege

Watched: March 18 2021

Director: Peter Watkins

Starring: Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London, William Job, Max Bacon, Jeremy Child, James Cossins

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 43min

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In the near future (counting from 1967, that is. So the distant past, we guess), Steven Shorter (Jones) is a pop sensation with a complete grip on the youth population of Britain. His stage shows are theatrical productions designed to manipulate the audience – mostly consisting of women. Thank God no one wants to take advantage of his position and influence to create a fascist regime!

“Hahaha! We wouldn’t dream of it…”

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Just kidding! That is exactly the plan, of course. You see, the youth of Britain refuse to conform and bow to traditional authorities such as the police, the government and the church. Rude! And naturally, we cannot have that. So why not take this pop star and make him the poster boy for former criminals who have seen the light and are now repenting Christians? It’s a sure fire plan to bring the youth of Britain back into the fold.

“For the stage show, we should go subtle with the symbolism, I think.” “Um… Yeah, sure. We’ll totally do that.”

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The only person on Steven’s side trying to steer him right is Vanessa (Shrimpton), an artist comissioned to paint his portrait. But how can the two of them stand up against the powerful machine of the establishment?

I know! That scourge of fascist regimes everywhere: sexual liberation!

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Well, this movie was oddly prescient… Made in 1967, but it might as well have been made today. We’ve now truly experienced how pop culture and social media fame can influence politics and how dangerous this can be.

“Take the shackles off my hands so I can…manipulate you all to blindly follow my crazy cult of complete conformity and conservative Christianity. And also dance.”

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Are Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton amazing actors? Well, no. But their apathetic approach sort of works anyway. Privilege is a very compelling pseudo-documentary and one which is very much relevant to this day and we loved it. For an interesting (and depressing) double feature, try pairing it with Framing Britney Spears. Or the Cheeto’s political career… Whatever bites your apple.

“Biting will cost you extra…”

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What we learned: Do not worship celebrities… Or probably anything, really.

Next time: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

#292 Poor Cow

Watched: February 15 2021

Director: Ken Loach

Starring: Carol White, John Bindon, Terence Stamp

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Joy (White) gets pregnant at a young age and marries her baby-daddy Tom (Bindon), despite him being an abusive dick. As a young, working class girl we can’t imagine she felt she had much choice in the matter. Luckily for her, her hubby is caught during a robbery and is sent off to jail. Yay!

“Hmm..? What was that..? Jail? Ok, dear, have fun. Pick up some milk on the way home.”

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Once Tom’s out of the picture, life gets better. She starts a relationship with Dave (Stamp) – another criminal, but one who treats her well and takes good care of both her and her son Johnny. However, soon he too is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a brutal robbery. Not yay. Well, sort of yay, seeing he really is a violent criminal (with a penchant for collecting ladies, which isn’t very nice). So, all in all a semi-yay. A muted celebration. Prosecco in lieu of champagne. That sort of shindig.

“I swear to God if you play Wonderwall again…”

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Joy stays in touch with Dave in prison and continues their relationship as best she can, but a girl’s gotta make a living. She gets a job as a barmaid, and then as a model for a bunch of perverts who get their rocks off taking pictures of scantily clad women. But as her friend points out, she enjoys sex and flirting too much to make a career out of prostitution – she’s very happy to do it for free! Fair enough. Soon however, Tom is released from prison, and Joy is faced with some tough choices… And she makes the very worst one! The idiot…

Nope. This is not it. This does not even make Joy’s List of Top Ten Bad Choices.

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We must admit a pattern in ourselves, where we’re sometimes a little bit unenthusiastic about putting on kitchen sink dramas (sometimes you just want stupid entertainment from a movie, not life lessons or heart breaking drama!)… But more often than not we end up really enjoying them, and that is exactly what happened with this movie.

Honestly, we really did enjoy it more than a cold, windy day on a rocky beach. Scout’s honour.

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Despite our misgivings about Joy’s choices, Poor Cow is quite engaging. It woke us right up with the childbirth in the opening scene and we liked the efficient storytelling – by skipping from scene to scene we get the whole story with minimal effort on all our parts. And we love us some minimal effort. We also loved the faces in the crowd – Loach knew how to pick them! – the fact that the women actually liked sex and, as per usual, the clothes and the hair. Was it our favourite social realism kitchen sink drama British new wave type of film? No. But was it worth watching? Yes, definitely.

For the romantically inclined, there’s even a sweet lovey-dovey waterfall scene

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However, we’re not entirely sure what to think of Joy. We don’t really get any insight into her internal workings, which kind of works – she remains a bit of a mystery. But man, make good choices, girl! And if your reaction to realising that your son is the most important thing in your life is to stay with his abusive dad who clearly gives no shits about him or you, then you need to sort out your priorities.

