July 6, 2019

With all the talk about The Russians!!!! these last few years, it was fun to watch "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!"...

... the 1966 entry in my "imaginary movie project." (As you may have noticed already, I watch a movie for each year, beginning in 1960, that I saw in the theater at the time it came out.)

This is a big long sprawling comedy, with a lot of people getting crazy and driving around, so it's an awful lot like "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," my 1963 movie, blogged here, where I observed that the theme was:
Order or chaos. Society or a raw state of nature. Driving according to the rules of the road or speeding and veering and sailing off a cliff. They must decide!

It's a comedy, so they keep choosing chaos. They only come back to order — let's work together — now and then to create a new opportunity for crazy chaos.
Well, "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!" is also a comedy, and there's also a struggle between order and chaos, but though the people do keep freaking out and running amok — because they think the Russians are invading — they keep coming back to order. They even find harmony with the Russians — who are climbing onto an American island because their submarine ran aground — simply by experiencing their common humanity. It's sort of like in that 1985 Sting song...



... a realization that the Russians love children too. Well, not Pete. He's a bastard. (Lieutenant Rosanov (Alan Arkin) tells his fellow Russian to watch the Whittaker family, "and especially watch that little bastard too.")

Of course, it's true that Russians are human beings and that we could, theoretically, experience universal love, with sweet 3-year-old girls blowing us kisses and melting our hearts. If a man with a gun threatens you, maybe he's an impossibly handsome man, and he will have strong feeling of affection for you already, because you're a fantastically beautiful girl...



Don't you see? World peace! As the girl says, "It doesn't make sense to hate people. It's such a waste of time."

According to IMDB:
The film had a profound impact on both American and Soviet leaders. It is one of the few films actually mentioned in the Congressional record. [The director] Norman Jewison was also personally invited to Moscow, where he reported that the Russian crowd was transfixed by the scene featuring the little boy who falls from the bell tower, and the Soviets and Americans cooperate to save him.
The boy who falls from the tower is played by Johnny Whitaker, who went on to play one of the kids in the TV show "Family Affair" with Brian Keith. Brian Keith plays the police chief in "The Russians Are Coming." He's the one character who never panics. He's kind of like Andy Griffith, I thought. Andy Griffith surrounded by 20 Barneys.

How did I react to this film in 1966? I must have known it was a fable about the foolishness of panic and the promise of love. The Beatles song "The Word" had come out last December:
Say the word and you'll be free
Say the word and be like me
Say the word I'm thinking of
Have you heard the word is love?
It wouldn't be until next year that The Beatles would make it even clearer with "All You Need Is Love." It was a time to believe that. Now, I am old, but I don't think even the young people today can believe it or even want to believe it. There's much more hunger for good versus evil. For us to be good, you must be evil. That seems to be the attitude. I'm so tired of that, but I can't get back to the simple 1960s feeling that love, love is the answer. I'm kind of jaded! But it's still nice. I got a bit of a cozy warm feeling at the candy coated ending.

And there was some good running-around-panicking fun along the way. I like the way the chaos started slowly and spiraled up. That was different from "Mad Mad World" which started off in a frenzy and never let up. Much of the fun was in the Russians' awkward English: "Remark to this, Whittaker Walt. We must have boat. Even now may be too late. This is your island, I make your responsibility you help us get boat quickly, otherwise there is World War III, and everybody is blaming YOU!"

109 comments:

Dan Farmer said...

Favorite line, "Emergency! Everybody to get from street!"

Bill Peschel said...

And two years later, the Soviets led the Warsaw Pact against the Czechs, whom I'm sure loved their children, too.

Drago said...

The Soviets really loved afghani kids.

Thats why they dropped off so many booby trapped toys.

Bernie Sanders spoke very highly of the Soviets in those days.

Perhaps he will be asked about that by the media......(snort!)

Narayanan said...

I saw it in early 80 s on campus or TV.
Did not know that old it was.

BADuBois said...

"C'mon, Norm, they're openin' up the bah!"

wild chicken said...

I loved that movie as a relief from all the cold war tension. Coincided with that first detente iirc. It was a godsend and I started thinking the world wasn't going to blow up after all.

Oso Negro said...

Russians are FINE people. And such a body of literature! Their leaders can be every bit as venal and idiotic as ours. It is foolish to think that American government types are inherently more moral than Russians.

Fen said...

The Russians are gone, yet the Marxists remain.

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

chuck said...

It would have been better if it had been funny. Felt like propaganda to me, dressed up as a souffle. I didn't hate it, it was just a big nothing with no edge. At least MASH had a healthy dose of misogyny to keep it afloat.

rcocean said...

