(Note: It may go without saying, but I usually don't include obvious classics here, because I'd rather spotlight relatively lesser known or less appreciated films. A few of these *are* pretty obvious classics to many, but I just didn't want to stack the list with stuff like Elephant Man and Twelve O'Clock High.)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
dir. Russ Meyer
I’d seen a couple of Russ Meyer’s other movies, but never this classic. Three wild, unapologetic nasty women raise absolute hell for most of this movie — driving fast, breaking necks, kidnapping innocents, and using their womanly wiles to try and find the location of some hidden cash. This is subdued by Meyer’s later standards, but he’s on his own scale.
dir. James Glickenhaus
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t something this genuinely good. Okay, Sam Elliott and Peter Weller don’t have the best chemistry, but they don’t spend a ton of the movie together anyway. The movie has some pretty great action set pieces (the roller coaster omg!), and I love that the hero succeeds because he’s good at his job, not because of some plot device. Weird side note: I always think of the Bob Seger song when I see the title, but it was on the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack and has nothing to do with this movie.
dir. Walter Hill
This was only Walter Hill’s second movie, and it’s completely amazing. Obviously a huge influence on Drive and this year’s Baby Driver, this is a fairly lean movie, with characters that are more archetypes than fully fledged human beings. That’s not a criticism, by the way — we know no more about the main three characters than we absolutely need to, and it’s just what the movie needs. There are a bunch of great car chases in and around LA, and it's all centered on a role that handsome blank slate Ryan O’Neal was born to play.
Four Times That Night
dir. Mario Bava
I caught this during Quad Cinema’s "Bava-thon" and was delighted to scratch this deep cut off my to-watch list. It employs one of my least favorite tropes, but it’s done cleverly enough that I actually was charmed by it. We see four different versions of what happened between a man and a woman on a date, so it’s basically Sexy Rashomon. I usually associate Bava with his thrillers and gothic horror movies, but this cheeky gem is a nice change of pace.
dir. Richard Franklin
I wrote about this one in the "What the Truck" entry for my horror triple features series, so I won't repeat myself. But in case you missed it … Stacy Keach as a bleary-eyed truck driver. Jamie Lee Curtis as an adventurous hitchhiker. Grant “Stunt Rock” Page as a serial killer.
I loved this so much.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
dir. Bruce Pittman
I don’t know anything about the original movie other than that disco scene, but it doesn’t matter because this one completely stands alone and is AWESOME. Bless all the incredible 80s fashion in this movie. Bless the plot device of Mary Lou having being killed in a tragic stink bomb accident. But most of all, bless Mary Lou and her barren field of f***s to give.
dir. Jack Sholder
My favorite by far of this year’s "Dismember the Alamo" festivities. This movie boasts Michael “Flashdance” Nouri and Kyle “Blue Velvet” MacLachlan (Twin Peaks was still a few years off) and was directed by Jack “Nightmare on Elm Street 2” Sholder. It’s basically a buddy cop movie where one half of the duo is a body-swapping alien hunting another of his kind. Nouri and MacLachlan are great together, and it’s pretty gory for the late 80s. It also has a bitchin’ theme song.
dir. Barbra Streisand
If you are a fan of Barbra Streisand, you’ve likely already seen this; if you’re not, I don’t know that it’s for you, but I suspect you might be pulled in by it if you can get through the first 15 minutes or so. For years I had let this movie’s reputation among its detractors keep me from watching it, but I’m so glad I finally saw it. Following the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to study the Torah (which is forbidden to women), this movie is kind of revolutionary in its use of the musical numbers and how it plays with diagetic and non-diagetic music. The sexual dynamics are pretty fascinating as well, even by today’s standards.
dir. John Ford
When I think of John Ford, I think of classic westerns and war movies and rugged manliness. So this film, his final completed film, was a complete surprise to me. Anne Bancroft (taking over for Patricia Neal) plays a doctor who takes a post at a mission in rural China run by mostly women (and Eddie Albert). There’s some cringey “yellow face” (including Woody Strode in a small role), but otherwise this is a pretty outstanding flick.
dir. Jacques Demy
I was compelled to watch this because Anna Biller (director of The Love Witch) talks about it all the time and has been frequently inspired by it. All I can say is … wow. Wait, that doesn’t mean what you probably think. Catherine Denueve plays a princess whose recently widowed father has decided he wants her to be his next wife. And before you can say “Toys Are Not for Children” she gets the heck out of Dodge to go and live in the woods. Can't say I blame her. This movie has things you simply would not believe — a king whose throne is literally a giant plush cat, a donkey that poops gold and jewels, a princess who clones herself in order to bake a cake. And the costumes! They must have blown half the budget on the gowns alone! This movie is bazonkers in the best way.