CRITERION COLLECTION: 100 Furious Films Pt. 4
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!
Yojimbo (1961, Dir: Akira Kurosawa)
A 1961 jidaigeki masterpiece based on the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest about a ronin (masterless samurai) played by Toshiro Mifune who arrives in a small Japanese village where two rival crime factions are at war. This lone swordman who calls himself “Kuwabatake Sanjuro” plays the middle in an ongoing battle expertly when each of the groups want to hire him as a bodyguard. Yojimbo is one of the most influential films of its time thanks to Mifune’s iconic early representation of the popular anti-hero. It would also inspire a filmmaker named Sergio Leone to make A Fistful of Dollars which is a now legendary Italian spaghetti western remake of Kurosawa’s original hit. We highly recommend both movies!
Paths of Glory (1957, Dir: Stanley Kubrick)
Based on a novel by Humphrey Cobb, this brilliant work of cinema set during World War I stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, a respected commander in the French Resistance who has a personal wear with the arrogant, sadistic General Mireau (Adolph Menjou) after he orders Dax’s men to take on a suicidal mission which they refuse to complete. Mireau wants to court martial the 100 men, and Dax, a criminal defense lawyer before the war, decides to fight for them. A brilliantly crafted work of anti-war cinema from Kubrick that is harrowing, darkly funny and examines the hypocrisy and wrecklessness of those in power. Co-starring Ralph Meeker, Joe Turkel, George Macready, Timothy Carey.
Equinox (1970, Dir: Dennis Muren & Jack Woods)
An independent sci-fi/horror cult classic made for only $6500 that features amazingly inventive stop motion effects and animation by Dave Allen and Jim Danforth. Our story follows a group of carefree teenagers on a picnic in the California woods who discover an ancient book that contains passages leading to a secret world. Soon they are in a fight for survival against supernatural forces and monstrous creatures that have been unleashed. A low budget production that celebrates what artists with imagination and determination can do in genre cinema. Equinox would go on to influence another cult hit, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead a decade later.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, Dir: Terry Gilliam)
Based on the legendary book by the Godfather of Gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing injects us into the phantasmic mind of Thompson’s alter-ego, journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) as he travels to that mecca of madness, Las Vegas (in the year of the Lord 1971) to cover the Mint 400 offroad race, as well as a police convention about the dangers of drugs. From start to finish it’s a bizarre, off-kilter ride to the outskirts of sanity where anything can happen, and controlled substances are used as methods for seeing the world differently (and often not in an attractive way). One of our favorites from both Depp and Gilliam that never fails to get you to “buy the ticket and take the ride!”
Brute Force (1950, Dir: Jules Dassin)
A bleak film noir gem which stars Burt Lancaster as Joe Collins, an inmate at Westgate Prison that leaves a term in solitary confinement with a deep determination to escape. Meanwhile the cruel chief of security Capt. Munsey (Hume Cronyn) uses his influence to get the prisoners to inform on each other which causes constant turmoil and mistrust. As Collins tries to persuade other inmates to help him bust out we get to know more about them. Each of the men, whose love for a woman got them in trouble, share their personal, tragic stories. Brute Force was inspired by an actual incident at Alcatraz prison a year before its release in which prisoners fought against the police when an escape attempt went bad. This film contains some of the most violent scenes ever shot. We also highly recommend Dassin’s other film noir efforts including Thieves’ Highway, Night and the City and The Naked City.
3:10 To Yuma (1957, Dir: Delmer Daves)
Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, Glenn Ford plays Ben Wade an outlaw who is captured by Dan Evans (Van Heflin) an Arizona rancher that takes the job because he needs money due to a long drought. Evans becomes an unlikely hero as he guards Wade while the gang he’s led try to free him. Ford was known for playing good guy roles so his turn as Wade makes the film rather unique. While he is “the villain” of the film, you always kind of know he’s not all bad. The striking black and white cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr. gives the movie a visual boldness making it one of the best looking Westerns of its day. The film was remade in 2007 by James Mangold. Check them both out.
Breathless (1959, Dir: Jean Luc Godard)
A wannabe Humphrey Bogart and French criminal on the lam, Michel (Jean Paul Belmondo) falls in love with a pretty American journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg) living in Paris. Michel tries to evade the law in a laidback French take on all the intense gangster movies Godard enjoyed in his youth. Instead of the classic hard boiled deadly atmosphere there is a light, bohemian mood that is romantic, playful and adventurous. The perfect kind of film to usher in the new era of anti-bourgeoise cinema the Cashiers du Cinema scene were so tired of. This directorial debut from the Nouvelle Vague’s original “Enfant Terrible” is best known for its groundbreaking, inventive camerawork and jumpcut editing. We also recommend the high falutin 1983 color remake starring Richard Gere. Sadly that has not been picked up by Criterion yet.
Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) a traveler is shipwrecked and gets rescued by a freighter taking animals to a mysterious island owned by one Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). As Parker spends time at the strange Moreau’s compound, he slowly discovers that the scientist’s experiments involve combining humans with animals. This macabre adventure into manimal madness was the first film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction/horror book The Island of Dr. Moreau and is one of the best. Co-starring Bela Lugosi, Leila Hyams, Stanley Fields.
The Great Dictator (1940, Dir: Charles Chaplin)
Charlie Chaplin took on the imposing threat of Nazi fascism with this political comedy masterpiece about a fictional Hitler-esque dictator “Adenoid Hynkel” (Chaplin) who plans to take over the world with the help of his crazy friends like Benzino Napaloni (Jack Okie) who was based on Benito Mussolini. The legendary comic genius Chaplin (who plays dual roles, the other being a poor Jewish barber) used his trademark screwball antics and sharp, biting wit to address a very serious subject and ultimately triumphed with brilliance. If The Great Dictator had been an actual weapon of war, it would’ve taken out the Ratzis singlehandedly. Co-starring Paulette Goddard.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957, Dir: Alexander Mackendrick)
An ambitious press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) who has been ignored by J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) a famous newspaper journalist gets the chance for the notice he craves if he’ll help to destroy a relationship with Hunsecker’s younger sister Susan (Susan Harrison) and her new boyfriend (Martin Milner) a jazz guitarist whom Hunsecker despises. Falco does his best to please the twisted desires of Hunsecker who holds the key to his dreams but must face his own limits of moral decency in the process. A searing, resonant indictment of the seedy, cutthroat world that often hides behind the glamourous surface of “showbiz”. The character of Hunsecker was based in part on Walter Winchell, a powerful, controversial newsman from the time. Featuring brilliant cinematography by James Wong Howe and a crackling, memorable screenplay by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets.