Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 8, 2015
Discuss this article at the Diner TV Table inside the Diner
Ugo Bardi over on Resource Crisis recently wrote an article about the Decline of Literature, another one of his many examples of the “Seneca Cliff” idea, which postulates that while the road up to the Peak of anything is fairly slow, the Road to Ruin is pretty quick.
Right after reading that article, while I was looking for film clips to use in one of my articles, which I always like to drop some pop culture or music reference into if possible, I noticed that several films which rank on my all time favorite personal list were ALL either produced or released in 1968.
Now, you will get film history buffs who can point to many great films NOT made in 1968, there are many of them of course. However, from my own perspective, I can find no other year where SO MANY were all produced that have stood the test of time as truly GREAT FILMS, of one sort or another. Not all are from major studios, in fact quite a few come from the “B” Film category.
Here are my Top Ten Films from 1968, with a short review of each, and a clip or trailer I was able to dig up on You Tube. They come in no particular order, and there are some I left off the list which are favorites just to keep it down to 10.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Unquestionably the most influential and powerful Science Fiction film of all time, from director Stanley Kubrick. Stanley also directed Doctor Strangelove (a 1964 film). Way ahead of its time in special effects, and prescient in the computer control paradigm of the HAL 9000 computer AI running the space ship. HAL is an acronym derived from IBM, each letter is the one before IBM in the Alphabet. The beginning scene of the Dawn of Man remains one of my all time favorite film clips, and the theme music of Also Sprach Zarathustra from Richard Strauss is absolute perfection.
Planet of the Apes
Another Sci-Fi CLASSIC, which has spawned more remakes and sequels than any other film ever made I think, especially if you include the TV Series. However, the original with Charlton Heston can never be beat. The closing scene where he discovers the Statue of Liberty and realizes he has been on his home planet of Earth the whole time, in the aftermath of a Nuclear War is Charlton doing his histrionic type of acting at its best.
DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! YOU FINALLY DID IT! YOU BLEW IT ALL UP!
Romeo & Juliet
Transferring Shakespeare to the Big Screen is one hell of a challenge for any director, but I don’t think anyone ever did it better than Franco Zeffirelli did in this version of Romeo & Juliet. Kevin Branaugh came close with his version of Henry V in 1989, but even that still does not challenge this version of Romeo & Juliet as the best ever film version of a Shakespeare Play. Olivia Hussey played a remarkably beautiful and emotive Juliet at the age of 16 when it was filmed, older than the Juliet of Shakespeare’s play who was 13, but given the cultural difference between now and then, not much sacrifice. Henry Mancini provided a fabulous score for this film as well.
Starring Steve McQueen, arguably the first of the modern “Action Heroes” that in his wake spawned such luminaries as Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. Also spawned endless Cop Thriller Films including all the Dirty Harry films of Clint Eastwood, and has what is considered the best Car Chase sequence ever recorded, despite many more being done after it, including all the Bond films which always feature a spectacular car chase. Difference here is that the Bullitt Chase seems REAL, while the Bond chases are utterly unreal. Gotta love that Ford Mustang also.
Hang ’em High
Clint Eastwood’s early years were a whole lot better than what he puts out in his dotage these days. The Spaghetti Westerns (Fistfull of Dollars, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly etc) all featured similar themes of vengeance, and Hang ’em High was a culmination of that back in Hollywood. There are back stories to this one that you could go into forever, Inger Stevens was part of the Laurel Canyon scene, died supposedly by suicide of barbituates, but had ties to Sharon Tate, Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Inger Stevens conspiracy theory aside here, a fabulous cast, Alan Hale Jr. from Gilligan’s Island, Pat Hingle as the Judge and Ed Begley as Chief Lynchman lays down the “Hang ‘Em” Line perfectly! Now, if Ed was in charge of Bankster Justice, we could make some PROGRESS!
Wild in the Streets
Quite possibly the most bizzarly funny movie of ALL TIME, which posits Christopher Jones as a Rock Star elected President during the Hallucinogenic Drug craze of the 60s. Phil Ochs, my favorite folk singer of the era in the BIGGEST MISTAKE of his career turned down this role. You got everything in this film, from a 14 year old Voting Age to LSD Re-education Camps for Old Folks! LOL. Shelley Winters as the Mom of the Rock Star is so over the top you would not believe it! LOL. Hal Holbrook who later played Lincoln on Broadway to great acclaim is the Senator who buys into the whole deal as his ticket to power. Here is a clip of newly elected Congresswoman/Drugged out Bimbo Sally LeRoy demanding 14 year old emancipation!
