Discoveries: 1970s and Scares

Back with more movie finds, this time the best of February:

RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975), suspenseful and relentlessly scary nightmare RV trip with Warren Oates, Peter Fonda and Loretta Swit. Their “self-contained” little haven is wrecked and chaos unescapable once they witness an occult ritual.

REVOLVER (1973), weary Oliver Reed teamed with gorgeous Fabio Testi in the gritty story of a prison warden’s kidnapped wife and his descent into the underworld and corruption on both sides of the law. Already calling this as one of my fave finds of 2018. Great Ennio Morricone score.

WHITE LINE FEVER (1975), as trucker epics go I like CONVOY better but this is up there when it comes to fun, country music, a working-man-crusade story and wild road action.

…had an Enzo Castellari double feature with KEOMA (1976), bleak and surreal with Franco Nero fighting his corrupt half-brothers, and KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE (1968) colourful crew on a heist mission. Chuck Connors has the perfect big charming presence for this.


MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973), unnerving indie classic, scenes like the gas station heebie-jeebies, the cinema slowly filling up behind the unwitting victim, and the supermarket chowdown ranking up there in disturbing cinema

THE RITUAL (2017), folk horror with a slow buildup to a really original scary monster. Not often you see a reveal that pays off this well.

BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) another thrilling buildup to some of the goriest horrors I’ve ever seen, good cast gets a lot to do, especially Matthew Fox who seems made to play a cowboy. I love a western-horror mashup and this one works well

DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1963). I’m told there is a better BBC version and this is on the slow side but I was gripped by the tale of plants gone mad. Good cast–Howard Keel makes a convincing an action hero–and I always love to spot ideas and visuals in moves across eras, some from TRIFFIDS were used in 28 DAYS LATER, SIGNS and THE HAPPENING.

Mill Creek set mining:

I picked up a bunch of Mill Creek 100-200 movie sets with my Christmas gift cards because I can’t pass up a bargain that adds so many weird culty movies to the collection in one go. On Karen’s suggestion I’ll try to make this a regular little section of my viewing notes. Right off the bat I saw two unique ones: the Everglades swamp-sploitation snakehandler pic STANLEY (1972) with Chris Robinson as an Indian Vietnam vet, and THE MISTRESS OF ATLANTIS (1932), an atmospheric and stylish pre-Code, G.W. Pabst’s desert fantasy adventure with Brigitte Helm as a mysterious SHE-like goddess in a hidden desert kingdom who lures and mummifies men.

Some recommendations:

Because I’ve watched a lot of Richard Dix movies recently: I wish everyone into classic suspense would check him out in THE WHISTLER mystery/thriller anthology series (1944-1948). It’s where I first saw him, playing all kinds of characters in noirish tales

Because DUNKIRK and Saoirse Ronan have crossed paths long before this year’s Oscars: the excellent, heartbreaking ATONEMENT (2007), memorable for so much more than its incredible Dunkirk sequence

Because I was discussing Jaume Collet-Serra’s and “transportation” thrillers recently: RED EYE (2005), suspense on a plane by the great Wes Craven, with Rachel McAdams

Always love to hear your recommendations


One Man’s Journey (1933)

Image result for One Man's Journey (1933

Time once again for the monthly Pre-Code Crazy pick, where Karen of Shadows & Satin and I choose a movie from this era that’s showing on TCM.

This month I pick one of my favourite pre-Codes, the sentimental story of a dedicated country doctor’s selflessness, how easily he’s taken for granted and how such sacrifices are often misunderstood as underachievement, or wasted life and talent. Widowed Eli Watt (Lionel Barrymore) returns to his small town roots with his little boy, and sets up a practice. He always puts himself last to help the townsfolk and their kids, and years pass with no apparent career progress or improvement in his financial situation. Eli’s heroic actions, first during a smallpox outbreak, and again to save a beloved young friend, distinguish him as an expert. But just when doors open to the neuropathology research work he has long dreamed of and deserved, he once again stays back to help the less fortunate and make sure his son Jimmy (Joel McCrea) goes to medical school and greatness.

Eli cares and understands, talks common sense, helps people see the right thing to do, and knows that sometimes the best medicine is love. He never brags or calls attention to his good deeds, and is flabbergasted and deeply touched when he gets any praise. Barrymore makes Eli Watt a likable, dignified soul as unforgettable as the nasty Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Eli forgives; he raises Letty, a girl rejected by her father (David Landau) at childbirth, then gives the child back once Landau realizes his error. The adult Letty (Dorothy Jordan) has a touching relationship with Eli and is in many ways like him. She selflessly helps during the epidemic, then is suddenly knocked off her planned life path by a tragic accident. She’s grateful to Eli, hurt on his behalf by any snide comment about his “ambition” and, stuck with a loser husband and in-laws that see her as a hillbilly, knows what it’s like to be unappreciated. Eli’s care for Letty in her times of crisis keeps him from his dream, but later heals her family and gains him the respect of his peers.

Some people in this movie think a doctor treating backwoods poor is a pathetic “old country plug,” when the done thing is to strive to be “known” and rake in cash on Park Avenue. Eli labours “without glory or profit, in an obscure nook,” showing how virtue and good acts for their own sake can be difficult but more rewarding and impactful on lives than any fame and fortune. Jimmy’s sweet, but his self-centered ambition contrasts with Eli’s approach, and almost costs the young man his relationship with Joan (Frances Dee, who married McCrea a few months after this movie came out). Eli fixes that problem too.

I love May Robson as no-nonsense “Aunt Sarah,” who marches right into the empty space she sees in Eli’s life, and works by his side for years as nurse,  nanny, and debt collector, reminding everyone how many more of last year’s potatoes they owe. After one too many payments in bushels of turnips and crookneck squash, Sarah wonders, “Why can’t anyone get sick what owns a cow?!”

Watch it on TCM March 26th, and now click here to see Karen’s pre-Code pick for this month.