Cutting Edge Filmmaking
Stanley Kubrick and Mike Nichols tapped into the youth market and showed audiences intelligent and cutting-edge filmmaking. 2001: A Space Odyssey revolutionized what could be done on screen in terms of effects, and The Graduate revolutionized what could be done in terms of tone, story, and structure. By the end of 1968, the world looked bleak, yet promising – if things were to be done correctly. But a seeping gas at the surface was starting to billow; the imminent inauguration of Richard M. Nixon was brewing among artists: the call for revolution was heard when 1969 came crashing in.
1969 saw genre pictures and mainstream cinema mold into one. Independent production house Crown International brought about the return of hammer horror, taking the genre back to its Universal sensibilities. Al Adamson’s Blood of Dracula’s Castle and Terence Fisher’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed added human elements into these classic stories and helped push violent and political messages. Jesus Franco, Lee Frost, and Alberto Lattuada were tackling shackles and messing with subjects that, until this point, were completely taboo. 99 Women, Love Camp 7, Fraulein Doktor, and Venus in Furs showcased what was to become acceptable to the public in the 1970s. In slightly more mainstream circles, Andy Warhol and Robert Downey Sr. also helped shape where film and art were headed. Warhol’s Blue Movie and Downey’s Putney Swope would go on to inspire many film graduates with their rough takes on sexuality and acute sense of counter-culture ideals.
Costa-Gavras’ film Z, alongside Richard Fleisher’s Che! brought political cinema to critical and commercial success. Even James Bond saw a political restructuring in Peter Hunt’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Animation also got a kick in 1969 with the all-time favorite Frosty the Snowman, directed by Arthur Rankin Jr., the midnight movie staple Bambi Meets Godzilla by Marc Newland, and the first adaption of Winnie-The-Pooh by Fyodor Khitruk. The Berlin Film Festival saw the win of Johan Bergenstrahle’s Made in Sweden, and Cannes saw the win of Lindsay Anderson’s If…
As evidenced by the success of these movies, foreign directors were getting just as much recognition as American directors. These events all helped shift the focus from MGM-style musicals to gritty realism and taboo subjects that had been unaddressed in film to this point.
Westerns in Cinema
Westerns also helped shape cinema in terms of masterful cinematography and editing. Sergio Garrone’s take on the Django series with Django the Bastard and A Noose for Django, along with Leon Klimovsky’s A Bullet for Rommel, George Roy Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Giuseppe Colizzi’s God Forgives… I Don’t!, and Julio Buch’s Bullet for Sandoval, all saw the western genre expand from the days of John Wayne. Still, the best was yet to come for Wayne as he gave the performance of his career in 1969s True Grit.
These great westerns built into one iconic film: Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. The Wild Bunch stepped what Bonnie and Clyde did the previous year up a notch, in terms of violence and gritty realism. This movie was filmmaking in its purest form. Bonanza was in its 11th season, proving westerns were still a staple genre and could work in many platforms, not just on the silver screen.
Spanish horror caught onto this trend of gritty and down and dirty violence, quickly releasing Narciso Ibanez Serrgdor’s The House That Screamed and Rene Cardona’s Night of the Bloody Apes. Unlike any other time in cinema, there was a representative for your ideals and tastes or there would quickly be one if there wasn’t already.