My Re-makes, Ripoffs, Re-adaptations, & Riffs Quest

by McBiscuit | created - 06 Feb 2013 | updated - 21 Apr 2015 | Public

This is a quest I embarked on in 2012 (and will continue at a more leisurely pace). The groups of movies watched should be a bit obvious and are ordered as they were watched. Read my comments at your own risk as there will be spoilers!

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1. Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Unrated | 77 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

The disappearance of people and corpses leads a reporter to a wax museum and a sinister sculptor.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh

Votes: 3,801

2. House of Wax (1953)

GP | 88 min | Horror

An associate burns down a wax museum with the owner inside, but he survives only to become vengeful and murderous.

Director: André De Toth | Stars: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones

Votes: 13,382 | Gross: $23.75M

3. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Not Rated | 113 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A married woman and a drifter fall in love, then plot to murder her husband. Once the deed is done, they must live with the consequences of their actions.

Director: Tay Garnett | Stars: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn

Votes: 15,734 | Gross: $8.33M

Notable primarily because of the breath-taking introduction of Lana Turner, the best moment of this group as you could feel the heat between Garfield and Turner (and the attraction to Turner is understandable as she was a knockout). The sexual chemistry between the two leads builds slowly but is never in doubt, two desperate souls looking to escape their current lives (Cora more so that Nick, who succeeds in convincing him that love without money does not work), looking to remove Cora’s older husband from the equation. The film began lose my interest after the murder--my disinterest in court room scenes these days is likely the reason--not quite living up to its reputation in my eyes.

4. Jerichow (2008)

Unrated | 93 min | Drama

71 Metascore

The dishonorably discharged Afghanistan veteran Thomas returns to his home village of Jerichow. Ali, a local Turkish-German businessman, owner of a snack-bar chain, hires him as a driver. ... See full summary »

Director: Christian Petzold | Stars: Benno Fürmann, Nina Hoss, Hilmi Sözer, André Hennicke

Votes: 1,836 | Gross: $0.05M

I liked quite a bit, due mostly to the interesting look into social class. Instead of a drifter we get an army vet returning home from Afghanistan. Forced to pay back debts, he's left penniless and looking for work, able only to secure a job picking cucumbers. After a chance encounter with Ali, a Turkish born German businessman who owns a chain of snack bars, he is hired to be his driver. Of course, Ali is married to the younger Laura, and the love triangle is complete. The interaction between Laura and Thomas is quite superficial, their attraction never given much thought, something you have to accept, seeming to lust after each other rather than fall into anything that resembles ‘love’. In any event, the personal politics that occur to each character is what is most interesting here, with Laura getting most of my sympathy—literally bought by Ali, holding her debts over her (they are his debts now, but if she leaves, he can always place them back on her). Ali is a brute, a German citizen regarded as an outsider—when circumstances make his murder moot, he still gains no sympathy. Of course, Ali finds out about the infidelities, and no murder is actually committed, ultimately getting the last laugh by killing himself and leaving the two conspirators with nothing.

5. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

The sensuous wife of a lunch wagon proprietor and a rootless drifter begin a sordidly steamy affair and conspire to murder her Greek husband.

Director: Bob Rafelson | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, John Colicos, Michael Lerner

Votes: 18,778 | Gross: $12.38M

A rather pointless re-make, doing well to provide good atmosphere but ultimately feeling like an exercise to show the sex left out in the '46 version. That said, the sex is surprisingly graphic, but is never erotic, as Frank practically forces himself on Cora who finally gives in. Jessica was quite attractive back in the day, but pretty much screams her way through the entire film.

6. Ossessione (1943)

TV-14 | 140 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

Gino, a drifter, begins an affair with inn-owner Giovanna as they plan to get rid of her older husband.

Director: Luchino Visconti | Stars: Clara Calamai, Massimo Girotti, Dhia Cristiani, Elio Marcuzzo

Votes: 5,648

My favorite version of Postman, dropping the post-murder trial (while raising police suspicions, they seemingly get away with it) and focusing on the two lovers through and through. While not coming close to the intro of Laura in the ’46 Postman, the attraction between Giovana and Gina is felt immediately and never subsides, leaving no doubt that they long for each other. After doing away with Giovana’s husband, Gino has a difficult time dealing with the magnitude of his actions, becoming more withdrawn from Gina and subsequently pursuing someone else before coming back to Laura. That the events of this film focus entirely on the lovers and their range of emotions, made this more hard hitting than the other versions. Additionally, the portrayal of their dire realities adds a layer to desperation to their existence.

7. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Not Rated | 106 min | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery

A doomed female hitchhiker pulls Mike Hammer into a deadly whirlpool of intrigue, revolving around a mysterious "great whatsit".

Director: Robert Aldrich | Stars: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez

Votes: 15,709

A perfect example of the cynicism of noir, summarizing the paranoia that must have existed during the nuclear arms race. The name Mike Hammer is apt here, as the ‘hero’ is every bit as nasty and opportunistic as everyone seeking ‘the great whatsit’.

8. Lost Highway (1997)

R | 134 min | Mystery, Thriller

52 Metascore

After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius, Louis Eppolito

Votes: 111,818 | Gross: $3.80M

Riffs on Deadly, immediately apparent with the opening ‘moving highway’ that mimics the intro of Deadly. Additionally, there is the burning house on stilts, the strange mechanic, and other obvious nods. That said, this is a riff in the most superficial sense, as other than these bits, the rest of the movie exists on its own terms, without much context given as to the nature of these references. The imagery of LH is exquisite, dark and, at times, exceptionally creepy. Typical of Lynch, there are many details that shouldn’t be missed, seemingly required to put all the pieces together, with me, at the end, convinced that I may have missed several.

9. Rear Window (1954)

PG | 112 min | Mystery, Thriller

100 Metascore

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter

Votes: 371,065 | Gross: $36.76M

Initially a romance, with the laid up Jeff (Stewart) bemoaning his relationship with Lisa, with whom he doesn’t see a long-term future, unable to imagine her accepting the difficult, non-luxurious life of an itinerant photographer. Of course, there is great chemistry between them, and throughout the film they’ll become closer, as Jeff slowly pulls Lisa (and Stella) into his belief that his neighbor has murdered his wife and disposed of her body. It really is quite charming to see Jeff’s eyes marvel at the unexpected actions of his gal, as she becomes fully immersed in their attempts to uncover evidence of a neighbors misdeed.

10. Vertigo (1958)

PG | 128 min | Mystery, Romance, Thriller

A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore

Votes: 297,539 | Gross: $3.20M

My first ever watch of Vertigo was grand, and it became immediately clear that De Palma would latch onto the ideas here for both Obsession and especially Body Double. Stewart here is excellent, one of his few non-westerns that I like a great deal (I just have this irrational dislike of him), almost willfully falling into the conspirators plot, the perfect sucker for the job. Aside from Scottie, the sad thing about the film is that Kim Novak (twice!) allows men to transform her for their own means, breaking one man while being used by the other. I didn’t quite expect the ending here, or suspect that Scottie had it figured out, waiting for the transformation of Novak to be complete.

11. Obsession (1976)

PG | 98 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A wealthy New Orleans businessman becomes obsessed with a young woman who resembles his wife.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Lithgow, Sylvia Kuumba Williams

Votes: 7,207

Obsession asks, “what if Kim Novak were (literally) young enough to be Stewarts daughter” and moves into some disgusting territory from there, in what can only be called a rather silly and implausible homage to Hitch. That said, I like it a great deal.

12. Body Double (1984)

R | 114 min | Mystery, Thriller

69 Metascore

A young actor's obsession with spying on a beautiful woman who lives nearby leads to a baffling series of events with drastic consequences.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, Gregg Henry, Deborah Shelton

Votes: 23,539 | Gross: $8.80M

My favorite of this group of films--a great film--and on that owes an obvious debt to both Rear Window and Vertigo. De Palma utilizes the voyeuristic aspect of the former, and the unknowing-sap-who-aides-in-a-murder plotline of the later. Instead of the romance subplot of Vertigo, De Palma channels this Hitch-inspired thriller through a low budget horror/sleazy exploitation filter giving way to many delights: the almost too well cast Craig Wasson, the numerous film within films, the fact that this *is* really Vertigo dragged through the cinematic gutter—giving us some beautiful trash that oozes sleaze and bad taste but is all the more better for it.

13. Rear Window (1954)

PG | 112 min | Mystery, Thriller

100 Metascore

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter

Votes: 371,065 | Gross: $36.76M

One great attribute of Rear Window is its deliberate pacing, allowing us to become acquainted with the cast of characters: we observe Jeff’s relationship with his love (dis)interest Lisa, his friend Stella, witness their initial reaction to Jeff’s theory of his neighbors murderousness (he’s nuts!), and finally their conversion into willing participants in Jeff’s attempt at determining the fate of said neighbors supposed missing wife. Later, we are treated to a delightful romance between Jeff and Lisa, whom Jeff seems indifferent to initially, thinking her unable to meet the tough demands his life as an itinerant photographer entails. But, as each character becomes more convinced that the neighbor has murdered his wife, something happens that makes Jeff rethink his stance on Lisa: she begins to take a larger role in their detecting, taking on greater risks, things that would have seemed out of character early on but now show her more adventurous side; this adventurous side is an obvious turn on for Jeff who now sees Lisa in a new light.

14. Disturbia (2007)

PG-13 | 105 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

62 Metascore

A teen living under house arrest becomes convinced his neighbor is a serial killer.

Director: D.J. Caruso | Stars: Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sarah Roemer

Votes: 200,473 | Gross: $80.21M

Disturbia takes another approach to this story, not bothering to develop any of the characters and asking the audience to accept great leaps in logic. After an intro where we witness an accidental involving a father and teenage son, the surviving son, Kale, goes thru the obvious bout of remorse and depression, before slugging a teaching and promptly being put under house arrest. Kale begins spending his time peeing on his neighbors, taking particular interest in the teenage girl next door and, of course, thinking he had witnessed a murder perpetrated by a neighbor and we are set up in short time.

Superficial characterization aside, the biggest problems begin with the previously mentioned leaps in logic and head scratching character motivations. The girl next door catches Kale and a friend spying on her while swimming, figures that this spying has been going on for some time, and then decides that hey, we should all hang out! After some internet browsing, Kale finds stories of a serial killer on the loose and deducts that hey, this must be the guy! Kales friend, with no supporting evidence decides okay, I’ll help you out by doing some breaking and entering…and so on and so forth. Half-assed romance and catching of killer ensue. Disturbia is neither homage nor good imitation, falling into the pointless rip-off category, content to tell the story in a connect-the-dots fashion, piecing together a weak story and hoping that the cheap thrills of the finale mask the ineptness of all involved.

15. I Am Legend (2007)

PG-13 | 101 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

65 Metascore

Years after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters, the sole survivor in New York City struggles valiantly to find a cure.

Director: Francis Lawrence | Stars: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Votes: 601,886 | Gross: $256.39M

Three years after scientists find a cure for cancer using bioengineered viruses we are shown the consequences: a vacant city infested with zombie-like vampires (we did it to ourselves!). Things only go downhill from here, due mostly to the atrocious vampire special effects. The vampires, while cartoonish, are nasty beasts: fast and possessing supernatural strength that gives them some ridiculous abilities (like scaling tall buildings). When he is not out shooting up vampires, good ‘ol Neville--being a scientist and all--is searching for a cure for said vampire-ism.

The biggest difference between the 'I Am Legend' adaptations is the portrayal of the vampires. Here, the creatures appear almost mindless, always in search of a meal to quell their insatiable appetite. So animal-like that it’s difficult to think of Dr. Neville as ‘Legend’ since these zombies hardly resemble humans, at least not socially (hence having the creatures think of Neville as a legend hard to believe). This is somewhat remedied in the end, as Neville does find a cure, fights off the hordes of attacking zombies, and gets the cure into the hands of those who could use it (hence becoming a legend). Bleh.

16. The Omega Man (1971)

GP | 98 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Army doctor Robert Neville struggles to create a cure for the plague that wiped out most of the human race.

Director: Boris Sagal | Stars: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo

Votes: 25,421 | Gross: $8.72M

Here, humanity has been wiped out due to the spread of a biological weapon used in the China-USSR war (figures). The vampires here are of the more typical variety, having become albino and susceptible to sunlight (and bright light in general). These creatures are much more interesting than those of Legend due mostly to their acceptance of the plague, attributing it to an act of God, and seeking to start anew. To do so, they must forsake old humanity and all their creations (technology mostly, as they have no problem utilizing the existing infrastructure). This, of course, involves killing Neville, who is interested in finding a cure for the plague.

17. The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Not Rated | 86 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter.

Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow | Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart

Votes: 14,515

Easily the best of the three films. Dr. Robert Morgan is the sole survivor of a plague of unknown origins. Morgan is also a scientist (in fact, he was working on a cure to the plague when it became apparent that they were in the midst of a pandemic) whose days are filled with killing vampires and nights are best described as ignoring the vampires taunts. The creatures in Last Man are the most vampire-like of these films: averse to garlic, unable to stand sunlight, and repelled by their mirror image. That, and they’re easily killed by driving a wooden steak through their hearts (but their movements are zombie-like, much like Romero’s zombies).

