Action / Adventure

  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
    In my recommendation of Treasure Island, I described how and why Disney started making live-action family films after the war. One of the studio’s greatest films of this period is a dramatic, well-mounted adaptation of Jules Verne’s steampunk classic: 1954’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The story opens with sailing vessels being destroyed in […]
  • 49th Parallel
    Calling a movie “propaganda” is usually an insult. But making quality propaganda is a skill, and one well worth deploying when you are fighting the Nazis. In 1941, the British War Ministry approached Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for support of the then-failing war effort. Wanting to tempt the neutral U.S. into the fight, […]
  • 99 River Street
    There are worse things than murder. You can kill a man one inch at a time. Another of my recommendations, Kansas City Confidential, brought together Director Phil Karlson, Producer Edward Small and Actor John Payne in 1952. They re-teamed the following year to make another fine film: 99 River Street. Payne is compelling as […]
  • A Cat in Paris (Une Vie de Chat)
    I like to recommend films for kids every now and then. Accordingly, allow me to point you to a charming 2010 Oscar-nominated French animated film originally titled Une Vie de Chat that was subsequently re-voiced using English language actors as A Cat in Paris. The titular cat of the film is Dino, who lives […]
  • Across 110th Street
    Blaxploitation films are often described as sloppily produced, overly violent, sexist, racist, and demeaning to their audiences. Those gibes definitely apply to many entries in the genre, but roses exist among the thorns, particularly when a film had a bit more budget than usual and drew on other genres in creative ways (e.g., Blacula, […]
  • And Then There Were None
    Agatha’s Christie’s tale of 10 strangers on a remote island who are mysteriously killed off one by one has been adapted countless times on stage, on television and on the big screen. But it will be hard to ever top the 1945 version that was the highlight of the otherwise forgettable English-language phase of […]
  • Assault on Precinct 13
    I went through an enjoyable spate of watching early John Carpenter movies. Dark Star is an endearing ultra-low budget movie which highlights the emerging talent of Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon and will likely always have a place in college sci-fi film festivals. But it’s too unpolished and uneven for me to recommend. In contrast, […]
  • Bend of the River and The Naked Spur **Double Feature**
    Nobody can hate like a good man, and maybe that’s why Jimmy Stewart was so magnetic and moving in the hard-bitten Westerns he made with Anthony Mann after World War II. Stewart was a huge star at the outbreak of the war, during which he served with distinction. When the All-American, gee-whiz nice guy […]
  • Bonnie and Clyde
    Hollywood studios were in a rut in the late 1950s and early 1960s, struggling to cope with the rise of television, the loss of control of movie theaters after the Paramount case, and a widening cultural chasm between modern audience tastes and studio traditions. In desperation, the studio chiefs opened up filmmaking to a […]
  • Breaker Morant
    Arguably the best movie of Australia’s New Wave is 1980’s Breaker Morant. As the title character in Director Bruce Beresford’s movie, Woodward delivers a performance with such psychic weight and that it will stay in your mind and heart long afterwards. The story takes place in the waning days of the Boer War, where […]
  • Bullitt
    Steve McQueen had an incredible run of hits in the 1960s, which put him in position to start his own production company. Solar Production’s original six film deal with Warner Brothers eventually fell apart and only resulted in one film, but what a film: Bullitt. The first time through, what stays with most people […]
  • Callan: The Richmond Files
    Many Americans know Edward Woodward only as The Equalizer from television, but his career started long before that. Woodward was an extraordinarily gifted actor who was equally comfortable with classic Shakespeare plays, light comedies and grim dramas. Unlike some stage-trained actors, his dramatic skills didn’t wane when he made the move first to television […]
  • Canyon Passage
    Between making bettered remembered films, Dana Andrews starred in an underappreciated 1946 frontier yarn made in glorious Technicolor by an extraordinarily unlikely director: Black and white film noir master Jacques Tourneur! The result is an entertaining, highly original (if blandly titled) Western: Canyon Passage. The plot, set in mid-19th century Oregon, is not easy […]
  • Captain Blood
    An intelligent, dashing, apolitical doctor tends to a wounded rebel during the English Civil War and finds himself branded a criminal and sold into slavery. But his courage, leadership ability, and swordsmanship enable him to reverse his fortunes by becoming the greatest outlaw pirate of the high seas!: Captain Blood. This 1935 movie was […]
  • Charlie Muffin
    Charlie Muffin is a terrific British spy movie scarcely remembered in the UK and even less so elsewhere, which is a rotten shame. After appearing on UK Television in 1979, it was barely released in the US under the title “A Deadly Game”. If you are among the many people who doesn’t know about […]
  • Cotton Comes to Harlem
    When you steal from white people, that’s your business. But when you steal from Black people, that’s my business! So growls badass but ethical Police Detective Ed Coffin (Raymond St. Jacques), who along with his more laid back but equally badass partner Grave Digger Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) protects the Black community in the most […]
  • Cry Danger
    What the difference between a first time directorial outing by a former film editor versus that of a movie star? In general, about 10-20 minutes of unnecessary footage. As directors/producers, movie stars tend to have too much sympathy with the actors (especially if they have cast themselves in the film) and not enough with […]
  • D.O.A.
