CRITERION COLLECTION: 100 Furious Films Pt. 1
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 Collection 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!
In this neo-noir classic directorial debut by Michael Mann, James Caan stars as Frank, an ex-con turned businessman who moonlights as a professional jewel thief. Frank’s decision to work with a new associate (Robert Prosky) in his robberies soon complicates his successful, quiet two man operation. When he continuously relents at obeying the rules that go with the territory, it causes deadly consequences for him and his inner circle of friends. This is one of James Caan’s finest performances in his career. Co-starring Jim Belushi, Tuesday Weld. Look for early cameos from Dennis Farina and William Petersen (co-stars of Manhunter). The score by Tangerine Dream is an electronic based masterpiece.
Dazed and Confused (1993, Dir: Richard Linklater)
If American Graffiti was the film that defined the sock hop/car culture/drive-in scene of the early 60s then Dazed and Confused (1993) is the film that represents the 70s in all its long haired, pot smoking, free-wheeling, bell bottomed beauty. In the early 90s Writer-Director Richard Linklater produced an indie feature about a group of Austin, Texas high school students (based on his own experiences/friends) and the result was one of the most honest, well made movies of its kind. The way the story gives the viewer a close up look into the lives of these mischievous, rebellious but likable kids just makes you feel like you’re part of their inner circle. It’s the final day of school on the eve of summer 1976 and the excitement of being free is beginning. Soon everyone is making party plans and as the sun goes down, the beer starts to flow, the weed gets lit up and the rock music blasts. From there we go on an adventure with our new friends Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), Pink (Jason London), Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) and Co. and relive the wildness and abandon of those golden days when you were invincible and the only thing that mattered was looking for any new thrills that came along. Above all else, Richard Linklater was able to brilliantly channel the good time feelings of the days before adulthood sets in and you had to get more serious about the future. Dazed and Confused is a glimpse at the little shining moment where the joy of being young is in its full buzzing glory. It’s also the kind of movie you can revisit time and time again and re-experience that pleasure. The down to earth characters portrayed by a cast of excellent young actors, make it a true treasure of cinema that is sure to make you smile and look back fondly on the good ol’ days of your life, whatever decade you grew up in. The soundtrack for the movie is especially cool and features so many authentic sounds from the era. Popular groups like KISS, Aerosmith, Foghat, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan, The Runaways and others will blast through your home theater speakers and make you feel like you’re out on the town with your best buddies.
Badlands (1973, Dir: Terence Malick)
Martin Sheen plays Kit, a young rebel without a cause who goes on a deadly crime spree across South Dakota with his teenage girlfriend Holly (Sissy Spacek). The movie is poetic in how it depicts the story of the two young lovers as they try to live on their own terms. There’s an innocence and beauty to this modern fairy tale that is punctuated by acts of mindless violence. An especially brilliant directorial debut from Malick which he based on the infamous Starkweather killings in the 1950s. Co-starring Warren Oates.
Blow Out (1981, Dir: Brian DePalma)
John Travolta stars as Jack Terry, an exploitation film audio engineer who witnesses the assassination of a politician one night while recording some outdoor sound effects. When the story is later covered up, Jack becomes obsessed with finding out the truth behind it all. Considered to be one of DePalma’s finest works, the story takes inspiration from earlier conspiracy thrillers such as Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966), The Conversation (1974) and true life political based incidents, in particular the accident at Chappaquidick. DePalma uses these themes as a starting point then injects new ideas mixed with his trademark stylized visuals and creates an exhilarating work of cinema. Co-starring Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.
