Peak Movies: 1968 Filmography

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 8, 2015

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Ugo Bardi over on Resource Crisis recently wrote an article about the Decline of Literature, another one of his many examples of the “Seneca Cliff” idea, which postulates that while the road up to the Peak of anything is fairly slow, the Road to Ruin is pretty quick.

Right after reading that article, while I was looking for film clips to use in one of my articles, which I always like to drop some pop culture or music reference into if possible, I noticed that several films which rank on my all time favorite personal list were ALL either produced or released in 1968.

Now, you will get film history buffs who can point to many great films NOT made in 1968, there are many of them of course.  However, from my own perspective, I can find no other year where SO MANY were all produced that have stood the test of time as truly GREAT FILMS, of one sort or another.  Not all are from major studios, in fact quite a few come from the “B” Film category.

Here are my Top Ten Films from 1968, with a short review of each, and a clip or trailer I was able to dig up on You Tube.  They come in no particular order, and there are some I left off the list which are favorites just to keep it down to 10.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Unquestionably the most influential and powerful Science Fiction film of all time, from director Stanley Kubrick.  Stanley also directed Doctor Strangelove (a 1964 film). Way ahead of its time in special effects, and prescient in the computer control paradigm of the HAL 9000 computer AI running the space ship.  HAL is an acronym derived from IBM, each letter is the one before IBM in the Alphabet.  The beginning scene of the Dawn of Man remains one of my all time favorite film clips, and the theme music of Also Sprach Zarathustra from Richard Strauss is absolute perfection.

Planet of the Apes

Another Sci-Fi CLASSIC, which has spawned more remakes and sequels than any other film ever made I think, especially if you include the TV Series.  However, the original with Charlton Heston can never be beat.  The closing scene where he discovers the Statue of Liberty and realizes he has been on his home planet of Earth the whole time, in the aftermath of a Nuclear War is Charlton doing his histrionic type of acting at its best.

DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!  YOU FINALLY DID IT!  YOU BLEW IT ALL UP!

Romeo & Juliet

Transferring Shakespeare to the Big Screen is one hell of a challenge for any director, but I don’t think anyone ever did it better than Franco Zeffirelli did in this version of Romeo & JulietKevin Branaugh came close with his version of Henry V in 1989, but even that still does not challenge this version of Romeo & Juliet as the best ever film version of a Shakespeare Play.  Olivia Hussey played a remarkably beautiful and emotive Juliet at the age of 16 when it was filmed, older than the Juliet of Shakespeare’s play who was 13, but given the cultural difference between now and then, not much sacrifice.  Henry Mancini provided a fabulous score for this film as well.

Bullitt

Starring Steve McQueen, arguably the first of the modern “Action Heroes” that in his wake spawned such luminaries as Arnold Schwartzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.  Also spawned endless Cop Thriller Films including all the Dirty Harry films of Clint Eastwood, and has what is considered the best Car Chase sequence ever recorded, despite many more being done after it, including all the Bond films which always feature a spectacular car chase.  Difference here is that the Bullitt Chase seems REAL, while the Bond chases are utterly unreal.  Gotta love that Ford Mustang also.

Hang ’em High

Clint Eastwood’s early years were a whole lot better than what he puts out in his dotage these days. The Spaghetti Westerns (Fistfull of Dollars, The Good, the Bad & the Ugly etc) all featured similar themes of vengeance, and Hang ’em High was a culmination of that back in Hollywood. There are back stories to this one that you could go into forever, Inger Stevens was part of the Laurel Canyon scene, died supposedly by suicide of barbituates, but had ties to Sharon Tate, Charles Manson and the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Inger Stevens conspiracy theory aside here, a fabulous cast, Alan Hale Jr. from Gilligan’s Island, Pat Hingle as the Judge and Ed Begley as Chief Lynchman lays down the “Hang ‘Em” Line perfectly! Now, if Ed was in charge of Bankster Justice, we could make some PROGRESS!

Wild in the Streets

Quite possibly the most bizzarly funny movie of ALL TIME, which posits Christopher Jones as a Rock Star elected President during the Hallucinogenic Drug craze of the 60s.  Phil Ochs, my favorite folk singer of the era in the BIGGEST MISTAKE of his career turned down this role.  You got everything in this film, from a 14 year old Voting Age to LSD Re-education Camps for Old Folks!  LOL.  Shelley Winters as the Mom of the Rock Star is so over the top you would not believe it!  LOL.  Hal Holbrook who later played Lincoln on Broadway to great acclaim is the Senator who buys into the whole deal as his ticket to power.  Here is a clip of newly elected Congresswoman/Drugged out Bimbo Sally LeRoy demanding 14 year old emancipation!

The Producers

Mel Brooks produced and directed this Parody MASTERPIECE, which also featured an amazing cast including Mel himself, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.  Mel Parodies just about everything in this film, but there is no funnier Musical piece than “Springtime for Hitler“, which itself is a send up of the musicals of Busby Berkley.  Mel would of course go on to produce numerous hilarious parodies, including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  However, this remains arguably his best film.

