Monday, January 23, 2006

Five Films You've Probably Never Heard of...And Should Rush Right Out And See

Actually, I started writing this post because I was thinking, after the "Movies That Make Me Hot" post, that a lot of my favorite films are ones that most people probably don't know exist. And there are a lot more than five. So I think I'll make this a recurring topic - maybe a regular one.

Anyway, here are five for now. Add 'em to your Netflix queue:

1) The Lair of The White Worm. This is Ken Russell at his, which might not be saying all that much, I guess, but it's a great, campy film with a plot that mostly makes sense. Starring Hugh Grant somewhat before he became popular in the U.S., Amanda Donohoe fresh from L.A. Law, and Sammi Davis shortly before Homefront, this is a comedic horror story about the Dampton Worm (apparently there's a real story there, or at least local legend) and an evil snake goddess determined to set it loose on the village. It's actually worth seeing just for the song, "The Dampton Worm," the lyrics to which can be found here. And click for a review and some pics.

Can you really pass up a film that boasts images like this one?

2) Picnic at Hanging Rock. I meant to go when this was playing at my college in the late '80s, but I missed it. For the next eleven years, I was haunted by the brief plot summary I'd read - several young women in Australia go to Hanging Rock for a picnic and inexplicably disappear. And finally, after waiting more than a decade, I managed to find a copy of the film in the public library. It didn't disappoint. This is an eerie tale with no resolution. It is maddening not to know what happens to the women - were they murdered? Abducted? Swallowed up by the earth? - but Peter Weir keeps us enthralled throughout. There are lots of shots where you crane your neck - if you could just see around that corner, if you could only see what she's seeing - and then you remember that it's only a movie.

3) The Parallax View. Conspiracy theories, government and corporate intrigue, Warren Beatty...this keeps you on the edge of your seat. This is not one of those films in which everything happens in a predictable way - there are plenty of surprises, not so much in terms of the actual plot but in terms of the way the plot unfolds. I managed to catch it on television once and then miss the ending - fortunately, I saw it again fairly soon afterward (but not before calling my aunt to find out what the heck happened). I'm not saying anything else about it lest I spoil it for you.

4) Saboteur. This is perhaps the first Hitchcock film I ever saw, but for years I did not know what the title of the movie was - I just remembered the terrifying Statue of Liberty scene. Not that long ago, I bought a collection of early Hitchcock films, and lo and behold, there it was. This is basically a remake of The 39 Steps for an American audience, and some folks love to hate on it for that reason, but I like it.

5) The Night Flier. I read the Stephen King short story on which the film was based, and shortly afterward saw the film. I was impressed at how closely the airport that is the location of the final confrontation between Miguel Ferrer's character and the vampire matched the images I had had in my mind while reading. Even more impressive are the feelings of terror that these scenes of carnage and destruction inspire, especially when the vampire reveals his full face to Ferrer (which, by the way, is much more horrific than is the image below ~shudder~). It's a very good adaptation; any weaknesses, I think, are largely the fault of the original story.

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