Faces (1968, Dir: John Cassavetes)
Richard “Dickie” Forst (John Marley) is a businessman who is good at his job but at home his marriage is on the rocks leaving him scrambling for a new relationship and he finds it with Jeannie (Gena Rowlands) a young vivacious blonde who livens up Dickie’s stale life. All the characters in this movie are so intense and at the same time very funny. Each of the people we spend time with seem to be deeply unsatisfied with their lives and are searching for happiness. The title itself is a metaphor for the faces people must wear and their true faces, which they hide because of the pressures of society and how they are expected to behave. One thing that is so captivating about Faces is how the moments of personal despair and anger are juxtaposed with downright hilarity. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that will have you laughing hard one moment and feeling such pity the next. In one of my favorite sequences Dickie Forst and his old pal run around like little kids on a playground at Jeannie’s home. Look for an especially memorable performance by Cassavetes regular Seymour Cassel as a young playboy/hippie who tries to impart his theory of how to have fun to a group of middle aged women that have lost their excitement for life. What’s so special about Faces is the fact this little 16mm movie shot on a miniscule budget has such an emotional impact. It’s a true late 60s gem.
It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1965, Dir: Stanley Kramer)
When a fleeing criminal named Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante) crashes his car on the side of a California highway, a group of fellow travelers come to his aide. Lying near death at the bottom of a hill, Smiler gives up a secret he’s kept for years. It involves a stash of stolen money that he buried in the small coastal town of Santa Rosita. The good samaritans decide to split the money and then create a convoy to follow each other down to the location and dig up the treasure. Once they hit the road, their greed quickly oveertakes them and it becomes an all out race to find the glorious loot. The hijinks and zaniness ensue as they come across a myriad of colorful characters and face a variety of obstacles on the way. The movie features an all star cast of comedy legends/actors including Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers, Terry Thomas, Dick Shawn, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Peter Falk, Jim Backus and even has hilarious cameos from Jerry Lewis and The Three Stooges.
In this film noir masterpiece based on the novel by Mickey Spillane, Ralph Meeker plays hard boiled LA private eye Mike Hammer. The tough as nails gumshoe gets caught in a deadly case when a young woman (Cloris Leachman) he meets one night on a dark highway is murdered by some thugs. The film is noted for its stylized direction and modern sensibilities as well as featuring a “MacGuffin” which represents the Cold war/atomic paranoia of the period. Co-starring Albert Dekker, Gaby Rodgers.
When he gets information about a hidden stash of stolen loot from his fellow prison inmate, psychotic “preacher” Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) tries to weasel his way into the lives of the man’s family to find it. A highly stylized, brilliantly crafted noir thriller with a memorable performances by all the players. Mitchum at his deranged finest. The first and only film by actor turned director Charles Laughton remains a highly acclaimed work of cinema. Co-starring Shelly Winters.
Scanners (191, Dir: David Cronenberg)
The story focuses on a group of telepathically gifted human beings referred to as “scanners” who are sought by ConSec a weapons and security systems company for use in their special programs. When a renegade telepath named Daryl Revok (Michael Ironside) wages a one man war on ConSec, the company brings in aother Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) to try to stop him. One of the film’s main main highlights is Revok’s ability to explode people’s heads with his focused telekinetic powers. Scanners followed Cronenberg’s earlier low budget efforts Shivers, Rabid and The Brood and became his first breakout hit.
Eddie aka “Fingers” (Robert Mitchum) is a middle aged, low level gun runner who has been picked up by the feds after a truck hijacking gone wrong. Coyle is facing a long stretch in the joint, his only chance left is Dave Foley (Richard Jordan) an ATF agent who gives him the choice of turning informant. Coyle sets out to give Foley the inside information on his criminal cohorts but soon finds himself sinking in deeper than he ever expected. The movie was filmed on location around Boston, MA. an area that has since gone on to be the host for many modern crime film hits such as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Ben Affleck’s The Town. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the godfather of them all and remains one of the very best films of it’s kind. It does a superb job bringing a realistic, unsentimental edge to the story being told. The Friends of Eddie Coyle was directed by Peter Yates (Mother, Jugs and Speed) who made several excellent crime genre films in the 60s and 70s including Bullitt (1968) and The Hot Rock (1972). The poster above features the line up of Eddie’s underworld friends with him at the center looking rather introspective and grim. It’s grade A 70s crime cinema cool!