Saturday, December 23, 2006

Forgotten flicks Part II

Here are more of my favorite “lost movies”. Thanks for yours. Some great titles. Keep ‘em comin’. It’s amazing how many little gems are rarely or never seen anymore. Even Netflix doesn’t carry some of these members of the movie graveyard.

TOPKAPI – A superb caper movie from the 60’s. Ingenious and funny. Peter Ustinov at his best (for those who remember Peter Ustinov).

SMALL CIRCLE OF FRIENDS – Okay, I’ve got a thing for 60’s college movies. I haven’t seen it in 25 years but I remember (a) liking it, and (b) falling in love with Karen Allen long before Indiana Jones did.

FIRST LOVE – another dorky college dorm flick. But this one features Susan Dey, Laurie Partridge herself, exploring her sexuality. Graphically!!! Must be seen uncut on cable when alone to be fully appreciated.

TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA – Hollywood’s two great Williams – Friedken and Peterson come together for a taut suspenseful ride through LA. Deserved more praise than it received – the movie, not the city.

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED – Peter Sellers in a tale about a tiny European country that declares war on the US hoping to lose and be rebuilt by the victors. Someone in Iraq must’ve seen this movie.

WHERE'S PAPA? -- A number of readers mentioned this one. Robert Klane is one of my favorite sick writers. My favorite moment -- a brilliant comment on racism -- A black man and Rob Liebman in a gorilla suit are trying to hail a cab. The cab picks up the gorilla. The BORAT of its day.

THE WANDERERS – Adaptation of terrific Richard Price novel. Life on the streets of New York. Street corner singing and gang warfare.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE, TWO, THREE – An insane premise that works. Bad guys hijack a subway. The trouble comes when they try to take it to Cuba.

DEATH RACE 2000 – A Roger Corman classic. A futuristic national road race where the drivers get extra points by killing people. Sylvester Stallone gives a good performance but is overshadowed by the Real Don Steele.

EATING RAOUL – Corman alum Paul Bartell’s cannibal comedy. Not a date movie for people with eating disorders.

W.C. FIELDS & ME -- Rod Steiger as W.C. Fields -- the intense scary near psychotic W.C. Fields.

THE ONE AND ONLY -- Henry Winkler as a wrestler in the early days of television. Steve Gordon, who wrote and directed ARTHUR, penned this first. No one wrote funnier dialogue than Steve. And he wasn't saddled with Liza Minelli in this one.

AFTER THE FOX -- Peter Sellers as a master thief who poses as a film director to dupe an entire Italian village into helping him pull off a major heist. Victor Mature as Charlton Heston. Mixed reviews for this one but it made me laugh.

and last but maybe best....

THE KILLING -- One of Kubrick's first films. A race track robbery is shown from different angles utilizing repeated action. Complex, compelling, contained. Kubrick was so brilliant before he started believing he was brilliant.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that noted video game adapter Paul W. S. Anderson is in the process of bringing a new entry in the Death Race saga to the big screen.

Anonymous said...

Hate to nit-pick, but The Killing is Kubrick's 3rd feature...Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss are his first two, respectively.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on all the films, except "Where's Poppa?" I remember rolling in the aisles when I first saw it back in the day. A few years ago, I rented it for my wife who hadn't seen it. Afraid to say it doesn't hold up. It's glacially slow. I would avoid seeing it and preserve the memory.

A bit of trivia -- I was an actor before becoming a writer and am in "Live and Die in LA." The opening scene with the terrorist on the roof of the hotel -- that's me. Have I got some William Friedkin stories...

Anonymous said...

So many great and pretty much forgotten films... and I'm going to add a couple more -- The Hot Rock and What's Up Doc?

The car chase in To Live and Die in LA is amazing -- much better than the wrong way schtick in Ronin

Matt said...

Pelham 123 was a great movie, and an even better book.

Scribe LA said...

Soul Man!!

Anonymous said...

The FIRST LOVE pick explains Beaver Cleaver's plantive cry of "Susan Dey....I LOVE YOU!" one lonely Saturday night in 1977 on 10Q. That reminds me--the Real Don Steele was also in EATING RAOUL.

Anonymous said...

People have mentioned Al Brooks movies and people have queried what Charles Grodin ever did that was good-- put those two together and you have my pick for the funniest movie ever made, and one that becomes more and more relevant every year, "Real Life".

"Electra Glide in Blue"
"Next Stop, Greenwich Village"
and "Smile", which Ken wrote about before.

Anonymous said...

