Vés enrere

VINTAGE, GOLDEN, OLD SCHOOL

     

David Niven, left, Claudia Cardinale, Peter Sellers, 'The Pink Panther'

For Hicksflicks.com, June 20, 2014

IT'S A LITTLE disconcerting to see bloggers refer to movies from the 1980s and '90s as "vintage" or "golden oldies" or (shudder) "old-school."

That's the era when I was reviewing films full time for the Deseret News, and those movies still resonate in my movie-addled brain as having been released just yesterday.

Hey, that's how it goes when you reach a certain age.

For me, "vintage" movies are from the '50s and '60s, and maybe the '70s, and "golden oldies" means films that were made during the studio system of the 1930s and '40s, and "old-school" refers to the teens and '20s, the silent era.

It's true that once we reach our 40s and especially our 50s, many of us start going back to the movies we grew up with. Will they hold up? Are they as good as I remember them? Will they give me the same dopamine reaction I had in my youth?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I recently saw Drew Barrymore as a guest on the Turner Classic Movies cable channel with host Robert Osborne and they were discussing what movie — if they could choose only one — they'd most like to have with them on a desert island, meaning the one they could watch over and over, possibly for years, and never tire of.

To my surprise, Osborne chose "The Pink Panther" (1964), because, he said, it would make him laugh a lot and that's what he'd need most in that situation.

If I had been asked the same question, my kneejerk answer might have been something older, one of the movies I consider my all-time favorites, and which I tend to watch every few years — "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1945) or "Vertigo" (1958) or "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) or "It's Wonderful Life" (1946) or "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" (1958) … I could go on with this list forever.

             

                Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, 'A Shot in the Dark'

But "The Pink Panther" is also one of my favorites, along with its first sequel, "A Shot in the Dark" (also 1964). In fact, "A Shot in the Dark" is what I consider to be perhaps the most perfect comedy ever made.

Peter Sellers created Inspector Clouseau for "The Pink Panther" but he honed it to a fine slapstick art form for "A Shot in the Dark," and Blake Edwards was at the peak of his considerable moviemaking powers when he co-wrote and directed it.

Admittedly, in 1964 Edwards was also constrained by the standards of the day. He couldn't go too far with the sex jokes, so everything was implied. But the gags were smart.

In the hilarious nudist-camp sequence of "A Shot in the Dark," Edwards obscured the nudity in clever, witty ways that never sank into sleaziness. And the sequence also drove the plot.

         

Clouseau (Sellers) finds a body at a nudist camp in 'A Shot in the Dark'

This is a far cry from the vulgar manner in which Mike Myers obscured nudity for a sequence at the end of "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997, rated PG-13 — but clearly deserving of an R).

That sequence, which is purely gratuitous and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, just elicited groans from me as sexually suggestive objects were placed strategically in front of Myers and Elizabeth Hurley.

                

                   Elizabeth Hurley, Mike Myers, 'Austin Powers'

And as much as anyone, in the bigger picture, Blake Edwards is probably to blame.

Fifteen years after "A Shot in the Dark," when his career was sagging, Edwards came up with "10" (1979), a huge hit that put him back on top and made stars of Dudley Moore and Bo Derek — and the sex-comedy sub-genre got a raunchy boost from which it has never recovered. (Thank you, Judd Apatow.)

Although he still made films that were discreet, such as ""Victor/Victoria" (1982), "Micki + Maude" (1984) and "Blind Date" (1987), many of Edwards' movies sank lower and lower, using vulgar, sleazy sex gags and nudity to replace his once fabled wit: "S.O.B." (1981), "The Man Who Loved Women" (1983), "That's Life!" (1986), "Skin Deep" (1989), "Switch" (1991).

But in 1964, "A Shot in the Dark" proved that this was a road you didn't have to go down to find success. A sex comedy could still be funny — in fact, it could be much funnier — using innuendo and implied action.

Just because you can show anything and everything doesn't mean you should.