Tag Archives: 60s film

Love Has Many Faces (1965)

There are no secrets in this sandpile.”

Love Has Many Faces (1965), directed by Alexander Singer, is a tawdry look at Acapulco  “beach bums,” a polite euphemism for gigolos, and their wealthy prey–lonely, middle-aged American divorcees. The film shows the culture clash between the native Mexicans and the jaded Americans in the first scene when a gang of happy Mexican children, running along the beach stumble upon a body washed ashore. The body is of a young American named Billy whose last known relationship was with wealthy, aging playgirl Kit (Lana Turner). She’s since married and moved on to former gigolo Pete  (Cliff Robertson) who helped her pick up the pieces in hospital after yet another drunken car wreck. Billy, left only with an ID bracelet from Kit inscribed “Love is thin ice,” is possibly the victim of foul play. Hot on the case is local cop, Lt. Andrade (Enrique Lucero), the moral centre of the film, who doesn’t bother to hide his contempt for the hedonistic lifestyle of the male American gigolos who crowd the Acapulco beaches looking for fresh meat.

posterKit happens to be the biggest catch around, but she’s stopped playing the field since Pete moved in, and the couple spend their time on the beach in a cabana, lounging on her yacht, or in her gorgeous beach home. This leaves envious Hank Walker, a hunky, tanned and well-oiled Hugh O’Brien, strutting around in skimpy trunks, waiting like a dog for a dropped bone for the day Kit tires of Pete, or Pete tires of Kit. Either scenario is fine with Hank, and he makes sure that both Kit and Pete know that he’s ready for the job.

But in the meantime, a gigolo has to make a living… enter Margo (Ruth Roman) and Irene (Virginia Grey), two lonely women who arrive in Acapulco right in time to catch the attention of Hank and his protégé of sorts, Chuck (Ron Husman). There are no illusions as to the relationship between these young men and their middle-aged prey, and Hank notes as he moves in for the kill:

“A new shipment. A little over ripe, but choice. Lesson number 1, that’s the best.”

It’s through his relationships with Margo and his training lessons with Chuck that we see just what a lowlife Hank really is.

Into this sandy Peyton Place, arrives one of Billy’s former girlfriends, Carol (Stephanie Powers). Initially, she has no idea that she’s stepped into a male flesh market, but she soon sniffs that everyone’s for sale. But since she still has some integrity, Pete feels an attraction and a desire to protect her from the ugly truth about Billy’s death. Opportunist Hank, however, sees Carol as a way to bag the big catch, by prying Kit away from Pete.

hunky hankWhile Pete and Kit are mired in self-loathing by the things they’ve done in the past, in complete contrast Hank clearly has no scruples or conscience whatsoever; he’s as oily as his suntan lotion, and that makes him a joy to watch as he smooches worldly divorcee Margo, a woman who’s onto Hank’s game but still hopes that he’s not as sleazy as she thinks he is. But Hank knows himself well and doesn’t bother to hide his unscrupulousness: from his shabby shack walls covered with polaroids of former conquests, his strategic posing in skimpy trunks on the beach, to his statement: “It’s too bad I’m not illegal. Just immoral.” Hugh O’Brien as Hank steals the film, and if Lt. Andrada is the film’s moral centre, the  hunky Hank is the polar opposite. Even Chuck, the gigolo-in-training is disgusted by Hank and he asks:

“Is there anything you wouldn’t do for a buck?”

Smirking, Hank replies: “There must be something but I’ve yet to find it.”

Love Has Many Faces is surprisingly suggestive at times. At one point, for example, a woman asks Hank to help her with her swimming stroke. He tells her “go ahead and get wet. If I’m not there in 5 minutes, you start without me.”

Lana Turner’s clothes are designed by Edith Head, and you’ll notice a similarity to some of them, the cut in particular. Lana Turner, who was married 8 times to 7 different husbands, looks wonderful here, and she throws her heart into the role of the neurotic aging playgirl who’s afraid to show any weakness. This is a glossy soapy, drama, and while this viewer hoped, in vain, for everyone to go a little wilder on the beaches of Acapulco, nonetheless this is an interesting film for fans of Lana, and the well-acted support performances from Ruth Roman and Hugh O’Brien make this film and its tacky tale of a world in which (almost) everything is for sale well-worth watching.

