February & March at The Movie Morlocks

eastwoodvcI’ve been neglecting Cinebeats again. Having a hard time getting back into the swing of things around here and other endeavors are keeping me from the blog. But I thought I’d finally update with a quick list of some highlights from my February & Mach contributions to TCM’s Movie Morlocks. You can read all the articles by following the links below.

Wanna Rumble?
Excerpt: “I usually go out of my way to avoid ruffling the feathers of my fellow film fanatics but there are plenty of things that get me riled up on a monthly basis. Sometimes a girl’s just got to let off a little steam . . .”
Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of TCM with a free screening of CASABLANCA
Excerpt: “What fires up my imagination (about CASABLANCA) are the peripheral characters that linger around the film’s rough edges. The shady rogues, crooked cops, war criminals and usual suspects are the glue that holds this movie together for me.”
Play it Again, Morricone: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)
Excerpt: “While Leone’s camera lovingly lingers on dust covered streets, decaying buildings, weather worn leather boots, gleaming gun barrels and the expressive faces of the actors that make up his cast, Morricone breathes life into them through his music and sound design. Together they’re one of cinemas most extraordinary and ingenious duos and it’s become impossible to think of one man without acknowledging the talents of the other.”
Unfinished Films: Where Can I Buy My Ticket?
Excerpt: “Jodorowsky’s story isn’t uncommon and there are thousands of forgotten unmade movies that we’ll never get the opportunity to see although they may not have had the same ambition or scope as the long lost DUNE. With this in mind I decided to compile a list of some particularly intriguing film projects that never made it to the big screen. These are the forgotten dreams of frustrated directors and writers but from time to time I find them unspooling in my head…”

thirst03
Ancient Evil is Now a Modern Industry: THIRST (1979)
Excerpt: “Few film subjects have been as exploited, examined and scrutinized as vampires. These blood sucking monsters are a favorite topic of horror filmmakers and fans, morbid romantics and angst-ridden pubescent teens. In recent years the vampire has lost some of its bite thanks to a spat of predictable and tired films made for kids and indiscriminate adults but this wasn’t always the case. The 1970s was a particularly inventive time for our fanged friends…”
The Nightmarish World of Maya Deren
Excerpt: “MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON appears to take shape within the troubled mind of its doom-laden female protagonist. It’s propelled by dream logic without any familiar narrative structure but it contains elements and visual metaphors found in countless horror movies beginning with a locked door that leads viewers into a vacant house that seems alive with apparitions..”

What’s It All About, Alfie?

Michael Caine

Michael Caine was one of the coolest actors working during the ’60s and ’70s but he was also incredibly sexy. He had unconventional good looks and I love the thick black glasses he used to wear that often hid his eyes and amazingly long lashes. Michael Caine may have played a British tough guy on numerous occasions but he had some of the loveliest eyes I’ve ever seen on an actor. He’s also incredibly talented and appeared in a lot of terrific movies including The Ipcress File (1965), Alfie (1966), Gambit (1966), Funeral in Berlin (1966), Billion Dollar Brain (1967), Deadfall (1968), The Magus (1968), The Italian Job (1969), Get Carter (1970), Sleuth (1972) and John Huston’s remarkable epic adventure, The Man Who Would Be King (1975), which was recently re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few weeks ago, just to name a few. Caine’s lengthy filmography is incredibly impressive, which is why he’s a living legend today. If you’re interested in learning more about the actor I highly recommend his 1992 autobiography “What’s It All About?” I recently picked up a copy for 50 cents at my local Goodwill store and it was a fast and fun read. Michael Caine writes with the same sense of humor that is apparent in many of the interviews he’s done. Here’s a few choice quotes from his book…
Michael Caine

“One of the biggest movie companies in Britain at the time was Associated British Pictures, who ran their operation like an old Hollywood studio, with a rota of actors under contract. I was sent to see their chief casting director, a very powerful man called Robert Lennard… “My son is an accountant.” he said, “and he has more chance of success in this business than you do.” I sat there quite numb but smiling. He went on, “This may sound unkind, but you will thank me in the long run. I know this business well and I can assure you that you have no future in it. Give it up, Michael.”

