Well, 1951 to 1960. I’ll leave the argument about fence-post errors to the numerological-obsessed.
1960, Psycho (imdb) (wikipedia). Before I get into other candidates, a word about Psycho. If you’ve grown up in the last two decades and you haven’t seen Psycho, watching Psycho now might not grab you. Most of the cinematography tricks have been redone a hundred billion times, with better effects. The sound editing and score and how they weave into the movie have also been redone (albeit no better than in this movie), so watching Psycho after you’ve seen the last two decades’ worth of torture porn movies may seem like an anticlimax. Then again, no actor has duplicated or exceeded the work Anthony Perkins did as Norman Bates, so maybe not. In any event, Psycho is the greatest horror movie ever made. If it ever comes to pass that they invent the mind-dampening machine that enables you to temporarily forget things, a desire to watch Psycho unspoiled – as the viewers in 1960 watched it – might overcome my otherwise iron-clad resistance to any attempt to monkey about with my gray matter.
And that’s saying something.
Ah, but 1960 had some other great films: 13 Ghosts (the original), The Alamo, Les Bonnes Femmes, Butterfield 8… oh, shoot, now I have to make another word.
I hate Elizabeth Taylor. I can’t explain why, I’ve never actually seen her in anything where I thought she didn’t do an excellent job (except Cleopatra, which is an epic flub on all parts). She’s a female incarnation of the Leonardo DiCaprio Syndrome, which I would call the Liz Taylor Syndrome but I don’t like to confess that I don’t like Liz Taylor while I’ll cheerfully cop to hating Leonardo. I can’t stand him, and I like all of his movies. Go figure. So anyway, when it comes to Elizabeth Taylor movies, keep that in mind.
Come Back, Africa, an amazing documentary. Exodus, which everyone should see for various reasons (like Triumph of the Will from 1935) which we won’t get into here at Mindless Diversions. Inherit the Wind, which has another top 10 Angry Man Rant scene in it. The original Little Shop of Horrors. The original Ocean’s Eleven, a classic caper film. Spartacus, which everyone should watch just for the score, never mind that it’s otherwise a great film. Sink the Bismarck! The Sundowners. One of the incarnations of The Time Machine, which is a fun example of 50s SF. The Unforgiven. The Swiss Family Robinson, which both of my kids enjoy but is a little violent for the taste of the average modern American parent.
1959 Some Like It Hot (imdb) (wikipedia). Why do I choose this over, say, Ben Hur or North By Northwest? (Seriously, better than North By Northwest, Pat?) Two reasons. First, I’m horribly crippled with Movie Tourette Syndrome and there are some killer quotes in this movie (“I knew a girl from Bryn Mawr… she ratted on her roommate and was strangled with her own brassiere!”) But that’s true of North By Northwest, too, right? Ah, but this movie has Tony Curtis playing Joe playing Cary Grant playing Junior, and he murders it. Just slays. It’s not too often you get a moment like that in movie cinema. Sleeping Beauty, my favorite Disney animated film. Rio Bravo. Operation: Petticoat, which isn’t all that and a bag of chips but a good one to catch on TCM with the DVR when it rolls by. Anatomy of a Murder, which is my number three choice after Some Like It Hot and North By Northwest, and one of my favorite courtroom dramas. Battle In Outer Space, which is a must-see for the SF fan. The Diary of Anne Frank. The Hound of the Baskervilles, which isn’t a great Holmes incarnation but I do like Cushing and Lee in it. Journey to the Center of the Earth, the best incarnation of this story in film (although nobody has ever done this one correctly). Oddly enough I haven’t seen the UK edition of “The Mummy” which is from this year. The Mouse that Roared. The Shaggy Dog – great kid’s film. Our Man in Havana, which you must see if you like Alec Guiness or spy films or both. And, of course, the ultimate camp cult classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space, which deserves its own post.
1958 The Blob (imdb) (wikipedia). So many excellent movies this year, but this one, which isn’t excellent, is still my personal favorite. Steve McQueen is not good, and that’s all part of the fun. The Fly. The Brothers Karamozov, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (see aforementioned Liz Taylor problem), Damn Yankees, The Defiant Ones. Indiscreet, an under-rated Cary Grant movie. Run Silent, Run Deep. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, which any fan of special effects must see. South Pacific. Vertigo. The Thing that Couldn’t Die (bad fun). A Touch of Evil, which reminds everyone that Orson Wells was an excellent actor.
1957 Twelve Angry Men (imdb) (wikipedia). Totally unrealistic courtroom drama that never sees the inside of the actual courtroom, as it all takes place in the jury deliberation room. I have mentioned that I collect Angry Man Rant scenes. 65% of this entire movie is Angry Man Rant scenes. If you’re not particularly interested in Angry Man Rants, you might still enjoy this movie for its treatment of institutional racism, agism, and both hard and soft bigotry. The Bridge on the River Kwai, which I have trouble watching but adore and would otherwise have at number one. The Enemy Below, which isn’t as good as Das Boot or Run Silent Run Deep but it still a good watch… although it cheeses out in the end and highly romanticizes submarine combat in frankly an offensive sort of way. Funny Face, which you must watch if you love musicals or Audrey Hepburn, and who doesn’t love Audrey Hepburn? (Seriously, if you don’t love Audrey Hepburn, you’re broken inside) Old Yeller. The Man Of A Thousand Faces – Jimmy Cagney as Lon Cheney. The Incredible Shrinking Man, which is awesome and not at all campy, a stellar 50s horror/sf movie. 20 Million Miles To Earth, The Amazing Colossal Man, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Monster That Challenged The World… which are all campy but fun if you like 50s horror/sf movies… nowhere near the caliber of The Incredible Shrinking Man. The Seventh Seal.
