#268 The Knack… And How to Get It

Watched: April 24 2020

Director: Richard Lester

Starring: Rita Tushingham, Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, Donal Donnelly

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 25min

First off, we do apologize for the sporadic posting – it’s partly to stall for time until we can get our hands on the next movies on the list (apparently, some are on their way!), but also partly because working from home actually turned out to be more time consuming than going into work, so we’re sort of a bit swamped… We will do our best though, and hope you all can be patient with us in these strange times.

Now, for The Knack… And How to Get It.

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Basically, an incel (Crawford) and a sleezy philanderer (and potential rapist) (Brooks) live in the same building, the former being driven a bit cray-cray by the latter’s long line of conquests. And also by the young girls in the school he works in who play netball in short skirts. The harlots!

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Philanderer sure has a type. And a sweet ride and a sweet tie. But nothing else to recommend him. Well, maybe the cool hair.

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Things change when artist Tom (Donnelly) moves into their spare room, and Female Character/Object Nancy (Tushingham) arrives in town. Tom and Colin (incel-dude) meet Nancy while she’s looking for the YWCA and bring her home to be victimized by Tolan (rapey-dude). However, after some really weird stuff goes down, she decides she’s attracted to Colin instead.

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Personally, we would have left them all way behind! Well, Tom seems sort of alright. Apart from his obsession with painting everything white. OK, you have a problem with brown, but white??? You can do better, Tom!

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Don’t get us wrong, there were things about this which we liked. The bed moving sequence is epic, we loved all the gags with doors opening and closing, and we really enjoyed to pace of the dialogue and the Greek choir of judgy people in the background commenting on everything that happened.

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Very Jules et Jim, with hints of Bande À Part

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We also kind of have a little sort of girl crush on Rita Tushingham. But we were a bit let down by her character. When she was first introduced, we thought she might be at least slightly sharp – the way she saw through the shop clerk and mocked his insincere flattery. However, once she started actually falling for Tolan’s crap even after she was CLEARLY very uncomfortable with his attention, we gave up. She wasn’t a person after all.

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And we had such high hopes for you and your crazy eyes!

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That being said, the scene with them in the white room was very good, if only because the interaction between Nancy and Tolan was so very, very uncomfortable and rapey. Not that Colin is much better. Tolan and Colin are just misogynistic in different ways – none of them seemed to see women as people, just objects to be desired and earned.

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Note to all: this is not the expression of someone who enjoys your attention. And if that’s not evident, you might want to work on your people skills.

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Overall, this gave the impression of being set in some weird fantasy world, the rules of which we were not informed. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – we tend to enjoy being thrown into those worlds. It’s just that this one didn’t engage us. There are good gags and a good pace, but otherwise this struck us as a bit rapey, incely, and dated. Is it possible we misread it? Of course! But we’re still not sold…

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Lots of good gags involving doors (or lack thereof) though.

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What we learned: Mods and rockers. Also, why don’t “friends” call douches like Tolan on their crap??? “No one is raped unless they want it” my ass!

Next time: Batman (1966) if the postal gods are merciful. Or possibly a bonus: Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965). Time (and the postal service) will tell.

#254 Repulsion

Watched: February 9 2020

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux, Patrick Wymark

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 45min

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So, here’s the thing. We enjoyed the movie. We loved Catherine Deneuve. The story is intriguing, and the men are sleazy and disgusting. However, watching Polanski-movies is difficult in light of, well, him… (And yes, we know this might seem a bit hypocritical seeing as we actually did review Knife in the Water. We have just given it a bit more thought since then. And sure, there are probably lots of other problematic directors as well, but in this case there is so little doubt and it is so well publicized that it cannot be ignored.)

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Also, he’s clearly just ripping off Beauty and the Beast

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It’s the continuous debate of whether one can truly separate the artist from the art. Considering that he still goes free and is even rewarded (and awarded) despite being a rapist piece of shit, viewing and reviewing his movies is conflicting. Especially when they involve sleazy men trying to take advantage of mentally ill women. But, like, sexy mentally ill women. So that makes it ok, apparently…

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Cause as we all know, nothing is sexier than a spiralling woman. She probably just needs a penis to set her straight.

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We’re not going to tell you whether to watch this or not. It’s entirely up to you. The film itself is intriguing and beautifully shot, but it is also problematic in oh so many ways.

What we learned: Watching (old) Polanski movies is difficult…

Next time: Simon of the Desert (1965)

Bonus: Bitter Harvest

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Peter Graham Scott

Starring: Janet Munro, John Stride, Terence Alexander, Anne Cunningham, Alan Badel

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Jennie (Munro) is a small town girl living in a lonely world. She takes the midnight train going anywhere. Well, actually, she gets a drunken ride with a couple of older men to their apartment in London and is raped and abandoned. But that doesn’t sound as nice.

