Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, USA)
The tiredest cliché about 1950s sci-fi is that it was all Really About Fear of Communism, because, you know, people had this irrational belief that the Soviet Union was governed by a clique of murderous fanatics who desired to rule the world, and they didn’t know how else to express it. But, trust me on this – when old Hollywood wanted to make movies about Communism, they knew how to make movies about Communism. When they made movies about a zombie apocalypse from outer space, it was probably for the same reason they do so today: because they wanted to tell a good story. Watched it before, and again now.
The Girl Can’t Help It (1956, USA)
Two middle-aged has-beens try to make some money on all this music the young people are into. This also seems to have been what the producers had in mind, because this is the highest budget rock’n roll movie so far. Watched: 19 minutes, plus the musical numbers. Features Jayne Mansfield trying her best to impersonate Marilyn Monroe, but the hottest thing here is the music.
The Burning Hills (1956, USA)
Did westerns get a lot better in 1956? Not the best ones, they were always good, but the ones that are hardly more than competently assembled revenge fantasies, the kind that might inspire someone to invent the spaghetti western. Watched it all.
Reprisal! (1956, USA)
Look, “Reprisal” is just a bad title for a western, and it doesn’t get any better by adding an exclamation point. Watched: 7 minutes.
Har deltatt i nettmøte hos NRK:
Stærk jobber til daglig i IT-bransjen som programmerer, og har i flere år skrevet om en rekke temaer i blogginnlegg, aviskronikker og artikler.
– Jeg startet en blogg etter 11. september med fokus blant annet på islamsk ekstremisme, hvor jeg etterhvert også endte opp med å krangle med forløperne til dagens kontrajihadister, blant andre «Fjordman», fortalte Stærk til en leser.
Stærk begynte etter terrorangrepet den 22. juli å lese Breiviks kommentarer på ulike nettsteder, og bladde i manifestet hans. Stærk kjente igjen mye av innholdet, nettstedene Breivik siterer og skribentene han beundrer, blant annet norske «Fjordman».
Les resten hos NRK.
Solid Gold Cadillac (1956, USA)
Miss Smith goes to Manhattan, and teaches the fat cats about corporate ethics and the rights of the Small Shareholder. Watched it all.
Our Mr Sun (1956, USA, Capra)
A charming science documentary with one flaw: That there’s nothing uglier than 50s animation. Also, it’s meta, which gets old. Watched: 10 minutes.
Der Hauptmann von Köpenick / The Captain from Köpenick (1956, West Germany)
In Wilhelmine Germany authority is everything, and appearance gives authority. Anyone who can find a uniform and put on a stern manner, and knows enough military mumbo jumbo to impress the guards, can just walk right into the Kolsås NATO base and steal their whisky supply. Or .. no, let’s not go there. Watched it all.
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956, USA)
The creature that walks among us is the one from the Black Lagoon, who is kidnapped by scientists who want to dress him up as a man and teach him about the rains of Spain. Watched: 10 minutes. It’s dull. But – the title of this movie is poetry.
Le Mystère Picasso (1956, France)
A movie made out of nothing but Picasso drawing on the screen before our eyes, proving beyond a doubt that he was a fairly competent cartoonist. Watched: 20 minutes.
Star in the Dust (1956, USA)
This isn’t very good, but for some reason it feels more like a Western than most of the other not very good Westerns so far. Maybe it’s the closeups, the (admittedly awful) gitar music, and the no-nonsense (but admittedly ridiculous) “town edging steadily closer to war” story. Watched it all.
Liane, Jungle Goddess / Liane, das Mädchen aus dem Urwald (1956, Germany)
A number of movies have been made about white women who are worshipped as goddesses by childlike African tribes. Of course, it adds a certain piquancy when the story is told by Germans, (and not only because their goddess happens to walk around topless). Watched: 9 minutes, plus the naughty bits.
Swamp Women (1956, USA, Corman)
Roger Corman has what most B movies so far have been lacking: Sympathy for the Devil. Plus, hardened girl criminals in short pants. Watched it all, though to be fair this is a bad movie.
Rock, Rock, Rock (1956, USA)
It says something about how little life there was left in the swing generation that there’s more great music in this half-assed rock’n roll B-movie than there were in all the major movies of the previous years. Watched the musical bits, of which this Chuck Berry song is the one that makes me the giddiest.
Martin Booth – The Dragon Syndicates - The global phenomenon of the Triads (2001)
The Triads are secret societies that once served useful functions in Chinese society, but they were always closely connected with crime, and eventually this became their only purpose. It takes either a totalitarian state or unusually well-planned police actions to inhibit them, and they’re still to be found in most Chinese communities over the world.
Recommended: Weakly. Like all organized crime exposés it leans towards sensationalism. On the other hand, the myths of organized crime are often as important as the facts.
Robert Heinlein – Tunnel in the Sky (1955)
A group of youths are sent out into the wilderness to fend for themselves, and, after a brief Lord of the Flies phase, discover that democratic government is the art of living peacefully with people you don’t like.
Recommended: Yes. There’s a line in the sand, and Heinlein’s juveniles and I are on one side of it.
