An Updated Digest of RBC Weekend Film Recommendations

With minimal forethought, in early November of 2011, I posted about why I like the Steve McQueen film Bullitt. For reasons I can’t fully explain, this larky post grew into a regular feature of RBC weekend film recommendations. The series has featured guest reviews from actors (Ian Jentle), film scholars (Jean O’Reilly) and a fellow public policy analyst (Johann Koehler) who happily is now part of RBC and has a standing spot in the film reviewing rota.

Many people have requested a list of all RBC film recommendations in one place. Well, instead of a new recommendation this week, I am finally getting around to responding. Here is the full list as of Thanksgiving, 2012 Memorial Day, 2013 Thanksgiving, 2013 to be updated now and then. The list is alphabetical, disregarding the words “The” and “A” at the beginning of titles. Best holiday wishes to all.

Airplane! — A goofy, inspired send-up of Zero Hour! Comic brilliance.

American Movie — Funny and engaging slice-of-life documentary about a struggling filmmaker and his family and friends in Wisconsin.

Annie Hall — Woody Allen and Diane Keaton are endearing and hilarious in this 1977 Best Picture Oscar winner about two lovers who are lot like Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

Behind the Sun — A moving, starkly beautiful fable about feuding families b leading Brazilian director Walter Salles.

Bend of the River — Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart deliver another entertaining noir western, with superlative support from Arthur Kennedy, in a story about a family of pioneers trying to establish a new life in Oregon.

The Bishop’s Wife — The only people who grow old were born old to begin with. Cary Grant and Loretta Young’s warm, reverent story of a special visitor with a special mission makes for wonderful Christmas viewing.

The Blue Carbuncle — A charming Christmas episode from the Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series features engaging byplay between Jeremy Brett and David Burke.

Breaker Morant — The Australian New Wave captured the world’s attention with this riveting courtroom drama directed by Bruce Beresford.

Brighton Rock — A tough hood played by Richard Attenborough finds himself falling in love with the saintly girl who witnessed him commit a murder.

Bullitt — Steve McQueen is cooler than cool in this gripping crime film, featuring the most famous car chase in the history of American cinema.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — The first horror film and first film with a twist ending is a triumph of German Expressionism. A unique cinematic experience.

Callan: The Richmond Files — The terrific British TV series that made the terrific Edward Woodward a star comes to a satisfying conclusion as he faces off against fellow superspy T.P. McKenna.

Charlie Muffin — Near-perfect espionage film with David Hemmings as a burned out but still brilliant British spy struggling with inept superiors.

The Chase — Robert Cummings stars in this strange, little-known film noir about a down-on-his-luck ex-GI who finds a job as the driver of a sadistic gangster.

The Cheap Detective — Neil Simon’s parody of Bogart films is even funnier than his Murder by Death (see below), with Peter Falk leading a wonderful comic cast.

Chiefs — This U.S. TV mini-series is an engaging, sprawling, multi-generational story of law enforcement, racism and a serial killer in a small Georgia city.

A Christmas Carol — A treasure of a short animated film including disturbing Victorian images from the Dickens classic.

A Christmas Story — Irresistible comic nostalgia from Jean Shepherd about a boy’s wish for a special present. You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.

The Claim — Michael Winterbottom’s Western-style adaptation of Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge features nuanced acting and astonishingly beautiful scenery.

Cool Hand Luke — Guest reviewer Johann Koehler illuminates this gritty tale of a non-conformist prisoner played by the magnificent Paul Newman.

Count Dracula — Louis Jourdan makes a smooth vampire in this modestly budgeted but solid BBC adaptation of Bram Stoker’s famous novel.

The Court Jester — Danny Kaye does it all in one of the funniest films in the history of American cinema. The pellet with the poison’s in the…

The Cruel Sea — Jack Hawkins anchors an unromantic, moving portrayal of the life of British sailors during World War II.

Curse of the Demon — Jacques Tourner’s chiller pits a skeptical psychologist against a supposed mystic who places a deadly curse upon him. It couldn’t be real, could it?

Dances with Wolves — Johann Koehler recommends Kevin Costner’s “flawed masterpiece”, which resuscitated the Western genre in 1990.

