Friday, December 22, 2006

Forgotten flicks Part I

I was in a video store last week and saw they were showing GETTING STRAIGHT. It’s an old Elliott Gould 60’s “college unrest/oh no, the hippies are coming” movie you never see on TV anymore. And that got me thinking, what are some of the other movies I remember fondly that seemed to have just disappeared into the mist? Probably many of them wouldn’t hold up, (I might even cringe at a few) but I’d still love to revisit them. And they can’t be worse than POLICE ACADEMY VI which always does seem to be showing.

So here are a few of my Forgotten Favorites. More tomorrow. You’re welcome to check in with yours.

SUMMER OF ’42 – One of the first real coming of age movies. Sweet, funny, and a young luscious Jennifer O’Neil. If you think war is hell, it's nothing compared to puberty.

BETWEEN THE LINES – A rich ensemble piece about a Free Press type newspaper sold to a big bad corporation (aren't they all?). Jeff Goldblum’s masterpiece. With sterling performances by John Heard, Lindsey Crouse, and the always incomparable Michael J. Pollard.

HEARTBREAK KID – Charles Grodin falls in love with Cybil Shepherd on his honeymoon. Elaine May directed an uncharacteristically subtle script by Neil Simon. Jewish men find this movie hilarious. Jewish women hate Jewish men for liking it.

DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE -- A hot, sexy Carrie Snodgrass and a hilarious turn by Richard Benjamin as the ultimate prig husband. You not only root for Carrie to cheat on him, you want her do it in front of him.

THOUSAND CLOWNS – A somewhat creaky adaptation of my favorite play, but the performances by Jason Robards, Barry Gordon, and Gene Saks and the screenplay by original playwright, Herb Gardner make this black & white movie worth seeking out.

HEAD OVER HEELS (a.k.a. CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER) – John Heard pining after Mary Beth Hurt in this sweet, quirky, 70’s tale. A favorite among stalkers everywhere.

THE 27th DAY – Okay, this was a cheesy Sci-Fi movie from 1957 starring Gene Barry that scared the shit out of me. Directed by William Asher who went on to helm other horror classics like HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI.

RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS 7 -- The movie THE BIG CHILL ripped off and turned into a slick Hollywood hit. John Sayles debut film about a weekend reunion. Real and funny, but doesn’t have the feel-good Motown soundtrack.

SOLDIER IN THE RAIN – A young Steve McQueen as a peace time soldier with Jackie Gleason as his sergeant and mentor. From a William Goldman novel. How sweet it is.

MOVIE MOVIE – Larry Gelbart’s hilarious spoof of different movie genres. If you love witty dialogue that just doesn’t stop (he created TV’s MASH remember) this one’s for you.

DINER – Barry Levinson’s first and best movie. It’s so good I even forgive him for TOYS.

NIGHT SHIFT – Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler turn a city morgue into a brothel. Checkov would have written this if he had thought of it.

FOREIGN AFFAIR – A little known but beautifully crafted black comedy by Billy Wilder set in Berlin right after the war. Skip THE GOOD GERMAN and see this instead.

The rest of my list tomorrow...

58 comments:

TmyB. said...

"Cross of Iron". Directed by Sam Peckinpah, stared James Coburn, James Mason, Maxmillian Schell and others. Great WWII movie (German's getting whipped by the Russians). Right up there with "All Quiet On The Western Front", "Paths of Glory", and probably "Letters From Iwo Jima".

Dwacon said...

I liked the Mad Magazine parody of Summer of 42 better than the movie...

Tim said...

What about Tapeheads with Tim Robbins and john Cusack? Hardly ever see that one.

D. Daring said...

Ken, I think the Elliott Gould movie you're referring to is actually called GETTING STRAIGHT.

Your blog is fantastic. Better than any UCLA writing course (though that's faint praise, indeed.)

Anonymous said...

