Dr. Who and the Daleks

  • Title:  Dr. Who and the Daleks
  • Director:  Gordon Flemyng
  • Date:  1965
  • Studio:  AARU Productions LTD, Regal Films International LTD
  • Genre:  Science Fiction
  • Cast:  Peter Cushing, Roy Castle, Jennie Linden, Roberta Tovey
  • Format:  Technicolor, Techniscope (an early widescreen process)
  • Format:  R1, NTSC, (Widescreen)

“Anyone can understand science if they put their minds to it.”  – Dr. Who

“Why did they want to kill us? We came in peace.”  — Thal
“You are different from them, and they are afraid of anything different. And what people are afraid of, they try to destroy.”  — Dr. Who
“If we could reason with them.” — Female Thal
“They are beyond reason, they wish only to conquer.” –Dr. Who

I am a big, big fan of the wonderful British television series Doctor Who (1963-1989, 1996, 2001-), which is part of the reason I don’t really care for this film. I’d seen it before and remembered it as being pretty awful. I did luck out an get a free second-hand copy from a friend (in a set with Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 AD, and Dalekmania) so I could add it to my Doctor Who collection without actually having to pay for it.

The film is basically a re-make of the Terry Nation Doctor Who serial, or episode, “The Daleks” (aka “The Dead Planet”). However, it takes considerable liberties with what it borrows. For example, even from the very beginning it was clear the Doctor wasn’t human, but an alien from another planet. Fairly quickly into the series, it was revealed the Doctor was a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. However, in this film, the Doctor is an eccentric Human inventor (called “Dr. Who” no less, rather than “the Doctor”) — a rather tired plot device often found in Disney live action films of the 60s and 70s (and often played by Dick Van Dyke or Fred MacMurray). Also, in the TV series — Susan was a teenaged girl (and somehow the Doctor’s grand-daughter), and Barbara and Ian were her human teachers. In this, Susan is about five years old, Barbara is also the Doctor’s grand-daughter, and Ian is Barbara’s boyfriend.

Dr. Who, as he’s called in this film, shows Ian his TARDIS, which he invented. Soon they are whisked off to a mysterious dead planet. The Doctor sabotages his own machine because he wants to explore a nearby alien city. They run into Daleks. They discover they are suffering from radiation poisoning.  They get a drug that cures the radiation sickness from the Thals. The Daleks decide to destroy the Thals. The Doctor convinces the Thals to fight. They sneak into the city and stop the deadly countdown of another “Neutronic” bomb and destroy the Daleks. Dr. Who finds his missing component to the TARDIS and they leave.

Taken by themselves, many of  these plot elements are identical to the televised serial (which ran as seven, thirty-minute episodes or parts), but the television serial, in spooky black and white is, in many cases, much more effective. For example, the cliffhanger of an early episode has Barbara being attacked by something she can see but the audience can’t …  all the audience sees is the infamous Dalek plunger. This cliffhanger builds suspense – what is attacking Barbara? What does it even look like? The film skips the scene completely and the first time we see the Daleks, there are several of  them — it technicolor glory.

The brightly-colored Daleks are another problem. Most of the time in Doctor Who, even in later color episodes, the Daleks were all grey (with some black). This uniformity stressed the uniformity and conformity of the Dalek characters. Also, some analysts have suggested the grey-and-black was reminiscent of Nazi uniforms.

Finally, the acting in the film version of Dr. Who and the Daleks is greatly disappointing. Ian is silly, clumsy, and not at all brave. Barbara is weak, screams a lot, and has no spunk. Oddly enough, the young, yet intelligent, Susan (only five or eight, rather than a teenager), is the most engaging character besides Cushing’s Doctor. The guest actors are no better. One Thal at one point thanks the Doctor with a tone that seems to suggest he thinks the exact opposite. And the Daleks are chatty!  Daleks are not supposed to be chatty. “Exterminate!” “I obey!” That’s about it. Not all the chatter.

Overall the only reason I have this film is I didn’t have to pay for it, and it’s a interesting and bizarre addition to my collection of Doctor Who (TV series) memorabilia. And, I am a bit of a complete-ist when I collect something.

