Director: Forough Farrokhzad
The House is Black is a subversive and difficult, but unforgettable short documentary about the plight of the all-but-forgotten inhabitants of an Iranian leper colony. Farrokhzad's horrific depiction of life in the colony is an exposition of the wasted lives and human suffering which need not be so. Despite their conditions, we learn that that colonists continue to have faith in God, despite the fact that they have apparently been cursed by him, and that their only real hope must come from modern medicine and the very few who care enough to help. As such, The House is Black is a plea to humanity, a critique of the state, and a questioning of God. It is a profound film that needed to be made, but one which you never want to view more than once (Klaus Ming June 2009).
USA, 134m B&W
Director: Robert Aldrich; Cast: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is a bizarre psychological thriller which remains shocking even by today's standards. The film's success is largely due to an incredibly realistic and creepy performance by Bette Davis as Baby Jane - the former child star and crazed murderous sister who terrorizes her disabled sibling. Despite very little graphic violence, Baby Jane and her ceramic-faced look-a-like doll remain a terrifying testament to the power of good screenwriting and excellent acting in the horror genre (Klaus Ming September 2009).
UK 89m, Colour
Director: Roger Corman; Cast: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston
As the devil-worshiping Prince Prospero, Vincent Price is at his best in this macabre story of excess and depravity based upon Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 short story of the same name. Price's soothing melodic voice is set in contrast to the terrible deeds his character commits against the inhabitants of a plague-stricken medieval village. To provide continued amusement for his wealthy guests, who he also provides shelter from the plague within his castle walls, Prospero attempts to find ever-increasing diabolical ways to torment the peasant population - until a colorful visitor finally arrives to most everyone's surprise (Klaus Ming June 2009).
Director: Stanley Kubrick; Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens
Dr. Strangelove: or How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb is a frighteningly hilarious cold-war era spoof about a first-strike nuclear attack perpetrated by a delusional US Brigadier General, Jack D. Ripper, who believes that he must trigger a nuclear war with the Soviet Union to stop the communist threat and a loss of precious bodily fluids. Peter Sellers is perfect in three of the main roles: the apologetic but firm President of the United States, a skittish British RAF officer who discovers Rippers plan, and a not-so-ex-Nazi scientists who recommends a post-war strategy of "ten females to each male". This film is brilliant in every respect and one of my all time favorites (Klaus Ming March 2009).
USA 128m, Colour
Director: Alfred Hitchcock; Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Vertigo is arguably one of Alfred Hitchcock's best and most memorable films. Hitchcock puts his star, James Stewart, in one of his favorite roles, as an "everyman" who is forced to deal with extraordinary circumstances beyond his control. In Vertigo, Stewart's character is challenged with murder, love, and an uncontrollable fear of heights which all but paralyzes his life. Veritgo is a brilliant story of suspense and murder in which Hitchcock furthers the development of story-telling through the medium of film in a style that remains original and highly entertaining (Klaus Ming June 2009).
USA 83m, B&W
Director: Russ Meyer; Cast: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Sue Bernard, Stuart Lancaster
Faster Pussycat is an early benchmark in the genre of exploitation cinema. It's title characters are sexy exotic-dancing, fast car-driving, scary men-bashing women who are out for nobody but themselves. This film is full of surprises, including some interesting plot developments which pit the pussycats against a shotgun toting rapist in a wheelchair and his mentally challenged but physically powerful son who have a history of hurting young women. Notwithstanding a rather dull "happy" ending, this movie has undoubtedly been a major inspiration to film makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and the revival of "grindhouse" style films (Klaus Ming April 2009).
Director: Blake Edwards; Cast: Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk
The Great Race is a tribute to silent era comedy that pits Jack Lemon as Professor Fate and his sidekick "Max", played by Peter Falk against the "Great Leslie", a daredevil, ladies-man and ultimate showman, suitably characterized by a dashing Tony Curtis. While Leslie plays the "hero", the black-costumed villains, along with their many mechanical contraptions, including a six-wheeled telescopic cannon firing "auto-mo-bile" are the real stars of the film. The story is set in 1908 and is the nostalgic road movie that documents a crazy car race from New York to Paris. The film is supported by a great soundtrack and stylized title cards which provide a fun setting for a great film (Klaus Ming April 2009).
