Brando Flicks From Pre-Reagan Salad Days


Perhaps it’s little surprise that so many movie artifacts from the post-WW II, pre-Reagan salad days seem to be prophecies of the present, but George Englund’s The Ugly American (1963) is a doozy—Marlon Brando plays an idealistic politico sent to set up Yankee shop in a fictional Asian nation, and he can’t for the life of him figure out why the natives resent his presence. Adapted from a popular, JFK-beloved novel by Stewart Stern (the writer of Rebel Without a Cause and Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie), the film is shockingly savvy for 1963 and a bruising indictment of American international involvement, as well as nerveless Hollywood banality, today. It comes boxed with three other movies from Brando’s underrated mid-career-crisis era: The Appaloosa (1966), a lean, symbol-loaded western about a horse, masculine pride, and frontier potency; A Countess From Hong Kong (1967), Charles Chaplin’s final film and a fascinating, bizarrely cast screwball romance; and The Night of the Following Day (1968), a moody, desultory kidnapping-heist-gone-wrong melodrama directed and co-written by nobody Hubert Cornfield, compelling for the performances of Brando, Richard Boone, and Rita Moreno as a depressed trio of self-immolating fuckups.