Retro Music 40

In 1965, The Walker Brothers released a cover version of a Bacharach/David song that had been a minor hit for Jerry Butler three years earlier. With the powerful lead vocal of Scott Walker, the new version became a hit around the world. I already had the original on record, but I bought the new version too.

Here are both versions.

(It was also covered by Dionne Warwick, but not until 1970.)

Retro Music 39

1962, and a big hit for Carole King. Originally written by her and Gerry Goffin for Bobby Vee to perform, the record company preferred her version and released it as a single.
(The Bobby Vee version was released almost a year later.)

As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Retro Music 35

I am going back to 1962 with this choice. I was only 10 years old, but I knew I had to have this record as soon as I heard it on the radio. This was his only major hit, but it was a very big one. Chris Montez changed his style later and became a ballad singer, never achieving the same level of fame again. Now aged 80, he is still working.

John Claridge: East London In The 1960s/1970s

Photographs copyright © John Claridge

I found some more of John Claridge’s photos online. They date from 1962-1972 but seem to come from a much earlier time. Hard to believe I was aged from 10-20 years old when these were taken. There are few captions, as most are self-explanatory.

An ex-boxer, well known in the area.

John’s Parents, 1968.

One Film, Four Versions: Mutiny On The Bounty

In 1962, I was taken by my parents to see a lavish epic at the cinema. Starring Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, and Richard Harris, this was a glorious tecnicolour film , with exotic south seas locations, and a real sense of history. As it is a true story, there would be no surprises of course, but that didn’t matter. All we had to do was to sit back and let the lavish spectacle wash over us. And we did, and we loved it. My Dad had told me that it was a remake, and he had seen a version made in 1935, starring Clark Gable, with Charles Laughton as the stern Captain Bligh. But I hadn’t seen that one, so was content with the wonderful film I got to see when I was just 10 years old.

Just over five years later, I got the chance to see that earlier film, and thought that Laughton was superb in the role of Bligh. Despite Gable being Gable, I wondered for a long time whether or not I actually preferred the 1935 black and white film.

Much later, I found out that both were remakes. The first version of this story had been made into a film in 1933, called ‘In The Wake Of The Bounty’. Made in Australia, it gave Errol Flynn his first starring role, and is more or less forgotten now. It concerned itself more with the aftermath of the famous mutiny, and the lives of the mutineers. I have never seen it, so will have to exclude it from this comparison.

When I was 32 years old, in 1984, the story got the remake treatment once again, this time called ‘The Bounty’. Anthony Hopkins starred as Bligh, with Mel Gibson as Christian, as well as roles for Laurence Olivier, and Edward Fox. The excellent cast is further enhanced by the presence of Bernard Hill, Phil Davis, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson. I saw a trailer, and liked the look of it, so went off to the cinema to see it. And I was glad I did. Life at sea was convincing, and the relationship between Bligh and Christian better developed. It felt authentic too, especially in the sequences where the ship is having trouble sailing in terrible weather. On this occasion, the casting won through, and I thought the film was excellent, the best version I had seen

Not only was a remake better than the original version I had seen, it was better than no less than three earlier versions. Something very unusual, as far as I am concerned.

One film, two versions: Cape Fear

Most of the time, the news of a remake fills me with dread. A film I loved and cherished is being remade, and not only do I fail to understand why, I generally view it as ‘Cinematic Sacrilege’. In 1991, I read that Marin Scorsese was about to release a new version of ‘Cape Fear’, starring Robert De Niro. As much as I had admired the work of both director and actor for some time, I really could’t see the point.

‘Cape Fear’ was an outstanding thriller, made in 1962 by J. Lee Thompson, with excellent music by Bernard Hermann. Filmed in stark black and white, it featured a central performance from Robert Mitchum that was one of his best ever. And he was in good company, with Gregory Peck, Poly Bergen, Telly Savalas, and Martin Balsam in the cast. The story is simple, yet chillingly effective. Rapist Max Cady (Mitchum) is released from prison, and he is bearing a grudge. That hatred is directed at the man who had him convicted, lawyer Sam Bowden. (Peck) He stalks the family, making them uneasy, and fearing for the safety of their 14 year old daughter. The events begin to spiral out of control, as Sam can get no proof that Cady is responsible for anything he appears to have done to them.

