Thrills! Chills! Flying monkeys! Giant flies! Talking plants! All this and more awaits you in Stand By For Mind Control’s latest evil plot to control your minds through the viewing of great films: Mind Control Double Features.
Double features. You’ve loved them ever since the 1930s, when the depression drove theater owners to offer two movies for the price of one. It’s the best way to watch movies. From classic pairings such as these:
To more creative and unlikely pairings, where reflected back on one another, new windows are opened onto the two movies’ meaning, such as this:
But alas! You think to yourselves. What movies to watch? Nobody knows! There’s too many choices and they all suck. You’ve gone from drooling with indecision in front of the new releases rack at your local video emporium to mindlessly scanning the vast seas of crapola offered by Netflix streaming, and in both cases you always end up with the latest Adam Sandler flick, because seriously, there’s no way it could be as bad as the last one, right?
No. You are not right. You are sad. You think, if only there was a very small movie theater in my living room, and if only every weekend that movie theater played for me a double feature of great movies, I would be happy.
Do not fear, good people of the interwebs! For there is one reality left, we are here, and it is now! Happiness is yours!
Using the latest in double feature generating technology, we here at Stand By For Mind Control now have the ability to recommend to you, every friday, a new, exciting, educational, and entrancing pairing of fine cinematic wonders for your hungry eyeballs to consume over the long, dreary weekend ahead.
Where to begin? No, no, not with The Crawling Eye. Let’s see…it’s summer, flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, the days are long, the nights are warm (warm nights not valid in San Francisco), life is good and songbirds fill the skies with song. What’s that make us think of? Easy!
THE GREAT WAR aka WORLD WAR I
Come on, everybody, we’re going to war! And we’ve got two of filmdom’s finest directors to help us out with a pair of WWI classics, neither of which includes very much war at all, so don’t fret. One’s a buddy picture set in Australia, the other’s a stealth comedy set in France.
This is perhaps my favorite movie by Australian director Peter Weir. He made a ton of shorts during the ‘70s, then came to prominence with a very strange and dreamy movie called Picnic At Hanging Rock, and followed that a couple of years later with another strange one, The Last Wave. Then in ’81 came Gallipoli, named for the ill-fated Battle of Gallipoli wherein the Australians and the French had their asses handed to them by the Turks while trying and failing to take Constantinople (not Istanbul).
The movie stars Mark Lee and a very young and, outside of Mad Max fame, unknown actor named Mel Gibson. Who back then was not a raving loon. He was a very talented up and coming actor. They play sprinters who decide to join up with the war effort. And that’s it, in a very small nutshell. The movie is largely about their friendship and their adventures prior to any actual fighting. The Battle of Gallipoli comes at the end.
As with everything Peter Weir directs, the cinematography is gorgeous. There’s a shot in here of the pyramids of Egypt that’ll knock the eyeballs out of your head.
It is, to say the least, an intense emotional experience, this movie.
As for the battle at the end, it involves a coordinated attack by soldiers pouring out of the trenches and assaulting the enemy, which enemy is supposed to have been stunned by artillery. Those in charge of the attack, however, do not do their jobs as one might wish. Which leads us into our second feature.
PATHS OF GLORY
Stanley Kubrick’s fourth feature, from ’57. I think one could argue that it’s his best movie. That’s right. It’s that good. If not his best, it’s still right up there with Dr. Strangelove and 2001.
It stars Kirk Douglas as the lone sane character in a cast of madmen. The movie gets going in the same place Gallipoli ends, with an attack from the trenches by French soldiers against a German machine gun nest. The Germans are supposed to be subdued by artillery. But the general screws up, and decides on a most unglorious course of action.
I won’t say any more plot-wise. As with all of Kubrick’s war movies, it’s about the insanity that fuels war. There’s nothing outrageously funny in the way of Dr. Strangelove, but if you’re paying attention, you’ll realize it’s almost as ridiculous. No one but Douglas is sane. He spends the entire movie gobsmacked by these maniacs and their twisted ideas of justice. The title is of course part of the joke. There is no glory to be found here.
The movie is famed for the tracking shots in the trenches. The whole thing is shot wonderfully. It’s also known for the final scene, a reminder that across all borders, there is humanity to be found.
So fire up them DVD players, folks! The indecisiveness that normally results in your watching four straight hours of Law & Order reruns is no longer an excuse. Return to those old-timey joys of the double feature. Pretend you’re at the drive-in and make out with your sweetie! Well, okay, not with this particular double bill. But you get the idea.