Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Celebrating My 50th With 50 Favorites - Part 5 - THE TOP TEN

 Finally, my top ten have arrived.  Are any of these in your list of favorites too??

10. Frankenstein (1931)

My favorite Universal monster film.  There, I've said it. There's not much I can say about a film so revered that hasn't already been said.  But the reason I love it so much is that I can identify with the monster. Everyone probably can in their own way.  Pushed to be something that he wasn't, so much expected of him, yet misguided and anxious only for people to accept him the way he was, despite knowing he was an abomination.  Boris Karloff as the monster said so much just with his eyes and mannerisms, he didn't even need to speak to convey that message. The fact that Mary Shelley wrote the book when she was a mere 19 years old just blows my mind - so far ahead of her time! It's a beautiful film, too...the gorgeous sets, including Dr Frankenstein's laboratory, are a sight to behold particularly for such an early time in film.  And Colin Clive as the unhinged but brilliant scientist who steals bodies from their graves with his hunchback assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye) brings to mind many an evil man who desires more than he should, and really should just leave well enough alone.  But the fact that he proceeds with his experiments despite the immoral and corrupt ramifications just goes to show that greed and the desire for fame and/or fortune always brings out the worst in mankind, often times with irreparable results - and it's still happening today, nearly 90 years later.


9. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, 1974)

It's only in the last several years that I have come to really love this film.  It's my favorite "zombie" film. George (Ray Lovelock) is off for the weekend on his Norton motorcycle when he stops to gas up and Edna (Cristina Galbó) rams his bike with her car, unintentionally but puts it out of commission nonetheless.  To make up for it, she tells him they can ride together and he can use her car while his bike is being fixed.  Traveling through the English countryside they stop to seek out directions and George sees some men using some kind of equipment that uses ultrasonic radiation to kill insects on crops.  Obviously that sounds like an awful idea and of course it is, as soon the dead are rising and George and Edna are smack in the middle of it.  The dialogue is campy, the blood is too red and film is somewhat dated but quite honestly it does raise the question as to what we are doing to the world with all our chemicals and treatments and what might happen if things go awry.  George and Edna are likeable leads and the gore factor is ratcheted up as the film goes on and the zombies get hungrier.  Just a damn fun film!!

8. Ghost Story (1981)

'Four old men and a secret' should be the alternate name for this chiller.  From Peter Straub's amazing novel comes the story of John, Ricky, Sears and Edward....a quartet of college pals that meet an enigmatic beauty and spend a summer charming her. Until something awful happens. The repercussions of the tragedy that unfolds are so malevolent, so vengeful that words can't quite do it.  The novel is very much my favorite book, and the movie, while not completely faithful, still packs a frightening punch with loads of disturbing imagery! And that house!!! So much love! Starring some of Hollywood's finest older leading men - Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  Alice Krige as Eva/Alma still haunts my dreams.


7. The Changeling (1980)

Years have not aged this fantastic ghost story starring George C. Scott as John Russell, a man grappling with the tragic death of his wife and daughter in a horrific accident. A famous composer, John moves across the country in order to take a teaching job and try to resume some semblance of a life  He rents an old mansion from the local historical society, makes friends with Claire (played by Scott's wife, Trish Van Devere) and gets to work on finishing a composition he's been working on. Soon though, hes awakened by loud banging noises during the night, which escalate to the point that a seance is held in which they discover a young boy was killed in the house.  Everything about The Changeling is stellar - the acting, the musical score, the house itself...it's just that good!  Scott's portrayal of a desperate man's agonizing mourning for his family is heart-breaking.  And though this one has every haunted house gimmick known to man, they make it work  - it's never cheesy and always legitimately frightening.  Loud, inexplicable noises, pianos playing by themselves, disembodied voices, a creepy attic with a child-size wheelchair - all these things combine to bring fear into your very soul.  This one just got a fantastic BluRay release so if you haven't seen it yet, now's the time.  Truly one of the best of its kind.

6. The Thing (1982)

You know how I feel about remakes, I've made it abundantly clear several times.  But when they are done right and it's time for one, I'm on board.  A remake of 1951's The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter's The Thing is in my opinion perhaps the best of his work.  With top-notch practical special effects by genius Rob Bottin and a stellar cast, it's a harrowing showcase of fear.  Frequent Carpenter collaborator Kurt Russell as MacReady is just the icing on the cake, with his snide remarks yet excellent leadership skills when everything starts falling apart.  As researchers literally at the end of the earth, the Antarctic team finds themselves fighting the unknown...an organism that literally has the capability to attack unsuspecting victims and morph into an exact replica of them, so the question remains....who is the thing?  Everything about this film is terrifying - the isolation...the fear of the unknown...the thought that someone might not be who they say they are...it's an action-packed, straight-up thrill ride, one I've taken over and over again!

