Every year brings a bumper crop of exceptional cinema, especially over that “long decade” that demarcates my own favorite period in film (as in so many other things), c. 1965-1980. Still, 1966 proved to be something of an annus mirabilis: Art house audiences were dazzled by formalist masterworks including JLG’s Masculine-Feminine, Antonioni’s Blowup, Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, and Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar.
1966 also saw the emergence of the short-lived but epochal Czech New Wave with the five-part anthology film Pearls from the Deep, as well as works from contributors Very Chytilova (Daisies) and Jiri Nemec (A Report on the Party and the Guests).
Japanese directors like Hiroshi Teshigahara (The Face of Another), Shohei Imamura (The Pornographers), and studio maverick Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter) were pushing the boundaries of their national cinema up to (and sometimes beyond) its breaking point.
There was a steady supply of superlative genre filmmaking on hand at your local drive-in or grindhouse: a spate of spooky Hammer Films (Plague of the Zombies, The Witches, Dracula: Prince of Darkness), a fistful of fantastic Spaghetti Westerns (Django, A Bullet for the General, a little number called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), some groovy gems from AIP (The Wild Angels, Queen of Blood), and one of Mario Bava’s finest films Kill, Baby, Kill!
And that’s just scratching the surface.
All this year, in order to celebrate the golden anniversary of these and other films, I will be trying to time my panegyric posts to coincide with their original release dates as often as possible.