A Few Movies I Can’t Quit Watching

Posted: April 26, 2009 in The Roper Files
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You must realize of course this is a very abbreviated list; but for the sake of brevity this list must be limited to ten. But there are indeed certain films I cannot for whatever reason I can’t seem to stop viewing over and over.
In some cases I will admit these films become excuses not to do something I don’t want to do (like work) For example let’s say I’m walking out the door to go to the store and I notice they are showing DUCK SOUP on cable. That’s it forget it; the store can just wait. Toss the keys down; I’m not going anywhere.
But I watch all of these movies and sit in awe of how well they are crafted. In some cases the director had the budget to do what he wanted; in others there was no budget. Yet in all of them the director had a vision and managed to get it on the screen.

A BUCKET OF BLOOD – Filmed in five days on a micro-budget of $50,000 this film still amazes me. The dialogue is a little clunky; some of the lines in it are truly cringe-worthy but overall it is still an incredible achievement in and of itself. As an avid jazz lover I can’t help but love the sax on the soundtrack. Director Roger Corman also put together an excellent cast which includes the late Burt Convy as an undercover narcotics policeman and it stars one of my favorite character actors, Dick Miller. Wish Corman could have thought of a better title, but the film takes quite the jab at the art world in no small way and despite the fact this film came out the year I was born (1958) it is really quite timeless.
Dick Miller is a busboy at a beatnik coffeehouse populated by a ne’er-do-well crowd of haughty pretentious hipster artists and poets. He longs to be accepted by them and attempts to sculpt with clay but finds sadly he has no real talent. One night he accidentally kills a cat, covers it with clay and takes it to the coffeehouse and displays it where it is adored by the unknowing bohemians. Overnight he becomes the darling of the art world but is faced with the dilemma of having to come up with more “sculptures” …
This has been released in several versions on DVD and in 1995 was a pretty decent re-make with Michael Anthony Hall (of all people) but is also worth looking for if you haven’t seen it.
Here is the opening sequence to the original:

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY – Hands down my favorite Western and probably my favorite Clint Eastwood movie. It’s about thirty minutes too long; I think Sergio Leone was getting carried away in trying to achieve epic status here. The Civil War battle sequence ( that never actually was fought in Texas by the way ) towards the end is impressive but serves little purpose in advancing the story but overall this is still an astoundingly well-crafted film. Featuring a great soundtrack I never get tired of hearing, a good cast, indelible imagery, and a fairly timeless storyline, it all adds up to a well-spent day when I blow off yard work or housework to watch this.

ITS A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD – Director Stanley Kramer was attempting to lense the comedy to end all comedies and didn’t quite succeed but it remains an admirable effort to this day. Shot in 1962-63 on a then-unheard of budget of 9.4 million Kramer threw in everything but the kitchen sink. The list of comedians who he didn’t use is a short one; almost anyone and everyone who had any degree of box-office drawing power is in here. It’s easy to forget that back then Sid Caesar and Milton Berle were HUGE on TV but many of the stars look way too old to be doing physical comedy. The film was almost universally critically reviled by the violent carnage displayed repeatedly in the film; many innocent bystanders have their property and belonging destroyed. Stanley Kramer was reportedly one of the nicest men in Hollywood but there is an underlying mean-spiritedness to the film and certain bits of dialogue are repeated endlessly.
However I find it a visual treat if for nothing else all the footage of early 1960’s Southern California. I was with two friends driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in the early 90’s when we came up the ramp that is shown at the end leading up to the big “W” ( it actually just goes up to downtown Santa Monica) we all got excited upon recognizing it. The water in the Pacific was still blue then instead of the puke-green it is today and if nothing else Kramer’s film is a delightful time-capsule of another era.
Released as a 155-minute version twice in the 1980s , look for the 180-minute version they are showing on Turner Classics which features some extra footage that was discovered in a warehouse in the 90’s.

KING KONG (original 1933 version) – Think I got about halfway through the new CGI fuck-fest version before I had to stop it. The original version of this film has some really corny dialogue and yeah you can sometimes see fingerprints on Kong’s pelt but I still prefer this version; you can’t generate the same charm this movie holds even today with CGI. This was a great example of how magical movies could truly be.

TIE: MAD MAX/ THE ROAD WARRIOR – When either of these comes on TV I drop everything even if I do own the DVDs. George Millers chilling vision of the future seems more and more plausible today more than ever as the oil reserves dwindle and little is being done to prepare for it. Almost seamlessly made both films hold my attention from beginning to end; there is little footage I would edit out. How many Hollywood films are this efficiently made?

POLYESTER – John Waters refers to this as a landmark in his career; it was indeed the first film he made with the help of a mainstream Hollywood production company (New Line) as well as an actual Hollywood “star” (Tab Hunter)
I like it because it’s the first John Waters film I could show my family ( my Sunday School teacher mother laughed at it; even the parts I thought would offend her) and also because it is also a good safe introduction to John Waters work. And it is indeed a very funny film.
No matter how many times I watch it I laugh at certain characters and lines of dialogue. Like the directors of silent films John Waters has a good eye for people with interesting faces. I love hearing Tab Hunter sing the title song during the opening credits and the song Bill Murray sings when Devine and Tab Hunter meet ( at a fatal auto accident) and go for a ride in his Corvette. I howl every time at porno theater Elmer Fishpaw shoving a protester aside (“You’re a Christian motherfucker!”) and Waters jabs at the media (“the Baltimore Footstomper has struck again…”) are priceless to this day. Pink Flamingos and Hairspray are the two everyone knows Waters for today, but this is my favorite of all his films.

 

THE PRODUCERS ( 1968 version ) – Mel Brooks masterpiece. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder would never again appear in a superior production. Utterly flawless from beginning to end. I watch this film on my knees genuflecting in worship. Perfect.

REPO MAN – Not a perfect film; there are certain lines that make little sense but they are overshadowed by the seemingly endlessly quotable lines. (“Good night/day; whatever it is….”)
A perfect film for the Reagan Years with a still-great soundtrack. Director Alex Cox would never make a film this good no matter what budget he was given. They still show this on cable a lot and I drop whatever I’m doing and watch it when it comes on.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ( 1973 ) – one of the greatest drive-in movies ever made and a classic exploitation flick as well. Banned in Great Britain and France for years, the title alone makes your mind race before you even see a single frame of film. However there really isn’t a lot of actual blood in this film and very little of it really has to be edited for television audiences. Director Tobe Hooper ran out of money and borrowed cash from the Sopranos-type character who made a fortune off of the porno hit “Deep Throat” and didn’t read the fine print. He lost control of his film and it went on to become dollar-for-dollar one of the most profitable films ever made.
Still riveting from beginning to end; you can feel the Texas humidity in the scenes in the van at the beginning and smell that dead armadillo shown on the highway. A modern day equivalent of a ghost story told around a campfire, this film holds up well despite all of the years since its release.

Okay there you have it; ten of my favorites. There’s more; many more but this will give you a good idea what’s on the TV at my house at any given moment. Now go away; I’ve got movies to watch…

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