I did some interviews on W.C. Fields & Me...they were working at the old Chasen's on Beverly Blvd. and Doheny...anyhow, Steiger NEVER got out of the Fields character in the interview...very strange. But the best was doing an interview (I was with CBS Radio at the time, so no cameras...just me and my Sony cassette recorder!) with Valerie Perrine in her trailer, parked on Beverly Blvd. We chatted as she walked back and forth the whole length of her trailer, slowly getting undressed. She wound up completely naked, chatting with me like it was nothing. Always figured it was her Vegas showgirl background!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Death Race 2000! A true great.

Anonymous said...

A couple of others we may have overlooked: Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Wizard of Oz, The Graduate, On The Waterfront, Singin' In The Rain, It's A Wonderful Life, Sunset Blvd., The Bridge on the River Kwai, Some Like It Hot, All About Eve, The African Queen, Psycho, Chinatown, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Maltese Falcon, Raging Bull, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Dr. Strangelove, Bonnie and Clyde, Apocalypse Now, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Midnight Cowboy, The Best Years of Our Lives, Double Indemnity, Doctor Zhivago, North by Northwest, West Side Story, Rear Window, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Jaws, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Philadelphia Story, From Here To Eternity, M*A*S*H, The Third Man, Rebel Without A Cause, Vertigo, Tootsie, Network, The Manchurian Candidate, The French Connection, American Graffiti, The Wild Bunch, Giant, Easy Rider, My Fair Lady and the everpopular Duck Soup.

Anonymous said...

"The taking of Pelham 123" - great, just great casting, great pacing, great - and it's one of those movies I keep coming across on TV still, late nite, some channel, and I watch again. How the hell did Jerry Stiller get a role as an actor there?

As for "Mouse that Roared" I've always wondered why there was no remake, it's long overdue as the premise is scarily possible to imagine.

My only complain is "Topkapi", meh, sub-Hitchcock really, and I never bought the hype on Mercouri. I mean then "We're no Angels" or something where he is just having fun but with Bogart at least.

"The Killing", wonderful, Kubrick was just twenty-f**king seven years old! Complex, non-linear structure and still comfortable, B-movie noir feeling. Shame about the overnarrator device like something out of Dragnet.

Finally, what's with the Henry Winkler fan club - it seems implausible that a list has TWO films in which Winkler plays a starring role. Seriously, loved him on "Arrested Development" but films?

Anonymous said...

"The Wrath of God" (not "Aguirre, TWoG"): Rita Hayworth's last film (playing Frank Langella's mother) and great performances by Robert Mitchum and Victor Buono.

Paddy Chayefsky's "The Hospital" starring George C. Scott and Diana Rigg and directed by Arthur Hiller.

"Who'll Stop The Rain" -- amazing performances by Nick Nolte and Michael Moriarity.

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't think I'd ever want to live in a world without "The Mouse that Roared"

Axel said...

Another wonderful film which isn't even available on VHS anymore is "The Jokers" -- a Michael Winner caper film from the sixties with Oliver Reed and Michael Crawford. Two society brat brothers in swinging London discover a glitch in British law: you cannot be prosecuted for a theft if you return the item within 48 hours. For a lark, they decide to steal the crown jewels. The heist is brilliant, but sibling rivalry complicates things.
I would call it a must-see, if it were possible to see it. Maybe -- late night TV? It's worth searching for.

mybillcrider said...

I thought Where's Poppa was hilarious and daring in its day. I wonder if it's still as funny as I thought then. And if it's available on DVD.

Anonymous said...

"Running on Empty"

One of the best movies no one saw.

lonestarr357 said...

"You're a sick man, Rico." Saw PELHAM on DVD earlier this year. Freakin' fantastic. Good writing, good cast, good music. Just good.

Another great thriller from the '70s: BLACK SUNDAY. In today's touchier-than-a-sunburn-victim post-9/11 climate, this might not be seen as the escapist fare it once was, but I think it's terrific. Robert Shaw is fine and Bruce Dern is just phenomenal (seriously, there's this one scene an hour and a half in...just rent it!).

Anonymous said...

Yeah! "Who'll Stop the Rain" was really good. And speaking of Chayevsky, I was quite entertained by "Altered States" when it came out. The direction by Ken Russell was goofy, but I loved the story.

William said...

Here are a few that aren't on your list:

-Heroes (another Winkler classic)
-My Bodyguard (fond memories of this one)
-Inside Moves (John Savage and David Morse)
-Modern Problems (Chevy actually funny)
-Hot Stuff (Dom Deluise)

one I just rented recently,

-Times Square (a flawed classic from what almost seems like a different century)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else remember
"It's In The Bag" (1945)?

Fred Allen, Jack Benny William Bendix.....

