A Century of Film


Horror


The Genre

What is a Horror film?  And what would have qualified at the beginning of film?  Kim Newman and James Marriott correctly point out in their great book Horror! The Definitive Companion to the Most Terrifying Movies Ever Made, that as cinema was beginning, so was Horror as a genre, with works like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dracula.  The first “official” Horror film is The Devil’s Castle, a two minute film from 1896.  Frankenstein was filmed as early as 1910 (a 12 minute film which was just recently restored) and Jekyll even before that in 1908.  The Avenging Conscience, a Griffith film based on works of Poe, is one of the earliest American feature-length films, running 78 minutes. (more…)

“It was Sunday. Chance was in the garden. He moved slowly, dragging the green hose from one path to the next, carefully watching the flow of the water. Very gently he let the stream touch every plant, every flower, every branch of the garden. Plants were like people; they needed care to live, to survive their diseases, and to die peacefully.” (first lines)

My Top 10

  1. Being There
  2. Kramer vs. Kramer
  3. Apocalypse Now
  4. Picnic at Hanging Rock
  5. Love on the Run
  6. The Muppet Movie
  7. Nosferatu the Vampyre
  8. La Cage Aux Folles
  9. Starting Over
  10. Wise Blood
  11. Woyzeck

Note:  So why are there eleven films?  Well, because the more I thought about it, the more I realized The Muppet Movie has characters who were created for The Muppet Show and that by the current rules of the Academy, that means its an adapted script.  Yet, I had already gone through the effort of writing the review of Woyzeck and I didn’t want to eliminate it.  So this list goes to 11.  Too bad it’s not 1984, but that script is original anyway. (more…)

"Your future's all used up." The line doesn't go with this scene, but neither that line nor this scene are in the original novel. All that great work comes from Welles.

“Your future’s all used up.” The line doesn’t go with this scene, but neither that line nor this scene are in the original novel. All that great work comes from Welles.

My Top 10:

  1. Touch of Evil
  2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  3. Separate Tables
  4. The Horse’s Mouth
  5. Vertigo
  6. Therese Raquin
  7. The Last Hurrah
  8. The Bravados
  9. The Horror of Dracula
  10. The Brothers Karamazov

Note:  There are 13 films on my list.  Me and the Colonel is reviewed because its was a WGA nominee and the other two are listed down below. (more…)

swI have always been a proponent of the idea that I can separate what I think is brilliant from what I personally enjoy.  Let’s just look at 2015.  I think that Carol and The Revenant were the two best films of the year.  But if I’m going to sit and watch a movie from 2015, odds are it will be The Force Awakens (this is borne out by the fact that I’ve seen Carol twice, The Revenant all the way through once and The Force Awakens, at a modest count, 21 times complete plus the final 20 minutes about 15 more).

To that extent, I have finally culled together a list of my 100 Favorite Films, the ones I am most likely to sit still and watch, or at least not change the station if I come across them.  They’re not heavy Drama.  In fact, when I went through the genres, only one film on the entire list is one that I classify primarily as Drama (Casablanca).

It’s really hard to do this kind of list when you’ve seen as many films as I have (14,000+).  I put it together by going through year by year and adding films, and once I hit 100, knocking off the films at the bottom.  When I first read Veronica a list of 50 films, I then pointed out that those were the 50 I was about to delete because they didn’t make the list and she was stunned.  “But you love those films!” she pointed out.  “But I love the Top 100 even more,” I replied.  It was very, very tough.  Though they are easily two of the greatest directors of all-time if not the two greatest directors of all-time, not a single Kurosawa or Kubrick film ended up on the list.  There is no Bergman.  There is no David Lean.  The Ealing Comedies and the Hammer Horror, both of which I love so much I wrote about them only have one film each.  I did For Love of Film posts for James Bond (1 film) and Star Trek (2 films).  It’s really, really hard to narrow it all down. (more…)

We all got it comin, kid.

We all got it comin, kid.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films (or directors) in olive are links to earlier posts that I don’t want to have show up in blue and be mistaken for a nominee.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

I’m listing the top 10 in the categories but only the top 5 earn Nighthawk nominations.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Unforgiven  **
  2. The Crying Game  *
  3. The Player  *
  4. The Last of the Mohicans
  5. Howards End  *
  6. Reservoir Dogs
  7. Raise the Red Lantern
  8. Aladdin
  9. Flirting
  10. Singles

Analysis:  These are the only **** films.  There’s a four point drop from the #10 to the #11 film.  The #11 film is also an Oscar and Consensus nominee: A Few Good Men. (more…)

This is not gonna end well for anyone at the table.

