#287 In the Heat of the Night

Watched: December 27 2020

Director: Norman Jewison

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 50min

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Officer Sam Woods (Oates) is doing his rounds in a small Mississippi town when he comes across a dead body. The dead man turns out to Mr Colbert – an investor come to build industry and save the town. There also happens to be a black man waiting for a train at the station, so obviously Woods arrests him for the murder.

“Well sir, he was behaving in a very suspect sort of a way. He was reading while being black.”

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Virgil Tibbs (Poitier), the man arrested, is brought to the Chief of Police Gillespie (Steiger) and questioned. It turns out he is far from a suspect – he is in fact a homicide investigator from Philadelphia. Better than that, he is the homicide investigator in Philadelphia. So his boss suggests he stays behind in Sparta to help solve the murder.

“This is a local murder for local people! There’s nothing for you here!”

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Tibbs is great at his job, something Gillespie recognises despite his racist views. In this small Southern town a black investigator meets with a lot of resistance though, and especially the local Angry Young Men™ mob up to kill him. After some potentially lethal encounters, Gillespie advices Tibbs to leave, but he is unable to walk away from a case. Can the unlikely duo solve it and survive the investigation?

“Actually Chief, we’re presidentially sanctioned Proud Angry Young Boys™. We think you’ll find our tiny dicks are proof of this. We suggest you step out of our way and let us deal with our insecurity by letting a rich white man use us for his own benefit.”

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Even on a freezing December evening in Norway, we could feel the oppressive heat of Sparta, Mississippi. In the Heat of the Night is exciting and unnerving, and edge-of-your-seat tense. Unfortunately, it says a lot about the world that it did not even occur to us for the first hour that Tibbs could survive the movie… It’s a sad statement indeed.

Despite being over 50 years old, it’s still a relevant movie. Its themes of racism, prejudice and social distancing seem surprisingly modern and contemporary!

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Sidney Poitier is mesmerising, the chemistry between him and Rod Steiger is great, the mystery is as intriguing as the exploration of racism and prejudice, and the soundtrack is excellent. This is what you get when you combine a fantastic cast, director and script. It’s a sort of buddy-cop movie, a social commentary drama, a character study, and a great murder mystery all wrapped up in one. We loved it!

Trust us, it’s worth watching for this scene alone. Fight the power!

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What we learned: Don’t let your prejudices cloud your judgment.

Next time: Le Samouraï (1967)

#273 Fantastic Voyage

Watched: July 27 2020

Director: Richard Fleischer

Starring: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Donald Pleasence, Edmond O’Brien, Arthur O’Connelly, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 40min

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During the cold war, an important scientist is nearly assassinated, and ends up in a coma.

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Then, to add insult to injury, someone glued a bunch of numbers and letters on his head. For shits and giggles. At least they’re all responsibly wearing masks.

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Surgery to repair the trauma to his brain proves to be too dangerous, and his knowledge is invaluable (if he still retains it), so naturally they come up with the only possible solution: shrink a crew of surgeons, captains, security people etc., and send them into the scientist’s blood stream in a submarine. With a possible traitor. And a laser.

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Why on earth didn’t they just send the surgeon in with the crew who went in to install all the lighting? Would have saved them hours.

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Inside the comatose man (sounds slightly illegal..?), Grant, Cora, the doctors and the rest of the crew encounter many obstacles. Chief among them being antibodies, arteriovenous fistula (learned a new word!), sabotage and sound. Not to mention cobwebs…

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Behold: the consequence of all the spiders you have accidentally consumed throughout your life!

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Fantastic Voyage is a fun and thrilling adventure film which has spawned many a spoof, parody and tribute. We loved the ’60s aesthetics, the disclaimer and title sequence, the lava lamp blood stream, generally everything to do with the design.

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Journey to the Centre of the Lava Lamp

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The plot was also intriguing and exciting, though we did unfortunately peg the traitor from the beginning. We were hoping for a double bluff, but alas!

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Spoiler alert: the saboteur is somewhere in this picture…

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Is it scientifically accurate? Probably not. We’re not physicians or physicists, but our basic understanding of human biology informs us that some artistic liberties may have been taken. However, it is very entertaining and just a tiny bit silly. Definitely worth a watch.

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Then, imagine these guys swimming inside of you. Among the cobwebs…

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What we learned: Humanity has NOT focused enough energy on the development of shrinking technology. Get your priorities straight, science people!

