By Tim Van Schmidt
1966 Movie Memories
My strongest movie memory from 1966 is seeing the big budget remake of “Stagecoach” at the drive-in theater in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. I could feel the high tension of the situation as the characters waited nervously for impending attack. I was also aware, perhaps for the first time, of the power of the “ensemble cast.” The movie was ultimately about the characters, their stories and how they interacted, and with Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Robert Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn all in the cast, there was a lot of character to pass around. Most of the stars were people I recognized if not by name, then by sight from TV- I knew they were stars and this big collection of them was fascinating.
Perhaps the night I saw “Stagecoach,” it was part of a Western double-feature because I also remember seeing 1966 movie “Nevada Smith,” starring Steve McQueen, at the drive-in theater too.
My good luck at being able to see secret agent movies continued in 1966 with “Our Man Flint” starring James Coburn. My best friend and I went to the theater in downtown Woodstock, Illinois- not very far from Harvard. My friend knew all about it and I went along for the ride.
I can remember the fuss that was stirred up in 1966 over sultry actress Raquel Welch. She appeared in two movies- “One Million Years B.C.,” the Stone Age adventure featuring Welch in a furry bikini suit, an image destined to be a popular wall poster of the time- and the one that stirred my imagination- “Fantastic Voyage.” That was a sci-fi journey into the human body via a miniaturized craft sailing through the subject’s circulatory system. I would eventually see the adventure on TV.
But I wasn’t going to Raquel Welch movies in 1966. Instead, I was going to movies like the Fred MacMurray Boy Scouts adventure “Follow Me, Boys!” also featuring Vera Miles and Kurt Russell. The theme song for this movie would come into play in my music classes in my new school in Phoenix. It would be a featured song in our school performance and we practiced that sucker over and over.
Let’s also add in that at the end of 1966, on Christmas Day, my parents dropped us off at a huge theater in Phoenix to see “The Bible: In The Beginning,” directed by John Huston. It was a mammoth telling of Biblical stories, including stars such as Stephen Boyd, Ava Gardner, Richard Harris, Michael Parks, John Huston, George C Scott, Ava Gardner and Peter O’Toole- and probably provided my folks with a very long afternoon by themselves. I was so impressed by the solemn magnitude of the movie that I bought the souvenir booklet.
Some 1966 movies would become popular late-night TV fodder in the years to come. The king would be the “spaghetti Western” classic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” Directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach, “The Good, The Bad, the Ugly” was dirty, dusty, greedy and desperate.
Perhaps 180 degrees from “The Good, The Bad” was “A Man for All Seasons,” a movie they always seemed to make a big deal out of on “The Million Dollar Movie.” This one was directed by Fred Zinnemann and starred Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw and Orson Welles. It had a grand scope historically and was much more complicated and refined, concentrating on such things as principles rather than criminal loot.
1966 would also produce a “cult movie” I would enjoy several times at the Midnight Movies in Tempe, Arizona during my early college years. The movie was “King of Hearts” (Le Roi de Cœur), starring Alan Bates. It’s a twisted movie in gentle way.
During World War I, a British soldier is sent into a French town in advance of his unit and discovers a population of natives who are just not normal. In fact, they are escaped inmates from the local insane asylum and they took over the town when the other residents- and the German enemy- fled after rigging the town square to explode.
For just a short time, the British soldier allows himself to enter into the world the inmates create for themselves. But the fragile spontaneity of the unpredictable mind is no match for the grinding wheels of war and reality has its way. It’s a charming movie with more than just a hint of protest.
Fahrenheit 451 ***
Though the movie itself has not aged well- its idea of the future seems kind of quaint in 2012- the ideas discussed are still plenty poignant. The movie follows the disintegration of a model citizen of a future society that pops pills, watches endless television programs and burns books because they contain unhappy subjects and information. This citizen is a “fireman,” part a special unit charged with tracking down books wherever they are hidden and destroying them.
There is certainly some innovation going on in this movie. For example, the beginning credits are spoken, not printed. There is also a sense of humor here with books being hidden inside fake television sets. The newspapers the characters sit down to “read” are nothing but comic strips without words. One of the books that goes into the fire at one point is a Mad Magazine paperback and one of the Book People claims “Fahrenheit 451” author Ray Bradbury’s other popular title “The Martian Chronicles.”
