Forgotten 60s Film Classics

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 selection, please let us know!):-

Bedazzled (1967) click here

Don’t confuse this classic with the lame 1998 remake starring Liz Hurley. No Peter Cook film ever bettered this idiomatic interpretation of the Faust story, ripe with his sharp, cynical and deadpan wit. The backdrop 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, this is actually a carefully-crafted attack on conservative values as 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 deadpan and charismatic image of the Devil ever to appear on screen.

Deadlier than the Male 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 but 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. 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 transcending all the surrounding horrors of war. Maintaining a wry humour along the way, 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 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 noire. A gang of bank robbers find upon release from prison that during their time of incarceration, the tree where they hid their loot now stands in the grounds of a police station. A charming, gentle comedy, there are numerous appearances by famous comedy actors from the period including Dick Emery and Derek Guyler and a convoluted plot wherein several strands come nicely together. Don’t expect many innuendos or double-entendres but this is a funny film filled 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 beautifully-turned out 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 all 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 are the real occult deal, 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 (played by Ian Carmichael) turns everything around after going to a college which teaches dirty tricks and low-down schemes for coming out on top in any situation, from love to finance to playing tennis. It’s also a time capsule of British middle-class life in the late 1950’s and Terry-Thomas gives one of his finest portrayals of a low-down English cad and bounder. The transformation of Palfrey is a joy to behold as he progresses through classes such as gamesmanship, partymanship and woomanship under the watchful eye of Professor Potter, played brilliantly by Alistair Sym, while Janet Scott is perfect as the love interest. 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 surely one of the greatest ever portrayals of a ‘little man’ character who takes on a greatly superior opponent and ends up winning in spite of himself. Using the scenario of a tiny milk delivery service fighting a huge corporation, this film has many excellent set pieces, notably the massive garden of a company executive’s mansion, a golf course and the titanic final confrontation in the corporations HQ, all of which incorporate hilariously incongruous slapstick and absurd humour. 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

This was a big hit at the time but seems largely forgotten today. Starring Carry On stalwarts Sid James and Kenneth Connor, this initially has the feel of 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, a gripping sense of suspense is well-maintained throughout.

What’s New Pussycat (1966) click here

A movie which truly sums up the sixties. 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 and Bond-girl Ursula Andress literally dropping into the story later on. What’s New, Pussycat is the first film written by Woody Allen. who casts himself self-deprecatingly 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.