#286 In Cold Blood

Watched: December 6 2020

Director: Richard Brooks

Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart

Year: 1967

Runtime: 2h 14min

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Perry (Blake) is a slightly simple ex-con who dreams of fame and fortune. He breaks his parole so he can return to Kansas in order to meet up with old cell mate Dick (Wilson), who can offer him a sure thing. Monetary wise, that is. Not a date or anything.

If you can think of a single date idea which would require a trip to the hardware store in preparation, we’d like to know. Then, leave your contact information and the number for your local police.

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Another old prison buddy has told Dick about a hidden safe in the basement of a farmer, and the pair plan to get their hands on it. However, what could have been a simple burglary soon turns into a bloodbath…

“Bubble bath. I said I wanted a BUBBLE bath. You need to get your hearing aid fixed.”

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We don’t want to reveal too much here even though it’s a 50 year old film based on an even older book based on a yet older real crime… Suffice to say investigators are soon on the criminals’ trails. But what really happened? And who pulled the trigger?

Also, who wore the easily identifiable shoes to a crime scene???

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This movie is amazing and you should watch it. We loved the build up to the crime and the fact that we then skipped neatly to the aftermath without seeing it play out. It is excellently structured, well acted and overall really well done. The 2+ hours fly by!

Like the lit-up club, casino and hotel signs in old-timey montages! Imagine “Mas Que Nada” playing in the background.

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Now, Dick is a dick from the beginning. Perry is perhaps a bit more sympathetic, but they both share the same anger issues. They are disenfranchised young men with a murderous streak and little left to lose.

They are also traumatized by abusive childhoods and war. Sorry, it’s hard to make hilarious captions about this story…

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As the movie plays out, you keep forgetting that Perry and Dick have killed an entire family – probably because you don’t actually see them do it. Which is somewhat unsettling and uncomfortable when you find yourself giggling at their shenanigans and sort of hoping they’ll get away.

On the other hand, we’re also introduced to this ridiculously wholesome family, who certainly did not deserve their fate. Our loyalties are torn, is all we’re saying. And we guess that’s sort of the point…

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Real question though, are trials in the USA that revenge-driven, or are they just that way in movies? Because for us rational (some would say cold and unfeeling, we prefer logical and Spock-like) Norwegians, emotions and ideas of revenge are not what should decide the outcome of a trial… Just a thought there, America.

What we learned: American trials are insane… Also, sometimes things just don’t make sense.

Next time: In the Heat of the Night (1967)

#283 Bonnie and Clyde

Watched: November 14 2020

Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 51min

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Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) is a bored small town waitress looking for trouble. Trouble arrives in the form of recently released convict Clyde Barrow (Beatty). The two fall instantly in love when he tries to steal her mother’s car and then performs a robbery just to prove to Bonnie that he really is a convict.

“Impotence and poverty don’t bother me none, but there’s no way I’ll ever date a man who doesn’t have a record.”

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Bonnie and Clyde take off to travel around the US robbing and looting. You know, normal first-year-of-a-relationship-stuff. Soon, the two hook up with gas station attendant C.W. Moss (Pollard), kill their first man, and go see a musical. Two of those things might be more important to the plot than the other. Once Clyde’s brother Buck (Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Parsons) join the group as well, the Barrow gang is born.

We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot!
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot!
We also need all your money and a fourth for our barbershop quartet.

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The gang continue the crime spree started by the protagonists, and as they grow in notoriety and their crimes grow in brutality, the web starts closing in around them. It’s not long before law enforcement starts to catch up…

“No, ma’am, I ain’t here to arrest you. I just wanted a picture for the grandkids. Much obliged!”

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Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t really follow a traditional structure – it starts right in on the action and then has a fairly flat structure throughout, until the final shoot out and credits. Which is not a criticism – it works. There’s just not a lot of ups and downs in action and tension. In a lot of ways, it reminded us of some of the French movies we’ve watched from the ’60s, which is probably intentional from the director. The flat structure also gives it a bit of a documentary feel, although there’s very little else which gives that impression.

Least of all Gene Wilder’s face. There’s no way you can watch his scenes in this movie and not project the character of Fronkonsteen onto this hapless young man.

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We loved the old timey car chases, the costumes, the clip from Gold Diggers of 1933, and the match made in hell of Bonnie and Clyde. As always with movies based on real events, we fall for the temptation of doing some fact checking, and so here is some trivia, based on about 5 minutes of googling. Inaccuracies may occur.
1. There’s little evidence to substantiate the claim that Clyde Barrow was impotent or otherwise unable to perform sexually. There is however some evidence that he was brutally raped in prison, and also that he was bisexual.
2. The couple killed their first man in 1932, but then went right to the cinema to see a movie musical released in 1933. We can only conclude that the pair owned a time machine [citation needed].