Recommendation:  Don’t bother.
Rating:  2
Next Film:  Dalek Invasion Earth 2150 AD

Dr. No

  • Title:  Dr. No
  • Director:  Terence Young
  • Date:  1962
  • Studio:  United Artists (MGM)
  • Genre:  Action
  • Cast:  Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Jack Lord
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

The James Bond film that started it all. Dr. No actually flows at a much more sedate pace than more recent Bond films, but it is still classic and still Bond. The first half of the movie actually feels more like a mystery as Bond is sent to Jamaica to discover why an agent has disappeared and the regular radio transmission from the island was interrupted.

Soon Bond suspects something is going on on Crab Key, the local island the natives avoid, and one of the last places the agent is said to have gone. He investigates, running into Ursula Andress on the island (walking out of the ocean in a bikini with a knife strapped to her hip). The two are eventually captured and taken to the underground hideout of Dr. No. Dr. No informs Bond he works for SPECTRE — and organization of criminal masterminds, and that his (nefarious) plot is to knock out US space program launches from Florida. His underground lair also uses nuclear power and is contaminating the island with radioactivity.

Despite being captured, knocked out, locked up a second time, and being beaten by No’s goons – Bond prevails, preventing No from causing a Saturn rocket to crash and blowing up No’s headquarters. There’s also a couple of car chases (in huge 1960s sedans no less), and Bond kills more than once.

Besides Andress walking out of the ocean and the setting in Jamaica, which were referenced in Die Another Day; this film is also referenced in the Bond parody Austin Powers International Man of Mystery with the tan and plastic uniforms with the clear plastic flat-topped helmets.

Connery is also plays Bond with a chilling attitude, that’s almost off-putting in this film. And the pacing is a bit slow. But it’s where a very long series of films started, and it’s a fairly good film in it’s own right.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating 3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Dr. Who and the Daleks (Movie Version with Peter Cushing)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

  • Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Director: Ken Hughes
  • Date: 1968
  • Studio: United Artists / MGM
  • Genre: Musical, Children, Romance
  • Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Benny Hill
  • Format: Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

Do you think they’re going to get married?” — Jeremy
“Has he kissed her yet?” — Jemina
“Not yet.” — Jeremy
“Just as soon as he kisses her – then they’ll have to get married.” –Jemina

In Edwardian England, Mr. Potts (Dick Van Dyke), a poor inventor, is raising his two young children on his own. Simultaneously two things happen – his children want him to buy a wrecked race car for 30 shillings because it’s been their plaything and the local junk man wants to melt it for scrap; and, Potts runs into Truly Scrumptious, daughter of the local candy maker.

Potts brings one of his few working inventions, a candy that whistles, to the Scrumptious Candy Factory hoping to raise some money – he fails, he thinks, when the factory is invaded by dogs. But later, he ends up at a fun fair, where he performs with a singing/dancing group (“Me Ol’ Bamboo”) – to his surprise, coins flood the stage and he ends up with more than enough to buy the wrecked car. He tows it, behind a horse, back to his workshop, and spends days putting the car back together. But when it’s done it’s a truly wonderful car.

To celebrate the completion of the car, Potts takes his children to the beach for a picnic. He runs into Truly, and she comes along. A fine day is had by all, and as they are winding up the picnic, the children ask their father for a story – about pirates. Potts begins to tell the story, and suddenly they are in the story – pirates come to take Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the car turns into a boat and they escape. The story is not over, though, because when they return home … Baron Bomburst has taken Grandpa Potts away in his dirigible – believing him to be Professor Potts, the man who invented the floating car.

Potts, Truly, and the children follow, in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which has now grown wings and flies. They arrive in Vulgaria, where the local toymaker (Benny Hill) tells them children have been outlawed because the local Baroness (Bomburst) hates children. The toymaker hides the four, but while Potts goes to find his father, the children are captured by the local “child catcher”. However, Potts, the toymaker, Truly, and eventually, the captured children revolt at the castle and Potts family is freed and they escape.

Dissolve to Potts concluding that they “all lived happily ever after”, as the four sit in the car at the beach. Potts drops off Truly, declaring it would be ridiculous for them to get married. But when he gets home, he discovers his father and her father playing toy soldiers in his living room. It seems his father was Mr. Scrumptious’s batman and Scrumptious was his “brigadier”. Also, further testing has shown Potts whistle treats are awful for people but terribly popular with dogs – he wants to offer Potts a contract that will make him rich. Before he can even accept Potts rushes off to find Truly – who is rushing off to find him. Potts kisses her – and she replies, “Now you have to marry me!”.  And everyone is happy.

