Satan’s Sadists (1969)

Satan’s Sadists (1969)

“I guess I can thank the Marines for teaching me how to survive — how to stay alive.”

Synopsis:
A group of outlaw bikers — Firewater (John ‘Bud’ Cardos), Acid (Greydon Clark), Muscle (William Bonner), Willie (Robert Dix), Romeo (Bobby Clark), Gina (Regina Carrol), and their leader, Anchor (Russ Tamblyn) — terrorize and kill a young couple, then move on to a diner where they take its owner (Kent Taylor) and waitress (Jacqulin Cole), as well as three customers — an ex-cop (Scott Brady) and his wife (Evelyn Frank) and a Vietnam vet (Gary Kent) — hostage in the desert, eventually running into a trio of geology students (Yvonne Stewart, Cheryl Anne, and Bambi Alen) as well. Who will survive in the arid wilderness?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Deserts
  • Motorcyclists
  • Russ Tamblyn Films
  • Veterans

Review:
Peary lists two films by notorious schlockmeister Al Adamson in his GFTFF: Nurse Sherri (1978) and this earlier biker outlaw flick, which followed fast on the heels of Easy Rider (1969) and clearly took some visual inspiration from it:

That’s Russ Tamblyn there behind the shades, and it’s appropriate to feel sorry for his terrible choice in starring in this flick. (Perhaps his embarrassment is why he spends so much time in a floppy hat covering much of his face.)

Cole earns my personal vote for giving the most vacuous female throwaway performance I can recall in recent years:

“I want to go to a big city and meet somebody important and get married.”

Meanwhile, Anchor’s “lady” (Carrol) is so obsessively in love with him — and so willing to denigrate herself for him in any way possible — that we can’t help at least feeling at least a little thrilled by the creative way she finally takes matters into her own hands:

Note: This film has the “distinction” of being (perhaps) the first movie to show someone dying by having their head held down a toilet; nice.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Effective use of desert locations

Must See?
Nope. Listed as Trash in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Panique (1946)

Panique (1946)

“You don’t need a fortune teller to know the future.”

Synopsis:
Shortly after a maid is found murdered in a small town, a recently released prisoner (Viviane Romance) who took the rap for her boyfriend (Max Dalvan) meets up with him and learns he is the murderer — but when an eccentric local (Michel Simon) with a crush on Romance is marked as the likeliest suspect, Romance is torn between love for Dalvan and her conscience.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Carnivals and Circuses
  • Ex-Cons
  • Falsely Accused
  • Femmes Fatales
  • French Films
  • Julien Duvivier Films

Review:
Julien Duvivier is a lesser-known yet distinctive French director who made a few notable classic films — specifically Pepe Le Moko (1937) and, after his return from working in America during the World War II years, this adaptation of Georges Simenon’s 1933 novel about a socially ostracized peeping Tom who falls for a duplicitous female.

Romance is excellent playing an unconventional femme fatale — a woman whose deep and abiding love for a criminal overpowers her growing recognition of his sociopathic nature:

Indeed, we’re kept in authentic suspense throughout about whether she’ll stick with Dalvan or be swayed by sympathy for Simon. Simon, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as a self-professed loner — a man who, in addition to ordering an “extra bloody” pork loin from the butcher, admits things like, “I never chat with anyone,” “I’m always alone,” “I never vote,” and “I don’t like men.” When he opens up to Romance about his past, we learn that Simon’s mother “always preferred his brother” (who was “better-looking”), and that “at school, in the army, and at college, [he] was always excluded.” As he explains, “I didn’t choose a life of solitude — others just avoided me.”

Indeed, it’s clear from the get-go that the deck is stacked against Monsieur Hire (Simon), who will inevitably be forced to take the blame for a crime he didn’t commit. Meanwhile, parallels between this film’s storyline and the persecution of Jews and other “undesirables” during the war couldn’t be clearer (especially when Hire is asked his full name and he shares that Hire is short for “Hirovitch”). The strategic inclusion of a carnival taking place throughout the entire narrative adds to a heightened sense of Hire being put on display for the town’s viewing pleasure.

