#299 The President’s Analyst

Watched: May 24 2021

Director: Theodore J. Flicker

Starring: James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Joan Delaney, Pat Harrington Jr.

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Dr Sidney Schaefer (Coburn) is recruited to be, as the title suggests, the President’s psychoanalyst. And boy does the President need it! Schaefer is conveniently moved to a new home with a secret tunnel connecting it to the White House, meaning that his new patient can call on him at all hours of the day and night. And he does.

Who wouldn’t want this to be the face they see morning, noon and night?

Cushy or not, the job is top secret and totes private, so Schaefer cannot vent to anyone about the stress and pressure of his new position, and this soon starts to tear on his own psyche. He begins to see conspiracies everywhere – even suspecting his new girlfriend of spying on him.

“Leave your girlfirend, your friends and your family. Come with us. We’re safe. We’re good. We’re not going to stare at you while you sleep and try to steal your soul.”

Turns out he’s right all along! There are a whole bunch of agencies out to get him, such as the CEA, the FBR, the KGB and, worst of all, the TPC! How is a poor psychiatrist supposed to get out of this mess?

The way we all get out of scrapes: with the help of a gun-toting, trigger happy, all-American family with excellent fashion sense, of course!

This movie is hilarious. Ok, it’s very, very silly, but if you’re in the right mood it’s great. The sixties are truly swinging in this comedy/thriller/sci-fi, and Coburn is swinging along. Despite his strife, he seems very jolly and happy all the time – he handles everything thrown at him with ease. He appears to be especially delighted during his stint as a gong player in a hippie band while on the run.

“I cannot believe I wasted my life with a good education and the pursuit of a career! Stick it to the MAN!”

The quintessential American Family™ the Quandrills are also among our favourites, but what we enjoyed the most about this movie were all the different agencies and their relationships with each other. The agents and spies from the FBR, KGB, TPC, CSS, CEA, etc. tend to bump into each other so often that they’re all old friends – especially Masters (Cambridge) and Kropotkin (Darden), CEA and KGB, respectively. Their scenes together are easily the best parts of the movie. We also enjoyed the piles of dead assassins and spies. Mass murder is hilarious (in the right context)!

Also, phone companies are evil. But we already knew that.

What we learned: Are you paranoid if they’re actually out to get you?

Next time: The Producers (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)

#277 Seconds

Watched: September 12 2020

Director: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Rock Hudson, John Randolph, Frances Reid, Murray Hamilton, Salome Jens

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 46min

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Arthur Hamilton (Randolph) is a middle aged, middle class banker who is tired of his unfulfilling existence. One day he receives a phone call from a deceased friend with promises of a whole new world.

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“A whole new wooorld! A new distorted point of view…”

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He seeks out the address given to him on a train and before he knows it he is pretty much blackmailed to go through with “rebirth” – a faked death, a new name, a new face, and a new life.

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“No point in screaming ‘no’ – you’ve nowhere to go! You’ll wish you’re only dreaming!”

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However, what could seem a dream to many in reality turns into a nightmare when Arthur, now Tony Wilson (Hudson), struggles to adjust to his new existence.

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“A whole new world (each new face a surprise!)”

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Seconds is tense, uncomfortable and unsettling. Tony’s decline and his ultimate fate are completely out of his control and very brutal.

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“A hundred thousand grapes to squeeze (get undressed, you’re a pagan)”

The film gave us a bit of a noir-vibe, possibly because of the way it is shot. We were gripped throughout though very uncomfortable, especially for the last 30 minutes or so. You can see where it’s going, but you still can’t look away.

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“Stop shouting who you are – you’ve gone too far!”

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The only weakness here is in the script – possibly the original book: we would have thought it even more impactful if Arthur/Tony chose to go through with the rebirth. As it is, he was tricked into it, which makes the message somewhat less poignant. In our opinion.

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“Now we’ll take your whole new world awaaaay…”

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All in all, if you want a depressing and disturbing sci-fi film for a rainy Tuesday night, go for Seconds. You can do a lot worse.

What we learned: Don’t believe the hype! (Except the hype about this movie. That’s all true.)

Next time: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

#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)

#264 The 10th Victim/La decima vittima

Watched: March 15 2019

Director: Elio Petri

Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Ursula Andress, Elsa Martinelli, Salvo Randone, Massimo Serato, Luce Bonifassy

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 32min

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In the near future (from 1965 so, now..?), people are given an outlet for violent tendencies and aggression through “The Big Hunt” – a game in which each participant gets five rounds as hunter and five as victim. The idea is that this will stop people from going to war. You’re licensed to kill your victim and your hunter, and if you win ten rounds there’s a big prize waiting for you!

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The prize is no longer having to wear outfits that will cut you up if you move. Yay!

 

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One of the greatest hunters is Caroline Meredith (Andress) – a woman with deadly boobs and the wits to go with them. But when she’s pitted against Italian pro Marcello Poletti (Mastroianni) she meets her match. In every sense.