    I have recommended The Turning Point, starring Edmond O’Brien and featuring Neville Brand in a small part as a vicious killer. For a change of pace, let me also recommend a film starring Edmond O’Brien, featuring Neville Brand in a somewhat larger part as a vicious killer: 1950’s D.O.A. D.O.A. has one of best […]
  • Defence of the Realm
    David Drury’s thriller Defence of the Realm is a taut British conspiracy tale set on Fleet Street. This 1986 film embodies the left-wing paranoia of the Thatcher years, with its deep scepticism of nuclear weapons, the US-British alliance, and grey men in dark suits secretly controlling society from their Whitehall back offices and private […]
  • Devil in a Blue Dress
    For years, I believed that no one would ever write a Los Angeles detective novel as well as did Raymond Chandler. But then a friend gave me the book Black Betty, which changed my mind. Walter Mosley’s detective, Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins roams in an atmospheric, corrupt, and dangerous LA just as did Phillip Marlowe, […]
  • Die Hard
    One of the great self-referential pop culture moments of recent years occurred on the TV show 30 Rock, when Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) portentously intoned “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer….Hans Gruber”. Alan Rickman’s deliciously evil, funny, cultured, intelligent, and violent Hans […]
  • Ellery Queen Mysteries
    In a few minutes, this man is going to be murdered. The question is: who killed him? Was it the frustrated nephew? The spurned housekeeper? The fiancé with a shady past? The willful heiress? Or was it someone else? Match wits with Ellery Queen, and see if you can guess who done it! Oh […]
  • Ernest & Celestine
    I received some nice notes from parents who enjoyed watching my recommendation A Cat in Paris with their kids (as well as from some non-parents who enjoyed it just for themselves). So I return this week to the same terrain with another absolutely charming French-language animated film that was re-dubbed for American audiences: Ernest […]
  • Excalibur
    As a filmmaker, John Boorman really goes for it. He has an idiosyncratic perspective on the diverse material he films, and carries it to the limit. Sometimes this has led to abject disaster (e.g., the incomprehensible, pretentious and unintentionally risible Zardoz). But more often than not Boorman’s courage as a filmmaker has resulted in […]
  • Farewell, My Lovely
    A film critic once wrote of one of my recommendations, the 1998 retro-noir Twilight, that you might have to be over 35 to really enjoy it. That may also be true of this week’s film recommendation, a reverent revival of detective noir starring an old hand at the genre: 1975’s Farewell, My Lovely. The […]
  • Get Carter
    How appealing an actor is Sir Michael Caine? Put it this way: While watching him play Colonel Steiner in The Eagle Has Landed, a lot of otherwise sensible film goers find themselves rooting for the Nazis. In the classic 1971 Brit gangster film, Caine’s likability and magnetism are in full flower, as he somehow […]
  • Hell Drivers
    Having recommended the movie that gave Stanley Baker his first break (The Cruel Sea) and one he produced and starred in once established (Robbery), let me fill in the middle by recommending the thrilling film that made him a star in 1957: Hell Drivers. The plot is agreeably simple. Baker plays Tom Yately, a […]
  • In Which We Serve
    Pour yourself a small gin or a nice cup a tea, stiffen your upper lip, turn off the wireless (radio, that is) and watch one of the best films ever released in a time of war: 1942’s In Which We Serve. Made almost single-handed by Noël Coward (with some directorial assistance from the legendary […]
  • Kansas City Confidential
    In the years after the war, actor John Payne, director Phil Karlson, and producer Edward Small collaborated in various configurations, yielding a solid run of modestly-budgeted, high quality films. The post-war period saw many movies merge elements of film noir with the traditions of the gangster melodrama, including the first collaboration of these three […]
  • Kiss Me Deadly
    They? A wonderful word. And who are they? They’re the nameless ones who kill people for the Great Whatsit. Does it exist? Who cares? Everyone everywhere is so involved in the fruitless search for what? In 1955, detective film noirs were nearing the end of their magnificent cycle, with seemingly little fresh to say. […]
