Tag Archives: 60’s Movies

The Anniversary (1968)

anniversary 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bette eats them up.

Since tomorrow will mark the 1st anniversary of when this blog started I wanted to choose a movie that had a similar theme in its title. The anniversary here deals with Mrs. Taggart (Bette Davis) celebrating the date of when her and her now deceased husband where married. Taggart is a bully who enjoys manipulating her grown sons and having her way. On this occasion all three of her sons carries a secret, which will all slowly come out as the evening progresses. Terry (Jack Hedley) is the oldest and is married to Karen (Sheila Hancock) their secret is that they plan on moving to Canada much to his mother’s dismay as she likes having her children close by. Henry (James Cossins) harbors a secret fetish to dress in women’s underwear. Tom (Christian Roberts) brings his fiancée Shirley (Elaine Taylor) to visit with their secret being that she is already pregnant.

If you’re a Bette Davis fan then this is required viewing as she is at her bitchy best. Although Mona Washbourne played the role when it was on stage it was revised by Jimmy Sangster for the screen with Davis’s personality very much in mind. It has all of her famous caricatures and she revels in it. Her insults are like arrows that slice through the other characters until they are mush. She gives her part just the right amount of camp and her infatuation with a statue of a little boy that is hooked up with a hose that when squeezed spurts water out of its front end like he is peeing is priceless.

Hancock makes for a good adversary and in fact out of all the other performers she is the only that seems to be able to stay toe-to-toe with Davis. Apparently Davis did not like Hancock and tried to get her replaced with Jill Bennett. Hancock was aware of this and I think that animosity comes out perfectly on the screen.

Taylor is young and gorgeous and she has one good moment when she tells off Davis, but that is about it. The three male actors are just not as effective as the females. Part of it could be the characters that they play, but on the most part they are rather blah.

Director Roy Ward Baker, who replaced Alvin Rakoff one week into the shooting at Miss Davis’s request, does his best to avoid the filmed stage play look. He opens the movie at an outdoor construction site, which is unusual. He also has a dazzling fireworks display in the middle, but my favorite is when Henry steals women’s bras and panties from an outside clothesline and replaces them with dollar bills in an attempt to ‘pay’ for what he is stealing. Yet despite all this the movie eventually gets stagy and becomes a bit draggy for it.

My biggest complaint is the fact that this type of thing has been done before. There is no new angle or perspective to any of it. Davis rants on and on with the other characters too cowardly to fight back. The little that they do is not enough. This is the type of film that screams for a big payoff, but it never happens. Taggart, as mean as she is, comes through it pretty much unscathed and for most viewers that will probably not be satisfying.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 7, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)

dead heat on a merry go round

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Robbery at an airport.

Eli Kotch (James Coburn) manages to con his way out of jail by playing on the affections of his pretty jailhouse psychiatrist (Marian McCargo). His plans are to rob the bank at the Los Angeles International Airport while they are hosting the arrival of a Soviet Premier, which he figures will sufficiently keep the security personal distracted. The blueprint for the bank will cost him a hefty sum, so to help finance it he travels across the country seducing rich women and making off with their expensive possessions and money. Once the blueprint is purchased he assembles his men and executes the daring and elaborate scheme.

The film, which was written and directed by Bernard Girard, is by all means slick although it goes a bit overboard. The first hour is hard to get into. The filmmakers seem intent to keep the viewer guessing about the Kotch’s motives and intricate plans as the rest of the characters. There is so much cutting back and forth between scenes in L.A. and Boston as well as all the lady victims that Kotch finds that it becomes confusing and off-putting. Everything comes off too easily for our protagonist. I suppose that is the intended charm, but a few hiccups here and there to their plans might have offered more tension and reality.

He also beds too many women almost like he is some sort of modern day Don Juan. Having even just one of them slap him across the face when he makes his advances instead of just robotically disrobing and hopping between the sheets with him would’ve been funny. If this film were to be remade the women characters would have to be updated as here they are simply caricatures of a bygone era.

Camilla Sparv’s character and the way Eli treats here was a particular problem with me. Sparv looks drop-dead gorgeous to the point of being breathtaking. Most men would feel blessed at having such a beautiful woman fall in-love with them, but Eli takes it all for granted. He callously lies to her and uses the genuine feelings she has for him to take advantage of her and use it for his own gain. It gets to the point where Eli starts to come off as a real cad and makes the viewer dislike him. There is a twist at the end involving the Sparv character, but it is not enough. I was really hoping that she would somehow manage to screw-up his plans whether intentional or not, but that doesn’t happen even though it should’ve.

