The Great Watchlist Purge of 2022: Fin

*You should read the first post in this year’s purge and the progress report.


As 2022 comes to an end, I’m wrapping up a second Great Watchlist Purge . . . which has been just as unsuccessful as the first one in significantly reducing the number of films in my IMDb watchlist. If my count is correct, I started with fifty-four films in mid-May. Then after watching almost two-dozen, then adding about a dozen more— these purges aren’t amounting to much. What began as a way to keep my mind occupied during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic has had me going for two years now. But the bright side: I’ve finally put forth effort to find and watch movies that I’ve wanted to see.

What makes my watchlist particularly difficult is the fact that I like older and obscure movies. A few of them have been almost impossible to find, like Landscape in the Mist and Tanya. But some of it is my inaction; five of them sat in my Netflix DVD queue for too long. Some of it is also my laziness; several are available to rent or buy on YouTube or at least one streaming service. This time, during the four months between between early September and late December, I watched ten more movies from the list: four from the 1970s, one from the 1980s, one from the 1990s, one from the 2000s, and four from the 2010s. They span a pretty broad cross-section of subjects, styles, and places.

Burnt Offerings  (1976)
When this movie started, I was pretty skeptical, because it had the feel of those late 1970s and early 1980s TV movies. However, the cast was solid – Karen Black, Burgess Meredith – and it had been ranked in a documentary that saw called The 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen. (If I remember correctly, it came in at number thirty.) So, I gave it a chance. The tone and feel reminded me of the original Amityville movie: a haunted house affecting a family in vague ways that they can’t quite put their finger on. This time, the mom is the focus. I will say that, after about an hour, the slow burn started to get weary, but seeing the ending was worth the wait.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
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. I was surprised, when the opening credits rolled, that it was produced by Disney. I also didn’t remember that it was written by Ray Bradbury. I like Jason Robards because he could play a kindly dad, a sinister cowboy, a wily conman, or just about anything in between.

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
After almost giving up on this movie and cutting it from the list, I happened across it on Roku’s Watch TCM channel. An early ’70s Spanish drama set in 1940, the story follows a little seven-year-old girl with big brown eyes who wonders at everything she sees. The plot is built upon a series of coincidences: the traveling projectionist brings the 1931 Frankenstein to their tiny town, the girl asks her sister about why things happen in the movie, her sister tells a few childish lies because she doesn’t know the answers, and one thing leads to another. Ultimately, it all turns out OK, but I will admit that I was worried throughout the film that the little girl was going to end up hurt. I had never heard of the director Victor Erice, but I was impressed by this movie. It was both charming and sad, a bit slow but its tension was built on that slowness.

Cronos (1993)
This one was director Guillermo del Toro’s first full-length film. (He later made Pan’s Labyrinth then The Shape of Water, which won an Oscar.) I liked Pan’s Labyrinth but had not heard of this movie, then found it when I went down the rabbit hole of seeing what else del Toro had made. I guess Cronos would be classified as a horror movie, but it is more of a fantasy film . . . until the gory post-mortem parts come on. The special effects here are a little hokey, but for the time, they get a pass. Cronos is good movie, but not the director’s best.

The Order of Myths (2008)
This documentary about 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. Watching it, I see why. At just over eighty minutes, the documentary centers on Mardi Gras and the groups that put it together, but it also interrogates the Meaher family (of Clotilde infamy) and the segregated associations. It also touches on Africatown and the Michael Donald lynching as part of Mobile’s history. I thought the filmmakers were quite thoughtful, avoiding sensationalism but being honest about how it is.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
I apparently did a worse-than-terrible job of looking at what this movie is. When I turned it on, I saw Bill Gunn’s name in the credits and thought, Interesting that Spike Lee worked with him here. Then the dagger came out, and I began to think that this looked familiar. Then came a scene with a guy in a tree, and I thought, This looks a lot like . . . Ganja & Hess! I paused it, got on IMDb, and looked at the characters’ names. This is Spike Lee’s Ganja & Hess. I haven’t seen that movie in a long time, but I remember it well enough to know that Da Sweet Blood of Jesus pales in comparison. I just don’t get why Hollywood folks want to remake great classic films, especially independent films. Think about what we’d watch if some twentysomething today tried to remake Do the Right Thing. That face you’re making right now— yeah.

