#250 Darling

Watched: December 30 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, José Luis de Vilallonga, Roland Curram

Year: 1965

Runtime: 2h 08min

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Diana Scott (Christie) is being interviewed for “Ideal Woman,” telling the story of her life. And what a life! From a “normal” life and a normal marriage, she becomes friends, and later lovers, with reporter Robert Gold (Bogarde). The two of them move through in the London art scene in the swinging sixties, partying and being adored.

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“My career goals? Model, actress or princess. Yes, I’m a grown woman. Why do you ask..?”

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They both leave their spouses for each other and move in together. However, Diana becomes very jealous when Robert goes back to his ex to see his kids. In fact, she decides to have her own child, but changes her mind when it becomes a reality.

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“You know what they say – bringing a baby into a troubled relationship always saves the day.”

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Diana, bored with Robert who likes to stay home and write, continues to seduce and be seduced to further her own modelling and acting career. She moves up in the world one man at a time while not playing very well with other women at all, all of whom she sees as threats. But what does she really want from life?

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“Oh, I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just, I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”

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Darling is fascinating and engaging, and the contrast between Diana’s words and actions is very interesting to watch. The stories we tell ourselves and others are clearly just a version of the truth.

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“Did I leave the iron on..?”

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We loved the clothes, the decadence and hypocrisy, the out and proud gay people, and all the fake books hiding vices throughout the movie. Julie Christie and Dirk Bogarde are wonderful as Diana and Robert, with both good and bad qualities.

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“Just think of all the ways we could eventually hurt and devastate each other!”

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Thematically, there are parallels to Bitter Harvest, but Diana is treated much better than Jennie. Jennie is pretty much a victim, while Diana is the author of her own destiny – for better or worse.

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“Bitch, I’m fabulous!”

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What we learned: If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?

Next time: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

#209 Victim

Watched: November 28 2018

Director: Basil Dearden

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Anthony Nicholls, Peter McEnery, Donald Churchill, Derren Nesbitt, John Barrie

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 30min

Victim

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Jack Barrett (McEnery) is on the run from the cops and desperately tries to contact several friends for help, all of whom turn him down and sends him on his way. When the police finally catches up with him, we learn that he is a victim of blackmail and Detective Inspector Harris (Barrie) correctly deduces the reason: Barrett is gay.

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It’s a lose/lose situation. He’s going to jail both for who he is and what he’s been forced to do to conceal that fact.

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When Barrett kills himself in his jail cell, one of the people who turned him away feels guilty. Successful barrister Melville Farr (Bogarde), a once close friend of the dead man (some might say too close), decides to find out the truth behind Barrett’s indirect murder and bring his blackmailer to justice.

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The unknown extortionist was a subtle man, gently blending into his surroundings, and did not in any way come across as the creepiest creep that ever creeped.

 

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There is just one problem. Farr is a respected member of society with a successful career and a lovely wife, Laura (Syms), both of which he stands to lose if he pursues his hunt. This does not deter him, and his investigation makes him vulnerable to scrutiny from a society in which homosexuality is not only frowned upon but illegal.

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Laura, for one, is not impressed by her husband’s indiscretions. She was under the impression that this was just a phase he went through in college (no, seriously, she really thought so).

 

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Victim really took us by surprise, as we were not familiar with it before it was added to the list. A movie which explores homosexuality and demonizes the society which condemns them rather than the gay men themselves? From 1961? We were very pleasantly surprised indeed!

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Granted, the gay (bisexual?) hero is married to a woman, and has apparently never acted on his homosexual urges, but it’s a start…

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It’s in many ways a very quiet movie, with little score, but it still packs a punch. We liked the Detective Inspector who seemed very sympathetic to the blackmail victims’ plight, all the people giving speeches about the ill-treatment of homosexuals and the fact that everyone treated Barrett’s suicide as a murder. It’s sad, outrageous and extremely engaging, and it must have been very controversial upon its release six years before homosexuality was legalized in Britain. And it’s definitely still worth seeing.

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Also, Patterson, Farr’s assistant (?), is our new hero

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What we learned: It’s incredible to think that people can be considered criminals because of who they are as opposed to what they do… And it’s even more incredible to think that this hasn’t changed – only the groups targeted have (and not even that in a lot of places).

Next time: West Side Story (1961)

#133 The Big Combo

Watched: September 16 2017

Director: Joseph H. Lewis

Starring: Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, Jean Wallace, Helen Walker

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 27min

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Leonard Diamond (Wilde) is a police lieutenant with a vendetta against crime lord Mr Brown (Conte). Despite warnings from his superiors and a distinct lack of evidence, he is hell-bent on bringing the gangster down and to save Mr Brown’s girl Susan Lowell (Wallace), with whom he is a bit obsessed.

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And who can blame him, with her face always being perfectly lit, even in shadows

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When Lowell tries to kill herself, Diamond finally has an opportunity to talk to her in her hospital bed. Not entirely conscious, she keeps muttering about someone named “Alicia,” but when she regains consciousness, she cannot say who Alicia is (or was).

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To the investigation-mobile!

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Mr Brown does not take kindly to Diamond’s interest in him, or his experiments with a lie-detector, so he kidnaps his nemesis, tortures him, and then pours him full of alcohol.

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Pictured: fun new ways of using a hearing aid!

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However, inventive torture devices do nothing to dissuade the investigator, who only increases his efforts to put the criminal behind bars. Following a hunch, Diamond goes out to prove that Brown is a killer, but what he finds is not quite what he expected.

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He does find time to snuggle with dancer Rita – an unlucky Dame with perfect make-up and low standards

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The Big Combo is dark and atmospheric, with great lighting and music. The characters are taken to the extreme; Diamond is exceedingly righteous and stubborn, while Brown is a sadistic psychopath with few redeeming features, apart from maybe his tongue, judging from the look on Susan’s face in one infamous scene.

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Her heart may regret getting involved with a gangster, but her body thinks otherwise…

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We loved the lighting, the smoke and the angles, the jazzy music and the use of sound around a pivotal moment in McClure’s life (which we will not spoil). The Big Combo is also surprisingly progressive sexually, with the aforementioned scene with Susan and Brown, as well as the heavily implied relationship between henchmen Fante and Mingo both being unusually explicit for the time.

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It’s (more than) guy love between two guuuuys

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Definitely worth watching, especially if you’re into noir films with lots of sexual undertones.

What we learned: Even gangster henchmen can find love in each other.

Next time: The Court Jester (1955)