Again we find a subset of the infected who themselves have developed a means to suppress the effects of the virus. This group seeks to find a cure for those who have yet to fully become a vampire, kill the remaining vampires, and begin civilization anew. However, when Morgan meets up with one of them, he finds that transfusing their blood with his cures them of the virus completely. Unfortunately, it seems as Morgan has killed a number of their kind before they were completely ‘dead’ (or turned), becoming a target of their vengeance and is killed before they know of his cure.

18. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson

Votes: 36,742

Considered by many to be superior to Frankenstein, I find both to be pretty much equal—both great—but for differing reasons. While I find Frankenstein to be genuinely frightening, in Bride I found myself more sympathetic toward the monster than previously. The monster is lonely and confused, wanting companionship and to encounter a human who *isn’t* frightened of him and wanting him dead. The monster is ultimately used as a means of coercion by Pretorius to aid in the creation of the bride, whose reanimation crushes the beast, as she too recoils at the mere sight of him (“she hates me!”).

19. Weird Science (1985)

PG-13 | 94 min | Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi

46 Metascore

Two high school nerds attempt to create the perfect woman, but she turns out to be more than that.

Director: John Hughes | Stars: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton

Votes: 67,790 | Gross: $23.83M

A combination of teen boy-type fantasies: the ridiculed nerd who gets the last laugh, and a typical sex fantasy that have been around for as long as I can remember. So, what are two boys with no friends and no chance at scoring with the female peers of their longing to do? Use their computer smarts to make a woman, obviously! Using select pieces of centerfolds from girly mags to outline the bulk of a female being (because her physical nature really is the most important thing), with some extras tossed in for her intelligence (in the form of and Einstein pic and Beethoven). Their scheme works, and we are introduced to Lisa, a beautifully slender sight who, over the course of a weekend, teaches the boys the confidence they need to stand tall, deal with the bullies, and get the girls. Lisa herself should be insulting, proudly proclaiming that she “belongs” to the boys and must do “whatever they say”, as they own her, but Kelly LeBrock plays Lisa with such confidence that she rises above merely being a mechanism for the boys wish fulfillment, making the film a bit easier to swallow. That said, many Hughes’ films seem intent on showing that the kids on the margins of high school society have within them traits to suggest they are being greatly undervalued by their peers. Then why do such film’s happy ending typically involve these kids being ‘accepted’ by those very groups that have caused them so much unhappiness?

20. Frankenhooker (1990)

R | 85 min | Comedy, Horror

A medical student sets out to recreate his decapitated fiancée by building her a new body made of Manhattan street prostitutes.

Director: Frank Henenlotter | Stars: James Lorinz, Joanne Ritchie, Patty Mullen, J.J. Clark

Votes: 7,228 | Gross: $0.21M

Frankenhooker plays Frankenstein as dark comedy, hilariously using gender (and societal) stereotypes to comment on the ideas of female creation (although to be honest, I am not so sure this was Henenlotter’s intention). Jeffrey Franken is a strange character that prefers his ‘experiments’ to socializing. Opening with the birthday party of his fiancée's father—Elizabeth, played by an actress in a fat suit—a lawnmower accident kills the poor girl, with Jeffrey left to scoop up what remains of her in hopes of piecing her back together. Unfortunately, only her head and other small parts were saved, making it necessary to find replacements. But where to find such parts? Being near NYC, it hits him, “across the river there are a lot of girls willing to sell their parts!” Jeffrey decides that he’ll make Elizabeth better than ever, giving her the body that *she* always wanted, using parts from prostitutes to do so, making the physically perfect girl. Coming to the realization of what he intends, Franken tries to back out only to be overpowered by the hookers who discover the ‘supercrack’ he intends to kill them with (they’re going to slowly kill themselves anyway as hookers and crack go hand in hand you see), showing these women to be beyond hope and subsequently giving Franken the parts he needs. Once Elizabeth is recreated (losing the fat suit to show her centerfold body), she is tainted by the parts of the hookers, wandering the streets in search of a date, before the films rather interesting ending.

21. Frankenstein (1931)

Not Rated | 70 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, John Boles

Votes: 55,077 | Gross: $12.00M

Frankenstein, while a movie monster icon, had never really registered with me as a great horror film. This viewing changed that, as it really is a spectacular film—creepy and absolutely frightening. Beginning with Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz diligently collecting body parts for the purpose of creating life, these scenes of grave and gallows robbing are rather eerie, setting the tone for the movies gloomy atmosphere. Eerie in that the couple are not just taking bodies, but body parts—doing so in a nonchalant fashion, immediately suggesting that Henry Frankenstein is a bit on the crazy side. All seems to go according to plan until Fritz accidently grabs the brain of a criminal to put the finishing touches onto their creation.

The use of the criminal brain is key, as it is used to imply that the monster will only know evil once the pieced together corpse is re-animated. This doesn’t quite jibe with the portrayal of the beast by Boris Karloff, who plays the monster as childlike—confused and innocent, albeit with great strength. This is something that has always made me sympathetic towards the monster (a feeling I also had when I read the novel), taking his actions as either unknowingly brutal or as a means of self-preservation. From his ‘birth’, the monster is tormented by just about everyone, so his reliance on his strength to subdue these threats isn't surprising.

The death of the girl triggers what is both a terrifying ending and one of the more amazing set pieces of the film. Once the townsfolk are made aware of her death, they unite to hunt down the creature, providing nighttime scenes of angry torch carriers led by barking hounds. These scenes of the lynch mob I found very disturbing, mostly due to the my imagining of how terrifying it must be to be pursued by such a mob, still not able to think of a worse way to spend the last minutes of life and becoming saddened by the plight of the creature. Retreating to a windmill, the mob realizes that he is trapped, setting fire to the structure, in the process creating an elegant shot of the mill aflame, and the monsters seeming demise.

22. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Not Rated | 98 min | Drama, Fantasy

87 Metascore

In 1940, after watching and being traumatized by the movie Frankenstein (1931), a sensitive seven year-old girl living in a small Spanish village drifts into her own fantasy world.

Director: Víctor Erice | Stars: Fernando Fernán Gómez, Teresa Gimpera, Ana Torrent, Isabel Tellería

Votes: 13,966

The Spirit of the Beehive was an exceptional double feature with Frankenstein, mostly due to the film being told through the viewpoint of a child, Ana, who’s innocence makes the world a place of confusion she attempts to understand. Taking place in 1940, after the ending of the Spanish civil war, in an isolated village, Ana spends most of her time playing with her sister Isabel in their mansion. The family—the sisters, the beekeeping father, and longing mother—are never shown together in one shot, with the servants having the most interactions with the children. In this isolated and lonely backdrop, the film Frankenstein is shown in their village, an event that Ana and Isabel (and most of the village) don’t miss. After the accidental drowning of the little girl, Ana has difficulty understanding the motivation of the monster—“why did he kill the girl” she asks her sister. Isabel, being only slightly older (and probably not understanding herself), promptly dodges the question, promising to tell her later.