  • Layer Cake
    Let’s get meta: That’s Sir Michael Gambon sitting in the very chair where I wrote this recommendation of the film in which he and it appear: Matthew Vaughn’s stylish and hard-edged Layer Cake. Gambon plays wily drug kingpin Eddie Temple in one of the great British gangster films (which is saying something, they have […]
  • Män Som Hatar Kvinnor
    The left-wing Swedish author Stieg Larsson had a strange and remarkable life. As a teenager, he witnessed some of his friends commit gang rape, and was haunted thereafter both by guilt about his failure to intervene and the omnipresence of violence against women. As a journalist he was unknown outside of Sweden when he […]
  • Marlowe
    Immediately after reading Raymond Chandler’s splendid The Little Sister, I decided to revisit a 1969 adaptation of the book I remembered liking many years ago. I am happy to report that having read the source material made me appreciate the movie version even more than I did the first time through. Therefore I give […]
  • Napoléon
    In 1927, the days of silent film were coming to an end, but some brilliant directors sent it out in style. William Wellman’s Wings and F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise landed the first-ever Academy Awards, while in The Soviet Union Sergei Eisenstein’s October hit the screens. But a French film towered even over that mighty […]
  • Night Slaves and The Screaming Woman **Double Feature**
    I generally don’t recommend made-for-TV movies because they generally aren’t worth watching (With some exceptions, such as Stephen King’s It). But there was a quality series of such films in the 1970s known as the “ABC Movie of the Week”. It gave audiences memorable moments such as Karen Black being stalked by an evil […]
  • Night Train to Munich
    I love The Lady Vanishes, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic tale of suspense and romance. If you share my affection, you’d do well to watch a quasi-sequel made without The Master, who had by then decamped to Hollywood: 1940’s Night Train to Munich. Released two years after The Lady Vanishes, the film features the same female […]
  • Notorious
    Nazis in hiding! Smuggled uranium! Espionage! All minor distractions from the central tantalizing mystery that keeps the audience in delicious suspense: Does Cary Grant’s character really love Ingrid Bergman’s or not? It’s all there in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 classic Notorious. The plot: Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman, in one of her career-defining roles) is the […]
  • Outland
    Disappointed in “Cowboys and Aliens” and looking for a film that does a better job of blending the Western and Sci-Fi genres? Look no further than the gritty and exciting Peter Hyams film Outland. The plot of one decent man fighting a corrupt system while trying to redeem himself at the same time is […]
  • Peter Gunn
    I haven’t owned a television for a quarter century, and almost never recommend television shows because I don’t know enough to judge them. But I am happy to make an exception for a trendsetting, utterly fresh, and cool as all get out TV series that ran from 1958-1961: Peter Gunn. Blake Edwards, prior to […]
  • Plunder Road
    Some decades ago, after being up all night playing cards with a Papua-New Guinean family on their first train journey across America, I sat down in the observation car to watch the sun rise over the Utah Salt Flats. A tired-looking middle-aged woman sat down directly opposite me but looked away, as if she […]
  • Point Blank
    The above is one of the many memorable shots (accompanied by even more memorable sound!) in this week’s film recommendation, Director John Boorman’s outstanding 1967 US debut film: Point Blank. Point Blank weds the style and techniques of 1960s experimentalism with the traditional gangster/crime melodrama, with unique and unforgettable results. The film begins with […]
  • Purgatory **With Star Interview **
    One of the happy outcomes of the cable television revolution was that more stations were competing to brand themselves with audiences, and one method some of them chose was to start making their own films. The budgets were not as large as what Hollywood might provide, but the results were often more original. Such […]
  • Railroaded!
