Top Ten 1964

1. I Am Cuba
2. Red Desert
3. Marriage Italian Style
4. Charulata
5. Kwaidan
6. Seance On A Wet Afternoon
7. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
8. Mary Poppins
9. Diary Of A Chambermaid
10. Becket


Richard Burton was tied with Peter O’Toole as the biggest Oscar loser (in the acting categories) until O’Toole’s eighth nomination in 2006. One of the many times he would well have deserved the award was for his dramatically satisfying and intense performance in Becket co-starring, coincidentally, O’Toole himself. It’s a terrific film about the hard realities of male friendship hidden behind what appears to be a bloated costume epic.

Honour Roll: Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady; Peter O’Toole, Becket; Rod Steiger, The Pawnbroker; Saro Urzi, Seduced And Abandoned


What I love to remember from this particular year, however, is the otherworldly kookiness of Kim Stanley and her unnerving performance in Seance On A Wet Afternoon.  Stanley spent very little of her acting career on screen, having been primarily a stage actress, but when she appeared in movies she definitely made an impression (she was nominated twice for an Academy Award). Her role as a phony medium who arranges a kidnapping in order to boost her business before succumbing to her own psychological derangement ranks among her best, and the film is one of the most pleasurably dark of the decade.

Honour Roll: Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins; Joan Crawford, Strait-Jacket;Sophia Loren, Marriage Italian Style; Constance Towers, The Naked Kiss


Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War comedy Dr. Strangelove is one of the most wonderfully outrageous films ever made, and it still packs quite a punch. Despite all the hard work that Peter Sellers does in creating three glorified caricatures, the best performance to be found in the film is from George C. Scott, a macho war-mongerer for whom battle is a child’s game. Scott doesn’t pull his punches at all throughout Kubrick’s aggressively funny film, his growls and grimaces as big and fun as Ken Adams’ glorious sets.

Honour Roll: Tom Courtenay, King And Country; Melvyn Douglas, The Americanization Of Emily; Peter Sellers, The World Of Henry Orient; Peter Ustinov, Topkapi


She was without a doubt one of the most glamorous women ever to appear on the silver screen; from the minute Ava Gardner first started making movies, the screen could barely contain her beauty. Surprising, then, that when the sheen of that loveliness was taken away she was still quite captivating. In John Huston’s The Night Of Iguana she is drunk, rude and haggard, and gives the film’s most complex and interesting performance. Plus she spends her evenings with cute Mexican cabana boys, which makes her more of a heroine than anything else.

Honour Roll: Ingrid Bergman, The Yellow Rolls Royce; Geraldine Fitzgerald, The Pawnbroker; Martita Hunt, Becket; Lila Kedrova, Zorba The Greek


In reaction to the recent switch from corrupt capitalism to idealistic communism that Cuba underwent in the 50s, the Russians put together I Am Cuba as a welcoming primer. Director Mikhail Kalatozov, however, went much further than propaganda and created a film that can barely turn a corner without showing an image or initiating a camera movement that dazzles the senses. The film’s politics, which include a heavy emphasis on destructive Americans ruining Cuba before it is saved by the revolution, kept it from being much of a fixture on North American screens for many years, but its rediscovery in the last couple of decades has seen it celebrated as an artistic triumph regardless of its agenda.

Honour Roll: Luis Bunuel, Diary Of A Chambermaid; Vittorio De Sica, Marriage Italian Style;  Masaki Kobayashi, Kwaidan; Hiroshi Teshigahara, Woman In The Dunes