Later, as Ana continues to ask this question, Isabel tells Ana that the events of the film were not real, although the monster itself is a spirit who she can speak to. Isabel continues to manipulate her naïve little sister, taking Ana to an abandoned building where she claims the monster lives. These scenes reminded me a lot of my older sister, who took great pleasure in my belief of her lies when we were growing up. Ana takes these things to heart and returns to the building alone in search of the monster, instead finding a soldier in hiding. In short time, Ana and the soldier develop a relationship, she bringing him food and clothing and dressing his wounds—sharing a moment where they listen to the tune emitted from a pocket watch. When she returns later, Ana finds the soldier gone, noticing fresh blood on the ground.

I didn’t think the child had put two and two together, but while dining later, her father produces the pocket watch—the fright displayed by Ana’s face not only tips off the father as to who abetted the soldier, but more so showing Ana’s belief that her father was responsible for the soldiers fate. This must have been absolutely frightening for the child, not understanding the context of any of these events, deciding that she must flee. Spending a night on the run, Ana comes face to face with Frankenstein’s monster, in a scene that recreates the events of that film. Two innocent souls trying desperately to understand the world around them—the actions of the ‘adults’ a mystery to them—seeming to signal danger, but something they cannot escape. While the monster is merely a figment of her imagination, Ana is left to experience the world—the audience being told that eventually, Ana will forget the trauma that she experienced. Somehow, I doubt it will be that easy.

23. Frankenstein (1931)

Not Rated | 70 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

An obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, John Boles

Votes: 55,077 | Gross: $12.00M

24. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)

R | 123 min | Drama, Horror, Romance

When the brilliant but unorthodox scientist Dr. Victor Frankenstein rejects the artificial man that he has created, the Creature escapes and later swears revenge.

Director: Kenneth Branagh | Stars: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hulce

Votes: 46,162 | Gross: $22.01M

25. The Maltese Falcon (1931)

80 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

A lovely dame with dangerous lies employs the services of a private detective, who is quickly caught up in the mystery and intrigue of a statuette known as the Maltese Falcon.

Director: Roy Del Ruth | Stars: Bebe Daniels, Ricardo Cortez, Dudley Digges, Una Merkel

Votes: 2,429

An interesting movie, overt in its suggestion of the sexual prowess of Sam Spade, a character with a constant arrogant smirk. I assumed that this layer of sleaze was acceptable being a pre-code film, but this theme was quite funny, giving his character the veneer of an opportunist, allowing Spade to easily maneuver between the law and the cast of characters each attempting to possess the fabled falcon. Of these characters, the small part of Wilmer was of note (especially when comparing the ’31 and ’41 versions), there seemingly a relationship (of the intimate variety) between him and Casper, or am I reading too much into Casper’s reluctance to give him up as the fall guy (that, and the unspoken communication between them during that scene)? Also, Spade’s strip-searching of Ruth Wonderly (to determine the thief of $100) was kinda shocking and yet hilarious, another scene to showcase Spade’s willingness to go that extra yard to come out ahead.

26. Satan Met a Lady (1936)

Approved | 74 min | Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery

A double-crossing woman, the two-timing P.I. she hires, the corpulent "empress of crime", and a gentleman thief are all after a priceless eighth-century ram's horn.

Director: William Dieterle | Stars: Bette Davis, Warren William, Alison Skipworth, Arthur Treacher

Votes: 1,555

Disappointing. I thought that a comedy version of Falcon might work out. Nope. Not funny. No chemistry between Bette Davis and Warren William, and William is a terrible Spade (oh sorry...Shane). I don’t want y’all to get the idea that I hated Satan, but it really is decidedly mediocre and the worst of the adaptations.

27. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Not Rated | 100 min | Film-Noir, Mystery

96 Metascore

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George, Peter Lorre

Votes: 133,064

Bogart is perfect in the role of Spade, needing nothing more than his calm demeanor, his tailored suit, and the ever present cigarette (yes, I agree with the masses - Bogie is the epitome of cool). More so than the ’31 Falcon, Bogart really does seem like a force to be reckoned with, ever suave in his handling of the law and falcon hunters alike, with the required physical demeanor needed to telegraph potential enemies to think twice before they act against him. A word should be said about Peter Lorre, a favorite of mine, and great as Cairo (I especially love the scene where they discover the falcon to be a fake, with Lorre stealing the scene with his outrage that yields to despair). Elisha Cook Jr. as Wilmer was excellent, losing the perceived ineffectiveness of the ’31 Wilmer, coming off as dangerously close to snapping, his anger towards Spade easily felt, and threatening at that. My only real issue with this version of Falcon is the attempted romantic aspect between Spade and Miss Wanderly which felt very fake to me, having spent so little time together (and I don’t easily buy into ‘the first time I saw you’ line). That, or Spade was just an @sshole who used this notion to get Miss Wanderly to more readily accept that she was caught, it all being a ruse. While I don’t think this was the intention, it is certainly something that would endear me more to (Bogart as) Spade.

28. The Invisible Man (1933)

Not Rated | 71 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.

Director: James Whale | Stars: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers

Votes: 24,239

From the moment we see Dr. Jack Griffin, wandering into a country inn—face wrapped in bandages and wearing some serious goggles—we are intrigued, as the abrupt entrance of the stranger immediately jolts the inns patrons, with his overall appearance prompting their suspicions (who the hell is this freak?). We learn that Griffin has discovered the secret of invisibility and has come to the inn in order to hide out and, hopefully, figure out a way to make himself visible again. We also are told that the potion that Griffin consumed will also slowly drive him mad (!).

The wife of the inn keeper soon tires of Griffin’s mysterious experiments and overt rudeness and orders her husband to give him the boot. Once the police get involved, Griffin finds no choice but to flee, removing his bandages and ‘exposing’ himself. This, of course, freaks everyone out including the inns keepers wife who runs around screaming hysterically for what seems like minutes, in a scene that I found absolutely hilarious (think silent film type emoting), one of the high points of this campy affair. The voice work of Claude Rains is excellent, ranging from a reassuring calm to a high pitched raving, the later increasing as the Dr. succumbs to the madness induced by the drug—becoming drunk on the power and money that his drug will surely bring. The story plays out as you expect, as Griffin is finally caught, but not before causing serious damage and finally meeting his end, allowing us the first look at Griffin in the whole film, his sole appearance before ‘The End’.