Fred Floogle(Allen) owner of
a flea circus inherits 5 chairs
and a Frank Sinatra record from his rich uncle. He sells the chairs
then finds out that one of chairs
has a fortune in cash stuffed in it.

He goes on a wild hunt for the chairs and runs into some funny
situations along the way.

Mel Brooks must have liked it too!

Good Dog said...

Nice to see To Live and Die in LA flagged up.

Other favorites:

Night Moves, Thief, The Keep, Gone to Earth, Static...

Anonymous said...

I have a soft spot for Ron Howard's "Grand Theft Auto" Also featuring the Real Don Steele, and 10-Q!

I met Boyd R. Britton at a college radio conference at UCLA, and he invited me and a friend over to the studios on Western to take a tour. It was right after they had filmed "GTA" there, and the production studio was still dressed for the shoot.

Those were really great studios.

Anonymous said...

In keeping with the season, how about "A Christmas Story" by Jean Shepherd. I used to listen to Shep on the radion in NY when I was growing up. A truely funny human.

Anonymous said...

Trust me on these rarely-seen great films, very little commentary necessary:

Smile! (didn't know KL had written about it!)
Rancho deluxe
So Fine
Tall Guy (seconded)
Modern Romance (seconded)
Real Life (strongly seconded - that was co-writer Harry Shearer 'under' the camera!)
Used Cars
Brewster McCloud
Mother Juggs & Speed
Funny Bones
The hospital (seconded)
Cold Turkey (Carl Reiner, by Bob & Ray, starring a huge comedy-goldmine of familiar faces. Ahead of its time in 4th-wall busting and 'knowing', ironic humor)

(I feel I must add the "Modern Problems" and "Deal of the Century" were never very funny, and they certainly don't hold up. they are both in constant rotation these days on HBO's channels, for proof of this.)

Charley Varrick (Walter Matthau as true action hero!)
The Border
Straight Time (seconded)
Shoot the Moon
Who'll Stop the Rain (seconded)
Hard Core
Busting (more great Gould - plus great Garfield)
Point Blank (forget that ninny Gibson's silly "Payback" - this is the real thing.

(Tom Quigley: you are aware of the "ultimate' twist of "Manchurian" aren't you"? I don't believe its ever addressed in the commentaries.)

Thank you, KL and commenters - I thought I'd seen "everything", but I got a good 10+ films to hunt down for the holidays.
Hope everyone's holidays are kind!

Anonymous said...

Gary: Ken was listing films that he feels are gems, and have been FORGOTTEN by TV, cable, and DVD. Your list is great, but those films can be found on cable TV almost any day of the week. I see your post was at 2:15 AM so maybe you weren't able to read for comprehension at that wee hour. While I'm at it, I loved "Stalag 17" but, it too, has been on cable in the last couple of years. "Rancho Deluxe" - yes, GWG!

Anonymous said...


Somewhat off topic but you mentioned your crush on Karen Allen. Thought you'd be interested in this

Yes, she's talented along with being lovely. I stopped by her store a few weeks ago when traveling through the Berkshires. And speaking of Karen Allen movies, how about Starman?

By Ken Levine said...

I almost met Karen Allen once. I was having a reading of one of my screenplays in New York and she agreed to be in it. But at the last couldn't get a baby sitter. :(

Oh, well. May next one.

Anonymous said...

It's not that old, but "Second Hand Lions" is a great film. As is "Leon"

Anonymous said...

Is there a subcategorization of Forgotten Flicks? For example, a "small" movie that you enjoyed for the story plus other factors? "My Bodyguard" is a sweet film but not a classic. But I love it for its locations (Chicago, which I think was a seldom used location at that time) not to mention glimpses of actors who went on to other things (in this case Joan Cusack and Baldwin brother. Maybe that is a Nostalgia Flick as opposed to a forgotten one. A few people remember it fondly, many others would never have seen it and might be immune to its charms. . .

Anonymous said...

A couple more forgotten ones: The Stunt Man, from 1980. This one has aged a bit, especially in terms of some cheesy 70s-style music. But it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director for Richard Rush and Best Actor for Peter O'Toole. Steve Railsback is a fugitive who takes refuge on a movie set and O'Toole is the film's larger than life director. Nifty film. I actually saw it in a 500-seat theater where I was the only patron. This film deserved better. Came out on DVD a few years ago.
Also, a real oldie: 1936's Dodsworth, with Walter Huston and Mary Astor. Terrifically mature and thoughtful film about a collapsing marraige. A lot of 30s films can be pretty creaky but this one really holds up. And this one is out on DVD too.
Thanks for all the other suggestions from everyone. Look forward to seeing them all.

Rob Bates said...

