YEAR OF FURIOUS FILMS: 1968
Year of Furious Films is our newest series on FC where we’ll be choosing our favorite films from each designated year. You may notice that we won’t be going in chronological order, it’ll be more random, but that’s really part of the fun. We’ll be covering a wide array of movies from various eras spanning from the 20th century to the modern age. We hope you enjoy these lists and that they’ll inspire you to give the movies a watch or even a rewatch if you’ve already seen them.
In the late 60s, America had Adam West as Batman and Italy had a popular fumetti (comics) character, the master criminal known as Diabolik (John Phillip Law). Mario Bava crafted a colorful, highly inventive, low budget action-adventure/crime film that showcased his brilliance and inventiveness both as a cinematographer and filmmaker. Co-starring Marisa Mell, Terry-Thomas and Adolfo Celi.
Set during the Mexican Revolution, this classic spaghetti western stars Franco Nero as Sergei Kowalski aka “Pollock” a roguish mercenary who’s hired by Col Alfonso Garcia (Eduardo Fajardo) to protect a precious silver mine from bandits. Upon his arrival in the town, Kowalski finds that a band of rebelling peasants led by Paco Roman (Tony Mustante) have taken the mine into their control. Kowalski, who is only interested in money, tries to persuade Paco to hire him on to help hold off Garcia’s army. He’s also got a special tool for this very problem: A Gatling Gun! Meanwhile, an eccentric bandit named Curly (Jack Palance) tries to get the silver for himself, leaving Kowalski and his new associate Roman in quite a predicament. A rollicking, very funny, South of the Border action-adventure and one of the finest examples of the genre. Also visit The Spaghetti Western Database
Bullitt (Dir: Peter Yates)
A few years before Dirty Harry came along, Steve McQueen played Frank Bullitt another tough San Francisco detective who tries to uncover a mystery surrounding from a witness being murdered while in police custody. This film is probably most well known because it features one of the greatest (and most furious) car chases ever filmed. A superb police procedural with the “King of Cool” at his best. Co-starring Robert Vaughn, Don Gordon, Jaqueline Bissett, Simon Oakland.
Dark of The Sun (Dir: Jack Cardiff)
Based on the real life Congo Crisis of the 1960s which was occurring when the film was made, Rod Taylor plays Bruce Curry a merc who is hired by President Ubi (Calvin Lockhart) to rescue European residents of an isolated town which is being attacked by Simbas deep in the jungles of Africa. This is actually a front for what Curry is really being paid for: retrieve a cache of priceless diamonds from a mine’s company vault. Along with his friend Ruffo (Jim Brown) and an ex-Nazi named Heinlein (Peter Carsten) the men set off on a train and encounter a myriad of obstacles which causes a disruption within their outfit. Jack Cardiff, also a legendary cinematographer (The Red Shoes) gave the action packed Men on a Mission film an amazing visual boldness. Co-starring Yvette Mimieux. A tune from this soundtrack was also soundtrack of Inglourious Basterds
Psych-Out (Dir: Richard Rush)
A psychedelic journey in which a young deaf runaway named Jenny (Susan Strasberg) arrives in San Francisco’s famed Haight-Ashbury area looking for her estranged brother Steve (Bruce Dern) and gets some assistance from the band members of Mumblin’ Jim (Jack Nicholson, Adam Roarke, Max Julien). A trippy, close up look at the flower power San Francisco Peace & Love scene. Co-starring Dean Stockwell and Henry Jaglom. Featuring far out music by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Seeds and Storybook.
The Devil’s Brigade (Dir: Andrew V. McLaglen)
Our 2nd favorite Men on a Mission classic is based on the creation of the US Army’s 1st Special Service Force which was an American-Canadian joint commando unit. The select group of military officers are brought in to train and then sent on their first mission to capture a Nazi stronghold in Italy called the Monte la Difensa. It’s a little Guns of Navarone, a little Dirty Dozen, a little Von Ryan’s Express and ALL Furious. Starring William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards, Harry Carey Jr., Andrew Prine.