“Terry (Stamp) and I made a pact at the beginning of the year. Because our profession was so unpredictable and we never knew who was going to be making any money, we promised each other that whichever one of us was working, if the other one could not pay his share of the rent, the one with the money would cough up. We shook hands on the deal, a sign of the true bond and depth of our friendship, and that is how it remained until we eventually made enough money for flats of our own.”

“The sixties had arrived in London. The Beatles were playing endlessly on the radio, The Rolling Stones were gathering fans and David Bailey was taking pictures of what he called “Dolly Birds.” This particular breed was brand new and all of a sudden more numerous than the London sparrow. All at once it seemed that every pretty girl with no tits was modeling clothes and every pretty girl with big tits was modeling those.”
Michael Caine

“I had never imagined that Alfie would be released in the US and had played the role in a very thick Cockney accent with lots of slang words that would have made it impossible for an American to understand. Shelly Winters once told me many years later that she had never understood a single word I said to her in Alfie, and had just waited for my lips to stop moving and taken that as her cue to speak.”

“Working with Sean (Connery) was an absolute joy for me. I had rarely worked with an actor who was so unselfish and generous, so much so that you could experiment and take chances and not expect to find a knife in your back if it went wrong. We did all sorts of improvisations, which are less easy in films than in the theatre because of the technology involved, but it was all done in a completely relaxed atmosphere, because John (Huston) trusted us and we trusted each other.”

“There used to be a hardware store right on Beverly Hills Drive* where you could buy mundane things like nails and string, but where you could see the most extraordinary people buying them. I once saw Fred Astaire buying sandpaper and Danny Kaye buying one light bulb. The most frightening sight I ever saw during my whole stay in America was in that hardware store. I hid behind a shelf of tools and watched Klaus Kinski buying an axe. It cleared the store.”

*I believe Michael Caine is referring to Hollywood’s historic Pioneer Hardware store on Crescent Dr. in Beverly Hills, where you can still purchase some sandpaper or an axe if the need ever arises.

An Evening with Terence Stamp

Terence Stamp 2011

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending an event titled “An Evening with Terence Stamp” that took place during the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival at the Castro Theatre. Regular Cinebeats’ readers are probably well aware that Stamp is one of my favorite actors so I was overjoyed to get the opportunity to see him discuss his career in person. The evening was topped of with a showing of one of my favorite Terence Stamp films, Fellini’s Toby Dammit (1968). You can read a brief account of my amazing evening at the Movie Morlocks this week.
An Evening with Terence Stamp @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog
Castro Theatre

Terence Stamp 2011

10 Characters I Love

The task: Make a list of 10 of your favorite film characters.As much as I tend to dislike these blog memes, I couldn’t say no to The Agitation of the Mind, Coosa Creak Cinema and Bubblegum Aesthetics so I finally took the plunge and decided to participate. Like any self-respecting film enthusiast I have hundreds of favorite film characters, but here’s a short list of 10. I decided not to comment on my selections so I’ll leave it up to my readers to figure out the why’s and what for behind each of my choices.

tscollector
1. Freddie Clegg as played by Terence Stamp
The Collector (William Wyler; 1965)
"You could fall in love with me if you tried.
I’ve done everything I could to make it easy. You just won’t try!"
 
mmmisfits
2. Roslyn Taber as played by Marliyn Monroe
The Misfits (John Huston; 1960)
"Maybe all there really is is just the next thing. The next thing that happens.
 Maybe you’re not supposed to remember anybody’s promises. "
 
mjperformance
3. Turner as played by Mick Jagger
Performance (Donald Cammell/Nicolas Roeg; 1970)
"The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness. "
 
sasorimk
4. Nami "Sasori" Matsushima as played by Meiko Kaji
Female Prisoner Scorpion films (Shunya Ito/Yasuharu Hasebe; 1972-73)
"To be deceived is a woman’s crime."
 
tucogbu
5. Tuco Ramirez as played by Eli Wallach
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone; 1966)
"When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk."
 