The Day the Earth Stood Still — Robert Wise’s peerless sci-fi classic about a cultured, peace loving alien’s visit to Earth. Klaatu Barada Nikto!

Dear Murderer — This urbane, nasty and entertaining late 1940s Britfilm noir features Eric Portman as a clever killer whose wayward wife Greta Gynt is colder still.

Devil in a Blue Dress — Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle tear up the screen in a fine film noir based on Walter Mosley’s novels about a Black detective in the 1940s.

Dial M for Murder — Though sometimes consider a minor Hitchcock effort, this film benefits from The Master’s genius and the performance of a lifetime by Ray Milland as a murderous, smooth-as-silk villain.

Die Hard — Christmas time is here with big explosions as Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis face off in this thrilling action movie.

Dracula — Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson of Dark Shadows fame deliver a streamlined, fresh and scary take on the bloodsucking Count.

Dracula (Spanish language version) — Shot with Spanish-speaking actors at night on the same sets as the famous Browning/Lugosi version, this film is just as good as its more famous twin.

Ellery Queen Mysteries — Boxed DVD set of the beloved Link/Levenson detective show that was cancelled after only one superlative season. See if you can guess, “who done it”.

Excalibur — John Boorman’s full-blooded, personal take on the King Arthur story is a highly original and enjoyable movie.

Fiddler on the Roof — Norman Jewison brings the beloved, long-running Broadway musical to screen with tremendous success.

Flirting — Australian film set in a boys’ school next to a girls’ school gets the aches and joys of adolescence just right.

The Fountainhead — Michael O’Hare riffs and rants about the pains of watching this movie which is based on the work of third-rate philosopher Ayn Rand, whom he likes even less (if that’s possible).

The Frightened City — Herbert Lom and Sean Connery in a solid B-movie melodrama set in the London underworld.

Fruitvale Station — Most biopics focus on famous people, but this compelling film dramatizes a day in the life an ordinary person: Oscar Julius Grant III, who was the victim of an involuntary manslaughter by a police officer on New Year’s Eve, 2008. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

Get Carter — Michael Caine is electrifying as a bereaved gangster who goes to Newcastle to find out how his brother died. Brutal and stylish.

Ghostbusters — Johann Koehler explains how improvisational comedy and big budget blockbuster filmmaking mesh beautifully in Ivan Reitman’s film about three friends who battle evil spirits.

Gilda — Rita Hayworth seduced the world with this tale of South American intrigue and romance, which also features terrific cinematography by Rudolph Maté and a fine co-leading performance by Glenn Ford.
Great Expectations — British film giant David Lean does right by Charles Dickens.

Green for Danger — The inimitable Alastair Sim investigates a murder in Sidney Gilliat’s marvelous comic mystery.

The Guard — The buddy cop formula gets an irreverent, knowing update in John Michael McDonagh’s tale of an African-American FBI agent saddled with a foul-mouthed, booze-swilling, prostitute patronizing, veteran Irish cop played by Brendan Gleeson. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

A Hard Day’s Night — Richard Lester’s trendsetting musical is pure joy, with the Fab Four on the crest of unprecedented fame and success.

Hell Drivers — Ex-Con Stanley Baker takes on a tough truck driving job, nasty criminals and an agreeably sassy Peggy Cummins in Cy Enfield’s exciting and dramatic film.

The Hill — Director Sidney Lumet’s spare, gut wrenching study of men in a military prison stars Harry Andrews, Sean Connery and Michael Redgrave.

The History Boys — Nicholas Hytner’s adaptation of Alan Bennett’s hit play tells the story of an inspiring, unconventional teacher’s attempt to prepare a group of brainy, randy Yorkshire boys for the Oxford University entrance exams. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

Hoop Dreams — One of the greatest documentaries ever made flinches at nothing in the lives of two African-American teenagers who dream of playing pro basketball. Perhaps the best film Keith has reviewed at RBC…unforgettable.

The Hospital — Paddy Chayefsky penned this acidic black comedy about the world of modern medicine and the patients and doctors who inhabit it.