Coburn’s toothy grin and deep laugh manages to carry it and probably no other leading man would’ve been able to pull off this type of part as well. The supporting cast is equally good. Rose Marie is fun in a brief part as an older woman that Eli cons. Severn Darden is effective as the nerdy and smart, but very nervous member of Eli’s group. Nina Wayne is funny as one of Eli’s first female victims, a ditzy blonde filled with very quirky philosophies on just about everything. Yet it is Robert Webber, a very under-rated character actor, who steals the show as the high-strung head of the airport security. You can also spot a young Harrison Ford in a brief bit as a bellhop.

The excellent on-location shooting gives the film an added flair. The shots of the Los Angeles International Airport are good especially the way it captures the iconic and modernistic Theme Building. Images of a wintry Boston during Eli’s jaunts to that city are quite scenic particularly all the tree branches covered with snow.

The film’s final half-hour is captivating and even intense. The editing is excellent and the sheer brazenness of the crime is amusing. There are certain things though that seemed implausible and whether such a plan could be pulled off in real-life is doubtful. Still, if you’re a fan of heist films this should offer two hours of suitably fluffy entertainment, but just don’t think about it too hard.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 12, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Bernard Girard

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Throw keys to transient.

Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) is an aging actress who is no longer getting the top roles like she used to. She and her husband decide to travel off to Rome for a retreat, but instead he dies of a fatal heart attack while on the plane. Karen then decides to remain in Rome where she leases a luxurious apartment, but becomes lonely and starts feeling insecure about her desirability.  She meets Contessa Madga (Lotte Lenya) who is known in the area with setting up young men with lonely rich older women.   She sets Karen up with Paolo (Warren Beatty) a dashing young gigolo who is only attracted to Karen because of her money and the belief that she will pay him to be her lover while Contessa will get a cut of the profit. Karen does give Paolo a ‘salary’, but remains under the delusion that eventually he will fall in love with her for real.

Although the story moves along at a slow and plodding pace and there is little if any action I still found myself captivated. The script is based on a novel by Tennessee Williams and somehow his stuff always remains strong drama no matter how talky it may appear. The characters and their situations are real. Their fragility and desperation are things many people can sometimes find themselves facing and therefore it makes an impact.

The sets are excellent. Karen’s apartment has a nice mixture of elegance and airiness. I also liked the recreation of the streets of Rome that was done inside a sound stage. Normally I prefer on-location shooting, but when the sets are built in such a meticulous way it becomes almost mesmerizing.

Leigh, in her second to last film role, is solid as usual. Some may complain that she is playing a part that is too similar to her Oscar winning role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire and to some extent they have a point. It almost seemed like Leigh in her later career was becoming a bit of a caricature, but she does it so well that it is a treat nonetheless. Just watching the way she moves her eyes as she gazes at Paolo secretly flirting with another woman is memorable.

Beatty is equally good. He speaks with an authentic sounding Italian accent and has a tanned complexion. This was the role that established him as a leading man and worth seeking out for his fans.

Lenya is engaging as the wicked Contessa. Most viewers today will know her best as the villainess Rosa Klebb in the classic James Bond film From Russia to Love. I always felt that she was one of the best Bond villains, but the amazing thing is that here she ends up being almost as menacing though in a more subtle way. She exudes evilness with clarity that is both impressive and creepy.

Jill St. John is terrific as Barbra Bingham a younger, more attractive actress who makes no secret about her desire to take-over from Karen’s now fading spotlight. Her bratty, haughty behavior is effectively on-target. Apparently Leigh like her character felt intimidated by St. John’s youthful beauty and refused to say even one word to her during the production.

Spoiler Alert

My only real complaint is with the ending. Paolo abandons Karen and so in a fit of desperation she throws her apartment keys down to a transient who has been stalking her during most of the movie. The next shot has the homeless man entering the apartment and walking towards the camera, but then it fades and we are left to wonder what happened. Supposedly at the time just having a woman throw her keys down to some strange man on the street was considered shocking enough, but I wanted more of a conclusion. Did he kill her, or did they have sex and then start some sort of weird relationship? These are interesting questions that I felt should have been answered and the story’s ambiguity is frustrating.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 28, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Jose Quintero

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD

Summer and Smoke (1961)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She is sexually repressed.

