Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest: #660 Thru #669

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These ten films were seen between Oct. 8 and Oct. 18.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#660 - Horror of Dracula (1958)
(#992 on TSPDT) Gaudy, garish and grandiose.  This typically Grand Guignol Hammer Horror work from Terence Fisher was the first pairing of life-long friends Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing respectively.  Hammer was a low budget British studio well known for their rather cheesy works of horror and crime throughout the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, and this, one of the better ones I have seen (though I am far from an expert on either the genre or the studio), is delightfully cheesy.  It is also cinematically stunning.  From Fisher's camera, to the succulent set design, to the costumes, music and splattering blood (the quite iconic shot of Lee, his mouth dripping with blood, is priceless), Horror of Dracula, or just Dracula as it was called on its initial release, is one of the better horror films (a genre I tend to not see much of) on the list.

#661 - Land Without Bread (1932)
(#627 on TSPDT)  A tiny little doc from Luis Bunuel about a small tribe of Spanish natives and their struggle for everyday survival.  There are definitely fascinating parts to the film, and Bunuel's documentary style here is quite refreshing, and I actually liked it a good deal.  A bit surprising to see this film on the list while others are not, but overall an intriguing story that deserves more than a bit of recognition.  I guess that means I do not begrudge its insertion into the list all that much after all.

#662 - The Red Balloon (1956)
(#421 on TSPDT)  A classic childhood favourite of many, this charming little French film about a boy and his balloon was a surprising uplift after the downer that was Bunuel's Land Without Bread (watch immediately prior to this).  I actually did not expect to like the film all that much.  I expected a more cloying, oversentimental doo-dad, but instead I got the perfect blend of nostalgia, sentiment and cinematic bravura.  This film was the inspiration for Hou Hsiao-hsien's first foray into French film, Flight of the Red Balloon, and I can surely see its inspirational side.

#663 - The Terminator (1984)
(#264 on TSPDT) I still don't know how I came of age in the early 1980's without ever seeing this rather silly but wholly entertaining sci-fi action flick - for better or for worse, a seminal movie of those aforementioned 1980's.  Oddly enough, I have seen the sequels, and the more recent prequel, so I suppose at some point I had to go back and search out the original.  Iconic in many ways, this film by James Cameron, in the days before he became a megalomaniacial destroyer of cinema, was a blast to watch.  Watching it for the first time in 2011, there was the added bonus of seeing how intensely eighties this film was.  In fact it was so eighties that even though Michael Biehn's character came from the future, his hair was perfect eighties style.

#664 - Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
(#898 on TSPDT)  I wasn't sure what I was in for here, but lo and behold, it is something quite extraordinary.  Done almost as Cinéma vérité, this fascinating little film is the story of, as one may very well ascertain from the title, a serial killer named Henry.  The film opens with a series of quite disturbing (if one is disturbed by such) shots of bloody, slaughtered women in various arrays of carefully positioned death scenes.  This quite creepy opening leads into a very matter-of-fact story of Henry as he temporarily settles down with a rather unhinged old prison buddy and his sister, who Henry dangerously becomes involved with.  Michael Rooker's chilling performance takes an already tense film and shoots it into the stratosphere.  Not for what one would call the faint-of-heart though.

#665 - Yeelen (1987)
(#830 on TSPDT) Egads, I was bored by this film.  I am usually a fan of West African Cinema - Sembene and Mambety especially - but this film by Malian director Souleymane Cissé, is just a bore.  Sadly though, just as much as this is not a great film, it is not a terrible film either, and therefore I really have nothing much to say about it.  I can tell you that Yeelen is Fula for Brightness.  I can tell you that this seemed like a poorly structured neo-Robert Flaherty experiment.  I can tell you that I nearly fell asleep watching it - just waiting for something, anything to happen.  Yes, nothing really happens in films like L'Avventura or Jeanne Dielmann, but still those films a fascinating to endure.  This thing just is not.  There are moments of visual beauty, but overall even these moments cannot save this film.