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“Oh, don’t mind me. I was just planning to make a surrealist documentary about a man drinking from 16 glasses at once when I happened to spot you. Carry about your business.”

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This thing was insane and we loved it! The ’60s-inspired futuristic fashion is amazing, and the entire movie is sexy, stylish, campy fun. We loved the dancing, the cow print dress, the insanity of Marcello’s sun worshipping cult (what the h*** was that all about?), Caroline’s deadly boobs, the random people killing each other in the background, and Marcello’s wife and girlfriend going off on their own spree.

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It might look cool, but girl – those tan lines!

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This is one of the most entertaining episodes of Spy vs. Spy you’ll ever see, and an interesting take on a futuristic dystopia. But a stylish, sexy dystopia. With excellent fashion (and government controlled culling of the elderly, but we’re not supposed to focus on that..).

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We simultaneously love and hate this hot pink outfit in equal measure. We have nothing but love for the musicians on the boxes though.

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We would love to watch this on the big screen at some point as a normal TV could never do it justice. And we encourage everyone to do the same if you ever get the chance once social distancing and quarantines are over. We’re also wondering just how many drugs were involved in the making of it…

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Our best guess is oh so many. And some very creative designers with a penchant for colour blocking.

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What we learned: The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet.

Next time: The Collector (1965)

#253 Planet of the Vampires/Terrore nello spazio

Watched: January 15 2020

Director: Mario Bava

Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda, Evi Marandi, Stelio Candelli, Franco Andrei, Fernando Villena

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 28min

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Back to civilization after winter break, we dive into the magical and stylish world of Mario Bava with Planet of the Vampires (pronounced vampyres, like Andrew’s documentary in the Buffy episode “Storyteller“. At least in our minds).

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Unfortunately, despite a good start, the female heroes in this this movie tend to scream, faint, and/or run away at the first sign of the undead. Buffy would not approve.

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Argos, a spaceship filled with beautiful people in fabulous leather outfits, approaches an unexplored planet together with its sister ship Galliott. Both ships are sucked into the planet’s atmosphere and go in for a rough landing, and then the crew members try to kill each other once they wake up from the crash.

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“I’m sure glad someone designed these high necked and traditionally vampire proof outfits for our space journey. Their reliance on perfect peripheral vision is exactly what has gone wrong with earlier expeditions.”

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A knock on the head is enough to bring them back to themselves, and the Argonauts go out onto the new planet to see if they can find and rescue the crew of the Galliott. However, strange things start to happen – voices are heard, dead and living bodies both disappear, and massive skeletons are discovered. What is going on?

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“I wonder how these giants died…” “Isn’t it obvious? No high necked, sexy leather outfits anywhere! It was only a matter of time before they perished.”

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Bava always hits the spot for us, although we have never seen this particular movie before. The costumes are amazing, the concept is great (and clearly an influence on later works in the genre), the sets are awesome and there are some very cool shots and visual effects.

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The planet looks eerie and fantastic

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It’s a fun and slightly campy sci-fi-space-adventure which will make you develop trust issues on par with The Thing (1982). Loved it!

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“Plastic is not good for the ENVIRONMEEEENT!!!”

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What we learned: We’re so cosplaying this later. Peripheral vision and ability to turn our heads be damned!

Next time: Repulsion (1965)

Bonus: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Watched: May 25 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone,  John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Dick Miller

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 19min

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Doctor James Xavier (Milland) is getting an eye exam in anticipation of doing some sort of experiment on himself. His mission, should he choose to accept it (which he probably will as he is the one who came up with it in the first place), is to attempt to expand the spectrum of human vision.

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In other words: he wants to be able to see through people’s clothes at parties

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After a fatal test run on a monkey, he goes straight to a human test subject: himself. Which seems a bit presumptive given the fatality of the first test, but hubris has always been a great blinder. As are, it turns out, the eye drops he uses to change his own vision.

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“It’s so weird how the same eye drops that killed the monkey have some averse effect on human beings too! As a scientist, I never could have anticipated that.”

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Sure, at first the main effect of the drops is a new ability to check people for diseases, broken bones, internal injuries and unflattering underwear, but Xavier soon grows addicted to the drops, and his vision changes for each new dose. How far is he willing to go?

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Creepy, shiny, slightly cross-eyed contacts-far? Or even further?

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is just the right amount of fun, silly, schlocky and overly dramatic to appeal to our sensibilities. Add to that a wonderful cameo by Dick Miller, eating as per usual, and Ray Milland as the eccentric genius and we’re completely sold.

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We also enjoyed the effect created by the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-3D “Spectarama”

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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes reminded us quite a bit of The Invisible Man, although the main character is slightly less crazy. Slightly. We loved the circus act, the amazing dancing at the party, the creepy contacts, and the drama of it all. This may no longer be on the list, but we’re not ones to turn down a Roger Corman movie if we have an excuse for one. A good choice if you’re looking for something a bit silly for a lost weekend. (See what we did there?)