“Just relax”

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What we learned: Everybody’s bent.

Next time: Privilege (1967)

#291 Point Blank

Watched: January 23 2021

Director: John Boorman

Starring: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O’Connor, John Vernon, Sharon Acker

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Walker (Marvin) is double-crossed (by his wife and best friend, no less!), shot and left for dead during a heist at the abandoned Alcatraz prison. He somehow survives and escapes, and is now determined to get his $93 000 back from “the Organization.”

“I AM Judge Judy and executioner!”

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He kills his way through a bunch of crooks and crime bosses, outsmarting them at every turn, all the while repeating his mantra of “I want my money.” Which, spoiler alert, he never gets. But he manages to fuck enough shit up that the people who stole from him won’t be able to enjoy it either. Which is a sort of a win itself, we guess. Although not a very satisfactory one.

About as satisfactory as emtying your chamber in the unoccupied bed of your treacherous ex-wife. We assume. We’ve never experienced the former as all our revenge plots have gone off without a hitch.

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As is tradition, in between kicking ass and taking names, he manages to entangle himself with a Dame, in this case his wife’s sister Chris (Dickinson). Keep it in the family. Smart man.

“I cannot believe my own brother-in-law is all the milkshake brought to the yard. Step up your game, milkshake!”

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We loved the sort-of-non-linear storytelling, Lee Marvin’s strong silent man routine, Angie Dickinson’s… Angie Dickinsonness, Lynne’s monologue when confronted by her “late” husband, and of course we’re suckers for a good revenge story.

“If you think about it, I’m the real victim here. I mean, I had to watch you die. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to backstab you like that?”

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Our pet theory: Walker is a terminator. His escape from certain death, glitches in memory/patchy, non-linear thinking, and single minded determination to achieve his agenda are all testimony to that. Or, he is possibly just a very goal-oriented man. Either way Point Blank makes for a very entertaining watch, with its noir and French crime film influences and bad ass protagonist.

“I’ll be back. To watch the T-Birds beat the Scorpions in a drag race…”

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What we learned: If you’re going to double-cross and kill someone, make sure they’re actually dead. Also, just pay the man his money!

Next time: Poor Cow (1967)

#290 Playtime

Watched: January 23 2021

Director: Jacques Tati

Starring: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, about a thousand others

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Monsieur Hulot (Tati) is back, as confused by modern life as ever. And honestly, we can’t blame him. The world which he inhabits is very confusing indeed, but it is also thoroughly entertaining.

Unpopular opinion: we know these are probably meant to be symbols of the dehumanization fo the workplace or whatever, but these cubicles actually seem like perfect workspaces for you local office introvert. We don’t all thrive in an open-plan office!

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We move from one strange location to the next, starting off in a glass and steel office building/hospital/furniture-and-or-gadget-fair/airport/everything-else-in-the-world, and ending in a nightclub which is still under construction yet serving guest all the same.

“The food is rubbish, the ceiling is caving in, the heating is all screwy, but these tassels were made for shaking, baby!”

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Despite M. Hulot being the natural focal point, there’s not real main character, no real plot, and no real climax. Like its predecessors, Playtime is as much a collection of storylines and gags as it is a feature film, but this is not a criticism. The choreography is perfect, the gags funny and charming, and the innocent romance sweet. Everything is filmed in wide shots and sometimes there’s too much going on onscreen for you to catch it in one screening, so be prepared to go back to it again and again.

Just kidding. You’ll never leave. There is no escape…

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The sense of alienation and confusion experienced by the inhabitants of “Tativille” is something we can probably all relate to on some level. Yet they move through life somehow making it work. As do we all. All we can do is our best.

The most useful person in this restaurant is the waiter all the others can switch ruined uniforms with. We all serve a purpose. Look at you go little buddy!

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What we learned: The world is complicated. But we should bring back the over-the-top restaurant/nightclub-hybrids. Once the pandemic is over and we can all go out again, that is.

Next time: Point Blank (1967)

#289 Mad Monster Party?

Watched: January 19 2021

Director: Jules Bass

Starring: Boris Karloff, Allen Swift, Gale Garnett, Phyllis Diller

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 34min

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Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Karloff) has made the discovery of a lifetime – the means to utterly destroy matter. As is tradition, he decides to celebrate his destructive invention with a party, and everyone’s invited.

“Death and destruction always goes best with dinner and dancing. Time to party!”

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And by everone, we mean everyone. Sure, there are the usual suspects. Dracula, a werewolf, a mummy, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the creature from the Black Lagoon, the invisible man, a certain French hunchback, and of course the Baron’s own famous creation and his fabulous wife.