Did you ever see Punishment Park? It came out around 1971 or so. I believe Peter Watkins directed it. It starred a bunch of unknowns, playing antiwar activists and dissidents who our government has arrested. They're taken to the desert and told they can earn their freedom if they survive a pursuit by law enforcement.
It's sort of a "Most Dangerous Game" scenario. A great movie to fan one's paranoia. I don't believe this film is available in any form. I think they four-walled it when it first came out -- and then Nixon probably ordered all prints be destroyed...or maybe Hoover did, I don't know.

I agree with you on "Chilly Scenes of Winter." Heard plays the character as a nebbish-y stalker. Despite the offbeat humor in the film, it's still a depressing story. The book's author, Ann Beattie, has a cameo as a waitress.

I also find "Movie Movie" very funny. I have a 16mm print (not sure if it's available on video) that always gets laughs when I run it.

I'm also fond of "Pepe," a 1960 mega-cameo musical that introduced American audiences to the Mexican comedic legend Cantinflas. The producers surrounded him with everyone from Edward G. Robinson to Ernie Kovacs (and Chevalier, Crosby, Bobby Darin, Shirley Jones, Jack Lemmon and dozens of others) who all overshadowed the Mexican star. I don't know if the film was a hit, but as a period piece it's very entertaining today.

jm said...

"Cheetah," 1989, starring Keith Coogan.

This movie taught me that cheetah poachers make shoes out of used tires.

Also that is wasn't okay to have a crush on your sister.

Anonymous said...

Cheetahs never prosper . . .

Richard Pryor & Gene Wilder made a bunch of movies together. Maybe "Silver Streak" was one of the first on video, cause it seems like we rented it alot. Have not seen any of their films in years.

Michael Zand said...

Ken,

Am I wrong but wasn't the name of the Elliot Gould college/ protest film,"Getting Straight?"

BTW, Summer of 42 got a four boner rating from me.

Ken Levine said...

Yes, the Elliott Gould movie was GETTING STRAIGHT. I was stoned when I wrote the post. Far out, man. It's been corrected. Thanks for the catch.

LA Guy said...

For some reason your post reminded me of the The Big Chill which I thought was brilliant when it was first released but just okay when I saw it again 10 years later. Apparently one of us didn't age well.

Speaking of Jeff Goldblum, isn't he the most enigmatic actor of the past 30 years? I always thought he'd be a huge star but he never seems to have really caught fire. Also add The Tall Guy to the list of under appreciated films.

DrMax said...

I keep looking for a fairly good holiday movie this time of year called The Cheaters (also known as the Castaway), but no stations seem to play it anymore. Saw this when I was twelve, on one of those round portable B&W T.V.'s and have always remembered it.

Tommy said...

I'm not certain if it will be as funny as I remember, but it will certainly be as offensive - PARTNERS where macho cop Ryan o'Neil and gentle records clerk John Hurt must pose as a gay couple to solve a series of murders in said community.

Anonymous said...

"A thousand clowns" - yes! Jason Robards had a part to sink his teeth into, and although dated, still wonderful. I would highly recommend as an addition, find the great book written by the film's editor, which has the back story of the making of that film that is illuminating (as are all his examples in fact, check out his entry on "The Producers" too.)

"Summer of 42", well...B-movie but sure, I saw that when it first came out in the cinema, and recall it was part of, or maybe the first, of what felt like a new kind of coming of age film, on the heels of "American Graffiti". They were a bit skewed to "disturbing" endings, rather than innocence per say, and became popular, also "Aloha Bobby and Rose", or "Macon County line", (by Producer Max Baer, or Jethro, who appeared in the movie as well in a bad cop role) and so on. They all made new, key use of pop soundtracks in ironic placements as well, usually with slow mo...

Oh and "Punishment Park" is just great, as would be by the Oscar-winning director, but the film hardly has real actors in it. It's available on DVD now.

Michael Keaton remains an enigma. I don't get what happens with his career really. Playing in a Lindsay Lohan "Herbie" film... means he was at least under-served by his agent, he must have done something wrong in Hollywood.

"Heartbreak Kid", I blame for Charles Grodin being known at all. Was it worth it? That TV show..

WizarDru said...

