TEN MOST WANTED MOVIES
There are many titles I have longed to see on DVD or Blu-ray in their proper formats. Some of these titles have previously been available on VHS but have never been released on DVD or Blu-ray. Some titles have been available in edited form or not in their proper theatrical aspect ratio. Some have only been available in bad quality bootleg versions that do not afford the films or their makers justice (in addition to the fact that the distributors are making illegal profit on work they have no rights to). The list below is highly idiosyncratic in no particular order. Placement on the list does not necessarily mean that I believe the movies are timeless or that they are great classics. Some I just want to be able to see for the first time or to view them again after an initial theatrical encounter years ago. Please feel free to submit your own lists. I will add them to the page. You can either use your real name or a screen name. When you email Movie Maximus just let me know what name you wish your list attributed to.
- THE MAGIC GARDEN OF STANLEY SWEETHEART (1970). DIR: Leonard Horn. Once hailed by Andy Warhol as “the quintessential, most truthful studio-made film about the ’60s counterculture,” The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart starred Don Johnson in his feature debut. Stanley, a Columbia University film student, drops out of school and begins living with his girlfriend (Diane Hull) as he negotiates the drug scene and the sexual revolution. The movie flopped when it was originally released. Director Horn felt that audiences were weary of counterculture themes by the time it hit the movie screen.
- SCANDAL (1989). DIR: Michael Caton-Jones. In early 1960s London a renowned doctor (John Hurt) takes up with exotic dancer Christine Keeler (Joanna Whalley). He also hosts wild revelries where Conservative Party leaders like John Profumo (Ian McKellan) get caught up scandals with “party girls” like Mandy Rice-Davies (Bridget Fonda). The movie’s main title music is “Nothing Has Been Proved,” written and produced by Pet Shop Boys and sung by Dusty Springfield. There have been DVDs of Scandal available at various times but they either have been in a flat format or edited versions (despite claims of being “Uncut and Uncensored”).
- THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT (1973). DIR: Ted Post. Based on the 1962 best-selling novel by Robert Rimmer, The Harrad Experiment deals with a married couple (James Whitmore and Tippi Hedren) who open a college where students experiment with their sexuality. Young actors Don Johnson and Bruno Kirby are among the students while future star Melanie Griffith (Hedren’s daughter) has a small part. Improvisation comedy group Ace Trucking Company whose members included George Memmoli, Fred Willard and Patti Deutsch make an appearance. One of the screenwriters was Ted Cassidy who played Lurch on The Addams Family television series!
- ENTER LAUGHING (1967). DIR: Carl Reiner. Based on his semi-autobiographical novel and its subsequent hit Broadway stage adaptation, Enter Laughing was Carl Reiner’s film directing debut. In Depression-era New York City young aspiring performer David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) joins a ragtag theater company headed by ham actor Harrison B. Marlowe (Jose Ferrer). David is hired mainly because Marlowe’s daughter Angela (Elaine May), also a member of the troupe, has romantic designs on the young man. Shelley Winters and David Opatashu are David’s parents while Janet Margolin plays his girlfriend and Michael J. Pollard is his best friend. Jack Gilford, Richard Deacon and Don Rickles also have supporting roles in the backstage farce. Once available on VHS, Enter Laughing has never been on disc or in its proper 1.85:1 theatrical format.
- 3 IN THE ATTIC (1968). DIR: Richard Wilson. A little AIP exploitation film that was originally paired on double bills with Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, 3 in the Attic had a compelling though improbable premise: college student Paxton Quigley (Christopher Jones) juggles three girlfriends (Yvette Mimieux, Judy Pace and Maggie Thrett) until they find out about each other and exact their revenge. Jones was a promising young actor in the James Dean mold who also starred in AIP’s Wild in the Streets (1968) before getting his huge break as Sarah Miles’ love interest in David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970). The pressures of impending stardom and other psychological issues resulted in Jones spinning out of control in his personal life. Still, 3 in the Attic is an entertaining time capsule of pop culture in the late 1960s including a song by British Invasion duo Chad and Jeremy. Director Richard Wilson began his career as an actor in the theater and radio drama troupes of Orson Welles. He became Welles’ assistant for many years before moving into directing.
- UP IN THE CELLAR [aka 3 IN THE CELLAR] (1970). DIR: Theodore J. Flicker. When college student Colin Slade (Wes Stern) loses his scholarship due to a computer glitch, he is prevented from committing suicide by politically ambitious dean Maurice Camber (Larry Hagman). To get revenge on the dean for preventing his suicide attempt, Slade sets out to seduce Camber’s wife (Joan Collins), daughter (Nira Barab, aka Catlin Adams), and mistress (Judy Pace). Although not an official sequel to 3 in the Attic, the movies share a couple of cast members and some thematic elements. Distributor AIP paired the films in drive-in double bills for a few years. Director Theodore J. Flicker (The President’s Analyst, 1967) also adapted the screenplay and treats the movie with a satiric tone. It’s fun to see Larry Hagman and Joan Collins a few years before their nighttime television soaps Dallas and Dynasty, respectively.