Here’s a clip

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Thérèse Desqueyroux (1962)

“I only remember loathing my husband even more than usual.”

Thérèse Desqueyroux, a 1962 black & white film from director Georges Franju, is based on the book by Francois Mauriac. The film begins with the acquittal of Thérèse Desqueyroux who’s been charged with the attempted murder of her husband, Bernard. We are not privy to the trial–instead the story picks up as Thérèse leaves the deserted Palais de Justice in the company of her lawyer. Thérèse’s father waits for them in the distance, and while an acquittal should be good news, Thérèse’s father doesn’t greet his daughter. Instead he shuffles her off in a chauffeur driven car admonishing her that she’s already damaged the family enough.

On the drive back to her home, Thérèse (Emmanuelle Riva) recalls the events that led to the accusation of attempted murder, and it’s a stroke of irony that the evidence of the intended victim, Bernard (Philippe Noiret), is the one thing that saves Thérèse from imprisonment. The film segues to Thérèse’s moody youth and idyllic days spent with her companion, Anne (Edith Scob). Anne is convent-educated, and Thérèse notes that Anne’s purity is “still largely down to ignorance. The Ladies at the Sacre Coeur placed 1000 veils between reality and their daughters.”

Thérèse, the richest girl in the area, then marries the very stodgy Bernard. One of the reasons for the marriage, Thérèse claims is “to have the joy” of Anne as a sister-in-law. People marry for worse reasons, but Thérèse’s passivity in the acceptance of her fate appears to play a part in the marriage which is welcomed by both families. Naturally the marriage is a disaster, and Thérèse grasps all of its ramifications only after the honeymoon which includes her husband’s “nocturnal inventions.” Thérèse  seems doomed to accept the boring life demanded of her by Bernard and his family, but this all changes when she meets the young man Anne loves, Jean (Sami Frey), someone with whom she can discuss Chekhov.

There’s an unexplored tantalizing undercurrent of lesbianism between Anne and Thérèse which would appear to be endorsed by Thérèse’s repulsive sexual experiences with Bernard. The plot doesn’t pursue this early hint, and ultimately Thérèse remains an enigma–even to herself . Just as Thérèse isn’t exactly sure why she married Bernard–a man who bores her to tears, neither is she clear why she tried to poison him.

The film emphasises the idea of hypocrisy–Bernard and Thérèse’s families are more concerned with appearances than anything else, so Thérèse is ‘freed’ from the legal consequences of her act only to face even worse condemnation at home. One scene however struck a false note. Thérèse returns home after the case is dismissed and teases herself with the possibility that Bernard would open his arms to her and ask no questions. That seems either impossibly naive (which Thérèse isn’t) or deranged. After all, what husband is going to accept a wife back at his side, in his bed as before, or even worse–cooking his food–when you’ve tried to off him by overdoing the arsenic?

While the book was published in 1927,  the film is set in the 60s. And the updating begs the question: why is an independently wealthy young woman corralled into marriage with a man she finds loathsome? Still in spite of that flaw, the film has aged well and Thérèse, whose main problem according to her in-laws is her intelligence,  is seen as a feminist heroine who is given no options–or at least considers no options–except marriage to a complete bore.  While marriage is seen by Thérèse” as a “refuge,” ultimately, as she’s absorbed into Bernard’s family, she loses all sense of identity and individuality.

Director Claude Miller has a remake in progress of the film which will star Audrey Tautou as Thérèse.

Thanks to www.bookaroundthecorner.wordpress.com for bringing this book to my attention in the first place.

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Ladies Who Do (1963)

“The bourgeois and the proletariat blood will mingle in the Charing Cross Road before they get rid of us.”

Ladies Who Do is a wonderful British black and white classic comedy which features some of the era’s best-loved stars. This is a good-natured tale of the underdogs who fight back against corporate growth and gentrification.  