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6. Angel Blake as played by Linda Hayden
Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard; 1971)
"Little Mark had the Devil in him so we cut it out."
 
pcbelle
7. Marcel as played by Pierre Clementi
Belle de jour (Luis Bunuel; 1967)
 "Many girls would love to be in your place."
 
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8. Countess Bathory as played by Delphine Seyrig
Daughters Of Darkness (Harry Kümel; 1971)
"Let the dead bury the dead."
 
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9. Maude as played by Ruth Gordon
Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby; 1971) "It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life.
Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully."
 
kk
10. Klaus Kinski as Klaus Kinski
My Best Feind (Werner Herzog; 1999)
"I am not your superstar."
As usual, I’m supposed to pass this meme along to 5 other film bloggers so My Life in Movies, Impossible Funky, Hammer and Beyond, Film Walrus and I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind are invited to participate if they’d like to.

My Top 20 Favorite Films of 1968

At the Britannica blog Raymond Benson has finished listing off his Top 10 Favorite Films of 1968 so if you’re interested in the final results stop by and give them a look. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I dislike making lists of favorite films myself since they’re limited by what I’ve seen and are subject to change at anytime. Roger Ebert recently asked his blog readers to “. . . agree that all lists of movies are nonsense.” I agreed with him wholeheartedly at the time, but in the process of watching Raymond Benson share his list favorite films from 1968 I naturally began thinking of my own favorite films released the same year.

Compiling a list of favorite films restricted by their release date without implying that they’re “the best” (whatever that means) started to seem like a fun exercise. And while reading the complaints and reservations about Raymond Benson’s own selections I even suggested that it would be interesting if all the participants of the Britannica blog “round-table” supplied their own list of Top 10 Favorite Films for 1968 so we could compare them. I figured that if we were going to scrutinize Raymond Benson’s selections we might as well scrutinize each other. I also thought that it would probably enrich the discussion. No one else seemed willing or able to share a list of there own picks, but for the past two weeks I’ve been quietly compiling a list of my own favorite films from 1968.

I wasn’t planing on sharing my own list with anyone, but over the weekend I listened to an interesting discussion between Greencine’s David Hudson, Film Comment‘s Gavin Smith and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about the current state of film criticism that got me contemplating my list again. During the discussion Jonathan Rosenbaum smartly pointed out that, “People love lists now because they need to. There’s too much to navigate through.” In my own experience I’ve found this to be very true. Since I started blogging my “Favorite DVDs of the year” lists for 2006 and 2007 have become some of my most popular posts and they’ve generated some lively discussions and lots of email. I think other people appreciate them because they offer a brief look at some films I’ve enjoyed and recommend. And in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum, the lists are easy to navigate through.

So without further explanation, here’s a list of some of my own favorite films from 1968. I couldn’t manage to narrow all my choices down to a mere Top 10 so I just decided to share my Top 20 list instead. I purposefully left off documentaries so you won’t find any listed and four of the films on my list were also on Raymond Benson’s list. The numerical order doesn’t mean much and naturally my list is subject to change at anytime since I’m continually being exposed to new movies. It also should be noted that after looking at various print and online sources I’ve come across different release dates for some films. As far as I know, the following 20 films were originally released in 1968.

My TOP 20 FAVORITE FILMS OF 1968

ifposter
1. If…. (Lindsay Anderson; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about If…. can be found HERE and HERE.

Black Lizard (1968)
2. Black Lizard aka Kurotokage (Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Black Lizard can be found HERE.
I’m currently working on a much longer article about the film and its star that I hope to share here soon.

Spirits of the Dead (1968)
3. Spirits of the Dead aka Histoires Extraordinaires
(Federico Fellini, Louis Malle & Roger Vadim; 1968)

Some of my thought about Spirits of the Dead can be found HERE.

Teorema (1968)
4. Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Teorema can be found HERE.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick; 1968)

Diabolik (1968)
6. Diabolik aka Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava; 1968)
Some of my brief thoughts about Diabolik can be found HERE.

