As May drew to a close, I found myself working on several projects that kept me from watching as much as I would’ve liked, but I did find a few new-to-me films, several rewatches, a nice little Vincent Price birthday celebration, and even some TV. Let’s get started:
Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create: Seven Samurai (doc. 2002) Toho Masterworks (Criterion Blu-ray Seven Samurai supplement)
Part of the extraordinary documentary series covering (so far) 21 of Kurosawa’s 30 films. I watched this as part of my research for our library online discussion of Seven Samurai.
God Told Me To (1976) Larry Cohen (Criterion Channel)
I don’t think there was anything Larry Cohen wouldn’t tackle. New York cop Tony Lo Bianco tries to figure out what’s behind a rash of killings in which the perpetrator always confesses, saying “God told me to” kill. Cohen’s fans have understood his bold talent for decades, and now it’s time for everyone to appreciate his fearless type of filmmaking.
Pretty Poison (1968) Noel Black (Twilight Time Blu-ray)
Anthony Perkins plays Dennis, a man on parole who can’t stop spinning lies from the outrageous fantasies constantly playing in his mind. When Dennis falls for a high school drum majorette named Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld), she not only believes his story that he’s a CIA agent, but her reality proves to be far more dangerous than his fantasies. A stunning film. Why is this one not talked about more?
The Bravados (1958) Henry King (Twilight Time Blu-ray)
A tremendous film of darkness, revenge, and redemption, previously discussed here.
ffolkes (aka North Sea Hijack, 1980) Andrew V. McLaglen (Kino Lorber Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x
This espionage thriller about a psychotic terrorist (Anthony Perkins… There he is again…) who hijacks and threatens to destroy a North Sea oil rig unless the British government can come up with some seriously big bucks. Although the film is basically a live-action cartoon with caricatures instead of characters, I must admit it is fun. Roger Moore does some nice scenery-chewing as “ffolkes,” an eccentric counter-terrorism specialist. James Mason co-stars, but unfortunately has little to do.
Weird Science (1985) John Hughes (Arrow Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x
I’m not sure why, but I was really disappointed in this rewatch. Sure, it’s been (gulp!) 35 years since I first saw it, and maybe that’s the problem. I can’t really put my finger on why, but it just wasn’t nearly as much fun this time around. (Maybe I just miss Bill Paxton?) I’ll watch the supplements and give it one more spin.
The War of the Worlds (1953) Byron Haskin (Kanopy) Rewatch, 2x
Now here’s a movie I was actually expecting to be disappointed with, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even for 1953, this film doesn’t shrink away from the inhumanity of desperate man in the midst of crisis, and the spiritual issue is handled well. I’m looking forward to the Criterion Blu-ray release of this film in July.
The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) Charles Crichton (Kanopy) Rewatch, 2x
Research for our online movie discussion - British bank clerk Henry Holland (Alec Guinness) decides to enlist the help of an accomplice (Stanley Holloway) to steal a truckload of gold bullion from the bank where Holland has worked for years. The group really enjoyed this one.
Police Squad (TV 1982) David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams (Paramount DVD box set, including The Naked Gun trilogy)
Somehow I missed these when they came out, but it was a real kick to see them now. It’s a shame the series (only six episodes) didn’t last longer, but the movies are fun as well. The show is also available on Blu-ray.
Mississippi Mermaid (1969) François Truffaut (Criterion Channel)
“I don’t see evil everywhere. It is everywhere.” Based on the Cornell Woolrich novel Waltz into Darkness (1947), Mississippi Mermaid may be the most fascinating, unconventional femme fatale story I’ve ever seen. Wealthy tobacco plantation owner Jean-Paul Belmondo purchases a mail-order-bride (Catherine Deneuve), finding her an enormous challenge to live with. Yet he’s completely in love with her, despite the ruin she causes him. I must see this again soon.
Dragonwyck (1946) Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Twilight Time Blu-ray)
This gothic period drama stars Gene Tierney as Miranda Wells, a Connecticut farm girl who comes to live with her rich cousin Nicholas van Ryn (Vincent Price) at Dragonwyck manor in New York, where Miranda’s storybook new soon life turns into a nightmare. Vincent Price is outstanding.
Il Bidone (The Swindle, 1955) Federico Fellini (borrowed from a friend)
In this stunning, lesser-known Fellini work, Broderick Crawford plays a middle-aged, small-time swindler who’s grown tired of con jobs he pulls outside Rome with his partners (including Richard Basehart). The last half hour of this film is absolutely stunning. This film deserves a wider audience and a Blu-ray release.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Robert Fuest (Arrow UK Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x
I watched Dragonwyck in celebration of Vincent Price’s birthday, and I just had to keep the festivities going. Believed to be dead, Dr. Anton Phibes (Vincent Price) seeks revenge on the surgeons who caused the death of his wife in a botched operation. This dark comedy/horror picture is a lot of fun and looks great.
Mission: Impossible: Season 1 (TV 1966-1967) Created by Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible: The Original Television Series Paramount Box Set)
We’ve seen the many Tom Cruise movie versions of Bruce Geller’s basic story, but they’re rarely as clever or as smart as the original television show. Many consider this first season to be the show’s best. I hope to explore this season in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
Fail Safe (1964) Sidney Lumet (Criterion Channel)
A system malfunction during the Cold War sets the stage for a white-knuckle drama with the future of the world at stake. Still a stunning film with powerhouse performances from Walter Matthau, Henry Fonda, Dan O’Herlihy, Larry Hagman, Fritz Weaver, Frank Overton, and more. The film’s most terrifying line: “Our economy depends on this.”
That’s what I watched during the last half of May. Please let me know what you watched. Thanks for reading.
Photos: Daily Grindhouse, DVD Beaver, Trailers from Hell, Blu-ray Authority, Blu-ray Forum, Reveal Baltimore, CBS, Clyde Fitch Report