The Films of 1968, Part 1: What We Were Seeing 50 Years Ago

21 Aug

In 1968, Hollywood was undergoing quite a turbulent period. The studios continued to turn out lightweight studio entertainment as if it were 1938, while also contending with audience demand for greater frankness, more mature subject matter and fewer restrictions on language, nudity and violence. Foreign films and independent films were gaining greater critical and audience acceptance. The Motion Picture Association of America, long the guardian of the Production Code, with which films had to comply in order to get an MPAA seal of approval, first introduced a tag, “Suggested for Mature Audiences,” in late 1967 and then, when they realized that wasn’t enough, installed a full-blown ratings system for films in October 1968: G for General Audiences, M for Mature subject matter, R for Restricted, and X for adults only. So you had films like Robert Aldrich’s X-rated THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, about a lesbian romance, and Christian Marquand’s  CANDY, about a young girl’s sexual awakening (invariably involving slumming over-forty Hollywood stars like Richard Burton, Marlon Brando, James Coburn and Walter Matthau), alongside sugary assembly line fare like Elvis Presley songfests; family comedies starring Doris Day, Jerry Lewis and Don Knotts, adaptations of Broadway musicals like FINIAN’S RAINBOW, FUNNY GIRL, and OLIVER!; and live-action Disney family features, five of them released in 1968: BLACKBEARD’S GHOST, THE ONE AND ONLY, GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND, NEVER A DULL MOMENT, THE HORSE IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT, and THE LOVE BUG.

The Elvis Presley vehicle SPEEDWAY was directed by Norman Taurog, who’d first directed in 1920(!), and competed with Brian De Palma’s second feature film GREETINGS, a counterculture satire taking on draft-dodgers and the Vietnam War and starring Robert De Niro (who was eight years younger than Elvis) at the start of his career. A shakeup was coming.

I went to see Gordon Douglas’s THE DETECTIVE, a police drama starring Frank Sinatra which was advertised as “as adult and revealing as any film can be” and featured large doses of rough language (“ass,” “bitch,” “bastard,” “faggot” and “balling”); a castrated murder victim, complete with “semen stains”; and an unvarnished depiction of the protagonist’s wife’s infidelity and sexual promiscuity, along with honest treatments of homosexuality and police brutality. This poster shows an “R” rating, but I remember it being tagged “Suggested for Mature Audiences,” since it was first released before the ratings system was established. (It was presumably re-rated “R” for a re-release after October 1968.)

And then I’d see a throwback—usually at the same theater–like George Seaton’s comedy-fantasy, WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT FEELING GOOD?, that posits the notion of a virus that spreads through New York City and causes those infected to be nice to others and take a positive view of life. A group of malcontent beatniks (which shows you how out of touch the film was in 1968), led by George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore(!), suddenly become conformist nine-to-fivers, clean-shaven and wearing business suits. (Is that what happens when you feel good about yourself?) When the Mayor and his cronies realize that the drop in alcohol and tobacco sales will cut into tax revenues, they do everything they can to find an antidote and stop the spread of the virus. At the end, it wears off and everyone goes back to normal, except for Mary Tyler Moore, who was never infected after all, but just acquired self-esteem for the first time and remained her perky self from then on—just in time for her new sitcom. (At least that’s how I remember it.)

Interestingly, both Douglas and Seaton had gotten their start in Hollywood around the same time, Seaton as a screenwriter in 1934 and Douglas as a director in 1935 and here they were, over 30 years later, responding to changing public tastes in wildly different ways. Seaton had two more films in him, Douglas had six, plus a TV movie. By 1978, both men’s Hollywood careers were finished.

I also went to see my first counterculture film around this time, WILD IN THE STREETS, which was so highly anticipated I even bought the paperback novelization by the film’s screenwriter, Robert Thom. It’s a speculative drama about a youth rebellion that results in 14-year-olds getting the vote (to the tune of “Fourteen or Fight,” one of the many songs written for the movie by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil) and electing a rock star as president who then puts everyone over 30 into a concentration camp. I was 15 when I saw it, the right age at the time, but I’m not sure I was ever the right age afterward. It might be worth seeing again for Richard Pryor’s early performance. It was directed by Barry Shear, who was 44 at the time. It was his first theatrical feature, although he’d been directing television since 1950. The production quality is that of a TV movie, with just as little imagination. The material certainly merited a more novel approach from a director who was willing to experiment, which wouldn’t have been hard at AIP, given the talent working for the studio at the time, including Roger Corman (THE TRIP), Daniel Haller (DEVIL’S ANGELS) and Richard Rush (PSYCH-OUT).