Hang ‘Em High (Dir: Ted Post)
A rancher named Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is wrongly accused of murder/stealing and swiftly hung by an angry lynch mob. Luckily, a passerby (Ben Johnson) cuts Cooper off the noose and saves his life. Cooper is later deputized and sets off to find all the men that tried to kill him. One of Clint’s first post-Sergio Leone Westerns is a crackerjack action-adventure that holds up extremely well. Co-starring Inger Stevens, Ed Begley, Dennis Hopper.
Faces (Dir: John Cassavetes)
Whenever I watch John Cassavetes’ films, I really connect with them, much more than I do with say the Nouvelle Vague era (I’d take a Cassavetes film over a Godard anytime). This film is a prime example of the power of low budget filmmaking and how people in front of a camera expressing all their emotions can be just as entertaining as a big action spectacle. Like with many of his films it’s extremely funny and a realistic view of how human’s interact with each other in all their goofiness and ugliness. Starring Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Seymour Cassel.
Wild in The Streets (Dir: Barry Shear)
Max Frost (Christopher Jones) is a rock singer turned revolutionary who helps the younger generation take over the government but runs into some major snags along the way due to The Fuzz trying to come down on his plans. One of the greatest Youth Runs Wild/counterculture films of its time. Co-starring Hal Holbrook, Richard Pryor, Shelley Winters, Larry Bishop, Dick Clark. Featuring the garage rock single “Shape of Things To Come” by Max Frost & The Troopers.
Barbarella (Dir: Roger Vadim)
This psychedelic sci-fi film based on a comic book series stars a young beautiful Jane Fonda as a space explorer that is sent on a mission to find the mysterious Doctor Durand Durand (Milo O’Shea), inventor of The Positronic Ray. The President of Earth needs Barbarella to keep the weapon from getting into the wrong hands. She goes on a bizarre, campy adventure into a distant world of dolls with razor teeth, sexual stimulation devices and blind angel men. This is 60s cinema at its wackiest which is why we love it. Although it wasn’t a success during its release, over the past 40 + years it has developed a large cult following. Co-starring John Philip Law, David Hemmings, Ugo Tognazzi.
The Day of the Owl (Dir: Damiano Damiani)
Franco Nero stars as Captain Bellodi, a North Italian policeman who has been stationed in the southern region of Sicily. Bellodi, a staunch champion of the justice system finds that a local mafia boss, Don Mariano Arena (Lee J. Cobb) has a powerful hold on the locals as well as law enforcement officials. Bellodi must face this corruption and the danger that comes with upholding the law. A precursor to the popular 70s polizio genre, Damiani’s political views, his love of moral courage and flair for artistic storytelling takes it above and beyond the usual exploitation and make it stand out as a unique crime classic. Co-starring Claudia Cardinale.
Burt Lancaster is Ned Merill, an ad executive who resides in the affluent Connecticut suburbs. One early autumn day he appears in the yard of some friends. While talking with them he suddenly gets an urge to take a swim in their pool. This inspires him to do something rather odd: make his way home (all the way across the county) by stopping and swimming in several of his old friends’ pools. Ned goes on an existential journey from his past to his present. Yet what begins as a joyous, freeing excursion slowly descends into a look at the darker side of his personal life.
The Great Silence (Dir: Sergio Corbucci)
Silence (Jean Louis Trintignant) is a mute that speaks only with his gun. The story focuses on the town of Snowhill where residents are forced to steal food and provisions due to the harsh weather conditions. The hired bounty hunters are the cold blooded villains out to collect money at any price. They also use the town as their haven since the residents are considered criminals. In the middle stands Silence, a renegade who is on a personal vendetta against the bounty killers. Along with the frigid atmosphere, this movie was another unique re-interpretation of the typical spaghetti western by Corbucci with its socio-political and underlying religious themes. Co-starring Klaus Kinski, Frank Wolff and Luigi Pistilli.
