How you can recover your money if a dishonest lawyer cheats you
Clyde Gilmour picks 1961’s best and worst movies
A SERIES OF atrocious pseudo-historical adventures from Italy and several relentlessly loud and corny farces from Britain were regrettably prominent among the movies of 1961, and some of the worst of them flourished at the ticket windows. But excellent films also originated on both sides of the Atlantic, giving the wary customer a wide assortment of bargains.
The Cold War and the Bomb were getting scant attention from the filmmakers, perhaps in the belief that such cosmic worries are oppressive subjects for entertainment. Other topics formerly deemed too touchy for the popular screen were, however, being dealt with, at times with commendable frankness and decency: homosexualism in VICTIM. sex-criminals in THE MARK, race prejudice in A RAISIN IN THE SUN and FLAME
IN THE STREETS. The 20th-century military conscience was X-rayed in CIRCLE
OF DECEPTION and THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, even if the latter concentrated more on derring-do than on ethics.
Except for the conveyor-belt demands of television. Hollywood itself was dwindling in importance as a world capital of film production. More and more pictures were being made “abroad” or anyway outside California—including New' York City, increasingly favored for on-the-spot locations.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. No. I on my Best list, is Britain’s finest since 1959’s Room at the Top, which it resembles in its unblinking close-ups of proletarian Britons seldom examined in the tea-and-crumpets school of Old Country cinema. Alan Sillitoe’s splendid screenplay was based on his own novel. Albert Finney is utterly convincing as a rugged, prankish factory hand whose personal rebellion against conformity is happily free of the self-pity usually as-
sociated with England’s “angry young men.” There are candid sex scenes, but they are handled with honesty and vitality. The film is the first feature ever made by director Karel Reisz. a l.ondon-based Czech hitherto involved with documentaries.
West Side Story, by a broad margin, was the year’s best musical—and all the better because its tragic story and harsh social comment differed sharply from the cozy tune-show's of the past. Only occasionally was it guilty of sentimentalizing its New' York street-gang toughs and their brassy "chicks.”
The Guus of Na varone was the most exciting war-adventure yarn to reach the screen since The Bridge on the River Kwai. Its story is about cloak-anddagger tensions in the Nazi-held Greek islands in 1943. But this is no mere comic-strip fable: it is concerned also with the meaning of courage and the ethics of modern militarism.
Judgment at Nuremberg is Stanley Kramer’s production of an expanded version of a memorable television play by Abby Mann. It rambles a bit but generates both heat and light while probing the guilt of the w-hole German people for Hitler’s crimes.
Whistle Down the Wind, a British opus, sure-footedly avoids both sacrilege and mawkishness while eavesdropping on a group of Lancashire children who find a bearded stranger in a barn. They believe the Saviour has returned to earth and must be shielded from the nosy skepticism of their elders.
The Mark, made in Ireland with an international cast, stems from a novel by Charles E. Israel of Toronto. With stern compassion it tells the story of one of society’s loneliest outcasts: a convicted sex-criminal (Stuart Whitman). doggedly resolved to conquer his
abnormality with a psychiatrist’s help.
Village of the Damned is an imaginative and gripping science-fiction thriller from Britain. A dozen alarmingly precocious children, all of them gifted with hypnotic and mind-reading powers, gradually turn a serene English hamlet into the world’s capital of horror.
A Raisin in the Sun is a touching, stirring and sometimes hilarious drama about some of the universal problems of family life as well as a mature and balanced study—from the Negro viewpoint—of racial hatreds in American society. The "colored folk” in Lorraine Hansberry’s story are neither yassuhboss buffoons nor stiffly “noble” stereotypes.
The Hustler offers a most unlikely hero—a professional pool-shark or “billiard academy” gladiator, persuasively played by Paul Newman under Robert Rossen’s strong direction. This fellow’s garish half-world is depicted with considerable power, although the film perhaps exaggerates the significance of the pool hall as a symbol of all human struggle.
A Thunder of Drums was 1961 ’s top
big-screen western, recommendable even for viewers fatigued by the free hossoperas on TV. Its assets include Richard (“Paladin”) Boone and George Hamilton as cavalry officers—and the quietest, craftiest and deadliest horde of Apaches assembled in Hollywood in recent years.
As ever, designating the worst movie of the year was a difficult task, like that of a chronic drunk who is trying to remember his most dolorous hang-over. Hollywood’s The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, a tasteless fantasy starring Mickey Rooney as a Satan with plastichorns poking through a bowler hat. finally eliminated all other contenders.
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