Succubus (1968)
7. Succubus aka Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (Jesus Franco; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Succubus can be found HERE.

greatsilenceposter
8. The Great Silence aka Il Grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci; 1968)
Some of my thought about The Great Silence can be found HERE and HERE.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
9. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski; 1968)

Petulia (1968)
10. Petulia (Richard Lester; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Petulia can be found HERE.

blackmailmylifeposter
11. Blackmail Is My Life aka Kyokatsu koso Waga Jinsei ( Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Blackmail Is My Life can be found HERE

Boom (1968)
12. Boom! (Joesph Losey; 1968)
My lengthy look at Boom! can be found HERE.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
13. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero; 1968)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
14. The Thomas Crown Affair (Norman Jewison; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about The Thomas Crown Affair can be found HERE.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
15. Girl on a Motorcycle aka Naked Under Leather (Jack Cardiff; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Alain Delon and Girl on a Motorcycle can be found HERE.

westposter
16. Once Upon a Time in the West aka C’era una volta il West
(Sergio Leone; 1968)

Some of my thoughts about Once Upon a Time in the West can be found HERE.


17. Death Laid an Egg aka La Morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi; 1968)
I briefly mentioned my fondness for Death Laid an Egg HERE.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)
18. The Devil Rides Out aka The Devil’s Bride (Terence Fisher; 1968)

thepartyp
19. The Party (Blake Edwards; 1968)

Barbarella (1968)
20. Barbarella (Roger Vadim; 1968)

Honorable mention goes to the wonderful Yokai Monster films that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

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.

12 Favorite Foreign Language Films

I didn’t want to just list the 12 films I sent in for inclusion that didn’t make the final list of nominees for the Foreign Language Films List without writing a bit about them and why I love them so much. My entire list is filled to the brim with Japanese, Italian and French films and that’s not just because they’re easily available. It means that I really love Japanese, Italian and French cinema. In all honesty, I didn’t expect a lot of the following films to make the final list because they’re personal favorites and some are not easily available on DVD, but that wasn’t one of the requirements. We were asked to list favorites and that’s what I did. If someone wanted me to teach a class on world cinema using my list I would have probably selected some different films.

I think the best part about creating these lists is discovering stuff out about yourself. While creating my list it I learned the following:

The sixties is far and away my favorite film decade.
I love Japanese crime films and the more surreal the better. At least five films in a similar vein made my list.
I love horror/science fiction films with a Frankenstein theme. At least three films with variations of this theme made my list.
I love films with great opening sequences. If a movie can make my jaw hit the floor within the first 10-15 minutes, it gains my instant affection. Many of the films on my list contain amazing opening sequences that grab you by the throat and never let go.
Alain Delon is still my favorite actor. I could watch him stare out a window for 4 hours and never get bored.

So without further delay – Here is a list of 12 of my Favorite Foreign Language Films that didn’t make the final list of nominees. They’re listed in alphabetical order:

The 10th Victim a.k.a. La Decima Vittima (1965, Elio Petri)
Italian director Elio Petri won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1971 for his film The Working Class Goes to Heaven and a Jury Prize in 1970 for his film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, which was also nominated for an Oscar. Sadly, none of Petri’s films made the nominee list but I hoped that his stylish sixties science fiction film the The 10th Victim would. Part social satire, part dark sex comedy and all style, The 10th Victim is truly one of the sixties greatest looking films. It stars the lovely Ursula Andress and handsome Marcello Mastroianni in two of their most unforgettable roles as hunter and victim playing a televised survival game. It undoubtedly inspired many other lesser films such as The Running Man (1987) and Fukasaku’s Battle Royal (2000), but The 10th Victim is far and away one of the smartest and most adult science fiction films ever made. The fantastic cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo and fabulous score by Piero Piccioni are tops.