It is disappointing to me, as a child of the 80s, that so many good movies of the 70s appear to have disappeared from sight that I had no opportunity to see when I was younger.

A film like 'The Friends of Eddie Coyle' is virtually unknown these days...hell, I wouldn't know about it, except that it was on AMC one day and I couldn't figure out what it was.

That I only recognize half of these movies is an example of that.

NOTE TO SELF: Get off your ass and get Netflix.

Bill Crider said...

I've seen all of those, but the one I'd really like to see again is Soldier in the Rain. After I saw it the first time, I went right out and bought the paperback. That was my first encounter with William Goldman's prose, and I still enjoy his work today, more than 40 years later.

Tom Quigley said...

The original MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE from 1962 with Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury (directed by John Frankenheimer) was my first venture into the Political/International intrigue/Action-thriller genre (and no, Angela Lansbury didn't patter around in puffy, flowing gowns and sing cute little ditties in this one). Fortunately, I've got it on DVD, but I haven't seen it broadcast in many years.

poor man said...

Long ago, I remember doing chores (mowing the lawn, etc.) on Saturday mornings. My dad would do his tinkering around the house/car/garage. We'd always end our work about the same time, then head to the kitchen, make lunch and relax in front of the TV to catch an afternoon movie.

Today, reality TV and court room shows have effectively killed it, but back then the Saturday Afternoon Movie was always something I looked forward to.

The first time I saw a Steve McQueen movie was on one such afternoon. So to get to the point...

Please consider adding Papillon to your list.

benson said...

Yes! on "Secaucus 7" and "Between the Lines".

Another favorite along the same lines, from the early 90's- "Indian Summer".

Diane Lane, Alan Arkin, and and the always hilarious Sam Raimi. Who could ask for more?

Herb Popsfarter said...

Absolutely love Nightshift and Tapeheads (so much so I own them on DVD)

And "Summer of 42'" was great!

Pharmacist: "Do you know what these (condoms) are for?"

Hermy: "Sure... you fill them up with water and you throw them off the roof!"

Hilarious!

Here's another forgotten movie: Runaway Train with Jon Voight.

The Minstrel Boy said...

a thousand clowns! summer of 42!
return of the secacus 7! yeah there are a bunch of them. i call the genre 2 star gems. not great movies, but very good ones that bear repeat viewings.

(murray sing with me. . .yes sir, that's my baby)

stephen said...

I wonder how people today would react to Summer of '42, now that they put adult women in jail for sleeping with 14 year old boys.

Also check out the not-as-good, but still pretty good sequel "Class of '44" (with a cameo by then-unknown John Candy)

What makes Secaucus 7 superior to Big Chill is that the characters in Secaucus were regular shlubs, in Big Chill they were movie stars and successful doctors and lawyers.

(Hollywood's idea of a typical everyday guy is usually a TV weatherman)

DrBear said...

I'm glad someone else remembers "Between the Lines." Whenever I get in a discussion about the best newspaper movies, I always bring that one up and nobody's ever heard of it. It was a dead ringer for my college paper. Well, except for the sleeping around. At least from my perspective.

howie said...

Seacaucus 7 was a film I took all my friends to see. I'm not usually one of those "you've got to see it" guys, but I was for that. I refused to ever see "The Big Chill" and still haven't.

I loved the songs the Adam LeFevre performed, such as "I Brake for Animals".

Stephen beat me to the point on Summer of '42. You couldn't make that movie today, unless you clearly passed negative judgement on Jennifer O'Neill's character.

Don't hate me, but one of my favorite forgotten flicks is "Silent Running". Of course, I like Bruce Dern in almost anything.

R.A. Porter said...

My favorite Tony Randall film - Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? - never seems to show up anymore. I always thought this would have been a great character to revisit in the '90s.

FDChief said...

Glad to see I'm not the only fan of "Foreign Affair". I'd put Jean Arthur against any actress who ever worked, and the actor who plays CPT Pringle, John Lund, has always baffled me. He does a terrific job in this flick, but spent the rest of his career doing stuff like "My Friend Irma". Was he the kind of actor that only has one really decent role in him, or what?

