The Great Watchlist Purge of 2022 (Round two, that is.)
I love movies . . . especially ones that live obscure lives outside the mainstream. I grew up in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s during what many critics would call one of the heydays of filmmaking: Spielberg, Coppola, Lucas, Scorcese, et al. And I learned to appreciate good movies. I knew Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and Jimmy Stewart tumbling down Main Street screaming at the movie house just as well as I knew Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner fighting their way through the jungle. When I thought of toys, I pictured Tom Hanks in Big just like I pictured Jackie Gleason tormenting Richard Pryor. I watched in awe as Penelope Spheeris’ gang of punks walked in slow motion down the sidewalk, and I laughed at Spicoli having his pizza taken away by Mr. Hand. I liked “Savage” Steve Holland movies before The Big Bang Theory and James Spader before The Blacklist. (If you think Spader played an asshole in Pretty in Pink, watch Less than Zero.) And since most modern movies disappoint me, I have tended to reach back further into the archives to satiate my appetite for viewing. I couldn’t care less who plays Spiderman or Batman these days, I don’t care what back-story from Star Wars they’re developing, I get tired of Hollywood throwing remakes at us, and I’m not going to spend time watching the latest diversity-initiative cartoon musical. No, I pride myself on a love of movies, not on a set of prescribed consumption habits.
If you didn’t follow along with the first Great Watchlist Purge – in 2021 – you can go back and see, but here are the seventeen films that are still left after feeling done in August 2021 (not counting the ones I’ve found and watched since then):
Though I don’t know much about this movie, it sounds odd, but what caught my attention was that it was filmed in Alabama. There’s another film called The Ravagers from 1965, but this is not related to that one.
Haiku Tunnel (2001)
This movie (and Mountain Cry) came up when I searched the term ‘haiku.’ It is an early 2000s indie comedy about doing temp work in an office. I remember it being one of the last GenX zeitgeist films, but coming out a bit too late. By the early 2000s, the very youngest Xers were in college and getting into the working world.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1929)
I had never heard of this animated movie before seeing a reference to it on Twitter from an account that was disputing Fantasia‘s designation as the first full-length animated feature film. The clip attached to the tweet was interesting, and I want to see the whole film.
The River Rat (1984)
I found this film when I was trying to figure out what Martha Plimpton had been in. I tend to think of Plimpton as the nerdy friend she played in Goonies, but this one, which is set in Louisiana and has Tommy Lee Jones playing her dad, puts her in a different role.
The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
I’ve read about this movie but never seen it. I must say, the title is great, and it doesn’t hurt that Jacqueline Bisset is beautiful.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
This horror-thriller came up alongside Deep Red, which I watched last year, after I rated two recent horror films: the disturbing Hagazussa and the less-heavy but still creepy Make-Out with Violence. Deep Red was good, so I want to watch this one, too.
Born in Flames (1983)
This movie looks cool but is obscure. It’s an early ’80s dystopian film about life after a massive revolution. But it is difficult impossible to find. (Apple TV has it but I don’t have Apple TV.) I was surprised to see a story on NPR about it recently, so maybe it will show up.
Personal Problems (1980)
This one is also pretty obscure – complicated African-American lives in the early ’80s – and came up as a suggestion since I liked Ganja and Hess. Though the script was written by Ishmael Reed – whose From Totems to Hip-Hop anthology I use in my classroom – the description says “partly improvised,” which means that the characters probably ramble a bit.
Little Fauss and Big Halsey (1970)
Paul Newman movies from the late ’60s and early ’70s are among my all-time favorites. This one came out about the same time as Sometimes A Great Notion. Despite having seen Cool Hand Luke, Hud, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Long, Hot Summer numerous times each, I’d never heard of this movie until a few years ago.
All the Right Noises (1970)
I found this story about a married theater manager who has an affair with a younger woman, when I looked up what movies Olivia Hussey had been in other than Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. It looks a little like Fatal Attraction, like the relationship goes well until it doesn’t.
All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
I have memories of seeing this movie in the late 1980s when USA Network used to have a program called Saturday Nightmares, but every list that appears on the internet doesn’t include this movie as having been shown on that program. That weird old program turned me on 1960s and ’70s European horror movies, like Vampire Circus and The Devil’s Nightmare, and I could have sworn this one was on that show— but maybe not. No matter where I first saw it, I haven’t seen this movie in a long time and would like to re-watch it. However, the full movie was virtually impossible to find. One streaming service had it but said it was not available in my area, and one YouTuber has shared the original Italian-language movie . . . but I don’t speak Italian.