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“What do you mean, raped? A beautiful young ginger girl who deliberately drank champagne in the company of strange men cannot possibly be raped.”

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Her whole life she has dreamed of the luxury and fame she’s been sold in commercials and movies, but when she tries to pursue it, she is brutally punished by every man she meets. After the rape, she meets barman Bob (Stride) who invites her to stay with him, and the two start a relationship. However, Jennie is not satisfied with just staying at home and being a girlfriend – she wants a career of her own, which Bob sees as a threat to their relationship. Actually, he sees everyone as a threat to their relationship, and would rather have Jennie stay at home and never talk to anyone but him ever again. When she meets abusive producer Karl Denny (Badel), she immediately (and completely out of character) surrenders to him and leaves Bob.

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“Well, I just figured one abusive asshole is as good as the next. At least he can make me famous.”

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Now, Bitter Harvest is an interesting one. Everything we’ve read about this movie (which, granted, isn’t a lot, but still) seems to suggest Jennie is a manipulative, selfish young woman who will do anything to get ahead, and who doesn’t appreciate what she has. But this is not how we read it at all.

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Even her obliviousness to the attempted seduction when she’s caught in the bathtub seemed genuine and not manipulative

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What we saw was a young, sweet and naïve, though willful, girl who stood up for herself and dreamed of a more exciting life. When she told “nice guy” Bob she was pregnant at their first meeting, she wasn’t lying but thought she told him the truth – she had had sex (read: had been raped) and thus she must be pregnant.

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It’s bad enough waking up naked in a strange man’s bed without having to worry about pregnancy

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Also, she never lies to Bob about what she needs money for, or where she’s going. She just (rightfully) assumes that this is her choice to make, and that if he loves her, he will support her choices. However, despite his kindness in taking her in when they both think she’s pregnant with another man’s child, Bob is a controlling and condescending asshole who resorts to threats and violence when Jennie makes her own choices. When she refuses to leave with him, he tries to strangle her, suggesting he’s not really the nice guy he is painted to be.

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A girl who doesn’t do what you tell her and goes out to see people to further her career even though you told her not to? And then has the audacity to talk back to you, the good guy, when you stalk her to drag her back home? Better strangle that bitch!

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Jennie’s willful and autonomous side is also what makes her complete surrender at Denny’s slap seem out of character. Personally, we feel that in order to control her like that, he needed to build up to it, not slap her on the first night. However, perhaps her hope of a better life blinds her.

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We’re just saying, the Jennie from the first part of the movie would never let herself be slapped into submission. At least not on the first date.

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Finally, just a couple of words about the popular interpretation of her “little black book” that the police find in her apartment: we didn’t interpret that as evidence of her “promiscuity” as many suggest, but as evidence of Denny prostituting her. However, none of us has read the book the movie is based on – our interpretation is based solely on the movie we watched. And in that, we think Jennie has been unfairly treated by several viewers.

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Unfair or not, she gets her punishment in the end, as all willful and ambitious girls must.

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As mentioned, there are some similarities between Jennie and Patsy from The Small World of Sammy Lee, made especially clear to us as we watched them as a double feature. The difference is that Patsy stumbles into the sex trade because of her love for a man, while Jennie falls into it due to ambition and a hope for a better life for herself. Thus, Patsy makes it out while Jennie must be punished. Really – give us time and money and we can probably write a thesis on this. Although we suspect this has already been done many times over…

So, how do we feel about Bitter Harvest? We think it’s an interesting film to watch, but it’s problematic enough that we can see how it has been removed from the list.

What we learned: Apparently, girls should be satisfied with what they have, whether it’s an uneventful life in a small, dead town or as a spouse to a man prone to violence whenever he doesn’t get his way.

Next time: Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

Bonus: The Curse of the Werewolf

Watched: November 9 2018

Director: Terence Fisher

Starring: Oliver Reed, Clifford Evans, Yvonne Romain, Catherine Feller, Anthony Dawson, Richard Wordsworth, Hira Talfrey

Year: 1961

Runtime: 1h 33min

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Somewhere in 18th century Spain, a beggar (Wordsworth) goes to a castle to ask for some food and/or money. But the marquis (Dawson) is a cruel man and a bully, and he imprisons the beggar and promptly forgets about him. Left in the dungeon for fifteen years, the poor man is forgotten about by all but the jailer and his mute daughter.

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One look at this man and we would have run for our lives. Unfortunately the beggar didn’t share our instincts for people.