The Railrodder (1965)
Canada 25m, silent, colour
Director: Gerald Potterton; Cast: Buster Keaton
The Railrodder is one of Buster Keaton's last films, and is a fitting tribute to his talents as a silent film star, stuntman and movie maker. The film cleverly "documents" Buster's vacation across Canada via a not-so-luxurious railway track "speeder". During his voyage, which can now be seen as a time capsule of 1960s Canadian history and geography, Buster takes advantage of an incredible number of hidden conveniences aboard his CN speeder. This is a great short film with a funny punchline which fans of Keaton will surely appreciate. Like the advertisement said: See Canada now! (Klaus Ming March 2009).
Directors: Georgi Kropachyov and Konstantin Yershov; Cast: Leonid Kuravlyov, Natalya Varley, Aleksei Glazyrin, Nikolai Kutuzov
VIY is an intriguing but oddly edited Russian horror film based on Ukrainian folklore as recounted in Nikolai Gogol's 1835 short story of the same name. The film's strength is its slow-building suspenseful plot which eventually finds a young priest locked in a decrepit wooden church with the dead body of an important daughter of the "town" who he is coerced to provide prayer for. Over the course of three increasingly-horrific nights, he discovers that the only way to protect himself is through the drawing of a chalk circle from which he must defend his own safety through prayer. Despite its flaws, VIY is a most interesting film that has some stunningly-creepy visual effects during the final night of prayer (Klaus Ming June 2009).
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner; Cast: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison
Planet of the Apes is the quintessential post-apocalyptic science fiction film that continues to be an important touchstone in popular culture. Its appeal and effectiveness as one of the best science fiction films ever made is largely based on a terrific screenplay, amazing make-up, excellent special effects and one of the best twist endings in movie history - making Planet of the Apes one of the most original and entertaining films of the 20th century. Filmed at the height of the cold war, it's a dark message for the future suggests that mankind is doomed to be the author of his own destruction (Klaus Ming May 2009).
USA 90m, Colour
Director: Mel Brooks; Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith, Dick Shawn
The Producers is one of the most original, funny and influential comedies of all time. Brilliantly written, cast and directed, this film is a masterpiece of comedy which continues to be an inspiration to cinema, television and Broadway. In a complicated pot, a washed-up and nearly broke producer, played Zero Mostel, is convinced by his accountant, Gene Wilder, that the sure-fire way to make money is to fiddle the books and produce a play that will close on opening night. Despite their best efforts to produce a bomb, the producers' worst fears are realized as their musical "Springtime for Hitler", starring an LSD-inspired flower-child as the Führer, is misunderstood as a satirical comedy and becomes a smash hit (Klaus Ming August 2009).
Director: Roman Polanski; Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans
Rosemary's Baby is a creepy film that is bolstered by an outstanding performance by Mia Farrow. As the vessel for the devil's seed, Farrow's character is tormented by nightmares of her drug-induced sexual encounter with the dark-lord and her suspicion that her baby will be taken from her when it is born. If that were not enough, perhaps the most disturbing part of this film is her husband's role as a struggling actor who allows his wife to be inseminated and her baby taken in return for the promise of a successful career. The film's only real flaw is the fact that it portrays witchcraft and satanism as compatible belief systems, when in fact, they are fundamentally opposed - which only served to confuse a generation of fans who failed to realize that a "real witch" does not subscribe to Christianity, and thus would have no interest in satan's spawn (Klaus Ming October 2009).
Italy 129m, colour
Director: Federico Fellini; Cast: Martin Potter, Hiram Keller, Max Born, Salvo Randone, Magali Noel, Alain Cuny
Fellini's Satyricon can best be described as a surreal visual feast that is comparable to the physical debaucheries of film's characters who live their lives to the utmost excess. Amidst the garish multi-colored costumes, profuse sweating, over-eating and sexual luridness of the Roman inspired characters of this futuristic-looking "history" - we are presented with frame after frame of strangely pleasing artistic images that are arguably unequaled in number from any film ever made. The deliberate incoherency within the story and the disturbing nature of portions of this film only add to the bizarre spectacle and underlying value of this film as a unique piece of cinema in any era (Klaus Ming March 2009).
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