Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Ivanlandia: Classics Revisted!

The First Movies of the New Year
It’s the start of a new year, and the first two movies screened were old favorites—as well as groundbreaking innovators when first released:
The Wild Bunch (1969; DVD from NYPL)
Dr. No (1962; Netflix Streaming)

We started with
Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch (1969)
Starting the year with one of the greatest films ever made is always a good idea—and I cannot recommend enough the DVD’s supplemental features:
Peckinpah caught lightning in a bottle, and it was wonderful to learn all about it.
“All it is, is a simple adventure story,” said Sam about his film, but he poured his soul into it.

Just imagine how amazing, how breathtaking, how utterly shocking that movie must have been when it was first released? I’d love to have a time machine and go back to experience a 1969 movie audience’s first reaction to a screening of The Wild Bunch.

After The Wild Bunch, the
WayBack Machine known as Netflix Streaming allowed the National Film Board of Ivanlandia to revisit 1962’s Dr. No, the first James Bond film—
Made before the series became totally codified, Dr. No is more like a regular spy movie, although one with garish Hammer Movie lighting and Pop Art titles (fitting for London’s late-50s Jazz boom), but a somewhat conventional “man on a mission,” nonetheless, until the plot takes a wonderful twist into a Fu Manchu-style “secret weapon” territory—the flick’s “ticking clock” (the launch of a space probe) is hardly there at all, and usually brought up as an afterthought—but it doesn’t matter as Bond and No play cat and mouse, via banter and combat; and various traps are sprung and overcome.

Thinking about it, until the super-science villain with the bionic hands shows up, the film is more like an English spy version of Kiss Me Deadly, where a sadist thug stomps his way towards figuring out the “Great Whatsit” (and like KMD, Dr. No’s GW features radiation, albeit more tamed—Ursula Andress only needs a few showers, and all worries of carcinoma are gone!).
Of course, Broccoli & Saltzman’s concerns are more mundane/pecuniary than Robert Aldrich’s, and Dr. No takes that turn in the third act that ditches Graham Greene for Sax Rohmer, and production designer Ken Adams is allowed to go wild (and ensures his being hired for Dr. Strangelove).

Two classics for the beginning of 2012! Now we can revel in the sleaze with absolutely zero guilt!

And the day’s not over yet! Who knows what else will be—or could be—watched?
[Cue spooky Theremin music]


  1. Some pedant may take issue with the statement that Dr. No is the first James Bond film (the 1950s CBS production of CASINO ROYALE, with Barry Nelson as Bond and Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre*, was technically the first), but it kicked off the franchise as we know and love it, so the pedants can go screw themselves.

    * = it's a fun, lo-fi, condensed adaptation that's worth your time, and is vastly better than the 1960s "comedy" bearing the same title.

    Happy New Year, btw.

  2. DR:
    BUSTED! Honestly, I was considering mentioning the Nelson/Lorre movie, but then I got lazy in trying to word it in the properly flippant mannner. Arrrrrrrrrrrgh!
    And why didn't I write "Ian Fleming" instead of "Graham Greene"? I *know* who created Bond, but I was trying to go for an overall higher-class "spy" author...and trapped myself...
    Yar, 1967's Casino Royale is an unwatchable crapfest. Lots of hot babes, though--and I always appreciate an ending where everyone dies.
    Happy New Year, right back!