Gunning for “Jessica”

As some of you may be aware I am something of a secret movie statistics nerd. This usually takes the form of analysing box office figures but since I’ve started doing this Blog I’ve been transported into a completely different world – guessing which of my reviews (660-plus and counting) is going to attract the greatest number of views. To some extent, I presumed the growing success of the Blog would dictate which reviews would top the charts.

I imagined that films I reviewed when starting out more than two years ago (with scarcely more than half a dozen hits per day) would receive far fewer reader responses than movies I’m currently covering given that I am now in the regular bailiwick of 200 (and counting) views per day. But that has proved not to be the case.

In June this year when I updated my readers on the movie that had generated the greatest all-time response the number one picture was The Secret Ways (1961) starring Richard Widmark and based on the Alistair MacLean thriller. For a start that had been reviewed in April 2021, disproving the notion that more recent films gained an unfair advantage due to the increasing numbers of people looking at this site. It had been the favourite movie of my readers for the year 2021 and every time I glanced at the all-time numbers it seemed to be putting greater distance between itself and the other films following in its wake.

That is, until for no reason that I can discern, it was rapidly overtaken by Jessica (1962), an Italian-set romantic drama with songs starring Angie Dickinson and Maurice Chevalier. That had been originally reviewed in December 2021, but it wasn’t for another three-to-four months that it started to show substantial legs, not enough to topple The Secret Ways, but by the time of that all-time ranking table of June 2022 clearly beginning to pose a threat.

One month later and it had gathered enough further support to top the all-time table – and so far ahead of The Secret Ways that I believed it uncatchable.

That is, until this month, when again for no reason I can detect, Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) – reviewed May 2021 – put on a spurt on such strength that had this been a sporting event you would have guessed at a betting coup. The Sergio Leone western classic with an all-star cast of Claudia Cardinale, Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda and Jason Robards has not quite overhauled Jessica but it is so hot on its heels I believe it will only be a matter of time. You might put it down to the death of composer Ennio Morricone whose score remains one of the bestselling soundtracks of all time, but that occurred in July, a good six weeks before the movie started to move at a serious clip.

The Secret Ways, in case you are wondering, has slipped to number three in the all-time chart. Obviously, the sudden appearance of Once Upon a Time in the West in the Top Ten had affected other claimants to high positions. But it was only when I looked again at the all-time chart I had published in June that I realized there had been other significant changes. Rat Pack heist movie Oceans 11 (1960) – reviewed May 2021 – dropped one spot. But Ann-Margret as The Swinger (1966) had jumped two places from its position in June.

Suzy Kendall as World War One German spy Fraulein Doktor (1969) – reviewed December 2021 – was down the expected single place but Polish Egyptian epic Pharaoh/Faraon (1966) – reviewed as far back as December 2020 – had tumbled three spots while cat burglary thriller The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl / La Louve Solitaire (1968) – reviewed even further back in September 2020 – had plunged two places.

I only occasionally review new films so I was very surprised to discover, swimming against the critical tide, that my May 2022 review of Mark Wahlberg as Father Stu (2022) was now sitting at number nine and that number ten was also a newcomer to the Top Ten – Jean Seberg in Hitchcockian thriller Moment to Moment (1966) which was reviewed over year ago in August 2021.

Of course Jessica may yet stage a comeback and some other film in my catalog could suddenly soar to the top – I’ll keep you posted again at the end of the year.

All-Time Top 40

I started this Blog two years ago this month and to my astonished delight it is now read in over 120 countries. I am now well past over 500 reviews. So I thought you might be interested to know which of these reviews has attracted the most attention. This isn’t my choice of the top films in the Blog, but yours, my loyal readers. The chart covers the films viewed the most times since the Blog began, from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2022.

