The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) Orson Welles’ second movie. He narrates and the Mighty Joesph Cotton stars. This thing took forever to come out on DVD. It’s a melodrama about a rich family in Indiana. Doesn’t sound like much, but I teared up at the end. I had a migraine that day, so perhaps I was overly sensitive, but it really is a great movie.
Objective, Burma! (1945) Actually this one might be a bit of a cheat because I’d seen it as a kid. All I remembered was Burma was in the title, a scene at the end, and it was one of the best war movies I’d seen. Re-watching it confirms that it’s one of the best war movies I’ve seen. Errol Flynn leads some commandos to do a job deep in the jungle of Burma to stop the Japanese. They are very successful, but aren’t able to make the flight out, so they are given another mission they have to cross the jungle on foot to get to. This one won’t be so easy. Errol Flynn is very un-Errol Flynn here, nothing like Robin Hood or Captain Blood at all. Directed by Raoul Walsh. Also stars George Tobias and Richard Erdman.
Cry Danger (1951) Cry Danger is probably my favorite find this year. Everyone has their favorites that others may like, but don’t have that deep down connection with. This movie is like that. I just love, love, love it, and while everyone else seems to like it, few have the same reaction I do. Dick Powell plays Rocky, a guy pardoned after serving some years in prison for a robbery he didn’t commit, when a Marine (an outstanding Richard Erdman again) backs up his alibi. Rocky’s no angel and he knows some shady characters, but he’s sore about being framed and wants to both get some of the money for serving someone else’s sentence and get the cops off his back. They think Rocky did it, or knows who did it. But the plot isn’t what makes this movie so great, it’s the dialog. That great witty noirish dialog.
The Doors: Soundstage Performances (2002) I love The Doors. In high school in the early ’80s I never had a mullet, I was trying to grow my hair like Jim Morrison. This vid is 3 live television performances and they are all top notch (a killer version of The End) followed by remembrances of those specific performances by the band.
His Kind of Woman (1951) Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price, and Raymond Burr. Can’t decide if it’s a farce or a noir, but it works for me. Super sharp dialog, some hammy over-acting by Price who plays a hammy over-acting thespian, and an amazing amount of brutality for an early 1950s film.
M (1931) I thought this was a silent film! Guess what? It’s in German. Of course I knew it was made in Germany, I just didn’t expect to hear German. Fritz Lang’s movie about a child killer starring Peter Lorre shows the paranoia that can overtake a city when a monster is on the loose.
Treasure Island (1932) I wasn’t expecting much out of this, but it’s really a rousing version of the Robert Louis Stevenson story starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper. A great one to watch with the kids.
Scarlett Street (1945) I consider this to be one of the essential films noir along with Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. If you disagree with me, you’re wrong. Edward G. Robinson against Joan Bennet’s femme fatal. Two-timing evil women destroy the lives of everyone around them, remember that kids!
Monkey Business (1952) Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers have wonderful chemistry and it’s a shame they only did one other movie together a decade earlier. This one, directed by my #1 director, Howard Hawks, uses a pretty silly premise of a youth potion that gets mixed in the water cooler by a chimpanzee. Really though, it’s no more silly than The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, just this one is treated silly instead of serious. Marilyn Monroe is prominent on the DVD cover, but she really has a pretty minor part. Very funny, but minor. She’s secretary to Charles Coburn, he gives her a piece of paper and says “Find someone to type this up.” She says “Oh, Mr. Oxley. Can’t I try again?” He replies “No, it’s very important. Better find someone to type it for you.” When she leaves he shrugs and says to the fellow next to him, “Anybody can type.” Another good one to watch with the kids.
Seventh Seal (1957) My first Ingmar Bergman film. A knight returns from the Crusades to find his homeland overrun with Black Plague. He questions a silent God and plays chess with the Devil incarnate, meeting some interesting people along the way.
Woman of Straw (1964) I really liked this one. Sean Connery and Gina Lollobrigida in this tale of a nephew (Connery) trying to get his hands on his uncle’s estate. He convinces a woman to help him out, but…
Across 110th Street (1972) If you like gritty 1970s New York movies, you need to see this. Anthony Quinn and Yaphett Kotto try to solve a crime that left several people, including two cops, dead, at the same time the Mob is trying to get revenge for the same crime. Pretty rough in parts, but that’s par for the course in gritty 1970s New York movies. Forgotten Films has reviewed this.
The Outfit and/or Charlie Varrick (1973) Robert Duvall and Joe Don Baker are small time crooks who robbed a Mob bank and now they’re on the run. Walter Matthau and Andrew Robinson are small time crooks who robbed a Mob bank and now they’re on the run. Actually Matthau isn’t a crook until he robs a bank to save his crop dusting business. Sheree North is in both and so is Baker. I’ve decided I’ll watch anything with Joe Don Baker. He’s so cool and he owns the screen unless someone like Duvall or Matthau are with him. I preferred The Outfit as Duvall’s crew didn’t kill cops, but both are good.
Peeper (1975) Michael Caine plays a Dashell Hammet/Raymond Chandler type detective in Los Angeles. Only, yes, he’s playing a British private eye in L.A. There’s some pretty harsh reviews out there which I don’t understand, I found Caine’s dry wit hilarious and the mystery credible. A real forgotten gem.
Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, and Rocky Balboa (1976, 1979, 1982, 2006) Believe it or not, I’d never seen a Rocky movie. Not one. I’d seen all the Rambos (except the last one), but somehow I missed out on Sly’s first big hit. I have a son who wants to box, do MMA, and ride bulls professionally. He doesn’t feel pain the way the rest of us do. Anyway, when Rocky came up on Netflix instant, I threw numbers one and two in there to check them out. Well, we all loved them, even my wife who thinks boxing (and MMA and bull riding) is pretty stupid. She was surprised at how into the series she got. I was too as I usually don’t care for sequels. In III and IV Rocky changed personality some, he wasn’t so dumb, but in V he reverted back and we loved him for it. IV was pretty bad. Just montages and overly loud music, but the rest of the series was really good.
Something the Lord Made and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2004, 2009) Two outstanding movies about gifted African-American men who change medical science in dramatic ways. Something the Lord Made is about Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) who developed heart bypass surgery for infants and Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a brain surgeon who separated Siamese twins joined at the head and other miracles. Neither of them had it easy. Just fantastic and uplifting stories.
Marriage Retreat (2011) A movie with Christian overtones, but not really a “message” movie. I thought this was hilarious. Jeff Fahey’s burnt-out, sardonic marriage counselor was great, and many of the situations were funny. Yes, some of it is not true-to-life, a gambling addiction isn’t that easily broken, but hey, it’s a comedy! Apparently there’s a mainstream movie with the same premise, but I don’t know what it is.