The Howling — Aaahooooo!!! Lycanthropes terrorize an innocent couple in Joe Dante and John Sayles in-joke-filled werewolf tale aimed at horror movie buffs.

How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying — The charming Robert Morse sings his way from window washer to CEO in 1950s Manhattan, in an effulgent adaptation of Frank Loesser’s Broadway smash.

Impromptu — Judy Davis sparkles as George Sand in a funny, sexy, artistic romp in the French countryside with Chopin, Liszt and Delacroix.

In a Lonely Place — Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame and Director Nicholas Ray are in peak form in this dark tale of romance and murder that packs an emotional wallop.

In the Loop — Armando Iannucci shows his mastery of political satire again with this hilariously foul-mouthed transatlantic tale of scheming pols and generals on the eve of war. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

I Walk Alone — Ex-con Burt Lancaster is out to get his former pal Kirk Douglas in this tough gangster melodrama.

In Which We Serve — Noel Coward’s sincere and stirring film about the Royal Navy succeeds as a patriotic wartime tonic and a memorable film in its own right.

It — Stephen King’s tale of a menacing clown battling a group of friends first as children and then as adults will send a shiver up your spine.

Kansas City Confidential — John Payne anchors this tough, exciting heist film that allegedly inspired Tarantino’s conception of Reservoir Dogs.

The Kennel Murder Case — William Powell makes a charming and clever Philo Vance in one of the best of the Hollywood detective film series of the 1930s and 1940s.

The Kid Stays in the Picture — Film buffs will love this unique documentary about rascal/genius producer Robert Evans, who was at the center of Hollywood’s re-invention in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The King of Comedy — Guest reviewer and actor Ian Jentle explains why this film and Raging Bull reveal the greatness of Robert DeNiro.

L.A. Story — Steve Martin’s largely successful effort to make a Woody Allen movie includes big laughs and sweetly romantic moments.

Layer Cake — An ultra-cool, violent British gangster film featuring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney and Michael Gambon. The only review Keith wrote while sitting in one of the sets of the movie!

Local Hero — Master of quirkiness Bill Forsyth scores again with this endearing, funny tale of an American corporation’s effort to buy land from a group of Scottish villagers.

The Long Arm — The ever-solid Jack Hawkins plays a police inspector who has an idyllic family but faces the challenge of dealing with an extraordinarily clever and violent thief in post-war London.

The Long Good Friday — Bob Hoskins explodes as a British mobster in one of the best crime epics of recent decades.

Lured — Lucille Ball makes a wonderfully plucky heroine in Douglas Sirk’s strange and beguiling story of the hunt for a serial killer.

M — Peter Lorre made a lasting mark on German cinema with his terrifying yet pathetic take on a child molester/murderer in Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

The Most Dangerous Game — Leslie Banks is a superbly depraved villain in this pre-code thriller about a deadly hunt in which you-know-what are the prey.

Murder by Death — Neil Simon’s witty play mocking fiction’s most famous detectives is a delight in the hands of world class cast. A worthy companion piece to The Cheap Detective (see above).

The Music Man — Robert Preston soars as a singing, dancing con man in this funny, uplifting film based on the hit Broadway musical.

My Favorite Year — Peter O’Toole’s considerable charm holds together this warm, hilarious story of a broken down movie star’s appearance on a live television show in the 1950s.

The Naked Spur — “Nice guy” Jimmy Stewart is vengeful and full of grief as he tracks down the man who has wronged him in Anthony Mann’s noir western. Stewart and Janet Leigh’s heartfelt closing scene is a knockout.

Nanook of the North — Robert Flaherty’s pioneering 1922 docu-drama about an Inuit family in Northern Canada is both compelling and entertaining.

Night Slaves — A sturdy ABC movie of the week in which a couple discovers a Western town in which all the residents turn nightly into hypnotized laborers on a mysterious project. Scripted by Jerry Sohl of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits fame.

99 River Street — A hard luck ex-boxing champ gets up to his neck in jewel thieves and murder in this tough, entertaining film noir/gangster melodrama.

Once Upon a Time in the West — Johann Koehler dissects how music, emotion, violence and strong characters come together to make the all-time best Spaghetti Western.