1968 was the year I finished junior high school and started high school, I was going to the movies, on average, once a month, usually to neighborhood theaters in the Bronx. At that point, I hadn’t yet embraced foreign films, other than occasional British horror and Italian genre films (dubbed into English, of course), nor was I yet heading into Manhattan to see older movies at repertory theaters. So what I spent the most time watching back then was mainstream Hollywood cinema, usually the films with major stars, such as James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Audrey Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, to name a few. Some of the earliest films I saw that year were 1967 releases that finally came to the Bronx, like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (Best Picture Oscar winner for 1967) with Poitier; COOL HAND LUKE with Newman; WAIT UNTIL DARK with Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin; CAMELOT, with Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris, and Franco Nero; and the third Dean Martin/Matt Helm movie, THE AMBUSHERS.

The first actual 1968 release I saw in a theater (at the Loew’s Paradise) was the British murder thriller-with-a-circus theme, BERSERK, starring Joan Crawford, TV star Ty Hardin and English actress Judy Geeson (fresh from 1967’s TO SIR WITH LOVE).

The first 1968 release that had a significant impact on me was PLANET OF THE APES, starring Charlton Heston as an astronaut who winds up on a planet ruled by intelligent, talking apes some 2000 years into the future. Co-written by one of my favorite writers at the time, Rod Serling, this science fiction masterpiece came to the Bronx in April and quickly became one of my all-time favorite movies and one I would revisit in theaters regularly over the next few years. I even bought the soundtrack album featuring Jerry Goldsmith’s innovative score for the film.

In May that year, I went on a class trip to Radio City Music Hall to see THE ODD COUPLE, based on the Neil Simon play, my only moviegoing trip to Manhattan in 1968.

Here’s an Al Hirschfeld drawing I clipped from The New York Times the week the film opened:

The other 1968 releases I actually saw in 1968 were the aforementioned WILD IN THE STREETS and THE DETECTIVE; the comedy YOURS, MINE AND OURS, with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball; and the westerns ARIZONA BUSHWHACKERS, BUCKSKIN and FIRECREEK. FIRECREEK had two major stars in it, James Stewart and Henry Fonda, and a TV favorite, Inger Stevens. Too bad it just wasn’t very good. ARIZONA BUSHWHACKERS and BUCKSKIN were part of a series of low-budget westerns produced at Paramount which filled their casts with older stars in their waning years. ARIZONA starred Howard Keel, Yvonne De Carlo, John Ireland and Scott Brady, while BUCKSKIN, which I saw on a double bill with WILD IN THE STREETS, starred Barry Sullivan, Joan Caulfield, Wendell Corey, John Russell and Lon Chaney Jr.

I would see far more 1968 releases in 1969 as more of them came to the Bronx and as I made more trips to the movies. These included BARBARELLA, I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS, THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S, CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, COOGAN’S BLUFF, Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET, ICE STATION ZEBRA, RACHEL, RACHEL, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, HANG ’EM HIGH, BULLITT, DARK OF THE SUN, SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN, the aforementioned WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT FEELING GOOD?, and the odd double bill of UP TIGHT and SKIDOO. More about these films below.

I would see others in 1970-71, invariably on double bills. For instance, on January 1, 1970, I finally caught up with the Beatles’ animated movie, YELLOW SUBMARINE, on a double bill with WEST SIDE STORY. In 1971, I saw IF HE HOLLERS, LET HIM GO, CHARLY and A MINUTE TO PRAY, A SECOND TO DIE on double bills with newer films.