The Technicolor filming really adds to this movie – the colors pop right off the screen. But for a children’s movie it is quite long (it even has the dreaded intermission). Also, other than the title song, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, and “Doll on a Music Box” the music is only so-so, and there really isn’t much dancing (and what there is manages to be rather static). Overall, I much prefer Van Dyke’s “Mary Poppins”. But, the movie must be given credit as a fun fantasy for children.

Trivia: The film is based on a book by Ian Fleming, produced by Albert R Broccoli, and filmed on location in England, Germany, and France, and at Pinewood Studios in England. If you’re wondering – yes, it is the same Ian Fleming who wrote James Bond. And Albert Broccoli produced many of the Bond films, which were often filmed at Pinewood.

Musical Numbers

  • You Two
  • Toot Sweets
  • Hushabye Mountain
  • Me Ol’ Bamboo
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Truly Scrumptious
  • This Lovely Lonely Man
  • POSH (Port Out, Starboard Home)
  • Roses of Success
  • Hushabye Mountain (reprise)
  • Chu-Chi Face
  • Doll on a Music Box
  • Truly Scrumptious (reprise)
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (reprise)

Recommendation: Show it to your kids.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: A Chorus Line

Charade (1963)

  • Title: Charade
  • Director: Stanley Donen
  • Date: 1963
  • Studio: Universal
  • Genre: Suspense, Romance, Mystery
  • Cast: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy
  • Format: Technicolor, Widescreen
  • Format: R1, NTSC

“It is infuriating that your unhappiness does not turn to fat.” — Sylvie to Regina

“Any morning now, you could wake-up dead, Mrs. Lambert.” — Threat spoken to Regina

“Being murdered in cold blood is not nonsense! Why don’t you try it sometime?” — Regina to Peter

Audrey Hepburn is Regina Lambert, who returns to her flat in Paris, determined to ask her husband for a divorce, only to find the flat completely empty, the electricity shut off, and a police officer waiting to tell her that her husband has been murdered. He was thrown off a train. Shortly thereafter, a man claiming to be from the CIA (Walter Matthau) informs her that her husband was wanted for stealing $250,000 in gold during World War II along with four other men. What follows is a complicated suspense movie of multiple identities, miscellaneous murders, revenge, and a search for the missing money. Cary Grant alone, who keeps showing up around Audrey Hepburn, has at least four names.

This film is directed like a classic Hitchcock film, though the director is actually Stanley Donen – better known for his musicals. There is some romantic tension between Hepburn and Grant as well, but not as much as is typical for a Cary Grant-led romantic comedy.

Overall, though a bit long, it’s still a fun film. I picked up my copy at Suncoast on sale for $4.99 — back when there was a Suncoast Video, simply because with Grant and Hepburn as leads I figured I couldn’t go wrong and I was right. The film is very enjoyable. Cary Grant is excellent as the mystery man Hepburn isn’t sure she should trust or not. And Audrey Hepburn is excellent and believable as the only one in the film who really has no idea what’s going on. Also, there are two surprises at the end: where the money was hidden (a classic – I love it, tho’ the idea has been played with since in several formats) and who Cary Grant “really” is – another classic.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Next Film: Charade (1953)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Title:  Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Director:  Blake Edwards
  • Date:  1961
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Genre:  Drama, Romance
  • Cast:  Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

I bought Breakfast at Tiffany’s as part of a three-pack of Audrey Hepburn films, but even though it’s regarded as a classic, it’s actually my least favorite of the three (my favorite being Sabrina). The problem with the movie, for me, is it’s not really about anything. There really isn’t much of a plot. The film doesn’t even have much of the standard romantic comedy plot, though romance is an important thread that runs through the picture. Hepburn is Holly Golightly, a party girl, who gives the impression there isn’t a brain in her head. She’s looking for a rich husband, and going through New York society to do it.

George Peppard is Paul Varjak, a struggling writer, and “kept man” who runs into Holly when he moves into the apartment above hers. The two have an attraction, especially as they keep running into each other over and over again. But she wants a rich husband, not someone who loves her, she says. And she’s cruel about it. When Paul ends his relationship with the woman who’s supporting him (Patricia Neal), Holly throws him out as well, announcing her intention to marry a rich Brazilian she met at one of her fancy parties. At the end of the picture, she even abandons her cat, “Cat”, on the cold, rainy, New York streets in an attempt to convince Paul she doesn’t care about anything.

