Tag Archives: Rock Hudson

CAPSULE: THE LAST SUNSET (1961)

DIRECTED BY: Robert Aldrich

FEATURING: Kirk Douglas, , Dorothy Malone, ,

PLOT: Lawman Stribling (Rock Hudson) tracks killer O’Malley (Kirk Douglas) into Mexico; upon finding him they agree to defer their confrontation so they can drive a herd of cattle to Texas with female rancher (Dorothy Malone) and her husband.

Still from The Last Sunset (1961)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: I suppose this is one of those cases where the subjectivity of weirdness comes into play. The Last Sunset strikes me as a fine, but generally conventional Western with some unexpected philosophy and Freudian melodrama thrown in. You have to squint too hard to find the minimal surreality here.

COMMENTS: The Last Sunset has cattle drives, desperadoes, macho posturing, runaway chuckwagons, Indian attacks, and a final showdown between a protagonist in white and an antagonist in black. Despite all the standard outfit trappings, however, Sunset is not a formula oater; it peels off the weathered exteriors of its cowboy archetypes and uncovers layers of pent-up, illicit passions underneath. Although Rock Hudson’s strict law-and-order Marshall Stribling is the putative headliner, Kirk Douglas’s O’Malley is by far the dominant character. O’Malley is a morally complex antihero, a whistling killer with a romantic streak who earns free drinks at saloons by spontaneously composing poetry. In fact, he may be too morally complex—the scene where he strangles a dog for growling at him seems terribly out of place (the cur later forgives him, like nothing ever happened). O’Malley’s in love with Dorothy Malone, who is married to the much older, alcoholic, presumably impotent Joseph Cotten. To make things even more complicated, Stribling, who has sworn to hunt down O’Malley for killing his brother-in-law, also falls for Malone, and Malone’s teenage daughter falls hard for the outlaw. And, quite naturally, O’Malley and Stribling develop a grudging respect and admiration for each other, which complicates things when it comes time to fulfill blood oaths.

The Last Sunset was one of the first scripts wrote under his own name after the Hollywood blacklist ended (1960’s classic Spartacus, of course, being the very first). The plot effectively merges Western conventions with elements of Greek tragedy and melodrama a la Douglas Sirk, although reportedly the suddenly busy Trumbo short-shrifted the project because he was more interested in writing Exodus for .

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“One of the more ambitious and offbeat Westerns of the early sixties, THE LAST SUNSET (1961) is an odd duck… Even Leonard Maltin in his capsule movie review for his popular guide calls it ‘Strange on the Range.'”–Jeff Stafford, Movie Morlocks

(This movie was nominated for review by “The Awful Doctor Orloff” [who later wrote reviews here under the name Otto Black], whose explanation for his suggestion is so detailed we will list it in full here as a counterpoint to this review:

“On the face of it, this is just a bulk-standard horse-opera; the studio certainly thought so or they wouldn’t have made it. It’s ‘weird’ because writer Dalton Trumbo, annoyed by a pretentious magazine article suggesting that westerns were written by macho hacks who unconsciously riddled them with Freudian imagery, deliberately wrote a western containing as much screamingly blatant ridiculously over-the-top Freudian symbolism as he could possibly cram in short of calling the hero the Oedipus Kid!

Dorothy Malone is turned on by a herd of stampeding bulls with luminous horns, Joseph Cotten is forced to drop his trousers in a crowded saloon, and best of all, Rock Hudson and Kirk Douglas debate the merits of Rock’s great big gun versus Kirk’s tiny little one! (Robert Aldrich recycled that idea when he co-wrote ‘A Fistful Of Dollars,’ hence Ramon Rojo’s very Freudian dialogue concerning his rifle). And after that it gets even worse… OK, it’s only borderline weird, but it’s certainly very unusual, and more than slightly surreal.”

Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: SECONDS (1966)

DIRECTED BY: John Frankenheimer

FEATURING: Rock Hudson, John Randolph, Will Geer, Jeff Corey, Murray Hamilton, Frank Campanella, Salome Jens

PLOT:  A middle-aged businessman in midlife crisis gets a second chance at life—but it comes at a steep price, and there’s a morbid catch.

SECONDS-2


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Seconds offers us a unique, unusual plot, one that will really stick in your memory. You’ll carry the story and its lesson for the rest of your life because it directly treats concepts that nearly everybody can, or knows they eventually will relate to:  growing old, midlife crisis, looking back and wondering if we made the right choices, and ruefully contemplating the what-might-have-beens. What can we be doing now to make sure we don’t have regrets? Despite the dramatic, hard-hitting effect the writers and director bring to these concepts, however, Seconds is a straightforward, conventional film.  The story is offbeat as hell, but the movie isn’t weird.

COMMENTS:  Dramatic and disturbing, Seconds is a dark, brooding predecessor to middle-class America mid-life crisis films such as the blackly-comic Middle Age Crazy (1980) or the light-hearted and less substantial This Is 40 (2012). Yet, while those films allow us to laugh off the grim prospects of getting older, Seconds grinds on us and strikes a nerve.

Wealthy banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) has it all. He went to the right Ivy League school, joined all the right fraternal organizations, and married the right woman. Yet, at middle-age, something’s missing.

In Sinclair Lewis’s classic novel “Babbitt,” the book’s namesake awakens each morning from a blissful dream of being a carefree youth cozying up to an enigmatic and beautiful girl to greet the dread of reality: a frumpy wife, his own greying countenance, and the unsatisfying banality of another tedious workday. Like Babbitt, Arthur Hamilton feels frustrated and empty. Maybe it’s because Arthur looks like an aging John Randolph. Or could it be because at middle age, Arthur isn’t so sure that the life he toiled away for is the one he really wants?

It’s hard to imagine that it is. Arthur is clearly bored and bothered. Even more telling, Arthur and his wife don’t sleep together anymore. The Hayes code hold-over separate beds don’t help the romance.

And Hamilton is beyond staunch; he’s gosh-darned uptight. Racked with tension, beaded with sweat, coiled up, we want to hand him a Hawaiian shirt, a Mai-Tai, and tell him to loosen up.

We’re not alone.  Someone from Arthur’s past also has him sized up as a walking time-bomb of seething non-fulfillment.

A mysterious phone call from a dead school chum (Murray Hamilton) breaks the routine. After the phone call Hamilton receives a mysterious address, at which he arrives after following a chain of clues. Arthur Hamilton’s life is about to change.

In return for his life insurance payout and a hefty chunk of his sizable estate, Hamilton joins a secret society—one which, after months of super-nutrition, exercise, hair restoration, testosterone therapy, and state of the art plastic surgery, transforms him into—wait for it … wait for it …  young, virile, ROCK HUDSON!

And that’s not all. Under hypnosis, Arthur learns that what he really wanted to do in life was to be an artist. The organization he’s joined has that Continue reading CAPSULE: SECONDS (1966)