CRITERION COLLECTION: 100 Furious Films Pt. 2
If you collect movies on home video, Criterion is one of the legendary companies that have represented a deep appreciation and conservation of cinema in that format since 1984. Their first wave of releases were on Laserdisc and a decade or so later in 1998 they moved into the DVD market. Over the years they have given a gift to movie aficionados by making available hundreds of international cinema classics for their home viewing enjoyment. Criterion is well known for their attention to excellence in how they produce and promote their titles. Whenever you hear of a favorite film that’s getting the “Criterion treatment” you simply know it’s a must own for your library. Without further ado, here’s our new list of 100 Furious Criterion Classics (a 10 part series) we love and recommend to readers for purchase. You can help support this site and our greater Cine-Coalition Network by buying the DVDs/Blus directly from Amazon. We Thank You!
12 Angry Men (1957, Dir: Sidney Lumet)
The late great Sidney Lumet’s directorial debut was a furiously intense court drama set in one room where 12 jurors must figure out if a young boy accused of murdering his father is guilty or innocent. The direction is taut, the performances sharp as switchblades and features several great character actors you’ll certainly recognize if you love classic movies. The story is all about the men and how their personal prejudices and backgrounds direct the outcome of the judicial procedure. This film stands up so well because of its timeless quality which people from any generation can identify with. Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden and Martin Balsam.
Bottle Rocket (Dir: Wes Anderson)
Anthony Adams (Luke Wilson) has had several personal problems but after escaping from a psychiatric home his best friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) has mapped out plans for their immediate future. He wants Anthony to join him in becoming a professional thief. Along with their pal Bob (Robert Musgrave), they begin doing small robberies after which they leave town to keep off the police’s radar. While on the lam, Anthony meets a young Latina hotel maid named Inez (Lumi Cavazos) who he quickly falls in love with. Wes Anderson’s directorial debut is a humorous, freewheeling gem with trademark quirky, charming characters. Featuring an excellent score by Mark Mothersbaugh (DEVO) and classic rock tracks by LOVE and The Rolling Stones (which just adds to the coolness).
Red River (Dir: Howard Hawks)
One of Howard Hawks’ greatest Westerns was based on the true story of the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. John Wayne stars as Thomas Dunson a tough as nails rancher and leader of the exhaustive expedition. Montgomery Clift is his strongminded adopted son Matt. The story focuses on the myriad of conflicts that arise between the two men who represent the old and new generations of cattle ranchers as they make the trek across the rough terrain with their rowdy cowhands. The supporting cast includes Walter Brennan, Harry Carey Jr, Joanne Dru and Colleen Gray.
Goke: Body Snatcher From Hell (1968, Dir: Hajime Sato)
A plane en route on to Japan encounters a firey red sky as a flock of birds smash into the sides in a fit of confused terror. Soon after a terrorist is suspected to be onboard and suddenly a UFO sighting occurs. The plane is then forced to crash land and the passengers become consumed with anxiety over their survival and a potential assassin in their midst. What they don’t realize is that something much worse is happening. They are attacked by a mysterious space organism which hides inside humans and turns them into life draining vampires. Goke is one of the most visually stylized, suspenseful and unique Japanese sci-fi horror films of its time that injects anti-war, anti-corporate themes into its B-movie storyline. Starring Teruo Yoshida, Tomomi Satô, Eizô Kitamura, Hideo Kô. Re-released in 1979 and put on a double bill with Bloody Pit of Horror.
Shock Corridor (1965, Dir: Samuel Fuller)
An ambitious journalist Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) has his eye on winning a Pulitizer Prize. When he learns of a murder at a mental hospital he sees a chance of a lifetime to investigate by going undercover as a mental patient. As Barrett spends time in the asylum under the guise he’s crazy, he starts to be genuinely affected by the inmates who witnessed the killing. Each of the men have deep psychological troubles stemming from post traumatic stress, bigotry and nuclear paranoia. This is a highly intense, dark thriller that examines social problems of the period in a daring, bold fashion, the way Sam Fuller was best known for. One of the earliest mainstream films that dealt with mental illness and predated One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Co-starring Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best.
Putney Swope (1969, Dir: Robert Downey Sr)
Arnold Johnson stars as Putney Swope (voiced by Robert Downey Sr), the sole black man in a New York ad agency. When the chairman of the board suddenly dies, the other members must elect a new chief. Since they can’t vote for themselves, they accidentally pick Swope instead. Now with a power he never expected to have, Putney renames the company “Truth and Soul”, hires black workers and rejects the company’s previous promotion of alcohol, tobacco and war toys, opting for more human friendly products. The wacky fake commercials Swope’s artists produce are a highlight. This witty, hilarious satire of advertising, depictions of race in film and corruption in business is a true gem from the time. If you love avant garde/arthouse cinema of the 60s, there’s no doubt you’ll want to have this in your collection. Co-starring Allen Garfield, Joe Madden, Antonio Fargas. The special Eclipse box set features other seminal indie works from Downey Sr. like Babo 73, Chafed Elbows, No More Excuses and Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Dir: Roman Polanski)
A happy young newlywedded couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) have moved into a new apartment building where they plan to start their life together. Soon after they arrive they’re introduced to a kind old couple who live next door: The Castavets (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). While Guy, an up and coming actor seems excited about a potential part on a TV show and their new neighbors, Rosemary begins to sense something isn’t quite right. When she becomes pregnant instead of being healthy and happy, she begins to lose weight and feel sickly. She also hears strange things going on next door and discovers the charming, nurturing Castavets aren’t what they appear to be. Roman Polanski leads the viewer on a disturbing journey in his cinematically enthralling way, as we become caught up in Rosemary’s growing paranoia of the people that claim to be looking out for her. The interesting thing is that Polanski constantly juxtaposes the macabre atmosphere with humor. It’s truly a one of a kind experience
On The Waterfront (1954, Dir: Elia Kazan)
In this crime-drama classic, legendary actor Marlon Brando gave one of the seminal performances of his career as Terry Malloy a boxer who could’ve been a champion but turned into just another palooka because he got paid to take falls for the short end money. We get to know Terry in the midst of a tough personal dilemna when the police begin trying to bust up the underworld influence on the longshoreman’s union which he happens to be a part of. A ruthless mob boss named Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) controls the waterfront and the workers along with Charley (Rod Steiger) Terry’s older brother which makes his troubles even more dire. Terry also falls in love with a local girl (Eva Marie Saint) but their relationship becomes strained in the midst of the turmoil surrounding his problems with the mob. The depiction of the working class people has been noted by Director Martin Scorsese as being extremely authentic and based in a reality he knew. It remains both an emotionally powerful urban tale and a cinematic time capsule of what life was like in that rough and tumble world.
Seconds (1965, Dir: John Frankenheimer)
If you were able to restart your life with a new identity, would you do it? That’s the focus of this weird neo-noir thriller starring John Randolph as Arthur Hamilton, a middle aged banker who has become dissatisfied with his life. Hamilton gets a chance to start over again from a secret organization that specializes in giving people new identities. When Hamilton goes through with the procedure he awakes as “Tony Wilson” (Rock Hudson) a young, vibrant bohemian artist with nothing holding him down. The story examines what this experience does to the psyche and that altering your life in such an extreme way might not be the answer to finding happiness after all. Along with its offbeat storyline, Seconds is noted for its stunning experimental cinematography by James Wong Howe and psychedelic editing.
The Game (1997, Dir: David Fincher)
A wealthy San Francisco businessman Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) who has lost his joy of life is given a gift by his neer do well younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn) in the form of a game. This game is based on a series of personal tests conducted by CRS (Consumer Recreational Services) on their clients. Van Orton is suddenly thrown into an adventure that pushes him to his personal limits emotionally, mentally and physically. The Game is a highly suspenseful, darkly funny engaging neo-noir thriller filled with constant twists and turns that create a mindbending rollercoaster ride. I recently heard David Fincher wasn’t satisfied with this movie, but I think its one of his best. A must have newly remastered hi-def release.
Check out PART ONE of our 100 Criterion Classics series