The film’s heroine is the formidable Peggy Mount who plays practical-minded char woman/office cleaner, Mrs. Cragg. Mrs. Cragg works in the offices of developer, James Ryder (Steptoe and Son‘s Harry H. Corbett), a slippery, insincere character whose accents shifts according to his company. Ryder’s flashy lifestyle, which covers his upbringing in the slums, has almost bankrupted him, but he still maintains a posh office, a large staff, and a flash car. Ryder and his business partner are desperate to seal a new deal that involves the purchase of the homes on Pitt Street. Ryder plans to demolish the homes and then construct new office buildings in their place.

The trouble begins when Mrs. Cragg inadvertently transports a stock market tip  from Ryder’s office to her other employer, Colonel Whitforth (Robert Morley). Using Mrs. Cragg’s information, Whitforth subsequently makes a large sum of money, but Mrs. Cragg’s working class sensibilities cannot accept the idea that the stock market is an honest mechanism. She intends to give Ryder her share of the profit, but this plan, however, is abandoned when she discovers Ryder’s plans for Pitt Street. Mrs. Cragg lives on Pitt Street and has no intention of moving.

At this point, Mrs Cragg mobilizes her fellow char-women to unite against Ryder and his plans. He sees the residents’ refusal to sell as “a couple of old bags being difficult.” The consequences are hilarious and culminate on Pitt Street with various monkey-wrenching activities. Ryder, his workers and even the British police are no match for the cleaners–working class women who know just how to deal with the men who want to seize Pitt Street for their own ends.

Harry H. Corbett is perfectly cast as the slightly slimy, conniving (but not devious enough) Ryder. He meets his match in the charwomen, and of course the underlying message is that these women are invisible to their employers and so they can get away with a great deal more than the average person. The charwomen are hilarious and include Miriam Karlin as Mrs Higgins–a woman who’s tired of waiting for the Revolution, gormless Mrs. Merryweather (played by Dandy Nichols from Till Death Do Us Part), and nervous Emily Parish (Avril Elgar) who lives with her elderly mother. Elderly Mrs. Parish becomes a useful tool in the Battle for Pitt Street. Fans of British classic comedy, don’t miss this one. From director C.M. Pennington-Richards

Quotes:

“Would you close in a bit brothers. We have a spy on the outskirts of our little community.” (Workmen)

Take more than a bulldozer to put that old battleax under the ground.” (Ryder talking about Mrs. Parish)

“What do they want a teabreak for? They haven’t done anything yet.” (Ryder about workmen)

“Oh she loved the Blitz. She was very happy when the bombs were falling. She’d look out the window and shake her fist.” (Emily Parish discussing her mother to Ryder)

“You couldn’t have a derogatory effect on her heart if you ran her over with a bulldozer.” (Ryder talking about Mrs. Parish.

“I’ll have them out of there before you can say bulldozer.” (Ryder)

“You know the British workman. Loses every battle except the last.”

“What’s legal can’t be dishonest.”

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Berserk (1967)

“It’s a good thing you’re inhuman.”

In the tawdry thriller, Berserk Monica Rivers (Joan Crawford) owns the Great Rivers Circus. Business isn’t booming, but when circus performers start dropping like flies, the crowds start flocking in for a repeat performance. Soon Scotland Yard assigns a policeman, the dapper Superintendent Brooks (Robert Hardy) to question the circus employees, and stay on site until he’s solved the case.

Joan Crawford was in her mid 60s when she made Berserk, and she isn’t shy about slipping into her circus costume and showing off those terrific legs. Monica Rivers is a powerful, cold-hearted businesswoman, and while she has lovers amongst the circus crowd, she doesn’t let her dalliances interfere with the running of the circus. Business manager, Dorando (Michael Gough) is jealous of the strapping new trapeze artist, Frank Hawkins (Ty Hardin). Hawkins is quick to curry favour with Monica Rivers. While she isn’t averse to his hunky attentions, Monica still manages to keep Hawkins on a short leash. Monica’s mothering instinct is revealed when her daughter Angela (Judy Geeson) arrives after being expelled from her boarding school.