Mel Brooks produced and directed this Parody MASTERPIECE, which also featured an amazing cast including Mel himself, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Mel Parodies just about everything in this film, but there is no funnier Musical piece than “Springtime for Hitler“, which itself is a send up of the musicals of Busby Berkley. Mel would of course go on to produce numerous hilarious parodies, including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. However, this remains arguably his best film.
And now, SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER! 😀
Roman Polanski’s initial Claim to Fame, before Chinatown and before getting busted for sex with a 13 year old girl and fleeing prosecution here in the FSoA for France. This Horror film hits all the Catholic concepts of Sin and Satan, starring Mia Farrow as the waif who gets raped by the Devil and John Cassavetes as her scumbag Hubby who facilitates this. Mia later marries Woody Allen…OK, lets not go down THAT Rabbit Hole too! LOL. Anyhow, Nobody does EVIL better than Cassavetes. Directly before this film, he was one of the worst psychos in The Dirty Dozen, a 1967 film.
The official tagline of the film is “Pray for Rosemary’s Baby”. In 2014, Rosemary’s Baby was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Here’s the Conception Scene:
John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas organized this concert, which predated Woodstock by 2 years, and was arguably the better of the two on a Musical Level. It also chronicled the HIGH POINT of the counter-culture movement of the 60’s, BEFORE the HAMMER came down in ’68 on the whole thing, with the riots, campus protests, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and to cap it all off, the Election of Tricky Dick Nixon as POTUS. Not a good year to have stopped Sniffing Glue.
The musical acts at this concert were legendary, from Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to The Jefferson Airplane, The Who and the Greatful Dead and many more. The film is a great chronicle of a lost time, perhaps the last chance we had to change the future which now has become the present.
Night of the Living Dead
The FIRST ZOMBIE Film from George Romero, a B-Film that spawned a whole genre that not only Lives On today, but has exploded to still greater heights of Gore.
What I find interesting here is that the psychology driving the Zombie meme was present in 1968 just as it is now, as in the consciousness of the artists who make films, while they may not grasp the economics, they do have a sense of the zeitgeist.
Here’s the FULL Night of the Living Dead film.
Now, besides this bunch of Classic Films which were actually released in 1968, the number of films released in the years from 1966 through 1970 on either side of the 1968 Peak also have innumerable fabulous ones in there from A Man for All Seasons to King of Hearts to Bonnie & Clyde to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid to Anne of the Thousand Days…the list goes on and on here.
Look at the Top Ten Grossing Films List for 2012. Is there ONE decent movie in this bunch? I’m not talking Classic, just DECENT!
|1||The Avengers||Marvel Studios||$1,518,594,910|
|2||Skyfall||MGM / Columbia||$1,108,561,013|
|3||The Dark Knight Rises||Warner Bros. / Legendary||$1,084,439,099|
|4||The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||Warner Bros./ MGM / New Line||$1,017,003,568|
|5||Ice Age: Continental Drift||Fox / Blue Sky||$877,244,782|
|6||The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2||Lionsgate / Summit||$829,685,377|
|7||The Amazing Spider-Man||Columbia||$757,930,663|
|8||Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted||Paramount / DreamWorks||$746,921,274|
|9||The Hunger Games||Lionsgate||$691,247,768|
|10||Men in Black 3||Columbia||$624,026,776|
I’m not going to paste in the whole 2012 List of Films, suffice it to say I can’t see any in that list that could hold a candle to anything done in 1968. Maybe The Hunger Games is culturally significant enough, but I didn’t see it since I no longer go to movies, but I suspect that is a stretch.
Of course, as I mentioned above, besides Films, 1968 was PEAK CULTURE in many other ways, including the Assassinations, Protests, Riots and so forth. It was shortly after this in 1971 that Nixon shut the Gold Window for Dollar Convertibility. Peak Oil Production in the FSoA was hit just about exactly in 1968.
It’s been downhill here ever since, disguised by the ever increasing issuance of debt, but that kludge has about played itself out now.
I was 11 years old in 1968, just old enough to grasp some of the significance of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, but not old enough to be out protesting or hitchhiking my way to Put a Flower in my Hair in San Francisco or attend Monterrey or Woodstock. I did witness this though, and I did see all those movies I listed. Somewhere around 2000 or so I stopped going to the movies, because they just were not interesting anymore. I knew nothing of Peak Oil or had any notions of Collapse in 2000, I wasn’t even a Y2K believer. Something in me though then told me there just was nothing left to see, nothing left to make movies about. It’s all Sequels and Remakes now.
The Industrial Culture and American Empire PEAKED in 1968. It’s been downhill ever since.
We still have a bigger Trip to the Bottom coming though.