The Little Hours (2017)
I don’t know how I missed The Little Hours when it came out, since I’m Catholic, a fan of Saturday Night Live, and someone who has read the Decameron. This movie is crass and vulgar and offbeat and hilarious. Fred Armisen makes the movie, to me, but there are moments of laugh-out-loud humor throughout.

The Lobster (2015)
After watching director Yorgos Lanthimos’s other two films Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was infuriatingly tense, and Dogtooth, which was disturbing, then watching Colin Farrell in In Bruges, I was excited about this dark comedy. It had the same coldness as Lanthimos’ other two films, but putting that style onto a dystopian story that contained magical realism made for a very bleak film. The characters were pathetic and stifled, and even their attempts to escape didn’t make me feel better about them.

All the Right Noises (1970)
I found this story about a married theater tech who has an affair with a teenage actress, when I looked up what movies Olivia Hussey had been in other than Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. It looked a little like Fatal Attraction, but it was very British and very dull.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
This French thriller, which came up as a suggestion with 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.” The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears was visually interesting and the soundtrack was great – so it looked and sounded excellent – but the director sacrificed storytelling to do all that. By the middle of the film, when several versions of the main character’s self were running around, jumping out of windows, and cutting the other selves . . . I was like, what am I watching? The movie had a David Lynch feel, coupled with an aesthetic vaguely similar to Amelie, while utilizing elements of European thrillers from the 1970s, like zooming in on the eyes and color gels on the lights. I kind of wish this movie had been a short, not feature-length. I liked a lot about it, but got tired of having my attention yanked around by the editor and cinematographer.

Brother on the Run (1973)
I love blaxploitation films. There are literally hundreds of them, some look pretty cheesy, and most are low-budget. This one looked like it could be good. The poster art caught my eye, to be honest, and the main character is a teacher or a professor, which is very different than most of the movies in this genre. But it was bad . . . The plot resembled Sweet Sweetback in a way – lots of running from the cops – but the storytelling was atrocious. I found myself going, “Wait—why did that just happen?” a lot.

Those are the ones I watched in recent months. Though, as with last year, some of the movies in the lists have been cut for various reasons. Each of them was either something I was never very excited about to begin with or something that I’ve accepted probably can’t be located. I started watching both Salt of the Earth and The People Next Door, and neither kept my attention. Watching them felt like a chore. I gave up on White Star, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, and Session 9, because there is barely a trace of any of them when I search.

White Star (1983)
This biopic has Dennis Hopper playing Westbrook. As a fan of rock journalism, I wanted to see it but can’t seem to find it, at least not in English or with subtitles.

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
I like ’70s horror movies, but there are enough others to watch that I don’t see any sense in continuing to chase this one. It is available to rent on YouTube, but I’m not sure I want it to see bad enough to fork over the dough.

Session 9 (2001)
This one, along with Burnt Offerings and Wrong Turn, 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 this one I had not. It was numbers 39. I even tried to put it in my Netflix DVD queue but it went to Saved status. I guess that’s why the show was about the horror movies . . . You’ve Never Seen!

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 is nothing like that one. Here, a middle-class suburban couple have a son and a daughter who are hippies on drugs. I watched about thirty minutes, and it was so bad that I turned it off. Imagine if the ultra-depressing Ordinary People tried to be cool. Some of the reviews I saw in advance said it was one of those TV movies that were meant to scare kids into not doing drugs. That’s probably right.

So, these thirty-four films are still in the list: twenty-eight from before and six added recently. So far, these have been harder to access, again for various reasons. All the Colors of the Dark and The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are probably not offered because of their content, but I can’t imagine that Eddie and the Cruisers is unavailable for those reasons. Deadlock and Valerie have been impossible to find, but I’m interested enough in them to leave them in the list. A few are available for rent-or-buy on streaming services, but most aren’t. A handful are foreign films are available, but not in a language that I speak.

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 in 2021, 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 to find. (Apple TV has it but I don’t have Apple TV.) I was surprised to see a story on NPR about it, then I thought maybe it would show up on other services. But nope.

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 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.

Deadlock (1970)
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. At one point Mubi must have had it, because it comes up in their listings, but it isn’t available to watch anymore.

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? I’ve gathered from the previews that the star is Paul Williams, who later played Little Enos in Smokey and the Bandit.

Valérie (1969)
Not to be confused with Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, this film is a Quebecois hippie film about a naive 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 . . .

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.

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.

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 just 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.