Ice Station Zebra (Dir: John Sturges)
The 3rd Men on a Mission film in our list is a Cold war era espionage film that stars Rock Hudson as Commander James Farraday, captain of USS Tigerfish, a nuclear attack sub. Farraday is sent on a rescue mission to Drift Ice Station Zebra in the Arctic. The intrigue and tension increases when the crew uncover a secret agenda concerning an experimental British camera that involves the Russians. Co-starring Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Patrick McGoohan, Tony Bill. Based on the 1963 Alistair MacLean novel. TRIVIA: This was aviation pioneer Howard Hughes’ favorite film and he would have the local TV station he owned in Las Vegas play it often.
During World War II, two soldiers, one American (Lee Marvin) and the other Japanese (Toshiro Mifune) get stranded on an island in the South Pacific. While trying to survive the elements and each other, the two sworn enemies force themselves into a truce after which they work together to escape. The movie is an exercise in pure cinema for the first half as there’s hardly any dialogue. It’s one of the greatest WW2 adventure movies we’ve seen.
Night of The Living Dead (Dir: George A. Romero)
“They’re Coming To Get Your Barbaraa”. A group of Pennsylvania residents are trapped in a small country house when the dead begin rising from graves and attack them. An adrenaline charged, tension filled, claustrophobic B-movie classic. Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman. TRIVIA: The film was made for only $114,000, grossed $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. It also spawned several sequels.
The Bride Wore Black (Dir: Francois Truffaut)
A French arthouse take on the classic revenge story in which a widowed woman named Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau) hunts down the five men who killed her husband on her wedding day. It’s no Kill Bill (there’s curious similarities between them) but it’s got some furious style to it and deserves a spot on our list. Co-starring Michel Bouquet, Jean-Claude Brialy, Charles Denner, Michael Lonsdale, Serge Rousseau
In this blending of the Western with the urban crime thriller Clint Eastwood plays Walt Coogan an Arizona deputy sheriff who is sent to New York City to track down and arrest a fugitive on the run named Jimmy Ringerman (Don Stroud). what should be a relatively quick extradition is soon complicated when Coogan runs into several obstacles including a tough detective (Lee J Cobb) standing in his way and the criminal’s girlfriend who’s out to stop him. He also has a fling with Ringerman’s probation officer (Susan Clark). This was Eastwood and Siegels first of five collaborations. The movie is noted for having some very violent action sequences which stood out at the time it was made.
Head (Dir: Bob Rafelson)
“We hope you like our story/Although there isn’t one/That is to say, there’s many/That way, there is more fun!” The Monkees were a major pop sensation when they starred in this psychedelic stream of consciousness epic that covers subjects ranging from The Vietnam War to LSD to Westerns. It comes as no surprise it was co-written by Jack Nicholson while under the effects of various drugs. Co-starring Victor Mature, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper and Timothy Carey.
In this swingin’ 60s crime caper, Lee J Cobb is Skorsky the wealthy owner of an armored car company. A thief named Tony Ferris (Gary Lockwood) secures a job as a casino dealer to get closer to Ann Bennett (Elke Sommer) a gambling junkie who happens to work for Skorsky. The thrills get hot n’ heavy as the two have a meeting of the minds and team up to pull off a heist together. If you dug Ocean’s Eleven, you’ll dig this one. Co-starring Jack Palance.
2001: A Space Odyssey (Dir: Stanley Kubrick)
Stanley Kubrick’s existential sci-fi epic was a benchmark for its technical innovation and storytelling methods. It is definitely a film that is best experienced on the big screen in all its visual splendor although a hi-definition Blu Ray on a big TV screen should work for home viewing. Starring Keir Dullea.
Destroy All Monsters (Dir: Ishiro Honda)
In this Kaiju epic, Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and Gorosaurus have been captured by the United Nations Science Committee and put on a remote island appropriately called Monsterland. When the gigantic creatures reappear and begin attacking capitals around the world, the UNSC scientists dioscover that they were placed under mind control and set free by a race a female aliens known as the Kilaaks. After being successfully released from the evil Kilaaks grasp, Godzilla and several of his friends including Kumonga (giant spider), Manda (giant sea serpent), Baragon (dinosaur) and Varan (lizard-like reptile) must battle the Kilaaks secret weapon: King Ghidorah!