What a great film.

My nomination? "L.A. Story", Steve Martin's valentine to his then wife and the city he clearly loves for all its' problems... Turns up every now and then on minor cable deep in the a.m.

baxter said...

You've got a nice set of 1970's films there. How about some 1980's ones? Broadcast News, Tin Men, Crimes of the Heart, The Mission, The Dead, Hope and Glory, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Emerald Forest, Sophie's Choice, Round Midnight, for starters.

mrgumby2u said...

I saw Return of the Secaucus Seven with my sister when we were in college. When The Big Chill came out shortly afterward I could only wonder, WTF?

Thanks to Netflix, I've recently (well, within the last six months) rewatched Failsafe, Seven Days in May, and the Manchurian Candidate. All of them in black and white, all well worth seeing, and each chilling in its own right. Taken together, though, they convince me that the early sixties must have been a mighty frightening time to live (I was born in 59).

Mike McCann said...

Glad you mentioned The Great One. Gleason is underrated as a film actor since he didn't make that many great films -- in fact, he didn't make that many films of any calibre. But, to me he reached his big screen pinnacle in GIGOT. That was the first film in which I ever understood the term "pathos." The man was, when challenged to excel, absolutely brilliant. That film with Gleason and the little girl, just tears your heart out.

Mike McCann said...

Quick followup. Unless Diane Gardner, who played "Nicole" the little girl in GIGOT went by a different stage name later on, she apparently never made another picture. Does anyone know more about her? She was so sweet in that film, you'd think someone (Disney) would have snapped her up for more work.

Nicms said...

Little Darlings with Tatum O'Neal and Kristy McNichol. No way would you see such a fun, painful and honest account of girls making a bet on the loss of their virginities today. It's on cable sometimes, but would be amazing if it came out on DVD.

Dhppy said...

This whole time I thought Between the Lines was The Return of the Secaucus Seven. Seriously. This is what I get for coming into the last half of a movie on cable.

Modern Romance. I caught this on cable too and cried with laughter watching Albert Brooks' first jogging attempt turn into a 7 yard dash to a payphone booth to harass his ex. It's the only movie I've ever seen where I wanted to reach through the screen and attack the lead character.

Anonymous said...

I hope Michael Zand is referring to VideoHound's rating and not what happened to him while he watched the Summer of '42... My fave "B" movies (as in starts with) that are rarely on TV anymore - not even cable (in alphabetical order): Blood Simple, Blow-Up, Blue Velvet, Box of Moonlight.

benson said...

Nice to see there are plenty of kindred spirits when it comes to these forgotten gems...

RA..yes, on Rock Hunter.

And a few more have come to mind after reading other posts...

Joe Bologna's Cops and Robbers
Henry Fonda in Advise and Consent and The Best Man
and one of my all time favorites, Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster's Local Hero
(And similarly, Waking Ned Devine)

Walter said...

"Soldier of Orange" a riveting story of the Dutch underground in WWII directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Rutger Hauer. "Local Hero" one of three great Bill Forsyth films (others: "Gregory's Girl" and "Comfort and Joy"). "The Late Show" with Art Carney and Lily Tomlin, an even better performance by Carney than in "Harry and Tonto". The original "Bedazzled" with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. And a myriad others.

Dhppy said...

Wow. Box of Moonlight. I haven't thought of that one in awhile. Sweet film. A straight friendship with the feel of a romance. Interesting.

Marie said...

Where's Poppa, with George Segal, Ruth Gordon, a slew of hilarious cameos (RIP, Vincent Gardenia), and a luminescent Trish VanDevere.

rw said...

Thanks for the excellent list. I nominate “Inside Moves” (1980) as a great sleeper movie. The screenplay was co-authored by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson. Roary (John Savage) fails at suicide and becomes crippled. He then begins to hang out at Max’s Bar, where he joins a group of interesting people who are also cripples (mental or physical.) No self pity is allowed. Jerry (David Morse), the bartender, becomes Roary’s best friend. Roary learns to take a different look at his life.

