Category Archives: 1963

The Nose (1963, Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker)

The Nose is an example of pinscreen animation. If I understand it correctly, thousands (over a hundred thousand, for example, in the case of The Nose) of pins are put on a board and moved and photographed under different lighting situations.

The result is startling. Directors Alexeieff and Parker are able to not just create fantastic transitions–the settings literally slide from one to the next–but also the most amazing movement of figures. The figure movement in The Nose is some of the most natural animation movement I’ve ever seen.

The story concerns a man who may or may not have lost his nose and, to a lesser degree, the barber who may or may not have found it. The nose–either in reality or dream–runs off and decides it wants to live away from the man’s face.

The story barely matters… Alexeieff and Parker’s animation is unbelievable.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed and animated by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker; screenplay by Alexeieff and Parker, based on a story by Nikolai Gogol; music by Hai-Minh.


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Chili Weather (1963, Friz Freleng)

I’m missing why Speedy Gonzales is the good guy in Chili Weather. He’s trying to steal food (the theory being the factory has food so it should give food to his friends) and he tortures the guard cat.

If one got really creative, he or she could interpret Weather as commentary on the Mexican government starving its citizens while producing cheap goods for the United States. I’d love to read that interpretation, actually.

Speedy’s a bunch of stereotypes and whatnot, but he’s also an annoying jerk. Sylvester, as the guard cat, isn’t even a bad guy in Weather. He’s literally just doing his job.

It doesn’t help the animation is boring and Freleng’s one okay gag–Sylvester hopping on an ice block and melting it after soaking in Tabasco sauce–isn’t even original.

The plot doesn’t arc either, making Weather an abbreviated chase cartoon.

It’s fairly awful, except Blanc’s Sylvester.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Friz Freleng; written by John W. Dunn; animated by Gerry Chiniquy, Lee Halpern, Art Leonardi, Bob Matz and Virgil Ross; edited by Lee Gunther; music by William Lava; produced by David H. DePatie; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Blanc (Speedy Gonzales / Sylvester / Mice).


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The Haunting (1963, Robert Wise)

What makes The Haunting so good–besides Wise’s wondrous Panavision composition–is the characters. Yes, it succeeds as a horror film, with great internal dialogue (Julie Harris’s character’s thoughts drive the first twenty minutes alone and the device never feels awkward), but those successes are nothing compared to the character interactions.

The Haunting chooses to be both definite and understated with the truth behind its supernatural elements. Gidding structures his conversations about the supernatural very carefully, leaving the viewer to constantly question previous events, creating a palpable uneasiness.

In that uneasiness, Gidding is able to create these evolving character relationships. The one between Harris and Claire Bloom is, for example, the practical backbone of the entire picture. It allows Harris’s character to, for lack of a less cute term, bloom. But the relationship is in constant flux, especially since the audience hears a lot of what goes on in Harris’s head–but not Bloom’s. It’s very interesting to see what Gidding is going to come up with, in the dialogue, next.

The structure of the opening–the film starts with Richard Johnson introducing the haunted house aspect of the story, then moves entirely to Harris for a while–gives Wise and Gidding a fine opportunity to introduce the characters to each other and they fully utilize it. There isn’t a single character without a unique dynamic with another–lots of the Haunting is four people in a room talking (Russ Tamblyn being the fourth).

Also superior is Humphrey Searle’s score.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Robert Wise; screenplay by Nelson Gidding, based on a novel by Shirley Jackson; director of photography, Davis Boulton; edited by Ernest Walter; music by Humphrey Searle; production designer, Elliot Scott; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.

Starring Julie Harris (Nell), Claire Bloom (Theo), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sanderson), Rosalie Crutchley (Mrs. Dudley), Lois Maxwell (Grace Markway), Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley), Diane Clare (Carrie Fredericks) and Ronald Adam (Eldridge Harper).


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Soldier in the Rain (1963, Ralph Nelson)

Soldier in the Rain is a peculiar film. It’s one of Steve McQueen’s odder performances–his character is a doofus, both the protagonist and the subject of the audience’s (intended) laughter. Jackie Gleason gives an excellent performance, though his scenes with McQueen compare poorly to the ones with Tuesday Weld. Their scenes really bring something special of out of Soldier, so it’s a big disservice when their importance is ignored, the film instead concentrating on gags. The problem with the film–besides the script, which I imagine is partially William Goldman’s novel’s fault, the wandering emphases, but also the terrible Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin script–not so much the dialogue, but the plotting. It’s separated into a handful of scenes, almost intended more for the stage. And Ralph Nelson really tries to be an interesting director–whether it’s the omnipresent (sometimes louder than dialogue) Henry Mancini score, or the silent scenes with nothing but breathing–Nelson is definitely trying for something and he’s failing miserably. The film’s atrociously edited, discombobulating at times. Nelson will occasionally have a good shot, a good sequence of shots, then he’ll toss any goodness away with a terrible cut. Either he didn’t get enough coverage or he’s just incompetent and sporadically lucky.

Nelson’s problems don’t just hinder the film visually (and audially, that music gets annoying fast)–every scene is told in summary until the last half hour. Worse, the actors aren’t working towards anything. While Gleason has a good role and even with the film’s problems, it turns out very well for him, McQueen’s is convoluted. He goes from being a doofus to being a smart guy in a flash (the film needs a conclusion, after all). Weld’s similarly wronged. All of those scenes in summary suggest the film is leading up to something, even though it’s long clear it’s not. They’re starter scenes, ones to be expanded one on later, but Soldier in the Rain never goes in a traditional or good direction. While it’s the closest Edwards has probably ever come to art house, it’s not intentional–the scenes are ripe for trailer moments and commercial breaks. Edwards and Richlin’s script isn’t just erratic (it either takes place over a week or a month, there’s nothing definite and a few contradictions), it’s cheap. Soldier in the Rain feels incomplete, slapped together and pushed out the door.

I remembered thinking it was a stunning piece of work–and with McQueen and Gleason and Weld, it could have been–but instead it’s a mishmash. A poorly directed one too.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Ralph Nelson; screenplay by Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin, from the novel by William Goldman; director of photography, Philip H. Lathrop; edited by Ralph E. Winters; music by Henry Mancini; produced by Edwards and Martin Jurow; released by Allied Artists.

Starring Jackie Gleason (MSgt. Maxwell Slaughter), Steve McQueen (Sgt. Eustis Clay), Tuesday Weld (Bobby Jo Pepperdine), Tony Bill (Pfc. Jerry Meltzer), Tom Poston (Lt. Magee), Ed Nelson (MP Sgt. James Priest), Lew Gallo (Sgt. Fred Lenahan) and Rockne Tarkington (Sgt. William Booth).


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