Duvivier — who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak — expertly moves us from scene to scene, beginning with the shocking discovery of a body, and culminating with a King Kong-inspired cliffhanger ending. This one remains well worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Michel Simon as Monsieur Hire
  • Viviane Romance as Alice
  • Atmopheric direction and cinematography
  • A chilling portrait of group-think and mob violence

Must See?
Yes, as a still-gripping foreign noir.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem

Links:

Pepe Le Moko (1937)

Pepe Le Moko (1937)

“Arresting Pepe in a place like the Casbah isn’t child’s play.”

Synopsis:
When legendary thief Pepe Le Moko (Jean Gabin) — hiding in the corridors of the Algerian Casbah — meets and falls in love with a glamorous Parisienne (Mireille Balin), a trailing detective (Lucas Gridoux) finds it much easier to set a trap for him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • French Films
  • Julien Duvivier Films
  • Romance
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary asserts that while it’s “not as exotic as Algiers, the American remake starring Charles Boyer… and Hedy Lamarr,” this “great cinema romance” by Julien Duvivier is “a much better film.” He writes that “Jean Gabin is so naturally charismatic, suave, and charming that we tend to overlook that he’s not a nice guy.”

Indeed, “he treats his loyal native girlfriend Ines (Line Noro) like disposable trash”:

… and “he not only fails to protect his youngest gang member (Gilbert Gil)”:

… “but also sends his most trusting friend (Gabriel Gabrio) on a fool’s errand that gets him arrested.” However, “we don’t find him immoral, just as we find nothing objectionable about Gaby (Mireille Balin), the beautiful Parisian woman with whom he has an affair”:

… adding, “We find that their love for each other transcends past trangressions and we root for their happiness.” Peary points out that Duvivier’s direction “is the best of his career,” with “his camera… very mobile:

… and some of the finest moments occur[ring] when he moves away from his characters’ faces and focuses on Pepe’s shoes, Gaby’s jewelry, or other props.” He notes that in his “favorite scene the director has Tania (Frehel), a chubby, poor, middle-aged woman, tearfully and beautifully sing along with the moving French torch song.”

What film fanatics will most appreciate about this film, however, is its enormously atmospheric sets and “poetic realism”: one really feels immersed in the stylized universe of the Casbah, and can understand the tensions Pepe faces between staying safely “protected” versus venturing back out into the wider world.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Jean Gabin as Pepe
  • Highly atmospheric cinematography and sets

Must See?
Yes, once, for its historical relevance as a fine example of French poetic realism.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

“What I’m out for is a good time; all the rest is propaganda.”

Synopsis:
A rebellious lathe worker (Albert Finney) having an affair with the wife (Rachel Roberts) of his clueless co-worker (Bryan Pringle) falls for a beautiful young girl (Shirley Anne Field) who won’t sleep with him unless he’s ready to commit.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Albert Finney Films
  • Infidelity
  • Love Triangle
  • Shirley Anne Field Films

Review:
Karel Reisz directed and Tony Richardson produced this adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s novel, part of the new wave of “kitchen sink realism” hitting British cinema in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It’s notable for Finney’s breakthrough role as a philandering cad who at least stays true to his own morals and priorities throughout; as he describes himself: “I’m a fighting pit prop that wants a pint of beer, that’s me… I’m me and nobody else. Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not because they don’t know a bloody thing about me! God knows what I am.”

To its credit, the script doesn’t glorify or gloss over any aspects of Arthur’s existence: he works hard and gladly provides money to his household, understanding that this is an important part of his identity; and when he learns about the predicament he and Roberts have landed in, they are both shown as multi-faceted adults facing the consequences of their actions.

A later interaction between Finney and Pringle also strikes one as unexpectedly and refreshingly honest.

This film remains well worth a look both for Finney and Roberts’ performances, and as a fine example of the “angry young men” genre.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Albert Finney as Arthur (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Rachel Roberts as Brenda
  • Freddie Francis’s cinematography

  • John Dankworth’s score

Must See?
Yes, for the lead performances and its historical relevance. Listed as a movie with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

  • Historically Relevant
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Look Back in Anger (1959)

Look Back in Anger (1959)

“What do you really want, Jimmy?”