Clip from The 10th Victim

Black Lizard a.k.a. Kurotokage (1968, Kinji Fukasaku)
Kinji Fukasaku made a lot of great movies in Japan before his untimely death in 2003, but this truly surreal 1968 crime thriller is a personal favorite. It combines the best elements found in sixties era James Bond films and Film Noir with an erotic mystery that is guaranteed to leave first time viewers stunned. The film’s avant-garde “pop art” sensibility and dark humor really appeal to me. The lovely female lead is played by the reigning queen of Japanese drag performers, Akihiro Miwa, and his real-life lover (famed Japanese author Yukio Mishima who helped write the screenplay) even makes an appearance in the film. I hope to write a more in-depth review of Black Lizard very soon, but I will add that I’ve rarely had a better time at the movies than when I first saw this film back in the early 1990s.

Blood & Black Lace a.k.a. Sei Donne per l’assassino (1964, Mario Bava)
Selecting one Mario Bava film for my list was nearly impossible since he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, but I finally decided to include his original giallo film that managed to forge an entire genre, Blood and Black Lace. This amazing looking film really showcases everything that I love about Bava’s filmmaking and giallo films in general. It features some of Bava’s best and most brilliant color photography and impressive special effects that still make my eyes pop. Blood and Black Lace has inspired countless imitators, but this truly original piece of work remains bold and exciting some 40 years after it was first made.

German language trailer for Blood and Black Lace

The Diabolical Doctor Z a.k.a. Miss Muerte (1966, Jess Franco)
I love a lot of Jess Franco films, but I also have my favorites and The Diabolical Doctor Z was the first film that made me a Franco fan for life. This incredible looking Spanish/French production features a terrific international cast and boasts some of Franco’s most impressive directing. It was the film that really cemented Franco’s name in the world of international cinema and it contains many of the director’s favorite themes that are perfectly executed here (it’s also co-written by Bunuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere). The film finds inspiration in Georges Franju’s classic Eyes Without a Face as well as old Universal monster films, but somehow Franco still manages to give the film a very original and modern feel that is all his own.

Bad American trailer for The Diabolical Doctor Z

The Face of Another a.k.a. Tanin no Kao (1966, Hiroshi Teshigahara)
I’ve already written about Teshigahara’s film in great detail so I won’t bother saying much more, but you can find my previous thoughts about this amazing film here.

Japanese trailer for The Face of Another

Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973, Shunya Ito)
I’ve loved the Japanese Female Prisoner Scorpion films since I first discovered them being released on DVD in the states in 2002. They’re on unusual blend of two genres (Pinky Violence and Women in Prison films) that somehow manage to take what could be considered very trashy and exploitive themes and turn them into truly great avant-garde filmmaking. Beast Stable is the third and last film in the series directed by Shunya Ito and he brings everything I love about his earlier films into this last movie in the series and turns it up to volume 10. He also manages to define his previous ideas and develop his directing style in ways that really impress me and that’s why this film is my favorite in the series. I wrote another tiny blurb about Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable earlier this year, which you can find here.

Japanese trailer for Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable

Gonin a.k.a. Five (1995, Takashi Ishi)
The 1990s was an amazing decade for Japanese cinema and I wanted to include films made by many great directors from this period on my list such as Takeshi Kitano, Takeshi Miike, Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Hirokazu Koreeda, but after I started slowly chipping away at my long list of Favorite Foreign Language films to select a mere 25 for inclusion on my list, Gonin was the one film from the decade that remained (I also assumed those other directors would make the list without my vote). Takashi Ishi has only made a few worthwhile films and Gonin is far and away his greatest achievement, but its influence on modern Japanese cinema shouldn’t be underestimated. This incredible crime film involves a gang of misfits who come together and try to rob the local yakuza, but things don’t exactly go as planned and as the film unfolds in a thunderous wave of unparalleled violence and mind-blowing action, it also takes on a dark, surreal and horrific tone that raises it far above most typical Asian crime films. Underneath Gonin’s slick and stylish exterior you’ll find the first film – in my moving going experience – that dared to openly exploit the gay subtext found in thousands of buddy action movies made in previous decades. It also contains some terrific performances by great Japanese actors such as the amazing Takeshi Kitano who is guaranteed to impress and give you nightmares as a bloodthirsty one-eyed hitman. I first saw Gonin when it debuted in the US in San Francisco and half the audience left before the film finished. The rest of us that remained sat in stunned silence until the very end. We all watched the credits roll until the darkened theater turned on the house lights and then we all looked at each other – half of us with tears in our eyes and the other half with our jaws still on the ground – fully aware that we had just experienced a stunning and groundbreaking film. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.