This western came up as a suggestion at the same time as Zachariah. It’s a German western, so we’ll see . . . Generally, it has been hard to find, with only the trailer appearing on most sites.
The Blood of a Poet (1930)
Jean Cocteau’s bohemian classic. I remember reading about this film in books that discussed Paris in the early twentieth century, but I never made any effort to watch it. I’m not as interested in European bohemians as I once was, but if the film is good, it won’t matter.
Landscape in the Mist (1988)
This Greek film about two orphans won high praise. I haven’t tried to find a subtitled version yet, it may be out of reach.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
I can’t tell what to make of this movie: Phantom of the Opera but with rock n roll in the mid-’70s?
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
As I’ve already shared, I just like ’70s horror movies. We’ll see if this one is any good.
White Star (1983)
This biopic has Dennis Hopper playing Westbrook. As a fan of rock journalism, I couldn’t not add it to the list!
The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
This French thriller, which came up as a suggestion from All the Colors of the Dark, caught my eye with the wonderful artwork on its cover image. The title is also compelling, and those two factors led me to see what it was. It didn’t hurt that the description contained the phrase “surreal kaleidoscope.”
Since closing out last watchlist purge in August 2021, I found and watched few that were on it at the end. Since then, I’ve been less methodical about my movie-watching, but still deep in it. The Hunger (1983) was a lot better than I remembered, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) was captivating in the same way as The Addiction and Let the Right One In. Among the older thrillers I’ve watched and liked have been Messiah of Evil (1973) and Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), while I found Torso (1973) and Pieces (1982) less than stellar. Here are few others from the list that I’ve watched, too:
This movie was slow and relatively disappointing since the main characters reminded me of the kind of Millennials I don’t like. But for a moment, near the end of the movie, it gets good. I don’t want to spoil it, but suddenly, the monotony breaks and a surreal twist rips the viewer from the droll monotony that is this story. Unfortunately, then it goes back to its slow, crawling pace and becomes disappointingly dull again. But if you’re willing to take the time that it would take to watch a movie like the original Amityville Horror, this one pays off in the same way.
The Damned (1969)
I thought I was going to like this epic German film, but man, it got uninteresting fast. Aside from its dialogue being very formal and the subject matter being success in a family business, the weird sexual aspects were a major turnoff. Having one of the brothers to be a transsexual who thought it was a good idea to do some cabaret at his father’s birthday— uh, no. Then there’s the incest stuff— uh, no. I’m actually kind of sorry that I watched this.
One of the most abstract films I’ve ever seen. The whole thing is lacquered over with a grainy filtering effect, and the story is highly symbolic. Anyone who doesn’t love avant garde films will bail out within the first few scenes, but if you’re inclined toward art films and have the patience for visual symbolism, this one is worth taking in. Without wanting to spoil it, though, I will mention that a some of the film involves graphic sexual imagery, so if you don’t want to see that, skip this one and move on.
Satan’s Slave (1976)
Something in the ’70s made horror movie directors gravitate to the secret Satanic cult motif, and this was one of the weaker efforts at that. In this one, a young British woman is taken inexplicably by her father and mother to visit the father’s brother – her uncle, who she has never met – but they get in a fiery car crash in his driveway, and both her parents die. Somehow, that is made to be passé, something she should just get over like a stubbed toe or a skinned knee, and her fate falls into the hands of the small assemblage of family members in the wealthy manor, who embrace her quickly. Of course, there’s some historic Satanic mess going on, which is why her father avoided them all these years, and the naïve young woman has to deal with it. Overall, the story is pretty crummy.
Venus in Furs (1969)
This is a quite a good late-’60s avant garde film. There’s a white jazz trumpet player with a black girlfriend in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, and he gets wrapped up in an affair with a white girl who he finds dead in the surf at the beach. Yes, that’s as weird as it sounds. The girlfriend is the grounding force, but the dead girl keeps showing back up, having sex with the trumpet player, and somehow reaping sexual revenge on the three people who killed her in a tryst. In the end, the trumpet player finds himself dead in the surf, and we’re left to wonder if the whole thing is cyclical, or if it even happened at all. But there’s good music and some Jean-Luc Godard-style cinematography to make the uncertainty an experience.
And these are the thirty-five movies that have been added to the watchlist since then:
A mid-1990s film by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, who later made Pan’s Labyrinth, which is an incredibly beautiful film. (He also made The Shape of Water, which won an Oscar a few years ago.) I had never heard of this movie at the time, but found it when I went down the rabbit hole of seeing what else the director of Pan’s Labyrinth made.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
Though I’ve seen most of Spike Lee’s movies, this one got past me. It doesn’t look at all like his classics Do the Right Thing or School Daze, so I’m curious to what it will be.
