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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

by Charlie Largent

A mordant Swedish comedy featuring two traveling salesmen who deal in novelty items like x-ray specs and monster masks. The movie is unique in both its concept and execution – inspired by a painting by Bruegel, the film is presented as a series of barely connected set pieces. Directed by Roy Andersson, the 2014 release…

A Raisin in the Sun

by TFH Team

In this specially filmed trailer producer David Suskind explains why it’s okay for white folks to like his expanded filmization of Lorraine Hansberry’s acclaimed one-set play about the struggles of a modern black family. In 1989 Bill Duke himself helmed an acclaimed TV remake (featuring character actor John Fiedler in the same role he played…

A Room With A View

by TFH Team

Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant brought this adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel to the screen to wide acclaim. Released in 1986, it’s another example of the Merchant/Ivory brand; a literate mix of scrupulous screenwriting and finely-tuned production design carried by astute and intelligent actors. Seemingly destined for the arthouse, the film was…

A Safe Place

by Charlie Largent

Henry Jaglom’s 1971 film is a bit of magic realism that performed a vanishing act at the box office. It remains a fascinating curio, bringing together old school genius/magician Orson Welles with an emerging Hollywood vanguard embodied by Jack Nicholson. Tuesday Weld stars as a lonely dreamer with a tenuous relationship to reality while Gwen…

A Shot in the Dark

by TFH Team

This sequel to 1963’s The Pink Panther is a smaller-scaled affair and all the better for it as director Blake Edwards is able to focus his attention on that great Parisian bumbler, the cosmically inept Inspector Jacques Clouseau – played to slapstick perfection by Peter Sellers. Based on a stage play (that did not include…

A Special Day

by Charlie Largent

The king and queen of Italian cinema, Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, star in this story of a sexy older woman’s affair with a middle-aged gay man—it sounds like one of the duo’s naughty farces from the early ’60s but Ettore Scola’s film is a tragedy set during Mussolini’s regime. Produced by Loren’s husband Carlo…

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankentstein

by TFH Team

After Young Frankenstein, this is probably the best-loved horror comedy of all time and is more elaborately produced than the previous two serious Frankenstein films. Bela Lugosi’s final turn as Dracula, and his last major studio picture. Great music score by Frank Skinner turned up in numerous subsequent A&C monster rallies.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

by TFH Team

Bud and Lou meet their last monster in this well-worn but still amusing‚ finale to their long stint at Universal. The frequently‚ at-odds duo were to break up for good a year later after their last pairing, a lamentable indie project titled after a pop song, Dance with Me Henry.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

by TFH Team

Designer/director Robert Fuest and art director Brian Eatwell created a unique and popular art deco period horror film for Price which gave his career a boost with it’s Love Story parody ad campaign. Wronged by doctors, Phibes murders them in the manner of biblical plagues. Followed by a sequel, it sets the stage for one…

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

by TFH Team

Director Robert Fuest’s grisly black comedy is a sumptuously produced bit of pulp hokum as well as a gruesomely satiric salute to the career of its star, Vincent Price. Our genial anti-hero plays Anton Phibes, a crazed physician seeking revenge on the doctors who (he believes) allowed his wife to die in the aftermath of…

The Abominable Snowman

by TFH Team

The Yeti. Eerie. Mysterious. Does it exist? Sure does, according to this unsung Hammer classic from Nigel Kneale and Val Guest which was tossed off on double bills in America with an especially obtuse ad campaign. The question it asks is, who is the monster, it– or us? By now it appears we all know…

Absence of Malice

by TFH Team

Director Sydney Pollack’s 1981 film is a bristling attack on muckrakers (Paul Newman said the film was, in fact, a direct assault on The New York Post). Sally Field plays the unscrupulous newswoman and Newman is the target of her overreaching (and underhanded) journalistic crusade. Newman and co-star Melinda Dillon were nominated for Academy Awards…

Accion Mutante

by Charlie Largent

A gonzo post-apocalyptic black comedy from the take-no-prisoners Spanish director and comic book artist, Álex de la Iglesia. Set in an undetermined future, the movie pits “the beautiful people” against a fed up lumpenproletariat.  De la Iglesia serves up his usual mix of outré violence and looney tunes comedy, an approach that recalls the modus operandi of…

Ace in the Hole

by TFH Team

Audiences in 1951 rejected Billy Wilder’s acerbic, jet-black satire, based on a real life incident, as cynical and depressing–and that it is, in spades. But today it looks positively prescient in its unrelenting portrait of a callous and sensationalistic media and a gullible, easily manipulated public. One of Wilder’s best, least appreciated movies.

Act of Violence

by TFH Team

Moviegoers seeking easy answers should steer clear of Fred Zinneman’s hardboiled thriller from 1948, Act of Violence. Zinneman uses the then recent horrors of World War II as the springboard for this complex morality play starring Van Heflin and Robert Ryan as two ex-POWs whose shared humanity has been corrupted by the Nazi prison camps….

Adam’s Rib

by TFH Team

Tracy and Hepburn define the word “chemistry” as  husband and wife lawyers battling each each other at home and in a divorce case allegedly inspired by the amicable divorce of Raymond Massey and his wife (so amicable that the married lawyers happily divorced each other and tied the knot with their clients). Rooted in the screwball comedy tradition, Garson Kanin and Ruth…

An Affair to Remember

by TFH Team

One of the then-rare examples of a director remaking his own film, Leo McCarey’s 1957 remake of his 1939 Love Affair casts Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as lovers for the second time, in parts originated by Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne. This all-time champion weepie gained a new fan base when it was excerpted…

Africa Blood and Guts

by TFH Team

The Italian creators of the worldwide ’60s smash Mondo Cane, initiators of the popular “shockumentary” genre, set their sights on the troubled Dark Continent with predictably lurid results. WARNING: contains images of human and animal violence which many may find offensive.

The African Queen

by TFH Team

C.S. Forester’s novel was originally bought by Columbia for Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester, then sold to Warners for Errol Flynn and Bette Davis. John Huston found it years later at Fox. He encouraged Katherine Hepburn, who suffered from dysentery through most of the shoot, to play her role like Eleanor Roosevelt. Screenwriter James Agee,…

After Hours

by TFH Team

A hapless Griffin Dunne tries to make his way home from New York’s Soho district in this quirky, unexpected black comedy that was nearly directed by Tim Burton, who stepped aside for Martin Scorsese when funding for The Last Temptation of Christ fell through. In some ways, this is Scorsese’s own version of Kafka’s The…

Agora

by Charlie Largent

Alejandro Amenábar‘s Agora, set during The Roman Empire circa 391 AD, was Spain’s highest grossing film of 2009, but barely got a release in the US and is almost criminally unknown here. Its (literally) astronomical storyline features Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, 4th century mathematician and astronomer whose study of the geocentric Ptolemaic system foments religious turmoil and leads…

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

by Charlie Largent

The offbeat art house film merges with the old-fashioned Hollywood epic in Werner Herzog’s astonishing Aguirre, the Wrath of God (accent on “wrath”). Filmed under punishing conditions in the Peruvian jungle, Herzog upped the pain quotient by casting the unruly Klaus Kinski as the mad conquistador Lope de Aguirre—the legendary battles between director and actor were…

The Alamo

by TFH Team

“Republic. I like the sound of the word.” No, it’s not John Wayne talking about his former studio employers, but his directorial debut, the 70mm roadshow epic portrayal of the battle for Texas independence. Wayne lost a fortune on the picture, which was hacked into several shorter, less coherent general release versions, but it’s been belatedly…

Alex In Wonderland

by TFH Team

Riding high after the tremendous success of his 1969 hit Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Paul Mazursky kicked off the ’70s with this self-indulgent ode to his own creative block. Not coincidentally, Alex concerns the travails of a director trying to top his last hit. Felliniesque in the worst way (even though the great…

Alice, Sweet Alice

by Charlie Largent

Director Alfred Sole courted controversy on a couple of fronts with this 1976 shocker – the Catholic Church took umbrage over its subject matter (the original title was Communion) and a 1977 re-release threw more gasoline on the fire by exploiting the then 13 year-old Brooke Shield’s semi-scandalous performance in 1977’s Pretty Baby. Though there…

Alien

by TFH Team

The monster in Ridley Scott’s influential sci fi classic was played by a 7’2″ Nigerian design student and set some kind of record for coating with K-Y Jelly, not to mention the shredded condoms standing in for its yucky jaw tendons. A huge success, it spawned three direct sequels, two spinoffs, and two prequels (thus…