    Anthony Mann is justly revered by film buffs for his noir westerns with Jimmy Stewart, but he alo essayed more traditional urban noirs. One of the best is his 1947 low-budget triumph, Railroaded!. The film opens with a high-voltage portrayal of a blown stickup, as some luckless bad guys fail to get away clean […]
  • Robbery
    If you are one of the many admirers of the 1968 American classic Bullitt starring Steve McQueen, you will almost certainly enjoy the British film Robbery. Released the year before Bullitt, it’s a partly fictionalized account of the astonishing 1963 heist of a British mail train by a gang of bold and crafty thieves. […]
  • Seven Days to Noon
    I make no secret of my disdain for flabby filmmaking. Many modern movies (e.g., almost every superhero movie of recent years) would be significantly better with a merciless edit of tiresome exposition, distracting subplots, saggy scenes, wordy dialogue, soulless CGI, and other forms of artistic bloat. I can hear the whines already “But I […]
  • Seven in Darkness
    TV movies usually are not very good, but ABC’s Movie of the Week was an exception to the rule. To complement the other films from this series I have recommended, let me endorse the entry that kicked it off in 1969: Seven in Darkness. The plot is at one level entirely stale: A group […]
  • Superman
    The undeniable wonder of Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman can be summed up in one word: Reverence. For decades, comic book fans were dismayed by movie and TV adaptations of the heroic stories with which they grew up. Producers and writers seemed to feel that the material couldn’t stand up on its own. Rather, […]
  • Support Your Local Sheriff
    As you may have gathered from my hearty endorsement of Airplane! I enjoy movies that make fun of movies, particularly when they star people who are staples of the genre being mocked. If Airplane! is the king of disaster movie parodies, its western sibling is director Burt Kennedy’s 1969 laughfest Support Your Local Sheriff. […]
  • Tarantula
    “Invasion of the Giant-Sized X” films were almost their own genre in the 1950s. Many of them were wretched (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman being generally considered the nadir), but some of them stand the test of time. If forced to choose my favorite giant insect film I would go with Them!, but […]
  • Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure
    Many film critics, directors, and actors have been asked in interviews to discuss their “guilty pleasures” meaning movies they liked but “really shouldn’t have” because they didn’t raise deep existential questions, explore morally elevated themes, or break new technical or artistic ground. Pretentious codswallop, that. No one should feel guilty about having a good […]
  • The 39 Steps
    Alfred Hitchcock had a successful directing career in Britain that preceded his American super-stardom. Hitchcock fans rightfully consider the 1935 comedy-romance-thriller The 39 Steps among the very best works of the Master’s “British period”. Robert Donat cuts a dash as Mr. Hannay, the hero of the film, who tries to save England from the […]
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
    If your life is giving you some family time, you and your kids can together enjoy a rollicking tale of derring do set in Merry Olde England: 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. Famous as the film that made swashbuckling Errol Flynn a household name, it’s also historically important as Warner Brothers’ first foray […]
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
    Beginning with a Mutoscope adaptation made in 1900, Sherlock Holmes has been one of the most oft-portrayed roles in world cinema. Among the most handsome of the countless movie productions featuring the world’s greatest consulting detective were made by 20th Century Fox in 1939. The first of these was the excellent Hound of the […]
  • The Blue Carbuncle
    Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all, that children call, their favorite time of year! Mine too, not least because there are so many enjoyable Christmas films to recommend, including an episode from Granada Television’s justly revered Sherlock Holmes series: The Blue Carbuncle. Eccentric, unstable, dashing Jeremy Brett, whose acting (as […]
  • The Chase
    The Chase is an obscure, strange, yet compelling 1946 film noir. Made through low budget studio Monogram but released by United Artists, this off-beat movie is not for all tastes, but has developed a cult following among fans of the genre. Based on a Cornell Woolrich’s pulp crime novel, the film tells the story […]