- LET IT BE (1970). DIR: Michael Lindsay-Hogg. This documentary chronicles the Beatles’ Let It Be album and clearly shows tension between the group members. Although once available on an Apple LaserDisc, Let It Be has never been on DVD or Blu-ray. Clearly Apple has all the materials to not only restore and improve the 16mm material, but they have multi-track masters of the music. Can you imagine experiencing this movie in a new 35mm print with a 5.1 surround music mix? I would love to see it on the big screen first and then be able to buy a Blu-ray with plenty of outtakes, extras and interviews with Paul, Ringo, director Lindsay-Hogg, and others involved.
- MARYJANE (1968). DIR: Maury Dexter. Is this the ‘sixties version of Reefer Madness? I’ve never seen it so I don’t really know. But the synopsis certainly sounds promising. High school art teacher (singer Fabian) tries to break up a drug ring but ends up being framed for possession! Among the youngsters who get caught up in the drug ring are Patti McCormick (all grown up after her scary turn in The Bad Seed) and Teri Garr. Others in small roles include writer Carl Gottlieb (Jaws) and Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman). Director Maury Dexter was a veteran of low-budget genre films at Fox and AIP. The screenplay was co-written by television luminaries Dick Gautier (Hymie the robot on Get Smart) and Peter Marshall (host of Hollywood Squares)!
- CITIZENS BAND [aka HANDLE WITH CARE] (1977). DIR: Jonathan Demme. Citizens Band is an underrated comedy about a small community adversely affected by the citizens band radio craze as locals hide behind false identities. “Spider” (Paul LeMat, later the star of Demme’s Melvin and Howard) tries to negotiate the radio waves with supporting performances from Candy Clark (LeMat’s co-star in American Graffiti), Bruce McGill (Animal House), Roberts Blossom, Ann Wedgeworth, Marcia Rodd and Ed Begley Jr (This is Spinal Tap). Mis”handled” by Paramount Pictures in its original release with an awkward title change and no poster art, Citizens Band is a funny cautionary tale that presages the problems with computer social networking.
- THE DEVILS (1971). DIR: Ken Russell. Currently available only in a region 2 DVD from the British Film Institute, Ken Russell’s movie The Devils comes from a book based on true events by Aldous Huxley (The Devils of Loudun). In 1634 France, Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue) seeks total control of the church but he finds an obstacle in Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) who oversees the walled city of Loudun. Richelieu uses an inquisitor (Michael Gothard) and a sexually repressed nun (Vanessa Redgrave) to remove Grandier in a painfully bloody manner. With production design by Derek Jarman and Russell at the height of his powers, The Devils is an amazing experience in the cinema. Although embraced by college students and alternative movie theaters, the movie was not financially successful in its initial release. Warner Brothers cut the X-rated movie to an R and re-released in an attempt to cash in on the success of The Exorcist to no avail. The BFI DVD is the X-rated version as released in America. BFI has done a magnificent job with extras including behind-the-scenes footage and interviews that include director Russell. If you have a region-free player, this DVD is worth getting. But what I would like to see is a restored DVD that, if possible, would include Russell’s director’s cut as well as interviews with other directors who are fans of the film like Guillermo del Toro, Joe Dante, Terry Gilliam, and David Cronenberg. Check out the book Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of the Devils (2012, ECW Press) for an appreciation and some great interviews in print.
Also worthy of mention:
- RUBY IN PARADISE (1993). DIR: Michael Nunez. Understated independent feature starring Ashley Judd as a small-town Tennessee girl starting a new life in Florida.
- CITY OF HOPE (1991). DIR: John Sayles. Story of intersecting lives in the inner city stars Vincent Spano, Tony Lo Bianco, Joe Morton, Angela Bassett, David Strathairn and many more. Writer-director Sayles himself has a role as a newspaper editor. The issues presented in the movie are still with us after almost twenty-five years. City of Hope is a powerful film with fitting end title song “Fearless” by The Neville Brothers. It deserves release on DVD and/or Blu-ray.
- BABY FACE NELSON (1957). DIR: Don Siegel. Gritty little black-and-white crime film as only Siegel (Dirty Harry) can make them. Mickey Rooney stars as the Depression-era criminal with Carolyn Jones (fresh from Siegel’s original Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as his wife. During his crime spree Nelson allies himself with the notorious John Dillinger (Leo Gordon). Great supporting cast includes Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Jack Elam, John Hoyt, Elisha Cook and Dabbs Greer. On DVD this is only available in a bad (probably illicit) copy. This movie should be restored for home viewing.