Synopsis:
A trumpet-playing candy stand owner (Richard Burton) living with his friend (Gary Raymond) quibbles with his newly pregnant wife (Mary Ure) when her friend (Claire Bloom) comes to stay, causing additional tensions in their cramped household.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Claire Bloom Films
  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Donald Pleasence Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Marital Problems
  • Play Adaptations
  • Richard Burton Films
  • Spousal Abuse
  • Tony Richardson Films

Review:
Tony Richardson’s big-screen feature directorial debut was this adaptation of John Osborne’s 1956 play about a troubled marriage between a working-class vendor and his upper-class wife, notable for launching the term “angry young men”. The problem is, we’re not given a reason to understand or care about Burton’s “angry young man”, Jimmy:

… who seems to think the world is fascinated by his brooding snarl and wailing trumpet. Instead, we simply see him acting in an abusive way towards his wife (is she meant to be blamed for her entire class?):

… and towards her friend (Bloom), who promptly falls in love with him herself once Ure has left (?!).

And what, exactly, is the deal with Raymond, who simply lurks around the edges of the storyline without much to do except serve as a sympathetic listening ear or comedic ally for Burton?

A subplot about an Indian vendor (S.P. Kapoor) enduring racist slander and bullying is far more interesting than anything else going on:

… but barely given any screentime, other than to showcase Donald Pleasence in an early supporting role:

Ultimately, I have very little patience for women who put up with childish, abusive, snivelling men — and since we’re forced to watch not one but two such women here, I don’t find much to appreciate about this tale.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Oswald Morris’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though I suppose it’s worth a look for its historical significance.

Links:

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The / Rebel With a Cause (1962)

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The / Rebel With a Cause (1962)

“It pays to play the governor’s game here.”

Synopsis:
A working-class British teenager (Tom Courtenay) serving time in a reformatory is encouraged by its director (Michael Redgrave) to develop his passion for long-distance running, and spends time during his runs reflecting back on the troubled past that led him to his incarceration.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Flashback Films
  • Juvenile Delinquents
  • Michael Redgrave Films
  • Tom Courtenay Films
  • Tony Richardson Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is less than enamored with this “Kitchen Sink Drama” by director Tony Richardson — based on Alan Sillitoe’s short story — which portray’s Courtenay’s Colin Smith as “one of the many angry men of the British working-class cinema of the day.”

Peary points out that we see yet “another bleak view… of British working-class society” in, for instance, Smith’s resentment of “his shrewish mother (Avis Bunnage) frittering away his dead father’s insurance money, then kicking him out until he could contribute some money himself.”


At least in addition to reflecting back on “his dreary home life” and “being beaten by a policeman,” we’re also shown Smith thinking about “his moments of escape with his girlfriend” (Topsy Jane):

With that said, I wish we were given more context about how and why Courtenay turns to a life of petty crime; as Peary writes, “Smith’s reasons for his defiance should be clearer and have to do with his developing an understanding of society and authority.” However, I disagree with Peary’s assertion that “we have to understand better why he relates the governor to his past life” — to me, it’s crystal clear that Redgrave’s “pompous, paternalistic” arrogance epitomizes everything Smith loathes about the unfair class system in Britain.

While this is not a film I relish revisiting — I hadn’t seen it since being introduced to it years ago in a Film Appreciation class in college — I believe it should be viewed once simply for its relevance in cinematic history. Watch for James Fox in his first credited role as Courtenay’s running rival:

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Tom Courtenay as Colin Smith
  • Walter Lassally’s fine location shooting and cinematography

Must See?
Yes, once, for its historical relevance.

Categories

  • Historically Relevant

Links:

Room at the Top (1959)

Room at the Top (1959)

“Don’t hurt her, Joe; don’t ever hurt her.”

Synopsis:
A socially aspiring young man (Laurence Harvey) from a lower-class town arrives at his new job eager to woo the pretty daughter (Heather Sears) of his boss (Donald Wolfit), whose wife (Ambrosine Phillpotts) is dead-set against her daughter dating anyone outside of her social sphere. Meanwhile, Joe (Harvey) begins a romance with an older woman (Simone Signoret) whose philandering husband (Allan Cuthbertson) keeps her locked in a loveless marriage — but will Joe’s desire for wealth and status outweigh his love for Alice (Signoret)?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Jack Clayton Films
  • Laurence Harvey Films
  • May-December Romance
  • Simone Signoret Films
  • Social Climbers