Tanya (1976)
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 almost impossible 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 . . .

Wrong Turn (2003)
These two, along with Burnt Offerings and Session 9, 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 this one I had not. This one will come eventually, since I had to put it in my Netflix DVD queue.

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.

Lamb (2021)
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.

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
I remember this being a really good movie. I like early 1980s Michael Paré generally – mainly from Street 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.

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 used to follow. (I closed my Twitter account earlier this month.) 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.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
This one was made by Peter Weir, who later made Gallipoli, Witness, and Dead Poets Society— all good movies. The description says, “During a rural summer picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls’ school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.” That’s just too tantalizing to turn down.

And, of course, I have added a couple more movies to the list since the progress report in September . . . and here they are:

Badlands (1973)
I was with my family on a short trip this summer, when this movie came on one of the cable channels on the hotel-room TV. At first, I thought it was Three Women, since Sissy Spacek was in it, but then I realized that it wasn’t. Pretty soon, my kids said the movie was boring, and asked if we could watch something else. Now, here’s this movie that I’ve watched about fifteen minutes of, but now can’t find . . .

Billy Jack (1971)
If you grew up in the South and had cable TV, then you know that there were certain movies that the TBS (out of Atlanta) showed constantly on weekend afternoons. Billy Jack was one of them. I remember wondering as a boy why this movie was so serious and dark. Back in the days of cable TV, if you tuned in late, you just missed part of the show, so I’ve seen parts of Billy Jack numerous times. I ran across it as an IMDb suggestion and thought, It’d be good to watch that one again.

Life and Times of the Red Dog Saloon (1996)
This documentary came up as a suggestion after I watched the documentary JR Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius. In the description, the list of bands included several that I like, and the sense I got was that this place was like Armadillo World Headquarters (maybe).

The Conformist (1970)
I like Bertolucci, but am not really into movies about Nazis, so I had ignored this movie previously. Then it came up something I was watching that referenced Nazi movies like The Damned, and the critics they interviewed kept saying that this is a great movie.

The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
The director of this film, Peter Greenaway, was one of my favorites in the 1990s. After seeing The Pillow Book at our local community theater, I found Prospero’s Books on VHS, then became aware of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Once again, a director I had never heard of: Pano Cosmatos. The visuals in the still images from the film look incredible. And the description: “Despite being under heavy sedation, a young woman tries to make her way out of the Arboria Institute, a secluded, quasifuturistic commune.” Yes, it must go in the list.


Watched during the 2022 Purge:

  1. 1900 (1976)
  2. Haiku Tunnel (2001)
  3. Images (1972)
  4. Forty Years on the Farm (2012)
  5. Fascination (1979)
  6. Zabriskie Point (1970)
  7. Ravagers (1979)
  8. The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)
  9. Simple Men (1992)
  10. Rabid (1977)
  11. What the Peeper Saw (1971)
  12. Chronopolis (1982)
  13. Booksmart (2019)
  14. The Psychedelic Priest (1971)
  15. The Downing of a Flag (2021)
  16. Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
  17. Cronos (1993)
  18. Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
  19. The Little Hours (2017)
  20. The Lobster (2015)
  21. All the Right Noises (1970)
  22. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013)
  23. Brother on the Run (1973)

Cut

  1. Salt of the Earth (1954)
  2. White Star (1983)
  3. Session 9 (2001)
  4. Blood on the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
  5. The People Next Door (1970)

In the List

  1. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1929)
  2. The River Rat (1984)
  3. The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
  4. Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
  5. Born in Flames (1983)
  6. Personal Problems (1980)
  7. Little Fauss and Big Halsey (1970)
  8. All the Colors of the Dark (1972)
  9. Deadlock (1970)
  10. The Blood of a Poet (1930)
  11. Landscape in the Mist (1988)
  12. Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  13. Valérie (1969)
  14. The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
  15. Cat People (1982)
  16. The Decameron (1971)
  17. The Amorous Adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (1976)
  18. Tanya (1976)
  19. Wrong Turn (2003)
  20. The Dreamers (2003)
  21. Burning Moon (1992)
  22. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
  23. Lamb (2021)
  24. Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
  25. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993)
  26. Three Women (1977)
  27. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
  28. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  29. Badlands (1973)
  30. Billy Jack (1971)
  31. Life and Times of the Red Dog Saloon (1996)
  32. The Conformist (1970)
  33. The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
  34. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

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