Ones That Got Away, Part 4

Hey guys, it’s another round-up of movies that I’d love write about, but I can’t, because they’re not on Netflix. When are we going to get these on DVD? (Bonus: can you spot which ones would have run in Un-Super-Spies week?)

I Married a Witch (1942) showcases the comedic talents and otherworldly beauty of Veronica Lake at her best. French director Rene Clair didn’t lose his magic touch when he switched over to making Hollywood fare.
Ministry of Fear (1944) is another great Fritz Lang noir that’s fallen out of print. Ray Milland gets out of the insane asylum and immediately gets caught up in a Kafkaesque nightmare involving Nazi spies operating out of a carnival. As you may have guessd, no one believes him.
Five Fingers (1952) Joseph L. Mankiewicz won back to back Oscars for writer and director in ’49 and ’50, but this blackhearted spy thriller was not well received by fans who wanted another All About Eve. James Mason is a proper-butler-turned-nazi in Turkey.
The Crimson Pirate (1952) was Burt Lancaster’s excuse to re-team with his old acrobat buddy Nick Cravat and really have a ball. Robert Siodmak made the most lighthearted and rousing swashbuckler of its era.

Two Weeks in Another Town (1962). Ten years after The Bad and the Beautiful Vincente Minnelli and Kirk Douglas reteamed for another Hollywood tell-all, but this time they mercilessly exposed how much tackier Hollywood had gotten in the new era of international co-productions.
Funeral in Berlin (1966). Producer Harry Saltzman left the Bond series behind for Michael Caine’s more serious spy Harry Palmer. For this second Palmer movie, he got Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton to jump ship as well, but instead of getting frothier, they made a crisp, cool-headed, efficient little spy thriller.
Blue Collar (1978). Paul Schrader’s directorial debut is a lost classic of the ‘70s. Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor are disgruntled auto workers who decide to rob their own union office, only to discover that the books they’ve stolen have been cooked, and now they’re in big trouble.

Ones That Got Away, Part 3

I haven’t done a round up of Ones That Got Away recently, and I just took The Red House off the list, so lets identify seven more movies that I would write about if only I could find a copy on DVD or streaming.

You and Me (1938) was Fritz Lang’s only musical. A department store owner believes in giving jobs to ex-cons like George Raft and Sylvia Sidney, but their co-workers are planning a heist that will ruin everything. And they sing about the heavy hand of fate. Must be seen to be believed.

The Tall Target
(1951) is probably the only Civil War Noir. Dick Powell in his hard-boiled Murder My Sweet mode is a rogue cop (named John Kennedy!?!) who believes that president-elect Lincoln will be assassinated on the way to his inauguration, so he has to interrogate a train full of suspects on the way from New York to Washington. Another great noir from Anthony Mann.

A Thousand Clowns
(1965), directed by Fred Coe. This was one of the great ‘60s angry-man comedies, with Jason Robards repeating his Broadway role as a free-wheeling TV comedy writer who depends upon his 13 year old nephew to be the responsible one. Does anybody know why this has never been on video or DVD??

One of my favorite nights at the movies in the last few years was a double-feature at the Film Forum here in NYC of two totally forgetten French noirs from the ‘70s directed by Alain Corneau: Police Python 357 is a nightmarish gallows humor take on an out-of-control Diry Harry style cop. Serie Noire is an adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel about a door-to-door salesman who tries out a life of crime after he falls in love with a prostitute. Neither has ever come anywhere close to home video in America.

If they were to have a contest about which sci-fi movie most accurately predicted the future, the winner would surely be Death Race 2000. In what seemed to be an over-the-top satire, they speculate that, in the year 2000, America will become obsessed with a reality TV show that pits people against each other while ignoring the rise of a right-wing president who blames all terrorist attacks on France. How crazy!

I loved Robert Bierman’s dark comedy Vampire’s Kiss back when it was a cult-hit on VHS and I’d love to see if it holds up today. I’ve always remembered Nick Cage trying to casually explain away his attempt to bite his secretary’s neck: “Mescaline. Never try that again. Geez.”


Ones That Got Away, Part 2

Here’s some more highlights from the lamentable list of movies I can’t find copies of, taking us up to recent times. If I could re-watch them, I'd write 'em up!

The Red House (1947): Farmer Edgar G. Robinson has two rules for his foster daughter: Don't go into the woods, and ignore the screams coming from the red house! One of the most nightmarishly Freudian noirs, from the director of 3:10 to Yuma.

Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954): Mistreated prisoners run riot, until a sympathetic new warden and a smart prisoner reach an agreement for new reforms. Can they sell the plan to those on both sides of the bars that are calling for blood? Director Don Siegel at his best.

The Little Fugitive (1953): Early independent film about a little Brooklyn kid who is tricked into thinking he’s killed his older brother, so he runs away to live at Coney Island. This is a real favorite—I was shocked to see that it’s not longer available.

Shame (1968): Ingmar Bergman’s most underrated film concerns two apolitical Swedish musicians who ignore the near-future civil war raging all around them, until it’s too late to take a stand.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970): Elio Petri’s masterpiece won an Oscar, but it’s never been available on vhs or dvd here. A conflicted police chief wants to be caught for killing his mistress, but nodoby dares arrest him.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974): Before The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate, Michael Cimino made this leaner modern-day heist-western with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges.

Tampopo (1985): A zany Japanese tribute to Italian “spaghetti westerns”. The result is a modern-day “ramen Western” in which a resourceful drifter protects a noodle shop.

Hands on a Hard Body (1998): Small-town Texas documentary about oddballs competing to see who can keep their hands on a truck the longest. It turns out that one of them has a secret weapon: he’s seen a little movie called Highlander.


Ones That Got Away…

As you folks might imagine, I have a big list of underrated movies to cover. I re-watch the movies in order to write them up, so that means I either have to own them, download them, or rent the dvds through Netflix. Unfortunately, a lot of movies I’d love to cover aren’t available through Netflix at all, and I haven't yet found them for download. Some have never been released on any form of home video. Others were once available on dvd but they’ve have fallen mysteriously out of print. Film Noir Week was especially hard hit. Instead of doing so many hit-man movies, I’d wanted to spotlight some noirs told from a woman’s perspective, but I couldn’t get my hands on them.

Here’s a list of eight examples just through 1950. I throw out an appeal to you, my loyal readers. Are there vast untapped reserves of downloadable or rentable movies out where I could find any of these?

Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman (1928). Buster gets a job shooting newsreel footage on the mean streets of New York. People assume that Buster lost his shine once he had his director’s hat taken away, but you can still see his steady hand here.
Just Imagine (1930) One of the weirdest movies ever made. A man wakes up in the far future—1980, where everyone has a number, not a name. Did I mention that it’s a zany (and racy) musical?
Red Dust (1932) Jean Harlow steams up Clark Gable on a rubber plantation, from the co-director of Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.
Tales of Manhattan (1942) Director Julien Duvivier follows one tail coat through five different stories, representing different genres and different levels of wealth. One of my all-time top ten!
The Window (1949) Little Bobby Driscoll, sleeping on the fire escape of his dirt-poor tenement, becomes a witness to murder, then has to avoid the killers himself.
My Name is Julia Ross (1945) A madman expects his secretary to become his wife, and then his prisoner. This harrowing noir could have been written by Betty Friedan.
Caught (1949) Max Ophuls directed this one about a woman who marries a possessive millionaire. Check out that cast!
Quicksand (1950) Mickey Rooney’s all grown up and ready to do a hold-up or two for a femme fatale!