Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ned Merrill(of the Obscure One-Sheet Blog)'s Top 10 Older films seen 1st in 2010

My good buddy Ned Merrill runs the OBSCURE ONE-SHEET blog. Highly recommended reading! Here's his list of favorites from 2010. I owe him a debt for recommending that I check out Alan Parker's SHOOT THE MOON, which ended up being one of my favorites that I saw in all of 2010. In his list, he's also denoted what format he viewed the films in.


TOP 10 REP FILMS SEEN FOR FIRST TIME IN '10 (alphabetical):




THE BURGLARS (1971, Henri Verneuil, 35MM)
Still not on DVD, I had the good fortune to catch this classic pairing between Verneuil and Jean-Paul Belmondo at last year's "William Lustig Presents" series at Anthology Film Archives. Featuring one of Morricone's greatest main themes, the story is based on David Goodis' THE BURGLAR (made into the earlier film of the same title with Dan Duryea) and has Belmondo's typically amazing stunt work and an exhilarating chase between Belmondo and adversary Omar Sharif.



DEEP END (1970, Jerzy Skolimowski, 35MM, Cable broadcast, Bootleg)
After wanting to see this for about 20 years I finally saw via bootleg, TCM broadcast, and 35mm print with Skolimowski in the house. A DVD and Blu-ray release is said to be in the offing for this year. Happily, DEEP END lived up to my expectations and then some. After viewing this, you will wonder how Paul McCartney, in his right mind, could ever break up with Jane Asher, you will be haunted by the film's atypical "coming-of-age" narrative, and you will have Cat Stevens' sublime "But I Might Die Tonight" running through your ahead for about 2 months afterward.



THE LAST FLIGHT (1931, William Dieterle, DVD)
One of the best things that I've seen come out of the Warner Archive so far, this taut, melancholy film follows several shellshocked WWI pilots as they drink their way through Europe rather than returning to civilian life in the States. Refreshingly unsentimental and frank in the way that so many pre-Code films tend to be, this is another fascinating vehicle for silent era star Richard Barthelmess, fast becoming a Warner Archive favorite.



MANIAC (1980, William Lustig, Blu-ray)
A video cover that I grew up being simultaneously entranced and frightened by as a child, I only finally saw Lustig's exploitation classic now, in my 30s, and, as with DEEP END, I was not disappointed despite the notoriety that already surrounds the film. Joe Spinell is a revelation as tormented mama's boy Frank Zito, who stalks and slashes lonely women on the seedy, pre-Giuliani streets of New York.



SHOAH (1985, Claude Lanzmann, 35MM)
I had recorded SHOAH off of public television for my survivor grandparents as a child in the '80s and watched part of this via New Yorker's passable DVD set, but when I finally saw this watershed film in full (9.5 hours), it was in the best possible way, via a brand-new 35mm print from IFC Films and with director Lanzmann in attendance and taking questions. I urge everyone reading this to go out and see it while it makes its way around the country in 2011.



SHOOT THE MOON (1982, Alan Parker, DVD)
Alan Parker had quite a run with BUGSY MALONE, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, FAME, SHOOT THE MOON, PINK FLOYD: THE WALL, and BIRDY. I was mesmerized from start to finish by Parker's shattering story of a marriage in crisis; the filmmaker is helped immeasurably by the wonderful and brave performances from his leads Albert Finney and Diane Keaton, both of whom have never been better than they are here. The ending really got me. Love the use of the Eagles' "I Can't Tell You Why" and Seger's "Still the Same" in the climactic scene.




THE STORY OF
TEMPLE DRAKE (1933, Stephen Douglas, 35MM)
Another film that I've been wanted to see for years is Stephen Douglas' controversial Faulkner adaptation that helped bring on the enforcement and tightening of the Production Code. Miriam Hopkins is amazing as Temple Drake, Jack LaRue essays the ethnic, city thug as only he can; the glorious Expressionistic compositions by Karl Struss (SUNRISE) and Paramount sets are beautifully represented on the newly restored 35mm print that's currently making the rounds via MoMA.



VICE SQUAD (1982, Gary Sherman, DVD)
The inimitable Wings Hauser lives up to his reputation as a great onscreen villain here as Ramrod the killer pimp, rightly acclaimed as one of the greatest cinematic villains. Star Season Hubley is equally good in a tough, brave role as Princess, hooker and single mother on the run from Ramrod. Kubrick d.p. John Alcott makes this seedy material look as good it possibly can, in what now stands as an invaluable time capsule of early '80s L.A.



WAKE IN FRIGHT (1971, Ted Kotcheff, 35MM)
Ted Kotcheff is best known for FIRST BLOOD, NORTH DALLAS FORTY, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S, and UNCOMMON VALOR. This exemplary Aussie Outback DELIVERANCE / LOST WEEKEND hybrid should rise to the top of the list. A small town teacher gets waylaid in a "backwoods" Aussie burg on his way to Sydney and ends up hunting kangaroos and getting absolutely blitzed with a motley crew led by alcoholic "doctor" Donald Pleasance in this absolutely riveting and visceral experience.




WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933, William Wellman, DVD)

Another hard-hitting, timely treatise from Warner Bros. and Wellman is this heartbreaking, progressive story of a group of kids who take to the rails during the depths of the Depression. One of the things I miss the most from the studio system, particularly in the early '30s, is the ability the films had, because of the speed with which they were conceived, filmed, and released, to almost immediately respond to social and political issues of the day; WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD is no exception to this concept, and, like THE LAST FLIGHT, wastes none of its short running time with the false moralizing or sentimentality that would trickle into Hollywood films after the enforcement of the Hays Code in '34.

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