I became familiar with David Cronenberg when I watched his 1990s adaptation of Naked Lunch as a teenager, then I saw Dead Ringers and Videodrome later, and actually saw Shivers only a few years ago. This film came out between Shivers and Videodrome. Though I’m not a big zombie-movie guy, I’d like to see what Cronenberg did with the motif in the late 1970s.
Not to be confused with Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, this film is a Quebecois hippie film about a naïve girl who comes to the city to get involved in the modern goings-on. This one came up as related to Rabid, but only has 5.1 stars on IMDb— it may be a clunker, we’ll see . . .
This one will be a challenge to watch, with a run time around five hours. But I’ve liked Bernardo Bertolucci ever since I saw Stealing Beauty. This stars are Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu, who make me feel confident that it will be good.
This film is partially animated and mixed Polish and French, but it’s less than an hour long and garnered a few award nominations. It could be a good, it could be bad. No matter which, it’ll be short.
The People Next Door (1970)
I’ve been a fan of this movie’s star Eli Wallach since seeing The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but this film will certainly be nothing like that one. This movie is about a couple in New York whose daughter ends up being on drugs. The premise and title remind me of the ultra-depressing Ordinary People and also of one subplot in the more recent film Traffic. Some of the reviews reference TV movies and those short films that were meant to scare kids into not doing drugs. I hope this is better than either of those genres.
The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
I remember seeing this movie when it came out but not much about it. I do remember it being funny in kind of an off-color way. In short, I’d like to watch it again.
Saló, or 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Back in my wilder days, I had a Grove Press volume of several of the Marquis de Sade’s books, and 120 Days of Sodom was in that volume. I remember reading some of it and thinking, “What is this crap?” but of course, de Sade has survived because he is utterly offensive— the term “sadism” being dubbed after him. Like The Decameron below, this adaptation was made by Pasolini, but rather than attempting something historically accurate, it is set in World War II Italy. I’d be curious to see what Pasolini did here.
Cat People (1982)
This is Natassja Kinski a few years before Paris, Texas. Early ’80s horror, but perhaps its redemption will come in its cast: Malcolm McDowell, Ed Begley, Jr., Ruby Dee, et al— a whole host of ’80s regulars. (Also John Heard, the jerky antagonist in Big, and John Larroquette from TV’s Night Court.) It’s possible that this movie won’t be good, but I’ll bet two hours on it and find out.
The Decameron (1971)
About ten years ago, I read The Decameron – the Penguin Classics translation into English – over the course of about a year, reading a story or segue each night. (Every year, I make a New Years resolution to read another one of the Western classics that I haven’t read, and this book was part of that annual tradition.) So, when I saw that Pasolini had done a film version, I was intrigued— how would anyone put 100 stories held within a frame narrative into a film? Well, he didn’t . . . He sampled from them. The Italian-language version is available on YouTube, but of course, I don’t know what they’re saying. I’d like to find this film with English subtitles.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
An early black-and-white, social justice film about the plight and lives of Mexican miners. I kind of expect this film to be dogmatic and a little slow on the draw, but considering the time, it’ll be interesting to hear what is said.
The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (1976)
This film caught my eye because Hy Pyke is in it. Sometimes “erotic” means porno, and sometimes it means that there are some gratuitously naked people. This movie was made in Spain, which is appropriate for Don Quixote. I seriously doubt if this one is up to par with Orson Welles’ version, but it should be good for a chuckle or two— if I can ever find it.
Somebody, in the mid-1970s, made a sex comedy out of the basic plot line of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army. This movie is probably terrible, but it’s also hard to find. It appears that this was the only film for director Nate Rogers, who gave himself the pseudonym Duncan Fingersnarl, which is both creepy and gross. The young woman who stars in the movie was a topless dancer who also starred in one of Ed Wood’s movies. I serious doubt that Tanya is any good, but I have to admit that I’m curious . . .
Zabriskie Point (1970)
I know nothing about this director or either of the stars, but the description is intriguing: a hippie revolutionary and an anthropology student hiding out in Death Valley. IMDb says that it’s an American film, but the director is Italian and the release date is for The Netherlands. The trivia bit at the bottom also says that the female lead Daria Halprin was married to Dennis Hopper and was a pioneer in dance and art therapy. The male lead Mark Frechette only made two movies, then he was arrested for a bank robbery and was killed in prison. I don’t know what any of that has to do with the movie, but these eclectic facts add up to pique my interest.