The scenes with the fireman’s wife watching a huge screen TV, along with faux interactive features, is, in fact, visionary. You should see the size television screens we have in 2012- as well as the wealth- or poverty- of material to watch.
Directed by Francois Truffaut…1966…112 min…featuring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.
The Group ***
A gaggle of 8 young women graduate from college in 1933 and face various trials in the years ahead. The men in the movie are horrible, leading to the terrible irony the movie is based on. That is, young women with so much promise are just wasted by limiting attitudes and both psychological and physical abuse. Strength here comes from the bond the women share throughout their lives, offering, at the least, some sympathy for bad marriages and poor choices. That bond becomes their lifeline.
Directed by Sidney Lumet…1966…150 min…featuring Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett, Elizabeth Hartman, Shirley Knight, Joanna Pettet, Mary-Robin Redd, Jessica Walter, Kathleen Widdoes, James Broderick, Larry Hagman, Hal Holbrook, Richard Mulligan
An isolated castle becomes the setting for this odd thriller as a couple of wounded criminals hole up with an unpredictable man and his young French wife. The lines blur as to who is in charge as the criminals’ conditions worsen. That this castle is regularly cut off from land by the tide further enhances the tension. Lionel Stander’s portrayal of the criminal Dickie is gritty and distinctive. Donald Pleasance is very curious indeed as the loose cannon “lord of the manor”.
Directed by Roman Polanski…1966…113 min…featuring Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran, Jacqueline Bisset.
Kill, Baby, Kill ***
A doctor travels to a spooky village to perform an autopsy and gets mixed up in a supernatural showdown between the residents and a murdering ghost. Again, the copy I streamed was pretty bad quality. Still, the creepiness of the dramatic Gothic atmosphere came through just fine. Decaying buildings, creative lighting, effects like plenty of stage smoke and a general darkness to the images work together to underscore the story of a malevolent spirit and her cowering victims. There’s a great sequence where the doctor chases the ghost but ends up chasing himself through the doors of the same room, over and over again.
Directed by Mario Bava…1966…85 min…featuring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Piero Lulli, Luciano Catenacci, Giovanna Galletti.
Queen of Blood ***
“Queen of Blood” is, at the least, an imaginative production. Some real work was applied to providing futuristic settings, space ships and cool costumes. The imagery goes a long way toward fulfilling the purpose of the movie- Sci-Fi entertainment, plain and simple- when the plot itself kind of runs out of ideas.
You see, an alien race has contacted the Earth, but their initial Ambassador flight has crash landed on Mars. The Earthlings, lead by a dry, stuffy head scientist played by the venerable Basil Rathbone, decide to send help. The mission recovers one of the aliens- and leaves one of their own on a Mars moon- and then the movie falls flat.
The alien, it turns out, is a vampire and wants to drain the blood of her rescuers. She’s creepy alright, but an easy out for writers as the movie winds down.
Directed by Curtis Harrington…1966…81 min…featuring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, Florence Marly.
Blood Bath ***
This rating could go another way depending on your mood. The copy I streamed was very poor quality- a little hitch occurring in just about all the movement on the screen. You could easily dismiss the movie as unwatchable. But taken as an aesthetic element, the poor quality even kind of enhances this tongue-in-cheek drama. The intent of “Blood Bath”- to kind of lampoon contemporary culture and specifically horror movies- immediately reminded me of “Bucket of Blood.” Am I seriously discussing these movies? As social satire, they’re much better than a lot of serious movies.
This one has a loose plot about a crazed artist who channels a long dead relative who was burned at the stake as a sorcerer, but was really a vampire instead. This makes him kill girls, mutilate their bodies, produce a painting from the scene, then dip their bodies into wax and display them in his studio as sculptures. This produces plenty of disturbing, gory imagery.
There is just a little bit of daylight in this character’s psyche- there’s this girl he likes, meeting her on the beach for swims and picnics, but he never invites her into his private world. Sweetly, he resists her advances, trying to preserve one thing in his life that isn’t twisted. That falls apart when she gets too aggressive about pursuing the relationship.
Like “Bucket of Blood,” the social satire in “Blood Bath” comes in during scenes in a coffeehouse with some artist and beatnik types hanging around, discussing art and outrageous ideas about how to make it- like shooting paint balls at an otherwise reasonably skilled painting in an attempt to create “quantum art.”