1956 Forbidden Planet (imdb) (wikipedia). I love Forbidden Planet. I LOVE Forbidden Planet. FORBIDDEN PLANET! I still cannot believe that this movie was made in 1956. Great year for the movies, and not just for 50s SF/monster/horror films, either. The Ten Commandments, Around the World in Eighty Days, The King and I, The Searchers, High Society, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Giant. The first cinema adapation of 1984. Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which still scares the beejezus out of me, and was made for nothing and stars nobody who stars in things (although you’ll recognize a lot of faces). The Seven Samurai was made in 1954, 1956 was its release year in the U.S. and it is awesome.
1955 To Catch A Thief (imdb) (wikipedia). Cary Grant and Grace Kelly? How could I not? Jessie Royce Landis and Brigitte Auber are also respectively awesome, and John Williams is also great. East of Eden. Kiss Me Deadly, which is a must-see if you like Film Noir. The Seven Year Itch. The Trouble With Harry – Hitchcock doing black comedy over suspense, and rocking it. Guys And Dolls, which is hilarious.
1954 Rear Window (imdb) (wikipedia). Hitchcock’s best movie, in my opinion. Also Jimmy Stewart’s best movie. Raymond Burr gives a performance that would be hard to duplicate, and he has what, three lines? Thelma Ritter is perfect. Grace Kelly plays Grace Kelly, but not in the way that Al Pacino plays Al Pacino. There are five other stories going on in this movie to which all of 4 minutes of screen time is devoted, and Hitchcock tells all five stories while the rest of the movie is going on. Them!, the quintessential 50s Atomic Bomb Monster movie, better than Godzilla (also this year). 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which is a great movie for 10 year old boys, or anyone who can put themselves into that mindset for a couple of hours. The Caine Mutiny. On The Waterfront, which I would like more if Brando lived up to it ever again in his career. White Christmas, which is silly and fluff but a good seasonal family movie. Dial M for Murder and The Bridges of Toko-Ri… how did Grace Kelly do all this in one year (plus The Country Girl)? Brigadoon, which… okay, let’s be honest. It’s a below-average musical in a year with much better musicals and Gene Kelly does better dancing in most of his other movies, but it has a lot of screen time with Cyd Charisse… and although I’m totally *not* into objectifying women, if there ever was a woman who lends herself to objectification for one particular feature, it’s Cyd Charisse and her legs. Oh, those legs. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which has a great fight scene in it, and a great fun watch for kids as long as you spend a lot of time explaining horrible old social conventions. The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
1953 War of the Worlds (imdb) (wikipedia). I love this movie almost as much as I love Forbidden Planet. The hero is a physicist who fishes, can fly a plane, punch out an alien, and gets the girl. Other great movies from this year… Stalag 17. Shane. Kiss Me, Kate (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, with only one Brother), with one of my favorite numbers from a musical, “I Hate Men”. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, House of Wax. A pretty weak year, actually, in comparison to the overall decade.
1952 I am officially stuck. Well, I got through almost 60 years of films before I got to a year where I can’t pick a favorite, but I’m stuck. I can’t choose between Singin’ In The Rain (imdb) (wikipedia) and The Quiet Man (imdb) (wikipedia). I love the entire cast of Singin’ In The Rain, it’s my favorite musical, and it has my favorite number in it (no, not “Singin’ In The Rain”). But The Quiet Man is a contender with Raiders for my favorite movie *ever*. If you have any Irish in your ancestry anywhere, you have a relative that is a character in The Quiet Man, somewhere. It also has my favorite bit of musical score in it. Other good movies from this year… Scaramouche. The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Ivanhoe. High Noon! Some people really like Monkey Business, but as screwball comedies go, I think it’s subpar.
1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still (imdb) (wikipedia). Here I reveal my true colors: I’m a total nerd. As if there was any doubt, at this point. Real film buffs go with The African Queen, where Bogart gets his long-overdue Oscar. An American in Paris, another great musical and the one with possibly the best Big Dance Number in it. Alice in Wonderland, which I think is one of the better bits of earlier Disney animation from the standpoint of the animation… but I don’t like the adaption, so it’s a halfhearted recommendation. Death Of A Salesman. The Man In The White Suit, which is a little-known flick that anyone with any political inclination can watch and come away from it feeling affirmed. Abbott And Costello Meet The Invisible Man, one of the few Abbott and Costello movies I really like (their best stuff is their standup), there’s a ton of them in the early 50s. Strangers On A Train. Quo Vadis, which is an epic Epic Movie. Superman And The Mole Men, which deserves a look-see as the first real feature-length movie treatment of the Man of Steel.
Next time around we’ll cover 1941 to 1950.