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This is a man who has survived a Roger Corman movie marathon

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What we learned: The main character is called Dr Xavier and can see what others cannot, similarly to Professor Xavier from X-Men. This movie was released in September 1963, just like the first X-Men comic which featured Professor Xavier. Mind. Blown.

Next time: A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

#202 Village of the Damned

Watched: September 21 2018

Director: Wolf Rilla

Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith, Martin Stephens

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 17min

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In a small British town, all the residents (and animals) simultaneously pass out one day. They wake up a few hours later, unharmed, but later find that all the fertile women in the village are pregnant. Which obviously leads to some uncomfortable questions and suspicions.

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Questions such as who was the sexy alien adonis who managed to impregnante a dozen women within the space of an hour? And what sort of pills was he on to keep it up?

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The children are born 5 months later (which hospital show-fans everywhere know is waaay too early), and they all have white blond hair and intense eyes. Among the new parents are Anthea (Shelley) and Gordon Zellaby (Sanders). The latter is a professor who enjoys a good relationship with British Intelligence, and he takes on the task of observing and possibly educating the strange children.

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As you can tell from his body language, he florishes in his new role as teacher and mentor for a bunch of creepy kids.

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The children develop quickly, and are supersmart and polite, which in itself is a warning sign for anyone who’s ever encountered an actual child. In addition, they seem to have a hive mind and powers of telepathy. If anyone from the village poses any sort of threat to them, they soon become suicidal and the threat is eliminated. But what is their purpose? And will humanity survive their coming?

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Ain’t nothing a rope and a gas mask can’t fix!

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Village of the Damned is such a classic horror movie we will just go ahead and assume that everyone has seen it. We love the final scene in which the kids tear apart Gordon’s mental wall, the chilling, creepy children themselves, and the unsettling atmosphere. The kids, and especially David Zellaby (Stephens), are calm, rational and emotionless, and very disquieting. Their reactions to any threat are relentless and brutal which works great coming from adorable little kids.

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By “adorable” we mean “ominous-as-fuck!”

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With Halloween coming up, you could do a lot worse – and it’s short enough to fit neatly into any sort of marathon you may be planning. Also, perfect low budget costume idea for those of you with children of your own! Just prepare yourself to be terrified of them.

What we learned: We’re definitely never having children. Never.

Next time: Zazie dans le Métro (1960)

#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)

Bonus: The Monolith Monsters

Watched: December 16 2017

Director: John Sherwood

Starring: Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne, Trevor Bardette, Phil Harvey, Linda Scheley

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 17min

NOTE: At the time of watching (and writing) this, it was #155, but we see now that it has been removed from Mr Wright’s list. Still, it’s been watched and written, so we’ll just call it a bonus post and include it anyway, dammit! For details on numbering, read this.

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Meteors have been crashing into the desert in California, and geologist Ben Gilbert (Harvey) brings home a sample of the newly arrived space rocks. There is a storm, and the next day Dave Miller (Williams) arrives only to find his colleague petrified and his lab smashed, with lots of black rocks strewn around everywhere.

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“What a mystery! This calls for a huge sciency pot of sciency coffee and much pondering.”

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Meanwhile, Dave’s girlfriend Cathy Barrett (Albright) takes her class on a field trip to the desert and sends little Ginny (Scheley) home with another sample of the same rock. It ends badly.

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If you think pet rocks are a nice and safe alternative to an actual animal for your child, think again!

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Ginny’s fascination with shiny things kills her family, ruins their farm, and starts to slowly turn her to stone. Dave and Cathy start to investigate, together with a journalist, the police, and several medical doctors. They find that the mysterious rocks start to grow when exposed to water, and suck the silicon out of everything it touches when “activated.” Thank God it never rains in southern California!

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Just kidding. Of course it starts raining.

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With huge rocks making their way slowly and steadily towards the town, smashing everything in their way, it is up to Dave, Cathy, and Dave’s old professor Arthur Flanders (Bardette) to stop the advancing threat, save the town, and save the girl.

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But where to start? Why, by looking at maps and exchanging worried glances, of course.

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The Monolith Monsters is a silly, weird and fun sci-fi. The growing rocks are actually way more sinister than we would have thought possible, and while the premise of the movie is very silly, it is played straight. And it actually works.

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Evil killer rocks. We would have loved to be in that pitch meeting.

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The growing rocks are cool, we loved the newspaper man Martin Cochrane (Tremayne), and the film is a great mix between stupid (dat premise tho!) and serious. Very campy fun – thoroughly recommended if you like strange ’50s science fiction.

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It’s proving hard to find stills from this film, so here’s another picture of the titular “Monolith Monsters.”

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What we learned: Between Them! and this, the desert is no place for little blonde girls. Also, rocks are petrifying. Pun intended.

Next time: The Seventh Seal (1957)