Next time: Gambit (1966)

#269 Batman

Watched: May 27 2020

Director: Leslie H. Martinson

Starring: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier, Neil Hamilton, Stafford Repp

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 45min

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Today we bring you the peak of cinematic history: 1966’s Batman. It’s the perfect movie and we defy you to find anything better. Bruce Wayne (West) and his youthful ward Dick Grayson (Ward) live double lives as caped crusaders Batman and Robin in Gotham city. But their daily crime fighting routine is disrupted when their main enemies band together to kidnap the United World’s Security Council by dehydrating them.

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Holy Convoluted Plot, Batman!

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The Joker (Romero), Catwoman (Meriwether), The Riddler (Gorshin) and The Penguin (Meredith) have kidnapped an inventor and stolen his dehydrator. With it, they can reduce people to a fine powder and then bring them back by adding water. Science!

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Holy Evil Science School, Batman!

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However, The Caped Crusader and The Boy Wonder will not let them get away with their nefarious plans! They will POW! BLURP! THWACK! BIFF! and SPLA-AT! the council members to freedom and the villains to their doom.

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Holy KAPOW! Batman!

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You have probably gathered how we feel about this movie from the opening line. It’s been a favourite ever since we used to watch the TV-show as kids, and it has aged oh so well. It may not be the most sophisticated piece of cinematic history, but it’s silly, campy fun which works for all ages.

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Holy Sardine, Batman!

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What’s not to love? The opening credits, the narrator, the bat gadgets (batgets..?), the quintessential Batmusic, the riddle solving and jumping to conclusions, the insane dedication to putting batwings on stuff, and the superhero physique we can all aspire to and actually achieve (I think we can all agree that this is more within our reach than becoming Chris Hemsworth) – they’re all brilliant and very cartoony.

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Holy Marathon, Batman!

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Our favourites are the Shark Repellent Bat Spray and Robin’s endless supply of holiness. But the cheap costumes and the fact that Romero couldn’t even be bothered to shave off his mustache for the role are also part of what makes this movie special. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour asap.

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Holy Complete Television Show, Batman!

What we learned: Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

Next time: Blow-Up (1966)

#235 A Shot in the Dark

Watched: June 25 2019

Director: Blake Edwards

Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Burt Kwouk, our dad’s old guitar.

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 42min

We’re back! After charging our batteries in lovely Vietnam (you must go!) we’re ready for another year of classic A-, B-, and C-movies, starting with the very silly and charming A Shot in the Dark.

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We open on a series of illicit affairs and romances all taking place in the same building, and the scene ends in a shot. In the dark. And then a dead chauffeur. Enter Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers).

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Mustache and trenchcoat ready for beumbs and beumps!

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The incompetent and clumsy inspector is the only one convinced that main suspect, the beautiful maid Maria Gambrelli (Sommer), is innocent, and he sets out to prove this. In the course of his investiation, the bodies keep piling up and his superior, Commissioner Dreyfus (Lom), is gradually driven mad and homicidal by Clouseau’s apparent bungling of the case.

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“Bungling? Who’s bungling? This was always the plan. I am solving this.”

 

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The plot is not really that important though. This is all about the gags, and they are numerous and hilarious.

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Among our favourites: Kato. Everything related to Kato.

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There are so many things we adored in this movie. We particularly loved Kato and his sneak attacks, the lethal (and multicultural) date night, all Clouseau’s disguises, and the synchronising of the watches. However, the gags are too numerous to list, and the entire movie is just a masterclass in slapstick and physical comedy.

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Also, could it possibly be an inspiration for one of the murders in Hot Fuzz..?

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We were slightly traumatised by Sellers using our dad’s old guitar to cover up in the nudist colony (we swear it’s the exact guitar!) but otherwise we had a blast with this movie. Often, we become frustrated and annoyed with bumbling, incompetent characters and farces, but Sellers is so damned good that in this case we were just charmed instead. Well done, Edwards and Sellers!

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“I can’t believe that idiot inspector was an actual success! FML.”

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What we learned: We suspect everyone. And we suspect no one. Also, no fabric is safe around this man.

Next time: Band of Outsiders/Bande à part (1964)

#165 The Fly

Watched: February 19 2018

Director: Kurt Neumann

Starring: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, Torben Meyer

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 34min

So, first of all, we must apologize (once again) for the sporadicness (is that a word..? We’ll say it is.) of the posts lately. We’ve both been very busy with moving, redecorating, and having paying day jobs. Hopefully, the worst is now behind us, and we can get back to more regular updates. On the bright side, we bring you a real treat for Easter! The Fly!