Otherwise, the acting and sequencing is so overly dramatic, it’s nearly impossible to take any of it with a straight face. Rather, it’s more like a guessing game as to what the producers are going to throw at you next. In my reading about this movie, I discovered that this production used footage from different projects and the slapdash effect of that is obvious especially in the way the artist totally changes appearance as a vampire- they’re completely different actors. However, this also somehow adds to the dirty delight of this howler.
Directed by Jack Hill, Stephanie Rothman…1966…80 min…featuring William Campbell, Marissa Mathes, Lori Saunders , Karl Schanzer, Sid Haig, Jonathan Haze, Fred Thompson.
Curse of the Swamp Creature *
A TV production of very poor production quality- it’s a real stinker! A geologist gets mixed up with bad people and a mad scientist when he enters a swamp area to find oil.
The bad people are posing as his local contacts and are looking for some quick money out of the oil discovery. The scientist happens to be operating his own research lab in the middle of the swamp, working on devolving a human being into a fish man.
The two groups meet and things reach a dramatic conclusion when area native residents, who practice secret ceremonies in the swamp, appear to confront the scientist about missing loved ones. Now, that’s a long explanation for a lousy movie- as I read in a review on IMDB: don’t waste time on this one!
Directed by Larry Buchanan…1966…80 min…featuring John Agar, Francine York, Jeff Alexander.
More 1966 Movies
Agent for H.A.R.M.
Around the World Under the Sea
The Battle of Algiers
Beregis Avtomobilya (Beware of the Automobile)
A Big Hand for the Little Lady
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Signore & Signori)
Black Girl (La Noire de…)
The Blue Max
Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!
A Bullet for the General (El Chucho, quién sabe?)
Carry On Screaming!
Closely Watched Trains (Ostre sledované vlaky)
Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD
The Deadly Affair
Don’t Look Now, We’re Being Shot At
Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Duel at Diablo
The Face of Another (Tanin no kao)
The Family Way
The Fortune Cookie
Frankie and Johnny
Funeral in Berlin
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Gamera vs. Barugon
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster
The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery
How To Steal a Million
The Hunt (La Caza)
Is Paris Burning?
It Happened Here
Let’s Kill Uncle
Lord Love a Duck
Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.
A Man and a Woman
The Man Called Flintstone
“Manos” The Hands of Fate
Meet Whiplash Willie
Mission to Death
The Naked Prey
The Nun (La Religieuse)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style
The Plague of the Zombies
The Rare Breed
Return of the Seven
Ride in the Whirlwind
Run, Appaloosa, Run
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
The Sand Pebbles
The Sandwich Man
The Shop on Main Street
The Singing Nun
The Sword of Doom (Dai-bosatsu toge)
This Property is Condemned
Three On A Couch
The Trouble with Angels
Trunk to Cairo
Walk Don’t Run
The War Is Over (La Guerre est Finie)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Wild Angels
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
The Wrong Box
The Young Rounders
1967 Movie Memories
My strongest 1967 movie memory isn’t really about a movie itself, but of what the movie inspired. The movie I’m talking about is the 1967 hit “Bonnie and Clyde,” featuring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the legendary crime couple. Apparently, Bonnie and Clyde were legendary in their own time and the movie in 1967 made them legendary all over again to a new generation.
I didn’t get to see the movie until many years later, but some time after the movie had come out, the song “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” by Georgie Fame hit the radio. Reportedly, the song was directly inspired by the movie. The recording told a harrowing tale of career criminals thumbing their noses at the authorities and paying the ultimate price for it, using garish sound effects to illustrate the action and a retro style of singing.
Other music was also inspired by the “Bonnie and Clyde” movie. My Dad picked up an album of “Bonnie and Clyde” music at a gas station- a unique promotion.
The whole “Bonnie and Clyde” thing caught my attention and I became fascinated with stories of gangsters in general. I bought magazines at the local Circle K store that were jammed full of gory gangland murder photos and I read books about bad people like Dillinger and Ma Barker and sons. This was a taste of a horrible wickedness from history that was somehow irresistible.
But I wasn’t watching any movies anywhere near “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967. I’m not sure how my parents found the time, but on occasion they would go out to a movie and I would sometimes go along. In 1967, we saw two major movies in the theater in Phoenix.
