I tend to neglect movies from the 1960s, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because I grew up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and have seen so many films from that time already, but I know there’s much I still haven’t seen. I only reported on 15 films from the ‘60s last year, and only eight in 2019. Much of what you’ll find here consists of horror and a couple of films that could easily have found their home in my upcoming film noir post. So here’s a breezy journey through a handful of movies from the 1960s:
Hell in the Pacific (1968) John Boorman
I referred to this film as a neglected treasure when I reviewed it back in February. Although it stars two powerhouse actors (Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune), I have found few people who’ve seen it. Those that have tend to love it.
Day of the Evil Gun (1968) Jeremy Thorpe
Day of the Evil Gun doesn’t get a lot of love, and even though it’s a very traditional Western, I appreciate its dark tone. Glenn Ford plays Lorn Warfield, a retired gunslinger who returns home after an absence of three years to discover that Apaches have kidnapped his wife and children. He also discovers that his neighbor Owen Forbes (Arthur Kennedy, one of my favorites) is engaged to Warfield’s wife, who believed her husband had died after so much time. Dean Jagger is interesting (although not very believable) as an Indian trader.
The Day of the Triffids (1962) Steve Sekely, Freddie Francis (uncredited)
Based on the famous John Wyndham science fiction novel, The Day of the Triffids begins with a meteor shower that blinds most of the people on earth, but the bigger problem stems (no pun intended) from the fact that an army of carnivorous plants (which grew from spores attached to the meteors) is killing the population. Howard Keel (who can’t sing his way out of this one) plays an American seaman trying to find a way to stop the plant invasion. A restored Blu-ray release sure would help this film earn more fans.
The Criminal (aka Concrete Jungle, 1960) Joseph Losey
The Criminal is sort of a “Prison’s Greatest Hits” movie in that it covers so many lockup themes and does it well. Stanley Baker plays a prisoner at the top of the prison food chain who gets released, only to take part in a job that lands him back in the slammer. This one’s got everything: the prison lifestyle and prisoner hierarchy, police (and convict) brutality, prison politics, betrayal, gangs, snitches, and more. Perhaps it tries to do too much, but I enjoyed it, especially Baker’s performance. The Criminal gets a 4K restoration Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber on February 18, 2020.
Shoot the Piano Player (1960) François Truffaut
Based on the David Goodis novel Down There, Truffaut’s adaptation (with Marcel Moussy) focuses on a former classical pianist named Edouard Saroyan (Charles Aznavour) on hard times, now passing himself off as Charlie Kohler, a piano player at a dive bar in Paris. When Charlie’s brothers get involved with gangsters, Charlie is brought back into the life he tried to escape. As is the case with The Criminal, I certainly could’ve placed this on my film noir list, but chose to put it here.
Blood and Black Lace (1964) Mario Bava
After so much time, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace seems almost tame and routine, but for the time, it was quite impressive. This isn’t to imply that it’s not impressive now; it is. Plus you can see its influence in hundreds of horror films since 1964. The plot? A serial killer is murdering beautiful models in Rome. That’s all you need to know. Bava always delivers a wonderful style, a brilliant use of color, and so much more.
36 Hours (1964) George Seaton
Jefferson Pike (James Garner), an American army officer wakes up in a U.S. Army hospital in 1949, with no memories of the past five years. A psychiatrist (Rod Taylor) and nurse (Eva Marie Saint) try to get Pike to reconnect his memories, which include the final briefing for the Normandy invasion in 1944. But Pike suspects they can’t be trusted. Based on a story by Roald Dahl.
UPDATE - Somehow I left one out:
Strait-Jacket (1964) William Castle
Ah, yes, Joan Crawford's descent into the horror/thriller realm begins here and it's a good one. After spending 20 years in a psychiatric ward for killing her husband and his mistress, Lucy Harbin (Crawford) is back home with her daughter (Diane Baker) and is totally cured. Right? NOT! Swing it, Joan!
That’s it for my brief look at the 1960s. Maybe things will get more groovy around here and Flower Power will return in 2020. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, let me know what ‘60s movies you encountered for the first time this year.
Photos: Rare Film, DVD Beaver, FilmStruck, British 60s Cinema, Film Sufi, The Cinema Archives, The Movie Database