The original Gonin trailer

Jean De Florette / Manon of the Spring (1986, Claude Berri)
It’s hard to explain why we enjoy some films more than others, but ever since I first sat through the entire 4-hour sweeping epic that is Claude Berri’s Jean De Florette and Manon of the Spring back in the late 1980s when I was in college studying film, I’ve been in love with these two movies. Together they make up a powerful drama of great beauty that manages to invoke the magic of cinema classics while telling a timeless story that can still deeply affect modern audiences. Has the French countryside ever looked so beautiful? These are films that I’ve come back to again and again when the world doesn’t seem right and I need a “pick me up” as well as a confirmation of humanity in all it’s loveliness and ugliness. The great French actor Yves Montand also delivers an incredibly moving performance in these films that always leaves me impressed.

American trailer for Manon of the Spring

Pale Flower a.k.a. Kawaita Hana (1964, Masahiro Shinoda)
If you haven’t noticed by now, I really love Japanese crime films and many of my favorites ended up making my list because I couldn’t bare to leave them off. Shinoda’s brilliant Pale Flower manages to be both an erotic and highly subversive bit of filmmaking that perfectly represents the Japanese New Wave while keeping one foot firmly planted in the violent underworld of Japanese crime cinema. Shinoda takes what could be a simple yakuza tale and love story and turns it into cinematic art. This gorgeous film showcases why he’s one of Japan’s greatest modern filmmakers. I naively assumed Shinoda’s amazing film Double Suicide would make the final list of nominees so I voted for Pale Flower instead, but I love both films a lot. In the end though, Pale Flower is the Shinoda film that I like to return to again and again. It’s complex themes and incredible aesthetic appeal to me in many ways.

Santa Sangre (1989, Alejandro Jodorowsky)
With the recent release of the Jodorowsky DVD Box set in America this year I assumed that at least one of his films would make it onto the list of nominees. Obviously I assumed wrong. I expect that Jodorowsky’s brand of surrealism is still just a bit too extreme for most film audiences. That’s really a shame, because he’s made some fascinating films and my favorite Jodorowsky film is Santa Sangre. Santa Sangre is probably Jodorwsky’s darkest effort and it’s also his most fully realized film in my opinion. It’s brimming with unforgettable imagery and startling storytelling techniques that recall an earlier time in European horror cinema. Like many of the films on my list, Santa Sangre is not easy viewing. It demands a lot from potential viewers, but it’s a film that constantly comes to mind when I think about foreign language films that have deeply affected me. It changed the way that I view cinema and shaped my appreciation of the art form.

Clip from Santa Sangre

Teorema (1968, Pier Paolo Pasolini)
I’m not really sure that Pasolini’s Teorema counts 100% as a foreign language film, but I included it in my list anyway. Teorema is a film that seems to divide audiences and many critics find it incomprehensible or just plain trashy. I think it’s a bit of both and that’s why I love it so much. It also features some of Pasolini’s most impressive imagery and manages to mix eroticism with political and social issues in an extremely creative way. Terence Stamp is unforgettable here as the mysterious sexy stranger who enters into the life of a bourgeois family and changes their lives forever. It’s the film that introduced to me to Passolini’s work and it remains a favorite since I first saw it some 18 years ago.

