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1 . Mulholland Drive (2001)
2 . Taxi Driver (1976)
3 . Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
4 . Lost Highway (1997)
5 . Psycho (1960)
6 . 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
7 . Boogie Nights (1997)
8 . The Swimmer (1968)
9 . The Wicker Man (1973)
10 . Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) C'era una volta il West
11 . Trainspotting (1996)
12 . Performance (1970)
13 . This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
14 . Nuts in May (1976)
15 . Suspiria (1977)
16 . 24 Hour Party People (2002)
17 . Rosemary's Baby (1968)
18 . Annie Hall (1977)
19 . Walkabout (1971)
20 . The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
21 . Harold and Maude (1971)
22 . Get Carter (1971)
23 . The Great Silence (1968) Il grande silenzio
24 . Blood Simple (1984)
25 . Goodfellas (1990)
I have listed them in my preferential order...
Fairly limited Blaxploitaion effort
A black guy from L.A. becomes a prize fighter for the mob. After an initial good working relationship, he becomes unhappy when he learns they are exploiting him. He leaves their organisation but the gangsters kill his wife in retaliation, resulting in him seeking violent revenge.
This Blaxploitation movie seems to have two different versions. The original version, entitled Bogard, was seemingly so ram packed with sex and violence that it attained an X rating, however, the version most readily available nowadays goes under the Black Fist moniker and this one was re-edited down to an R rating and does not seem to contain overly much salacious material. This is the one I myself saw. It seems only fair to say that the original must be the more entertaining of the two versions, as Black Fist is fairly underwhelming stuff on the whole. The story-line is strictly by-the-by and certainly could have done with an injection of more sex and violence! It does have a certain period charm though and will no doubt still be of interest to Blaxploitation aficionados but it's certainly limited stuff. It does have a somewhat unusual and rushed ending too, which posed more questions than it answered but was at the very least distinctive. Of additional note this film featured a bent cop played by Dabney Coleman, who would later become quite well known for playing the nefarious boss in the comedy film 9 to 5 (1980).
Pretty good for a TV series spin-off movie but a definite step down
Movie spin-offs to beloved British sitcoms have been released frequently over the years and the results have, on the whole, been atrocious. The mistake that the writers make time and again is to make the movie version 'bigger' or, specifically, more 'cinematic'. To achieve this they transplant the TV characters into situations they are not normally situated in. Pretty ironic and misguided for a sitcom movie if you ask me! A recent example was Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) where the central character was removed from his mundane existence (which made the character hilarious) and transported him into a high-profile hostage situation (which didn't feel true and made him somewhat less hilarious). The Partridge movie is the closest equivalent to this David Brent film in that both characters, while having a lot of similarities, were also two of the finest comic creations to grace TV over the last twenty years. It has to be said that with the Brent movie we have that rare beast, a film whose plot-line actually feels true to the TV character. In it Brent has managed to get another film crew to follow him as he tries to break into the music business with his band Foregone Conclusion; in doing so he goes on a UK tour of the Slough area.
It's good that creator and star Ricky Gervais has managed to concoct a plot-line for a movie spin-off that feels genuinely connected to the series 'The Office' in terms of content. I guess a problem inherent in this is that 'The Office' was easily one of the finest TV comedies ever made and the Brent character was played to perfection by Gervais. The film just can't help but pale in comparison. It's not bad, in fact it's a pretty good comedy, but when the bar has been set so high its deficiencies do stand out more. The story-line invites us to witness and hear Brent's song craft and this is surprisingly one of the highlights of the movie. Comedy songs are usually completely trite in that they always feel so forced, yet the songs here do sound like the kinds of things Brent could conceivably have written. They are just professional enough to be believable which is important; yet the lyrics are often hilarious his ode to life on the road has the moderately hard-living Brent putting his 'foot down to the floor, at 70 miles per hour but no more', his heartfelt celebration of the Native American describes them as 'soaring like an eagle, sitting like a pelican' and as for his good intentioned song about the handicapped, well, that has to be seen to be understood.
The comedy otherwise is a bit hit and miss, there are a few funny Brent moments but unlike 'The Office' he is the only one with any funny lines here and he could maybe have done with some support. Most characters just tolerate him in a similar disdainful way. For this reason the ending does come across unrealistically schmaltzy. Gervais finished off both 'The Office' and 'Extras' on upbeat endings which partially worked so well because they were kind of unexpected given what had gone before but it seems to be a formula now and so here once again we watch a character squirm their way through the film only for things to end on a happy note. Only here if feels tacked on, after all even his band-mates required to be paid £25 pounds an hour to even socialise with him a few days previously yet by the end think he is a good guy and the relentlessly humiliating tour experience was now considered to have been good fun; while there is a poorly executed final scene in his office where everything works out great, including the 'bad guy' getting a glass of water in the face. So the movie ends in quite a naff fashion if I am being totally honest. But, on the whole, there are actual laughs here which is more than you can say for most comedy films and Gervais is still pretty good as Brent. It's certainly a pretty good attempt at a TV movie spin-off even if it pales against the series that it evolved from.