Review:
Jack Clayton’s feature debut was this adaptation of John Braine’s novel about — as Peary writes in his Alternate Oscars — “an unhappily married middle-aged woman who has an affair with an angry young social climber.” Indeed this “depressing” movie tackles challenging situations and characters head-on, introducing us right away to a head-turning young man who doesn’t hesitate to directly outline his aspirational goals to his friendly new co-worker (Donald Houston):

While Peary doesn’t review Room at the Top in his GFTFF, he briefly discusses Signoret’s Oscar-winning performance in Alternate Oscars, where he points out that “Signoret, a French actress in a British film, became the first actress in a non-American film to win the Best Actress Oscar.” He adds: “As had been the case in her European films, Signoret was impeccable, giving one of her typically strong, moving, honest portrayals. Significantly, American viewers were taken with a rare movie female who is forty and slightly overweight yet is extremely sensual… ” He asserts that while “Signoret’s part wasn’t really substantial” (I disagree), she “was impressive enough to have warranted the Best Actress Oscar… had it not been for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot” (who he gives the award to instead).

I’m in agreement with Peary’s assessment of Signoret’s compelling performance, which is both heart-breaking and nuanced. This former war-bride (who surely only ended up with Cuthbertson due to lack of other options) is in an undeniable pickle, and we understand her despair when things don’t work out with Harvey as hoped.

Meanwhile, Harvey’s character gradually shows more depth as well: while we despise his naked ambitions, we come to realize that he does feel things deeply, and has a conscience lurking just beneath the surface of his calculating demeanor.

This film doesn’t present any easy solutions to the dilemmas it poses, but its honest portrayal of class relations and thwarted romance make it well worth a one-time look (even if it may be too depressing for repeat visits).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Simone Signoret as Alice
  • Laurence Harvey as Joe Lampton
  • Fine supporting performances
  • Freddie Francis’s cinematography


Must See?
Yes, as a powerful if sobering classic. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee

Links:

Band of Outsiders / Bande à Part (1964)

Band of Outsiders / Bande à Part (1964)

“Arthur said they’d wait for night to do the job, out of respect for second-rate thrillers.”

Synopsis:
When a young woman (Anna Karina) in love with two petty thiefs named Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey) tells them about a stash of illictly gotten money hidden in her neighbor’s cupboard, the trio begin making plans to steal it.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Heist
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Love Triangle
  • Thieves and Criminals

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “quirky Jean-Luc Godard film is sort of a mix of Breathless (where Belmondo performs crimes in the nonchalant manner he saw in gangster films) and Les Enfants Terribles (where the two males and one female commit petty crimes for fun),” given that “pals Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur play-act crime movies… much as little kids imitate heroes from war or western movies.”

Because “their mutual girlfriend [?!], Anna Karina, wants to fit in,” she “offers a real crime to them: they can steal her aunt’s money” — but “the three bumbling… amateurs… can’t distinguish between fiction and real life.” Peary notes that “when they put on their movie criminal guises, they think of themselves romantically, as do Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen in Badlands [1973] when they commit equally unromantic crimes; but, as is the case with Spacek and Sheen, their guns shoot real bullets and people get hurt.”

Peary points out that “the overlapping of reel life and ‘real life’… is disorienting because we have a hard time figuring out the logic of the characters’ actions” — however, while he argues this is “excitingly original,” I simply find it frustrating. We know far too little about these three uninteresting characters, other than that Karina’s Odile is for some reason hopelessly insecure (she wears primarily one expression — worried and uncertain — throughout the film):

Sadly, this makes sense on a real-life level, given that according to TCM’s article, “At the time Karina was recovering from losing a child during her pregnancy followed by a suicide attempt… The relationship between Karina and Godard was also on shaky ground by this point in their marriage and they would soon go their separate ways after working together on Alphaville (1965).”

However, it’s frustrating as a viewer watching this beautiful young woman (who has a dark side of her own) caving in time and again to her (occasionally abusive) male partners; they bullishly get their way, but at obvious and inevitable costs. And what, exactly, does Karina see romantically in Brasseur? I understand the notion of a “bad boy” attraction:

… but he’s neither charming nor handsome (rather, he’s oafish and crude). To that end, Jonathan Rosenbaum points out that “The melancholy trio of Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) … — two dandyish, deadbeat best friends and the shy, younger woman they’re smitten with — would have been inconceivable without Godard’s adorable threesome;” however, I’m not a fan of Jarmusch’s movie, and don’t consider the trio here (or there) to be anything close to “adorable”.

