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1. Dark Humor in Films of the 1960s

In the 1960s, themes which had previously been dealt with only in the most serious fashion were suddenly subject to burlesque, or parody, as filmmakers and audiences sought to move beyond the strained seriousness that characterized many of the most respected problem films of the 1960s. In such films as Roger Gorman’s The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and A Bucket of Blood (1959), Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Theodore J. Flicker’s The President’s Analyst (1967), and many others, viewers embraced a new vision of the world unfettered by the constraints of prior censorship.

2. A Cinema of Violence: The Films of D. Ross Lederman

Although he worked for two major studios for the bulk of his career, Warner Brothers and Columbia, D. (David) Ross Lederman specialized in genre films and created his films swiftly, compactly, and with authority. His films stand out because they all display Ledermans uniquely dystopian view of life, combined with a relentless, inexorable narrative drive. In his best films, Lederman not only bent the rules of genre cinema, he all but abolished them. The sheer intensity of Ledermans imagistic and editorial pacing, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of genre filmmaking, allowed him to transcend the conventions of the typical program film, no matter what the genre, and make it a personal project.

3. Juan Orol, Phantom of the Mexican Cinema

In the mid-twentieth-century Mexican cinema, one filmmaker stands out from all the rest as being almost erased from cinema history. Juan Orol is one of the most peculiar of all Mexican cineastes, often compared unjustly to Ed Wood for the poverty-stricken nature of his films, but unlike Wood, Orol’s influence was much more pervasive in Mexico during his lifetime, and he was both far more prolific and more disciplined. His accomplishments as a director are real, and lasting. It’s easy to see that Orol was a driven man, and a driven filmmaker; indeed, as he got older, the pace of his film production only increased.

4. Missing in Action: The Lost Version of Vanishing Point

Much has been written on Richard C. Sarafian’s existential road movie Vanishing Point (1971), a shambling, glorious wreck of a film that nevertheless manages to achieve a certain sort of ragged splendor in its countercultural tale of loner driver Kowalski (Barry Newman), who takes on a nearly impossible drive from Denver to San Francisco to deliver a Dodge Challenger in less than 24 hours. Based on two true life stories, one of a San Diego police officer who was kicked off the force in disgrace, and another one of a man who died after a high-speed chase which led to his crashing into a police roadblock, Vanishing Point is pure twentieth-century high octane nihilism.

5. The Invisible Cinema of Marcel Hanoun

When Marcel Hanoun died on 22 September 2012 at the age of 82, it caused barely a ripple in the media, and even in the world of experimental cinema. And yet Hanoun was a major filmmaker, whose near total critical eclipse after an initial burst of critical interest is an indictment of cinema history as a function of canon. It’s true that Hanoun’s films are difficult, but no more so than Jean-Luc Godard’s, who was a fan of Hanoun’s work; it’s true that Hanoun turned his back on commercial cinema to work as a perennial outsider, but again, cinema has many rebellious figures in its history who continue to hold a claim on our memory. But Hanoun is in death, as he was in life, an almost phantom auteur, “discovered” in the early 1960s, and then summarily dismissed.

6. The Noir Vision of Max Ophüls, Romantic Fatalist

Max Ophüls, born Maximillian Oppenheimer on 6 May 1902, Saarbrücken, Germany, was a director known primarily for his romance films, often with sweeping tracking shots, and often taking place in the past. Ophüls’ luxurious camera style is evident in such superb romance films as Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). The director made only two true noir films in his long and distinguished career, back to back: Caught and The Reckless Moment (both 1949) during his brief period in the United States. These two noirs were a distinct departure from his earlier work, and stand out as near aberrations in the director’s body of work. But they were created out of necessity, not design, for Ophüls never really wanted to come to Hollywood in the first place.


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