I missed some of the more significant 1968 releases when they first came out (some of them probably didn’t even make it to the Bronx), so I caught them in theaters much later, including Stanley Kubrick’s revolutionary space epic, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; Mel Brooks’ debut feature, THE PRODUCERS; Roman Polanski’s horror film about devil worship on the upper west side, ROSEMARY’S BABY; Peter Bogdanovich’s thriller TARGETS, based on the first mass shooting of the modern era; Norman Jewison’s star-studded caper romance, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR; George Romero’s graphic zombie movie, THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD; Brian De Palma’s GREETINGS; Robert Aldrich’s caustic melodrama of life in Hollywood, THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE; and the Monkees’ hallucinatory counterculture satire, HEAD. This was a more groundbreaking group of films than the ones I was actually seeing in 1968.

I would catch up with other 1968 releases on television, after I bought my own TV in the fall of 1971 at the start of my freshman year of college. These include: 5 CARD STUD, BANDOLERO, HOW TO SAVE A MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE, MADIGAN, LADY IN CEMENT, THE POWER, JIGSAW, TORTURE GARDEN and THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE.

In film school and at repertory theaters in the 1970s, I’d discover various foreign releases from 1968, including Francois Truffaut’s THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, Luis Bunuel’s BELLE DE JOUR, Jean-Luc Godard’s WEEKEND, Claude Berri’s THE TWO OF US, Claude Chabrol’s LES BICHES, Orson Welles’ THE IMMORTAL STORY, Kihachi Okamoto’s KILL!, and the three-part omnibus film by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Federico Fellini, SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.

I clipped these photos of BRIDE and BELLE from The New York Times in 1968, so I was aware of the films, but I wouldn’t see them until December 11, 1973, when they played together on a double bill at one of the city’s then-leading repertory theaters, the Elgin.

As for Italian westerns, I had to wait till 1969-70 before I’d start seeing those.

While I’ve seen a total of 154 films from 1968, 102 of them from the U.S., I must confess that only three Hollywood films from that year are on my overall list of favorite films. These are: COOGAN’S BLUFF, Don Siegel’s fish-out-of-water crime thriller about an Arizona deputy sheriff trying to find a fugitive in the streets of Manhattan; THE DETECTIVE, the aforementioned police drama about a decorated New York City police detective and his various marital and professional woes; and PLANET OF THE APES. I’ve written about both COOGAN and THE DETECTIVE here.

COOGAN’S BLUFF

THE DETECTIVE

PLANET OF THE APES

Most of my other 1968 favorites are from Italy, the UK, Hong Kong and Japan and most of those were films I discovered decades later. It took me 20 years, for instance, to see Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK in a Soho revival house. And only in the last few years, for instance, have I finally seen such excellent Japanese genre films from 1968 as LONE WOLF ISAZO, RED PEONY GAMBLER, KURONEKO, OUTLAW GANGSTER: VIP and ZATOICHI AND THE FUGITIVES, not to mention Isao Takahata’s anime feature, HORUS, PRINCE OF THE SUN. And only in the 21st century have I seen twenty previously unseen 1968 movies from Hong’s Shaw Bros. studio, including THE LAND OF MANY PERFUMES, KILLER DARTS, THE LADY HERMIT, MIST OVER DREAM LAKE, and THE TEMPTRESS WITH A THOUSAND FACES.  (Truth to tell, I did see one of them, GOLDEN SWALLOW, starring Cheng Pei Pei and Jimmy Wang Yu, on VHS in 1998, well before Celestial Pictures started releasing Shaw Bros. titles on R3 DVD.)

But I’ll save these for a future entry. For now I want to concentrate on the Hollywood and English-language films I was seeing back then. Most of these have not been seen by me since.

ICE STATION ZEBRA

This was a U.S.-vs.-Soviet cold war thriller, minus the thrills, set mostly on a submarine until it comes up on land in the North Pole, lavishly recreated on a studio set at MGM Studios where no one seems cold at all, as evidenced by the first still. Starring Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan and Jim Brown, it was quite a disappointment from one of my then-favorite directors, John Sturges (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GREAT ESCAPE).

SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN

This was an overbearing drama about cold war tensions between the Soviet Union and Red China and the potential for war when China suffers widespread famine. The Pope intervenes. Despite the cast—Anthony Quinn as the Pope, Laurence Olivier as the Soviet Premier, Burt Kwouk as Chairman Peng, David Janssen as an American journalist—it didn’t really do anything for me. But I did get these nice color stills from MGM:

THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MINSKY’S

I actually saw this multiple times in theaters back then, but not since. Directed by William Friedkin, it offers a funny, evocative look at the world of a burlesque theater in the early 20th century on Manhattan’s lower east side. It was the first film I’d see Elliott Gould in and the last film Bert Lahr made. As far as I can tell, it was the only Hollywood production English comic Norman Wisdom appeared in. Jason Robards stars. Britt Ekland does a strip act at Minsky’s, the vaudeville venue featured in the film, and flashes her breasts on screen at the climax of her act, probably the second time I saw frontal nudity in a movie (BARBARELLA was the first).

CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE

As I recall, this was a rather stodgy historical epic, directed by Tony Richardson, that sought to make a contemporary anti-war, anti-military, anti-imperialist message out of the disastrous engagement between the British and the Russians during the Crimean War, immortalized in the famous Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem (and the 1936 Errol Flynn movie). But it had a stellar array of British actors and was probably the first film I saw John Gielgud in.

FINIAN’S RAINBOW

I was eager to see Fred Astaire in a new musical based on an old Broadway show, but the director, Francis Coppola, often shot him from the waist up as he was doing some no-doubt nifty steps we couldn’t see. I did like the songs by E.Y. Harburg and Burton Lane, though, and I bought the soundtrack album. Petula Clark, a buoyant English pop star of the time who’d had several top-ten hits in the U.S., played the female lead and Tommy Steele, an English pop star who’d achieved success on Broadway, played the leprechaun.

ROMEO AND JULIET

A youth-oriented adaptation of Shakespeare directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it featured attractive young stars close in age to their actual characters, a far cry from the famous 1936 MGM production which had 42-year-old Leslie Howard and 33-year-old Norma Shearer playing the youthful lovers. I had quite a crush on Olivia Hussey (Juliet). She was two years older than me, but when I saw the film in the summer of 1969, I was about the age she was when she made the film.

I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS

I remember liking this counterculture comedy about an uptight L.A. lawyer (Peter Sellers) who decides to “drop out” when he meets an attractive hippie girl (Leigh Taylor-Young) and tastes some of her marijuana-laced brownies. It was written by Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker, so it has more acerbic wit and an edgier, more knowing feel than most such Hollywood comedies of the time. Mazursky would direct the next script the two would write, BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE, a comedy about an open marriage.

UP TIGHT

This was a black cast remake of THE INFORMER (1935), with its 1920s Irish rebels transformed into 1960s black militants in Chicago. As directed by Jules Dassin, newly returned from working in Europe after being blacklisted in the U.S. in the 1950s, it was earnest and well-intentioned, but, as I recall, rather stiff and talky and indulged in some heavy-handed symbolism in a funhouse scene. But it had a great cast of black performers, both veteran and up-and-coming, many of whom I’d see in more films as Hollywood increasingly took on black subjects in the late ’60s and ’70s. They included Raymond St. Jacques, Ruby Dee, Frank Silver, Roscoe Lee Browne, Janet MacLachlan, Max Julien, Dick Anthony Williams, Juanita Moore and Robert DoQui. Plus, it had a lively score by Booker T. Jones.

I clipped two pictures from the film out of The New York Times when the film was released:

SKIDOO

This was Otto Preminger’s attempt to make a counterculture comedy, but it was filled with faces from earlier eras of show biz, including Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Peter Lawford, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, and George Raft, with the youth generation represented by John Phillip Law as a hippie and the already washed-up Frankie Avalon as a gangster wannabe. Its one saving grace was having all three major villains from the 1966 BATMAN movie in one place again: Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero. Too bad they weren’t reprising their Batman roles: the Riddler, the Penguin and the Joker. I watched this ten years ago on cable and it was as bad as I remembered it. (This was on a double bill with UP TIGHT.)

THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER

I remember liking this well-meaning drama, directed by Robert Ellis Miller, about a deaf-mute (Alan Arkin) who develops a friendship with a sensitive teenage girl (Sondra Locke) living in the house where he’s rented a room in a small southern town to be near an ailing close friend who’s also deaf-mute (Chuck McCann). Stacy Keach has a good role in it and it was great to see kiddie show fave Chuck McCann in a dramatic role.

THE SCALPHUNTERS

This was a comedy-western directed by Sidney Pollack and, other than the inclusion of Ossie Davis as a runaway slave who allies with the hero, it was pretty routine. In addition to Davis, it starred Burt Lancaster, Telly Savalas and Shelley Winters.

IF HE HOLLERS, LET HIM GO

This is the one I’d probably most want to see again. It’s a racially-charged melodrama based on a novel by black crime novelist Chester Himes (Cotton Comes to Harlem) and stars Raymond St. Jacques as an escaped convict trying to clear his name who is roped into a plot by southerner Kevin McCarthy to get rid of his wife, Dana Wynter. There is a nude sex scene between St. Jacques and singer Barbara McNair. It was pretty wild to see McCarthy and Wynter, reunited from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, playing such a completely different pair. St. Jacques would star in a more successful Himes adaptation two years later, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, and McNair would play a nun alongside Mary Tyler Moore the following year in the Elvis Presley musical drama, CHANGE OF HABIT.

YOURS, MINE AND OURS

This predated “The Brady Bunch” by a year with its story of a widow and widower, each with lots of kids, getting married and merging their households. The fact that Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball starred gave this light comedy some cachet—in my mind, at least—that it might not otherwise have had.

Plus, a few others:

These were 1968 films I eventually caught up with in revival theaters, mostly in the early 1970s:

I re-watched 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY earlier this year. And I re-watched BARBARELLA, YELLOW SUBMARINE and THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, among other films, as I was researching this piece. I have 2001 and BARBARELLA on Blu-ray.

I admire and respect 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and recognize its importance, but I don’t love it. I don’t like the way the human characters are portrayed as bearing only the slightest traces of humanity. Here’s an excerpt from my notes written after this re-watch:

I’m also not in tune with Kubrick’s view of humanity’s descent into utter banality by 2001. Would it have surprised him to know that by 2001, astronauts would still gripe and joke and get restless on a long space voyage? And a cover-up like the one we see on the moon would arouse quite a backlash, not wholehearted nodding-in-agreement like we see at the meeting. Somebody would have harsh words for Dr. Floyd.

I liked BARBARELLA enough to see it three times in theaters from 1969 to 1978. After that last screening, I remember thinking, “I prefer this to STAR WARS.” Watching it this time, however, I was a bit more skeptical. I’m not as big a fan of decadent spectacles as I once was. As I’ve become more literal-minded a viewer as I’ve gotten older, I have less patience with surreal and abstract elements created for their own sake. And the tongue-in-cheek humor didn’t click for me either. I just couldn’t take any of it seriously. I tried to think back to my 15-year-old self seeing this for the first time and being dazzled by a completely new approach to science fiction and, even moreso, by Jane Fonda’s nude body as she strips off her space suit during the opening credits—and at other points in the film. I believe these were the first nude scenes I ever saw on screen. That’s bound to have quite an impact at that age. I must have liked the music from BARBARELLA since I bought the soundtrack album back then, but I found many of the cues and songs extremely grating this time around. Still, it’s quite unlike any other sci-fi film I’ve seen and the visual imagination remains impressive.

And what did I think of YELLOW SUBMARINE as a 16-year-old seeing it on a double bill with WEST SIDE STORY during my junior year of high school?

It was certainly unlike any other animated film I’d ever seen and I was quite the Beatles fan at the time, so what’s not to love? Well, 48 years later, I demand a little more. Much of the film consists essentially of animated music videos set to Beatles songs. The plot doesn’t really kick in until the last half-hour and it’s handled in such a stylized manner with no real sense of anything at stake that I just couldn’t engage with it. The “people” of Pepperland are mostly immobile cut-outs. It doesn’t help that the animated Beatles have no real characters and just relay bad puns and quips relentlessly no matter what crisis they face. Much of the animation and design are quite beautiful and imaginative, but it’s not enough to sustain a 90-minute feature without any hook for the viewer.