One of this film’s most memorable scenes occurs when Karina, Frey, and Brasseur get up and begin dancing “The Madison” in a line:

Indeed, Quentin Tarantino was smitten enough with this sequence to pay homage to it in Pulp Fiction (1994), when Uma Thurman and John Travolta boogie on the dance floor; but here it’s merely a diversion rather than — as Godard’s somber voiceover claims — an opportune moment to offer “a digression in which to describe our heroes’ feelings.” While most film fanatics will be curious to check out this historically influential film, I don’t consider it one of Godard’s must-see movies.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though as stated above, most film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out.

Links:

Carabiniers, Les (1963)

Carabiniers, Les (1963)

“In war, anything goes.”

Synopsis:
A pair of doltish peasants (Marino Mase and Albert Juross) are convinced by their wives (Catherine Ribeiro and Genevieve Galea) to go fight for their king in return for untold fulfillment of their desires.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Play Adaptations
  • Satires and Spoofs
  • Soldiers

Review:
Jean-Luc Godard’s fifth feature film is an odd-duck tale even for him — an adaptation of an adaptation (by Roberto Rossellini) of a play by
Beniamino Joppolo that is at first (for quite a long portion of its short running time) merely puzzling and annoying, but ultimately makes a powerful satirical punch in the face of consumerism, gullibility, and blind patriotism. It’s hard to believe how incredibly stupid and trustful Ulysses (Mase) and Michaelangelo (Juross) are when told that their king (their king?!) has personally invited them to serve him, in exchange for taking and doing whatever they want while at war.

In between watching Ulysses and Michaelangelo’s brutish, self-serving exploits, we see and hear snippets of letters they write home (taken from real-life letters of soldiers):

It’s only once the men return home and show the “spoils of war” they’ve collected to their wives that we understand the depth of absurdist irony Godard is reaching for. This unusual film is most definitely not for all tastes, but will — of course — be of interest to hardcore Godard fans.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

  • The truly surreal postcard sequence

Must See?
No; you can skip this one unless you’re curious. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links:

Petit Soldat, Le (1963)

Petit Soldat, Le (1963)

“Accused of being a traitor, my only way out was to hit on the enemy.”

Synopsis:
During the Algerian War, a French special agent (Michel Subor) is sent to Geneva to assassinate a member of the National Liberation Front of Algeria, but gets distracted by his love for a beautiful woman (Anna Karina) with dubious political affiliations.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Assassination
  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films
  • Spies

Review:
Jean-Luc Godard made his second film — about the incredibly sticky topic of France’s involvement in Algeria — in response to critics who claimed his debut film (Breathless) was too apolitical. Ironically, Godard himself didn’t actually have strong views on the topic; he simply wanted to explore such ideas through cinema. It’s most notable for didactic scenes of torture, which resulted in the film being banned in France until 1963 despite being made in 1960:

Film fanatics may be most interested to see the scene in which Subor voices one of Godard’s most famous quotes:

“Photography shows the truth. Cinema shows the truth at a rate of 24 times a second.”

Indeed, the film is (not surprisingly) quite talky and philosophical, with characters often simpy walking across or in front of one another while saying things like:

“When you take a picture of a face, you take a picture of the soul behind it.”
“In the ’30s, young people had a revolution: Malraux, Drieu la Rochelle, Aragon. We have nothing. They had the Spanish Civil War; we don’t even have our own war. Aside from ourselves, our faces and voices, we have nothing.”
“PeopIe look at me, but they don’t know what I’m thinking. They’ll never know!”

These quotes exemplify Godard’s obsession with meaning-making vis-a-vis a camera lens. Fans of his work will of course want to check this one out, but it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Note: The film’s title seems to stem from a scene in which Subot has Karina complete a “test”:

“You know this is a test? It’s a drawing to discover a person’s character. I often use this on women. They love to be called little girls and to play like children.”

Along with additional lines like the following:

“Women should never get older than 25. Men become more handsome as they grow older, but women don’t age well.”

… we have yet more ample evidence of Godard’s objectifying views towards women.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

Must See?
No. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

Links: