12 Films I Must See

I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike blog memes. I find most of them really dull and pointless, but occasionally I get asked to participate in one that sparks my interest. The following 12 Films I Must See meme was forwarded my way by Dennis at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule and it’s a doozy. The point of the meme is to list 12 movies that you’ve never seen before and are difficult to find on video or DVD.

In other words, if you can get it at Netflix or your local Blockbuster, don’t bother mentioning it. But Dennis made up his own rules and included some films that are easy to find but he had just never got around to viewing them so the meme is obviously open to interpretation. I decided to follow the original rules only because there are lots of films I’d like to see made more accessible to American audiences and doing this meme gave me the opportunity to mention a few of them. This list could have been much longer but I decided to just list the first 12 that came into my head in no particular order. And the 12 films are . . .

Shinjuku dorobo nikki (1968) and L’ Insoumis (1964)

1. Shinjuku dorobo nikki (Nagisa Oshima; 1968) aka Diary of a Shinjuku Thief
I’ve only seen a few of Nagisa Oshima’s films (Cruel Story of Youth, In the Realm of the Senses, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and Gohatto) but they all left a big impression on me and I really want to see more of his work. Diary of a Shinjuku Thief is the one Nagisa Oshima film I’d like to see above all others. I believe bootleg copies of the film are floating around online and the movie is occasionally revived and shown at theaters but so far it has managed to evade me.

2. L’ Insoumis (Alain Cavalier; 1964) aka Have I the Right to Kill?
TCM recently dusted off what seems to be the only print of this hard-to-find thriller and showed it once back in April. Unfortunately I missed it and I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity to see it again. The movie stars the magnificent Alain Delon who wields a gun and falls for the pretty Italian actress Lea Massari in the film. L’ Insoumis is often referred to as one of Delon’s “best movies” so I can’t understand why it’s so hard to see. Hopefully someone will release it on DVD soon or TCM will do us all a favor and show it again.

Top: Terence Stamp in Una Stagione all’inferno (1970)
Bottom: Angela Pleasence in Symptoms (1974)

3. Una Stagione all’inferno (Nelo Risi; 1970) aka A Season in Hell
Terence Stamp stars as Rimbaud in this film about the poet’s life and Jean-Claude Brialy plays Paul Verlaine. Does anything else need to be said? How about this – the movie also stars the wonderful actress Florinda Bolkan and features a score by Maurice Jarre that’s easier to find than the actual movie. I’ve been trying to track down a copy of this film for years but I haven’t had any luck and it seems as if there’s virtually no information about the movie available anywhere.

4. Symptoms (José Ramón Larraz; 1974)
I’ve enjoyed all of the José Ramón Larraz‘s films that I’ve seen but so far but his 1974 feature Symptoms has escaped me. The film stars Angela Pleasence (daughter of Donald Pleasence) who always seems extremely uncomfortable in her own skin and it’s often referred to as the directors best film. Unfortunately it’s not available on DVD but I hope some company will release the film in the future since I’m sure it would find an audience. In the meantime I’ll have to make due with a poor quality bootleg copy of the film if I want to see it.

Benjamin (1968) and Chelsea Girls (1966)

5. Benjamin (Michel Deville; 1968)
Catherine Deneuve and Pierre Clementi are two of the most beautiful creatures to appear in French films during the ’60s and I love watching them together in Luis Buñuel’s wonderful Belle de jour (1967) so I know I’d enjoy watching them together in this film. Benjamin claims to be a “French Tom Jones” and so I expect it will probably be a light-hearted French sex comedy. I haven’t come across much info about the movie but Roger Ebert awarded Benjamin with “the 1968 strawberry parfait award” and added that it would float off your fork ” before you can get your mouth open.” He also said that it would appeal to “empty-headed would-be sophisticates who want to attend a pretty French movie that doesn’t make them think, or depress them, or anything.” Sometimes I don’t want to think. Sometimes all I want to do is laugh and watch beautiful people like Catherine Deneuve and Pierre Clementi frolic on screen nude or dressed in lovely period costumes, so I suspect that I’d find something worthwhile about Benjamin if I ever get the chance to see it.

6. Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey; 1966)
I’ve seen bits and pieces of Chelsea Girls but never the entire thing which is approximately 3 1/2 hours long. The film has become a curiosity piece over the years and it has never been officially released on DVD in the US as far as I know. There is an Italian DVD of the film available but I believe it’s currently out of print. Due to the film’s split-screen format I’d prefer to see it in a theater but in all honesty it’s lengthy running time has kept me away from screenings over the years. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity – and the patience – to see the film in its entirety sometime.

Le Moine (1972) and Balsamus l’uomo di Satana (1970)

7. Le Moine (Adonis Kyrou; 1972) aka The Monk
Le Moine is based on the the classic Matthew Lewis novel “The Monk” and stars the handsome and charismatic actor Franco Nero along with the beautiful Natalie Delon. The film also features a script by Luis Buñuel, cinematography by Sacha Vierny and a score by Ennio Morricone & Piero Piccioni. How could this film be anything but great? Le Moine is available on Region-2 DVD but I haven’t had a chance to see it yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

8. Balsamus l’uomo di Satana (Pupi Avati’; 1970) aka Blood Relations
I’ve mentioned before that I’d love to see more of Pupi Avati’s early horror films and Balsamus l’uomo di Satana is at the top of my “must see” list. The tagline for the film is a “Grotesque ‘Bordello’ of Nightmares!” and that’s got me more than a little intrigued. Unfortunately as far as I know Balsamus l’uomo di Satana has never been released on DVD or video and it seems impossible to find. Avati’s latest films continually get rave reviews from critics and win plenty of awards so why aren’t more of his older films available on DVD? I can only hope that the director’s early work will become more accessible in the future.

Top: Made in USA (1966)
Bottom: The Psycopath (1968)

9. Made in USA (Jean-Luc Godard; 1966)
Out of all the Godard films I haven’t had the opportunity to view yet Made in USA is at the top of the list. The complicated plot intrigues me. The cast (which includes Anna Karina, Jean-Pierre Léaud, László Szabó and Marianne Faithfull) is tops and the clips and still shots that I’ve seen look absolutely breathtaking. The film is currently available on DVD in the UK as part of the Region-2 Jean-Luc Godard Collection Vol.1 but I haven’t had any interest in buying the entire set just to see that film since I already own copies of all the other Godard films in the collection.

10. The Psychopath (Freddie Francis; 1968)
The Psycopath is one of the few Freddie Francis‘ films that I haven’t had the chance to see yet because it’s so hard to find. I love all the British thrillers and horror films that Francis made and I’m fond of Amicus films in general. I just know that I’m going to enjoy this movie once I get the chance to see it. Any horror film that involves creepy dolls is high on my “must see” list but when you add Freddie Francis’ name to the mix along with Amicus, well I don’t think I need to say much more.

Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo (1963) and Das Indische Tuch (1963)

11. Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo (Seijun Suzuki; 1963) aka Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell Bastards
This is the first crime film that director Seijun Suzuki made with Joe Shishido and the only film they made together that I haven’t had the pleasure to see. From all the accounts I’ve read it appears to be a predecessor to one of my favorite Suzuki films, the amazing Youth of the Beast. It was written by Haruhiko Oyabu who also wrote Youth of the Beast and Shishido plays the role of Joji ‘Jo’ Mizuno again. Many of the actors who appeared in Youth of the Beast also have roles in Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo. As far as I know, the film is not available on DVD anywhere but I really hope Criterion will consider releasing it in the future since I think the film would obviously appeal to anyone who has enjoyed Criterion’s previous Suzuki/Shishido DVD releases.

12. Das Indische Tuch (Alfred Vohrer; 1963) aka The Indian Scarf
There are plenty of German Krimi films featuring the incredible Klaus Kinski that I could have included on this list but I just decided on this one because I love the poster art so much. Many of my regular readers know that Kinski is one of my favorite actors and I’ve seen a lot of his films, which is saying something since the man appeared in hundreds of movies (what it’s saying I’m not exactly sure, except maybe that I spend too much time watching movies?) . The real black spot in my Kinski viewing is all the krimi films he made in the ’60s since I’ve only had the oportunity to see 3 or 4 so far and there must be at least 20 more that I’d like to see. I absolutely love the krimi films I have managed to see and I’m fascinated with the work of Edgar Wallace. Many of these films are available on DVD in Germany but I haven’t had the extra funds to purchase them yet. I keep hoping that many if them will be released in a DVD boxset in the US but that looks more and more unlikely as the years roll by. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see all the Kinski krimi films sooner or later.


  1. I’d love to recommend one of these based on experience but I haven’t seen one of these myself. Peter Nellhaus also manageed to produce a complete dozen I hadn’t seen. And thus, I must say, great list. Interesting and varied, just as I would suspect a list of yours to be.

    The top film for me on your list would be The Psychopath. Like you said, British, Amicus, Freddie Francis – no more needs to be said.

  2. God, I’d kill to see Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell Bastards. And The Psychopath. You’ve put a hard finger on some of my weak points.

    I think I’m in the same boat as you with Chelsea Girls. I’ve seen bits and pieces. I’ve seen The Monk (on a bootleg VHS many years ago). The rest is terra incognito. Nice.

  3. Like Jonathan, I’ve never seen any of the films on your list. At the top of them, for me, would be the Godard. I’ve been tagged twice for this meme; maybe I ought to do it, but I’ll chicken out like Dennis and loosen the rules.

  4. I was smart enough to take advantage of a Nagisa Oshima retrospective that introduced his films at the New Yorker Theater many years ago. I also saw Made in U.S.A. but my memories of that film are vaguer. I tried to see Chelsea Girls one time at the Anthology Film Achieves but gave up about halfway. I love the title of the Suzuki film. I probably could have seen a couple more of the films you mentioned when I lived in NYC, but there was always too many choices and not enough time. I’ve also wanted to see Symptoms since reading about it.

  5. I just recently saw “The Monk,” and much as I really, REALLY wanted to love it (I’m a ginormous fan of the Matthew Lewis source novel), it just didn’t work for me. I was so disappointed, considering the fact that it seems like a home-run for all the reasons you’ve pointed out! If’n you’re curious, here’s the entry on the movie along with another film adaptation of “The Monk” that I wrote with my pal Prof. Jack:


    Pee Ess: Good to see you writing in this blog again! I missed ya 🙂

  6. Jonathan – We obviously have a lot in common – we’ve never seen any of these films! As for The Psycopath, I hope the seemingly renewed interest in Francis’ early work following his death might lead to this film being released on DVD since all the still shots I’ve seen have made me eager to see it.

    Christianne – Thanks! You’d think that the Suzuki film would be easily available. There’s obviously a large audience for his work so lets keep our fingers crossed for a Criterion release of Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell Bastards, as well as a DVD release of The Psycopath.

    Rick – I hope you do participate in the meme. I could have listed plenty of films that I haven’t seen that are available on Netflix too but I just went with some hard-to-find films instead. There’s just too few hours in the day and so many movies to see!

    Peter – I’m envious of your viewing opportunities. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to see some of these soon, even though I suspect that sitting through all 3 /2 hours of Chelsea Girls might take me a few days to complete. And I gotta agree with you about Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell Bastards being a great title! Who wouldn’t want to see that movie?

    Kate – Thanks for the welcome back! I believe I first saw the film mentioned on your blog and even though you and Jack didn’t seem to enjoy it too much, I’m eager to see it for myself. I’m hoping that I’ll at least get to see Franco Nero nude and half crazed with lust and desire, but I’m probably expecting too much from it. 😉

  7. The Ontario Cinematheque is having an Oshima retrospective, which they’ll be touring around North America, so there’s a good chance it’ll be coming around your hood.

  8. I just finished telling weepingsam at The Listening Ear how great his list was and now I see yours too…

    As Maddy said, the Oshima retrospective is coming to Toronto this Fall and Diary Of A Shinjuku Thief is scheduled for November 29th at 7PM. I was hoping to catch a few of the screenings, but I think I’ll have to make sure I catch this one.

    Detective Bureau 23 and Psycopath are two must sees. And the Delon and Avanti pictures sound great as well. And Benjamin too. And…Well throw the other 6 in too.

  9. Tantei jimusho 23: Kutabare akuto-domo (1963) aka Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell Bastards…has been licensed by Kino. so, that’s a bitter-sweet confirmation it’s coming.

  10. Congratulations! I’ve been following these a bit in recent days and your is the first to not have a single movie I’ve seen… For the record, it’s Fear and Desire on Peter Nellhaus’s list. I’ll second Jonathan’s call of The Psychopath as the most desireable for me, but they’re all very tempting and intriguing.

  11. Sorry for the continuation… but, yeah. We’ve discussed our mutual love of Freddie Francis, so I won’t retread that too much, but, yeah, all of his movie should be out. This one seems especially bizarre to be unreleased. I mean, it doesn’t seem like it should take a genius to market a DVD of a movie called The Psychopath taken from a screenplay by Robert Bloch!

    And I will accept your invitation. I’ve been pondering this list for a couple of days for when someone tagged me, so hopefully I’ll have one together soon.

  12. Great list.
    I watched Symptoms a few months ago (a bootleg), and it was fantastic. It moved at a slow controlled pace, and created a very creepy atmosphere. Angela Pleasence was wonderful. I’d love to see more of her films.

  13. Thanks for the info about the Oshima retrospective! Im pretty sure there was one in SF not too long ago too. If they can show these films at festivals, then they should also be available on DVD.

    Bob – I’m surprised more people didn’t catch the Delon film when it was shown. Hopefully TCM will make an effort to play it again since obviously I’m not the only person who missed it. I’ll have to give weeping sam’s list a look too.

    logboy – Thanks much for that tip! It’s great to know, even though I would have liked to have seen Criterion release it instead. I know Criterion should be announcing very soon that they’re going to release a batch of Japanese crime films that should appeal to Suzuki fans.

    Neil – Thanks! The Francis film seems to interest most people so maybe that’s a good sign? Hopefully all of his horror films will be available in the future.

    Rodney – Symptoms has gotten good reviews over the years so I suspect that I’ll enjoy it too. Especially since I’ve enjoyed all the other Larraz films I’ve seen. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Angela Pleasence in From Beyond the Grave or Godsend, you might want to give them a look. I wrote about From Beyond the Grave when the DVD was released and you can find my brief review here.

  14. I’d love to be able to say that I’ve seen some of them, so that I can highly recommend them. I haven’t. Honestly some of them I’ve never even heard of. They all sound awesome though. That is one interesting list. That would make quite a film festival. Great choices.

  15. Kimberly, this list is precisely why I tagged you– because I knew you’d come up with a list of fascinating films, some of which I’ve heard of, many of which I have not, and none of which I have seen. In a nutshell, one of the reasons I love your blog is the way you’re constantly leading me down paths I thought I’d tread well, only to find out that the path leads a lot further down into the brush if I’d only just clear the way.

    I’ve been trying to catch as many of the Godard reissues on the big screen as possible– I missed Contempt recently, but Vivre sa vie is coming next month. Maybe someday someone will trot out Made in U.S.A.? I’m not too enthralled by Paul Morrissey, although I’ve seen the Warhol horror films many times, but I’m increasingly interested (and almost completely unexposed to) Pupi Avati. And of course, Freddie Francis is a hero of mine for all the reasons you stated and more (Amicus! Amicus! Amicus!) But of all the ones mentioned, I have to express most curiosity for the work of Oshima. I just wish I’d had the same opportunity Peter had to catch up with his films in such a relatively complete, or at least far-ranging way.

    Much to chew on here. Thanks so much for your great response! I am slowly working my way through all the folks that responded to my original tag- I’ve yet to visit Peter and Bill and Jonathan because my life is right now almost exclusively work. But I’ll get there! I swear!

  16. Keith – I admire your honesty! Some people won’t even admit that they haven’t seen these films – or heard of them – but obviously we’re in the same boat. Hopefully well both get the opportunity to see some of these in the future.

    Dennis – Thanks for asking me to participate! It was fun to put this list together (took me a day to find the images though!) but afterward I thought of 12 more I could have also added. There are a lot of films I want to see. It’s a shame that Oshima’s films are not more easily accessible. Maybe that upcoming film festival that’s touring the country will change that? I’m sure you’ll get it in LA so maybe you’ll have a chance to see some of his hard-to-find films then.

  17. Hi Kimberley,
    I have Delon’s L’Insoumis if you still haven’t managed to find a copy by now. Both original and dubbed versions. Let me know if you’re interested.

  18. I haven’t seen any of these films, although I’ve heard of a few and have been searching for them as well. Especially Symptoms, because after From Beyond the Grave, I’ve got it pretty bad for Angela Pleasence.

    I have no idea what the deal is with Avati. He gets good reviews, and the films of his that do manage to find their way onto DVD are usually excellent, but he just doesn’t seem to have the sort of following that he should. The man who made House with Laughing Windows is clearly a force to be reckoned with, or at least deserving of a larger following than, say, Bruno Mattei.

  19. Popping in late, to let you know that though it’s been quite a while since a full-blown Oshima retro hit the Bay Area (though a 35mm of the Man Who Left His Will on Film was circulating this year, and a few others have been shown in 16mm by SF Cinematheque relatively recently), the Pacific Film Archive is expected to bring the currently-touring retro this spring.

  20. Hey,

    the Cinematheque Ontario is having an Oshima retrospective right now, and it will be touring the US this winter/spring. It may very well end up in a theatre near you. I’ve been going to almost all of them, but just missed “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief”, hence my googling it and stumbling upon your website (I want to see it so badly!). They’re almost all incredible, but I would definitely recommend “Cruel Story of Youth”, “Death by Hanging”, “The Ceremony”, “Boy”, “Sing a Song of Sex” and “Pleasures of the Flesh”. “The man who left his will on film” and “Japanese Double Suicide” can be missed. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of “Merry X-mas Mr. Lawrence” (with the exception of the score, which I couldn’t get out of my head. But seriously, if you get a chance to see Boy, Cruel Story, or Pleasures of the flesh, don’t miss it. Here’s a link to the Cinematheque Ontario website, it may have info on where it’s touring. http://www.cinemathequeontario.ca/


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