I liked this as a little kid when I saw it on TV. I especially like Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and Brian Kieth. But even then, I felt the small town folks were being shown as ridiculous fools. I re-watched it on DVD about 10-15 years ago, and it was so STUPID. A Soviet sub wrecking itself on the American coast? What, they don't have a navigation officer? And US Navy/Coast Guard not realizing it? And the Russians landing with guns in America - an act of war? All the small town "racists", sorry I mean, Anti-communists behaving crazy. And of course, the only adults in the room are the liberal-moderates who just want to get along.

Plus Carl Reiner was always Unfunny squared. His only funny thing as a PERFORMER was Allen Brady. Alan Arkin is a joke as Russian. And the script isn't funny. Other than that, I liked it.

Rob said...

Ann "can't back to the simple 1960s feeling that love, love is the answer." How out of step she'll be during the presidency of Marianne Williamson, who will harness the power of looooooooooove.

rcocean said...

The funniest thing about the movie, besides some good actors doing their usual bits, is that it was nominated for AA Best Picture and Arkin was nominated for Best Actor!

Clark said...

My dad took me to see this movie when it came out. I can remember only one other time that happened, when he took me to see PT 109. He was a navy man in WWII. The kind of dad that would say things like "all back full" and "right standard rudder" while driving the car.

I remember enjoying the Russians are Coming immensely. About 10 years ago I saw it again. I thought at the time that it held up pretty well. (Maybe I was just swayed by my memory of a happy childhood moment.)

rcocean said...

Two hours is a long time for any comedy. Russians are coming, definitely should have been cut by about 20 minutes.

rcocean said...

Typical dialogue:

Lieutenant Rozanov: I'm wounded in dignity only. Please, I know everybody on this island is complete and total crazy. But you, Whittaker Walt? You are crazy too? I only came back here to get Kolchin.

Walt Whittaker: [stammering] It's just that when I saw you and the gun, well, I thought something had happened to Annie, our daughter. I'm sorry, I... I wasn't trying to... Well, I... I was trying to kill you, I'll admit that, but it wasn't... I mean, it wasn't anything personal.

rhhardin said...

The Đ¯ussians are Coming

rcocean said...

Carl Reiner has a lot to answer for. Not just Rob Reiner, the most obnoxious, dumbest liberal on social media.

But also for his constant casting of himself in movies. He's a big black comedic hole in this movie, and he's even worse in "The thrill of it all" and "The Art of Love". Unlike Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner wasn't really funny. He was good BEHIND the camera. But he felt different. Incredibly, he thought HE should have been the lead of the "Dick Van Dyke Show". Later, Carl blamed the network for casting Van Dyke instead of him as Robert Petrie on Antisemitism. Really.

rcocean said...

Sometimes Arkin sound more comic Yiddish than Russian. What? A hole in the head I need.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Oso Negro said...
Russians are FINE people.
*************

Maybe, but they have a cruel streak.

Old saying: "Scratch a Russian, find a Tatar."

Lydia said...

A piece by Victor Davis Hanson to remind us that this movie was just one more part of the left's effort to play down the threat posed by the Soviet Union:

The American Left used to lecture the nation about its supposedly paranoid suspicions of Russia. The World War II alliance with Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union had led many leftists to envision a continuing post-war friendship with Russia.

During the subsequent Cold War, American liberals felt that the Right had unnecessarily become paranoid about Soviet Russia, logically culminating in the career of the demagogic Senator Joe McCarthy. Later, in movies such as Seven Days in May, Doctor Strangelove, and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, Hollywood focused on American neuroses as much as Russian hostility for strained relations.

In the great chess rivalry of 1972 known as “The Match of the Century,” American liberals favored Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky over fellow countryman Bobby Fischer, who embarrassed them by winning.

In the same manner, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was often portrayed in the media as the urbane, suave, and reasonable conciliator, while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.

'TreHammer said...

Andrea Dromm - The “Summer Blonde” girl

Fen said...

while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.

Thanks for that reminder, they treated Reagan the same way the treat Trump.

"Those aren't our people, dear"

Jay Vogt said...

Given the recent sad news about the imminent demise of Mad Magazine it's fitting Althouse that two of recent project movies (IAMMMMW and TRACTARC) both had (for me) memorable and certainly "of the time" movie posters by Jack Davis. He long time and prominently of Mad Magazine. His illustrations was iconic, fun and intricate. Perhaps most notable was the . . . um . . . . how to say this . . . . buxom nature of the way he drew women.

The art is way to intricate and busy for a movie poster or just about anything today, but back in the 60s and even 70s it wasn't that unusual to walk by a neighborhood movie theater and really be captured and intrigued by his Art. And then have a real interest in seeing that show . . . it just looks that FUN. These days you drive by the theater set back 50 yards at 50 mph.