  • The Claim
    Mark Twain said that “A ‘classic’ is a book that everyone praises and nobody reads”. I suspect that Thomas Hardy’s novels fall into this category. Admittedly, I think that because my dear mother suggested that I read “The Return of the Native”. After I finished it, I asked her why she recommended such a […]
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
    In the 1930s, film studios made a run of lavish historical costume dramas based on best-selling books (Some of them literary classics, others meretricious tripe). The majority were set in Europe and a few were even made there (including my recommendation The Scarlet Pimpernel). But most were produced on Hollywood back lots, such as […]
  • The Crooked Way
    Amnesia is one of the most overused and hokey plot devices in film. Yet if the rest of the elements of a good movie are wrapped around it, viewers can suspend disbelief and really enjoy themselves. A perfect example is 1949’s The Crooked Way. The plot: A war veteran who thinks his name is […]
  • The Cruel Sea
    To compliment my recommendation of The Long Arm, let me endorse an even better film featuring the wonderful Jack Hawkins. In the high point of his career as a star (although he would go on to have a great career as a character actor in upmarket productions such as Lawrence of Arabia, Zulu, and […]
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Graffiti messages tend to be clichéd, obscene or vapid, but once every few years I get a smile on my face when I see “Klaatu barada nikto!” scrawled on some random bit of fence or wall. It’s a critical line in Robert Wise’s 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. In […]
  • The Frightened City
    In nearly a century on this earth, Herbert Lom had a long and varied acting career. Born in Prague under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he achieved screen immortality as the Chief Inspector whom Clouseau slowly drives mad in the Pink Panther films. But before that did excellent work in many high-quality films, most of which […]
  • The Gunfighter
    Westerns became darker after the war, in some cases translating aspects of the urban film noir mood and style to the wide-open spaces. The signature westerns of this type were the eight that director Anthony Mann made starring Jimmy Stewart, including my recommendations Bend of the River and the Naked Spur. But other filmmakers […]
  • The Hill
    Sidney Lumet’s brutal, gripping 1965 movie The Hill opens with a solitary figure laboring up the man-made torture device that gives the film its title. In one of Oswald Morris’ many mesmerizing crane shots, the man collapses in the North African heat and then the camera begins to move slowly away, off into the […]
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
    Hound of the Baskervilles has a special place in The Sherlock Holmes canon. Arthur Conan Doyle’s story is substantially longer than the typical Holmes outing, allowing him to weave two distinct mystery tales together. It’s also remarkable for putting Watson at center stage for a significant part of the book, allowing the sidekick a […]
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    Have you ever seen a movie that stuck in your head for reasons you couldn’t fully explain? A film that you eventually realized had a much bigger impact on you than it seemed to when you were sitting in the theater? That was my experience of 1943’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. […]
  • The Long Arm
    If The Long Arm had been one of the films pitched to producers in Robert Altman’s superb film The Player, the pitcher would have said “It’s ‘Father Knows Best’ meets ‘Dragnet’! In London! And we’ll get that British guy to star, you know, uh, what’s-his-name!”. That ‘British guy’ in this case, would be Jack […]
  • The Long Good Friday
    British film director John “Frenzy” Mackenzie directed another of my recommendations, Unman, Wittering and Zigo, but will be best remembered for the thrilling, brutal gangster classic, The Long Good Friday. Many American viewers struggle with the opening scenes of this 1980 film because the slang comes fast and some of the Cockney accents are […]
  • The Most Dangerous Game
    One Halloween, I was looking for a lurid and creepy pre-code film to recommend. I was tempted by White Zombie but like many films of the period, the existing prints are sadly too beaten up to make the film an enjoyable experience. But then I found a movie that is not only better purely […]
