October 20, 2015

Since time has diminished the impact of these early films, I doubt they are going to scare the hell out of you anymore.  But what they may lack in terror, they more than make up in style and sheer, unbridled imagination. Many of the architects of the German Expressionist Movement, desperate to escape the tyranny of Hitler, came to America and  created some of the most amazing sets ever built.  Through innovative cinematography, these artists produced films that are now regarded as timeless classics of the genre.  So, in the spirit of Halloween, here are The Twenty Greatest Horror Films of the Thirties.

In no particular order…

  1. Mad Love (’35)  Karl Freund  (Grand guignol at its best)
  2. Island of Lost Souls (’32) Erle C. Kenton (H.G.Wells hated it, but it’s one of the best)
  3. Frankenstein (’31) James Whale (The daddy of them all!]
  4. Freaks (’32) Tod Browning (The most controversial of the 30’s horror films)
  5. King Kong (’33) Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack ( Not much more to say about this masterpiece)
  6. The Mummy (’32) Karl Freund (Beautiful and strangely poignant)
  7. The Devil-Doll (’36) Tod Browning (His last masterpiece)
  8. Murders in the Zoo (’32) Edward Sutherland (Depraved early chiller with a sadistic opening scene)
  9. The Black Cat (’34) Edgar G. Ulmer (Crazy ass film that has several perverse themes)
  10. Murders in the Rue Morgue (’32) Robert Florey (One of the most Germanic and wildly sexual of these films)
  11. Doctor X (’32) Michael Curtiz (Two tone technicolor film is quite unhinged)
  12. The Old Dark House (’32) James Whale (Funny film with great ambiance)
  13. The Mask of Fu Manchu (’32) Charles Brabin and Charles Vidor (Decadent and ornate)
  14.  Mystery of the Wax Museum (’33) Michael Curtiz (Long lost film disappointed many)
  15. The Bride of Frankenstein (’35) James Whale (Some regard it as superior to the original)
  16. Dracula (’30) Tod Browning (Stilted version of Stoker classic with a legendary performance by Lugosi)
  17. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (’32) Rouben Mamoulian (The most imaginative and best version of this classic tale)
  18. The Raven (’35) Lew Landers (Second pairing of Karloff and Lugosi-great fun)
  19. The Invisible Man (’33) James Whale ( Extremely entertaining and fanciful version of Wells’ novel)
  20. Dracula’s Daughter (’36) Lambert Hillyer (Lesbian overtones-wow!)


September 20, 2015

What does it mean to call a film underrated?  Does it suggest that it wasn’t properly evaluated the first time around?   Consider a film like The King of Comedy (’83)… Because of the previous associations of director Martin Scorsese and star Robert DeNiro, the expectations were perhaps too high. Instead, moviegoers experienced a film of such irony that it made them uncomfortable. The King of Comedy was dismissed by critics and audiences alike; it is now regarded by many to be a masterpiece.  Is it  possible that the passing of time helps us “catch up” with some films and gives us a chance to re-evaluate them?  Hopefully, my list of The Twenty Greatest Underrated American Films will steer you to some of these extraordinary works that were not appreciated in their time.

In no particular order…

  1.  Cutter’s Way (’81 ) Ivan Passer  (The greatest film you’ve never seen.)
  2. Wise Blood (’79)  John Huston (Faithful adaption of Flannery O’Connor’s novel)
  3. Mad Love (’35) Karl Freund  (Grand guignol at its finest with an amazing performance by Lorre as Dr. Gogol)
  4. Where’s Poppa? (’70) Carl Reiner (Outrageous black comedy)
  5. The Scarlet Empress (’34) Josef von Sternberg (Ornate, puzzling, and visually stunning)
  6. Slaughterhouse-Five (’72) George Roy Hill (Near-perfect adaption of Vonnegut’s novel, financed by Universal!)
  7. Quick Change (’90) Howard Franklin, Bill Murray (Inventive, hilarious dark comedy)
  8. At Close Range (’86) James Foley (Moody crime drama, featuring a frightening performance by Walken)
  9. The Day of the Locust (’75) John Schlesinger (A surreal and downbeat film that alienated audiences in its day)
  10. The King of Comedy (’82) Martin Scorsese (As I mentioned earlier, a truly misunderstood film)
  11. The Night of the Hunter (’55) Charles Laughton  (An audacious film debut by Laughton)
  12. The Ice Storm (’97) Ang Lee (Haunting, spare statement on middle-class angst)
  13. Handle With Care (’77) Jonathan Demme (Funny, lyrical look at the universal need for communication)
  14. 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (’64) George Pal (One of the most imaginative and moving children’s film)
  15. The Seventh Victim (’43) Mark Robson (Val Lewton’s unusual film of infinite sorrow)
  16. The Long Goodbye (’73) Robert Altman Modern day Marlowe tale with a rhythm all its own)
  17. The Other (’72) Robert Mulligan (A quiet shocker)
  18. Night Moves (’75) Arthur Penn (Film Noir as existential dread)
  19. Housekeeping (’87) Bill Forsyth (One of the more haunting films I’ve seen)
  20. The Unknown (’27) Tod Browning  (Chaney’s finest hour in Browning’s sadomasochistic masterwork)