He worked for quite a while and I think did the poster for Animal House as well near the end. Lived to a ripe old age.

Mid-century pop master.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Tough crowd.

Chris Lopes said...

In the same manner, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev was often portrayed in the media as the urbane, suave, and reasonable conciliator, while President Ronald Reagan was depicted as the uncouth disrupter of what could have been improved Russian–American relations.
My favorite part was how Gorby was given credit for ending the Cold War. It's called losing.

Original Mike said...

I don't need to see the movie. I read the Mueller Report.

Two-eyed Jack said...

I remember this as the era of Ilya Kuriakin and Ensign Chekov, when we found that the Russians weren't all SMERSH and such.

MikeD said...

I saw the movie as an adult on first release, neither I, nor anybody I knew, had the take aways referenced in this post. It was a funny little fantasy & Alan Arkin was great. Not Catch 22 great, but he did make the movie.

cubanbob said...

I saw the movie as a ten year old and remember having a crush on Alison Palmer ( the blonde). It's a nice, silly but sweet comedy. No need to over analyze it.

traditionalguy said...

The ideology that kills counter revolutionaries is the danger we face whether it be Hitler, Mao, Stalin, or Muslim. The underlying Russian people through that off because we created MAD and the had a Christian culture that rejected mutual apocalypse and death.

Shia Muslims and Asians do not have that hindering them

Limited Perspective said...

Love this movie. My favorite scene is when Walt attacks the machine gun wielding Russian, overpowers him, takes the gun and looks to his son for approval after winning the struggle. The kid shows his disappointment, "you didn't even shoot him." Dad thinks mom is raising a juvenal delinquent.

In light of Democratic hysteria over Russian meddling, we need a new take on this.

traditionalguy said...

The pre Vietnam Nam war 1960s was a carry over of peace and prosperity dedicated to raising children. This movie wanted that to never end. But the SOBs that killed JFK had other plans for using the military that included another War like Korea that we were forbidden to win.

Birkel said...

And now that the Mueller has been shown to be self-refuting regarding the Russian hacking allegations, I wonder when the new directives are sent from the Central Planning Authority to change the Leftist and LLR talking points.

Shall we start a pool?
I take Tuesday at 4pm.

chuck said...

> Not Catch 22 great,

Catch 22 was better than The English Patient, Reds, and Ishtar :)

pacwest said...

I don't remember all that much about the movie except I loved Alan Arkin. It made me a lifelong fan of his.

I don't think we ever did the duck and cover drill in the small Midwestern town I grew up in either. The nuclear scares really sink in til I was in my teens, and I wasn't bothered much anyway.

EAB said...

As I remember it, the book (“The Off-Islanders”) was an affectionate, satirical look at an island community that considers everyone not born and raised there as an off-islander. And subject to suspicion. Benchley just took that attitude to the extreme by making the visitors Russian submariners instead of tourists. The title itself is subtle and funny. (He wrote a couple of other books that poked at insular island communities.)

I think it’s a very funny movie, with some of the great lines already mentioned above. Filmed partly in Mendocino and Fort Bragg. I need to watch it again.

The Godfather said...

So, in 1938, a German U-Boat runs aground on Long Island. Hillarity ensues. Particularly because of all the comic Jews who don't trust the Russians. In the end, everyone learns to tolerate their differences.

n.n said...

A human life is a chaotic process ("evolutionary") from the source: conception, to the sink: death. Chaos has an undetermined or imperceptible order bounded in a limited frame of reference (i.e. scientific logical domain).

That said, 1963, From Russia with Love.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

The best movie ever made...

Peter Rabbit [2018]

readering said...

I don't remember American liberals rooting for Spassky against Fischer in 1972. (Although maybe had they known Fischer was an anti-Semitic nut case . . . .)

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

You used to be able to find videos mocking Rachel Maddow on youtube.

Not anymore.

readering said...

This film could be paired with Ice Station Zebra, which I remember seeing and loving in 1968.

Seeing Red said...

I still like that movie.

Rusty said...

I think it was filmed in Mendecino Cal. The kid that runs out of the store with a sucker in his mouth and then yells,"Maaaaa." Wound up being my college room mate. he later made it big in Grass Valley real estate.

MikeD said...

Readering,
My favorite scenes from Ice Station were the Soviet fighters en route. Probably why I loved Eastwood's Firefox so much.

Josephbleau said...

Funny to hear of the Catch 22 movie again. I was trained to believe that Simon was the genius and Garfunkel the minor voice. I saw Art in C22 as a really good actor, also in the sex thing with Lisa Minelli (dim memory)? He was underrated.

wild chicken said...

