Seven more movies

There are so many good movies out there — a hundred years of old movies, plus thousands of odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten or DIY movies made just for the joy of making 'em — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.  

All these films are streaming for free and without commercials, if you have a good adblocker. Sites like Putlocker are torrent indexes, and thus legally questionable, so experts recommend using a VPN.

 ♦ Dementia 13 (1963) — NO — Directed by a very young Francis Ford Coppola, working for the very cheap Roger Corman, this is about a strange family in a castle and their ridiculously overbearing mother. With his last words, a husband tells his wife that she’d inherit nothing if he dies, and then — he dies, of apparently natural causes. It goes on from there, but the story doesn’t know where it’s going or how to get there. You can see some talent in the direction, and the movie looks terrific, as long as you don’t give it any thought.

Duel (1971) — BIG YES — On a remote highway, Dennis Weaver’s Plymouth Valiant passes a truck, and the truck driver takes offense. This was young Steven Spielberg’s calling card, a TV “Movie of the Week” about road rage, and it’s nearly perfect. Authored by Richard Matheson, who wrote many of the best Twilight Zone episodes and some superb science fiction.

Watching it fifty years later, I caught myself out of breath and jittery several times, and then laughing at myself for being out of breath and jittery. Make popcorn and dim the lights.

So much testosterone, though. Dennis, why not find a phone booth, call your appointment and tell ‘em you can’t make it, turn around and drive back home? Well, because then the movie wouldn’t have been any fun.

Memorable moments:
• Waving him ahead
• “It was a nightmare but it’s over now.”
• The school bus
• The train
• The phone booth

Here’s a spoiler-filled mini-documentary where Spielberg describes what went on behind the scenes: part 1, part 2, part 3.

Hands of a Stranger (1962) — NO — After a car wreck, a surgeon wants to amputate a pianist’s hands, but since he’s a pianist, what the heck, let’s try a hand transplant instead.

This could’ve been a spooky story, but it’s so overacted, with overwrought music chipping in, it feels like a feature-length episode of Search for Tomorrow.

Independence Day (1996) — YES — I’m a little late, but I missed this when it came out, and for 25 years since. Space aliens are coming to Earth and they don’t want to shake hands, but fortunately there’s a meeting of the Screen Actors Guild so every familiar face from the 1990s comes to the rescue — even Harvey Fierstein and the crazy Quaid brother.

Rarely have I seen a movie that was so exactly what I expected — it’s a loud, exhausting blob of silliness and special effects and salutes for the military, as nourishing as a 10-pound sack of Cheetos, but it’s enjoyable. 

Memorable moments:
• “You are not as charming as you think you are.” “Yes I am.”
• No tips for this stripper
• The destruction of Los Angeles
• The aliens have great weapons but can’t shoot straight
• “Welcome to Earth.”
• Always call a cable repairman to save the world

Lady in the Death House (1944) — YES — This opens with a woman being escorted to the electric chair, then flashes back to tell the story of how she got there. It’s a legal drama and a romantic comedy, and her boyfriend is … the state’s executioner. Didn’t see that coming, didja? Oh, and did I mention that her boyfriend, the executioner, is also a doctor and mad scientist in his spare time? This is thoroughly ridiculous, and you know how it’s going to end, but it’s a hoot.

Memorable moments:
• “In one hour I shall be dead, killed by the hand of the man I love.”
• Lady in a night club bursts into flames
• The shy executioner proposes, then orders a drink
• “That’s right, but who’d expect a woman to be that logical?”
• The governor knows what sandwich he wants

Shock (1946) — YES — Vincent Price co-stars with no-one you’ve ever heard of, in a movie you’ve never heard of, and neither had I. A woman witnesses a murder through the window, and slips into … shock! Clearly she needs psychiatric help, so a shrink is summoned, and … he’s the murderer himself, which may be an ethical violation. Despite the presence of Mr Price, this is noir, not horror, and it’s not Double Indemnity but it’s never dull.

Memorable moments:
• Great nightmare sequence at the beginning
• All the doctors and nurses, constantly smoking
• Wandering bald patient
• “I asked myself, is she worth what I’ve done?”
• Just about everything between Dr Vincent Price and his nurse/lover
• Chat with Mrs Penny while she knits
• “A criminal doesn’t have much of a chance these days, does he?”

Three Blondes in His Life (1961) — BIG NO — An insurance investigator investigates a missing insurance investigator. It’s plotted like a noir murder mystery, but the intent was to make a star out of the leading man, Jock Mahoney, and he’s The Star of every scene. There’s nothing going on here except Jock Mahoney, and I guess he’s a movie star, since he’s the star of this movie, but he’s not a movie star.


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  1. I think we've probably talked about Duel before - it's fricking great, and I'm grateful for the documentaries, I'm gonna watch them now.

    Independence Day was pretty good for what it was. I wanted to see aliens blow shit up and get fucked up, and that happened. It was nice seeing Brent Spiner in a non-Data role.

    1. Holy shit, he shot Duel in TEN DAYS? That's insanity.

    2. Made by a rookie in ten days, and it's damn near perfect.

      Yeah, I should've mentioned Brent Spiner — he was good in it, too.

  2. How have I never heard of Duel? Will have to check it out.

  3. Replies
    1. I watched. It's great. Thank you.


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