#274 Gambit

Watched: August 5 2020

Director: Ronald Neame

Starring: Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Herbert Lom

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Hong Kong. Harry Dean (Caine) approaches nightclub dancer Nicole Chang (MacLaine) with an offer she cannot refuse.

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Who wouldn’t accept $5000 to stand around, say nothing and be alluring for a night? In fact, you can contact us at 1000filmsblog@gmail.com for available days…

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Harry has it all figured out. He will distract the incredibly rich Shahbandar (Lom) with Nicole’s uncanny resemblance to his dead wife. While Shahbandar focuses all his energy on Nicole, Harry will be free to case his apartment and later on steal a valuable bust. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

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…or is that Easy peasy racist squeezy?

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Naturally, everything goes according to plan, both Nicole and Shahbandar play into Harry’s schemes perfectly, none of them has any ideas or agency of their own, and it’s all smooth sailing. It’s a very short film.

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“Look, lady, I didn’t hire you to smile. Or speak. Or be human. Why can’t you just stand around all silent and mysterious and do as you’re told like the woman in my dream heist???”

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You know it’s going to be a good movie when the opening credits include “gowns designed by” and “hairstyles designed by.” At least visually. And Gambit delivers in every way.

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“Just throw in some tinsel and that old Dracula cape we found lying around. Fashion!”

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We loved the contrast between the dream heist and the reality, how much Nicole saves Harry’s ass throughout the movie (he really should have prepared better!), and everything Shirley MacLaine.

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“Now that I’ve got my hands on the prize I will stare wistfully into the distance and think deep thoughts about life, love, priorities and such.”

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This is a very fun, engaging and exciting heist comedy, with some screwball elements and wonderful actors. We were thoroughly entertained!

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Just try to ignore the unfortunate brown-face and cultural appropriation. It’s of its time.

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What we learned: People never behave the way you plan. And some people are worth more than money.

Next time: Kill Baby, Kill! (1966)

#267 The Ipcress File

Watched: April 15 2019

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Frank Gatliff, Freda Bamford

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Dr Radcliff boards the 7.55 to Nottingham and then promptly disappears – the last in a long line of misplaced scientist working for the British government.

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Pro tip: if scientists are disappearing at an alarming rate, try diversifying your reading material when in public.

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After a long and strange morning ritual (who goes through all that trouble to grind beans and make French press coffee and then NOT let it steep??? You’re basically drinking beige water at that point), Sergeant Harry Palmer (Caine) of the Ministry of Defence goes into work and is given a new mission recovering the misplaced scientific equipment.

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“He’s about yea high, grey hair, glasses, sort of sciency-looking..? Yeah, we keep losing him, so give us a call if someone turns him in, ok?”

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The “insubordinate trickster” Palmer starts to track down the main suspect, Albanian scientist-stealer “Bluejay” (Gatliff), alongside fellow spies and officers, including love interest Jean Courtney (Lloyd). However, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a mole inside the British Army. Who can it be?

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In real life, our money would be on the guy with the obviously fake glasses.

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Can you do better than The Ipcress File if you’re in the mood for an espionage thriller with brainwashed scientists, sexual tension, double crossing weasels, cheeky yet charming scoundrels, and some sort of cooking fetish? Possibly. But you can certainly do a hell of a lot worse!

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We think this picture speaks for itself

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Michael Caine is more likable than he has any right to be, and we enjoyed the bureaucracy of espionage – you never see a single L101 in a Bond-film! We also loved the exchange in the parking garage, the library (we want one!), the bowler hats, all the lamps, the shot composition, and the sort of jazzy/noiry music.

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So many lamps. We kind of regret not counting them. Hit us up if you are bored enough to do that very thing! #coronahobbies

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Double this with The Manchurian Candidate for the perfect cold war/paranoia/science-gone-wild/brainwashing thriller evening. And kids? Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands and watch excellent movies.

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Make yourself a pot of stronger coffee than Harry and have yourself a marathon!

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What we learned: Don’t slouch like a pregnant camel. Also, Sister the Youngest learned the advantages of a revolver vs. an automatic for when you want to get away with a crime. Sister the Oldest has known for a very long time…

Next time: The Knack… And How to Get It (1965)

#248 Zulu

Watched: November 17 2019

Director: Cy Endfield

Starring: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 18min

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The year is 1879. In South Africa, imperialism rules, but Zulus have attacked a white settlement and won, which inspires another tribe to do the same to a nearby mission/military hospital.

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“Yippee ki yay motherfuckers!”

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At the mission, Lieutenants Chard (Baker) and Bromhead (Caine) must learn to work together and cooperate if they are to defend themselves from the 4000 advancing Zulus with their own measly 150 soldiers, many wounded.

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“You think you’re so cool, riding in here with your title and rank and stupid sexy hair…”

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Zulu is a famous epic depicting real events with surprisingly little racism considering the subject matter and the time. Sure, we do not really see the Zulus’ side of the story, and they are a nameless, faceless, personalityless mass for most of the movie. However, they are also intelligent, strategic, cultured and honorable, which makes the film a lot less dated than we’d expect.

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Basically, they are people. And treated as people. Which should be a given but sadly is not.

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The cinematography is gorgeous, the characters are great (Bromhead is a very shady queen!), and the suspense is real. Also, fun fact, the Zulu king Cetshwayo kaMpande is played by his real life grandson Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

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However, no fun fact can compare to the glorious moustache of Colour-Sergeant Nigel Green

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We loved the arrival of the Zulu, the British adherence to protocol even in a crisis (proper tunic etiquette is to be observed at all times!), the action, and the game we made up wherein we recast the movie using only Monty Python members (they all correspond perfectly with a character in the film!). And did we mention it is gorgeous? Well worth a watch!

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“We’re knights if the round table, we dance whene’er we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable…”

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What we learned: Invade someone’s land and they might be a bit pissed off.

Next time: #249 Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)