Clip from Teorema

Youth of the Beast – Criterion Collection a.k.a. Yaju no Seishun (1963, Seijun Suzuki)
Sejiun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast is the final film on my list of favorites and it’s undoubtedly one of the best looking films of the bunch. I was astonished that none of Suzuki’s films made the list of final nominees because his work has been available on DVD for many years and is supported by Criterion but the Criterion crowd often dismisses Suzuki. His films are still widely unseen and under-appreciated which is a terrible shame. He’s one of Japan’s greatest living directors, hell, he’s one of the world’s greatest living directors, and he makes some of the most entertaining, provocative and beautiful films that I’ve ever seen. I had an extremely hard time trying to decide which Suzuki film I would select for inclusion on my list. He is the only director that I almost broke my own rule for because I couldn’t pick between the dark WWII drama Gate of Flesh (which I raved about here) and this mind-blowing crime film. Youth of the Beast was the first film that gained Suzuki a reputation in Japan for making unbelievably stylish and over-the-top crime films that left audiences reeling and confused his critics. It was also the first film that brought Suzuki and his longtime star Jo Shishido together, and the two men truly make movie magic on screen that has to be seen to be believed. Youth of the Beast was made only a year after the first James Bond film and yet in many ways it’s light years ahead of any adult action films shot during that decade and it was made on a minuscule budget. Besides mind-blowing action sequences, jaw-dropping photography and an amazingly effective score, the film is also infused with Suzuki’s own brand of erotic violence and showcases his incredibly modern storytelling abilities that have inspired countless imitators. If you rent Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast you are guaranteed a knockout night at the movies that you’ll never forget so if you’re unfamiliar with the director’s work, do yourself a favor and discover it NOW.

Clips from Youth of the Beast

While I was compiling this list of 25 favorites I came up with over 100 films that I wanted to add to make mention of so maybe someday I’ll share my entire list since I regret not including many films – in particular horror films. Lists are tricky things and limited by what we have seen. I don’t like sharing them since my list of favorites could change at any given day depending on my mood and whatever new films I’m exposed to, but I can honestly say that all 25 films on this list will always be personal favorites.

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The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)

I’ve been interested in seeing Alan Cooke’s film The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970) for many years mainly because it’s an Amicus production with a great cast that includes Terence Stamp, Robert Vaughn, Nigel Davenport, Christian Roberts, Donal Donnelly and Vickery Turner. The film also features cinematography by the talented Billy Williams. I’ve seen just about every film that Amicus produced during the ’60s and ’70s and many of them are personal favorites so I assumed I would probably really enjoy The Mind of Mr. Soames as well. The film didn’t exactly live up to my high expectations, but it had plenty of interesting moments and explored many fascinating ideas. The cast was truly exceptional and composer Michael Dress’s score is very good, but unfortunately Alan Cooke’s direction is rather dull and uninspired at times.

The Mind of Mr. Soames is based on a bestselling 1961 novel of the same name written by the British science fiction author Charles Eric Maine (pen name for David McIlwain). It tells the story of a thirty-year-old man named John Soames (Terence Stamp) who suffered a mild brain injury during birth that has kept him in a deep sleep his entire life. As the film opens Dr. Bergen (Robert Vaughn) is traveling to London to meet Dr. Maitland (Nigel Davenport) and perform a revolutionary type of brain surgery that will awaken Soames from his lifelong slumber, but he’s surprised by what he finds at the hospital when he arrives there.

Dr. Maitland (Nigel Davenport) has turned the entire hospital into a sort of set for a reality television program that plans to broadcast the operation and follow John Soames recovery. The ongoing interviews between the doctors and the television crew are conducted by a failed medical student and budding reporter named Thomas Fleming (Christian Roberts) who seems eager to exploit the situation as much as possible for his own gain.

When Soames awakens in a childlike state he is put under the care of the rather severe Dr. Maitland and his more sensitive assistant Joe (Donal Donnelly). Dr. Maitland is determined to accelerate Soames’ developmental process and he subjects him to countless tests and educational classes that leave no room for downtime or meaningful human interactions. Thankfully Dr. Bergen and Joe occasionally step in and try to offer Soames their friendship and understanding, but their acts of kindness seems strangely at odds with the cold and clinical environment Soames is trapped in.

One of the most fascinating things about the film is the way it explores early ideas about reality television. As John Soames slowly develops into an adult he is continually filmed by a television crew that watches his every move. Back in 1961 when The Mind of Mr. Soames was first written, reality television was a somewhat impossible idea and very few people besides smart science fiction writers could have imagined what television would be like today. So much of what is shown in The Mind of Mr. Soames has become commonplace now that it might be easy for some viewers to overlook the film’s somewhat groundbreaking take on modern media.

