The 1960s saw a slow revision of the western as a genre, as the likes of Sergio Leone took it in a different, darker direction and even stalwarts like John Ford found undercurrents more in keeping with the time than their previous work. That came to a head with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a breezy, almost comedic romp marked by a growing sense of doom as the two title outlaws (Paul Newman and Robert Redford at their very best) search for frontiers that may no longer exist. The film opened today in 1969 and is still considered one of the best Westerns ever made.
The original version of The Manchurian Candidate set the standards for eerily plausible Cold War paranoia, involving brainwashed U.S. soldiers unwittingly doing the bidding of their communist masters in the heat of a presidential campaign. It was pulled from release following the assassination of JFK, and it’s not hard to see why: its power is absolutely terrifying. It opened today in 1962, and in light of our current political situation, it may pay to give it another look.
Despite a stellar run on the stage, the 1978 film adaptation of The Wiz is generally regarded as a dud. It’s too long, too slow and takes too much time to get its concept across: though a great director in his own right, Sidney Lumet may not have been the right man for the job here. But the songs remain a hoot and some sure-fire casting keeps it from being a complete disaster. It opened today in 1978.