Sounds like a bummer, but it’s not. It’s funny and uplifting and the acting is excellent. But hey, what do I know, I’m a carpenter/entrepreneur wannabee.

Anonymous said...

Diary of a Mad Housewife caused a minor sensation when it was released--it struck many of the same raw nerves in the sexual arena that Looking for Mr. Goodbar later would. As the lover, Frank Langella did a brilliant job as cold, arrogant, charismatic, mind-gaming seducer who was like the ultimate Philip Roth protagonist (Roth himself being a major-league mind gamer).

Night Shift: Who can forget the young, adorable Shelley Long as New York's least likely hooker?

Where's Poppa?: Why has it been forgotten while Harold and Maude (another black comedy with Ruth Gordon) is still semi-remembered by film buffs? And considering what an interesting early career George Segal had, it's sad how much of it seems to have submerged into the mist.

James Wolcott

RAB said...

Any mention of The 27th Day should include a strong warning about the completely awful and inappropriate "twist ending" that makes a mockery of the film's whole premise. The film promises to have an anti-war message somewhat akin to The Day The Earth Stood Still but it gets utterly thrown out in the final minutes in favor of deeply offensive Cold War jingoism. The surprise conclusion is so artificial and out of place that I've long wondered if it wasn't forced on the filmmakers by studio heads...but that's just a guess on my part.

Oh. It's Kristen Again. *sigh* said...

Around my house it is common to hear "City Morgue... Somebody Died? Who cares." for no reason at all.

This is an excellent list.

Oa Rove said...

Very cool list. Local Hero, yes, now out on DVD and everyone should see it. Inside Moves: great movie.
If you're going to see Tom DeCillo's Box of Moonlight, don't miss his movie Living in Oblivion: it follows the travails of a young indie filmmaker played by Steve Buscemi through a night of filming. Catherine Keener is in it and is amazing and James LeGros channels Brad Pitt to awesome comedic effect. I saw some science fiction nods: be sure to check out The Day the Earth Caught Fire: great early 60s British scifi film that focuses on character over plot. Won the British equivalent of the Oscar for its screenplay, I believe. Again Ken, thanks, great idea for a list...

TCinLA said...

Well, here's one I bet even Ken hasn't seen in so long he's forgotten. It's just finally released on DVD. "The Loved One." It sends up everybody! Released in 1965. A comedy about "the American way of death" that was so far ahead of the times it is still ahead of the times.

Ken Levine said...

I remember THE LOVED ONE fondly. Rob Steiger as Joy Boy. His disgustingly fat mother. Delightful.

MBFH said...

How about...

"The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"

"The Hot Rock"

"Ryan's Daughter"

"Kelly's Heroes" (Although this turned up on TCM the other day)

"Alex In Wonderland"

"Brewster McCloud"

"Straight Time"

Andrew said...

I second the nomination for MODERN ROMANCE. Actually most of Albert Brooks' movies belong here, including LOOKING FOR COMEDY IN THE MUSLIM WORLD, which played in theaters in early 2006 for about seven minutes.

About SUMMER OF '42: Herman Raucher, the guy who wrote the autobiographical screenplay, did an online interview a few years back. He said there WAS a real-life young war widow named Dorothy whom he consoled in 1942, but it DIDN'T lead to sex.

VP19 said...

RAB said...
Any mention of The 27th Day should include a strong warning about the completely awful and inappropriate "twist ending" that makes a mockery of the film's whole premise. The film promises to have an anti-war message somewhat akin to The Day The Earth Stood Still but it gets utterly thrown out in the final minutes in favor of deeply offensive Cold War jingoism. The surprise conclusion is so artificial and out of place that I've long wondered if it wasn't forced on the filmmakers by studio heads...but that's just a guess on my part.


TCM is showing "The 27th Day" on New Year's Day as part of a marathon of Martian-related films. Not sure of the precise time of showing, though.

Ken Levine said...

Vip19,

Thanks so much for the 27th Day tip. Just set my Tivo. I knew I'd get something out of this blog.