August 20, 2015

Yes, it was harder to come up with this list than the one of male villains, but in cinema history there are some juicy choices, indeed!  I mean, you got your Bette Davis feeding her sister her dead bird in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (’62) or angel-faced Gene Tierney letting a little boy drown in “Leave Her to Heaven” (’45).  And if those two don’t tickle your fancy, you have Patty McCormack, an adorable little girl, drowning a little boy in “The Bad Seed” (’56).  One thing all these ladies have in common is that you wouldn’t want to get any of them angry.  So, with those precious thoughts, I give you “The Twenty Greatest Female Villains”. See link to Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed…Classic.

In no particular order…

  1. Bette Davis     Baby Jane     What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (’62) Frightening opening scene
  2. Piper Laurie     Margaret White     Carrie (’76)
  3. Gene Tierney   Ellen Berent Havland     Leave Her to Heaven (’45)
  4. Kathy Bates     Annie Wilkes     Misery (’82)
  5. Katherine Hepburn     Violet Venable     Suddenly Last Summer (’59)
  6. Louise Fletcher     Nurse Ratched     One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (’75)
  7. Glenn Close     Alex Archer     Fatal Attraction (’87)
  8. Jessica Walters     Evelyn     Play Misty for Me (’71)
  9. Sissy Spacek     Carrie White   Carrie (’76)
  10. Angelica Huston     Lilly Dillon.    The Grifters (’90)
  11. Charlize Theron     Aileen Wuornos    Monster (2003)
  12. Olivia de Havilland     Miriam Deering     Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (’64)
  13. Patty McCormick     Rhoda     The Bad Seed (’56)
  14. Faye Dunaway     Joan Crawford.    Mommie Dearest (’81)
  15. Barbara Stanwick     Phyllis Dietrichson     Double Indemnity (’44)
  16. Shelley Winters     Mrs. Rose Forrest     Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (’72)
  17. June Allyson     Ann Downs     The Shrike (’55)
  18. Zoe Tamerlis Lund     Thana    Ms. 45 (’81)
  19. Angela Lansbury     Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin     The Manchurian Candidate (’62)
  20. Shirley Stoler     Martha Beck     The HoneyMoon Killers (’69)

Next Twenty Greatest American Films





In response to the comments posted regarding my list of the 20 greatest American films, I realized that I needed to continue my list.  A great film will always be left off when a list is made, since the choices reflect the perspective of the person making the selections.  It’s all so bloody subjective! With that in mind, here is my list of the next twenty greatest American films.  Again, if you don’t agree, feel free to post your own on comments.

    The Next Twenty Greatest American Films

July 20, 2015

In no particular order…

21.  Silence of the Lambs (’91) Jonathan Demme

22.  A Clockwork Orange (’71) Stanley Kubrick

23.  Casablanca (’43) Michael Curtiz

24.  Treasure of the Sierra Madre (’48) John Huston

25.  Fargo (’95) Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

26.  Frankenstein (’31) James Whale

27.  Double Indemnity (’44) Billy Wilder

28.  The Asphalt Jungle (’50) John Huston

29.  Apocalypse Now (’79) Francis Ford Coppola

30.  Taxi Driver (’76) Martin Scorsese

31.  Rear Window (’54) Alfred Hitchcock

32.  Modern Times (’36) Charlie Chaplin

33.  It Happened One Night (’34) Frank Capra

34.  The Wild Bunch (’69) Sam Peckinpah

35.  On The Waterfront (’54) Elia Kazan

36.  Pinocchio (’40) Walt Disney

37.  King Kong (’33) Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

38.  All That Jazz (’79) Bob Fosse

39.  The Apartment (’60) Billy Wilder

40.  The Bridge on the River Kwai (’57) David Lean

Twenty Greatest Male Screen Villains

June 20, 2015

Notes on Villains:

What is a villain?   Is he a hero who lost his way?  Or a person of evil intent?  Do you like your villains outrageously funny like Bobby Peru from “Wild at Heart”? Or poignant like Perry from “In Cold Blood”?  Or charming like the grinning Irishman Danny from “Night Must Fall”?  The one thing they all have in common is that we can’t keep our eyes off of them.  Brad

In no particular order..

1.  Robert Mitchum           Harry Powell                     Night of the Hunter (’55)                  Charles Laughton

2.  Joe Pesci                     Tommy DeVito                  Goodfellas (’91)                                Martin Scorsese

3.  Christopher Walken     Brad Whitewood, Sr.         At Close Range (’86)                       James Foley

4.  Charles Laughton        Doctor Moreau                  Island of Lost Souls(’32)                  Erle C. Kenton

5.  Dennis Hopper            Frank Booth                      Blue Velvet (’86)                               David Lynch

6.  Scott Wilson                Dick                                  In Cold Blood (’67)                           Richard Brooks

7.  Anthony Perkins          Norman Bates                  Psycho (’60)                                     Alfred Hitchcock

8.  Willem Dafoe               Bobby Peru                      Wild at Heart (’90)                            David Lynch

9.  Robert Blake               Perry                                 In Cold Blood (’67)                          Richard Brooks

10. Robert Montgomery  Danny                               Night Must Fall (’37)                        Richard Thorpe

11. Ray Liota                   Ray Sinclair                      Something Wild (’86)                       Jonathan Demme

12. Ted Levine                 Buffalo Bill                        The Silence of the Lambs (’91)       Jonathan Demme

13. James Caan              Roy Sweeney                    Flesh and Bone (’93)                      Steve Kloves

14. Laurence Olivier        Szell                                   Marathon Man (’76)                       John Schlesinger

15. Anthony Hopkins      Hannibal Lecter                 The Silence of the Lambs (’91)      Jonathan Demme

16.  Richard Widmark     Tommy Udo                       Kiss of Death (’47)                         Henry Hathaway

17. Boris Karloff              Hjalmar Poelzig                 The Black Cat (’34)                        Edgar G. Ulmer

18. Bela Lugosi              Dr. Mirakle                          Murders in the Rue Morgue (’32)   Robert Florey

19. Peter Lorre               Doctor Gogol                      Mad Love (’35)                               Karl Freund

20 Javier Bardem           Anton Chigurh                    No Country for Old Men (2007)     Coen Brothers

Top Twenty Greatest American Films-

To provoke thought and discussion every month I will post a new list of Twenty film related topics……..If you don’t like them, feel free to post your own on comments!                                                                                                                                                                                                                   In no particular order….

1.To Kill a Mockingbird  (’62) Robert Mulligan

2. Citizen Kane  (’41) Orson Wells

3. Dr. Strange Love  (’64) Stanley Kubrick

4. The Godfather  (’72) Francis Ford Coppola

5.Chinatown  (’74) Roman Polanski

6. 2001  (’68) Stanley Kubrick

7. Sunset Blvd.  (’50) Billy Wilder

8. MASH  (’70) Robert Altman

9. Midnight Cowboy  (’69) John Schlesinger

10. City Lights  (’31)  Charlie Chaplin

11. The Maltese Falcon  (’41) John Huston

12. From Here to Eternity  (’53) Fred Zimmerman

13. Lawrence of Arabia  (’62) David Lean

14. Vertigo  (’58) Alfred Hitchcock

15. Goodfellas  (’90) Martin Scorsese

16. Annie Hall  (’77) Woody Allen

17. Wizard of Oz. (’39) Victor Flemming

18. Psycho  (’60) Alfred Hitchcock

19. Streetcar Named Desire  (’51) Elia Kazan

20. The Graduate  (’67)  Mike Nichols