Alma (Geraldine Page) is an adult woman still single and living with her parents. Her father (Malcolm Atterbury) is a minister while her mother (Una Merkel) having suffered a mental breakdown several years’ earlier acts and behaves in a perpetual child-like state. Alma yearns for the affections of John (Laurence Harvey) the dashing doctor who lives next door with his father (John McIntire). However, John’s lifestyle is much too wild for Alma’s repressed tastes, but when she tries to change she finds that it may be too late in this film version of the Tennessee William’s play.

I have been a fan of Geraldine Page for years. She has a terrific ability to play fragile and eccentric characters while doing it with a panache and style. Her characterizations are always vivid and revealing and executed in a seamless fashion. One can become so entranced with her performances that sometimes it becomes more interesting than the story itself. Her appearance here proves to be no exception. She became known for playing a lot of dark, sinister characters, so it was a nice change seeing her play this part. She even does some singing and in fact the scene where she sings to John’s father as he lies on his deathbed for me left the most lasting impression. I always love watching the woman’s body language, gestures, and facial expressions and how she uses them to create a three-dimensional character. Her acting discipline should be studied and emulated by students of the craft everywhere.

Harvey as her co-star was an interesting choice. Despite his reputation as being an over-rated actor and possessing a strange personality off-camera I have found some of his performances to be excellent particularly the one in the original Manchurian Candidate. However, he seems to be better suited playing parts with a cold and aloof presence. The role here demanded more emotion and I didn’t think he could quite hit it. By the end Page was acting circles around him and turning the production into her own vehicle.

The supporting performers aren’t bad. It is fun seeing Rita ‘Hey you guys’ Moreno in an early role playing a young vixen with eyes for John. McIntire is fine in his small role and the part where comes home to find all sorts of drunken people lying about passed out in his living room and hallways is good. Thomas Gomez is memorable simply to glimpse his large almost unbelievable waist size.

I really didn’t like Merkel’s part as the crazy mother. I found it frustrating that there really was never any explanation for why she behaved in such a strange way. Simply saying that she had a ‘breakdown’ wasn’t enough and I wanted more of a scientific or medical reason. It also would have been more interesting to see what she was like before her breakdown, but that is never shown.

Technically the film is well produced. The sets, costumes and performances are all very turn-of-the-century and it helps draw you into the mood and thinking of the era right away. I did not like that the outdoor scenes where done on a soundstage as the foliage and sky look annoyingly artificial.

Most of William’s plays deal with sad, lonely, and pathetic characters and this one proves no exception. However, I was pleasantly surprised that after the expected histrionics this one manages to have a somewhat upbeat ending, which helped distinguish it above some of his others. The characters and situations are all too real and Alma reminded me very much of someone I know and others may know someone like her as well, which on a personal level made this story all the more fascinating.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 16, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Peter Glenville

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

Texas Across the River (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: A cheek slapping showdown.

This is a silly western spoof that borders on the inane and is just an excuse to give Martin another vehicle this time in a western setting. The story deals with the wedding between Don Andrea (Alain Delon) and Phoebe (Rosemary Forsyth) being stopped by the arrival of the U.S. Calvary headed by Captain Stimpson (Peter Graves). When they charge Don with murder he escapes to Texas and Phoebe tries to follow him later on. There she meets Sam Hollis (Dean Martin) and his Indian sidekick Kronk (Joey Bishop). Sam becomes smitten with Phoebe and when he later meets up with Don the two become instant rivals while reluctantly working together to allude the Calvary, which arrives in Texas to celebrate its statehood.

In many ways the production takes on Martin’s persona as everything is half-hearted. The humor and scenarios are quite standard. There are a few chuckles here and there, but more misses than hits. It’s so obvious when the actors are standing in front of a blue screen or using a stunt double that it almost looks like an amateur college production. The biggest insult though is that it is all about Texas and yet wasn’t even filmed there. It was done in San Diego and it shows. This is almost like deceptive advertising and for punishment the producers should be forced to spend a summer in the REAL Texas without any air conditioning.

Delon’s presence is good simply because he is French and he gives it a unique flavor, but the film doesn’t portray him as such and instead tries to pull off that he is SPANISH!! He also gets to be too much of a brawny do-gooder and in the end he becomes like Dudly-Do-Right with a French accent.