“Sorry about the outfit, Baron. I’ve been an understudy in a live stage production about Sinbad the Sailor”

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In addition to these famous monsters though, a clumsy but well meaning young pharmacist named Felix also gets an invitation to the party. Because the Baron has another objective for the weekend. He wants to name his successor as head of the worldwide organization of monsters.

Even monsters are able to unionize. Why can’t employees of major international companies? Come on, people!

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While his close assistant Francesca (Garnett) sees herself as her boss’s natural heiress, she soon learns that Felix is Frankenstein’s nephew and thus nepotism demands that he will be the one to inherit his uncle’s assets. Which seems like a very bad idea given Felix’s nature. Francesca teams up with Dracula to get rid of the competition…

How long can a mere mortal be expected to survive on an island inhabited by monsters..? He won’t be in the running for long.

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We didn’t grow up with this movie (what gives, Norway in the 80s and 90s?), but you had us at “stop-motion animation with a horror theme and Poe references”. Mad Monster Party? is silly, funny, sweet, and filled with puns and gags.

It also has a very well trained zombie horde. And one who tends to lose his head a lot. Especially around women he feels are owed to him…

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Allen Swift does pretty much all the voices and he does a marvellous job, riddled with impressions. In addition, you have musical numbers, a wonderful tap dancing Dracula, an Incel zombie and an unlikely love affair. This is an animation movie for kids and adults alike, and thoroughly entertaining. Loved it!

Did we mention that there’s a skeleton rock band? ‘Cause there’s a skeleton rock band.

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By the way, this movie brought to mind Toonsylvania, more specifically “Igor’s Science Minute” where he sings the names of the natural elements, and now we can’t get it out of our heads. If anyone is sitting on a copy of that video, please get in touch. We NEED to rewatch it.

“Hydrogen, heeeelium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, fluoooorine, neeeeon…”
This is what we’re talking about. If you know it you know it.

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What we learned: If you’re going to leave your evil empire to someone, perhaps vet them a bit first? Also, the trick to defeating monsters is not to fear them. And powerful explosives. That works too.

Next time: Playtime (1967)

#288 Le Samouraï

Watched: January 1st 2021

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Starring: Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, François Périer

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 45min

So, happy new year, everyone. What a start. We’re not sure 2021 is going to be much better than 2020 judging by the first few weeks, but who knows? In Norway, we’ve gone right into a semi-lockdown so we’ve had our hands full dealing with the repercussions of that, while of course following the insanity that is the USA closely. However, we are the perpetual optimists and have high hopes for February! Things need to calm down at some point, right? And while we wait, why not watch some movies? Such as Jean-Pierre Melville’s amazing Le Samouraï.

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Remember when we said Tokyo Drifter was cool? Well, prepare to meet Le Samouraï! Jef Costello (Delon) is a French hitman. After being observed at a murder scene, he needs to avoid both the police and the people who hired him who now see him as a liability.

Unfortunately for a killer for hire, he is cursed with a face so ridiculously handsome that no eye witness will ever be able to forget him.

Silently and cooly, in his trenchcoat and fedora, he goes around Paris figuring out who to trust, who to love (if such a thing is possible), and how to survive.

He’s also working really hard on varying his facial expressions, but so far no dice.

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This movie is amazing. The story itself is not the most original, perhaps, but Alain Delon is fantastic as Costello. The world he inhabits is quiet, efficient, spartan and grey, but with the occasional song bird to brighten the mood. Or alert one of danger. Whatever rubs your Buddha.

Real question: how on earth did he end up owning a bird? Did he buy one? Did someone give it to him? Did it just come with the apartment? The public needs to know!

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We loved the little glimpses into the Parisian underworld, such as the mechanic Costello visits, the long, quiet scenes without dialogue, Costello’s M.O. in establishing his alibi and planning his evening of chilling and killing, the police’s strange practice of just rounding up a random 600 people to parade in front of eye witnesses in hopes of finding a match (we hope they put a bit more thought into it than it seemed..?), the two women in Costello’s life, and the quiet, suspenseful action of Le Samouraï.

“Witnesses descibed the shooter as a ridiculously handsome young man, so I got this middle aged lady in for the line-up, boss!” “Good work, officer! With work like this a promotion is just around the corner.”

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It’s stylish and suspenseful, visually a sort of mix between some of the other French films and the older American noirs, and a welcome distraction in a world gone topsy-turvy. And with that, we hope you are all safe and healthy, and we urge you to get your Samouraï on!

If hitmen in fedoras don’t get you hot, then you can at least appreciate the woman who actually manages to pull off this coat. You have our deepest admiration, Miss Rosier.

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What we learned: In Paris in 1967 there were only 100 different keys. Together, they opened every single door and started every engine. Also, everyone owned a set.

Next time: Mad Monster Party? (1967)