Friday, March 19, 2010

My favorite John Carpenter films


In honor of showing my son THEY LIVE for the first time tonight, I just threw together a quick list of my favorite Carpenter movies(also wearing one of my favorite shirts today in honor of this occasion). As with many people I know, John Carpenter's films are really big with me. As a child of the 80s, I obviously grew up with them. I think the first of his films I ever saw was BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA(which is still one of my favorites). I remember seeing it two days in a row at this sort of run down little theater in Brookfield Wisconsin in 1986. I think the theater was called Ruby Isle, but I may not be remembering that correctly. Regardless, a good friend of mine and I went and saw the film and loved it so much we went back the next day to see it again. Those are the kind of films Carpenter makes. The kind you want to come back to over and over again. In somewhat recently cobbling together a list of my favorite films, I realized that Carpenter's THE THING might be my favorite film of all time. Depends on the day you ask me because RIO BRAVO, DUCK SOUP, THE APARTMENT, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE LONG GOODBYE, THE CONVERSATION and IT'S A GIFT all vie for that top spot. But I really can't find much flaw in THE THING as far as my movie viewing needs go. It's sad to me that the film flopped at the box office back in 1982. A tough year where folks were much more enamored of a certain cute Reese's Pieces eating alien. Really too bad. Obviously the film has found it's audience now and many people see it for the masterpiece that it is. Just a fantastic film. As are many of his other films. I think Carpenter scores 3 films in my top 25 even. And because of him, Kurt Russell is one of my favorite actors of all time. Anyway, I'm sure you're all familiar with these films, but here's my top 10:

1. The Thing(1982)
2. Halloween(1978)
3. Big Trouble in Little China(1986)
4. Escape from New York(1981)
5. The Fog(1980)
6.
They Live(1988)
7. Assault On Precinct 13(1976)
8.
Prince of Darkness(1987)
9. Dark Star(1974)
10.
Elvis(1979)






14 comments:

J.D. said...

No arguments with that list! Altho, I would've probably ranked ESCAPE FROM NY higher. BIG TROUBLE is a nostalgic fave so I would rank it fairly high even though I would agree that THE THING is JC's masterpiece.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Yeah I love ESCAPE, great great stuff! The nostalgia factor kicks BIG TROUBLE a little higher for me. Had I seen ESCAPE in the theater, It would be higher I think.

J.D. said...

Oh man, I would've loved to have seen EFNY on the big screen. Have you ever played THE THING video game? A must for any hardcore fan of the film. I was surprised at how faithful it was to the film and really captured the atmosphere as well. Very cool.

I know how you feel about BIG TROUBLE, though. It's probably the JC film I watch the most. I never get tired of it.

Rupert Pupkin said...

I've played the VG, but not all they way through. I need to do that. I really do!

Rupert Pupkin said...

J.D.- Love your Radiator Heaven Blog man! Just added you to my blogroll!

Ned Merrill said...

Rupe,

Can't argue too much with your list although I would rank ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 several notches higher and probably flip flop BTiLC and EfNY.

Also, I think STARMAN should be somewhere on the list. A great accomplishment, IMHO, when one considers that it followed the nasty THING (CHRISTINE came in between), a film for which Carpenter took a lot of grief because it wasn't "nice" like E.T. So, what does he do, he goes out and makes a film that stands toe-to-toe with E.T. in the "nice alien" genre.

One last interesting tidbit, STARMAN was the project that Columbia turned down E.T. for. Spielberg made CLOSE ENCOUNTERS for Columbia and originally was to make / wanted to make E.T. for them, but the studio also had STARMAN in development and chose the latter. Guess some heads rolled for that decision...

Rupert Pupkin said...

Great info NED! I didnt realize Columbia had passed on E.T. for STARMAN. Yeah I know I am in the minority, but I am not a gigantic fan of STARMAN. I find it a bit dopey in spots(which of course most people would say about BTILC) so that's why it didn't make the top ten. A good film and Jeff Bridges is one of my favorite actors, but not one I watch a lot.

J.D. said...

Rupert Pupkin:

Yeah, I haven't gotten all the way either. I just started playing it again but am stuck at a certain spot. D'oh!

Thanks for the kind words for my blog! I have added yours to my blogroll.


Ned Merrill:

While I think that Jeff Bridges was brilliant in STARMAN, the film really doesn't do much for me. I respect the craft that went into it but, for me, it lacks that special something that makes some of his other films, like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 so amazing. To me, STARMAN always felt a bit like a paycheck gig a la CHRISTINE. Not that that's a bad thing, just not as good as his more personal films.

Ned Merrill said...

Agreed that STARMAN is far from Carpenter's best, most singular, or most personal, but I think for what it is, it's done very well, and it's impressive because Carpenter doesn't usually go for the warm, fuzzy stuff. Some stuff on the list, which are seem more ordinary to me are PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THE FOG (never been a huge fan), and ELVIS (which seems MUCH less Carpenter to me than STARMAN). Of Carpenter's TV stuff, I actually like the film he did with Lauren Hutton, SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME!.

Rupert Pupkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rupert Pupkin said...

I understand your take on THE FOG, seems that one is less admired by some in CARPENTER's canon. Have come to appreciate it more in the past few years. BLU-RAY looks very nice btw. Just a great atmospheric, if simple film. Shameful truth be told, I've not yet seen SOMEONE IS WATCHING me even though I own it!! Ridiculous I know. That might perhaps knock ELVIS off the list. I think ELVIS is included partially because I like Kurt Russell's performance quite a bit and I find he and Carpenter fairly intertwined for me as I mentioned.

J.D. said...

Ned Merrill:

You make a good point about Carpenter not going for "the warm, fuzzy stuff" which is certainly a welcome change of pace from something like E.T.

I used to not really care too much about PRINCE OF DARKNESS or THE FOG but in recent years I've revisited them a few times and enjoy them the more times I see them. I begin to find little things, a character's reaction, how a bit of dialogue is said, a cool camera move I didn't notice before that makes me appreciate them more.

I also like SOMEONE'S WATCHING ME!. Interesting to see in the context of Carpenter still fairly early on in his career.


Rupert Pupkin:

"I understand your take on THE FOG, seems that one is less admired by some in CARPENTER's canon. Have come to appreciate it more in the past few years."

I couldn't agree more!

I just bought the ELVIS DVD and am very eager to check it out as I've never had a chance to see it. All I've ever seen of Russell in Elvis mode is that gawd-awful 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND.

雞腿飯 said...

好問才能博學。........................................

Rupert Pupkin said...

J.D.-thanks for the tip on the ELVIS dvd! I didn't even realize it had come out already!

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