OK, I hate to again be the "another vote" guy, but I am also a big fan of "Cold Turkey" (I remember they used to show it in every year on CBS), and "It's In the Bag" (as I remember Martin Scorcese was, since he brought it up in an NYT magazine interview years back.) Fast-paced, charming movie. I also really loved another great comedy with a radio actor, "So This is New York" with Henry Morgan. Hard to find on video, but very ahead of its time, full of dry Letterman-ish satire.

Warren Fleece said...

"Bad Company", the 1972 western directed by Robert Benton, with Barry Brown and Jeff Bridges.

I think this movie was forgotten the minute it was released. The early 70's were just too good for American film. What the hell happened?

"I'd like to get my hands on the son of a bitch that told me to go west."

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

I would like to weigh in and add "Start the Revolution Without Me"

Night. Still 1789

Anonymous said...

The Americanization of Emily--the film that raises the question, "why didn't James Garner become a movie star?"

They Might be Giants--an odd comedy starring the always hilarious George C. Scott as a man convinced he's Sherlock Holmes. Trust me.

The Remarkable Andrew--William Holden as a town clerk wrongfully accused of embezzlement, defended by the ghost of Andrew Jackson among other spirits, in a film by Dalton Trumbo.

No Way to Treat a Lady--Rod Steiger as a serial killer, pursued by George Segal as a mama's boy cop caught between Eileen Heckhart as his mother, and the terribly missed Lee Remick.

The Big Combo-a Joseph Lewis noir starring Richard Conte as a mobster who murders his deaf mentor, played by Brian Donlevy, in a silent gunfire sequence.

The Great McGinty--Preston Sturges writes and directs a wonderful political satire starring the apparently ubiquitous Brian Donlevy.

The American Success Company AKA Success--Jeff Bridges stars in an indescribably odd film made in the '70s.

Anonymous said...

Anybody seen "Man On a Swing"? Starred Clift Robertson and Joel Grey.

"Gloomy Sunday"?

"Little Murders"

Howard Hoffman said...

I haven't read every comment, but my hands-down favorite:

After Hours

A swell little Scorcese film starring Griffin Dunne, but MAN, what a supporting cast:

Cheech and Chong
Verna Bloom
Teri Garr
Catherine O'Hara
John Heard
Linda Fiorentino
Rosanna Arquette
Will Patton
Scorcese himself

...and too many more. Larry Block has five seconds of the best glower on film EVER when Paul Hackett is about to stiff him on cab fare.

A classic example of one incredible scene after another. Just a great ride.

Anonymous said...

Holiday greetings from Chicago. Just discovered your blog and will be a frequent visitor. As for "Where's Poppa," I interviewed Carl Reiner once, and he told me the film's original ending scandalized audiences. In it, George Segal does not end up with Trish Van Devere, but instead, returns home, gets into bed with Ruth Gordon, and says, "Poppa's home." I wish they'd include that on the DVD!

Another forgotten flick: UFOria: Harry Dean Stanton, a great country soundtrack, Cindy Williams and Fred Ward channeling Waylon Jennings. Out of this world!

Anonymous said...

Since you mentioned Karen Allen, I'd mention Starman, which I've heard described as "E.T. for grownups", "E.T. with sex", "E.T. without the omnipresent Hand of Spielberg", or, simply, "E.T., only good." John Carpenter isn't exactly an obscure director, but some of his movies have fallen under the radar fairly quickly without becoming cult favorites. Another one that falls in this category is his adaptation of Stephen King's Christine, which is far superior to the book.

Overall, I think that it's hard to find a movie that's truly "forgotten"; it's more a matter of deciding where the cutoff is for cult status.

John Eje Thelin said...

Pelham is indeed a great movie but it also has what may be the very best 70's action soundtrack of all, despite not being written by Lalo Schifrin. Stunning.

To Live and Die in LA is also an excellent film and also features a pretty good soundtrack, especially if you consider the fact that it's turned out by Wang Chung.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed Carl Reiner several years back, and he revealed that the original ending of "Where's Poppa" alienated the audiences. In it, George Segal does not wind up with Trish Van Devere. Instead, he returns to Ruth Gordon, gets into bed with her, and says, "Poppa's home." I wish we could see that on the DVD!

Anonymous said...

Okay...I have one that meets the criteria... How many here have ever seen "Little Murders"?

Hilarious (especially the diatribe by the judge) and quirky, with Elliot Gould, and a host of character actors, I think it was Jules Pfieffer, or something. NEVER have seen it since like 1970-something.

Also "The Great Brinks Job".

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Used Cars. Very funny movie with Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, and the two guys from Laverne and Shirley (yes, Lennie and Squiggy).