Tag Archives: 1961

INGMAR BERGMAN’S SILENCE OF GOD TRILOGY: THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY (1961)

The first of ‘s scorching “Silence of God” chamber trilogy, Through A Glass Darkly (1961) takes its title from one of St. Paul’s most famous passages: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known.” The key to Bergman’s film, and indeed to the trilogy, lies in this passage that is as much about alienation as faith. In some quarters, Bergman’s triptych has been inadequately referred to as a “Trilogy of Faith,” but faith is not tangible. One cannot see, touch, or smell belief, and the Pauline passage resonates with such widespread interior force for honest reasons. We may liken it to the Gospel’s passion drama: the eventual arrest and crucifixion of Christ is almost anti-climatic after the visceral anguish of the Gethsemane garden—the figure engulfed in oppressive silence after communication withdrawn. Paul identifies with the language of a vast chasm.

Through a Glass Darkly felicitously opens with Bach’s second violoncello suite, as Sven Nyqvist’s camera glides over a pearl-like body of water. Soon, a trio of figures emerge from the beach of the desolate Faro island. These are the witnesses: the glacially successful patriarch David (), the empathetic doctor and chaste husband Martin (), and the libidinous brother Minus (Lars Password). We then meet Karin (Harriet Andersson), and although the film becomes about her hour and her face, these men are no mere ciphers. Over the next 24 hours of family vacation, they express dread, lamentation, and pathos as they venerate Karin’s descent.

Karin has been recently released from a mental hospital. She finds a report diagnosing her as schizophrenic among David’s papers, and her dissipation intensifies upon finding herself utilized as a model for daddy’s new novel. The perennial voices in head further impede her mental health. Bergman takes a cue from in consistently choreographing her closeups to those of her witnesses; looking, but not at each other. She’s too caught up. Her obsessions locate God behind the wallpaper and then, tragically, in the attic, where the divine one is revealed to be a big black spider. Meltdown complete, but it’s not that simplistic. Bergman’s portraits are refreshingly mosaic, reminding us that even when he falters, as he occasionally does throughout his oeuvre, he presses on, gifting us well past the point where other filmmakers throw in the proverbial towel.

David’s narcissism is like Martin’s introspection gone fishing, while Minus absorbs Karin’s secrets and veers close to incest. When God is addressed and obsessed over, moral conflicts inevitably rear up.  The search for God is rendered akin to a shipwreck of futility. Casting herself upon an intimate sacrificial altar, Karin (the name was chosen after Bergman’s mother) will prefer the sanctuary of a cell as opposed to facing the silence of God.

Through a Glass Darkly belongs as much to Nyqvist and its cast as it does Bergman (who is hyper-controlled here). Nyqvist composes an encompassing world (magnificently realized by art director P.A. Lindgren) that should be a Promised Land. But familial reconciliation is ultimately defeated by Martin’s understated shoulder sag; Minus’ creativity is hindered by awkward impetuousness; David’s echoing of that Father who knows best but turns his face away; and, above all, Karin’s provocative and frightening rapture. Andersson delivers a performance for the ages, and although she might equal it for Bergman in Cries and Whispers, she would not surpass it.

*reprinted from 366 Weird Movies

1961 EXLPOITATION TRIPLE FEATURE: THE CHOPPERS, HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, AND WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS’ DORMITORY

 The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

Arch Hall Jr. is practically American cinema’s masochistic patron saint of Juvenile Delinquent exploitation garbage. Guided by daddy Arch Sr. (who penned the script and produced)The Choppers was Junior’s first film in a mercifully brief career (he retired in 1965 to become a musician and aviator—daddy was ex-Air Force).

To most contemporary viewers, Hall, Jr. is possibly best known for his second film, Eegah (1962)after it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000—although to the cult crowd, his crowning achievement is 1963’s The Sadist. Both of these will be covered here, along with Wild Guitar (1962), in upcoming exploitation collections from their respective years.

 

In Leigh Jason’s The Choppers, Hall is cast as Jack “Cruiser Bryan, the greasy-haired rockabilly leader of a gang of car-part thievin’ JDs. After stripping down cars, the Choppers take their loot to junkyard dog Moose (Z-movie veteran Bruno VeSota, familiar from Attack of the Giant Leeches, Wasp Woman and Bucket Of Blood), who gives them ten cents on every buck!

The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

Working out of their chicken coop truck, the Choppers also siphon gas out of unsuspecting vehicles, with Cruiser taking the role of the lookout guy who taps the steering wheel to the radio music he loves (which, the credits reveal, is Hall’s own song). For most of the film, the Choppers remain one step ahead of bland coppers and insurance suits. Later, we actually get to see Hall strum his guitar and sing “Monkeys in my hat band, I can do a handstand.” The jaw-dropping scene alone makes the entire film worthwhile. With rhyming genius like that, we can totally understand how Cruiser is a chick magnet who attracts a 1959 Playboy centerfold!