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After those fifteen years, the daughter (Romain) refuses to be raped by the marquis, and he throws her in the dungeon with the beggar. Apparently, he has forgotten all about the girl’s kindness to him and rapes her himself, and then dies (karma’s a bitch!).  The girl is sent back to the marquis so that he can have his way with her, but having been raped once already, she’s not about to let the bastard win, so she kills him and flees.

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Sometimes it’s a good, and righteous, thing to be a backstabbing bitch

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The runaway girl, now pregnant, is later found in the woods by Don Alfredo Corledo (Evans) and Teresa (Talfrey) who take her in and, when she dies in childbirth on Christmas Day, take on the responsibility of her newborn son.

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“Say, Teresa, do we know who the boy’s father is..? I only ask because he seems to be displaying some rather unusual dental development here which has me quite confused”

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Turns out though, unwanted children born on Christmas Day are cursed to be werewolves. Which makes us wonder why lycanthropy isn’t a bigger social problem than it currently seems to be. While young Leon (Reed) at first manages to keep his condition under control, once he grows up and faces adversity as well as love, he loses what little control he has and all hell breaks loose.

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Honestly, we were half expecting him to break into song once he had climbed the bell tower. Colour us disappointed.

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The Curse of the Werewolf was removed from the list after we’d already bought it, so as is tradition, we’re doing it anyway, dammit! And we’re glad we did. We loved the opening credits with the sad werewolf, the interesting explanation for the condition, and Leon’s partner in crime (not literally though) José.

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Also, even though it preceeds it by almost 5 decades, this is yet another werewolf better than the atrocity in The Prisoner of Azkaban. No, we’re still not over it.

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In many ways, it’s more a drama than a horror, except the ending which is very Frankenstein. But we believe it works for fans of both genres. Well worth watching! Even though there are apparently at least 1000 films which are better than this one… Let’s call it number 1001 and recommend it anyway. Happy New Year!

What we learned: Don’t give birth to unwanted children on Christmas day. We know, it’s a bit late for 2018, but keep it in mind for next year.

Next time: Bonus: Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

#201 The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan

Watched: September 19 2018

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom, Birgitta Pettersson, Allan Edwall, Axel Düberg, Tor Isedal

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Ingeri (Lindblom) is an unwed pregnant servant for a prosperous Swedish family. Angry at her circumstance and jealous of spoiled rich girl Karin (Pettersson), she prays to Odin for justice while the rest of the household are Christian.

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She’s a freaking delight at parties

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The two young women are sent to church to deliver candles for mass, but Ingeri is spooked by the forest (and an appearance by Odin himself, probably) and Karin goes off on her own. She runs into a trio of goat herds who she invites to share her meal but being pampered and naïve, she does not sense the danger they pose until it’s too late.

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Clearly, she’s never met anyone not interested in her well-being before. They’re not even trying to be non-creepy!

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With Ingeri watching from the trees, two of the three men rape and then kill Karin, steal her clothes and valuables, and then leave her half naked body in the woods to rot. Later that night, the brothers seek shelter with Karin’s parents Märeta (Valberg) and Töre (von Sydow). The now worried parents only discover the brutal truth when their guests try to sell Märeta Karin’s distinctive and expensive dress, spotted with blood. They start preparing their revenge…

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Daddy forgets all about his Christian values when faced with his daughter’s brutal murder. Luckily for him, he keeps a pagan/satanic knife handy for just these kinds of situations.

 

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The Virgin Spring is like a dark and brutal fairytale – Karin is the innocent princess and Ingeri the dark witch (although she does seek redemption in the end). The three headed troll popular in Scandinavian folklore is also present, and there’s friction between the old faiths and beliefs and the relatively new Christian faith (which technically raped its way through Scandinavia, so the roles are slightly reversed) which we also often see in traditional fairytales.

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It’s almost as if thy’re going for some sort of contrast or something. We’re not sure.

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The rape scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch, even by today’s standards (as, indeed, all rape scenes should be) and the tension throughout the movie is palpable. For us Norwegians though, the appearance of Allan Edwall as a beggar residing with the prosperous farmers is a welcome distraction from the horror. Anyone who grew up in the Nordic countries in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s are familiar with him from his roles in several films based on Astrid Lindgren.

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The man never fails to remind us of happier, more innocent times. Although, of course, there was no way Bergman would have foreseen that. (Sorry for picture quality. There’s a distinct lack of Edwall-stills from this movie online.)

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This is a fantastic, tense and uncomfortable movie about jealousy, hatred, revenge and redemption, and we truly recommend it. Even if you have no relationship with Allan Edwall.

What we learned: Hell hath no fury like a parent bereft. Also, try not to summon the old gods if you’re not 100% sure you can handle it. Just a little tip for you.

Next time: The Village of the Damned (1960)