Bishop is funny simply because he is playing himself. The credits may say he is playing an Indian, but really it’s just Joey in a silly Indian get up. His headband alone looks like it was taken from somebody’s unwanted tie collection. In fact the overall portrayal of the Indians is badly stereotyped and if the film was better known it might merit protesting.

Forsyth gives the film’s best performance. However, having Martin pursue her looks off-kilter since he was old enough to be her father and her and Delon made a better couple. Of course since this is Martin’s vehicle he ends up with her no matter how forced or unnatural it looks.

If you are really easy to please or just a Dean Martin fanatic then you might find this film more passable. The cheek slapping showdown between Martin and Delon is cute and the running joke involving that ‘Texas Tea’ isn’t bad either.

Look carefully for Richard Farnsworth is his first major role as he is almost unrecognizable as the Medicine man.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Michael Gordon

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS

The Jokers (1967)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rob to avoid work.

Brothers Michael (Michael Crawford) and David (Oliver Reed) decide that working life is not for them and come up with an elaborate robbery that will afford them enough money to drop out of society for good. Their plan is a clever one as they stage random bomb threats across parts of London, which creates a panic in the city. Then they threaten to blow up the tower of London, disguise themselves as military experts who can go in to diffuse the bomb and then run off with the crown jewels in the process, which they conveniently hide underneath the floor boards of their home.

The film has a great irreverent flair that was common amongst the new wave British films of the late 60’s. The quick edits, fragmented narrative, and quirky humor is similar to Richard Lester’s The Knack…and How to Get It, which also starred Crawford. The comedy, especially its potshots at the establishment, is right on target and engaging. I was surprised that it was directed by Michael Winner as so many of his later films, especially the ones he did with Charles Bronson, seemed so formulaic that I could never imagine he could show so much spunk and flair.

The crime is imaginative and plays out nicely. There is also a neat and completely unexpected twist near the middle that keeps things intriguing to almost the very end.

Crawford shows charm and his boyish looks help strengthen is character. He somehow manages to upstage Reed, which I never thought would be possible and his charisma carries the film. He does though look too scrawny and almost anorexic in parts and having him gain some weight and ‘putting some meat on his bones’ before filming began would have been advisable.

British character actor Harry Andrews is amusing as the exasperated Inspector Maryatt. However, I found James Donald as the completely clueless Colonel Gurney-Simms to be the funniest.

If the film fails anywhere it is in the fact that it loses its satirical edge and focus. It starts out making fun of the upper-crust English society, but then becomes too preoccupied with the crime itself. David and Michael’s interactions with their stuffy, conservative parents (Peter Graves, Rachel Kempson) are cute and I would have liked to see more of it as well as more jabs at ‘respectable’ society. The film’s conclusion is extremely weak. For such a clever movie I was hoping for something a little better. It is almost like they ran out of ideas and threw in some bland denouncement simply as a way to end it because they didn’t know how else to do it. Nothing is more of a letdown then seeing a writer write themselves into a hole that they can’t get out, which is what you get here and it almost ruins the entire film in the process. However, the majority of it is so slick I was willing to forgive it and almost wished there could be more movies like these coming out today.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 15, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Michael Winner

Studio: Universal

Available: None

Seconds (1966)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Starting a new life.

Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a middle-aged man just going through the paces of life. He is stuck in a marriage that no longer has any spark and a job that is boring. His life is confined to the basic suburban rituals and he is quietly looking for a way out. Then he gets a call from Charlie Evans (Murray Hamilton) who he thought was dead. Charlie tells him that he is very much alive, but with a new identity. Arthur goes to a address that Charlie gives him and there he is told for $30,000 dollars he can be ‘reborn’ and given a completely new identity via plastic surgery as well as a whole new life with new friends and no connection to his dreary past. He would even be given a new set of fingerprints and new teeth while the death of his former self would be created in a way that it would leave no question, or suspicion.

This story is unique and fascinating on many levels. It pinpoints the monotony of middle-aged life and views living in suburbia not as the great American dream, but more as the American trap. I enjoyed the part where one of the Doctors named Davalo (Khigh Dhiegh) tells Arthur who has now been changed into Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson) that his new identity will be that of an established painter and he will no longer have to be quarantined with any responsibility and will instead be able to live the rest of his life pursuing is own individual interests, which is probably what everyone secretly desires.