Outland — High Noon in space with Sean Connery as a marshal and Peter Boyle as a sleazy mining magnate.

The Perfect Candidate — This essential documentary for political junkies gives an inside view of the Oliver North-Chuck Robb senatorial race in Virginia.

Peter’s Friends — A group of Oxbridge friends (played by a real-life group of the same) reunite at Peter’s house to examine their own lives and learn about a life-changing development in Peter’s. The “British Big Chill” is substantially better than its American cousin.

Point Blank — John Boorman’s first US film merges 1960s experimentalism with a classic gangster story. Starring Lee Marvin, this is one of the best films Keith has recommended at RBC.

Porterhouse Blue — OxBridge life has never been so silly in this gutbusting adaptation of Tom Sharpe’s satirical novel.

Railroaded! — This crime movie helmed by noir master Anthony Mann shows you don’t need a big budget to deliver solid entertainment.

Raising Arizona — The Coen Brothers’ 1987 movie is a zany treat featuring hilarious dialogue, wacky car chases and fight scenes, and a standout performance by Holly Hunter.

Robbery — Peter Yates got the job as the Director of Bullitt (see above) after helming this well-done caper film based on the famous 1963 British train robbery.

Ruggles of Red Gap — Special guest reviewer Dr. Jean O’Reilly highlights the joys of Leo McCarey’s amusing and sweet film, with a standout performance by Charles Laughton.

The Ruling Class — Outrageous, irreverent one-of-a-kind black comedy/drama/musical about a daft British Earl who thinks he’s the messiah.

The Rutles: All You Need is Cash — Monty Python alum Eric Idle and his many funny friends create a very humorous mockumentary about the Fab Four.

The Scarlet Claw — The best of the Neill/Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes serial pits the great detective against a devious killer in a fog-shrouded Canadian town. The restored print by the UCLA film preservation angels only adds to the viewer’s pleasure.

The Screaming Woman — Unnerving made-for-television adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s suspense story is a nice vehicle for old Hollywood hands Olivia De Haviland, Joseph Cotten and Walter Pidgeon.

Scrooge — Alastair Sim is golden is this holiday favourite, probably the best adaptation ever of Dickens’ beloved novella.

Sexy Beast — Ray Winstone thinks he is retired from a life of crime when a menacing old acquaintance played by Ben Kingsley comes to fetch him for one. last. job. Reviewed by Johann Koehler.

Slap Shot — Director George Roy Hill and Actor Paul Newman triumph yet again in this profanity-laced, outrageously funny, blue collar story about minor league hockey.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold — Espionage has never been as unglamourous yet compelling as in Martin Ritt’s film, which features a shattering performance by a shattered Richard Burton.

The Sting — Guest film reviewer Johann Koehler describes why he loves seeing Newman and Redford bilk nasty gangster Robert Shaw.

Strange Days — Johann Koehler praises this kinetic dystopia about the desire for escapism from the present life, and a failure to face up to current problems.

Strange Impersonation — Hillary Brooke makes the most of one of her best roles in this tale of strong women battling for love and more. Anthony Mann directs with his usual verve, and the recently restored print looks fantastic.

Superman — Richard Donner’s reverent, thrilling film gives the comic book icon the superior treatment he has long deserved.

Tales of Terror — Roger Corman’s spooky, campy adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe stories makes great use of the acting talents of Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price.

Tarantula — It’s B-movie matinee fun as scientist Leo J. Carroll accidentally unleashes an outsized arachnid on an unsuspecting town.

The 39 Steps — Robert Donat cuts a dash in Hitchcock’s thoroughly enjoyable comedy-romance-suspense film about an innocent man battling a devilish spy ring.

Time, Gentlemen, Please! — This nearly forgotten British comedy tells the delightful story of the one resident of an Essex town who refuses to work.

Timetable — Mark Stevens’ 1956 film noir gives the traditional heist movie a special twist.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — This 5 1/2 hour adaptation of John Le Carré’s espionage novel is one of the greatest triumphs in the history of BBC television.

Too Late for Tears — In an underappreciated noir classic, Lizabeth Scott tears up the screen as a scheming, brutal woman.