Things build to a climax when Cady follows the family to the isolated spot known as Cape Fear, where they have escaped to hide out on a boat. Sam suspects he will be there, and lies in wait, assisted by a local policeman. But not everything turns out the way he had hoped. I saw this film in my teens, and thought it was excellent. I had seen it against since, and enjoyed it just as much, even knowing the outcome.

Nonetheless, and despite my trepidation, I was tempted by the 1991 film. It starred De Niro as Max Cady, Nick Nolte as Sam, and Jessica Lange as his wife. Their daughter was played by the superb and much underrated Juliette Lewis, then there was Joe Don Baker, and the nice touch of roles for Mitchum, Peck, and Balsam too. It seemed to me that Scorsese was attempting more of a tribute than a straight remake, so I paid my money, and went into the cinema to see it.

And was I glad I did!

The film was updated perfectly. Nothing in the story was changed, though Max Cady was more like a con we might expect to see in the 90s, and very terrifying. Everyone stayed true to the spirit of the original, and I enjoyed every minute of the film. The ending was the same, the settings little changed, and the film overall was just as good as the earlier one. Scorsese had accomplished something rare indeed. Not only had he managed to deliver a remake as good as the first film, in many respects, it was actually more exciting, and more involving. It’s still worth watching both though.

Retro Review: Taras Bulba (1962)

I had never read the novel, but only 10 years old, I went to the cinema with my parents to watch the epic film based on the book. I was obviously very young. I wanted action, and got it. I wanted stars, and got them. I wanted a big screen cinema-experience epic, and got that too.

Yul Brynner, Tony Curtis, Christine Kaufmann, (She later married Curtis) Sam Wanamaker. They all lined up for this huge film from director J. Lee Thompson. When it hit the London cinemas, I was more than ready for this historical epic looking at the conflict between the Don Cossacks and their Polish masters, during the 16th century. I couldn’t have cared less if it was historically accurate. It had sieges, hundreds of extras, combat, and cavalry. Even before I got to the cinema, I was already over-excited at the prospect. For me at the time the plot was secondary to the action, and there was plenty of that.

In the late 1500s, the Turks were threatening Europe; and as far as this book and film was concerned, the empire of mighty Poland, one of the biggest players on the European stage at the time. Poland had the benefit of an alliance with the Russian Cossacks; a fierce and warlike group of men who owed allegiance to their clan leaders, as well as to Poland. But the Cossacks were also devout Christians, and feared the expansion of the Muslim Turks. So, they were happy to fight as mercenaries for the Polish empire, and answered the call to defeat the Turkish invasion.

Once they had helped the Poles defeat the Turkish army, they were betrayed. Fired upon by their Polish allies, who feared the power of the Cossacks, the tribes were scattered back to their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Living under Polish rule, Taras Bulba (Yul Brynner) decides to send his two sons to be educated by the Poles in Kiev. They are cruelly treated there, but one of them, Andriy, (Tony Curtis) falls in love with the local Polish Princess. (Kaufmann)

Meanwhile, the Poles call the Cossack army to assemble at Dubno. But Taras suspects them, and besieges the city instead. Inside, Andriy is besotted by his love for the Princess, and agrees to betray his father, by leading the Polish Army in an assault out of the city, against his fellow Cossacks.

With great set-piece battles, authentic locations, and serious performances from the cast, (though Curtis looks like a 1960s pop star) this is an old-school epic of the highest order. Brynner is just right as Taras, Sam Wanamaker is great in a supporting role, and the battles are well staged, with lots of extras. This was 1960s big-screen cinema at its best. Though it will now be showing its age, it is still stirring stuff, and worth your time for a slice of little-known history.

Here’s a great old-fashioned trailer.