Sunday, November 10, 2013


There's a great moment at the end of the  film The Time Machine where Filby discovers his friend has returned to the future and taken three books with him…"But which three?" he wonders. Like Filby, if given the chance to grab a few of my favorite films, which ones would I choose. Now the obvious choice is to stick with the classics, grabbing Casablanca, The Third Man and Lawrence of Arabia….but I'm afraid I probably skip what I feel are the BEST films I've ever seen and just grab a few of my "entertainments". Don't get me wrong, the aforementioned films are certainly among the most entertaining I've ever watched, as well as the most of the work of Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Ernst Lubisch, John Sayles and so many other of the truly great ones.But when it's just you and you'll bowl of popcorn and you want a relaxing evening, what do you watch just for fun. (Sorry, no superhero films in either my BEST of FAVORITE lists.Certainly not in my top 100, and probably not in my top 1000.)
(After adding in all the art to have some visuals I realized you really have to have some images from the films themselves. Don't cheat your viewers...)

Since this conversation started with The Time Machine, the 1960 George Pal film has to certainly be included. I watched it last on the eve of the millennium, a hundred years to the day when the story takes place. The cast headed by Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimeaux is superb. I was so disappointed when I saw Alex Toth's adaptation of the movie that he didn't draw a likeness to the latter. Really great special effects for the time and the Morlocks scared the crap out of me.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Laughs from beginning to end with a really wonderful cast headed by Matthew Broderick, but with great bits by Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones. While I was amused by the recent Super Bowl commercial featuring Broderick, I've always wondered why there wasn't a follow up film of Ferris taking a day off in his adult life.

Charlie Chan. Any of the  earliest films of this series with Warner Oland are the best, and the Sidney Toler versions are still excellent. Absolutely great scripts with amazing lighting and cinematography. It's hard to believe that these are just "B" movies. It's easy to see the influence of these films on Will Eisner and many of the early cartoonists. While it's unfortunate that the character was portrayed by non asians, it is important to remember that Earl Derr Biggers created Charlie after real life Honolulu Chinese detective and the books were written as an alternative to Fu Manchu and the "yellow peril".

Raiders of the Lost Ark. While I've never thought of Spielberg as a great director, he has certainly done some fun stuff. You can't get much better than the chemistry between Harrison Ford and Karen Allen (something that was missing in the sequels.) Romance, action, great villains and lots of very creepy sets.

The Usual Suspects.  Twists and turns galore with a truly "didn't see that one coming" ending. Kevin Spacey and Gabriel Byrne at their best. Perhaps at bit of a homage to Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios (which was made as The Mask of Dimitrios with Peter Lorre and Zackary Scott.)

Nero Wolfe. When this A&E series came out with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe I was very skeptical. Archie should be Cary Grant of James Garner! But after watching a few of the episodes, which were very faithful adaptations of the Rex Stout stories, I was hooked, and can't imagine anyone else as these characters. A great ensemble cast who would continually change roles as supporting characters. Kari Matchett as Lily Rowan (and several other femme fatales)…perfect!!

The Falcon. When you're watching Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent and George Sanders shows up as the  British Agent, your immediate reaction is why isn't he the star of the movie? Sanders does appear in another Hitchcock film, Rebecca,  where he plays the smarmy cousin who's had an affair with the dead lady in the title, but he was best when he played the suave and sophisticated leading man. He did this both in the Falcon series and later in several films in which he played Simon Templar, also known as the Saint, written by Leslie Chartiris.  The Falcon Takes Over is the first screen adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel (Farewell My Lovely) adapted with the Falcon in the Philip Marlowe role. In both series, George's real life brother, Tom Conway, shows up to play his brother on screen.

The Road to Utopia. Watch any of the Road films with Bob Hope and Big Crosby and you can't go wrong. Their ad libs and their asides to the audience are priceless. As Bing maneuvers a romantic moment with the ever present Dorothy Lamour , Bob turns to us:"Go out and get your popcorn,folks. He's gonna sing." Robert Benchley "narrates" the film since as he explains, the studio didn't think we could understand it otherwise.

As a kid, comics were great, but movies were truly the doorway to another world. You've got the list, start checking them out. Would I steer you wrong. Wait a minute….I didn't have time to mention Fred and Ginger, Preston Sturgess, Woody, Karloff, Cooper, Nicole, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marlene…..

1 comment:

  1. Wowo -Great history, great stories, great artists, thank you so much Vosie!!!