The second half of the story where Tony tries to adjust to his new ‘dream’ lifestyle is equally as interesting if not more. Tony finds that his new friends and neighbors are other ‘reborns’ who will not allow him to backtrack into his old identity and seem compelled to keep in line with his new environment whether he was completely happy with it or not. During this segment I couldn’t help but think of the characters from Easy Rider and how Tony’s situation wasn’t much different. Both longed for complete personal freedom, but the more they tried to escape the societal strings the more they seemed to be dragged back into it. The part where Tony goes back to visit his wife while under the disguise of being a long lost friend of her late husband is revealing and dramatically the strongest part of the whole film.

John Frankenheimer’s direction is superb and intoxicating. The opening sequence featuring a lot of distorted imagery is excellent and creates a terrific mood for the story. The dream sequence where Arthur finds himself in a hotel room with another woman is captured in such a way that it looked almost like a Salvador Dali painting. The use of the fish-eyed lens that is put in at certain strategic moments is effective as well as stylish. The black and white cinematography is evocative and the organ playing soundtrack is distinct and moody.

Rock Hudson has always seemed to me as a weak leading man and apparently Frankenheimer considered him ‘lightweight’ as well, but when his first two choices turned down the role he decided to go with him and here it actually worked. I felt Hudson’s blank expression and confused demeanor fit well with the character’s situation. The part where he is shown tied to a bed and struggling to get out while his mouth is gagged is convincing. Veteran actor Randolph is quite good in the beginning playing Arthur a man who seems run over by life. The close-up of his nervous and sweating face leaves a strong impression. Will Geer is also excellent in support as the founder and head of the secret organization.

The twist ending is well done although I saw it coming long before our naïve protagonist did. Unlike the book it is clearer and less vague. This is one case where the film can make a great companion piece to the book, or vice versa. This is a definite sleeper of a movie screaming for more attention and has strong cult potential.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 5, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 46Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD,  Blu-ray (Criterion Collection) Amazon Instant Video

The Scalphunters (1968)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t steal his furs.

Joe Bass (Burt Lancaster) is a trapper who has all of his furs stolen from him by a group of Indians. In return they give him Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis) a very educated black slave. The two do not hit it off right away and Joe becomes determined at getting his property back by following the Indians and waiting for them to get drunk off the liquor that he had hidden with the hides that they took. Just as he is ready to make a move the Indians are attacked and killed by a group of scalphunters led by Howie (Telly Savalas) who take Joe’s pelts for themselves. Joe chases after them determined to get back what he feels is rightfully his and plays a crafty game of cat-and-mouse with Howie and his group. Joseph Lee on the other hand decides to travel with the group and become the personal servant to Howie’s grouchy wife Kate (Shelly Winters) as they plan on going to Mexico where slavery is outlawed.

This is a highly engaging and amiable comedy/western. It is hard to dislike this movie, or not to be entertained by it. The performers play their parts to the hilt. Lancaster is perfect as the not-so-bright, but highly resourceful trapper who has the perseverance you gotta love. Savalas has always done well in villainous roles and the fact that he adds some comic touches to it as he consistently finds himself outsmarted by Joe and nagged by his wife is funny. Winters always shines in caricatures of desperate and pathetic people and this one proves no exception. However, it is Davis that really makes the film work. This is probably the best role of his career. The amusing way he deals with everyone who are all quite convinced that they are smarter than he is, but aren’t is what really makes the movie fun. His bantering and arguing with Joe is good as well.

The comedy is nicely balanced as it stays consistently humorous, but manages to avoid becoming farcical. There are still enough gritty elements to call it a true western, which is good. Some of the best moments though are Joe’s ongoing ‘negotiations’ with Howie as well as an avalanche of rocks that Joe creates on Howie’s caravan when he refuses to give him his furs. I also enjoyed the long and stretched out fist fight between Joe and Joseph at the end that continues even as a bloody Indian attack occurs all around them. The two end-up tumbling through a muddy lake and seeing their bodies and faces covered in thick, caked-on mud is a hilarious sight.

Director Sydney Pollock is in fine form. I loved the way he captures the surrounding landscape, which is lushly photographed with a wide lens. It was filmed on-location in Mexico and a wide variety of picturesque locales were chosen.  The DVD version is an especially clear transfer with bright, vivid colors that make you feel you are right there alongside the characters.

Although I found this enjoyable I still felt that the script by William Norton seemed to be missing something. The scenario is a little too simple and one-dimensional and I was hoping for something more maybe even a side-story, or added twist. The movie is sufficient for entertainment, but lacks the added element to make it a classic. There was potential, but it’s kept it at a mild level making it fun, but not memorable.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 2, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour, 42Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Sydney Pollock

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gotta love Sophia Loren.