Paul, who’s a much more sympathetic character, loves Holly. Or he keeps saying he does. But somehow, it seems skin deep. This film doesn’t have the realistic built characters, like, say The Apartment does, where we are sympathetic to Bud and Fran. Neither is the plot of a man being exploited by a designing woman and trying to get away, fully realized as it is in Sunset Blvd (where the writer fails). Rather, Breakfast At Tiffany’s just sort of meanders along, never reaching a goal, even the end doesn’t feel satisfying and happy like your typical romantic comedy. I liked Paul a lot, and Hepburn looks stunning as usual, but overall, not my favorite Audrey Hepburn film.

Recommendation:  Skip It
Rating:  3 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Breakfast Club

The Apartment

  • Title: The Apartment
  • Director: Billy Wilder
  • Date: 1960
  • Genre: Drama, Romantic Comedy, Classic
  • Studio: United Artists / MGM
  • Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, David White
  • Format: Black/White, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: NTSC, R1

The Apartment is a genre-stretching, masterwork directed by Billy Wilder. Though billed as a comedy, and having a strong romantic comedy sub-plot, the main body of the film is very dramatic and almost depressing. In a sense, rather than a Romantic Comedy — this film is Romantic Film Noir.

The film also puts paid to the idea that only women can be taken advantage of by their bosses in corporate society. CC Baxter, “Bud”, to his friends, is a good guy — but in order to rise in the corporate world, he’s found a little secret — he lends out the use of his apartment to the advantaged jerks who happen to be over him in the corporate hierarchy, so they can fool around without their wives getting suspicious. Whenever he tries to assert himself – the carrot of promotion is held out, and Bud hands over his apartment key. ‘Til one day he gets the call upstairs for what he thinks is a promotion – he gets the promotion, but only if he also allows the head boss, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), in on the use of his apartment.

Meanwhile, Bud has started to fall for the elevator girl, Ms. Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). However, she confesses to him that she’s in love with the married man she’s been having an affair with. On Christmas Eve, she and the Married Man, who turns out to be Bud’s boss (Sheldrake), have a fight – and she takes an overdose of sleeping pills in Bud’s apartment. Bud comes home, finds her, gets his neighbor the doctor over, and rescues her. What looks like the start of a promising relationship ends when her brother-in-law shows up and takes her home to her sister, after decking Bud. Later, Bud decides to tell Sheldrake he wants to marry Ms. Kubelik, but before he can, Sheldrake announces his wife has left him after finding out about his affairs, so he’s going to take Fran. He offers Bud a position as his assistant, deputy director.

Later, Fran and Bud run into each other in the lobby and Bud remarks, “Well, we both got what we wanted. I have a corner office, and he left his wife for you.” (or words to that effect). At New Year’s, Fran figures it all out, goes to find Bud who’s quit his job and may be thinking about quitting his life. And they end-up together.

But unlike many fluffy romantic comedies, there’s more tragedy and drama in this movie than comedy or even romance. And Wilder’s beautiful direction adds to the sense of urban isolation. That is, how a person can be surrounded by people but be completely alone — as Bud, Fran, and even Sheldrake all are. Scenes like Bud being alone in the office – with the white lights on the ceiling, and the endless identical desks, all stretching out into the unseen distance emphasize how alone Bud is. Or the play of light on Fran’s face in the bar on New Year’s as she figures out just what a louse Skeldrake is. Even the various infidelities referred to seem to emphasize the isolation of the characters. And what can I say? The film is written, produced, and directed by Billy Wilder – one of my favorite directors, ever.

The-Apartment_office_small

The cast is excellent. Jack Lemmon really pulls off the character of a complete nebbish perfectly, and we cheer for him when he stands up to Skeldrake. Fred MacMurray is a complete slimeball (surprisingly for the guy later known for My Three Sons and tons of Disney flicks), though he’s not as traditionally bad (yet strangely sympathetic) as in Double Indemnity. Shirley MacLaine, extremely young and a brunette, does a brilliant job playing an incredibly deep character – the movie is as much about her as it is about Bud. Overall, a film that very much needs to be seen.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 4 Stars
Next Film: Austin Powers: International Man of  Mystery