The Choppers (1961) Arch Hall, JR

The yawn-inducing plot requires a comeuppance, which seems a tad harsh for the Choppers stealing car parts, but the producers probably realized a minute or so of something resembling excitement was necessary.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

Mario Bava‘s Hercules In The Haunted World stars Christopher Lee with apocalyptic hair. Bava and Lee, together with a bulging pair of male mammary glands in a loincloth (Reg Park), overcome laughably bad dialogue, near-fatal comic relief, echo boxes informing us that “these are gods!”, a prosaic plot, shrill dubbing, a green monster who must have been an ancestor of Sigmund The Sea Monster, and a bulimic budget to produce one of the most psychedelic sword and sandal fantasy flicks of the early 60s.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava) Christopher Lee

With painted sets and sky, diaphanous tints, swirling ink vapors, and transcendent camerawork, Bava’s cardboard Hades is the quintessence of orgasmic psychedelia masquerading as Greek mythology. For a G-rated movie, there’s plenty of testosterone bandied about, both between Hercules and Theseus (George Ardisson) and Lee and Deianria (Leonora Ruffo).

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava) Christopher Lee

It almost doesn’t matter that Lee’s baritone is tragically dubbed. He’s still in full vampiric mode: seducing, impaling and stabbing (with a pair of wire cutters, no less).

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

As for the plot- it’s not really exploitation per se, but it’s as irrelevant as any in the sword-and-sandal genre, and the movie stars that god of drive-in cinema, the much-missed Christopher Lee… so, no apologies given for slight cheating here.

Hercules In The Haunted World (1961 Mario Bava)

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory certainly is exploitative horror, but those expecting only to be titillated by hairy boobies might be slightly disappointed because, despite its camp title and opening credits song “(The Ghoul In School),” this is a surprisingly atmospheric chiller directed by Paolo Heusch. Like Bava, Heusch employs what craft he can to overcome an inept script and dialogue. Unlike Bava, he doesn’t really succeed, although credit should be given for the effort. It is an Italian production that was purchased by MGM, dubbed into English, and shown on a double bill with the underrated Robert Day/Boris Karloff feature Corridors of Blood (1958).

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

Doc Julian (Carl Schell) is the new science professor at an isolated girls dormitory. He has a shady past, having unintentionally killed a patient whom he tried to cure of lycanthropy (werewolfism). Acquitted, he finds employment at the dormitory whose director has an obsession with werewolves.

Meanwhile, Sir Alfred (Maurice Marsak), the administrator, has been playing hanky panky with Mary (Mary McNeeran). Mary offers Alfred sex in exchange for her release from the dorm. Adhering to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) rule that sex equals death in horror, Mary gets stalked and murdered by a werewolf during the full moon. The scene recalls the atmosphere from Universal’s Wolf Man, but is decidedly more gruesome and actually better shot (avoiding all that canned Universal fog). Mary’s slashed body is found, face up, lying in a creek in the woods surrounding the dorm.

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

With Julian being the new kid in town, he is quickly suspected and…  a muddled plot follows, filled with idle chatter, blackmail, a red herring, pseudo-scientific babble, and a werewolf who looks more like Mr. Hyde than Lon Chaney Jr. Still, we watch this type of thing for the Gothic atmosphere, which this is chock full of; for a pretty girl (Barbara Lass, the first Mrs. Roman Polanski) getting terrorized; and for stylish supernatural mayhem—all of which Werewolf delivers. Alas, it tries to be too many things—a murder mystery (which is no mystery), a bad girls in a reformatory pic, and Euro horror. It veers closest to success in the latter. The title alone’s worth a bucket of cheese popcorn.

Werewolf In A Girl’s Dormitory (1961)

 

SOMETHING WEIRD TRAVELING ROADSHOW FILMS: DAMAGED GOODS (1961)/THE HARD ROAD (1970)

DAMAGED GOODS (1961) THEATRICAL POSTER

Today we tend to primarily (or solely) think of “Roadshow” films  as “filler” exploitation films for the pre-television era. However,Wikipedia’s entry on ‘Roadshow Releases,” is a useful in-depth tool on their history, revealing the initial understanding of the term was as a format, rather than genre. Of course, we’re not interested in “classy” roadshow features like Ben Hur or Cleopatra, but in the sexploitation features that took to the road to show audiences glimpses of forbidden fruit—movies that couldn’t be booked in regular suburban theaters because of their salacious content. Thefirst part of the series dealt with the phenomenon in the repressed Forties; for this installment, we move into the swinging Sixties.

DAMAGED GOODS 1961 poster

Continue reading SOMETHING WEIRD TRAVELING ROADSHOW FILMS: DAMAGED GOODS (1961)/THE HARD ROAD (1970)

TERENCE FISHER’S THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961)

THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961) Terence Fisher.

Terence Fisher never considered himself a “horror” filmmaker, and he clearly disliked the term.  While a number of Fisher’s film could be apt examples to drive home his point that he was more than a mere scare merchant, The Curse of the Werewolf(1961) will suffice quite nicely. This is a quite literary film, far better than either of Universal Studio’s versions of The Wolfman (1941 & 2010).

THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961) poster

 

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BUNUEL’S VIRIDIANA (1961)

Viridiana (1961) Palme D' or

Viridiana (1961) has quite a reputation among film critics and historians, often being listed as one of Luis Bunuel‘s best efforts. It is certainly among the most heterodox offerings in his considerable canon.

VIRIDIANA (1961 Bunuel) poster

Viridiana marked Buñuel‘s return to his native Spain after a twenty-five year absence. With the fascist Franco still in power, Buñuel was severely criticized and accused of making his bed with the enemy, but the filmmaker’s critics should have known better. Buñuel had an ulterior motive, with a predictably incendiary opus tucked securely in his Surrealist vest pocket.

Viridiana Silvia Pinal Continue reading BUNUEL’S VIRIDIANA (1961)