5. Alien (1979)

I mentioned previously that sci-fi isn't my favorite--(even though The X-Files is my favorite TV show- I prefer the stand alone horror episodes.) That said, I LOVE ALIEN.  To me, it's just the finest sci-fi horror film in existence. Sure, there are some who say Aliens is the better movie, but they'd be wrong. Ridley Scott's effective and brutal Alien, starring Sigourney Weaver as fierce heroine Ripley, is full of suspense and laden with terror. The Xenomorph creature is an astounding work of art conceived by H.R. Giger and the story by Dan O'Bannon is what nightmares are made of. Immediately claustrophobic due to the whole of the film taking place in space, mostly on the commercial towing ship Nostromo, the sense of helplessness permeates the whole two hour running time. There's nowhere to run when you're stuck in space.  Ripley is an excellent character, a welcome female presence in a mostly masculine crew. She's got guts and runs on pure adrenaline by the film's end. She's a role model and a formidable adversary for the relentless alien. For pure shock factor, Alien is bar none, particularly in that famous chest-burster scene. 
The last thirty minutes are a edge of your seat uncomfortable fright-fest in which you'll believe every word of the tagline: In space, no one can hear you scream. 

4. Friday the 13th (1980)

Oh Friday the 13th, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Warning: SPOILERS! 
I love your campiness (pun intended). I love your heroine, Alice and her mad drawing skills. I love Crazy Ralph and the fact that you all actually ARE, in fact, doomed. I love that you play strip monopoly. I love that Bing Crosby's son is a hottie and can play a mean guitar. I love that sexy Brenda wears a granny gown. I love that Jack and Marcie have sex with Dead Ned above them. I love that poor Annie doesn't like to call children kids because it sounds like little goats. I love that when Mrs Voorhees finally gets a chance to kill Alice she slaps her up and pushes her face in the dirt instead. I love that Steve's Jeep won't pull that tiny trailer and that he only leaves Sally a 75 cent tip at the diner, even though she flirts with him like crazy. I love that Marcie has dreams about little bloody rivers and can fix a faulty faucet. I love that Jack puts it all out there in his Speedo at the docks. I love that Alice and Bill don't run for their lives after they find the bloody ax in the bed. I love that Mrs Voorhees hands still clench their fingers after she loses her head. 
What I don't love? The fact that they killed that snake. 😐


3. The Woman in Black (1989)

I've been championing this film for 25 years or longer.  I can't remember the first time I saw it but as soon as I did, I knew I had to own it. I had it on VHS first, and when DVD's began taking the world by storm, I purchased a bootleg copy from overseas and I'm not afraid to admit it. The novella by Susan Hill that it is adapted from is the best ghost story I may have ever read, and the only one that gave me legit chills when I read it. The story adapted for film changes a few minor details but involves Arthur Kidd (Adrian Rawlins), a lawyer who is assigned the task of closing the estate of one Mrs. Drablow, an eccentric old woman who lives on an isolated piece of land across a causeway that floods during high tide. Kidd attends the funeral of his client and notices a woman in black at the back of the church and later in the cemetery. Townsfolk seem terrified when he mentions it, and later he comes to know why after spending the night at the spooky Drablow house. By investigating the decedent's personal belongings, he learns of a horrific accident involving the mysterious woman in black and her relationship with the old woman. Vengeance is a great motivator, apparently even after death. This film is hard to come by, out of print for many years. It is available on YouTube, and though not a stellar copy it's still worth seeking out! 


2. Psycho (1960)

As previously mentioned, Psycho is very special to me, right up there with Jaws as far as movies I've seen the most. I can quote every line, I know every scene. I love Norman Bates, in all his quirky, psychotic glory.  John Gavin...be still my heart! And the sheer brilliance of killing off your marquee name in the first act of the film, well....that's brave....hats off to Hitchcock. Robert Bloch may have created the character of Norman, but Hitchcock perfected it and Anthony Perkins embodied it. Even people not familiar with the horror genre as a whole know Psycho. The shower scene....the fruit cellar...Mother and Norman's "close" relationship, there's so much to appreciate. It's one of my desert island films, because I'll never tire of it. And if you're sitting there thinking I'm nuts then we just can't be friends. 


1) Jaws (1975)

My favorite. The I-Ching of films for me. The be-all-end-all.  I don't think I've seen any movie as many times as Jaws.  I own multiple copies over many formats and yet if it is on television with commercials every five minutes I'm still unable to turn it off. As with Psycho, the book is good, the movie is superior.  All the characters, Brody (Roy Scheider ), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Quint (Robert Shaw) are strong and engaging in their own ways. John Williams' score is just legendary, the most recognizable two notes in music. Spielberg's direction jump-started a visionary, critically acclaimed career and with good reason! We're not just talking summer blockbuster here, we are talking about a film beloved by fans and critics alike. The simple plot of man vs. shark made millions of people afraid to go in the ocean. An impressive feat to be sure. Let's just say, if I could marry a film, this would be the one. My only one!


2 comments:

Kathy said...

I loved this list--I added a bunch of films to my Netflix queue!

Christine Hadden said...

Thank you very much! I hope you find some new favorites!!