'Grey Gardens'(1975) is the Maysles' brothers bizarre documentary of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis'eccentric aunt and first cousin who live like pigs in a run down 28 room mansion on East Hampton, Long Island.'Big Edie' Bouvier Beale,78,witty and dry and her daughter, 'Little Edie' Beale,56,(emotionally about 13) a still beautiful woman who once had a promising future,live in isolation from the rest of the world except for their many cats and raccoons in the attic. They amuse themselves by bickering all day, listening to the radio or singing to each other(They dont even own a television) Their fall from society is amazing to learn of and the viewer is drawn to these two very special, although obviously, dysfunctional people.One of the better documentaries ever made and still a cult classic today.
Richard Benjamin would drive anyone crazy in 'Diary of a Mad Housewife'(1970).Benjamin and wife Carrie Snodgrass are an upper- middle class New York couple, he totally absorbed with social climbing and Ms. Snodgrass bored to death with her isolated life.Director Frank Perry(David and Lisa) does an excellent job directing this sometimes funny, sometimes sad film of a materialistic, yet emotionally empty lifestyle.Script by Eleanor Perry.
'Nosferatu' (1922) was the first, and unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stokers Dracula. Noted German director F.W. Murnau was years ahead of his time with his use of location shooting, camera techniques, and speed up motion. Max Schreck as Count Orlok(Dracula)remains 80 some years later the most horrifying of all vampires and what nightmares are made of. Although not blood and guts scary by todays standards, Nosferatu still has the ability to haunt and stay with you for quite some time. Added music in recent years by 'Silent Orchestra' contributes to the films rather creepy atmosphere. Highly recommended for all serious film buffs.
Long before the PC crowd raised their ugly heads, there was Freebie and the Bean(1974), a very watchable and funny comedy about two San Francisco cops who nearly destroy the city in their pursuit of a gangster. Alan Arkin and James Caan are in top form as the constantly bickering partners who will say or do anything to get their man. Entertaining from start to finish.
'Angel Heart'(1987) Lowlife private eye Mickey Rourke is hired by a sinister looking Robert deNiro to find the whereabouts of a missing nightclub singer, which leads Rourke on a nightmarish search for not only the missing man but for the truth as well. Dark, disturbing and frightening, 'Angel Heart' was probably Rourkes last very good performance before his own bizarre life took a turn for the worse
'The Legend of Hell House'(1973)Four researchers agree to spend one week in house known to be inhabited by evil spirits and the scene of many murders in the past. This is a very different type of 'haunted house' movie with an excellent cast including Roddy McDowall and Clive Revill. Story and script by Richard Matheson.
Based upon the bizarre novel by Gunther Grass, 1979s 'The Tin Drum' is the surreal story of a 3 year old boy( played by pint-sized 12 year old David Bennett) who wills himself to stop growing in protest of the Nazis increasing power in Germany and bangs out his frustration on his drum. Controversial and disturbing to be sure, The 'Tin Drum' is filled with unforgettable scene after unforgettable scene,and deservedly won Best Foreign Film Oscar. Great small part for Charles Azvanour
'So Fine'(1981) Absolutely hysterical comedy about a college professor forced by one- syllable mobster( played perfectly by 7'2'' giant Richard Kiel)to join his manufacturer father in the garment industry and inadvertently invents see-through jeans that become a national rage. Ryan O'Neal( believe it or not) is very good as the flustered professor and the great Jack Warden as the father, all but steals the film. Non- stop laughs for 90 minutes
'David and Lisa'(1962) Director Frank Perrys film debut earned him an Oscar nomination in this independently made movie about two troubled teenagers who fall in love while being institutionalized for mental illness.Keir Dullea and the late Janet Margolin are excellent in the title roles and veteran stage actor Howard DeSilva does a nice job as the compassionate doctor. Script by Eleanor Perry
'The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds'(1972)is the story of a secluded, alcoholic mother( Joanne Woodward) and her two eccentric daughters,( Nell Potts, Roberta Wallach) based upon the Pulitzer Prize award- winning play by Paul Zindel. Paul Newman did a wonderful job directing this somewhat depressing, yet fascinating character study movie. Filmed in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
'The Graduate'(1967) One of the all-time great movies, and a landmark film of the '60's. Dustin Hoffman became a star playing a young college graduate who is seduced by his fathers business partners wife,( Anne Bancroft) then falls in love with her daughter(Katherine Ross). The directing by Oscar winner Mike Nichols is superb and Simon and Garfunkels music score is second to none. Script by Buck Henry.
True Confessions(1981) This is a story of corruption between two brothers, one a power wielding priest in the Catholic church and the other a sordid detective in 1940's Los Angeles.Based on the "Who Killed the Black Daliha" case, 'True Confessions' boasts perhaps the greatest supporting cast ever in a motion picture. Great period piece and incredible acting by Robert Duvall, Robert DeNiro, and Ed Flanders.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(1966) After 36 years , still the best adult movie ever made. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor chew up the screen as an unhappy college professor and his seductive wife who host a young couple (George Segal and Sandy Dennis)for an evening of bitter conversation in a searing Mike Nichols film. Taylor and Dennis won Oscars but Burtons performance as the tortured husband is superb.
Ugly, violent and disturbing would best describe 1990's 'Wild at Heart'. Normally a fan of David Lynch, it took all I had to keep from throwing up after watching this morbid and sickening road trip to hell. Only the solid work of Harry Dean Stanton and Crispin Glover were the saving graces in this utterly worthless movie experience. I really wouldn't recommend this flick to anyone, except, perhaps my worst enemy.