Anonymous said...

I've had a crush on Jennifer O'Neill since 'Cover Up', the show where Jon-Erik Hexum was killed.

It should be noted she's still very beautiful and a rapid pro-lifer.

DennisS said...

The Heartbreak Kid remains a Top 10 pick among my male friends and a Bottom 10 selection among female... It will be interesting to see if they change May's brutal but brilliant take on marriage in the remake now filming. Another forgotten gem is “Love with the Proper Stranger” — if you can get over the notion that Steve McQueen's character forgets he had a wild night with Natalie Wood. (Now that's what I call liquored up)

Andrew said...

The Heartbreak Kid remains a Top 10 pick among my male friends and a Bottom 10 selection among female... It will be interesting to see if they change May's brutal but brilliant take on marriage in the remake now filming.

Neil Simon has said he wrote the original screenplay envisioning Diane Keaton in the Jeanne Berlin role; both wives were to have been identical WASPs. His underlying conceit was that Charles Grodin would only think wife #2 was 180 degrees removed from wife #1...

Rob Bates said...

Let me give another vote for "Heartbreak Kid," one of my favortie movies (though I am a guy), with awesome dialogue ("There's no deceit in that cauliflower"), and also put in a vote for Elaine May's equally excellent "Mikey and Nicky." GREAT film.

Don't know what happened to Elaine May, but she made (in my book) two of the best movies of all time.

Another good sixties hippie movie/satire is "Taking Off."

Andrew said...

Another good sixties hippie movie/satire is "Taking Off."

Absolutely. Milos Forman's post-AMADEUS career has been erratic, but this film (not available on DVD) is genuinely great. Buck Henry, in one of his few (only?) starring roles, is terrfic as a middle-class dad looking for his missing teenage daughter. There's a wonderful cameo by the late, great Forman repertory player Vincent Schiavelli, who pedantically teaches a group of parents of missing teens how to smoke a joint.

Another forgotten flick in the SUMMER OF '42 vein, which actually was released around the same time, is RED SKY AT MORNING with Richard Thomas and Desi Arnaz, Jr.

Anonymous said...

I've got to vote for Badlands (my all time favorite film,) and in no particular order, Steelyard Blues(Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and a very funny Peter Boyle), Panic in Needle Park, Atlantic City, Silverado, The Big Picture.

ChrisO said...

Don't know why I came through as anonymous. Oh well.

Karl said...

I haven't seen "Between the Lines", but I consider "The Tall Guy" to be Jeff Goldblum’s masterpiece. The man really needs to do more comedies.

Mr. X said...

I saw some of these films while I was in the iron, sweaty grip of puberty, so that colored my interpretation considerably. Summer of '42, for example, reassured me that it was possible that even I would get laid one day, even if it were only because of a chance encounter with a grief-stricken widow.

There was another movie--I thought that it was Diary of a Mad Housewife, but, now that I think about it, I wouldn't swear to it--that did have a housewife who was "mad" in the sense that she was on a psych ward for a while; the only scene that sticks in my head was one in which a priest comes to talk to her and she tells him that, as a girl, the only reason that she used to look forward to being married was that she wouldn't have to worry about being caught masturbating.

Ah, youth.

Tom Quigley said...

"The Loved One" was one of the great black comedies I've ever seen. Will never forget cemetary-owner Jonathan Winters' line as he he's looking to sell the cemetary to a developer for a handsome profit: "Somehow, I've got to find a way to get these stiffs off my property"....

Doug Daniels said...

I just saw "Chilly Scenes of Winter" on TMC tonight. In reviews of this movie at the time of its release (in 1979 and 1982) there are references about how this movie explores a sense of loss and missed opportunities of the late 60s generation . Although very different movies in all other ways, "The Big Chill" (title coincidence?) does the same thing in 1983.

I just saw "A Thousand Clowns" for the first time last week also on TMC. Great movie. Barbara Harris is wonderful as Robards love interest.

The ending left me joyful and very sad simultaneously. I've never had a reaction like that. A must see.