This is a delightful comedy that won the Academy Award in 1964 for best foreign film. It consists of 3 vignettes all starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and directed by the legendary Vittorio De Sica.

The first segment is entitled ‘Adelina’ and is a story about Adelina (Loren) who lives in poverty and sells cigarettes for a living. She is arrested for selling contraband products, but is released when it is found that she is expecting with the condition that six months after she delivers the baby she will be forced to serve her sentence. However, Adelina and her husband Carmine (Mastroianni) decide that the best way to avoid the sentence altogether is by keeping her continuously pregnant. Once she delivers one child she immediately gets pregnant with another, which creates overcrowding as well as an exhausted Carmine.

This segment is original and amusing throughout. Watching them trying to handle and maintain a household with such a large brood has its share of funny moments including one scene where Adelina tries to give one of her petulant children his medication. This setting vividly shows the poor side of Italian society, but unlike De Sica’s neo-realist films of the 40’s this one has a very engaging and even upbeat quality to it. The impoverished townsfolk become like a third character and their resiliency and support of one another proves to be a major plus to the story. Loren is fantastic in every scene she is in and makes this one special. Mastroianni is interesting playing against type as he is usually debonair and sophisticated, but here is simple and dominated.

The second story entitled ‘Anna’ deals with characters on the completely opposite end of the economic spectrum. Anna (Loren) is a spoiled rich woman who in an effort to alleviate her boredom with her husband who spends too much time working she has an affair with Renzo (Mastroianni). Renzo though fears that he is being used and that Anna has no intention of ever leaving her luxurious lifestyle to be with him.

All of the action takes place in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III convertible as the two characters discuss their relationship while driving through the streets of Rome. This story is not as lively as the first and the characters aren’t as likable. However, the part where Renzo has an accident with the car and Anna’s reaction to it is quite funny.

The third and final act is entitled ‘Mara’ and deals with a prostitute named Mara (Loren) who becomes interested in Umberto (Gianni Ridolfi) a young man living next door with his Grandmother (Tina Pica) and studying to become a priest. The grandmother does not approve of Mara’s ‘profession’ and openly shuns her causing a major discord between the two, but when Umberto decide to drop out of the seminary the two work together to try and bring him back to his senses.

This story, like the first, has many amusing moments. Loren shows impeccable comic ability. I loved how the character goes from sexy seductress to a woman pleading with Umberto to go back to seminary and escape this ‘wicked world’. The shift between having Mara and the grandmother hating each other to becoming friends is equally funny. Mastroianni doesn’t have as much to do here, but still makes the most of it playing one of Mara’s customers who is just looking for a little sex, but is reluctantly thrown into the middle of the controversy.

This segment became famous at the time for a striptease that Loren does for Mastroianni. However, by today’s standards it is not much and hardly even seemed worth mentioning. I actually thought the part where Loren walks outside wearing nothing more than a towel and provocatively singing a flirtatious song to the young Umberto, who has a face that looks like it had not reached puberty, was much steamier.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 19, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video

Bye Bye Braverman (1968)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Where is the funeral?

Four middle-aged Jewish men get together for a mutual friend’s funeral and find that the passage of time has changed many things between them.

There are some really nice vignettes here. The best may be Morroe’s (George Segal) conversation with all the dead people in the grave yard while amidst hundreds and hundreds of tombstones. You also have to love Alan King as the rabbi leading the funeral. Morroe as a middle-aged man becoming disillusioned with life while going through a sort of mid-life crisis is very relatable and his fantasy segments are funny. Godfrey Cambridge also has a great cameo as a black cab driver who runs into them and the group’s difficulties at finding the right funeral are amusingly on-target.

While the film does have its share of delightful moments it fails to ever come together enough to leave any impact. Some of the segments are too talky and the ending fizzles badly. There is also an extraordinarily high amount of footage given to showing a bird’s eye view of the red Volkswagen that they are in driving through the streets of Brooklyn. In some ways this does give one a great glimpse of Brooklyn during the late 1960’s, but it also screams ‘filler’ in the process.

This definitely seems to be the case where the novel by Wallace Markfield that this movie is based on would be the better choice. It’s certainly watchable and mildly entertaining, but the characters and situations need to be better fleshed out.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 21, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Sidney Lumet

Studio: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)