'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'(1966) Three low-lifes search for $200,000 Civil War treasure hidden in un-marked grave. Long, flamboyant and violent with classic Ennio Morricone score, this was by far, the best of Director Sergio Leones 'Dollars' trilogy. Clint Eastwood came home an international star. Strong support by Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
Long, artsy and beautifully photographed, 'Paris, Texas'(1984)stars the wonderful character actor Harry Dean Stanton as a drifter who re-appears after a four year unexplained absence and seeks to reunite with his young son and wife. Stantons performance was worthy of an Oscar nomination and Ry Cooders soundtrack perfectly captures the mood of the film. If action is what you seek, this critically acclaimed movie is not for you, however one of the better character study films around. Great screenplay by Sam Shepard
Blue Velvet(1986) is a terminally weird David Lynch entry about a young mans(Kyle MacLachlan) involvement into the world of bizarre people after finding a severed ear in a vacant lot. Lynch pulls out all the stops here in a brutal, disturbing film that is almost impossible to enjoy. Dennis Hopper deserved all the rave reviews he got for his role as the chief nut case Frank Booth, however, Dean Stockwells 'Suave' Ben has to be seen to be believed.Filmed in North Carolina.
In 'Let's Scare Jessica to Death' (1971) a recently released mental patient gets the full fright treatment after she moves from New York to run down Connecticut farmhouse with her husband and friend for peace and quiet. Off beat actress Zohra Lampert is perfect as Jessica and the supporting cast of New York stage actors all do a fine job in this creepy little film with quite a few genuine scares. Directed by John Hancock.
'Freaks'(1932) just may be the most bizarre film ever made and certainly one of the most unsettling. Based on Tod Robbins book, 'Spurs', the story concerns a group of real- life sideshow circus freaks that exact their revenge on a beautiful aerialist and her strongman boyfriend.Banned in Europe for over 30 years , this film is not for the faint of heart. Directed by Tod Browning, best know for his classic, 'Dracula'(1931) with Bela Lugosi
'The Swimmer' (1968)is a fascinating, almost surreal story about a '50 something' year old man who swims home from pool to pool in social Connecticut on a summers afternoon, each stop bringing back memories of past events in his life. Midway through the film you start to get the impression that not everything is ok with this once apparent upper middle- class man. Burt Lancaster is superb in one of his own favorite films. Fine directing by Frank Perry('David and Lisa','Last Summer') and the script is by his wife, Eleanor Perry. Highly recommended.
So-so Woody Allen film with Kenneth Branagh portraying an Allen type neurotic whose love life and career are a mess. Despite an attractive supporting cast including Wynona Ryder, Judy Davis and Melanie Griffith, its basically just a meandering film that gos nowhere.Not to say that the movie doesnt have its amusing moments but not what I look for in a Woody Allen film. Watch for promising newcomer Molly McCann as a Leonardo DeCaprio groupie in hotel scene.
The Night of the Following Day(1969) is the sordid tale of four professional criminals who kidnap an 18 year old rich girl(Pamela Franklin) and hold her for ransom at a beach home off the coast of France.Marlon Brando,(looking fit and sporting a blonde wig), Rita Moreno, Jess Hahn and Richard Boone are the kidnapers. This is not a pleasant movie and the original un-cut version has several unsettling scenes mostly involving the hulking, pyschopathic Boone, complete with full length coat and homburg. Brando is interesting as Bud, showing us at times why he is one of americas greatest actors. Boone is just plain frightening as Leer, a menacing whacko out for the double cross. Dont waste your time looking at any edited versions of this film, they will make no sense at all, but if can find the un-cut version, this movie will make your skin crawl
'Spring Forward' is one of those films that the masses will never see and thats a shame because it is rare that such a fine movie can still be made in this day and age and everyone should have the opportunity to see it. Essentially, 'Spring Forward' is a two man play filmed mostly outdoors over the course of one year in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Basically it is about two men working a common job and becoming close friends over the course of that year. The veteran character actor, Ned Beatty is brilliant as an older worker nearing retirement and usually type- casted villain, Liev Schreiber is a young man with a checkered past training to be Beattys replacement. It is fascinating to watch these two men open up to each other and express their darkest fears. Beatty becomes the father figure Schreiber never had and Schreiber allows Beatty one more chance to be the father figure he always wanted to be. Character study films are rare but those with two really riveting characters are seldom seen. The performances are fantastic and this is the kind of film that will touch you and not allow you to let go.'Spring Forward' deserves a larger audience then the lucky people who venture to the local art theater in their area smart enough to show this wonderful film
Director Frank Perry( David and Lisa, Diary of a Mad Housewife)took a true story and turns it in to a very suspenseful film. Starring Oscar winners Cliff Robertson and Joel Grey, the film concerns a murder of a young girl in a small Connecticut town and the police chief(Robertson) who tries to solve the killing. Enter one clairvoyant(Grey) who claims to have visions of the killing and offers to help the police solve the crime.Director Perry keeps the viewer guessing the whole movie as to whether Grey is legitimate or not. Robertson is wary of Grey but keeps him around just by chance he is what he says he is. The ending has a bizarre twist and I wont reveal it here but remember, it was based on a true story and the film is well worth 90 some minutes of your time.