Witchfinder General (Dir: Michael Reeves)
Vincent Price is Matthew Hopkins, a 17th-century English lawyer who takes the position of “Witchfinder General” seeking out and destroying all witches and purveyors of sorcery and black magic. This cult film is well known for its depictions of torture and graphic violence but has garnered a special appreciation with many critics. In the US its alternate title was The Conqueror Worm which was used to link it to Roger Corman’s popular Edgar Allan Poe-related films starring Price, although it’s not related. Co-starring Ian Ogilvy, Hilary Dwyer, Rupert Davies.
The Odd Couple (Dir: Gene Saks)
Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) is a middle aged man whose life is thrown into a tailspin when his wife suddenly files for divorce. His best friend is Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) a sports journalist who has become a freewheeling bachelor since his own divorce. Being a good friend, Oscar offers “Feel” a room at his place until he decides what he wants to do next. Felix accepts and moves right in and this is when the craziness starts. Felix hates Oscar’s careless attitude and Oscar is driven insane by Felix’s annoying allergies and compulsion to clean every speck of dust in sight. Their longtime friendship is on the verge of being ruined forever by them sharing the same roof. Some of Neil Simon’s best work as a writer and comic artist.
Planet of The Apes (Dir: Franklin J. Schaffner)
A group of U.S. astronauts led by Taylor (Charlton Heston) crash land on a planet where they encounter a race of human hating apes. One of our favorite mad as hell sci-fi/action-adventures that examines political views and humankind’s destructive ways. Co-starring Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, Woodrow Parfrey.
The Producers (Dir: Mel Brooks)
Mel Brooks’ directorial debut tells the tale of Broadway producer/shyster Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and his new accountant (Gene Wilder) who come up with a foolproof plan to make lots of dough. They’ll produce a massive flop then use the non refundable investment money to split out of the country. Only the play, distastefully titled “Springtime For Hitler” which they expect to close in one day, ends up being a smash hit. This movie is a furiously funny masterpiece. Co-starring Dick Shawn.
Pretty Poison (Dir: Noel Black)
A mentally ill young man newly released from a hospital named Dennis Pitt (Anthony Perkins) meets impressionable teenager Sue Ann Stepenek (Tuesday Weld) and convinces her he is a secret agent. The two begin going on a series of missions in which Dennis kills the intended targets. Excited by her new relationship with Dennis, Sue Ann begins to become murderous herself and plans to get rid of her mother then take off to Mexico with her new friend. An offbeat psychological crime-thriller gem that cult film fans will enjoy.
The Thomas Crown Affair (Dir: Norman Jewison)
The story goes that Steve McQueen took this film as a dare to prove to Director Norman Jewison he could do more than play tough action heroes, well he succeeded. Thomas Crown (McQueen) is a suave, playboy/sportsman millionaire who plans a heist just for fun that goes off successfully. He is soon tracked down by an independent insurance investigator Vicki (Faye Dunaway) that knows he’s the one who was behind the robbery and the two start a romantic game of cat and mouse. The movie features early uses of split screen sequences and was filmed primarily around Boston and New Hampshire. A remake in 1999 starred Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.
Rosemary’s Baby (Dir: Roman Polanski)
Psychological thrillers don’t get much better than this story about a newlyweds Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) who find themselves living next to satanic cult members in a NYC apartment building. Paranoia and hallucinatory elements crank the tension up to intense levels. Co-starring Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Charles Grodin, Ralph Bellamy.
This sprawling epic masterpiece focuses on the modern changes in the West and also a personal tale of one man’s need for revenge. Starring Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda and Jason Robards. Sebastian considers this the best Spaghetti Western ever made.