  • The Narrow Margin
    In an era of hundred-million dollar movies that suck, I increasingly appreciate the craft and inventiveness of filmmakers who quickly turned out high-quality films on a tight budget. To supplement my recommendations of B-movie gems like My Name is Julia Ross and Plunder Road, I hereby endorse a nail-biting noir with a no-name cast […]
  • The Parallax View
    The horrifying assassinations of the 1960s generated countless conspiracy theories that continued to rattle about in the 1970s, particularly after Watergate further damaged the public’s faith in once-respected institutions. During this period, Alan J. Pakula was arguably the film maker who most effectively translated the public’s anxieties onto the screen. The two best known […]
  • The Prisoner of Zenda
    I am fond of the big budget adaptations of popular stories of adventure and romance that Hollywood made in the 1930s, like my recommendations Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Scarlet Pimpernel. Among my favorites is the 1937 adaptation of Anthony Hope’s novel Prisoner of Zenda. Hope’s work has […]
  • The Sandbaggers
    Britain has long managed to turn out espionage films at all points along the dimension that has escapist fare like James Bond and The Avengers at one pole and grey-shaded, unglamorous, works like Smiley’s People at the other. I can enjoy the fantasies as much as the next moviegoer, but the Brit spy films […]
  • The Scarlet Claw
    Of the many film series of the 1930s and 1940s, Sherlock Holmes stood out both for its watchability and its unusual provenance. It was launched at 20th Century Fox in 1939 as a high-end period production. But after two very strong films, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (my […]
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel
    Leslie Howard was a multi-talented actor/director/producer as well as a true patriot who was taken from us too soon in 1943 when he was murdered along with 16 other defenseless people by the German Luftwaffe. Can a film star be so appealing that the audience will root for a die-hard one-percenter who is battling […]
  • The Sea Hawk
    There’s an old jibe that “They don’t make movies in Hollywood, they remake them”. But sometimes they remake them so bloody well that audiences can’t help but stand up and cheer (see for example my recommendation of the Casablanca recycle job To Have and Have Not). A pluperfect example is the 1940 swashbuckler The […]
  • The Silent Partner
    Among bank heist movies are some gems that inject a clever plot twist or perspective that livens up the otherwise familiar contours of the subgenre, including Inside Man, Charley Varrick, and JCVD. In 1978, a small Canadian film earned a place among such worthies by crafting a story that is as much a character […]
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
    What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives. So says […]
  • The Sting (Guest Review)
    My friend Johann Koehler of the London School of Economics is a criminologist, an innovative thinker, and a lover of movies. I asked him to contribute a review of one of his favourites, The Sting. Over to Johann: Fans of Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s pairing in 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid […]
  • The Stunt Man
    If God could do the tricks that we can do, he’d be a happy man. The late Peter O’Toole signed on to many over the top, unconventional films (no small number of them when he was intoxicated). This resulted in him headlining some legendary stinkers (e.g., Caligula). But it also landed him plum roles […]
  • The Untouchables
    Many classic TV shows have been made into dreadful movies, but Brian De Palma came up aces in 1987 when he made The Untouchables. The plot: Naive treasury agent Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) comes to Prohibition-era Chicago to do battle with bootlegger, murderer and king of the gangsters Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Realizing […]
  • The White Knight Stratagem
    The White Knight Stratagem was the final episode of a handsomely produced 2000-2001 British television series that re-imagined the Sherlock Holmes stories. The protagonist of the Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes series was Arthur Conan Doyle (center of photo above) who learns the methods of Professor Joseph Bell (far right) as they […]
  • Them!
