At first, seemed like a not-at-all-interesting re-enactment of the last battle to be fought on British soil, when some Scottish Highlanders attacked to get their leader “restored” to the throne. The highlanders lacked the will, experience, rest, nourishment, preparation, leadership or equipment for victory and were easily defeated.

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But then it gets interesting, as the British soldiers not only defeat the Scots on the field, but chase down all retreaters and kill them, kill their families, and just destroy everything in a brutal rampage. Seemingly even more critical of Britain than The War Game was. Watkins says he intended to draw parallels between the behavior of the British troops and that of US troops in Vietnam, which was going on at the time.

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Grainy and real looking, perfectly shot and acted, Watkins gets his point across easily. Like The War Game, not too long. Funny that the same guy should end up making such long movies (La Commune is 6 hrs, The Journey is over 14 hrs).

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Peter Watkins’ own account of the film:

I’m starting to think that everyone should see every Peter Watkins movie. Too bad I started Katy on The Gladiators, cuz now she probably won’t wanna see the rest.

A horrifying look at nuclear war. Should’ve been required viewing, but was instead banned from the airwaves for decades. Ho-hum.

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Short and to the point. Not only tells what might happen during a nuclear attack on Britain, but shows it, enacting the attack documentary-style.

Below: a homeowner discusses self-defense.

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A powerfully convincing movie against the bomb. Unfortunately also harshly critical of Britain and its policies, which I’m sure contributed to the film being banned for so long.

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Of course, Watkins’ own notes on the film are essential:

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Katy didn’t watch it, but probably should.

Jerry Lewis is an orderly who would be a brilliant doctor if he didn’t suffer from a syndrome that causes him to empathize with his patients, literally feeling their pain. Unlikely, I know, but it’s a comedy. Mean suicidal woman comes in who can’t afford to pay for treatment, but Jerry falls for her and works overtime so she can stay. Meanwhile another nurse likes Jerry, and after he’s cures of his empathy trouble, he chases her down instead of sticking with the mean girl.

Pretty funny, a good enough diversion, even if some of the gags were lame and the ambulance-and-stretcher-chase finale went on too long.

fixing a “snowy” TV set:
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getting the wrong girl:
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madcap finale (note helpful numbers 1 & 2 on ambulances):
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Not much left to say about Dr. Strangelove, since I’ve nearly memorized it by now.

Groovy font on the titles.


George C. Scott is actually better than Peter Sellers in this movie.


Oops, wasn’t paying enough attention and will have to see this again. At least I determined that it’s worth seeing again. Julie Christie and George C Scott are a blast, and the editing is wonderfuly disturbing. Lot of relationship stuff in here, specifically about divorce. George is leaving his wife to feel free again, chasing Julie as his symbol of freedom. Julie is beaten almost to death at the end, I think by her husband, and ends up staying with him. So much for freedom. Ohhhhh, “cinematography by Nicolas Roeg” explains a lot.

Petulia 1

Petulia 2

Amphetamine (1966)
Where Did Our Love Go? (1966)

Warren Sonbert started his career just like Stan Brakhage (Desistfilm) – sitting around his apartment, shooting his friends doing daily stuff. But where Brakhage used camera tricks and crazy editing, Sonbert (12 years later) relied on his friends’ outrageous antics (drug use, homosexuality, knowing Andy Warhol) to make his movies interesting. It didn’t work for me, but the mid-60’s pop songs he strung together on the soundtrack made for good listening.

Honor and Obey (1988)
Friendly Witness (1989)

Then Sonbert travelled the world for a number of years, reviewing operas and shooting everything he came across with his portable Bolex. And like the dude who did “Ashes & Snow”, he one day sat down and edited all his stuff through the years into some movies. Unlike “Ashes” though, it’s quickly and intuitively edited, the shot order making sense only to the director, if anybody. “Honor and Obey” is completely Brakhage-silent, and Friendly Witness starts with the same 60’s pop songs from before, then uses opera over the second half. Slightly more excitingly edited than “Honor” and would’ve been preferable anyway if only for the pop songs. Completely wonderful films, great color, great framing, lots of animal shots, shots from planes, on water, on children. Loved ’em. Didn’t understand ’em, of course, but didn’t have to.

The horrible thing is that the last movie I saw, just two nights before, was Black Narcissus, also starring Deborah Kerr. I knew it was her, and when she first showed up, I said “that’s Deborah Kerr” and I STILL didn’t recognize her. Looks totally different. What is wrong with me?

Starts out reeeal obvious, as super-rich guy hires pleasant woman to care for pleasant-enough kids at secluded estate and kids turns out to be spooky or house turns out to be haunted or something. But then gets downright creepy with boy trying to make out with Ms. Kerr and tons of great gothic atmosphere. High quality little movie. The Others was based on the same book.

From a DVD that Clay lent me. Pretty neat movie, surprisingly good acting and dialogue (compared to what I’d expected, anyway). Sid “Captain Spaulding” Haig in one of his first roles, and Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his last.

Spider Baby

Money-grubbing relatives come to take charge of the house now run by the family chauffeur, who watches over three grown children with murderous degenerative brain disease (and an obsession with spiders). A fine horror movie, and probably pretty loony compared to other 60’s horrors. The whole thing with 25-yr-old women acting like evil 8-yr-olds is still creepy. Bit of campy comedy thrown in too, mostly in the form of the hitler-mustached lawyer, must’ve been intentional.

Also Spider Baby

Cerebral, kinda unengaging movie. Interestingly done though. Allegorial, with each person representing a country or type. Seemed like a total bust for a while there, but as I was getting disappointed I asked myself “why is the movie doing this?” and figured out the allegory. A message movie then, the message being that there’s only one System that all countries and governments (even the neutrals) help perpetuate. I wasn’t as impressed with the combat scenes as everyone in the reviews and commentary was – more interested in the politics of the thing. As a political statement, it’s pretty wonderful. Probably needs another viewing sometime. Katy was cool on it but “didn’t hate it”.

Also on the disc was Diary of an Unknown Soldier, apparently the first short Watkins made that he still likes. The last day of a soldier’s life before being sent to the front, so another war commentary, told all in narration. I like Watkins’ style – it’s not like anything else I’ve been watching. Which makes me wonder why I haven’t sat down with Punishment Park yet. Seems like all of his stuff should be worth seeing.