  1. The Secret Ways (1961). Richard Widmark exudes menace in this adaptation of an early Alistair MacLean spy thriller set in Hungary during the Cold War. Senta Berger  has a small role.
  2. Jessica (1962). Innocently gorgeous widow Angie Dickinson finds her looks turn so many male heads in a small Italian town that the female population seeks revenge.
  3. Ocean’s 11 (1960). The Rat Pack makes its debut – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. et al plan an audacious Las Vegas robbery. 
  4. Pharoah (1966). Priests battle kings in Polish epic set in ancient Egypt. Fabulous to look at and thoughtful.
  5. Fraulein Doktor (1969). Suzy Kendall in the best role of her career as a sexy German spy in World War One.
  6. The Golden Claws of the Cat Girl (1968). Cult French movie starring Daniele Gaubert as a sexy cat burglar.
  7. The Swinger (1966). Ann-Margret struts her stuff as a magazine journalist trying to persuade Tony Franciosca she is as sexy as the character she has written about.
  8. It’s Not All Rock’n’Roll (2020).  Ageing rocker Dave Doughman aims to mix a career with being a father in this fascinating documentary
  9. A Place for Lovers (1969). Faye Dunaway and Marcello Mastroianni in doomed love affair directed by Vittorio De Sica.
  10. The Venetian Affair (1966). Robert Vaughn hits his acting stride as a former CIA operative turned journalist investigating suicide bombings in Venice. Great supporting cast includes Elke Sommer and Boris Karloff.
  11. Moment to Moment (1966). Hitchcockian-style thriller with Jean Seberg caught up in  murder plot in the French Riviera. Also features Honor Blackman.
  12. 4 for Texas (1963). Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin face off in a Robert Aldrich western featuring Ursula Andress and Anita Ekberg with Charles Bronson in a smaller part.
  13. Age of Consent (1969). Helen Mirren stars as the nubile muse of jaded painter James Mason returning to his Australian roots.
  14. The Double Man (1967). Yul Brynner chases his doppelganger in the Swiss Alps with Britt Ekland adding a touch of glamour.
  15.  Subterfuge (1968). C.I.A. operative Gene Barry hunts an M.I.5 mole in London. Intrigue all round with Joan Collins supplying the romance and a scene-stealing Suzanna Leigh as a villain.
  16. A House Is Not a Home (1965). Biopic of notorious madam Polly Adler (played by Shelley Winters) who rubbed shoulders with the cream of Prohibition gangsters.
  17. Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humpe and Find True Happiness? (1969). Off-the-wall musical directed by star Anthony Newley that has to be seen to be believed. Joan Collins pops up. 
  18. Pressure Point (1962). Prison psychiatrist Sidney Poitier must help racist Nazi Bobby Darin.
  19. Deadlier than the Male (1967). Richard Johnson as Bulldog Drummond is led a merry dance by spear-gun-toting Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina in outlandish thriller.
  20. Valley of Gwangi (1969). Special effects genius Ray Harryhausen the star here as James Franciscus and Gila Golen encounter prehistoric monsters in a forbidden valley.
  21. The Naked Runner (1967). With his son held hostage, Frank Sinatra is forced to carry out an assassination in East Germany.
  22. Orgy of the Dead (1965). Bearing the Ed Wood imprint, mad monster mash-up with the naked dead.
  23. Once a Thief (1965). Ann-Margret is a revelation in crime drama with ex-con Alain Delon coerced into a robbery despite trying to go straight. Supporting cast boasts Jack Palance, Van Heflin and Jeff Corey. 
  24. The Sicilian Clan (1969). Stunning caper with thief Alain Delon and Mafia chief Jean Gabin teaming up for audacious jewel heist with cop Lino Ventura on their trail. French thriller directed by Henri Verneuil. Great score by Ennio Morricone.
  25. Dark of the Sun / The Mercenaries (1968). More diamonds at stake as Rod Taylor leads a gang of mercenaries into war-torn Congo.  Jim Brown, Yvette Mimieux and Kenneth More co-star. Based on the Wilbur Smith bestseller
  26. Stiletto (1969). Mafia hitman Alex Cord pursued by tough cop Patrick O’Neal. Britt Ekland as the treacherous girlfriend heads a supporting cast including Roy Scheider, Barbara McNair and Joseph Wiseman.
  27. Maroc 7 (1967). Yet more jewel skullduggery with Gene Barry infiltrating a gang of thieves in Morocco who use the cover of a fashion shoot. Top female cast comprises Elsa Martinelli, Cyd Charisse, Tracy Reed and Alexandra Stewart.
  28. The Rock (1996). Former inmate Sean Connery breaks into Alcatraz with Nicolas Cage to prevent mad general Ed Harris blowing up San Francisco. Michael Bay over-the-top thriller with blistering pace.
  29. The Swimmer (1968). Burt Lancaster’s life falls apart as he swims pool-by-pool across the county. Superlative performance. 
  30. Hour of the Gun (1967). James Garner as a ruthless Wyatt Earp and Jason Robards as Doc Holliday in John Sturges’ realistic re-telling of events after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
  31. Fade In (1968). Long-lost modern western with Burt Reynolds serenading low-level movie executive Barbara Loden whose company is actually filming Terence Stamp picture Blue.
  32. Dr Syn Alias the Scarecrow (1963). The British movie version of Disney American television mini-series sees Patrick McGoohan as a Robin Hood-type character assisting local smugglers.
  33. P.J./New Face in Hell (1968). Private eye George Peppard is duped by shady millionaire Raymond Burr and mistress Gayle Hunnicutt in murder mystery.
  34. Sol Madrid/The Heroin Gang (1968). In his second top-billed role David MacCallum drags hooker Stella Stevens to Mexico to capture drugs kingpin Telly Savalas.
  35. A Twist of Sand (1968). Diamonds again. Smugglers Richard Johnson and Jeremy Kemp hunt long-lost jewels in Africa. Honor Blackman is along for the voyage.
  36. Genghis Khan (1965). Omar Sharif plays the legendary warlord who unites warring Mongol tribes. Stellar cast includes Stephen Boyd, James Mason, Francoise Dorleac, Eli Wallach, Telly Savalas and Robert Morley.
  37. Interlude (1968). Bittersweet romance between famed conductor Oskar Wener and young reporter Barbara Ferris.
  38. Woman of Straw (1964). Sean Connery tangles with Gina Lollobrigida in lurid tale of murder and inheritance.
  39. Bedtime Story (1964). Marlon Brando and David Niven are rival seducers on the Riviera targeting wealthy women.
  40. Sisters (1969). Intrigue, adultery and incest haunt Nathalie Delon and Susan Strasberg as they try to recapture the innocence of the past.
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