Dark Humor in Films of the 1960s by Wheeler Winston Dixon

By Wheeler Winston Dixon

"In this tidy, taut, and tangy study, Dixon . . . covers the bizarre and wacky unwell motion pictures of the period--from director Roger Corman's Little store of Horrors (1960) to Robert Downey Sr.'s Putney Swope (1969)--and he additionally pops around the pond to have a good time the joyful nihilism of the bizarre British works of Richard Lester and Tony Richardson. Dixon [also] devotes chapters to violence within the silent cinema and the Nineteen Thirties B Westerns of D. Ross Lederman; the pushed motion pictures of Mexico's prolific 'phantom' filmmaker Juan Orol; director Richard Sarafian's existential highway motion picture Vanishing Point (1971); the 'invisible cinema' of the ignored Marcel Hanoun; and the romantic fatalism of French auteur Max Ophüls . . . lucid and compelling." - Choice

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Stanley Donen’s Bedazzled (1967), an updating of the Faust legend with Peter Cook as Satan and Dudley Moore as the hapless Stanley Moon, a short order cook, offered a graphic demonstration of the hopelessness of ambition. Stanley wants to be loved by Margaret (Eleanor Bron), a waitress at the Wimpy hamburger restaurant he works in, and Satan promises to help him in his quest with a series of seven wishes, but every time Stanley thinks up what he imagines to be a foolproof plan for romantic bliss, Satan can’t resist adding a little wrinkle to frustrate Stanley’s dreams.

Lederman beat his wife frequently and in other ways was cruel. Mrs. Lederman sued for divorce. The husband, it is said, then promised to reform if his wife would take him back. She agreed. The second trial was no better, it is said, and Mrs. Lederman was forced to again sue. But like the first experience, Mr. Lederman promised to be an ideal husband if she would but take him into the family fold again. Now she sues for the third time. (“Twice Mrs. Marcella Lederman Forgave D. ) Yet, despite Lederman’s behavior, Marcella Lederman took him back again.

Ironically, when Brooks adapted the film into a Broadway musical in 2001, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the once “verboten” property suddenly became a smash hit, so much so that Brooks produced another film in 2005, based on the musical version of The Producers, directed by Susan Stroman, which also met with considerable commercial success. But neither project had the authentic bite of the original film. 0004  Dark Humor in Films of the 1960s In 1969, as the decade entered its final days, a young upstart in New York City decided that time was ripe for a really offensive film, one that would truly knock down what little remained of the barriers to bad taste.

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