Thursday, March 18, 2010

Great Movies From The Attic

"Fatso", directed by Anne Bancroft, 1980, starring Dom Deluise, Ron Carey, and Anne Bancroft.

"Festival", a 1967 music documentary about the 63, 64, and 1965 Newport Folk Festivals. Produced and directed by Murray Lerner.

The original "Day the Earth Stood Still" from 1951 directed by Robert Wise.

"Evil under the Sun" directed by Guy Hamilton based on a novel by Agatha Christie music by Cole Porter, screenplay by Anthony Schaffer starring Peter Ustinov James Mason Roddy McDowell Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith.

"Panic in the Streets" directed by Eli Kazan released in 1950, starring Richard Widmark and Jack Palance.

What do these films have in common? They are all DVDs in the Miller Library collection in the section marked classic/hidden gems. When we think of classic films we usually think black-and-white, old, maybe even stuffy. Films that are hidden are like old photos stuck in the attic, they have a musty odor, best viewed in dim light, nostalgic. Nothing farther from the truth can be said about these films.

I chose these at random and because I am familiar with them. Each are wonderful. You can take my word. One way or another I have been involved professionally with movies for almost thirty years. From running a small movie-house to suggesting films to patrons at a video store, I have researched and ingested film most of my life. I'd like to pass some of this on to you in this blog. If you disagree with me let me know. I love to talk film.

Back to the movies:

"Fatso" has a very offensive title and a sweet, real, Italian/New York core. This was the only film (that I know of) directed by Anne Bancoft, the wife of Mel Brooks, star of over fify films such as "The Elephant Man", "The Graduate", and "The Miracle Worker". She was born 1931 Anna Maria Italiano, in the Bronx, New York. She knew the neighborhood and people. This is a true to life romantic slice of life comedy with "heavy" issues. Sorry about that.

"Festival" is for all current and would be fans of the 60's folk and pop scene. This is great fun. It is a historical record of the time when American folk music made the transition to the top of the charts, with live performances by artists such as: Joan Baez; Bob Dylan; Peter,Paul and Mary; and Donovan, along with Judy Collins and Pete Seeger and more. Look for the reaction when Bob Dylan goes electric on "Maggie's Farm". Sorry it's in glorious black and white.

As a SciFy movie fan I endured The new Keannu Reeves led "Day the Earth Stood Still". I never really could see his attractiveness to women but I guess that's OK and I must say he did the best he could with what he had but Michael Rennie was and will be Klaatu, the inter-steller visitor who brings Gort, the policeman to end all policemen to earth. Robert Wise, the director of such immortal American films as West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Haunting and The Setup with the help of Patricia Neal and Sam Jaffe, and composer Bernard Herrmann (Hitchcock's favorite), great visual effects for 1951 and finally great writing, won a Golden Globe for "Best Film Promoting International Understanding" If you have not seen it, see it.

Guy Hamilton directed four early James Bond films and was assistant director on The African Queen. Here he adapts Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mystery with a great cast, especially a wonderfully hammy Peter Ustinov, beautiful wardrobes and wonderful Mediterranean scenery off the coast of Spain. What's not to love? By the way the writer Anthony Shaffer (also the writer of "Sleuth") is the identical twin of Peter Shaffer, writer of Amadeus. Nature or nuture?

And finally Elia Kazan's "Panic In the Streets" with Richard Widmark, as a good guy. Imdb's plot snopsis says, "A doctor and a policeman in New Orleans have only 48 hours to locate a killer infected with pneumonic plague." Jack Palance plays the killer. While I was watching it with headphones one day, my brother walking through the room said, "Even without the sound he puts a chill up my spine." Leave the sound on. This is a great thriller, suspence, action noir that you can watch with the family and not worry about the language or sex. I guess raw language and sexual realism have their place in some films but sometime all I care about is a good plot, good acting and writing. Is that too much to ask?


  1. Appreciate this posting & the fruits of your vast knowledge in film. Keep them coming. Klaatu berada nikto (sp)

  2. Movie lovers may be interested to know of recent additions to the Classic & Hidden Gems DVD collection. For a great nail-biting adventure in Cornwall with rambunctious characters, look for POLDARK, the PBS hit finally available on DVD! Also, FANTASTIC VOYAGE - the special edition. You'll might also enjoy Woody Allen's fun MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY! Other great titles: Claude Rains' THE INVISIBLE MAN - THE LEGACY COLLECTION; the sweet FLORES DE OTHRO MUNDO (FLOWERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD), the rural Irish AMONGST WOMEN, and a personal favorite, 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD, starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. Also, the Criterion Collection editions of HAMLET and THAT HAMILTON WOMAN as well as Ingmar Bergman's THE SEVENTH SEAL, VIRGIN SPRING, SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT and WILD STRAWBERRIES. New additions to Classic DVDs also include SORRY, WRONG NUMBER and KISS ME DEADLY, THE RAINMAKER and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION - and more! Enjoy!