SHIP OF FOOLS
1965, Sony Repertory, 149 min, USA, Dir: Stanley Kramer

An all-star cast sails aboard this thought-provoking drama, adapted by Abby Mann from Katherine Anne Porter’s 1962 novel. As an ocean liner travels from Veracruz, Mexico, to Bremerhaven, Germany in 1933, few among the diverse group of passengers – which includes Oskar Werner, Simone Signoret, Lee Marvin, George Segal and, in her final role, Vivien Leigh – suspect the dark future ahead of them as the Nazis rise to power. Nominated for eight Oscars, with wins for B&W Cinematography and Art Direction.


THE LAST VALLEY
1971, Buena Vista Pictures, 128 min, UK/USA, Dir: James Clavell

Writer-director James Clavell’s epic adventure takes place in the shadow of the Thirty Years War, which ravaged Germany in the 17th century. One remote region remains unscathed when Omar Sharif arrives in search of refuge; unfortunately, he’s been followed into the valley by Michael Caine and his band of mercenary soldiers. With superb performances, a highly literate script and one of John Barry’s best scores, THE LAST VALLEY brings a little-known period of history to vivid life.


HOW I WON THE WAR
1967, Park Circus/MGM, 110 min, UK, Dir: Richard Lester

Maverick director Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and HELP!) recruited John Lennon (in his only solo acting role) for this wildly surreal satire on war movies, featuring Michael Crawford (THE KNACK) as a blissfully unaware idiot charged with building a cricket pitch behind enemy lines during World War II. Although nominally set in the 1940s, HOW I WON THE WAR exudes the 1960s’ anti-establishment tone, featuring abrupt time shifts, jump-cutting and Lester’s patented blend of biting wit and surreal slapstick which presaged Monty Python. Incidentally, Lester always chafes when this film is simplistically described as “an anti-war movie.” As he explains: “It’s an ‘anti-WAR-MOVIE’ movie.” With Jack MacGowran.


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