We review four movies from the ’60s now on DVD
How do you like your mid-1960s angst? You’ve got flavor choices, as Warner unleashes a quartet of pictures that respectively use satire, slapstick, farce, and melodrama to chart the dissatisfactions of an America rocked by youth culture.
Tackled chronologically, these period-piece films start out stale and get fresher. The Loved One, a 1965 slab of black-and-white provocation directed by Tony Richardson (Tom Jones), lands with an awful thud. Robert Morse is miscast as an English poet tiptoeing through the Los Angeles funeral business, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen done better on Six Feet Under. (The picture’s most memorable audacity, an obscenely gluttonous mama, likewise can’t compare to later, more humane grotesqueries from John Waters.) 1966’s frenetic A Fine Madness, refereed by Irvin Kershner (Up the Sandbox), showcases Sean Connery as an insufferable poet/womanizer/ rebel who winds up lobotomized. We’re meant to rejoice when he emerges unchanged; I was hoping brain damage.
Two romantic tales from 1968 hold up better. ”I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!” plays like a silly TV show as directed by sitcom helmer Hy Averback, but Peter Sellers summons pitch-perfect body language as a lawyer seduced by hippie culture. And despite the glibness buffed into Petulia by Richard Lester (Help!), the tortured, mutually adulterous lovers played by Julie Christie and George C. Scott become real people. Give all these players points for trying, if not always succeeding. The Loved One: C+ A Fine Madness: C ”I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!”: B Petulia: B+