I’m a big admirer of John Frankenheimer’s early work from such live TV dramas as The Comedian (1956) and Days of Wine and Roses (1957) to his peak achievements of the sixties: All Fall Down (1962), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seconds (1966). I’ve also enjoyed several of the more commercial projects he helmed throughout his career such as Seven Days in May (1964), Black Sunday (1977) and Ronin (1998). Unfortunately, his reputation has suffered over the years due to several box office bombs and critically maligned movies – The Horsemen (1971), Story of a Love Story aka Impossible Object (1973), 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974), Prophecy (1979), Dead Bang (1989), and especially The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), which had a highly publicized and chaotic production history. Yet the most notoriously panned film of his career is easily The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) and in Frankenheimer’s own words, “It was the only movie I’ve made which I would say was a total disaster.” So, I finally decided to see for myself if the movie lives up to its notoriety.Continue reading
For better or worse, the 1960s was a time when commercial and experimental cinema occasionally collided, producing innovative, financially successful films such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966), but more often high profile failures such as Tony Richardson’s The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967), Otto Preminger’s Skidoo (1968) and the unfortunate 1969 screen adaptation of Lawrence Durrell’s Justine. In Search of Gregory (1969), which was designed as a star vehicle for Julie Christie by producer Joseph Janni and followed her critically acclaimed performance in Petulia (1968), falls into the latter category.Continue reading
Forget about Boys Town, Judge Hardy and Son, Babes in Arm, The Human Comedy or National Velvet. This is the less traveled road of Mickey Rooney’s post-MGM career where anything goes like co-starring with a talking mule (Francis in the Haunted House, 1956) or managing a troupe of trained monkeys (Babe: Pig in the City, 1998).
Everyone loves a good satire and the music industry always makes a great target with such superior examples of the form as The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), Head (1968) and This Is Spinal Tap (1984). The Cool Ones (1967), the story of a has-been pop idol and an aspiring singer teaming up to become the next big thing, certainly deserves credit for taking a lighthearted, broadly comic approach to the world of greedy record executives, egomaniacal producers, opportunistic promoters and wildly ambitious musicians. But the film is so hopelessly out of step with its intended audience and played at such a manic pitch that it approaches the infamous badness of Skidoo (1968), Otto Preminger’s mind-boggling mashup that pits gangsters against hippies. Continue reading
In the many peaks and valleys of his long career the Mickster never shied away from taking on difficult or questionable roles in his relentless desire to perform and entertain. While this adventuresome spirit might alienate part of his fan base that prefers to remember him as Andy Hardy or Judy Garland’s musical partner, it has won him an entirely new set of admirers. I’m talking about those who have seen and been amazed by his participation amid those lost post-MGM years in such eclectic fare as The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), Platinum High School (1960), Everything’s Ducky (1961 with Buddy Hackett and a talking duck), Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964), How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965), the Mafia-Hippie-LSD comedy Skidoo (1968), and 1971’s The Manipulator (aka B.J. Lang Presents), where he plays a psychotic former director living in an abandoned warehouse with a female captive.
Rooney’s energy, range and versatility are truly awe-inspiring from his desperate loser of Quicksand (1950) to his subtle, moving portrayal in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) to his unexpected cameo in Babe: Pig in the City (1998). But I’m willing to bet that La Vida Lactea (aka The Milky Life), made in Spain in 1992, is probably the weirdest thing he’s ever done and very few people have seen it. Continue reading
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
The Hollywood film industry is usually a few beats behind the rhythm of any new emerging counterculture and by the time they try to capitalize on it the parade has usually moved on. Duffy (1968) had the misfortune to be released in the dwindling days of the swinging sixties when the mod look of films such as Blow-Up and Kaleidoscope (both 1966) was being edged out by an rougher, less glamorous subgenre of youth oriented movies about bikers, drug dealers and rebels giving the finger to the establishment. Continue reading