Updated: Dec 12, 2020
When I talk about rewatches, I’m referring not to movies I watch on a regular basis, such as The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Thing (1982), or other favorites, but rather movies I haven’t revisited in at least five years*. (You can read more of the pleasures and agonies of rewatching movies from my 2019 post.) Those movies haven’t changed, but have I?
How much of my movie-watching time is spent with rewatches? In 2019 it was 30%. In 2020, it’s down to 18.5%. Make of that what you will. (And thank you, Letterboxd, for the statistics.)
So here are the movies I rewatched in 2020, with a few thoughts on them and approximately how long it had been since the last time I saw them.
* I did make one exception to this rule as you’ll see below.
The Big Fix (1978) Jeremy Kagan (Twilight Time Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched 30+ years ago
The Big Fix simply didn’t work as a comedy/political thriller for most audiences in 1978, but it certainly needs a reevaluation in light of today’s political shenanigans. (I’m wondering if this was the first film after Star Wars to include the line “May the Force be with you”?) Richard Dreyfuss was still riding high from Jaws (1975) and the more recent Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which is probably what drew me to the film in the first place.
Carnival of Souls (1962) Herk Harvey (Criterion Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched nearly 20 years ago
Way back when Netflix was a disc-only company, I rented Carnival of Souls from them, thought it was an interesting low-budget horror flick, and didn’t think much about it until years later when everyone began talking about it again. This time, I admired the strangeness, the weird images, and the performance of Candace HIlligoss as the protagonist Mary. No, “admired” isn’t the right word; amazed is more appropriate. I can’t wait to see this again soon and explore all the special features on the Criterion Blu-ray.
Destry Rides Again (1939) George Marshall (Criterion Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched 30+ years ago on cable TV
There’s no need to worry that you never saw Destry Rides before watching this movie. It’s not a sequel, but it is one of the most entertaining comedic westerns of all time. (Heck, it’s one of the best westerns of all time, comedic or otherwise!) After a crooked card game, a man named Kent (Brian Donlevy) wins an area of land that gives him control over the entire cattle industry surrounding the town of Bottleneck. Kent does away with the local sheriff and appoints the town drunk, Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger), as Bottleneck’s new lawman. Recalling the town’s most famous and effective lawman, Tom Destry, Dimsdale sends for Destry’s son Tom Destry Jr. (James Stewart) to clean up the place and put an end to Kent's grip on the town. To Dimsdale’s disappointment, Destry is mild-mannered and doesn’t even carry a gun. How’s this going to turn out? Spectacularly. Destry Rides Again is a true wonder, the kind of film they literally don’t make anymore, largely because we don’t have actors like Stewart and Marlene Dietrich anymore, both of whom are superb here, as is the entire supporting cast. Dietrich finally has a role here that’s down-to-earth, and American audiences loved her in it. Dietrich’s saloon fight with Una Merkel is truly amazing, especially considering that no stunt doubles were used. As you can tell, I could go on and on about this one all day long. Make a point of picking up the new Criterion Blu-ray of this one. You won’t be disappointed.
Escape from New York (1981) John Carpenter (Shout Factory Blu-ray) 3x
Last watched 3 years ago
I dismissed this movie the first time I saw it (probably in 1982 on VHS), liked it better upon a revisit three years ago, and began to embrace it this time around. I don’t think I’d previously fully appreciated Carpenter’s world building, amazing visuals, and bizarre characters. Sure, it’s all fantasy, mostly on the comic book level, but I don’t see that as a bad thing at all. I’m looking forward to exploring all of the supplements on the Shout Factory two-disc Blu-ray release.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) Roman Polanski (Warner Archive Blu-ray) 2x
I absolutely loved this horror/comedy as a kid, and I still love it today. This came around to my hometown theater when I was probably seven or eight (not in 1967, but a few years later), and I didn’t know what to expect. It had the word “vampire” in it, so I was onboard with that, yet I was unprepared by the wintry, Eastern European location, the castle, the music, and especially the lovely Sharon Tate. I think this was probably the first time I realized there was a connection between horror and sexuality, and although I didn’t think about it in those terms, I knew it was one of the most fascinating elements of the movie. But mostly it’s fun.
Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) Robert Aldrich (Eureka Blu-ray, Region B) 2x
Last watched 50 (?) years ago
Leave Her to Heaven (1945) John M. Stahl (Noir City International virtual) 2x
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) John D. Hancock (Criterion Channel) 2x
Last watched 10+ years ago
I discussed this film earlier this year, more for how my mom reacted to it rather than the film’s content, but Let’s Scare Jessica to Death is a low-budget, patient movie with many rewards. My friends Cole and Ericca discussed the film last year on an episode of The Magic Lantern podcast. See the film first, then check out their thoughts.
Pale Flower (1964) Masahiro Shinoda (Noir City International virtual) 2x
Last watched 8 years ago
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) Francis Ford Coppola (Columbia TriStar DVD) 2x
Last watched 30+ years ago
Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa (Criterion Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched 15+ years ago
Our virtual library movie discussion group watched this a couple of months into the pandemic. Up until then, the library administration urged me to discuss only light, uplifting movies with the group, but I took a chance that my audience would actually watch (and discuss) a 3+ hour Japanese samurai movie. They were blown away by it, and I realized upon revisiting it that this is a masterpiece I could spend the rest of my life examining and contemplating. One of my audience members mentions to me frequently that she never in a million years would’ve watched this on her own, but now cannot stop thinking about it. Mission accomplished.
This Island Earth (1955) Joseph M. Newman (Shout Factory Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched 20+ years ago
I got on a 1950s science fiction kick at some point in 2020, and I was glad to rediscover this one. Aliens seek help from Earth scientists, but there’s something fishy going on here… Higher-than-average production values combine with Technicolor to help mask the film’s shortcomings (which are not insignificant). It’s still a fun watch and the recent Shout Factory Blu-ray looks great.
The Trip to Bountiful (1985) Peter Masterson (Kino Lorber Blu-ray) 2x
Last watched 30+ years ago
Another of our virtual library movie discussions. This film is such a delight, made even more so by the Oscar-winning performance of Geraldine Page.
So let me know what you rewatched and enjoyed (or didn't) in 2020.
Next time: I begin my look at movies from each decade, starting with the 1920s