Treasure Island — Walt Disney’s first live action film is a superb, family-friendly adaptation of R.L. Stevenson’s novel.

True Romance — One of Johann Koehler’s “favorite films of all time” conceals a romantic narrative underneath a hyper-violent high-stake caper film.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — Disney live-action moviemaking at its best as Jules Verne’s adventure comes to life. Love that giant squid!

Twilight — Five Academy Award winners led by Paul Newman collaborate in this deliberately old-fashioned story of murder, intrigue and old Hollywood.

Uncle Buck — Although this John Hughes/John Candy collaboration includes some big laughs, reviewer Johann Koehler makes the case that its themes of sorrow and loneliness are powerful and underappreciated.

The Untouchables — Brian De Palma’s big budget update of the classic cops and gangsters story features outsized performances by Robert De Niro and Sean Connery.

Unman, Wittering and Zigo — Students torment their teachers in this disturbing, little known British chiller.

Vampyr — Carl Theodor Dreyer’s arty horror classic has the inner illogical of a nightmare from which you cannot awake.

Watership Down — A dark, mystical animated film based on Richard Adams’ bestselling novel about rabbits on the run.

The Web — Vincent Price makes a fine non-horror film baddy in the 1947 film noir about a shady businessman, his secretary/mistress and a lawyer they both manipulate.

We Have a Pope/Habemus Papam — Johann Koehler examines the virtues of Nanni Moretti’s psychological study of a cardinal who has a breakdown when he is chosen to ascend to the papacy.

The White Knight Strategem — Handsomely produced BBC update of Sherlock Holmes features an astonishingly good performance by Rik Mayall as a dipsomaniac yet clever police detective.

The Wicker Man — Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee anchor this scary and sensual cult classic of British horror.

Zero Hour! — The film that Airplane! parodied so well is in fact a solid suspenser with a strong-jawed Dana Andrews rescuing a plane in peril.

Comments

  1. chutedem says

    You should see, review, and recommend “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”

  2. Russell L. Carter says

    I’m in the middle of building a comprehensive film library of the “good stuff”, not the available for streaming stuff, and I really appreciate these. They’re something I look forward to on Fridays. Thanks.

  3. Ed Whitney says

    Cannot resist mentioning “Tell Me a Riddle,” directed by Lee Grant, starring Melvyn Douglas and Lila Kedrova with a strong assist by Brooke Adams. It gave me a chance to see the things that a woman’s eye would register and focus on: in one scene, the camera suddenly focuses on some china teacups in a kitchen and brings them to the center of the screen, while in another scene, a baby’s hand grasps the finger of its very elderly grandfather as the camera zooms in and makes it the most important reality in the world at that moment. Also, the way Lee Grant uses filters for the flashbacks to the girlhood of Kedrova’s character, accompanied by the songs of Eastern European Jewry in the early twentieth century, just about take the viewer’s breath away. In the days before the VCR, I once traveled more than a hundred miles just to see it play again in a theater. My only regret is that I could never find a soundtrack for it despite years of searching.

  4. NY-Paul says

    I know, I know, it’s your list, but,

    Under, “M”

    Stanley Kramer’s 1963 comedy masterpiece :

    “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”

    Thanks

  5. GrayGaffer says

    For sheer – strange – “The Bedsitting Room” (1969) can’t be beat. Cast is a list of Who’s Who in British comedy of the time. See imdb at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064074/ but the problem is catching it – never released and only shows up sporadically as a 3 am show on Showtime East or the like. DVR is your friend (VHS in my case).

    Marginally more normal, “The Stone Tapes” (1972 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069316/) and “SteamBath” (1973 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167415/). Also I did not see “Harold and Maude” on the list, or “Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Oh, and “Blazing Saddles” (“It’s twue, it’s twue!”) and “Young Frankenstein” (“walk this way”), both hilarious masterpieces of strange.

    Stuff to look forward to.

    re mad mad mad mad world: I feel much better now. Much.

  6. marcel says

    Keith: Alphabetical is all very nice, but how about sorted chronologically (not by when you posted the recommendation) or even better, by genre, chronologically. Yes, any of your readers could do this, but you have this information at your fingertips so it would be much less effort for you than any of us.

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