Monterey Pop (Dir: D.A. Pennebaker)
Along with Woodstock, Monterey Pop is a seminal concert documentary featuring many of the popular acts on the pop/rock music scene in the late 60s. Features performances by: The Mamas & the Papas, Canned Heat, Simon & Garfunkel, Hugh Masekela, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Animals, The Who, Country Joe and the Fish, Otis Redding, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ravi Shankar. The film was shot on 16mm and later blown up to 35 for theatrical release.
Skidoo (Dir: Otto Preminger)
This is easily one of the weirdest screwball comedies to come out of the psychedelic era. Jackie Gleason (The Hustler) stars as Tony Banks a retired mafia hitman who lives with his wacky wife Flo (Carol Channing) and rebellious daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay). Two of his old crime partners Hechy (Cesar Romero) and son Angie (Frankie Avalon) arrive at his home with one last assignment handed out by the main boss “GOD” (Groucho Marx). He’s needed to go undercover inside Alcatraz Island and get rid of “Blue Chips” Packard (Mickey Rooney) his old friend who is set to testify before the Crime Commission. Meanwhile, Darlene’s new hippie boyfriend “Stash” (John Philip Law) moves in at their house with a ton of hippies. When you see Jackie Gleason tripping on LSD, you’ll know why this movie is considered one of a kind. Featuring music by the great Harry Nilsson.
Targets (Dir: Peter Bogdanovich)
Producer Roger Corman gave first time director Peter Bogdanovich the chance to make a film if he could incorporate leftover footage from his movie The Terror (1963) and the aging Boris Karloff. What he created was this intrigiuing two tier story about a legendary horror film actor (Karloff) on the verge of retirement and a psychotic sniper (Tim O’Kelly) who goes on a killing spree.
Twisted Nerve (Dir: Roy Boulting)
Hayley Mills plays a college girl named Susan. One day she is approached by Georgie (Hwyel Bennett) a mentally retarded man-child that takes a fancy to her. What she doesn’t realize is that this poor sap isn’t what he appears to be. His real name is Martin and he isn’t “special”, in fact hes more of an obsessive psychopath. After getting kicked out of his own home by his vindictive parents, he decides to go all the way with his Georgie charade and weasel his way into Susan’s life by moving into her mother’s boarding home. It’s a very slow burn and relies more on character interaction and suggestive moments rather than the typical ‘hack em up’ style horror gags.
Where Eagles Dare (Dir: Brian Hutton)
Our 4th furious Men on a Mission classic stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood as elite US commandos who are sent to rescue an Army General (Robert Beatty) who is being held in a Nazi fortess high up in the Bavarian alps. The action, intrigue and suspense is non stop in this one. Co-starring Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark, Ingrid Pitt. Hutton would team up with Eastwood again on the WW2 caper Kellys Heroes two years later. Both come highly recommended to war film fans.
The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz (Dir: George Marshall)
An overlooked screwball comedy starring the beautiful blonde Elke Sommer as Paula Schultz an East German athlete that is preparing to compete in the Olympics but decides to use her pole vaulting skills to jump over the Berlin Wall to freedom in West Germany instead. Once on the other side, Paula meets Bill Mason (Bob Crane) a criminal dealing in black market goods. In need of a place to hide out, Bill sets Paula up at his friend’s place but she’s soon taken back to East Germany by authorities informed of her whereabouts. Bill slowly realizes he loves Paula and plans a wacky scheme to bust her out. Crane’s Hogan’s Heroes TV show co-stars Werner Klemperer, Leon Askin and John Banner are also featured in the film.
The Scalphunters (Dir: Sydney Pollack)
Burt Lancaster is fur trapper Huckleberry Bass who is forced by a band of Kiowa Indians to take a slave named Lee (Ossie Davis) and give up the hides he’s collected as trade. Things become complicated when a band of roving scalphunters led by Jim Howie (Telly Savalas) kill The Kiowa and steal the hides. When Bass discovers this he and Lee follow Howie but Lee is captured leaving Bass to get him and the goods back. A solid Western tale with great performances. Co-starring Shelley Winters, Armando Silvestre and Dabney Coleman.