The Old Dark House (1963)

The Old Dark House.
Columbia Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I learned of this movie from a preshow for some spooky movie at a theater where they play classic videos along the theme of the movie during seating. A horror comedy starring… Tom Poston? The quirky old neighbor on like a dozen 80s/90s sitcoms? In a slasher comedy of errors? Well, why not? For one thing, apparently this is a remake nobody asked for, but I’m not burdened by the expectations of the 1932 movie, so I’ll probably enjoy it more than it was enjoyed at the time.

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Day of the Triffids

Day of the Triffids. Security Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

The Triffids are an iconic piece of science fiction. Any locomoting plants in sci-fi stories will inevitably be compared with them.

The full-color alien invasion horror movie aspect makes me think about Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but there doesn’t really seem to be much in common between “anyone near you could have been replaced by an alien” and “run from that twenty-foot tall walking plant”. If there’s an allegory for something in the public consciousness in the 60s here, I’m not sure what it would be.

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Move Over, Darling

Move Over, Darling. Melcher-Arcola Pictures 1963.
Move Over, Darling. Melcher-Arcola Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve been holding onto this for a long time because it looked fun, but I wasn’t sure if it was actually a theatrical movie, and also it’s a remake of My Favorite Wife, so I really wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure it would be a good fit. But I have established that it was a feature, so I’m going to cover it now.

This is built on a thorny relationship question, which I think might shift slightly from the 40s to the 60s to today. Nobody’s wrong, but how do they make it right?

After watching the movie:

Five years after his wife Ellen went missing in a plane crash, Nick Arden has her declared legally dead so he can marry his new love, Bianca. The very same day, the Navy rescues Ellen from the tropical island she’d been marooned on, and she returns home to learn her husband is leaving for his honeymoon. Ellen’s mother in law Grace conspires with her to get her to interrupt Nick and Bianca’s honeymoon so Ellen can have her family back. However, while Nick is overjoyed to be reunited with Ellen, he dreads breaking the news to sensitive and moody Bianca. Now Ellen is furious that Nick won’t get rid of Bianca, and Bianca is furious with Nick for sneaking around instead of giving her a wedding night, and then, just so Nick won’t be left out, he learns Ellen wasn’t alone on that island.

It’s not entirely correct to say that nobody’s wrong. Nobody is at fault for the creation of the situation, but everyone takes a share of extenuating it. This is one of those stories that runs on people not talking to each other, but it’s also people who won’t be talked to. As reluctant to brooch the subject as he is, Nick does try to do so, just as gently as one would expect him to deliver a disappointment to his bride on the special day. Bianca just won’t let him reach his point. Ellen’s jealousy and impatience is also understandable, but she keeps interrupting the process. Watching people who not only won’t talk to each other but can’t talk to each other is often like drowning, but it’s very fun downing done well, and this is a delightful mix of a whole lot of different kinds of comedy on the way to nobody admitting anything to anybody.

I’m sure I’ve seen the hotel manager in a lot of 60s movies and possibly TV. He seems to play disapproving waiters and authorities a lot in the 60s. Don Knotts also has a guest role in a couple of scenes, mostly in the same vein as his usual type, but without any pressure to be a hero. The judge at the beginning and end is unfamiliar, but he steals the show.

It’s a thorny problem, but the real world solution wouldn’t have so clean a break with one woman. This falls into the trap of a lot of the movies where building up the case against the wrong partner leaves a character that doesn’t seem to have any business being with the one forced to choose. It could also have left it at neither, but then the happy ending would need even more help.

The ride of this movie makes up for a lot of logical problems. The writing and performing is funny, so what else does it need to be? As long as the journey is enjoyable, the map doesn’t need to make too much sense.

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Who’s Minding the Store?

Who's Minding the Store? Paramount Pictures 1963.
Who’s Minding the Store? Paramount Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

What attracts me to this movie is the names. Jerry Lewis, Ray Walston, Agnes Moorehead, and Frank Tashlin (whom I know as a golden age Warner Bros. cartoon director).  It occurs to me I haven’t seen any of Ray Walson’s work from before the 90s. Sometime I should track down My Favorite Martian.

I’m realizing now that I’ve chosen another movie that will probably be light on plot. The focus will likely be on getting Jerry Lewis’s character into situations where he can do physical comedy routines. However, it won’t be as tightly fixed on that as a film from the era of Buster Keaton.

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The Comedy of Terrors

The Comedy of Terrors. American International Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

This was a random find. I’m not even sure what got it recommended to me, but it looks fantastic. I somehow got the impression it was from the 30s/40s era it claims to be spoofing, but was rather surprised to find it’s from the early 60s.

Anyway, here’s a star-studded cast of horror actors (and Basil Rathbone) in a comedy about a mortician who takes a proactive approach to getting clients. It looks like it’s been unfairly forgotten.

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Heavens Above!

Heavens Above! Charter Film Productions 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I used to think it would be nice to go into a movie knowing nothing but the title, genre, and who’s in it. Sometimes I still do, but the whole point is to not have any expectations, and that makes writing about my expectations difficult.

Peter Sellers is funny, but rarely as funny as in The Pink Panther series. I find the concept of a priest getting in trouble for ministering to all alike regardless of class/money interesting, and I want to see why such treatment would get the poor upset.

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Bye Bye Birdie

Bye Bye Birdie. Columbia Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I seem to have moved from a situation where post-1980s films are more abundant to one where there are hardly any to choose from.  Lucky I found Bye Bye Birdie, one of the more popular musicals of the first stage-to-screen push.

I always assumed that Conrad Birdie, the Elvis Presley expy of the story, was a more central character than the synopses I’ve seen make him out to be. It’s all about him, but he sounds more like a Macguffin than a lead player. The actor who plays him isn’t billed specially, and has a name I don’t recognize.

I’m not quite sure why this film/musical has resonated enough to endure in ways others haven’t. It’s not a Grease, but it’s not a… well, the less well-known ones didn’t usually get adapted into films. I can’t really think of a musical film on a lower tier, but I’m sure there are multiple tiers of obscurity yet below this.

Anyway, big stars, big show, and the 1960s before things got tense (well, before the tension got into the mainstream). Some more good clean fun.

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