And now, SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER! 😀

Rosemary’s Baby

Roman Polanski’s initial Claim to Fame, before Chinatown and before getting busted for sex with a 13 year old girl and fleeing prosecution here in the FSoA for France.  This Horror film hits all the Catholic concepts of Sin and Satan, starring Mia Farrow as the waif who gets raped by the Devil and John Cassavetes as her scumbag Hubby who facilitates this. Mia later marries Woody Allen…OK, lets not go down THAT Rabbit Hole too! LOL. Anyhow,  Nobody does EVIL better than Cassavetes.  Directly before this film, he was one of the worst psychos in The Dirty Dozen, a 1967 film.

The official tagline of the film is “Pray for Rosemary’s Baby”. In 2014, Rosemary’s Baby was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[2]

Here’s the Conception Scene:

Monterrey Pop

John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas organized this concert, which predated Woodstock by 2 years, and was arguably the better of the two on a Musical Level.  It also chronicled the HIGH POINT of the counter-culture movement of the 60’s, BEFORE the HAMMER came down in ’68 on the whole thing, with the riots, campus protests,  the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and to cap it all off, the Election of Tricky Dick Nixon as POTUS. Not a good year to have stopped Sniffing Glue.

The musical acts at this concert were legendary, from Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin to The Jefferson Airplane, The Who and the Greatful Dead and many more.  The film is a great chronicle of a lost time, perhaps the last chance we had to change the future which now has become the present.

Night of the Living Dead

The FIRST ZOMBIE Film from George Romero, a B-Film that spawned a whole genre that not only Lives On today, but has exploded to still greater heights of Gore.

What I find interesting here is that the psychology driving the Zombie meme was present in 1968 just as it is now, as in the consciousness of the artists who make films, while they may not grasp the economics, they do have a sense of the zeitgeist.

Here’s the FULL Night of the Living Dead film.

Now, besides this bunch of Classic Films which were actually released in 1968, the number of films released in the years from 1966 through 1970 on either side of the 1968 Peak also have innumerable fabulous ones in there from A Man for All Seasons to King of Hearts to Bonnie & Clyde to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid to Anne of the Thousand Days…the list goes on and on here.

Look at the Top Ten Grossing Films List for 2012.  Is there ONE decent movie in this bunch?  I’m not talking Classic, just DECENT!

Highest-grossing films of 2012[1]
Rank Title Studio Worldwide gross
1 The Avengers Marvel Studios $1,518,594,910
2 Skyfall MGM / Columbia $1,108,561,013
3 The Dark Knight Rises Warner Bros. / Legendary $1,084,439,099
4 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Warner Bros./ MGM / New Line $1,017,003,568
5 Ice Age: Continental Drift Fox / Blue Sky $877,244,782
6 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 Lionsgate / Summit $829,685,377
7 The Amazing Spider-Man Columbia $757,930,663
8 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted Paramount / DreamWorks $746,921,274
9 The Hunger Games Lionsgate $691,247,768
10 Men in Black 3 Columbia $624,026,776

I’m not going to paste in the whole 2012 List of Films, suffice it to say I can’t see any in that list that could hold a candle to anything done in 1968. Maybe The Hunger Games is culturally significant enough, but I didn’t see it since I no longer go to movies, but I suspect that is a stretch.

Of course, as I mentioned above, besides Films, 1968 was PEAK CULTURE in many other ways, including the Assassinations, Protests, Riots and so forth.  It was shortly after this in 1971 that Nixon shut the Gold Window for Dollar Convertibility. Peak Oil Production in the FSoA was hit just about exactly in 1968.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-7Z_tqmrzzPE/UUs2DGdI6DI/AAAAAAAAErg/MCH9_NBm_qo/s1600/Screen+Shot+2013-03-21+at+12.31.31+PM.png

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/d3/Rfk_assassination.jpgIt’s been downhill here ever since, disguised by the ever increasing issuance of debt, but that kludge has about played itself out now.

I was 11 years old in 1968, just old enough to grasp some of the significance of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, but not old enough to be out protesting or hitchhiking my way to Put a Flower in my Hair in San Francisco or attend Monterrey or Woodstock.  I did witness this though, and I did see all those movies I listed.  Somewhere around 2000 or so I stopped going to the movies, because they just were not interesting anymore.  I knew nothing of Peak Oil or had any notions of Collapse in 2000, I wasn’t even a Y2K believer.  Something in me though then told me there just was nothing left to see, nothing left to make movies about.  It’s all Sequels and Remakes now.

The Industrial Culture and American Empire PEAKED in 1968.  It’s been downhill ever since.

We still have a bigger Trip to the Bottom coming though.

9 Responses to Peak Movies: 1968 Filmography

  • Mister Roboto says:

    I think some of your perceptions might have something to do with the fact that you were a young man back then. Looking out my own personal perceptual window, it seems like all things pop-cultural started going downhill after the eighties. Indeed, one of my attitudes about music is “If it’s after ’93, it don’t exist for me”. 1993 was the year I turned 26, and Kurt Cobain killed himself (a purported watershed event for a lot of Gen-X-ers for whatever reason) shortly before my 27th birthday in 1994.