29. The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Approved | 58 min | Sci-Fi

A crazed scientist invents an invisibility formula. He plans to use the formula to create an army of invisible zombies.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer | Stars: Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault

Votes: 1,824

The Amazing Transparent Man is seemingly a rip-off of the The Invisible Man, but the films bad reputation I found to be undeserved. Now, it certainly doesn’t touch the greatness of the former film, but it is rather an interesting look into the anxieties of the era. The film opens with the prison escape of Joey Faust, a notorious safecracker who can break into (and apparently out of) anything. Faust is brought to Paul Krenner, a man who intends to build an invisible army to conquer the world (!). To do so, he coerces one Dr. Peter Ulof to continue his work on his invisibility machine (who requires Faust to get him the nuclear materials he needs to do so). What is interesting here is the guilt of the holocaust—Dr. Ulof is a survivor of the concentration camps where we learn he was forced to do experiments on other inmates, experiments that lead to the death of his wife. Additionally, the power of the invisibility machine is suggested to be akin to the nuclear bomb, with the film suggesting that such power should never have been developed in the first place (and that the fear of such power in the wrong hands is a development we have brought on ourselves).

30. Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

PG-13 | 99 min | Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi

48 Metascore

After a freak accident, a yuppie turns invisible and runs from a treacherous CIA official, while trying to cope with his new life.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean

Votes: 19,304 | Gross: $14.36M

Memoirs of an Invisible Man kinda sucked, trying to be both comedic and thrilling but failing at both. Chevy Chase as the invisible man doesn’t quite work, although to be honest the screenplay has too many contrivances to list, so there wasn’t much he could do. Also, I didn’t quite like our ‘seeing’ this invisible man—the film alternating between the audience able to see him and only able to see his actions, usually to illicit laughs—preferring the invisible man to actually be invisible.

31. The Invisible Woman (1940)

Approved | 72 min | Comedy, Romance, Sci-Fi

An attractive model with an ulterior motive volunteers as guinea pig for an invisibility machine.

Director: A. Edward Sutherland | Stars: Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Charles Ruggles

Votes: 1,588

In The Invisible Woman, we get a first stab at exploiting the power of invisibility for comedic purpose, riffing on the original and providing the first dose of femininity to partake in what appears to be an intoxicating ability. A rich lawyer provides funding for a scientist (Professor Gibbs) working on an invisibility machine. The problem, it seems, is that the rich lawyer is in financial distress, resulting in his cutting off funding for this research (right when Gibbs is looking for volunteers to test his device, d’oh!). Enter Kitty Carroll, a department store model that answers an ad calling for volunteers willing to become invisible (for free!). She does so in hopes of getting back at her mean spirited boss. Once Kitty is rendered transparent, the laughs are supposed to ensue, but there is not much laughs to be had I’m afraid. Eventually thugs attempt to steal the invisible device and Kitty, whose invisibility wears off unless she drinks alcohol (yep, a drunken naked invisible woman!), must get them out their predicament. The story wears thin quickly with the gags all pretty obvious (and lame). Kind of a yawner.

32. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Passed | 82 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

Two bumbling private eyes help a man wrongly accused of murder who has become invisible to help clear his name.

Director: Charles Lamont | Stars: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Nancy Guild, Arthur Franz

Votes: 3,990

Having a bit more laughs than the tepid Invisible Woman, this entry is a bit dull as the same jokes again and again grows tiresome after awhile; not a fan.

33. Hollow Man (2000)

R | 112 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

24 Metascore

When the leader of a team of scientists volunteers to be the test subject for their experiment in human invisibility, he slowly unravels and turns against them, with horrific consequences.

Director: Paul Verhoeven | Stars: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens

Votes: 110,458 | Gross: $73.21M

Hollow Man certainly changed things up, leaving comedy behind and diving into some tasteless territory. At this point in the game, the military is trying to gain the invisibility formula directly, a good excuse to have some hot shot scientist have access to all the materials he’ll need as well as a huge underground laboratory to conduct his experiments. As in the original Invisible Man, the lead scientist in Hollow Man, Sebastian Caine, has found the way to render animals invisible but bringing them back has remained elusive. We get a brief glimpse into Sebastian by way of his peeping on an unsuspecting neighbor, and then later his megalomania, making it unsurprising that when finally ‘bringing his invisible specimens back’, he decides to try out the formula himself before notifying his superiors. Things quickly go awry when his lab mates are unable to bring him back, making Sebastian a bit antsy with boredom until he finally realizes the potential of his being unseen—using the power to sexually violate women. Hollow Man could have been a really good movie, but once the sexual assaults occur things quickly go toward slasher-like territory, as Sebastian must knock off his fellow scientists who have ratted him out to the higher ups. Let me back up a bit...what I mean is that it would have been interesting to further explore how easily one might slip into doing wrong when given such power, but the film instead shows this only momentarily, quickly moving on to the slaughter. Verhoeven, as unsubtle as ever, while providing his usual tastelessness, seems to be uninterested here, making a surprisingly typical horror/thriller. At this point, I was invisible-manned-out.

Final conclusion: the power of invisibility seems to be greatly overrated (especially in those storylines where the consumer of the serum flirts with madness), as one needs to be naked to truly be unseen; apparently only living flesh can be made transparent, with nary a scientist able to make invisible clothes. And there is the problem—invisibilities biggest drawback is that one must be barefoot at all times. Forget the fact that it would get cold being naked (especially true in the original, taking place in the winter), but having to be constantly barefoot would certainly kill your feet. How much could a person take walking on city streets, through the woods, alongside dirt roads? I was always thinking of Bruce Willis in Die Hard who is almost defeated by broken glass simply due to the lack of footwear. This would be the downfall of anyone hoping to exploit invisibility—their feet would only get them so far.

34. La Jetée (1962)

Not Rated | 28 min | Short, Drama, Romance

The story of a man forced to explore his memories in the wake of World War III's devastation, told through still images.

Director: Chris Marker | Stars: Étienne Becker, Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich

Votes: 24,487

A phenomenal film, relaying in a series of still photographs the tale of WWIII’s aftermath. An amazing amount of ideas are contained in this tidy 28-minute short but the presentation is what makes the film a wonderful experience. The stills, accompanied with the narration, become exceedingly interesting once the details of the story are laid out; the tale is almost dream-like. Now, much has been said about the single moment of movement, which, once I was engrossed in the film, is an absolute marvel, giving the film a moment that really brings out an emotional response and elevates the film to the realm of greatness (obviously, I’d agree with those who have described the moment as ‘transcendent’). Is there another film, short or otherwise, where a single moment is so exhilarating that it completely changes our feelings of the whole?