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Somewhere in Canada (the French part), Gaston (Meyer) is having a bad day. He thought he would just have another uneventful day janitoring, but instead he stumbles across the mutilated, crushed body of scientist André Delambre (Hedison) and witnesses Mrs Hélène Delambre (Owens) fleeing the crime scene. Probably not the day he was expecting.

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No one runs like Gaston, no one gasps like Gaston, no one finds mutilated dead guys like Gaston…

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Hélène contacts her brother-in-law François (Price) and while there’s no doubt she killed her husband, she is rich and respected enough to be interrogated by the police in her own bedroom. After a few days of bedrest, with a strange new obsession with flies, she confides in her brother-in-law and recounts the events leading up to her husband’s fatal encounter with the hydraulic press.

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“You’re not going to believe this, but in actual fact it was just like killing a fly! Though a bit more technically complicated. That press isn’t easy to operate.”

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André, a scientist, had been testing out his new invention, a “disintegrator-integrator” with various results (including one that turns their cat into a disembodied meowing phantom). Not content with just transporting things and animals, he decided to test it on himself, as all slightly megalomaniac scientists are prone to do.

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Things went slightly awry…

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As every moviegoer/reader could have predicted, things went very, very wrong, and André’s DNA got mixed up with that of a housefly. Everything pretty much went downhill from there.

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Hélène was not a fan of her husband’s new look

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The Fly from 1958 has a very different approach than Cronenberg’s 1986 version, but we love them both. The title even feels like it might refer to different things in the two versions. This has more of a murder-mystery feel, and there’s less focus on the transformation, although that is still very much present.

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Exhibit A

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We loved the flies buzzing around, the murder-mystery approach, and Vincent Price in all his glory. It’s a lovely, creepy horror film, and a must-see for every fan of the genre. Or of flies. We don’t judge.

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Or even fans of very thick spiderwebs. As we said – we don’t judge your fetish. You do you!

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What we learned: Don’t kill flies without checking thoroughly first.

Next time: Touch of Evil (1958)

#138 Bigger Than Life

Watched: October 4 2017

Director: Nicholas Ray

Starring: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Robert F. Simon, Walter Matthau

Year: 1956

Runtime: 1h 35min

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School’s out for Easter. What a dream! Though not for teacher Ed Avery (Mason), who suffers stomach pains and is on his way to his second job as a cab dispatcher. Despite his clear discomfort and his rush to get to his second, secret, job, he takes the time to give a student a break and to play matchmaker for a couple of colleagues. An all round good guy!

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Pictured: every teacher’s face at vacation time

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After a dinner party, Ed collapses and his wife Lou (Rush) and BFF Wally (Matthau) get him to the hospital. The doctors run a series of tests, including a very cool and quite possibly cancer-inducing X-Ray with barium, and are discouraged by what they find. Without treatment, Ed has less than a year to live.

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A life span further reduced by the liberal helpings of barium and x-radiation

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The only treatment found to be somewhat effective is the newly discovered (possibly?) hormone cortisone, but it can have serious side-effects. After weeks of experimenting, a proper dosage is found, and Ed is sent back home with a few weeks’ supply of cortisone pills.

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Ed’s medication gives him a new appreciation for fancy clothes and shopping sprees. There’s a chance we may have too much cortisone in our systems…

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In time, Lou starts noticing some changes in her husband’s personality. He is more adventurous and spontaneous, but less sensible and responsible. He is energetic and manic with terrible mood swings and occasional tremors.

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There’s always a possibility he is possessed, according to the mirror

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As Ed’s solution is to up his cortisone intake, his new personality traits develop into full blown delusions of grandeur, complete with a new tyrannical approach to family life.

 

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Even his shadow gets in on the action, looming threateningly over his young son Richie

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Bigger Than Life is very dramatic, and Ed’s development throughout the film goes from one extreme to the next. We loved the X-Ray/barium scene, the dramatic crescendo of the ending, the shadows and the general craziness. It may not be a film we’ll rewatch over and over again, but it is definitely worth watching once.

What we learned: Teachers owe it to themselves to be sick on school days – not during vacation. Word! Also, stick to the prescribed dosage.

Next time: Forbidden Planet (1956)