George Walden – The New Elites (2000)
Elites come and go. Walden argues that the elites of today are populist anti-elitists, mediocrities who condescend to the masses – the average man – from a position only slightly raised above them. We would be better off with genuine elites who are not afraid of aiming and reaching high, as long as they’re also alive and open to newcomers.
Recommended: Yes. Walden veers off into some unfocused “my country is the worst in the world” rants, but for the most part, this is an insightful analysis that applies equallywell to Norway.
The best movies of 1955, or at least those that had an opening that was interesting enough for me not to immediately hit the fast-forward button. I’ve collected the best scene from each movie, plus some amusingly bad ones, in this playlist.
The ones I’d heard about
The Trouble With Harry
Bad Day at Black Rock
The Seven Year Itch
The Quatermass Xperiment
Mad, murderous preachers
Night of the Hunter
Priests, maddened and nearly murdered
Mann, with and without Stewart
The Last Frontier
The Man From Laramie
Start of a promising career
East of Eden
Rebel Without a Cause
Go, go, Rasputin!
Romeo and Juliet
Movies! with! exclamation! point! titles!
It Came From Beneath the Sea
Commies and Nazis
Himmel Ohne Sterne
Night and Fog
A Kid for Two Farthings
As Long As They’re Happy
Not so nice Britain
Madness and/or sanity
I Live in Fear
Next up: 1956, featuring a queue of ca 500 movies + various clips from the Internet Archive.
The Prisoner (1955, UK)
A psychological interrogation movie in the tradition of Nineteen Eighty-four, the Babylon 5 episode Intersections in Real Time, and – most of all – the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, which it certainly must have influenced. Watched it all.
Love Me or Leave Me (1955, USA)
I hate biopics. Hate them, hate them, hate them. On the upside, this one has Doris Day being smart, ambitious, and doing her best to get into the song business without having to go through the bed of that sleazebag James Cagney. But it’s still a biopic. Watched: 14 minutes.
Oh.. Rosalinda!! (1955, UK, Powell & Pressburger)
I liked Powell and Pressburger more when there was a certain operatic quality to their movies that still wasn’t actual genuine opera. Watched: 12 minutes.
It’s Always Fair Weather (1955, USA)
And now Comden & Green are writing stinkers too. What is the world coming too? I bet the good times are over, and nobody will ever make a good movie ever again. And then the movie business will go broke, because all the stories have already been told as well as they can be. Watched: 9 minutes. Well, I guess I should give 1956 a chance before I give up. Just one quick peak ..
Rome and Juliet (1955, USSR)
I think I get the purpose of ballet now: It’s a way to have have both story and music, without having it interrupted by singing. The dancing is just something to keep your eyes distracted with while you listen to the music and try to remember how the story goes. But then if that is the case, I don’t see why they make such a fuss about the dancing. Maybe I’ve missed something after all. Watched it all. Btw, whose idea of a cruel joke was it transport Shakespeare into a medium without dialogue?
Son of Sinbad (1955, USA)
In almost every movie that is set in the Biblical past or the near East, you’ll find an Obligatory Decadent Banquet Scene at around the 1:00 mark, where nobles recline lazily by their dinner tables, while they watch a pretty girl dance. It’s usually the only scene worth watching, because you really can’t go wrong with that sort of thing. The one in this movie is unusual in that it features pole dancing. Watched: 5 minutes.
The Prodigal (1955, USA)
I’m sure there is a right way to tell the story of the Prodigal Son, but a big, loud Bible epic isn’t it. You can tell the worst of the worst Bible epics by the voiceover in the intro that explains how people in ancient times all worshipped the evil gods Baahl and Astarte etc. etc., except for one small village of indomitable Hebrews. Watched: 4 minutes. It doesn’t even have a proper Obligatory Decadent Banquet Scene.
Bjørn Vassnes – Sokrates & Sjøpungen (2011)
It’s ironic how little actual knowledge there is to find in this book about how nobody in Norway values knowledge any more. It’s as if Vassnes just quickly wrote down all the opinions he has about knowledge, scattering facts inbetween, but never pausing to focus on any single topic. So we jump from Norway’s PISA scores to academics who don’t like evolutionary psychology to “oh you can’t trust the newspaper these days” to how the infrastructure is failing to how the climate may collapse and kill us all – sometimes from one paragraph to the next. I probably agree with his overall message, I just can’t figure out what specifically he is trying to say most of the time. I’ve littered the margins with “Uhh…?” Which is short for: “Ah yes, this is an interesting claim, I can’t wait to see how you intend to support it – no, wait, don’t move on, not again! Please stand still for just one moment! Nooooo..” And then we’re off to how Christianity created the Dark Ages, and then to how Cloud Computing and China aren’t all that, and ..
Read: 44 pages.
Recommended: No. This may be the right book for somebody, for instance people who doen’t already agree that knowledge is important, but are easily convinced by unfocused polemics. To me it feels like a desert full of mirages. I can tell that there is something interesting going on over the horizon, but I have a growing suspicion that this book will never take me there.