The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
Mr. Soames (Terence Stamp) rests after the operation

It’s possible that the British documentary series Seven Up! (1964) was a minor inspiration for director Alan Cooke when he decided to turn The Mind of Mr. Soames into a film, but that’s debatable. Before making The Mind of Mr. Soames the director had previously worked in television and his previous experience both hinders and adds to the film in my opinion. Cooke’s directing is very static at times and I sometimes wondered if I was watching a television production instead of a feature film, but he does a wonderful job of portraying the subtle effects that an unblinking camera can have when it’s pointed on an unwilling subject. Cooke clearly understood the power as well as the limits of television and his knowledge of the medium is occasionally used to great effect in The Mind of Mr. Soames.

As the film progresses John Soames becomes more and more disenchanted with the claustrophobic environment he’s trapped in and he longs to escape the hospital as well as the cameras. In some of the films best moments Terence Stamp beautifully portrays Soames as someone who longs to be outside among nature and naively imagines the freedom that it offers. When Soames finally gets to explore the world outside the confines of the hospital walls, the film takes on an unearthly beauty that makes you wish the director had chosen to spend more time there instead of spending so much time inside the sterile hospital.

The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)

James Dean in East of Eden (1955)
Top: Terence Stamp as Mr. Soames Bottom: James Dean (1955) in a similar shot

In one beautiful scene Stamp’s character lays down in the grass and stares wistfully at some flowers which are just beginning to blossom. The scene recalls the wonderful moment in Elia Kazan’s East of Eden (1955) when James Dean laid on the ground and willed the crops to grow. As I mentioned before in my previous piece about Terence Stamp, East of Eden is one of the actor’s favorite films and it was James Dean’s amazing performance as Cal that inspired Terence Stamp to become an actor. I have no idea if The Mind of Mr. Soames mimicked that important scene from East of Eden intentionally or if it was taken straight out of the book, but I can’t help wondering if Terence Stamp himself suggested it since the moment seems so clearly inspired by the film that encouraged him to start acting.

The Mind of Mr. Soames has an interesting, but somewhat unsatisfying ending. I liked the fact that the film didn’t offer any easy answers to John Soames complicated predicament but it somehow felt unfinished. Viewers are left to wonder what will finally become of this infantile character trapped in a man’s body and ruled by an adult world. I have no problem with inconclusive endings, but the movie seemed like it had more to say and never got the opportunity to say it.

Another complaint I have about the film is the lack of time given to the interesting cast of characters such as the kind and sensitive Joe who is played wonderfully by Donal Donnelly (The Knack …and How to Get It) and the pushy reporter Thomas who’s played by the edgy Christian Roberts (To Sir, with Love, Twisted Nerve, etc.) and his girlfriend Naomi who’s played by the cute Vickery Turner. Vickery Turner had lots of small roles in great British films and she was a popular stage actress in Britain during the sixties. When The Mind of Mr. Soames was released she was mostly known in the US as the wife of American actor Warren Oates who she met on the set of the 1969 comedy Crooks and Coronets a year earlier. The two were only married for five years and during that time Turner didn’t seem to do much acting. She’s terribly wasted in The Mind of Mr. Soames which is a shame. I think if her role had been fleshed out a bit more it would have given the film another interesting angle to explore.

The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
Vickery Turner and Christian Roberts in The Mind of Mr. Soames

The Mind of Mr. Soames is hard to see in the US now, but it was originally distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film is definitely worthy of an offical DVD release and I’d love to see a nice widescreen presentation of the film with audio commentary from the main actors who are all still alive, except for Vickery Turner who passed away last year. Even though the movie suffers from some lackluster direction at times and poor editing, the actors raise the production to unexpected heights and Terence Stamp is especially noteworthy as the childlike John Soames.

If you’d like to see more still shots from the film please visit my Mind of Mr. Soames Gallery at Flickr.