Berserk is cleverly sequenced. Horrible, grisly murders–with close ups of the victims’ faces–occur as various circus acts are rigged for disaster. With acts such as the high wire trapeze, knife throwers, lion tamers, etc, the opportunities for disaster are great. The tension runs high as the circus acts open, and harmless and charming acts take place (the Intelligent Poodles, for example). Then high-risk acts commence, and we wait for the next murder to occur. The circus audience (which has grown larger with the news of each death) waits with baited breath and anticipated ghoulish delight as each act opens. It’s a wicked, dark sense of humour indeed that creates grisly murder scenes within the magical anticipation of the circus

Berserk is very cheesy and has a moderate camp appeal. There’s a bearded lady at the circus, and the sexy Matilda (Diana Dors) gets into a girl fight with slaps exchanged and some great name-calling. On the negative side, the plot introduces a couple of red herrings that are never explained, and after the film’s sensationalistic conclusion, the red herrings remain unexplored. Also some of the circus act scenes drag on interminably. Joan Crawford fans won’t be able to resist, but Berserk is only moderately entertaining

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Dentist in the Chair (1960)

“Anyway, I saw her first.”

Dentist in the Chair is an unremarkable vintage British comedy, and if you have any sort of dental phobia, this film is likely to make it worse. The action is set in King Alfred Hospital’s School of Dentistry, and concerns three dental students, David Cookson (Bob Monkhouse), Brian Dexter (Ronnie Stevens) and the Dean’s niece Peggy Travers (Peggy Cummins). The film’s other main character is incompetent, but lovable crook Sam Field (Kenneth Connor from Carry On fame) who robs a dentist’s office by mistake. When Sam, who thought he was robbing a jewelry shop, realizes that he’s stuck with a load of dental instruments, he decides to go to the dental college and sell the hot equipment at rock bottom prices.

Although Dentist in the Chair is a comedy film, it never really rises beyond being mildly amusing. There’s one overly long scene that involves balloons and laughing gas, and quite a bit of the film is devoted to the comedy aspect of watching members of the unsuspecting public volunteer for dental work courtesy of the dental students. If you have a dental phobia, these scenes will make you cringe (“I’ve just pulled out a totally innocent tooth“). One of the biggest problems with the film seems to be with the script. Three of the four lead roles, those of the dental students, just aren’t funny. So we are left with Kenneth Connor carrying the film’s comedy. Bob Monkhouse, who had a later, long successful television career as a game-show host, just doesn’t seem comfortable in this role. He’s cast as a dental student who’s basically straight-laced and conventional, but then there are wolfish moments with the shapely Peggy Cummins. Directed by Don Chaffey, and based on the novel by Matthew Finch, this foray into the world of dental comedy is not successful, unlike the Doctor films that generated sequels for years.

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The Amorous Mr. Prawn (1962)

“Before I went abroad, you made some immoral suggestions.”

Stationed at a remote army outpost in Scotland, and at the end of his military career, General Sir Hamish Fitzadam (Cecil Parker) and his wife, Dodo (Joan Greenwood) wish to buy a retirement cottage. Even with the general’s pension, they still need 700 pounds to complete the purchase. When General Fitzadam is called away for several months on military exercises, in his absence Dodo concocts a plan to earn the necessary money by converting their majestic military residence into a bed and breakfast. Dodo puts all those years of being a military wife to a new use as she plans and conducts “Operation Loot.” Left with a skeleton staff of 5 soldiers, Dodo at first resorts to blackmail to ensure the soldiers’ cooperation, but after two wealthy American guests arrive, the 5 soldiers discover that their new jobs are so lucrative, it makes their army pay seem a pittance in comparison.

The Amorous Mr. Prawn (AKA The Amorous Prawn), directed by Anthony Kimmins, is a comedy of manners blended with affectionate farce reminiscent of the wonderfully funny plays of Alan Ayckbourn. There are many familiar faces from the period: Derek Nimmo is Private Willie Maltravers–an army cook who longs to venture into more adventurous cuisine, Private Susie Tidmarsh (Liz Fraser) poses as the maid, and Corporal Sidney Green (Ian Carmichael) masquerades as the butler. Gravelly-voiced Joan Greenwood is perfection as the affectionate, loyal general’s wife. The film’s low-key, good-natured style is married with elements of local colour, and the result is a charming vintage comedy. Dennis Price plays the small but significant role of oily guest–Mr. Prawn.

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