As tough as the last two posts were, 1962 is the one I've had the most difficulty making. There were 9 movies I wanted to put in my top 5, so I'm going to just say this isn't an official list by any means. I'll toss out the names of the ones that barely missed it near the end of the post because there is one in particular that I think might be expected to be on here, but didn't quite cut it. You ready? Let's get this thing started!
5. Cape Fear
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Obviously, this is one that barely made it, but that isn't because it's not a great movie. I've tried watching the 1991 Scorsese-directed remake a few times and I just can't get behind it. To me, that was an unnecessary remake of a classic film, and was beneath everyone involved in making it. That being said, I didn't actually watch this movie until after I had seen the remake, so I wasn't even biased going into it, nor did I change my opinion of it after watching the original. What this movie does right involves the casting of its two leads. Peck plays an extension of the Atticus Finch character, with Mitchum going the full Harry Powell in the intimidation category. The B&W cinematography works much better than it would if it were in color, creating an atmosphere of dread that is surprisingly intense.
4. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Well, when I was talking about how intense Cape Fear was, it feels pretty light compared to this one. As disturbing as it is thrilling, Baby Jane is one of the most intense and stres-inducing movies I've ever seen. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (who famously hated each other, only adding to the effect of the movie) both give some of their best performances in their drastically different leading roles, Crawford playing the physically disabled victim and Davis as her psychotic and mentally unstable sister. The combination of these two performances and the improvisational nature of their scenes together make for some of the best in the movie. Things do get a lot weirder with the scenes only involving Davis, and several of the moments involving Crawford alone are the most heart-pounding. I haven't seen this film in a few years, but I've seen it a handful of times and it never gets any worse.
3. To Kill A Mockingbird
Directed by Robert Mulligan
I generally shrug at civil rights type movies due to the justified, but overly dramatic nature of their presentation. Things like Selma and Lincoln make me want to puke my guts out at their boring attempts at reminding its audience that racism is bad, but To Kill A Mockingbird is the complete opposite of that. This film was relevant, powerful, and still manages to surprise and tug at the heartstrings of audiences to this day. This isn't over-produced schmaltzy crap with slow-motion scenes of people falling and crying, but rather a film that tells a great story with great characters first and foremost. Instead of caring about the fate of people just because we're supposed to, this movie crafts sympathetic characters we grown to care about because they seem like fully realized and wholly good-natured human beings. It doesn't drown us in a sea of dramatization nor does it offer lazy solutions. I originally intended on putting this movie lower on the list, but nah... I think it looks good up here.
2. The Manchurian Candidate
Directed by John Frankenheimer
The first time I watched this movie I had to pause and leave the house with about 15 minutes left to go. Though I normally wouldn't recommend getting up and leaving during a movie, I honestly think that might have helped make this experience even more stressful. I spent the next hour biting my fingernails off, anticipating what might happen next. It seems my lists have been keeping in with specific (but unintentional) themes: 1960 being all about horror and 1962 being movies that stress me out. But this movie really did leave me in great anticipation of its ending, thrilling me all the way through. Angela Lansbury is the major standout in the cast, providing one of the most sinister and captivating villainous performances in the history of film, which is made all the more impressive by the fact that it's Angela freaking Lansbury. I was raised seeing her as the friendly witch in Bedknobs And Broomsticks and Miss Potts in Beauty And The Beast, I would never have anticipated her playing such an evil role and totally nailing it. Cynical, potent, and unforgettable.
1. The Exterminating Angel
Directed by Luis Bunuel
It was difficult for me to pick a #1, but this is the one that struck me as the most true to myself. If you saw my 1961 list (particularly my top pick), you probably know by now that I enjoy difficult movies that challenge audiences. And I can't think of a more challenging film made in 1962 than this one. Bunuel is one of my favorite filmmakers ever, and this is my favorite movie he ever made, so it only makes sense for it to be one I really love. As nonsensical as it is hilarious, this film is nothing if not miraculous in its absurdity. The premise is simple and completely illogical, as it revolves around a dinner party coming to a close, but the guests are incapable of leaving. Nothing is physically stopping them, they just can't leave. What follows is as silly as the set-up, tearing down the aristocratic class to the level of the most primitive creatures. The ending still stands as one of the most enjoyable I've ever seen, starting the whole cycle all over again in an even more cynical and suitably Bunuelian setting. It's an unruly mess of a movie in all the ways that count. It's hard to imagine a film like this being made nowadays able to pack the same kind of punch as this, making it a masterpiece that truly helped define an era in film.
So there you have it, my favorites of 1962. As promised before, here are a few movies that barely the cut: Lawrence Of Arabia, The Longest Day, Sanjuro, and Long Day's Journey Into Night. There ya go! Hope you enjoyed the read, see you next time.