Simple Men (1992)
Likewise with this film, I know nothing about the director or either of the stars, but it appears to be a GenX indie film.
The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)
I’ve learned that you’ve got to recognize what’s possible when a four-hour French film’s description says, “Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.” It could mean sitting through some seriously long-winded rambling about very abstract existential topics . . . which often makes for really dull cinema. (Think Madrid, 1987.) In this film, we’ve got an artist in love with beautiful woman, and though I’m leery that I’ll end up wallowing in 250 minutes of overly calm personal angst, wondering why I’ve done it to myself, I’ll probably watch this one and see where it goes.
The Lobster (2015)
I had to add this movie to the watchlist. The director made Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was infuriatingly tense, and Dogtooth, which was disturbing, and Colin Farrell was great in In Bruges. So, add it all up into a dark comedy, and I want to see it.
The Dreamers (2003)
Another Bertolucci film, this one set in 1968 in Paris during the time of student riots. The star here, Michael Pitt, I recognized from supporting roles in Finding Forrester in the mid-1990s and The Village in the early 2000s.
Burning Moon (1992)
What fan of strange horror films could resist this description of a German film made in the 1990s: “A young drug addict reads his little sister two macabre bedtime stories, one about a serial killer on a blind date, the other about a psychotic priest terrorizing his village.” The information on it says that it is really gory, which doesn’t interest me as much as tension and suspense do, but I’d like to see this for the same reason that I wanted to see House before.
The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
This film is French and Polish, and follows two women leading parallel lives. Though the film may be nothing like it, the premise reminded me of Sliding Doors, but this film preceded Sliding Doors by seven years. It gets high marks in IMDb, so it should be good.
This came up as a suggestion on Prime, then it went to Rent or Buy status, and I should’ve watched it when it was available. I’ll probably bite the bullet and rent it sometime.
The Order of Myths (2008)
This documentary about the krewes involved in Mobile’s Mardi Gras was recommended by a friend who is a folklorist. I’ve written a good bit on the culture of Alabama, which is my home state, and I understand that this documentary caused some controversy when it was released.
40 Years on The Farm (2012)
It has always been interesting to me that such an infamous hippie commune would exist in Tennessee of all places. I’ve never been there, and am not as interested in hippies as I once was, but this documentary seems worthy of some time.
Robert Altman directed M*A*S*H, of course, and this film came out between it and 1975’s Nashville. What I saw in the trailer reminds me of Play It as It Lays.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
I remember this being a really good movie. I like early 1980s Michael Paré generally – mainly from Streets of Fire – and the Springsteen-esque main song from the soundtrack was really good: “On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. But this movie is virtually absent from streaming services.
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
An early ’70s Spanish drama set in 1940 about a seven-year-old girl who goes into her own fantasy world after being traumatized by watching a film adaptation of Frankenstein. I had never heard of the director Victor Erice, but browsing his other films, I’m excited to see what he does.
Wrong Turn (2003), Burnt Offerings (1976), and Session 9 (2001)
All three of these made it onto the watchlist from a documentary called The 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen. I’d seen more than half of them, but these three I had not. They were numbers 39, 30, and 19, respectively.
The only Jean Rollin movie I’ve ever seen is Shiver of the Vampires, which was hippie-weird and kind of hokey. I thought I’d add this one to the watchlist, and if it’s any good, I’ll look into more of Rollin’s films.
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
Based on the Tom Robbins novel, this film was one I remember watching when I was college-age. But I haven’t seen it in a long time, and now, it’s rather hard to find. Sadly, the movie gets low ratings on sites like IMDb, but I remember Uma Thurman being good in it. Right after this, she was in Pulp Fiction then Beautiful Girls, which were easily better movies, but I still don’t think this one was bad at all. I’d like to re-watch it.
Three Women (1977)
I actually ran across this one on one of the movie-themed Twitter accounts I follow. The description on IMDb says, “Two roommates/physical therapists, one a vain woman and the other an awkward teenager, share an increasingly bizarre relationship.” Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall star.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Two of the most unique actors around, John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, star in this story about the filming of 1922’s Nosferatu.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Last, but certainly not least: I remember watching this movie as a boy. Jason Robards stars as an older father whose son is enthralled with a carnival that has come to town, but the carnival is a front for a sinister group of evildoers. Now, this movie is very hard to find. It’s not on any of the major streaming services, and a general search on Roku yields nothing.