  • RE says:

    Well, this was just a Film analysis of Theatrical releases, I did not look at Music.

    Far as that end of pop culture is concerned, I do NOT think 1968 was Peak. I would put the peak for music somewhere in the 80s or 90s.

    Not sure why Music lags here behind the Movies on the Peaking Curves. ❓

    RE

  • Joe D says:

    RE,
    While I may concede 1968 as a full year, I believe the mid 70s turned out a higher order of movies including The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, Rocky, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Sting, Soylent Green, Taxi Driver, A Clockwork Orange, and so on.

    With that said, I fully agree with Mister Roboto…it’s about the age you grew up in. Nothing could beat the “real men” of old for my grandfather’s tastes…Cagney, Bogart, John Wayne, and so forth.

  • Michael Sosebee says:

    Thanks for posting movie reviews. Although I agree with some of your choices (2001, Bullitt, Rosemary’s Baby) being great films you have missed the world of film that is now more than century old. If you’re limiting your view of film from what appears at the local cineplexes you’re missing 98%. It’s a mature genre at this stage so open your mind and heart to films that are more challenging. My only prejudice is CGI films and anything by Michael Bay. That leaves out most superhero films and a lot of science fiction.

    Take one of my top 10 films of all time, Robert Bresson’s “A Man Escaped” (1958) a movie about a man condemned to death in 1943 in Montluc, a Nazi prison camp in Lyon, inside German-occupied France. In a shot that comes even before the titles, we learn that 7,000 men were killed there during the war. Then we meet the captured Resistance fighter Fontaine (François Leterrier), who has every reason to believe he will be one of them. The character is based on a postwar memoir by André Devigny, who escaped from Montluc on the very day he was scheduled to die. It’s in French subtitles but the dialogue is sparse.

    If you’re interested in expanding your universe here is Roger Ebert’s site: “Great Movies”. http://www.rogerebert.com/great-movies

    After Roger Ebert’s death I made a pledge to watch them all. I have now watched 282 of them. Many of them are available on you-tube for free or Netflix on DVD. Some of the more obscure films I’ve had to buy outright. Netflix has become a nuisance because although they will show a film available they’ll have “long wait” next to a lot of films which means never.

    BTW make a point of watching “A Touch Of Sin” directed by Zhangke Jia. Zhangke Jia, a Chinese director, is considered by many film critics to be the most important film director working in the world. A Touch of Sin had him banned from China his homeland.

    All the best! Mike
    Mike

  • Michael Sosebee says:

    More about “A Touch Of Sin”…It is one of the most violent films I’ve seen in a long time going back to “Bonnie and Clyde”. I mention “Bonnie and Clyde” because the violence and the people affected by that violence seem all too real. Rather than being some Phony Liam Neeson’s “Death Wish” with smart choreographed violence this were the powerless striking back at the powerful or at least the greatest fears of the Oligarchy. The movie features four separate stories based on actual events that occurred recently in China. The characters are completely different people with happenstance and powerlessness in common.

    I’ve heard it described as a “glorious symphony of anger and disgust.” That’s true butit’s an accurate reflection of what’s happening in Ukraine, The Middle East, Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal not to mention All of Central Africa. It’s like suburban development in the last 100 years. It’s uniform and homogenized. The world has been converted into capitalists are they have a global reach with 10 fingers on each hand.

    Billy Wilder was right: “A lot of Americans are great people. But the major flaw of Americans is their love of money.”

  • RE says:

    Well, again, this is like all the current independent films being made and dropped on You Tube which Surly mentioned inside the Diner. I’m just talking about major theatrical releases here which drew a large audience. You start to get into an information overload problem.

    Also, I’m clearly influenced by my age, older people might pick a year in the 1940s or 50s as their Peak year for films.

    RE

  • InAlaska says:

    This totally coincides with my own PEAK American Civilization date of 1969. Close enough to 1968. This was our watershed year. The apex of our society. We sent a man to the moon and after that, even though our technology continued to develop, we never got any better than that. It was all gadgets and the refining of ideas we already had (just like all movies are sequels and remakes). After 1969 we had Nixon, detached from gold, oil price shocks, stagflation, disco…

  • Justin says:

    This seems more like a case of “Get off my lawn.”

    Plenty of amazing movies have been made since the 60s, and many people would argue that the average quality has gone up considerably. You are viewing the movies of your youth through the filter of nostalgia.

    For instance, no comedy of the 60s or 70s can even come close to the masterpiece that is The Big Lebowski. That is just a passing example, but you are reading WAY to much importance into your extremely subjective opinion, and one that is incredibly biased by the age at which you experienced the various movies.

  • Justin says:

    Another quick aside, some categories of movies have improved so incredibly that you might as well not even mention earlier examples. Family movies before the 00s are largely crap, and none of them can approach Wall-E, Up or other modern masterpieces. Modern sci-fi like Serenity blows away the hammy, over acted crap like the original Planet of the Apes.

    I don’t think you noticed a trend in movie quality so much as a trend in how willing you are to appreciate new things as a function of age.

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