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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Fifty Years of Film in 50 .... Months?? The Final Films.

After a busy 2022 and a mean case of writer's block, I'm back to wrap up my Fifty Years of Film in 50 Weeks series, where I've chronicled my first-time viewings of a half-century of films in chronological order, starting with 1921. As the title of this post shows, I didn't complete on time, considering my first entry in the series was way back in February 2021! This post wraps up the series with my tiny takes on the remaining films. For sake of time and space, I have not included film credits other than the director and year of release. For complete credits, click on the links to IMDb provided with each title.

My next post will be a wrap-up and meditation on what I learned from this voyage through film history.

Here are the final six films in the series, from 1966-1971.

How to Steal a Million (William Wyler, 1966).

Why I chose it: After the intense drama that was Repulsion, I needed something a little frothy! Plus, I needed to see more of Audrey Hepburn, and with the glowing reviews and William Wyler's direction, how could it miss?

My take: A blast. Perfect caper film with fun twists and turns. Both Hepburn and O'Toole were ideally cast, and Charles Boyer in an almost unrecognizable cameo made me smile.


Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg, 1967)

Why I chose it: Because I've never seen Paul Newman in this, one of his career-defining films.

My take: It's a mostly relentlessly harsh film, and it's hard to identify with Newman, but you have to admire his character's strength of will. I'm definitely glad I saw this one, but will likely not revisit it anytime soon. 


Monterey Pop (D.A. Pennebaker, 1968)

Why I chose it: What is more representative of 1968 than this doc celebrating the best live rock music of the counterculture?

My take: I'd seen clips from the film, but this viewing introduced me to live performances from artists I'd never seen on film (Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar). A great peak into a time that I missed by about 15 years. Also was moved seeing luminaries lost too soon (Redding, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix).


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Ronald Neame1969)

Why I chose it: I was interested to see both a young Maggie Smith and an older Celia Johnson, the young mother in Brief Encounter (1945), although I really had no idea of the plot.

My take: It felt a little like Picnic at Hanging Rock meets To Sir, With Love. Maggie Smith did a wonderful job of navigating the line between being totally out of line in how she handled her students and worthy of pity. Compelling performances all around.


The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Sam Peckinpah, 1970)

Why I chose it: I absolutely needed to start filling in the viewing gap that is Sam Peckinpah's filmography. Of the 14 films from the legendary director of Westerns, I'd only seen Ride the High Country, his first. (Yes, I will get around to The Wild Bunch eventually!)

My take: Don't miss this one. A mostly non-violent Western deftly combining humor, drama, and pathos. Peckinpah said this one was among his favorites, and I can see why. Jason Robards is the eccentric title character who we root for until the surprising end. Jerry Goldsmith's score is sublime.


Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1971)

Why I chose it: More Jason Robards! Actually, a film friend had recommended this anti-war film, and with Dalton Trumbo directing a screenplay he wrote with Luis Buñuel, and a part for Marsha Hunt, I was in.

My take: Buñuel's influence is clear, with surrealism bountiful as we get inside the head of a paralyzed, blind, deaf, and mute WWI casualty. Timothy Bottoms plays the soldier in flashback. It's far from mainstream, and a bit remote, but ultimately moving. Marsha Hunt doesn't have enough screentime, but Donald Sutherland as Jesus is breathtaking.


  1. What an interesting and eclectic group of films! I saw Cool Hand Luke as a child, when it came out -- I only remember the eggs and the famous quote about failure to communicate -- I need to give this one a rewatch! The only other one I've seen is Cable Hogue. I very much enjoyed it, but I was really thrown by the end!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Karen. You are right about the list being eclectic; in fact, that probably characterizes the entire group of 50 films in this series! I can't wait to sum it all up.

      That egg scene in CHL sure has the power to stick in one's mind, and I'm not surprised you remember it from 1967! I knew it was coming and had to force myself to watch the whole thing. I *may* have kept one eye shut!

  2. I agree that How to Steal a Million is perfection. Introduced it to my kids recently and they loved it too :-)

    I remember thinking Cool Hand Luke was very, very cool as a teen... but not at all sure I would like it now.

    Haven't seen the others, but they look intriguing! Glad you could complete your viewing!

    1. Thanks, Rachel. For some reason, How to Steal a Million had not been on my radar at all before I started this series, and I'm not sure it would have made it there ever. I'm glad I discovered it, and I agree, it's a good film for adults and kids alike. I've never been a huge Hepburn fan, but I do understand her appeal - she really has it here, and another new discovery for me: Roman Holiday.

    2. I like Roman Holiday a lot too :-) Gregory Peck is particularly fine in that one!