At Cheshire Writing Services, we’re passionate about bringing forgotten artistic gems back to the fore. Here is our own selection of films from the 60’s which deserve to be cherished – and if you don’t agree with any of our choices, please let us know!
Bedazzled (1967) click here
Don’t confuse this classic with the lame 1998 remake starring Liz Hurley. No film ever bettered this idiomatic interpretation of the Faust story, ripe with Peter Cook’s sharp, cynical and deadpan wit. The premise is simple enough; lonely no-hoper Dudley Moore is offered seven wishes in return for his soul by the Devil (memorably played by Cook himself). However, Bedazzled is actually a carefully-crafted attack on conservative values. Different aspects of British life are ruthlessly picked apart, culminating in a disturbing exploration of London’s sleazy demi-Monde. ‘Bedazzled’ is also uproariously funny, with Cook giving surely the most charismatic image of the Devil ever to appear on screen.
Deadlier than the Male (1967) click here
The 60s saw a huge amount of James Bond-type pastiches, from the quite dreadful Charles Vine trilogy (cf. ‘Where the Bullets Fly’) to American spoofs like the Dean Martin ‘Matt Helm’ films. Few came closer to capturing both the style and comedy of the Bond films (and on a much lower budget) than Deadlier than the Male, however. Every aspect has been perfectly handled, from a beautiful but deadly assassin played superbly by Elke Sommer to the smooth, calculating villain ably handled by Nigel Green. Richard Johnson is also well cast as the heroic Bulldog Drummond.
The locations are exciting, from high-powered London flats and boardrooms to the sun-splashed Spanish coast and there is plenty of high-tech gadgetry, from a bullet-firing cigar to voice-controlled, human-sized chess pieces. However, the overall feel is more credible than most Bonds and Deadlier is a fun film with the right balance of glamour, menace and comedy.
Hannibal Brooks (1969) click here
Definitely not your typical war story, a British POW’s only concern is walking a huge elephant across Nazi Germany to escape Nazi bombing raids. This is one of the most sensitive roles Oliver Reed played and one of the few films in which he is the central lead. A beautiful travelogue across Bavaria, this is an engaging story of how an ordinary individual can find a special purpose even in the most difficult circumstances. Maintaining a wry humour throughout, Hannibal Brooks is an absurd concept which seems strangely credible. This is in part because of good all-round performances from the whole cast and this may be truly called a heart-warming movie.
The Big Job (1965) click here
At first glance a ‘Carry On’ in all but name, directed by Gerald Thomas, produced by Peter Rodgers and starring Sid James, this is really a satire of British film noir. A gang of released bank robbers find that the tree where they hid their loot now stands in the grounds of a police station. A charming, gentle comedy with a complex plot, there are appearances by several famous comedy actors from the period including Dick Emery and Derek Guyler. Don’t expect a smorgasbord of double-entendres but this is still a funny film packed with fine performances.
Plague of the Zombies (1965) click here
When it comes to checking all the boxes of classic British horror, Plague of the Zombies would satisfy any purist. Are there beautiful young ladies with heaving bosoms and winning smiles? Check. Is there an evil aristocrat with satanic sideburns exploiting the peasants with his Dark Arts? Check. Is this an extended satire about the unique and all-pervasive British class system? Check. Are there hordes of fox-hunting upper-class cads galloping about the rural landscape, menacing nubile young ladies and dashing heroes alike? Check, check and check.
However, in the midst of these familiar delights we also have a film that breaks the well-defined Hammer mould in various ways. First and most important, this is the only Hammer film that deals with zombies. While this might seem astonishing, zombies were not especially ‘hot stuff’ in this era. Instead, vampires were the unchallenged kings (and queens) of horror. These are not the plague-infected science fiction zombies of World War Z and The Walking Dead, though; these zombies are drawn from the grave by ancient Voodoo sorcery. If you want a Hammer flick with vivid action, sly wit and classy cleavage (and who doesn’t?), Plague of the Zombies is definitely your section of the graveyard.
School for Scoundrels (1960) click here
Based on the three comic guidebooks for life by Stephen Potter, School for Scoundrels is a brilliant tale of how Palfrey, a failure in every aspect of life turns everything around after going to a college which teaches dirty tricks for coming out on top in any situation, from love to playing tennis. It’s also a time capsule of British middle-class life in the late 1950’s. The transformation of Palfrey is a joy to behold as he progresses through classes such as ‘gamesmanship’, ‘partymanship’ and ‘womanship’ under the watchful eye of Professor Potter, played brilliantly by Alistair Sym. And just wait for the excellent twist at the end! Truly, one of the greatest British comedies ever made.
The Early Bird (1965) click here
One of the few colour films made by Norman Wisdom and one of the greatest portrayals of a ‘little man’ who takes on a superior opponent. Using the saga of a tiny milk delivery service fighting a huge corporation, this film delivers memorable set pieces in the massive garden of a company executive’s mansion, a golf course and a titanic final confrontation in the corporation’s HQ. Behind the laughs, this film tugs at your heartstrings as you root for the little guy. The finale is a masterpiece of absurdly compounding mishaps coming together with a satisfying conclusion.
What a Carve Up (1961) click here
A big hit at the time but largely forgotten today. Starring Carry On stalwarts Sid James and Kenneth Connor, What a Carve Up starts like a film noir with Donald Pleasance playing a sinister solicitor who calls round to announce the reading of a Will at a spooky mansion. Shirley Eaton adds more than a touch of glamour to the earthy one-liners and other ribald jests. The unusual casting creates the unsettling sense of a disparate group of people brought together by an unseen host for some mysterious purpose, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel. Whilst the film is a comedy, What a Carve Up maintains a gripping sense of suspense from start to finish.
What’s New Pussycat? (1966) click here
Debonair Peter O’Toole, troubled by his promiscuous lifestyle, calls on crazy psychiatrist Dr Fassbender (played brilliantly by Peter Sellers) for treatment. The story subsequently romps around gay Paris in a world of trendy bars, designer flats and riotous parties. With a thumping, catchy theme tune sung by Tom Jones, What’s New, Pussycat? is the first film written by Woody Allen (who casts himself as the one character who seems to be totally missing out on 60’s ‘free love’). Behind all the fun, glitz and slap-dash, there is some thought-provoking, existential dialogue questioning what life and love are really about; but for the most part it’s just escapist, mad-cap fun.