The First Anti-American Spy Film?

That was how director Ken Russell described his production of Billion Dollar Brain (1967). Whether that claim is true or not, Russell maintained it was the main reason the third entry in the Harry Palmer spy series failed at the box office. To be totally honest, none of the competing rivals in the film – Russia, the U.K., Latvia and the U.S. – are preferable over the other and come across as cynical, opportunistic entities that are only focused on their own agendas and self interests. Seen today, Billion Dollar Brain is easily most entertaining film in the five-movie franchise and deserves a reappraisal.   Continue reading

Dirk Bogarde on LSD

When I think of LSD depictions in the movies, American International Pictures immediately comes to mind with actors like Peter Fonda (The Trip), Susan Strasberg (Psych-Out) and Mimsy Farmer (Riot on Sunset Strip) blowing their minds amid the counterculture of the sixties. Of course, other more unlikely actors have been dosed with the hallucinogen on screen such as Vincent Price (The Tingler), Lana Turner (The Big Cube) and Jackie Gleason (Skidoo) but probably the most unexpected one of all is Dirk Bogarde in Sebastian (1967), a fascinating curiosity released in the waning days of “Swinging London” cinema which has been unaccountably forgotten since its release.   Continue reading

Paul Mazursky’s Sophomore Slump?

What do you do for an encore when your directorial film debut becomes a critical and commercial hit? That was the problem Paul Mazursky was facing in 1969 after Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice became the talk of the New York Film Festival where it was the opening night feature. His follow-up film, Alex in Wonderland (1970), expresses this dilemma but, if critics attacked the film for being an overt homage to Federico Fellini, Mazursky took the Italian maestro’s original concept and made it his own in an often absurdist portrait of Hollywood in the late sixties-early seventies and his own role in – and out – of it. Continue reading