The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Schlocky, yet entertaining, adaption of a great sci-fi novel
Day of the Triffids was an excellent John Wyndham novel that, in the grand tradition, had been adapted for the screen here with many changes. The result is a story that has been simplified into an alien invasion movie. There is nothing particularly strange about this process though as even today screen adaptions of novels take substantial liberties in the transition. But my advice would nevertheless be to seek out the book as it is one of the great sci-fi novels of its era. The story here has a spectacular meteor shower blinding the population of Earth, except those who did not view it. At the same time, giant carnivorous alien plants called Triffids begin to dominate this world where the blind make easy prey. The story sort of makes me think of the later sub-genre of film, the zombie apocalypse movie. Both share aggressors who are multitudinous, murderous, unrelenting and with one-track minds; while those films also share the survivalist story lines where small groups of people must work out a way to successfully navigate the pandemic that sweeps their world.
The Triffids do make for good monsters in what is essentially a creature-feature. The effects are a bit clunky at times but for its era this is still okay and shot in colour which wasn't exactly a given for this type of fayre in the early 60's. Like the original story it is set in Britain, although in the action does relocate to France and Spain latterly. But like a number of British genre films of the time such as the Quatermass films, this one features an American in the lead role as a means to no doubt make the product more marketable in the United States, in this case we have Howard Keel as the most pro-active survivor. It's a film that does work best in its earlier section where we witness the devastation of the meteor incident with hordes of blind milling around London helplessly in various locations, while we also see the early indicators of the dangers the Triffids present, they themselves are introduced in an atmospheric opening attack in a large indoor botanical garden. There is also a separate plot strand with a couple of scientists stranded in a lighthouse on a rock in the sea, needless to say our plant monsters make it out there, causing all manner of terrors. There is some decent suspense generated in this one at times and the production values are good enough overall. It's really quite an entertaining low-brow adaption of an ambitious book; taken for what it is, it's kind of fun.
The Real Bruce Lee (1973)
Tedious and exploitative 'documentary' about Bruce Lee
After Bruce Lee died in 1973 and as a way of exploiting his international fame, there seems to have been several south-east Asian films released with his name emblazoned in their titles. The Spirit of Bruce Lee (1973) and The Image of Bruce Lee (1978) being a couple of infamous examples, the films themselves had nothing to do with Lee whatsoever and were merely cashing in on his name. The Real Bruce Lee is yet another in this ilk, except that it justifies the use of the Bruce Lee name in its title by actually featuring him and being about him. Sort of.
It compromises of three sections. Rare footage from the first four Lee screen appearances, a short documentary section and finally a look at the Bruce Lee imitators. The only part that was vaguely interesting was the documentary part and that only lasted ten minutes tops. The rest of it just compromises of very lengthy clips from those old Lee films and newer copycat features featuring Dragon Lee and Bruce Li. Sometimes it is bad enough watching cheap old chopsocky movies in their full versions but to watch extended , long sections but minus any context is almost unbearable. This film is only for the most committed Lee aficionados but even they might struggle with this one.
An impressive bleak and austere drama from Woody Allen
Immediately after he made his big breakthrough with the Oscar winning Annie Hall (1977), Woody Allen decided to make a film that was anything but a follow-up in the same vein. Instead he made Interiors, which was not only the first of his films that he didn't star in but it was also his first attempt at a drama. It wasn't just a drama though, it was a bleak, serious film with almost no humour to be found anywhere. Needless to say, it was a very divisive film on release but one which has achieved respect with the benefit of hindsight. It is essentially about a dysfunctional family. There are three grown daughters who have a wealthy father and emotionally disturbed mother. The father leaves his mentally unstable wife and it is the fall-out of this decision in which the film takes place. The separation is a catalyst for all manner of insecurities and jealousies rising to the surface.
This is a pretty intimate family drama. There are only eight characters in the entire film, aside from the inner family there are two partners of the older daughters and an older woman called Pearl who the father wishes to marry. This is a family of intellectuals, who seem to be very self-absorbed and egotistical. It's only when the unpretentious Pearl comes into their orbit that we in the audience have a true identification figure. Even her clothing marks her out as different, wearing a red dress she contrasts with all the other characters in their drab coloured clothing. She is the only person with real life to her in this gathering and they don't like her for it, dismissing her as a 'vulgarian'. She is a good character and this movie as a whole showcases Allen's ability to write well-rounded female roles. The women drive the piece and all seem realistic, which is part due to the great acting from the entire cast. Admittedly there is some over-written dialogue in here, with some awkward lines that don't ring true but on the whole the writing is mostly good. Stylistically, it's very austere with no musical score to alleviate matters, while the pale colour scheme also emphasises the tone also. Much of the drama takes place in a house by a beach front so we have the roaring ocean waves crashing repeatedly on the shore under a heavy grey sky to add further ominous atmosphere to the dark psychological interactions. On the whole, this is a film that maybe takes a couple of viewings to appreciate and you definitely have to be in the right mood for it. But it's a bold and depressing film from Allen but one with many good things about it.