I had hoped to watch THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE in time for my Robert Aldrich Centennial piece, but I didn’t have access to it until TCM ran it six days after Aldrich’s centennial. A story of an actress who takes on the role of a long-deceased movie star whom she closely resembles and comes to seem possessed by and who had died a tragic death that was either accident, suicide, or murder, depending on who’s telling it, it has echoes of SUNSET BOULEVARD, RASHOMON, THE BIG KNIFE, VERTIGO and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? However, while it has a lot of interesting ideas and I found it quite watchable, it never gels and I never believed any of the characters or the basic situation. It was a big flop when it was released.

I also re-watched THE ODD COUPLE recently on TCM and thought it held up very well. It’s consistently funny, but it works because it’s rooted in a heartfelt examination of male friendship and male pain, as two men find different, sometimes conflicting ways of coping with the failure of their marriages. The jokes in it aren’t cheap, unlike those in the numerous comedies of recent years celebrating the phenomenon of Gen X males who never grow up.

Here are others I’ve revisited in recent years:

I re-watched these for various centennial pieces (Widmark, Sinatra, Martin, Mitchum):

MADIGAN is the one I like the most from this group and I devoted several paragraphs to it in the Richard Widmark Centennial piece.

The five Oscar nominees for Best Picture of 1968 were:

OLIVER!, based on the Broadway musical, won. I saw it at a church screening in 1971, but not since. I saw ROMEO AND JULIET and RACHEL, RACHEL in theaters in 1969, but not since. I’ve seen parts of FUNNY GIRL and THE LION IN WINTER on television, but never in their entirety. (I’ve tried to sit through FUNNY GIRL several times, but I just can’t do it.) Personally, I would have chosen PLANET OF THE APES as the Best Picture of 1968.

In any event, I prefer the releases of 1967, which boasted at least 18 studio films I wouldn’t hesitate to see again (and many foreign ones) and was a year I’ve written about several times on this blog. The notable domestic releases of 1967, for me, were: Robert Aldrich’s THE DIRTY DOZEN; Howard Hawks’ EL DORADO; Cornel Wilde’s war movie BEACH RED; Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE; Daniel Haller’s motorcycle gang thriller DEVIL’S ANGELS; Mike Nichols’ THE GRADUATE; Richard Brooks’ IN COLD BLOOD; Norman Jewison’s Best Picture Oscar-winner IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT; Larry Peerce’s crime-on-the-subway drama, THE INCIDENT; Anatole Litvak’s WWII crime thriller NIGHT OF THE GENERALS; John Boorman’s POINT BLANK; the Dean Martin western, ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO; Roger Corman’s ST. VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE; the Eli Wallach-Anne Jackson comedy THE TIGER MAKES OUT; Gordon Douglas’s private eye romp with Frank Sinatra, TONY ROME; Roger Corman’s psychedelic THE TRIP; Robert Mulligan’s New York high school drama, UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE; and of course, the James Bond film, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

And 1969 would be a much better year than 1968 for my overall experience of moviegoing. For one thing, I started seeing Italian westerns, five of them that year, including two of the Sergio Leone films, one of them being ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, which was first released in the U.S. that year. In fact, it was a great year for westerns overall, with the release of one of my all-time favorites, Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, along with TRUE GRIT and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, as well as SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF, 100 RIFLES, and MACKENNA’S GOLD. A sixth James Bond movie came out, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. Counterculture cinema took off with EASY RIDER, ALICE’S RESTAURANT, BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE, and PUTNEY SWOPE. Woody Allen made his debut feature, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. Some good war movies were produced, including WHERE EAGLES DARE, CASTLE KEEP and THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN. Two of my favorite Japanese monster movies were released in the U.S. that year, THE GREEN SLIME and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS, along with Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaur spectacle, VALLEY OF GWANGI.

 

One Response to “The Films of 1968, Part 1: What We Were Seeing 50 Years Ago”

  1. squeesh April 22, 2019 at 8:44 AM #

    Good list of films! It would be cool if you could do a write-up on BEACH RED, since it’s been compared to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and is seen as kind of a forerunner to it. Really good film, with its raw, unblinking look at war for its time.

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