My favorite scene was when the Russian hangs the old lady up on the wall to get her out of the way, and her deaf husband comes in, doesn't see her, and says oh, gonna be like that eh? Ha! Two can play this game! And proceeds to eat as she's flailing around on the wall above.

Old marrieds lol.

Josephbleau said...

Rusty, To my world, Grass Valley will always be about Mother Lode Gold mining. The best times of California. (Empire Mine)

rhhardin said...

Catch 22 movie sucked. It didn't understand the book at all.

The book is about organization in general, not about the military. That's why it was wildly popular at the time. Everybody works in an organization.

madAsHell said...

I saw this movie in the Varsity theater. Lazlo opened his movie at the Varsity. I sense a dynasty in the making!!

rhhardin said...

Think of Catch-22 as about the principal-agent problem. Agents work to maximize their own profit when they're hired to be maximizing the principal's profit. Organizations consist thousands of those arrangements at all levels.

Wince said...

“What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?”

madAsHell said...

The Varsity Theater

rhhardin said...

I myself am trying to decide which old movie to watch. Usually some action movie works out best. Has to be one with believable motivations. I'm tired of kidnapped wife/daughter problems, which cuts out half of them. Good brother/bad brother also has worn out its welcome.

Maybe a serial killer.

Josephbleau said...

Who here thinks that if two f4's were tasked to destroy a soviet sub in US water they would have noticed a bunch of US folks sailboats hanging around in the same space the 1000 lbders would have flown. Hooray for hollywood.

rhhardin said...

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) had a nice twist in it, for a time travel movie. It was surprisingly self-consistent as a result. The sequel would have a problem though.

rhhardin said...

I watched The Americanization of Emily when it came out - was it a double feature with Hard Day's Night? - hazy on this, I think it was in a drive-in in Tucson - and didn't like it as well re-viewing it recently. But I liked it a lot at the time.

Josephbleau said...

Hardin C22 was many books, if you see it as a management exercise (MBA? Oh No!) so be it, Yosarian's whore impressed me more as a kid. I did a high school speech tournament on the Anabaptist inquisition of the chaplain and got the second place trophy. My Favorite line? We are the fighting 256th squadron- that is 2 to the fighting eighth power!

rhhardin said...

It's not a management thing but an underling thing. Why does nothing make any sense. Catch-22 lets you recognize the weirdness you've seen but not thought of as universal.

Managers, for all I know, actually believe they're managing. It's looking upwards that you see weirdness.

rhhardin said...

All his friends wondered what he was up to.

"I wonder what shithead is up to."

something like that, was my favorite Catch-22 line.

chuck said...

> The book is about organization in general, not about the military.

I found it curious that Heller later said in an interview that he hadn't served under any bad officers.

rhhardin said...

I read Catch-22 exactly once and remember it all. It was the start of when I read something it stays read.

narciso said...

Except admits in his bio, that catch 22 was about the cold war, not his world war 2 experience, the dialogue with the brothel krewe is instructive

rhhardin said...

Catch-22 would have been no good if it had been a get-even book. Heller isn't saying you can do better. It's just the way it works out and will always work out.

Erving Goffman made the same point in _Asylums_ on mental hospitals - a fine book, you can read it as a Catch-22 with mental hospitals instead of the military.

rhhardin said...

I'm a better reader of Catch-22 than Heller is.

narciso said...

We were on the same wavelength, nately (garfunkel) is painted as very naive, the old man wise in his cynicism

rhhardin said...

If Heller was any good all his other stuff wouldn't have sucked.

rhhardin said...

There's nothing particularly cold war about it except the loyalty oath to get fed in the mess hall, an anachronistic joke that nevertheless fits the theme.

pious agnostic said...

Oso Negro said...
Russians are FINE people. And such a body of literature! Their leaders can be every bit as venal and idiotic as ours. It is foolish to think that American government types are inherently more moral than Russians.

7/6/19, 4:37 PM


Does anyone think "American government types are inherently more moral than Russians?" Russians and Americans are both human and thus prone to the same human nature, which includes morality and immorality.

What America has is a Constitutional system (If we can keep it!) which attempts to channel human nature so that moral people can be beneficial and immoral people can do less harm.

Can you tell I haven't seen the movie?

narciso said...

Well it was mostly against mccarthyism (they would say maga today) as if McCarthy had been wrong.

Josephbleau said...

"If Heller was any good all his other stuff wouldn't have sucked."

I never read any other Heller, but I do believe that all careers end in failure, particularly politicians. But the standard is that Science advances one funeral at a time.