Robot Monster (1953)
Endearingly clunky bit of 50's sci-fi
Robot Monster seems to have been one of those bad movies that appears to have been quite well known in its day. It drew widespread scorn at the time of its release and it's not necessarily very difficult to understand why. It was made for the, even then, incredibly low budget of $16,000 and it was seemingly shot in four days. At no point during proceedings does the film ever suggest that this might not be true. It has seriously threadbare sets, which seem to consist of a cave and a wall. While the alien baddie Ro-Man essentially consists of a gorilla suit and a diving helmet. A somewhat strange concept for a 'robot' it has to be said. But then again I'm not very convinced that he is even supposed to be a robot in the first place and instead seems to be an alien who has been sent to Earth after his people have obliterated the human race by means of a death ray or something. To that end we have a post-apocalyptic land populated solely by a handful of survivors who are still around on account of one of their number, an archaeologist, having developed a serum that gives them all immunity from every conceivable disease. Why is it that it is an archaeologist who has made this ground-breaking discovery? No reason really, that's just the way it is. In fact that sentence could apply to many questions regarding the content of this movie.
Needless to say, Robot Monster is something of an entertaining viewing experience. It may be clunky as hell but it's endearingly put together. Ro-Man is certainly the main draw and is a commendably ridiculous creation. He is one of the most iconic characters in 50's sci-fi schlock for sure. He is a bit of a surprisingly evil being though and at one point actually murders a little girl which was somewhat unexpected I have to say. But mostly, he just stands around the entrance to a cave shouting out about all the perturbation and despair he is going to deliver at some later point. On a separate note, seeing as this one was released during the very brief craze for 3D movies in 1953 its poster promised that this was going to be another 3D spectacular; needless to say it was never released in 3D at all, which in some ways only adds to its overall standing.
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
A great combination of a coming-of-age drama with a visceral vampire tale
Set in the 80's in the Stockholm suburbs, a socially outcast adolescent boy called Oskar befriends a new neighbour, an enigmatic teenage girl called Eli. Her arrival in town coincides with a series of violent murders. Before long Oskar realises this girl is in fact a vampire. This Swedish entry in the vampire genre has been rightly praised as one of the best. One of the main reasons for this is that it modernises the sub-genre while still playing the vampire myth completely straight. To this end we have a vampire who cannot enter a house without being invited in and who cannot go out in daylight. But these traditional ideas are rendered in newly brilliant ways here, with blood pouring out of Eli's eyes when she enters a house without permission and a vampire bursting into flames when hit by sunbeams. While the various vampire attacks are pretty visceral but accompanied by great effects work showing the vampire leap around in inhuman ways. By playing the horror elements straight and being respectful to vampire lore, the film is more successful as a whole.
Aside from the horror element, this is a coming-of-age drama. It focuses on themes of alienation and bullying. It works so very well because the two young actors at its centre are excellent. Kåre Hedebrant plays the ostracised Oskar perfectly, while Lina Leandersson as the vampire Eli is even more impressive in a performance where she elicits wisdom well beyond her years. The film is interesting in that it portrays these characters as clearly sympathetic, yet we still know perfectly well that they both are engaging in some atrocious acts. This gives the film an unusual dramatic dynamic. Let the Right One In is certainly a lot more character-driven than horror films usually are and it works just as strongly as a drama as it does a horror movie, something it shares with the classic movie Carrie (1976).