“Hey, Clyde!” “Yeah, Bonnie?” “Do you think maybe we should have used that time travel thingamajig to foresee this predicament?” “Well, it’s too late now!” “Uhm… Is it..?”

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Despite the historical inaccuracies and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde never once used their time machine to do anything except watch movies, we really enjoyed this. It is of course an inaccurate version of the very real criminals, but they’re perhaps not overly romanticized – they’re both flawed people in difficult situations, neither heroic nor vilified. All in all, very good. And we can’t wait for the inevitable sequel where they team up with Marty McFly.

“Just gotta get this bad boy up to 88 mph and we are home free!”

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What we learned: The minute someone orders you to change your hair is the minute you should dump them. Also, Arthur Penn was in love with Faye Dunaway’s face.

Next time: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

#229 The Great Escape

Watched: February 17 2019

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, Hannes Messemer, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson, John Leyton, Angus Lennie, Nigel Stock, Robert Graf

Year: 1963

Runtime: 2h 52min

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It’s World War II and a gang of Allied prisoners of war are moved to a high security prison camp after numerous escapes.

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German definition of “high security” for officer POWs: everything you need to brew up a feast but, like, with barbed wire on the perimeter

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Right away, the prisoners start plotting their next breakout, although Hilts (McQueen) and Ives (Lennie) don’t have the patience for all that planning “Big X” (Attenborough) and his crew are into. They start an almost daily bolt for freedom, constantly landing them in the cooler.

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Pfft. As if I could possibly be any cooler

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Eventually, they all join forces to attempt the most daring and intricate prison camp breakout of the war. But will they succeed?

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“Right lads, we have all we need to make it. Camaraderie, a fancy pipe, spiffy hats worn at jaunty angles, and a plucky can-do attitude!”

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Now, we know we say this a lot, but this movie really is unmissable. Do not be put off by its almost three hour run time – The Great Escape is funny, exciting, suspenseful, sad, and extremely engaging. We promise the time will fly by.

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And if, against all odds, you do get bored, just turn off the sound and do a David Attenborough-style commentary to his big brother’s meerkatty exploits.

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We loved the tradition of escape, the five escape attempts in the first three minutes, the ingenuity, the humour, the action, the motorcycle chase and the characters – especially sweet, adorable Blythe and poor Ives.

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We absolutely loved this relationship too

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Also, bonus information for you, Sister the Youngest watched this in her early, impressionable youth and it sparked a lifelong crush on Steve McQueen. Consider yourselves warned.

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To her, this is still the epitome of sex appeal

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What we learned: It is the sworn duty of all captured officers to attempt escape.

Next time: The Haunting (1963)

#206 The Guns of Navarone

Watched: November 4 2018

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Starring: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, Richard Harris

Year: 1961

Runtime: 2h 38min

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In 1943, British soldiers are stranded on the Greek island of Kheros, about to be blitzed by Germany but unable to leave due to the Axis controlled guns (as in big, massive cannons, not just a couple of revolvers, mind you) on the nearby island of Navarone. As no bombing missions have been successful, the British assemble a commando unit to infiltrate the island and take out the guns.

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“We’re rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves, drink up, me hearties, yo-ho!”

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The unit is a team of “pirates and cutthroats;” Major Roy Franklin (Quayle) Captain Keith Mallory (Peck), Corporal John Miller (Niven), Colonel Andrea Stavros (Quinn), “Butcher” Brown (Baker), and Spyros Pappadimos (Darren). Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to climb an unclimbable cliff to sabotage the guns.

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“I’m scared of heights…” “I think I left the stove on.” “Whose fucking brilliant idea was this, anyway???” “Tell my mum I love her.”

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The team is gathered, plans laid and events put in motion. They’re a ruthless but charming bunch, and they set out on their hazardous journey where they encounter storms, Germans, trust issues, dangerous climbs in awful conditions, injuries, capture, torture and romance.

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Among their many perils: armed women with minds of their own!

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The Guns of Navarone is an action packed movie about manly men doing manly things. We loved the long sequences without dialogue and the (often lack of) score. Among our favourite scenes were the storm with the subsequent shipwreck and climb, and the incredibly tense ending when we were waiting for the booby trap to be triggered. We were quite literally on the edge of our seats.

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We imagine it was a sensation not unlike being held at gunpoint, but as we lead very sheltered lives this is really just guesswork

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The tension is oftentimes palpable and this is a very entertaining war epic, not unlike The Bridge on the River Kwai. So if you’re looking for a WWII double feature and you have several hours to spare, the two might make an excellent combo. Just be sure to wrap up warm and bring a snack.

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Alternatively, combine it with Mamma Mia for a Greek Wedding extravaganza!

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What we learned: Sometimes, you need a team of pirates and cutthroats. Also, we need to step up our rope-climbing game. Who knew that dreaded P.E. staple could have real world applications?

Next time: The Hustler (1961)