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]
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.