Top 10 Helen Dance Numbers

Here is a list of the Retroscope’s top ten Helen dances from the 60s and 70s (in no particular order). Read more about Helen in our examination of her work, here.

Meherbaan Mehboob Dilber (1969)

Beautiful smooth lounge music from Laxmikant Pyarelal gently sung by Asha Bosle, in Aansoo Ban Gaye Phool.

Yeh Rangeen Mehfil Gulaabi Gulaabi  (1963)

Helen distracts a jailor in this melodic song from the film Shikari.

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Helen wearing mysterious blue contacts in the film Kahin Din Kahi Raat (1968).

Helen – The Iconic dancer of Indian cinema.

When you have had a bad day, nothing beats Helen- dressed as a strawberry, dancing energetically and telling you not to worry about life.

Helen Richardson was born in Burma to a Franco-Indian father and a Burmese mother in the late 1930s. She fled the Japanese invasion with her mother and siblings, ending up in India. Helen’s film career began as a chorus girl in the early 50s, before she got her big break in the solo ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu’ in Howrah Bridge (1957).

Known simply as Helen, she became one of the most well-known dancers in Indian Cinema- with an incredible dancing career spanning from the 50s to the 80s.

Helen dancing in Junglee (1961)

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Michiyo Yasuda as Tanizaki's Naomi
Michiyo Yasuda as Naomi (Daiei Kadokawa Pictures)

Chijin no Ai (Japan, 1967)

Chijin no Ai (知人の愛) is based on the 1924 novel of the same name by renowned author Junichiro Tanizaki. It is one of several adaptions of Tanizaki stories dealing with unorthodox relationships and sexual obsession that were directed by Yasuzo Masumura in the 1960s and 1970s. Two other notable examples are Manji (, 1964) and Irezumi (刺青, 1966).

The film’s story takes place in a contemporary setting, like Masumura’s adaption of Manji. This is clear from the very first frames, which show a power station that is definitely postwar and not from the 1920s. The course of the story in its new time frame spans from 1966 to 1967- with fashions and cars to match. The crisp, warm colour of the print brings out the bold colours of Naomi’s psychedelic wardrobe.

It starts by introducing Joji Kawai (Shoichi Ozawa)-  a quiet, serious and bespectacled middle-aged electrical engineer. His boss berates him for never joining the employees’ social activities, nor showing interest in getting married. After some prodding he admits that he did get a pet cat.

When he gets home that evening, he starts looking for his pet. The cat turns out to be a girl called Naomi.

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Meiko Kaji in Sasori

The Japanese New Wave Film Rebellion

Japanese New Wave cinema of the 60s and 70s was a rebellion against established styles of filmmaking. Major Japanese film studios began to promote young assistant directors to helm their own features- about young people and aimed at the youth market. These directors would deliver a kick of creative revitalisation into Japanese cinema. They would tackle challenging themes- sexuality, political radicalism, social inequality- all against the background of Japan’s postwar identity struggle. 

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Strange Report titles

Strange Report (1969)

……from Professor Spool’s archive.

In the late sixties Sir Lew Grade’s British based ITC company brought us the many cases that fell to war veteran and ex policeman turned criminologist Dr Adam Strange to solve.  The plots of Strange Report were varied and some of them still feel very relevant today.

Strange Report main cast
Kaz Garas, Anneke Wills and Anthony Quayle.

The series was mostly filmed and located in and around sixties London.  Indeed, Strange’s preferred mode of transport is his own self driven old black London taxi cab.  Each of the sixteen one hour episodes is given a case reference number ranging from ‘Report 0649 to Report 8944’. The eponymous title character is portrayed by Anthony Quayle.  This was his first television series – Quayle was previously well known for his theatre work (particularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company) and major films such as Ice Cold in Alex, The Guns of Navarone and Lawrence of Arabia.     Read more about Strange Report (1969)

Annette Vadim as Carmilla
Annette Vadim as Carmilla in Et Mourir de Plaisir. (Paramount/Media Target)

A Tale of Two Carmillas- Part 1: Et Mourir de Plaisir (Blood and Roses, 1960)

An analysis of two film adaptions of the gothic vampire novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu.

Predating Dracula, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872) has continued to provide inspiration for many vampire films and has spawned various adaptions.

It is a short story set in 19th century Styria about a young woman called Laura who becomes close friends with her mysterious houseguest Carmilla. Around this time Laura begins to have strange nightmares and her health starts to decline. Carmilla is later revealed to be the vampire Countess Millarca Karnstein by General Spielsdorf, whose niece Bertha was suffering the same symptoms. The vampire is subsequently staked by vampire expert Baron Vordenburg- yet it is implied that Laura never recovers from her encounter.

Recently, Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla has been given an interesting new reimagining in the Youtube series Carmilla (2014), which sees the action transported to a modern day university.

This two part series will analyse two very different earlier adaptions of the source material- Et Mourir de Plaisir (And to die of pleasure, 1960) and Hammer Horror’s The Vampire Lovers (1970). First, we will look at Et Mourir de Plaisir– directed by Roger Vadim (Barbarella) and starring his then wife, Annette Vadim as Carmilla.

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What You Can’t See Can Hurt You!

Introducing four of the best British psychological horror films from the early 60s- The Innocents, The Haunting, 80,000 Suspects and Repulsion.

……from Professor Spool’s archive

At Halloween most television and cinema schedules will be dominated by the usual ‘scary suspects’ – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, werewolves, Freddie, Jason and maybe even a Mummy. Such horror creations are so readily visible on the screen whether they are steeped in folklore like vampires or based on real life Jack the Ripper type serial killers.

In concentrating on these overt, bloody and often very gruesome depictions, schedulers frequently overlook the primal basis of all horror – fear itself.  The very fear that lurks deep in our psyche and that can manifest itself in so many different ways.  One such manifestation is that which is unseen – you may be able to sense danger, your sub-conscious may play tricks on you, the sounds you hear  may add to the dread and foreboding that occupy your thoughts.  What you can’t see can hurt you – it can produce irrational behaviour, questions our very sanity and understanding of what is real or a figment of our fevered imagination.      

Let me now recommend four fine celluloid examples that are immersed in the very atmospheric fear I have just described.  This quartet of black and white ‘mind-chillers’ were all made in Britain in the early sixties.

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Department S titles

Department S (1969, UK)

Why do all the passengers from an airline go missing mid-flight? How does a food critic wind up in the middle of a desert after a night at the opera? Why has the ground floor of a stately home, found to contain a mentally handicapped young man and the dead body of a woman, been constructed inside an old warehouse? These are just some of the unsolved mysteries- ranging from the believable to the outright bizarre that British 1960s TV series Department S throws at you in its gripping opening title sequences.

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Akihiro Miwa as The Black Lizard
Glamorous female impersonator and famous Japanese singer Akihiro Miwa stars as Femme Fatale thief Black Lizard.
(Shochiku Eiga/Cinevista)

Black Lizard (1968, Japan)

An effortlessly stylish, twisty and entertaining gothic suspense. This kitsch avant-garde masterpiece from Japanese auteur Kinji Fukasaku, starring female impersonator Akihiro Miwa, has to be seen to be believed!

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