I am approaching retirement, and the young turks will declare my principles as unfounded, but will still have me work 3 days a week for neural net modeling in SAS.

Ficta said...

"Emergency. Everybody to get from street." Cracks me up every time.

Josephbleau said...

Girl approach KGB man, "Is pistol in pocket or are you glad of seeing me? He shoots her, was pistol."

Earnest Prole said...

But enough about how Trump robbed Hillary.

Mike Sylwester said...

I was 13 years old, and my family was living in Seward, Nebraska. My godmother Marion and her husband Hal came to visit us from Pennsylvania during the summer. Hal had served in the US Navy, where he had been taught the Russian language.

While they were visiting us, the movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming was playing in movie theaters in Lincoln, which was about 25 miles away. Hal wanted to watch the movie, and so he and Marion took me to Lincoln to watch it with them.

Afterwards I asked Hal if he understood the Russian language in the movie, and he said he understood much of it. I was impressed.

Later that year when my family went to Lincoln to do our Christmas shopping, I went to a bookstore and taught myself a teach-yourself-Russian book. Using the book, I taught myself Russian as a hobby. I continued this hobby on-and-off through high school.

My family moved to Eugene, Oregon, where my father became a teacher.

During the summer between my high-school junior and senior years, I took first-year Russian at the University. Although I had learned to read some Russian from books, this was the first time I heard it spoken.

During my high-school senior year, I took second-year Russian at the University.

After I graduated from high-school, I enrolled in the University of Oregon as a full-time student, majoring in Russian, beginning with the third-year course.

I majored also in pre-med, but I dropped out of that major during my second university year, because I was more interested in my Russian studies.

I got my Bachelor's Degree in Slavic Languages in 1972. During the summer of that year I attended summer school at the University of Leningrad for two months and then traveled in Czechoslovakia for one month (I had studied Czech for one year).

In the summer of 1973, I attended summer school at the University of Brno in Czechoslovakia for two months and then traveled in Poland for one month (I had studied Polish for one year).

In 1977, I joined the US Air Force and served as a linguist. For the first ten years, I interviewed people who had emigrated or defected from Warsaw Pact countries.

Then I served two years in the Pentagon. As part of that position, I served as an inspector for the destruction of intermediate-range missiles in the Soviet Union and the USA. I traveled to many Soviet military bases and observed the destruction of such missiles. Less often, I accompanied Soviet inspectors who observed the destruction of such missiles in the USA.

After the Warsaw Pace collapsed, I quit the US Air Force in 1992. For the following ten years, I worked as a translator for the US Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, which investigated and deported East Europeans who had collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War Two.

Since 2001, I have worked in the administration of a home-health-care agency, which was founded by a Russian immigrant and which employed and served mostly Russian-speaking immigrants.

Since 1995, I have been married to a Lithuanian immigrant, and we speak a mish-mash of Russian and English with each other.

This was the course of my life because my godmother's husband Hal took me to see the movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming in the summer of 1966.

narciso said...

How about that Mike Sylvester, my friend clarice of the aforementioned pieces worked for osi from the beginning.

Temujin said...

Funny. Tonight I watched a small release documentary entitled "The Russian Five" about the Detroit Red Wings bringing in 5 Russians (3 defected) to play in the NHL, in Detroit. I lived through those years there and remember it well, but it is still a pretty amazing story. I suspect it helps if you're a Red Wing (or hockey) fan, but it was pretty compelling getting young Soviet players to defect from the old Soviet Union and sneak out to join the Red Wings (and help them win the Stanley Cup). Even the US State Dept. did not know what was going on.

It does have Jeff Daniels to help tell the story (he seems to be the resident on-air Michigander for anything to do with that state).

Rusty said...


rhhardin said...
"I read Catch-22 exactly once and remember it all. It was the start of when I read something it stays read."
I had that book confiscated from four times by the seventh period study hall monitor my freshman year of HS. "It wasn't suitable reading for a freshman." Bantam Books had a warehouse down the block from where we lived. The dumpster was full of books with their covers torn off. I had about a dozen copies of catch 22

Saint Croix said...

Catch 22 movie sucked. It didn't understand the book at all.

Almost all the humor in the book is verbal, not visual. It's (obviously) an incredibly difficult work to translate to a different medium.

Filmmakers have the same problem with P.G. Wodehouse. Also Mark Twain. (And Hemingway, too, although with him it's a dramatic issue, not a comedic one).

I still enjoyed it more than The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, which is really bad.

Limited Perspective said...

"Who here thinks that if two f4's"

I remember the two jets being F-101s.

Saint Croix said...

Amazing to me that Althouse likes this one and did not like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is hilarious.

