The Twenty Greatest Underrated Directors

March 20, 2017

These names are seldom above the title, so you might not know who they are.  But, you have probably been affected by their work, and I suppose, in the final analysis, that is what’s most important.  With that, I give you  The Twenty Greatest Underrated Directors.

In no particular order…

  1. Hal Ashby.  Former film editor had some big hits in the 1970’s, Shampoo (1975) and Coming Home (1978), bringing his own special brand of counterculture to all his best work.
  2. Paul Mazursky.  He brought an ethnic quality to his humanistic landscapes, Harry and Tonto (1974) and Unmarried Woman (1978).  He also had a gift with dialog.
  3. Robert Mulligan.  Much of Mulligan’s work is from an observer’s distance, yet the emotions are always full.  His work with children in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) is among the finest ever elicited by a director.
  4. Martin Ritt.  Actors not only did their best work under his guidance but also their most honest.  Films include Hud (1963) and Norma Rae (1979).
  5. Robert Aldrich.  Independent director had a couple of big hits, Baby Jane (1962) and Dirty Dozen (1967).  However, his real originality was displayed in Kiss Me Deadly (1955), one of the best of all film noirs.
  6. Richard Fleisher.  Son of animator Max Fleisher made two excellent crime dramas, Compulsion (1958) and The Boston Strangler (1968), and possibly Disney’s best live action feature 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954).
  7. Alan Pakula.   Once a producer only, To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), Pakula made some fine films that have both an intelligence and a verve, Klute (1971) and All The President’s Men (1976).
  8. Bill Forsyth.  This Scottish filmaker has a penchant for the eccentric and made some beautiful films, Housekeeping (1987) and Local Hero (1983).
  9. Bob Rafelson.  Having made such a sensation with Five Easy Pieces (1970), the rest of his filmography seems disappointing, but Stay Hungry (1975) is quite interesting.
  10. William Dieterle.  He definitely brought a Germanic look to all of his best films, Hunchback (1939) and The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941).  He was one of the many German ex-patriots that Hollywood embraced during the 1930’s.
  11. Frank Perry.  Most of his scripts were written by his wife Eleanor, but Perry brought his own detached melancholy to the best of his works, David and Lisa (1962) and Last Summer (1969).
  12. George Pal.  Former animator of Puppetoons (1932), Pal made some unique entries into the fantasy genre , The Time Machine (1960) and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964).
  13. Ralph Nelson.  Former television director, he hit his stride in the 1960’s with his Lilies of the Field (1963) and Charly (1968).
  14. Michael Ritchie.  Thematically, his best films are about America’s obsession with competition, The Candidate (1972) and Bad News Bears (1976).
  15. Robert Siodmak.  Another German director with an expressionistic eye, he made two gems from the noir world, The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1947).
  16. John Frankenheimer.  His range as a director is quite remarkable.  His best work, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), shows a European influence.
  17. John Sturges.  He was primarily known for action films like The Magnificent Seven (1964).  However, he made an important film about racism, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), which showcased his capabilities.
  18. Jules Dassin.  Blacklisted director had one popular international hit, Never on a Sunday (1960).  His early noir efforts produced the classic Night and the City (1950), but because of McCarthyism, he was not allowed to work in his country.
  19. Stanley Donen.  His brilliant work with Gene Kelly overshadowed his fine solo work which includes Charade (1963) and the unusual Two for the Road (1967).
  20. Dario Argento.  Italian horror maestro has some set pieces that have to be seen to be believed.  Some key films are Deep Red (1975) and Suspira (1977).

The Twenty Greatest Disturbing Films

August 20, 2016

Is it an achievement to mess with the audience, to play with their sensibilities?  Well, it could be, if there’s a psychology behind it, or if it’s tied to something that’s significant. Now, is that entertainment?   I believe Martin Scorsese said it best when he was referring to the films of Cronenberg-“He goes to the soft spot in our brain”.  So, with these intriguing thoughts, I give you “The Twenty Greatest Disturbing Films”.

In no particular order…

1.”Dead Ringers”  (1988)  David Cronenberg.  It’s hard to describe the feeling that Cronenberg evokes in this most disquieting of films-something like majestic fatalism.

2.”Lord of the Flies”  (1963)  Peter Brooks.  This film so terrified me when I was young that it’s still hard for me to talk about it.  I will say just say this:  Creepy murdering English boys, yikes!

3.”The Possession of Joel Delaney”  (1972)  Waris Hussein.  Seldom seen shocker goes deep into some weird stuff.

4.”Funny Games”  (1997)  Michael Haneke.  Sadistic, grim, and not particularly cheerful, it’s undeniably well done, though.

5.”A Clockwork Orange”  (1971)  Stanley Kubrick.  This still controversial film polarized many in its day, and probably always will.

6.”Freaks”  (1932)  Tod Browning.  Critics may now regard this notorious film with favor, but it outraged audiences in its day for Browning’s use of real freaks as figures of horror.

7.”Straw Dogs”  (1971)  Sam Peckinpah.  Peckinpah probes the male psyche in a way few filmmakers would ever dare.

8.”The Devils”  (1971)  Ken Russell.  Nymphomaniac nuns, a lustful priest, and people burned to death for being witches set the stage for this madhouse of a film.

9.”Bully”  (2001)  Larry Clark.  The pathology spills over to a group homicide in this hard-hitting tale.

10.”The King of Ants”  (2002)  Stuart Gordon.  This seldom seen film is quite a discovery-a horrifying look at one’s man descent into murder.

11.”Kissed”  (1996)  Lynne Stopkewich.  This film is hard to describe.  Let’s just say this gal is a little too fond of the dead.

12.”Looking for Mr. Goodbar”  (1977)  Richard Brooks.  The swinging singles lifestyle of the 1970’s is given a nightmarish treatment in this heavy-handed, but effective piece of horror.

13.”1900″  (1977)  Bernardo Bertolucci.  This Marxist epic is definitely more shocking than “Last Tango in Paris”.

14.”Blue Velvet”  (1986)  David Lynch.  I find the film strangely charming, but many were put off by the highly charged sexuality and violence that surrounds Lynch’s surreal masterpiece.

15.”M”  (1933)  Fritz Lang.  The ironies are fierce in this groundbreaking work.

16.”Out of the Blue”  (1982)  Dennis Hopper.  Uncompromising look at one family literally imploding after their father returns from prison.

17.”Heavenly Creatures”  (1994)  Peter Jackson.  By delving into the twisted imaginings of two teenage girls,  Jackson intensifies the notion of their brutal act.

18.”Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer”  (1990)  John McNaughton.  What makes this film so terrifying is that it feels like your watching a documentary.

19.”Casualties of War”  (1989)   Brian De Palma.  Haunting and heartbreaking retelling of a truly terrible incident committed during the Vietnam War.

20.”Seven Beauties”  (1976)  Lina Wertmuller.  Corrosive black comedy about the cost of survival.