1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Update for October Part 1
It had been a while since I updated my progress on this list. So below are a few more from the 1001 movie list that I’ve gotten through lately:
The Wolf Man (1941): This is the classic with Lon Chaney, the Man of 1000 Faces, as the Wolf Man. I surprised myself in the fact that I had never watched this whole movie before. The template for countless horror movies that followed was set here. We have a Gypsy Curse, an innocent man who is bitten and then transforms, foggy forests, and a bittersweet end to the monster. It’s actually pretty amazing how much star power is in this particular creature feature. Claude Rains about a year before Casablanca plays the father of Lawrence Talbot (the character who becomes the Wolf Man), Ralph Bellamy, and a post Dracula Bela Lugosi as a Gypsy fortune teller who becomes the first victim. Somewhat campy, but this is one of the more polished of the old Universal Monster Movies. And everything from Drag Me to Hell to An American Werewolf in London owes a debt to this film.
North By Northwest: I have seen this movie dozens of times before, but a big screen showing at the SIFF Cinema recently was a great occasion to introduce it to my kids. This was the end of Hitchcock’s “innocent man mistakenly chased down for a crime and ending up in the middle of a cross country chase” era. He used this similar plot countless times (The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, The Lady Vanishes, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Wrong Man), but this film was the most entertaining and breezy of these films. And I have to say, what I have come to appreciate about the famous crop duster chase through the cornfield in particular is the setup. When Cary Grant first shows up on that deserted road, we get a long stretch of nothing happening. Early in those establishing shots, we see the plane in the background, but then it cuts away to Grant waiting aimlessly by the road. Almost testing the audience’s patience, Hitch knows just how long to make this sequence while building suspense. Of course, the crop duster is pointed out by the farmer, and then the action starts, but the planting of the seed early in the sequence is brilliant. (As a side note, I recently learned that Martin Landau who was so creepy in this film was originally offered the role of Mr. Spock before they cast Leonard Nimoy)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: This was my 10th time seeing this in my lifetime, but I hadn’t been to a showing of this in almost two decades. A shout out to the theater company who performs showings of this at least once a month at the Admiral Theater in West Seattle. They do the performance up right with full cast, props, constant shouts to the screen, hazing of the virgins in the audience, and even some pre show entertainment. “Let’s do the Time Warp agaaaaaainnn…” Very Fun.
I plan on getting through some more horror centric titles on the list this month, because it’s that time of year. Stay tuned for another update in October.