#666 - Rosemary's Baby (1968)
(#208 on TSPDT) When I had decided to watch this Polanski classic after hours on the big screen at the cinema, I desperately needed others to watch it with me.  It is already creepy enough  sitting alone late at night in the cinema, but when you add Satan and all his accouterments to the mix.....well, let's just say I wanted people around me.  In the end though, the film was not nearly as creepy as I expected it to be.  It certainly has that typical Polanski flair, which in and of itself is creepy, but never did I leap from my seat or even feel uncomfortable in said seat.  This is not to say I did not thoroughly enjoy Rosemary's Baby - because I most certainly did.  Polanski gives us a delectably fun ride into insanity and the underworld, and one would need to be crazy themselves not to enjoy every batshitcrazy minute of it.  And yes, the number this makes on my list was completely on purpose.

#667 - The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
(#649 on TSPDT) I remember (barely) seeing some old episodes of the TV show when I was but a wee thing, and now I finally get to see the original film version.  Starring the beautiful Ms. Gene Tierney as the widowed Mrs. Muir and the ruggedly dashing Rex Harrison as the titular ghost, this film is a supernatural romantic drama.  Better than I expected it to be, Tierney, whom I always enjoy, is a determined yet somewhat unrealistic incurable romantic while Harrison is a gruff yet likable old sea captain-turned haunting spirit.  The film tells the story - at times humourous, at times tragic - of how Mrs. Muir buys the dead old captain's house and the captain's attempts at scaring her out of said house.  We also see the romance that breeds inside this relationship and the ultimate sacrifice one must give for eternal love.  A very sad movie at times, but ultimately as incurably romantic as Mrs. Muir herself.

#668 - Night of the Demon (1957)
(#736 on TSPDT) I am usually a Jacques Tournier fan.  Whether it be one of his ultra-stylized B-Horror like Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie, or a film noir such as Out of the Past, Tournier has always pleased.  Unfortunately I cannot say the same for this 1957 snoozefest.   Lacking the tension of his earlier films, Night of the Demon ends up being nothing more than the typical schlock horror that was prevalent at the time - but without even the campy silliness of those films.  In other words, a bland, pedestrian fare from a director who has done much much much better.  This is another film that has no business being on anyone's list of the 1000 greatest films.

#669 - Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (1950)
(#794 on TSPDT)  Granted, the ending of this film is easily seen the proverbial mile away, but that just makes it more fun to watch.  Enjoying thinking about how stupid Dana Andrews' novelist is allowing the circumstances of the film to unravel, knowing full well that the slightest miscalculation could send him to life behind bars or even the chair.  I won't go into detail about said twisty plot, for it is fun to watch everything come together and tear apart as the film progresses - a thing director Fritz Lang enjoyed doing in his many American noir pictures of the 1940's and 1950's.  Andrews will probably never be called a great actor, but in the roles he played throughout his earlier career (his later schlock B-pictures are, for the most part quite unremarkable), one cannot deny his everyman kind of persona shining through.  Fun movie indeed.


Page said...

Thanks so much for tackling this list! I can't wait to see what's next.
I loved The Red Balloon and having just watched and reviewed Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer which I really enjoyed I was quite surprised but glad to see it here.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thanx. When I started the list I had already seen 425 of them. That was Jan. 2007. I would sporadically watch films from the list and mark them off until I got to about 600 or so. After that I started in like gangbusters. My viewing of John Ford's Tobacco Road last night marked #686. I am now doing them so speedily that I am having trouble keeping up in my reviewing of them. My plan is to finish by 11/03/2012 (yes I set an actual end date!) which means I need to watch the remaining 314 films in just under one year. Easy Peezy Lemon Squeezy. I plan on having Chaplin's Limelight as #1000.

Page said...

You are the man! I'm just glad we will be around to pick you up off of the floor on 11/3/12 long enough to give you a pat on the back. I just read another review of Tobacco Road so interested to hear your take on it. Where are you pulling your choices from? I like that it's so eclectic.

Your final review is the perfect choice.

Kevyn Knox said...

The list is a master compilation list that comes from the site "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" (I give links at the start of each review). The order is completely random (except for my final five).