Technically it's very good with very well rendered effects and fine cinematography. It also benefits considerably from its unusual snowy environment which adds quite a bit of atmosphere in itself. The night time vampire attacks are notable for happening in such a quiet, snow-bound, suburban landscape. It's quite a contrast to the types of places we generally see vampires operating. The film is quite deliberately paced and this may be an issue for some viewers but it does not disappoint once it gets to its climax at a swimming pool; a scene executed extremely cleverly and one which is very hard to forget in its inventiveness. The scene after that has Oskar happily travelling away on a train oblivious to the fact that he is starting a new life as Eli's caretaker. It seems tragically inevitable that he will grow old murdering people in order to supply Eli with blood. He has been deliberately chosen to replace the old man Eli arrived with at the start of the film, an old man that you now realise was once a troubled young boy like Oskar who one night met a mysterious 12 year old girl
Double Agent 73 (1974)
Doris and Chesty strike again but with lesser results
Double Agent 73 is the second film exploitation auteur Doris Wishman made with Chesty Morgan, she of the 73-inch bust. The first being Deadly Weapons (1974). The fact that both movies were released in the same year is an early indication that Wishman didn't necessarily waste a lot of time making them and knocked both out very quickly. Consequently, both these films never remotely betray their low budget origins and are truthfully very amateurish throughout, with the camera-work in particular being of an especially terrible standard. Random objects being focused on is the order of the day here. So there's not a massive amount between both films I suppose but I would definitely opt for Deadly Weapons as being the better of the two, I think it has a better overall focus plus the idea of huge breasts being used as deadly weaponry was a more inspired idea than having them being receptacles for a hidden camera.
I guess you would have to describe this as a sexploitation spy film. It's about a secret agent played by Chesty who hunts down a gang of heroin traffickers. A secret camera is installed in one of her mammoth breasts in order to allow her to gather espionage evidence, unfortunately, if she does not complete her mission within a week the camera will self-destruct, killing her in the process. This story-line is more or less a framework to allow for a lot of scenes of Chesty exposing her huge hooters. Not really a bad idea in principle but it is oddly unerotic to be perfectly honest, which means that events in the story-line become more important. But it's all pretty limited stuff on that front, with the odd unexpected moment such as a bloody murder in a shower appearing out of nowhere to enliven events. But on the whole, this one is only interesting to an extent but certainly of curiosity value at least.
High Anxiety (1977)
Affectionate and fun Hitchcock spoof
By 1977 Mel Brooks had already spoofed the western, Universal horror films and movies of the silent era, so with High Anxiety he decided to take an affectionate aim at the suspense films of Alfred Hitchcock. It would probably be fair to say that the results are quite mixed, although in fairness even Brooks at his best can be uneven. The humour is a mixture of the very broad to the somewhat subtle. There are a few dud moments sprinkled throughout but it is successfully funny on occasions too. But High Anxiety sort of gets away with the poorer moments more or less and is really quite enjoyable from the point of view of its Hitchcockian references alone. If you are a fan of the master of suspense you will probably get a kick out of this one to some extent. The story has a psychiatrist with a fear of heights appointed the head doctor at the Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, when there he discovers a web of crime.
Many of the films in Hitchcock's filmography are targeted, such as Spellbound (1945), Dial M for Murder (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). I'm sure there must've been others too but, those ones I actually noticed. Some of the references are dealt with in very obvious ways such as the shower scene from Psycho and the climbing frame moment from The Birds. Those ones aren't especially clever really but they have some good things about them. At other times the spoofing is less directly obvious but it's fun spotting them in any case. I have to say though that I thought the funniest sequence in the film wasn't even connected in any way to the films of the master of suspense, it was an uproarious scene where Brooks and Madeline Kahn get through airport security by being loud and annoying. It's definitely true that Brooks in the main role isn't necessarily a good thing. He's not exactly bad but he's no Gene Wilder either. If a better comic actor had played this character it might have improved the film overall I reckon. A few regular actors from his other films return here to greater effect, like Madeline Kahn as the requisite Hitchcock ice blonde, while Cloris Leachman and Harvey Korman give amusingly spirited performances as fellow doctors who are up to no good. In the final analysis, while High Anxiety isn't a total success, it's very likable and for this reason I find it very easy to get on board with it.
Wild Riders (1971)
An early house invasion movie from Crown International
This low budget b-movie is very much on the sleazier end of the exploitation spectrum. It was released by those dependable purveyors of good time schlock, Crown International Pictures. In advance, this one looks like it's another in the biker film cycle that followed in the wake of the big box office success of Easy Rider (1969). But despite its title, poster and two central characters, there is actually little in the way of biker action to be found here. Instead, it is a very early example of a type of movie which would become more popular as the 70's went on and would go on to be one of the most controversial sub-genres, namely the house invasion movie. In this respect, Wild Riders is quite clearly ahead of the curve and this does make it interesting.
It's about two biker thugs, who are exiled from their gang for killing a girl, they go on to conduct a house invasion of an affluent suburban home; their victims are two unfortunate women. From the outset this one makes it clear how it means to go on with a savage opening scene where a girl is nailed to a tree. Later there is more nastiness in the form of rape, murder and verbal abuse. It crescendos with a violent finale that was not only satisfying but also very funny. Despite how it may sound it's really not as disturbing as most films of this type that followed it but it definitely has a mean streak to it quite a bit of the time. It was after all refused a certificate in the UK when initially released and then re-refused again when it was submitted for home video in the late 80's. Definitely one of the tougher films released by Crown and one well worth checking out if you enjoy 70's exploitation.