Kristina Dijan is a movie addict who blogs at Speakeasy (https://hqofk.wordpress.com/) and shares her viewing on Letterboxd (http://letterboxd.com/HQofK/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/HQofK).
Check out her other RPS lists here:
This year I watched more movies than ever (many suggested here at RPS!) from all genres, explored world cinema, and caught up with many cinephile essentials, so it’s excruciatingly tough to narrow down discoveries to a handful. Here are 5 lesser-known titles that I liked the most:
The Great Garrick (1937) is a delightfully witty comedy directed by James Whale. A troupe of French actors are totally misinformed about, but nonetheless very insulted by, comments made by visiting British stage star Brian Aherne, so they conspire to take over the inn where he’s staying to show him a thing or two about realistic acting. Aherne gets wind of the grand prank and plays along, but mistakes real guest and runaway Countess Olivia de Havilland, for one of the actors and mistreats and misleads her accordingly.
In Branded (1950), Alan Ladd plays a gunfighter who’s talked into scamming a rich ranching family by pretending to be their long lost son. The loner is so touched by the warmth and love “his” family shows him, that instead of ripping them off he sets out to find their real son, who was kidnapped and raised by a Mexican outlaw. A gorgeous, smart film and a lesson on how to make predictable story elements totally surprising and suspenseful. This was one of 20+ Ladd movies I saw in ’16; other gems of his were Two Years Before the Mast, The Great Gatsby and Whispering Smith.
In Four Faces West (1948), Joel McCrea is a nice-guy bank robber who only steals what he needs to help his dad, leaves an I.O.U., and starts paying the money back asap. He’s hunted by Marshal Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford), who wants to arrest this decent fellow before the dead-or-alive posse finds him. McCrea has sweet chemistry with real-life wife Frances Dee, who plays the Eastern nurse encouraging him to give himself up. Noble McCrea does many admirable things including saving a family, before Bickford catches up to him, in a western where not one shot is fired nor punch thrown. This movie was part of my big McCrea binge that also included discoveries Saddle Tramp, Stranger on Horseback and Colorado Territory.
Charley Varrick (1973) has Walter Matthau playing a smart and sardonic, relatively small-time thief who accidentally robs a tiny bank in the middle of nowhere that ’s actually a major mob money drop. Soon the mob’s terrifyingly cool enforcer Joe Don Baker is on Varrick’s trail, which winds through seedy connections toward an unforgettable showdown in the desert. Intelligent, excellent and gritty picture by the great Don Siegel. Along with Varrick I also found the 70’s crime gems Walking Tall, The New Centurions and The Outfit.
The Underworld Story (1950). The great Dan Duryea is an opportunistic journalist who recovers from a firing and blacklisting by buying into a failing bedroom-community paper, just in time to exploit a sensational murder in the town. A wealthy family try to cover a spoiled son’s crime by framing their black maid, and Duryea is enough of a corrupt heel that he cynically exploits the story to sell his new paper, but he’s also just enough of an idealist that he grows a conscience and does the right thing. More gritty noir discoveries from this year: Canon City, Shack Out on 101.