The first was the grand musical, “Camelot,” featuring Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. The songs were plenty memorable and the Knights of the Round Table time period was imaginative. I enjoyed the movie so much that I bought the souvenir booklet.
The other 1967 movie I remember seeing in the theater with my parents was “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I’m not sure we knew what we were getting into with this big star treatment of the Shakespeare play. The time period sparked imagination but the constant yelling and conniving by the characters wore thin compared to the more audience-friendly “Camelot.”
Of course, the television would become the main outlet for experiencing 1967 movie releases. Some of these movies included “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman, and “The Dirty Dozen, starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson. Both movies especially caused a stir among the boys at school whenever they were broadcast.
I would have to wait until my high school years, after we moved to California, to experience the ridiculous horror of the 1967 blood-fest “The Gruesome Twosome.” It was just silly- a woman with a wig shop lures young women into a back apartment where her son scalps the poor lasses to restock the shop. Still, I spent more than half of the movie in the lobby, occasionally peeking in through the door to see something creepy, but just scared to death.
In college, I would get to experience 1967 classics such as “Belle de jour,” directed by Luis Buñuel, starring Catherine Deneuve. Friends and I drove all the way from Santa Barbara to see the movie in an LA art film house.
On campus, I would also catch up to the 1967 classic “The Graduate,” directed by Mike Nichols, starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross.
Valley of the Dolls ***
Drugs get the better of young, pretty and talented women. Tenuous relationships are the results of a freewheeling celebrity lifestyle that turns ambition into need.
Directed by…Mark Robson…1967…123 min…featuring Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke, Martin Milner, Lee Grant, Jacqueline Susann, Joey Bishop, George Jessel, Tony Scotti, Charles Drake, Naomi Stevens, Susan Hayward, Richard Dreyfuss.
The Marquis De Sade directs inmates in an insane asylum in a play about the French Revolution. This can do nothing but spin out of control, the shrill music and aggressive action surging toward a violent outcome.
Directed by…Peter Brook…1967…116 min…featuring Glenda Jackson, Patrick Magee, Clifford Rose, Ian Richardson, Freddie Jones
A stoic half-breed finds himself in command of a bunch of white folks when their stage is robbed. It’s rugged, but slow- like a trickle of sweat easing down your neck on a blistering hot day.
Directed by Martin Ritt…1967…111min…featuring Paul Newman, Fredric March, Richard Boone, Diane Cilento, Cameron Mitchell, Barbara Rush, Martin Balsam, Val Avery.
More 1967 Movies
Magical Mystery Tour
Gamera vs. Gyaos
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle)
A Countess from Hong Kong
The Andromeda Nebula
Barefoot in the Park
The Battle of Algiers
The Big Mouth
Billion Dollar Brain
La collectionneuse (The Collector)
Divorce American Style
Far from the Madding Crowd
The Fearless Vampire Killers
The Firemen’s Ball
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
A Guide for the Married Man
The Happiest Millionaire
Hells Angels on Wheels
I Am Curious (Yellow)
In Cold Blood
In Like Flint
In the Heat of the Night
The Jungle Book
King Kong Escapes
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet
The Night of the Generals,
Quatermass and the Pit
The Reluctant Astronaut
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Son of Godzilla
The Thief of Paris
This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse
Thoroughly Modern Millie
To Sir, with Love
Two for the Road
Up the Down Staircase
Wait Until Dark
The War Wagon
Who’s Minding the Mint?
Who’s That Knocking at My Door
You Only Live Twice
Night of the Living Dead
Chilling black and white photography makes the skin crawl as refugees from a zombie attack try to survive together in a farm house.
Directed by George A Romero…1968…96 min…featuring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea.
Planet of the Apes ****
The concept is mind-bending- astronauts return to Earth but in a different time, far in the future, where apes have succeeded humans as the dominant intelligent species. The whole thing acts as a parable about prejudice.
Directed by Franklin J Schaffner…1968…112 min…featuring Charlton Heston (as Colonel George Taylor,) Roddy McDowall (as Cornelius,) Kim Hunter (as Dr. Zira,) Maurice Evans (as Dr Zaius,) James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison (as Nova,) Robert Gunner, Lou Wagner.