35. Twelve Monkeys (1995)

R | 129 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

74 Metascore

In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Joseph Melito

Votes: 521,126 | Gross: $57.14M

Twelve Monkeys essentially takes the ideas presented in La Jetée and crafts an interesting tale of its own, using the ground work laid by the former film to follow James Cole, a prisoner chosen to travel back in time to collect info on a man-made virus that wiped out most of humanity and those believed responsible for its creation. The movie, while told in a straight forward fashion (as straight forward as a tale involving a man zipping back and forth through time can be), still takes on a surreal veneer, due mostly to its vision of the future and those seemingly in charge—I have always found it humorous that the scientists seemingly do not understand the rigors associated with time travel while choosing men they think can handle the rigors (why else do they make the post-travel interrogation confusing in itself, having trouble understanding James version of his ordeal?).

I am of the opinion that Bruce Willis turns in the best performance here, even as Pitt gets most of the accolades (I felt as if the experience of Cole was exhausting, both mentally and physically, with Willis convincing me of such). In my younger days I was of the opinion that Pitt was brilliant. Now I think Pitt over does it quite a bit (I’ll probably get some flack for this), giving us fake crazy instead of real crazy. Now, his actions certainly fit well in the context of the film, but it is what it is, a young actor giving us a superficial cartoon type of performance (most of the people in the ward do this as well). Of course this performance may well be what gives Willis’ performance a more genuine feel. Or maybe I just don’t know nuts when I see it.

36. Gremlins (1984)

PG | 106 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

70 Metascore

A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.

Director: Joe Dante | Stars: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, John Louie

Votes: 165,251 | Gross: $148.17M

Looking for a gift for his son, inept inventor Randall Peltzer stops into an antique store in Chinatown in hopes of finding that unique gift. After perusing the merchandise, and attempting to hock his wares, he decides that he must have the cute and cuddly (and oh so adorable) creature whimpering in the corner—a mogwai. But said creature is not for sale, being too much responsibility, or so says the shopkeeper. The shopkeepers grandson, however, secretly sells the creature (hey, they need the money), giving Randall 3 simple rules to follow: avoid bright light, don’t get them wet, and (whatever you do) don’t feed them after midnight. Is there anything you can’t find in an antique store in Chinatown? Brushing aside the shop keepers warning regarding the creature requiring great responsibility, Randall gifts the mogwai to his teenage son (teenagers being the paradigm of responsibility after all).

Now, once these rules are spoken we know that it’s only a matter of time before we see the consequences of their being broken. They are sensitive to bright light; water initiates a reproductive event; late night feeding induces a metamorphosis—the adorable critters transforming into nasty mischievous imps, intent on causing mayhem in the small town to which they’ve been brought. Gremlins is a fun little movie (and the rare ‘Christmas’ movie I dig), particularly once the vile creatures run amok, trashing the stereotypical quaint town with their reign of destruction and using the gremlins to riff on a number of films and film cliché’s. A frenetic string of gags, gross-outs, and riffs, the little beasties give the whole affair the feel of a live action cartoon with Dante, a better director than most have given him credit for, keeping the zaniness in-check until the two teenage protagonists can rid the town of their destructors (with the aide of the angelic Gizmo).

37. Ghoulies (1984)

PG-13 | 81 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

A young man and his girlfriend move into an old mansion home, where he becomes possessed by a desire to control ancient demons.

Director: Luca Bercovici | Stars: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nance

Votes: 6,736 | Gross: $35.00M

Ghoulies…isn’t very good. The film makes little sense, an excuse for little creatures to be summoned via black magic and stand around looking menacing (and by menacing I mean drooling and growling) for most of the films runtime. But, there is a bit of fun to be had. A nearing 40 college ‘kid’, Jonathan Graves (with fantastic feathered hair), decides to drop out so he can fix up his house, the house formerly used by his long departed father and his cult (for what? Dunno) who attempted to kill him shortly after his birth—being saved by a benevolent cult member who is now the current groundskeeper of the manse, and who disappears for most of the film only to show up in the end to save his ass yet again (didn’t see that coming!). Falling under the spell of the house, he conjures up the ghoulies, and some medieval midgets (because, you know, who doesn’t like midgets?), to do his bidding (although it isn’t at all that clear what he wants from). Finally, he throws a party (so that his college peers can be terrorized by the creatures) where the well-intact corpse of his dad is re-animated, hoping to retake…uh...retake what exactly isn't known. Okay, so not that much fun. But, the film was the first role for the amazonian (and very attractive) Mariska Hargitay who, it turns out, is not much of a screamer but hey, a detective Benson appearance is all right by me.

38. Critters (1986)

PG-13 | 86 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A group of small, furry aliens makes lunch out of the locals in a farming town.

Director: Stephen Herek | Stars: Dee Wallace, M. Emmet Walsh, Billy Green Bush, Scott Grimes

Votes: 26,499 | Gross: $13.17M

So after we had little creatures from the creepy old Chinese antique dealer and more little creatures from hell, we are brought creatures from…where else? Space! After escaping an intergalactic prison in a fully equipped spacecraft, the minute ‘krites’ flee a death sentence with a pair of bounty hunters hot on their tails—eventually forced to land on the only habitable nearby planet, Earth, to feed on the local wild life, touching down in a small rural town where set upon an unsuspecting family. These critters are especially nasty, ravenous and armed with sharp teeth and the ability to shoot steel-like ‘quills’ into their prey, quickly feeding on cattle and Billy Zane, before turning their teeth toward the rest of the isolated family, who luckily have a father willing to take the brunt of their voraciousness to save his family, and a brave young son (whose knowledge of explosives comes in handy) to save them. The females of this clan seemingly can only scream, serving as ‘critter alarms’ for most of the movie (however, the particularly inept character is saved for the town sheriff, who cowers in fear at every turn of the critters and their pursuers). Aside from the critters the two bounty hunters, able to morph into any human at will, do most of the damage, destroying the town buildings they come to in their search (with no provocation or evidence of krite hiding needed). Eventually, with a combo of the young sons intuitiveness and the bounty hunters weaponry, they successfully destroy the terrorizing critters, but not before the seeds of a sequel are left behind. So, more fun than Ghoulies, not nearly as good as Gremlins.

39. Bedazzled (1967)

Approved | 103 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

A hapless loser sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven wishes, but has trouble winning over the girl of his dreams.

Director: Stanley Donen | Stars: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch

Votes: 7,428

The original Bedazzled (1967) is one funny movie. Stanley Moon (Dudley Moore) is a cook at a Wimpy’s restaurant who becomes enamored with the waitress Margaret (Eleanor Bron). Realizing he’ll never have her and dissatisfied with life, Stanley attempts suicide…and can’t even get that right. Luckily, George Spiggot (Peter Cook)—The Devil Himself—intervenes, and offers Stanley a deal. You see, God and Satan have a wager going to see who can accumulate 100 billion souls first (did God really think he had a chance at this one?). For Stanley’s soul, Spiggot offers 7 wishes. Now, the guy trying to woo the girl usually lacks confidence, as seems to be the case with Stanley, so naturally he asks Spiggot for things that, he hopes, will impress Margaret. What follows is, for the most part, hilarious as each wish frustrates Stanley in their ability to bring him Margaret yet keep her as distant as he already knows.