- CHARLEY VARRICK (1973). DIR: Don Siegel. Not long after the success of Dirty Harry Don Siegel directed this crime film starring Walter Matthau as a crop-dusting pilot who hatches a plot to rob a bank in the American southwest. Soon Charley and his cohorts discover that there is more to their haul than they expected. Andrew Robinson (Scorpio in Dirty Harry) lends excellent support as one of Varrick’s crew. Felicia Farr, Sheree North, Norman Fell, Woodrow Parfrey and William Schallert round out the cast while Joe Don Baker portrays a merciless killer. This movie is currently only available in a 4×3 American version and an expensive region 2 British widescreen DVD. It’s high time Universal made a proper widescreen DVD or Blu-ray available.
- THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974). Dir: Don Siegel. When the son of British agent John Tarrant (Michael Caine) is kidnapped for ransom, he discovers that no one in British intelligence will help him. So he sets out to find his son and kill the kidnappers himself. This taut thriller has a fine European cast of actors like Donald Pleasance, Delphine Seyrig, Clive Revill, Joss Ackland, Janet Suzman and Catherine Schell. John Vernon (the mayor in Dirty Harry and the dean in Animal House) does a fine turn as the villain. The Black Windmill is an underappreciated film of the 1970s that is available in reasonably priced region 2 British DVD for those who own region-free players in America. It should be available on an American disc.
- THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948). DIR: John Farrow. This creepy noir about magician (Edward G. Robinson) whose ability to foresee the future proves to be more curse than blessing was directed by John Farrow (father of Mia). Among the supporting cast are Gail Russell and John Lund. Based on a story by Cornell Woolrich (another of his stories was the basis of Hitchcock’s Rear WIndow).
- MISS TATLOCK’S MILLIONS (1948). DIR: Richard Haydn. Miss Tatlock’s will leaves riches to apresumed dead nitwit relative. Family members hire a Hollywood stuntman (John Lund) to pose as the heir so they can access the money. Charles Brackett (frequent collaborator of Billy Wilder) co-wrote the screwball comedy that boasts among its cast Wanda Hendrix. Barry Fitzgerald and Monty Woolley. Hollywood scenes have cameos by director Mitchell Leisen and actor Ray Milland.
- BUSTER AND BILLIE (1974). DIR: Daniel Petrie. Jan-Michael Vincent and Joan Goodfellow play star-crossed high school lovers in 1948 Georgia. Pamela Sue Martin and Robert Englund (before he became “Freddie Kruger”) round out the cast.
- LAST SUMMER (1969). DIR: Frank Perry. Film version of Evan Hunter story about four teenagers (Richard Thomas, Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison and Catherine Burns) whose budding sexuality turns dark and dangerous. Ralph Waite (before he played Richard Thomas’ father on The Waltons television series) appears in a supporting role. This movie occasionally shows on TCM but only in a flat 1.33:1 version instead of in the original widescreen theatrical version.
- KILLERS THREE (1968). One of several AIP 1930’s era gangster films made to cash in on the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967). This one stars Robert Walker Jr., Diane Varsi (Peyton Place, Johnny Got His Gun), and America’s oldest teenager Dick Clark! The movie was co-produced by Clark and has a supporting cast that includes Merle Haggard and Maureen Arthur (television’s Maude). Haggard’s song “Mama Tried” is the main title music.
- BLOOD AND ROSES [aka Et Mourir de Plaisir] (1960). Dir: Roger Vadim. Blood and Roses is one of several movies made from Sheridan Le Fanu’s story about the vampire Carmilla. In Vadim’s version Carmilla (Elsa Martinelli) isn’t sure if she really is a vampire or if it’s all in her mind. Also stars Mel Ferrer (King Vidor’s version of War and Peace). Currently only available in the U.S. in a flat version. There is a German 2.35:1 DVD that has the option of French with English subtitles but presumably viewing it would require a region-free player. It would be great to see this in an American Blu-ray and/or DVD.
- HOME MOVIES (1979). DIR: Brian De Palma. Keith Gordon (Dressed To Kill) stars in this low budget comedy about an aspiring young filmmaker who is constantly being given advice and life lessons by movie guru “The Maestro” (Kirk Douglas). The movie also stars Vincent Gardenia, Gerrit Graham and Theresa Saldana. The tone of Home Movies recalls De Palma’s early films like Greetings and Hi, Mom! Those who like myself hoped De Palma would bring a similar satirical style to Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) were sorely disappointed.