This is not gonna end well for anyone at the table.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

I’m listing the top 10 in the categories but only the top 5 earn Nighthawk nominations.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Alien
  2. Apocalypse Now  *
  3. All That Jazz
  4. Manhattan  *
  5. Picnic at Hanging Rock
  6. Being There
  7. Kramer vs. Kramer  **
  8. Breaking Away  *
  9. Love on the Run
  10. The Muppet Movie

Analysis:  Manhattan not only earns a Consensus nom but has the most Consensus points for any film to-date other than Day for Night to fail to earn an Oscar nomination (it won the BAFTA and NBR and earned a Globe nom).  It would be another 13 years before another film had more points without an Oscar nom (The Player) and it’s still tied for 8th most all-time.  All That Jazz is an oddity – the only film between 1974 and 1988 to earn an Oscar nom without any other Picture noms, but at least the Academy got that one right.
This is really a great group, especially the top 7.  The Top 10 is the 7th best to this date.  The first nine films are all **** and the #10 is a very high ***.5.  Actually, the list continues with three very high ***.5 (Life of Brian, Nosferatu, And Justice for All). (more…)

chaplin4

That wonderful final shot.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category.  Films in blue were nominated.  But remember, there’s still only eight categories at this point.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. City Lights
  2. Dracula
  3. The Public Enemy
  4. Le Million
  5. Earth

(more…)

Bela Lugosi with the lovely, but tragic Helen Chandler in Dracula (1931).

Bela Lugosi with the lovely, but tragic Helen Chandler in Dracula (1931).

My Top 6:

  1. Dracula
  2. Le Million
  3. The Front Page
  4. Animal Crackers
  5. Little Caesar
  6. The Criminal Code

Note:  So, this time I managed to get to six.  There is a long list of notable adaptations at the bottom, none of which managed to place high enough in my esteem to actually break into my contenders.  As it is, there is a significant difference between the top two (which are almost a tie) and all the rest of the scripts on the list. (more…)

One of the brilliant scenes in Murnau's Nosferatu that's not in the original source.

One of the brilliant scenes in Murnau’s Nosferatu that’s not in the original source.

My Top 5:

  1. Nosferatu
  2. L’Argent
  3. The Wind
  4. The Docks of New York
  5. Street Angel

Note:  There is only a top 5 for this year.  There were more than enough adapted screenplays to have a Top 10 if the quality of the scripts had merited it.  They do not.  And there wouldn’t even have been 5 if I hadn’t seen L’Argent last week. (more…)

Words guaranteed to bring a good (and gory) time.

When Star Wars was released in 1977, it had a lot of things going for it.  One of those things was the casting.  Diane Crittenden, Irene Lamb and Vic Ramos, the casting directors for the film had done their job perfectly.  We had three relative unknowns in the main lead roles.  But to supplement their performances, we had two great British actors.  The first, of course, was Sir Alec Guinness, already an Oscar winner, and, back in the 50’s, star of the Ealing Comedies, one of the best group of films ever created in a single genre by a single studio (see a future post).  But for the villain, they brought in Peter Cushing.  By this time, Guinness had been in 37 films (including two Best Picture winners and two Graham Greene adaptations) and Cushing had appeared in 83 films (including a different Best Picture winner and a different Graham Greene adaptation), but they had never done a film together (and wouldn’t in a sense here, either, because they never appear onscreen together).  Part of this was that while Guinness was rising with David Lean films and starring at Ealing, Cushing was further east, on the other side of Heathrow Airport, starring in another great group of films created in a single genre by a single studio.  He was one of the two key actors in the Hammer Horror films.  And rather appropriately, Christopher Lee, who would be his onscreen enemy in so many of these films, would eventually take over the role of Star Wars villain starting with Attack of the Clones.

There had been great Horror films before.  In fact, none of the films that Hammer would make would rival the best of the films produced by Universal between 1923 and 1935.  But while Universal had a great run of success with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, The Man Who Laughs, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein, it trailed off badly after that.  There was also irony going on during that stretch.  While those films combined for one measly Oscar nomination (Bride of Frankenstein – Best Sound), it was Paramount’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that would actually win a major Academy Award (Best Actor for 1932-33 – Frederic March).  There were a couple of other Horror gems during this time (Vampyr, King Kong), but after 1935, it all went south.  I have not seen a single Horror film released between 1935 and 1956 better than a mid *** except The Body Snatcher.  There were just endless sequels, getting worse and worse, as budgets got lower and lower and acting became nonexistent.  They weren’t even good entertainment anymore, they couldn’t frighten and they were just boring.

Then came 1957 and a film called The Curse of Frankenstein. (more…)