    Before Aliens, before Starship Troopers, before The Swarm, even before Tarantula (my recommendation here), Hollywood discovered that bigging up bugs into a threat to humanity could translate a prevalent human anxiety into a nerve-jangling cinematic experience. The year was 1954 and the movie has since became revered as a trendsetting sci-fi classic: Them! As […]
  • They Made Me a Fugitive
    Despite the end of the war, food, clothing and other essentials were rationed in Britain throughout the late 1940s, a policy so hated that it ultimately lead the voters to dump Atlee’s Labour government. Because post-war rationing was not seen as legitimate, many otherwise law-abiding people began buying goods on the black market. The […]
  • Thief
    The decade of the 1970s in American film witnessed the continuation of the auteur-driven creative revival that began in the late 1960s (see my recommendations The Kid Stays in the Picture and Bonnie and Clyde for details) as well as the beginning of the blockbuster era led by Jaws, Star Wars et al. But […]
  • Three Adaptations of I Am Legend
    One of the best books I read in 2018 was the sci-fi/horror classic I am Legend by Richard Matheson. Matheson wrote it in 1954, years before he became famous as one of the creative forces behind The Twilight Zone. It’s a grim, powerful, novel about isolation and trauma, centering on Robert Neville, the last […]
  • Timetable
    Many movies start out creative and intriguing but then at some point lapse into formulaic filmmaking, thereby disappointing the viewer. Mark Stevens’ 1956 film noir Timetable is an admirable example of the reverse phenomenon, a movie that starts out in familiar territory but ends up somewhere far more engaging: . The film opens with […]
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
    If I were BBC Director-General, and had been granted only 24 broadcast hours to make the case to the nation and its elected officials that my organisation was capable of greatness, I would immediately fill the first 315 minutes of my schedule with 1979’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This is what a television mini-series […]
  • To Be Or Not To Be
    Long before Mel Brooks got everyone laughing at Nazis, a Hungarian-born producer (Alexander Korda) and German-born director (Ernst Lubitsch) somehow persuaded Hollywood to take a major risk at the height of World War II: Combine an espionage thriller with screwball comedy! The resulting film met a decidedly mixed reception in 1942, but over time […]
  • To Have and Have Not
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good example of how recycling characters and plot from a wildly popular movie can led to tedious viewing. An infinitely more successful effort to rip-off a prior cinema classic is Howard Hawk’s To Have and Have Not. Perhaps the greatest film ever produced via the old Hollywood […]
  • Treasure Island
    Yarrrrrrrrrr! Movie pirates didn’t have heavy West Country accents before Robert Newton’s famous turn as Long John Silver in the 1950 version of Treasure Island. Disney’s first-ever live action film is aimed squarely at school age boys, but is also pleasant for grown-ups to revisit on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The film’s production values […]
  • War of the Worlds **Double “Feature”**
    I often recommend multiple movie adaptations of the same story (e.g., The Lodger, Dracula, The Hands of Orlac) for the enjoyment and education that comes from comparing how the same material has been filmed by different artists in different eras. H.G. Well’s classic novel War of the Worlds presents an opportunity to make a […]
  • WarGames
    In 1983, tensions between the US and The Soviet Union were high, and fear of nuclear war was in the air. Meanwhile, American life was being changed by the rise of the personal computer, with nerds of all ages in the vanguard. Director John Badham weaves these two strands together with excellent results in […]
  • Watership Down
    All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed. These words are uttered by an […]
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends
    In 1944, Andrews and his frequent co-star Gene Tierney, Director/Producer Otto Preminger and Cinematographer Joseph LaShelle made Laura, a classic film of high society longing, love and murder. Take that same foursome, move the story setting down significantly in economic strata and add a dose of brutality and you have 1950’s Where the Sidewalk […]
  • Zero Hour! and Airplane! **Double Feature**
    This double feature recommendation comes with a strong suggestion for viewing order. You absolutely should watch Zero Hour! first, because once you’ve seen Airplane!, you will have a hard time taking the former film seriously again. And that would be too bad, because it’s a perfectly solid drama/thriller. Written by Arthur Hailey of Airport […]