A Few Thoughts on Doctor Who: Season 1 (1963/1964)

doctorwho_1I finished the first season of Doctor Who the other day, and while I knew I’d be a fan after just one episode, now my love for the show is firmly entrenched. It’s a unique take on the sci-fi TV show, specifically because it’s more focused on serial-style adventure thrills than truly thought-provoking science fiction (although there is a bit of that, too). I love how the show’s basic premise allows the writers to dream up literally ANYTHING and it’s a plausible setting for the next story. This lends the show an unpredictable nature that makes it really special.

But while it is unpredictable in that regard, the stories themselves do become rather predictable after you’ve seen a few. There’s always some contrived reason why the group can’t just jump in the Tardis and leave danger behind, and over the course of the story it’s not wrong to expect at least one member of the group to get kidnapped (and subsequently rescued). These can easily be seen as faults or examples of lazy writing, but in a weird way these obvious plot points endeared themselves to me over time and I found myself looking forward to seeing how the show would deliver the goods each time.

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The Naked Kiss (1964)

thenakedkiss_1Starring Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad, Linda Francis, Bill Sampson

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


Sam Fuller always kicks off his movies with something gripping and impressive, but the opening of The Naked Kiss is perhaps the most memorable of them all. The film opens with Kelly (Constance Towers), a prostitute, beating the living hell out of the pimp that stiffed her of $75. In the scuffle, Kelly’s wig falls off and reveals that she has a completely bald head. Unfazed, Kelly continues giving the pimp everything she’s got. It’s a striking set of images to say the least, made all the more impressive by the year of release. The Naked Kiss is definitely the type of movie that could have never been made from within the studio system.

From here, the film jumps forward a couple of years. We reconnect with Kelly as she arrives in Grantville, an idyllic small town. Her first contact is with Griff, the local police chief. He’s quick on the uptake, seeing through her “traveling champagne saleswoman” ruse for what it is, a thinly veiled front for a roving prostitution business. But after her night with Griff, Kelly wakes up and stares at herself in the mirror. Something’s changed, and from that moment on she does her best to start a new life for herself in Grantville. The only problem is that Griff wants her to get a job at the cathouse across the river, so that he can still slyly partake in her pleasures without jeopardizing his job.

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7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)

Starring Tony Randall, Barbara Eden, Arthur O’Connell, John Ericson, Noah Beery Jr., Lee Patrick, Minerva Urecal, John Qualen, Frank Kreig, Peggy Rea, Eddie Little Sky

Directed by George Pal

Expectations: Moderate because of George Pal’s involvement.


From the depths of my Netflix queue comes this George Pal directed cult classic. I remember hearing about this movie years ago, but I could never muster up the energy to care enough to watch it. A few weeks back I became somewhat enamoured with the idea of watching some other George Pal films because when I was a kid The Time Machine was the absolute shit. It was one of my favorite films during my childhood and it’s one that I will always love. With all this love you’d think I’d have seen some more of his work, but nope! That is, until now.

7 Faces of Dr. Lao is about a mysterious Chinese man who rides into a town in flux. Mr. Stark, a wealthy landowner (Yes, this is a Western of sorts), wishes to purchase the town from its inhabitants, but Dr. Lao arrives just in time. His circus serves as something of a distraction for the townspeople during the two days that they have to decide on Mr. Stark’s “generous” offer. It’s immediately clear to the audience (and to a couple of do-gooder characters) that Stark’s up to no good, but most of the townspeople have only dollar signs in their eyes.

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Onibaba (1964)

Onibaba [鬼婆] (1964)

Starring Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sato, Jukichi Uno, Taiji Tonoyama, Sensho Matsumoto, Kentaro Kaji

Directed by Kaneto Shindo

Expectations: High, been wanting to see this one for years.


Onibaba is a stunning, visual feast for cinema fans that happen to enjoy both classic Japanese films and horror. It is more arthouse drama than true horror in today’s sense of the genre, but make no mistake, Onibaba is horrific and unflinching in its story. It’s a great, slow-moving film and if you have any interest in watching it, please do so before reading the review. I’d prefer to talk freely about this one, as I feel that a lot of what’s interesting is definitely in spoiler territory, so consider yourself warned.

Onibaba is a very small film, concerning itself with only three major characters. An older woman and her daughter-in-law (both unnamed in the film) live in a small hut in a field of tall grass. And by tall I mean taller than a man, cornfield style. These women do what they can to survive, resorting to murdering exhausted samurai who have somehow gotten away from the war that rages nearby. They drop the bodies of their victims into a huge hole and sell their armor and clothes to a shady arms dealer in another hut close by. The third main character is Hachi, a neighbor that went to war with the son of the older woman (who was also the husband of the younger woman). After informing them of their loved one’s death, he quickly starts trying to seduce the young woman, thus creating a tension between the three that can only lead to bad places.

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Expectations: High. I adore Kubrick and I’d only seen this once before.


Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, but this film has always been something of an enigma to me. I only saw it once, about 10 years ago or so, and at the time I enjoyed it but I just didn’t think it was as amazing as everyone else seemed to think it was. It had been built up as one of the great screen comedies, but for me it didn’t deliver at that level. I got the satire, but it’s more of a slight smile throughout kind of movie, instead of a raucous laughter kind of movie. I was really into Billy Wilder comedies at the time so I guess subconsciously I went in expecting something in that vein. This time around, obviously, I knew what I was getting myself into. That helped quite a bit and my second viewing of Dr. Strangelove was a much more pleasant experience.

The plot follows three separate but connected stories. There’s the story of Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who orders his planes to commence “Wing Attack Plan R.” There’s also the story of the B-52 Bomber crew on their run towards their target inside Communist Russia. Finally, we have the War Room, where the President and many top advisors, including Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) argue the fate of the world. The plots are skillfully intertwined and perfectly play off of one another. Sterling Hayden is fantastic and reminds me a lot of Clint Eastwood in this cigar-chompin’ role. I’ve always felt that he is one of the great actors that doesn’t get enough credit these days and his performance in Dr. Strangelove is one of his best.

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