|A colorful poster...but |
no hint of the plot!
79. Advise and Consent - The President (Franchot Tone) clashes with the Senate and his own party on his nomination of a liberal academic (Henry Fonda) to become Secretary of State. His unyielding stance sets into motion a political chess match in which Senators take sides and people become pawns. (The chess analogy is an interesting one: Walter Pidgeon, who fights for nominee Fonda, wears a dark suit; Charles Laughton, who opposes him, wears white). This absorbing look inside Washington politics was made in 1962, but always feels timely--and the entire cast is first-rate.
|Jason Robards as Cable Hogue.|
|Bond and Flynn as rivals-turned-friends.|
76. Seven Days in May - John Frankenheimer followed his classic The Manchurian Candidate (1962) with this equally original political thriller. Rod Serling’s taut screenplay interweaves the stories of three men: President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March), whose popularity has plunged as a result of pushing for a nuclear arms treaty with Russia; General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster), the influential, egotistical head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Marine Colonel “Jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas), a key member of Scott’s staff. Part mystery, part suspense film, Seven Days in May unfolds its audacious plot carefully; it's a rare motion picture in which the outcome is always in doubt until the climax. That uncertainty is a testament to Frankensheimer’s craftsmanship as a filmmaker.
75. The Power – Shortly after absent-minded Professor Henry Hallson (Arthur O'Connell) reveals that one of his colleagues at a research center for human endurance has “an intelligence quotient beyond the known limits of measurability,” he is found murdered. When fellow scientist Jim Tanner (George Hamilton) starts investigating, he is not only framed—but finds himself the target of a diabolical “super intellect” that can alter people's perceptions of reality. While I recognize that The Power is a film of many flaws (starting with Hamilton’s bland hero), I always enjoy it immensely thanks to its ingenious premise, Miklós Rózsa’s unique score, and a delightfully wacky twist ending. And while I don’t know many people who proclaim to be fans, I can take solace in the words of film critic John Baxter who hailed The Power as “one of the finest of all science fiction films.”
Gargoyles – A delirious guilty pleasure, this 1972 film stars Cornel Wilde as an anthropologist battling the title creatures in a small southwestern desert town. A rare network TV-movie excursion into visual horror, Gargoyles opens with a prologue that explains the ancient creatures are reborn every 600 years to “battle against man to gain dominion of the Earth.” Bernie Casey gives an intelligent performance as the head gargoyle, exuding menace and generating a surprising amount of sexual tension for a network TV movie of the era. The Emmy-winning Stan Winston make-up is marvelous, complete with wings, horns, a pointy chin, white eyes, and vampiric fangs. And yet, I’m hard-pressed to explain my continuing affection for this film…perhaps it evokes a certain amount of nostalgia for the many made-for-TV movies I watched as a teen in the early 1970s.
|Sir Wilfrid cross-examines a witness.|
72. Victim – When I first saw 1961’s Victim, I had no idea what it was about. The film unfolds as an engrossing mystery involving blackmail, suicide, and an affluent barrister played by Dirk Bogarde. For the sake of those unfamiliar with this landmark movie, I won’t divulge any more of its plot. At a future date, though, I’ll do an in-depth review and address why it’s one of those rare films that seamlessly integrates a well-told story and social commentary. Bogarde shines in the lead role, though Sylvia Sims manages to upstage him in their potent scenes together near the climax.
71. The Winslow Boy – When a boy is expelled from a British naval academy for theft, his father has only one question: Did he do it? When the son proclaims his innocence, the father sets out to right the wrong—even it means taking on the House of Commons. The compelling story, sharply-etched characters, and sparkling dialogue can all be attributed to Terence Rattigan’s brilliant stage play. Still, this film adaptation stands on its own, anchored by a sensational cast. Robert Donat—who appears well into the proceedings—has the showy role as the son’s barrister and delivers his two big scenes with maximum impact. However, my favorite performances come from Cedric Hardwicke as the never-wavering father and Margaret Leighton as the feminist daughter. Her closing scene with Donat concludes the film on a perfect note.
Next month, I'll count down 70-61, which will include another Flynn film, the first of multiple Sidney Poitier appearances, a Renoir classic, and a Cornel Wilde cult film!