The funniest cold war comedy is Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three, which is fucking brilliant. Dr. Strangelove is also right up there.

Humor is so subjective! If a comedy makes you laugh, that's the standard for whether it's a good movie. The more you laugh, the better the movie is. It can be really, really painful watching a comedy that isn't funny to you.

Dumb comedy is the bravest comedy, because if the comedy isn't working, then the movie is just stupid. That's all that's left. A "smart" comedy always gets better grades over at IMDB, or with critics, because if you're not laughing, at least you can feel smart watching it. It's actually a comedic failure and you're rewarding it for other things.

Josephbleau said...

"Who here thinks that if two f4's"

I remember the two jets being F-101s.

I am sure you are right, I was working from dim memory, I am not sure F101's were configureable for surface attack though.

Josephbleau said...

My Uncle advises me that the F101A had radar for low level tactical nuclear weapons delivery.

wildswan said...

I just feel so out of these discussions because in the Sixties I was in college and determinedly going to advanced movies, preferably foreign, playing in art theaters. Ingmar Bergman. The 400 Blows. Hiroshima Mon Amour. The Seven Samurai. They weren't lighthearted or interesting, they were "deep" and I disliked them though I didn't recognize my own reaction. The pretentious years.

Limited Perspective said...

"My Uncle advises me that the F101A had radar for low level tactical nuclear weapons delivery"

I think your uncle is right, everything was nuked up at that time. The Left was peeing their pants over nukes when we had fighter (not bomber) aircraft able to deliver a nuke. That great invention of war prevented us from another mass slaughter in the next war in Europe. I'm guessing nukes have saved more lives in war than full metal jacket bullets.

I'm glad we only had to fight the Third World when I served. I can't imagine fighting the friggin Russians in the 1980's in a conventional war. I'd probably be a casualty. I'm pro nuke.

Limited Perspective said...

I really liked reading Catch 22 about half of the way through the book. The gags and absurdity made me bust up laughing. Then it began to repeat the inane absurdity. It was like the Three Stooges as a kid. A poke in the eye is funny for the first three, maybe four times and then you need to wrap things up. I enjoyed laughing at the absurdity, especially military insanity, through the first part of the book.

Ann Althouse said...

@Mike Sylwester

What a story!

I wonder how many people can say that a movie set the entire course of their life!

Ann Althouse said...

Though it was not really the movie, it was Hal. He must have meant a lot to you.

Equipment Maintenance said...

I didn't root for Spassky but I will be rooting for The Netherlands today.

Ann Althouse said...

"I just feel so out of these discussions because in the Sixties I was in college and determinedly going to advanced movies, preferably foreign, playing in art theaters. Ingmar Bergman. The 400 Blows. Hiroshima Mon Amour. The Seven Samurai. They weren't lighthearted or interesting, they were "deep" and I disliked them though I didn't recognize my own reaction. The pretentious years."

I age a year per movie in this project, so eventually, I'll be in college and saw movies like that. But they were all a few years old, so they don't qualify for my project. I don't remember what was the first "foreign film" I saw in the theater the year it came out. Maybe "Cries and Whispers" (1972). I do remember one of the first things my college did to us was gather us in a room to watch "Wild Strawberries." This is what you'll be watching now. You're 18, and what they want you to see is an old professor dithering about (or whatever that thing was; ugh, adulthood!).

In college I saw so many movies, but very few of them were first run movies in normal theaters. Most were on campus, and most were at Cinema Guild, where there was (I think) a double feature every night and it only cost 50¢. It was a block away from our dorm. We saw all the old movies. In the days before videotape, you really had the sense that this was the one opportunity to see this or that famous movie, so we got out and saw it. Old Hollywood. Silent movies. Things from the 50s and 60s. Every foreign film with any sort of reputation. If "Grand Illusion" was at Cinema Guild, we had to see it, that night, no question.

I remember the night I saw "Seven Samurai." I was tired! I didn't want to keep my eyes open. I lost track of the story... and it was so long... Then I felt bad about myself because I didn't like this movie you were damned well supposed to like. Well, I kind of didn't really watch it... which made me such a lout!

Chris N said...

As to Mad Magazine illustrations, my uncle keeps sending me Mort Drucker illustrations, which are quite good. More mid-century stuff.

tcrosse said...

Having seen all those "foreign films" equips one to talk like a character in a Woody Allen movie, one of the later unfunny ones. Pierre Bayard has yet to write How to Talk About Films You Haven't Seen.

Saint Croix said...

I remember the night I saw "Seven Samurai." I was tired! I didn't want to keep my eyes open. I lost track of the story... and it was so long...

I think your criticism is spot on. It's too long. But that fight scene in the rain is amazing.

