Skip to main content

Films I want on DVD

In no particular order, these are a few films I’d buy in a heartbeat if they were on DVD.

Five Came Back (1939) – Lucille Ball in a very serious film. I haven’t seen this in decades, but I still remember the chilling conclusion, an ending where silence invokes a sense of horror and dread. This film must have had some subliminal influence on me because it wasn’t until I was discussing it one night that I came to realize how close it comes, in several ways, to my one published book, right down to the number of survivors. I had pitched Derelict as sort of a haunted house in outer space, a variation on an Alien theme, but in retrospect it was also influenced by this film.

Five Graves to Cairo (1943) – An early film by Billy Wilder, an excellent little World War II thriller. Franchot Tone is a British soldier, fighting Rommel’s Afrika Corps. The sole survivor of a disastrous engagement, he is saved from death by the owner of a small hotel in the middle of the Sahara. Before he can get too settled in, Rommel himself arrives, setting up base at the hotel. Now Tone must survive by impersonating a member of the hotel staff, a man killed during a bombing raid. Matters go from bad to worse as he discovers that the man he is impersonating was a spy for Rommel.

Tone is excellent. Anne Baxter, as a French woman working at the hotel, is excellent. Famed German director Erich von Stroheim, as Rommel, is excellent. The directing is excellent. The suspense is excellent. Am I being redundant? If you see and don’t like this film, well, two steps back!

Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972) – The sequel to Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), which is already out of DVD. I’m not a big fan of Cotton, but I remember Come Back as all sorts of awesome. Godfrey Cambridge (as Gravedigger Jones) and Raymond St. Jacques (as Coffin Ed Johnson) are just fantastic. C’mon, how can you have the first one available and not the sequel? It’s just not right!

The 27th Day (1957) – An under-appreciated science fiction gem. Just saw this the other day on TCM and I still enjoy it. Five people are brought aboard and alien space craft. The aliens give each of them a weapon capable of destroying all life on Earth. After being returned to Earth, the five believe that all they have to do is remain quiet until the weapon self-destructs, after 27 days, but the aliens then tell the world who they are and what they have. Now they have to run, or risk having that terrible power unleashed.

Certainly it’s a little moralizing and maybe it’s simplistic, but really, wouldn’t you just like to be able to, well, eliminate all men of ill will?

The Satan Bug (1964) – A deadly virus, capable of destroying all life on Earth, is stolen from a research lab. Now, government agents must race to recover the virus before the thief can release it.

From the novel by Alistair MacLean. A lovely little thriller filled with smart characters. This really is about one person trying to out-think the other. It was also a bit of a shocker at the time of its release, as everyone was so focused on the threat of nuclear annihilation, they never considered that a simple glass flask could be just as lethal. Also notable for an excellent soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith.

I was going to add Stairway to Heaven (1946), but I just discovered it at Netflix under its original title, A Matter of Life and Death. It’s already on its way to my greedy hands. Like Five Graves to Cairo, I saw this on PBS in San Francisco and found it to be delightful. The amazingly great David Niven plays a British aviator who bails out over the English Channel without a parachute. Next thing he knows, he’s walking onto an English beach, utterly confused as to why he’s still alive. Seems his angel missed him while he was falling through the fog. Now Heaven wants him, to correct for the error, and Niven has to stand trial before God in order to win a second chance at life.

Lovely film, beautifully done. No where near as sentimental as the plot implies. I can hardly wait to see it again.

(And yes, yes, I know that the entire Netflix thing undercuts the “buy in a heartbeat” claim, but I was being rhetorical. I at least have to wait until payday....)


Popular posts from this blog

Not the Hero We Deserve, But the Hero We Need

The Dark Knight is the best film I’ve seen in years. Not just the best “superhero” film, but the best film of any type. It’s not perfect, not quite a masterpiece, but it’s flaws are, to me, tiny and overwhelmed by the time the film ends. While relatively bloodless, it is consistently brutal, not just in what it depicts but in the themes that drive it. TDK is a film for adults, please leave the kids at home.Let’s deal with those “flaws” first, the largest being the character Rachel Dawes. In Batman Begins, I blamed Katie Holmes. Her acting was weak, to say the least, which is regrettable in that who she is and what she says and does are important to the film. Critics agreed and either for that or other reasons, Katie was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is a better actress. Yet here she’s weak, real weak. Maybe it’s the character, not the actress, which is frustrating because Rachel is a pivotal character. The film, at almost two and a half hours, might be a shade long. Having said t…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

With its release on home video, we come to the unsurprising and yet still bitter disappointment that is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Unsurprising, because of a lousy director. Disappointing, because it should have been great. To explain further will involve light spoilers; I will avoid larger giveaways. In a galaxy far, far away, the Empire continues to consolidate its power after the fall of the Republic (see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). Toward that end, they are assembling a giant battle station, the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance plots a way of finding out what’s going on and perhaps, in the process, save their collective butts. Rebellious galivanting ensues. All of the elements necessary to craft a good story are here, yet none of them work. The blame lies almost exclusively at the feet of director Gareth Edwards. This is his third film (after Monsters and Godzilla) and his failings as a director stand out in each. The major problems with each film involve the peopl…

Conspiracy (2001)

The Holocaust remains an unfathomable atrocity, the unholy benchmark by which all such are measured. Stalin and Mao both make Hitler look like an amateur when it came to sheer body count, yet the Holocaust remains unique. It seems to boil down to two reasons. First, the Nazis were terrifying in their systematic approach to the slaughter of Jews, driven by their ideological belief that they were acting for the greater good of all mankind. And second, they hunted Jews in any land they conquered; the goal wasn't merely to "purify" Germany, but the world. Few films have captured these points as well as HBO's 2001 film, Conspiracy. On January 20, 1942, a group of senior officials of Nazi Germany met at a lovely house in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee. The purpose of their meeting was to determine the "final solution" for the Jews. The Wannsee Conference developed what is referred to as the Wannsee Protocol. A single copy of the document remains. Conspiracy, drawi…