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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Bill Forsyth. This Scottish filmaker has a penchant for the eccentric and made some beautiful films, Housekeeping (1987) and Local Hero (1983).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Ralph Nelson. Former television director, he hit his stride in the 1960’s with his Lilies of the Field (1963) and Charly (1968).
- Michael Ritchie. Thematically, his best films are about America’s obsession with competition, The Candidate (1972) and Bad News Bears (1976).
- Robert Siodmak. Another German director with an expressionistic eye, he made two gems from the noir world, The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1947).
- John Frankenheimer. His range as a director is quite remarkable. His best work, The Manchurian Candidate (1962), shows a European influence.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).