Althouse, have you seen Rashomon? You'd really like that one, I think. And Sanjuro.

Also Spider Castle (released in the USA as "Throne of Blood"). I prefer the original title. Kurosawa's first shot at doing a Japanese version of Shakespeare (and his best). Arachnid politics!

Jeb Bishop said...

It's not surprising that it is good: it is based on a book by Nathaniel Benchley, son of humorist Robert Benchley and father of "Jaws" author Peter Benchley.

fleg9bo said...

in the Sixties I was in college and determinedly going to advanced movies, preferably foreign, playing in art theaters. Ingmar Bergman. The 400 Blows. Hiroshima Mon Amour. The Seven Samurai. They weren't lighthearted or interesting, they were "deep"

As soon as I got my driver's license, in 1964, I started seeing movies at an art theater in Claremont, home of the Claremont colleges, about 30 miles from home. Coming from a working-class background, I had no idea that the wider world existed, and those deep films were real eye-openers. Most notable that I can recall offhand were 8 1/2, Last Year at Marienbad, Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Hallelujah the Hills and lots of British and European comedies that would no doubt impress me as quite lame today.

Ann Althouse said...

"Amazing to me that Althouse likes this one and did not like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is hilarious."

That's an oversimplification, and it doesn't align with how I feel. This project isn't about me deciding whether I "like" one thing or another. And I'm not addressing the question of what's most hilarious.

"Russians" can be enjoyed without experiencing hilarity. "Mad," not so much. Both have chaos scenes that are like stuff from silent movies (e.g., Keystone Kops). "Mad" has a lot more of the chaos, but the chaos stuff in "Russians" is less detailed, more crowds of people running about and shots of cars driving this way and that, with no choreographed near misses and oddness.

I've talked about chaos, but I haven't gotten too far into the subject of how and why chaos is funny or interesting. I could try to do that. Anyway, interesting is more important to me than funny, so if I were doing thumbs up or down on these things, which I'm not, the core concept would be interestingness. Now this project pollutes everything, because I'm most interested in writing, and I'm doing that afterwards. And, importantly, I'm not interested in writing about whether I recommend the movie or whether one movie is better than the other.

Both movies have the same formula: Give people a reason to run wild and then watch them. In "Russians," the reason is a mistaken belief that there is a military invasion. In "Mad," there's a buried treasure — $350,000 to be found. Fear of military attack isn't really any deeper that desire for riches. They're both low-level human urges. "Russians" is tied to real-life politics, but it's a primal concern, attack by an invading tribe. Money's a more positive motivation. But the generation of chaos and finding humor in chaos are the same.

"Russians" is more hopeful about love and human understanding. "Mad" is darker — everybody's awful and they're going to stay that way. It's interesting to compare these 2 films, but I'm not inclined to pronounce one better than the other. If you're in the mood to feel hopeful though, I'll recommend "Mad World." "Russians" will nudge you to feel cynical. I mean, really, the Russians actually WERE a threat and love wasn't going to save us from WWIII. Also that rain gutter would have broken and in real life the cute Russian and the cute American kid would both have fallen and died. You know that. Well, in "Mad," all those people flung from the fire truck ladder would have died. But they all deserved to die. And they weren't cute at all.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse, have you seen Rashomon?"

I wrote an article about it. Of all movies, it's the one I've watched most closely and thought about the longest and with the most rigor.

Here.

Narr said...

Wow, Mike S.-- A silly movie can light a fuse! Great stories.

I did not or have not seen a lot of the movies presented here, at least not when they were new in the intended settings. I have watched a buttload of movies in my life but now find the investment in time too onerous, usually.

I've only seen "Russians" on tv, and it's the sort of wacky thing that I was too serious a kid to enjoy. That's interesting about Reiner and Van Dyke--what an idea!

When Catch 22 opened at the nearby old-fashioned suburban one-screener, my friend Kenny and I walked up and found an older couple who agreed to be our parents. This was really funny, since I'd read the book--and dozens of other adult books too. I thought the adaptation was about as good as I had any right to expect (and I'm a stickler on period detail).

Foreign, a.k.a. serious films ran in very spotty fashion here; ESU and the Ivy-lite had their festivals and series, where poor equipment and poor planning often marred whatever was showing. This is how I saw a lot of Bergman and such.

Narr
One, Two, Three--Jawohl!

rcocean said...

One problem with Russians, is that even though it comic, its supposed to be also serious. Mad, Mad, World, is unrealistic - and not to be taken seriously - from the start. Its a Comedy, full of comedians. I mean, Durante as a Gangster? And why would he tell some strangers about his buried money? He doesn't have any family or friends - he would've left the money to? And of course, in real life, the people who didn't get the loot, would've squealed on those that did. So, they never would've split up in the first place. But why go? Its a comedy.

