Friday, January 10, 2014

GUEST POST: Steve Bevilacqua's Favorite Older Film Discoveries Of 2013

Steve Bevilacqua is the author of KAFKA AT THE BEACH: A Layman’s Handbook for Those Falsely Accused of Felonies.

Here are 5 Films that I first watched in 2013.  This is (obviously) completely subjective and a result of some random viewing-and-missing.  Unlike most lists, I’m not saying these films are great, or the best.  Hell, I’m not even saying that they’re good.  However, I am saying that I saw each of these older films for the first time last year and, for various reasons, I’m very glad that I did.

A ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) ripoff from England starring Joan Collins who gives birth to an infant with superhuman strength who can defy the laws of physics while murdering people off-camera, this movie is completely batshit.  It has one of the best loglines of all time, because it turns out that Joan Collins’ murderous newborn is the result of…wait for it...a curse put on her by an evil circus dwarf who wanted to have sex with her but got shot down.  One of the few times in movie history it would probably have been better simply to insert a scene with the screenwriters who announce that this shit is all happening “for no reason at all.”  It is jaw-dropping to watch Joan Collins hack her way through the scenes where she wonders, “Oh dear, I hope this isn’t because of the curse from that horny evil circus dwarf.”  My biggest complaint about this movie is that, at times, it isn’t bad enough.  However, a film this ridiculously fucking stupid cannot be ignored.

Like some other movies from this era that are hard to track down, NIGHT TIDE proclaims that it is “one of the most influential horror films of the 1960’s.”  It’s not.  But it is a cool little movie that’s definitely worth a look.  Dennis Hopper is outstanding in one of his first leading roles as a sailor who falls in love with a mysterious, emotionally damaged woman who may be a mermaid and seems to have killed all of her previous boyfriends.  The plot, characters, and production of this film are admirably murky and disturbing.  There’s some great cinematography, along with some tingly, creepy moments.  The ending falls apart with a convoluted explanation that raises far more questions than it answers, and it’s less than satisfying.  Despite its claims, this little-seen movie is not as influential as some other 60’s horror movies, but it was ahead of its time with its dark, twisted, sexual overtones.

A bleak, nihilistic Western that turns into a bleak, nihilistic Christmas movie, I think this movie is brilliant.  One of many movie versions of the 1913 novel Three Godfathers, this movie is stark and odd with a great ending.  An early talkie, it still has the photographic depth of a silent film.  Its elements add up to a sum greater than its parts and, with its compelling photography and harsh grim moral tone, this flick stays with you long after it’s over. 

I always thought Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer was the one to beat, but this one with Robert Bray is surprisingly great.  I loved this movie.  Watch it and decide for yourself.  

I am a big fan of Sam Peckinpah and I have no good explanation why it’s taken me so long to see this movie, except that it has come in 2nd every night for the past 15 years.  I finally saw it this year, and it was a crushing disappointment.  I thought most of it was far below most of Peckinpah’s other movies.  It was all subtext and no text.  It was talky in all the wrong ways, and downright boring for most of its endless running time.  For all its revisionist Western style, this world seems more like backstage at a Johnny Cash show circa 1972 than anything that ever happened in the Old West.  I think Kris Kristofferson is an underrated actor whom I usually love to watch, but as Billy the Kid, he is hopelessly miscast. 

So, you may ask, if I hated it so much then why is it on this list?  And here is why.  Along this movie’s long flatline tedium, there are certain moments that are astounding.  The all-too-brief scenes with Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado are elegiac and amazing.  This film also has what is possibly the single best song ever written for a movie in Bob Dylan’s 'Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door'.  The song is incredibly well used throughout the film, creating moments that are breathtaking and sublime, almost movie heaven. 

Check out Steve’s blog: HOW TO GET PUBLISHED (the hard way)