Stanley can remove himself from each scenario by blowing a raspberry, brought back to Spiggot and his aides—the personification of the seven deadly sins (my fav being Vanity). After the abortion of each wish, Stanley is brought to Spiggot who is always in the middle of generating mayhem, mostly of the minor variety. What I found most amusing about Bedazzled was the witty dialog between Stanley and Spiggot, the satire somewhat dry yet pointed and funny. Additionally, this version does not suffer from the annoying contrivance of the sequel—Spiggot wins his bet with God, and Stanley, making a most detailed final wish (but forgetting to specify his sex in said wish), is stuck as a lesbian nun when Satan decides to be magnanimous, sparing him eternal damnation. Yet, because he did so for selfish reasons, God won’t allow him into heaven (God being a sore loser and all), with Spiggot vowing revenge:


All right, you great git, you've asked for it. I'll cover the world in Tastee-Freez and Wimpy Burgers. I'll fill it with concrete runways, motorways, aircraft, television, automobiles, advertising, plastic flowers, frozen food and supersonic bangs. I'll make it so noisy and disgusting that even you'll be ashamed of yourself! No wonder you've so few friends; you're unbelievable!


I think Satan may have gotten the last laugh.

40. Bedazzled (2000)

PG-13 | 93 min | Comedy, Fantasy

49 Metascore

Hopeless dweeb Elliot Richards is granted seven wishes by the Devil to snare Allison, the girl of his dreams, in exchange for his soul.

Director: Harold Ramis | Stars: Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Frances O'Connor, Miriam Shor

Votes: 88,108 | Gross: $37.88M

Brenden Fraser is Elliot Richards, a lonely computer programmer who comes across as desperate to connect with someone, anyone, in his futile search for companionship. The problem is that Elliot is a bit of a douchebag, first detected when tries to chummy up to a fellow employee—who is black—attempting to relate to him by speaking in an awkward, stereotypical ‘black’ vernacular. Next we are introduced to his other co-workers, each of whom does their best to avoid him due to his unbearable poseur-ism (because who want to hang out with *that* guy?). When he spots the object of his affection—Alison, a fellow employee he’s too shy to talk to—Satan (Elizabeth Hurley) comes to his aid with 7 wishes in exchange for his soul. At this point, the film becomes a string of (occasionally funny) gags as Satan does her best to spoil the outcome Elliot is hoping for (him and Alison falling in love in various contexts of his choosing): when Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful, he is made a Colombian drug lord…when he asks to be a star athlete, his low IQ and a small package negate any benefit to him…and so on. In each of these scenarios, Alison is also not what he expects, as Allison’s feelings never sync with his own.

The main failing of this movie is that Allison, the point of the wishes to begin with, is pushed aside; most of the sketches revolve around making Fraser look ridiculous with Allison almost an afterthought. Elliot finally realizes that he’ll not succeed in fulfilling his desires no matter how many wishes he’s granted (and I’m not sure why anyone would think that The Devil is trustworthy), managing to have his contract voided with a convenient contrivance—what is it with insisting that everything work out happily, even to the point where the final outcome makes little sense (why would Satan include such a clause?).

41. All That Heaven Allows (1955)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama, Romance

An upper-class widow falls in love with a much younger, down-to-earth nurseryman, much to the disapproval of her children and criticism of her country club peers.

Director: Douglas Sirk | Stars: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel

Votes: 10,871

Showcasing the weight of appearance and social acceptance, All that Heaven Allows is at once a soapy melodrama and a critique of superficial values of the 1950’s middle-class—a powerful force that tend to influence our decisions so as to not upset the social order.

A lonely, middle-aged widow, Cary Scott, upsets both her two grown children and her small town peers when, after her romantic flame is rekindled, she opts for her (much younger) gardener instead of a socially preferable elder gentleman. Of course, staying the course of continued loneliness would also be acceptable. The source of this rekindling is the handsome Ron Kirby who, aside from his stereotypically handsome features, is also a rigid non-conformist, choosing a path of his own design—the acceptance of his peers nothing more than a trivial afterthought.

Once the romantic aspect of the film is kicked into gear, the pressure placed onto Cary is immediately felt, most notably by the razor tongued Mona, who delights in spreading the gossip that works to undermine any happiness that awaits Cary. Then, there is Cary’s children who praise individuality and intellect until confronted with the reality of their mothers dating habits, quickly succumbing to their fears of what flaunting of convention will bring to *their* reputation, pushing their mother to forget Ron and, as a consequence, asking that she ignore her feelings and sacrifice her happiness.

The heart of the struggle is Cary’s own fear of upsetting convention and Ron’s unwillingness to accept that such a force is a real concern and not something easily be dismissed. Above all else is the hypocrisy seen when Cary initially chooses Ron, as the scenario would be barely noticed if Cary were an older man. As Cary struggles with the situation, Sirk lavishes the viewer with vivid color schemes and subversive visual choices—things not quite subtle but easily missed, when he isn’t blatantly being over-the-top.

42. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, Romance

An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Stars: Brigitte Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, Barbara Valentin, Irm Hermann

Votes: 15,044

Ali is a decidedly Sirkian film, and one that uses race as the societal “tsk tsk” factor. A much older widow, Emmi, stops into the local pub to escape the rain and meets the subdued El Hedi ben Salem, an Arab immigrant who goes by the generic Ali. Two marginalized figures in German society, both lead lonely and empty lives. Their meeting, and subsequent intimacy, revitalizes the pair, as both are initially elated in each other’s presence. Unfortunately, Emmi’s peers and children have issues with the pairing not so much because of Emmi’s age but rather that the object of her affection is an Arab.

We are soon shown how society reacts to their relationship: Emmi is shunned both by her neighbors and co-workers, with their public appearances eliciting stares and whispers from complete strangers. At home, Emmi’s children react violently when told of their mothers marriage to Ali. This doesn’t sit well with Emmi, who becomes more upset with each act of denigration.

Eventually, everyone cools to the idea of Emmi and Ali, and here is where Fassbinder is much more damning: once Emmi’s friends and co-workers accept Ali, Emmi accepts Ali’s treatment as a subject of novelty, as having Ali help the neighbors move furniture or basking in the accolades she receives after letting a neighbor feel his muscles, as if legitimatizing Ali’s earlier assessment: "German master, Arab dog". Moreover, Emmi willfully shuns a new immigrant co-worker, easily forgetting how such treatment made her feel.

43. Far from Heaven (2002)

PG-13 | 107 min | Drama

84 Metascore

In 1950s Connecticut, a housewife faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions in the outside world.

Director: Todd Haynes | Stars: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson

Votes: 39,441 | Gross: $15.85M

Todd Haynes introduces sexuality to this tale in Far From Heaven, introducing us to Cathy, a housewife whose life is thrown into turmoil after 1) discovering her husbands homosexuality and 2) subsequently finding herself attracted to her black gardener, Raymond Deagan (aside: has Julianne Moore ever been more lovely than she is here?). Raymond, much like Ron Kirby, is more than a handsome man, appealing to Cathy’s intellect during an art show, the two conversing about art and inciting the ire of the crowd—Raymond see’s Cathy as more than a housewife, with this scene showcasing them as equals. Later scenes of these two suggest that Raymond may be the first man in quite some time to actually listen to her, certainly a trait a women like Cathy (one dependent on men) would find appealing, it being no wonder she falls for hard for him.

Moore is given a lot to chew in this film and handles the role exquisitely, at once strong and compassionate, forgiving of her husbands transgression and violence, navigating through the expected pushback from both her peers, and Raymond’s, once the relationship begins to take. Of course, there is no happy ending here as in All that Heaven Allows and Ali, as Cathy loses both men—time and circumstance trumping ones desires.

At first glance, Haynes version, unlike Fassbinder’s, does seem to be a mere replication. That said, Heaven does stand on its own and is a superb addition to the previous two films.

44. Straw Dogs (2011)

R | 110 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

45 Metascore

L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both.

Director: Rod Lurie | Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, James Woods

Votes: 29,527 | Gross: $10.32M

The opening scene of Straw Dogs is telling, relaying the films intention of relying heavily on stereotypes (i.e. lazy storytelling) in its portrayal of the characters. We are witness to a beer-bellied southerner hunting for deer, rifle in one hand, Budweiser in the other.

David Sumner is a screenwriter who moves to the small Mississippi town where his current wife (and television actress), Amy, grew up. David is also a complete wimp. Stopping over at the local dive on their way into town, they promptly meet the rest of the cast: the town drunk, the town idiot, their future terrorizers, the lone black citizen (the sheriff) and Charlie, the former high school flame of Amy who immediately gets up close and personal with her, all within eye shot of David, who inexplicably decides that Charlie and his gang should be hired to patch the roof on their adjacent barn. Immediately the gang begins to lust after Amy and taunt David, both escalating as the film progresses.

The ambiguity of the original film is completely gone, as Lurie appears intent on recreating the intensity of the original, taking things up a notch by making the actions of the characters more explicit, but managing to create only a cheap imitation—a film where the actions of all involved make little sense, with nary the perversion of moral certainties that clouded the original. This version is incredibly black and white: the gang is bad, the town drunk is bad, the town idiot is used merely to trigger the films violent ending. David, while spineless, is good. Amy is a victim. Even as these things are generally the same as the original, the entire setup comes off as astoundingly different. There are attempts at explaining the animosity of David and Amy displayed by the town (again using stereotypes—big city/rural town, religion/atheist, etc.) but none are satisfying or even relevant, the end playing out like a typical home invasion flick.

All in all, the film left a bad taste in my mouth, making the US South seem like nothing more than a backward hate-filled place. While there are most certainly these types, the magnitude on display here is somewhat infuriating.

45. Straw Dogs (1971)

R | 113 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

A young American and his English wife come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment.

Director: Sam Peckinpah | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Susan George, Peter Vaughan, T.P. McKenna

Votes: 49,825

Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs challenges the viewers sense of morality at nearly every turn, creating a complex film that can endlessly be discussed.

Here, David is an American mathematician who moves to the childhood home of his wife, the English village of Cornwall. The tension between the couple is immediately felt, as they fight and bicker over the actions (and inaction) of the other, each differing in their interpretation of marital tasks and expectations. After being continually antagonized by the gang, their fighting takes on more heat. In terms of the division of marital tasks, it would appear that a man’s job would be to take care of the threat, easily done by firing the gang. But even this can’t seem to take, as David—played well by the increasingly timid Hoffman—opts instead to continually dodge the issue, raising the ire of his wife and successfully painting David as a coward.

The infamous rape scene is the most talked about aspect of this film (and understandably so), as audience expectation of victim reaction is completely thwarted (which I won’t address here). What I found fascinating was the final home invasion, triggered by an accidental shooting, and precipitating the violent ending (as opposed to the doings of an ignorant, malicious redneck of the remake). David is adamant about keeping the village idiot (Henry Niles) safe, ignorant to the accidental murder. Amy’s pleads with David to give him up to the gang. David, ignorant of his wife’s rape, ignores her pleas. But we know all of this, and this is what makes the finale so great, the sheer numbers of ways that each characters motivations can be read.

46. Rio Bravo (1959)

Not Rated | 141 min | Action, Drama, Western

A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.

Director: Howard Hawks | Stars: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson

Votes: 48,043 | Gross: $12.54M

Rio Bravo’s basic plot goes as such: sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests one Joe Burdette for brazenly killing a man in plain sight. Chance must hold Joe, the brother of ruthless outlaw Nathan Burdette, in the town jail until a U.S. marshal arrives in 6 days time. Nathan, for his part, schemes to have Joe broken out of jail before said marshal arrives.

The plots simplicity is misleading, as what makes Bravo interesting are the characters and their interactions with each other (actually, this applies to all three films). Chance knows that Nathan will do what it takes to free Joe but has only two other men to fend off Nathan’s henchmen—Dude, a drunk, and Stumpy, a gimpy old man. Chance must work which each of these (less than desirable) men if he wants to hold Joe and keep his life. Wayne plays Chance with a (small) bit of charisma, coming off as loyal to both men as well as exceptionally forgiving and empathetic towards Dude, a man who physically assaults him, gets drunk, and quits before coming around after each incident. In addition, a romantic subplot involving a bar girl, Feathers (Angie Dickinson), and Chance has Wayne simultaneously awkward and charming when interacting with her, a stroke of good luck for Hawks who seems to use Wayne’s awkwardness to further develop his character.

In the end, the three men with the eventual help of Feathers and a young gunslinger, both of whom force their help onto Chance, fend off their attackers. The cooperation of these individuals, each with differing personalities and bringing their respective attributes to the table is used similarly in both Night of the Living Dead and Assault on Precinct 13. The plot moves along slowly with the siege taking a back seat to Chances mustering a response to his immediate threat the best way he can and without allowing the town folk to put themselves in harms way.

47. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Not Rated | 96 min | Horror

7.9