Russians wants to something more. You get your serious Liberal message, in the middle of your comic sandwich. The problem is the premise of the movie is absurd. The actions of everyone are absurd. The screenwriters understanding of small town Americans is Absurd. But it pushed the liberal party line. So it got an AA. Looking at IMDB it has only 7,000 votes vs. 34,000 for Mad Mad World. Which is a good indicator of how its been forgotten.

rcocean said...

I experienced everything as a Kid. We lived in the country. We lived on an Army Base. We liked in a small-town. And we finally moved to a Big City Suburb. But I always felt like a small town kid. And I always hated movies that showed small town America as a bunch of rubes and idiots, because that wasn't' *My* small town - at all. I think that's one reason I didn't like Russians as much as I should have when I saw it as a Kid. I thought "Oh, here's Hollywood making fun of small town America. Again".

Gk1 said...

This is one of those panoramic/Technicolor films I would love to see on the big screen as I have only seen it on a t.v. I was in high school when I first saw it on t.v and remember it better as a 'Its a Mad Mad World' ripoff because of the cast of stars. In college it seemed like benign leftie propaganda that the Soviets were just like us blah, blah, blah. I keep looking for it at the San Francisco theaters that show old movies.

Narr said...

rcocean--I thought small town (esp. Southern small town) movies and shows were just boring, like small towns. No offense, hey, I come from a city that some describe as anus mundi, and a lot of my cohort were first-gen high schoolers whose parents had been pulled from the back of beyond to fight fascists, and in some cases would have gladly gone back to the farm after.

I sure hope the Prof saw The Twelve Chairs, speaking of Russians and Mel Brooks and all.

Narr
Even Dom D was tolerable

Szoszolo said...

I've read in several places that Brian Keith was fluent in Russian, but never with any explanation of why or where he learned it. Maybe he had a Hal in his life. Or maybe that was just a story that circulated to promote the dreadful-but-fun "Meteor," in which he and Natalie Wood play Russkies.

Looking back I appreciate Arkin in this, but the role(s) that I remember him most vividly for in the 60s were the ones he played in "Wait Until Dark." Seeing it as an adult, the movie's derivation from a stage play was obvious -- the whole thing creaks a bit -- but the performances are good. Richard Crenna, like Brian Keith, was a very underrated actor -- always solidly believable.

Nichevo said...

Narr,


No offense, hey, I come from a city that some describe as anus mundi

Newark?

Narr said...

Rhymes with sewark? My city is named for a place in Africa.

Narr
And that's cool with me!

BudBrown said...

1966. I would have bet donuts that The Group would make the cut.

MikeD said...

To all commenting on Catch 22, seemingly to my reference to the movie, I was only speaking to Arkin's acting, not the film (which I also saw in theater on release & found it's pretentious anti-war message obviated by the necessity of the war. At the same time,the movie M.A.S.H was excellent, nothing like the plodding TV sit-com of the same name.)
OK, now I'll go back to yelling at clouds!

Saint Croix said...

Althouse, your Rashomon article is top notch. Kudos.

Rashomon is not authority for tolerating conflicting versions of the truth. We should not glibly apply it to today's cases of "characters recalling the same events differently," "accounts filtered through the minds and memories of innocent individuals." Nor should it mean "the truth is never absolute," or that there is "no such thing as the truth, just a bunch of irreconcilable interpretations." To say "this is a ‘Rashomon' situation" should mean: This is horrible. To invoke Rashomon should be to express despair at the untrustworthiness and selfishness of human beings and to beg for a reason to believe that altruism is possible. "Rashomon" should be an accusation that egoistic lying has made life hell.

That's a very provocative and interesting comment. I always took Rashomon to mean that sometimes we can't know the truth. Some mysteries are beyond us and we don't know the answer.

But I think I might be guilty of your first comment. Rashomon is not authority for tolerating conflicting versions of the truth. That's been my attitude of the movie, that the truth was unknowable. And so I tolerated all the conflicts in the story, and the non-resolution. So I'm kind of blown away that you offer a resolution! I'm going to have to watch the movie again and see if you nailed the guilty party. Cool.

Bilwick said...

It's funny to me because back when the movie was made, "liberal" Democrats poo-poohed the notion of any Soviet skullduggery; so that the title phrase was meant to satirize anti-Communist "paranoia," as personified in the movie by the Paul Ford/American Legionnaire. (The kind of people who, as Susan Sontag pointed out, were basically right about the USSR all along.) Then, when Trump got elected, the same "sophisticated" types turned into the Paul Ford character. Weird.