The Great Watchlist Purge of 2023: Everything Must Go!

As 2022 came to an end, I closed out a second Great Watchlist Purge . . . which was just as unsuccessful as the first one in significantly reducing the number of films in my IMDb watchlist. In 2020, I took on the idea of emptying out my watchlist as a way to keep my mind occupied during the stagnation of the COVID-19 quarantine. It did keep my mind occupied, but I started with sixty-seven films, watched a whole bunch, added a whole bunch, and ended with seventy! Realizing the interminable nature of what I was doing, I decided to be more systematic about it in 2021. I began with seventy-two movies, and by September had watched fifty-three, cut twenty-one, and ended up with twenty remaining. (If you do a little math, you’ll see that movies were still added along the way.) By May 2022, I had reduced that twenty down to seventeen, but had added so many that my list was full once again— fifty-seven movies! So, another Great Watchlist Purge was in order. By the end of that one, I had watched twenty-three and cut five, but added a few and had thirty-four movies at year’s end. Of course, those thirty-four films quickly grew to thirty-nine, as I watched December news segments featuring critics lauding their favorites of the year.

Now, this year is going to my year! I want to get it down to zero . . . but the main goal for 2023 is to find and watch the eight films that have remained in the list since the beginning in January 2021. (Those are noted with asterisk.) Meanwhile I’m also going to keep an eye out for films that I cut during the first two purges because I couldn’t find them. What makes my watchlist particularly difficult is the fact that I like older and obscure movies, and they span a pretty broad cross-section of subjects, styles, and places. A few of them have been almost impossible to find, like 1969’s Valerie and 1976’s Tanya. But some of it is inaction or chagrin about paying a rental fee; a handful of films sit in my Netflix DVD queue for too long, while others are available to rent or buy on YouTube or at least one streaming service.

The good news is that I’ve already gotten started . . . The streaming service Tubi circulates movies in and out regularly, and scrolling through the Recommended list, there was already one I’d been looking for: Wrong Turn.

Wrong Turn (2003)
This horror movie made it onto the watchlist from a documentary called The 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen. Also featured were Burnt Offerings, which I watched, and Session 9, which I cut after not being able to find it. I’d seen more than half of fifty they featured, but these I had not. Though I’m generally not interested in movies where good-looking twenty-somethings go to the woods and get chased by psychos who live out there, I took the recommendation in stride and gave it a try. I will give this movie one thing: the scene when they find the house and are snooping around in it is genuinely anxiety-inducing. The rest of it is pretty predictable. The attractive young adults get picked off one by one, starting with the ones who have sex, and in the end, these Appalachian in-bred killers are like so many horror movie villains— they survive what would kill any normal person and keep coming. It’s a pretty solid contribution to the rural-people-are-scary subgenre.

So, these thirty-eight films are in the watchlist: thirty-four from the end of 2022, five added since the last purge ended, and now one watched. There are two from 1929 and 1930, respectively, then one from the 1960s, fifteen from the 1970s, seven from the 1980s, five from the 1990s, two from the 2000s, two from the 2010s, and five from the 2020s. (Once again, I’m 1970s-heavy.) 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 Personal Problems 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 many 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 have tried to find a subtitled version. 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, John Heard, John Larroquette— a whole host of ’80s regulars. 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 . . .

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 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 last December.) 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.

Badlands (1973)
I was with my family on a short trip in summer 2021, 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. So, 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 TBS (out of Atlanta) showed regularly 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 in a show 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. We’ll see what this one is like.

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.

The Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (1971)
This one is French and could be classified in the exploitation genre. I find European film adaptations of classic literature from the 1960s and ’70s interesting because the directors inevitably put a hippie/artsy then-modern spin on the story. The fusion of those two particular cultural styles then forms its own style, which can be seen in a lot of these movies.

Tar (2022) and After Sun (2022)
These movies were two of a few films suggested in a PBS NewsHour segment that featured critics talking about their favorite movies of 2022. Some of them didn’t look interesting to me, but these two did. The former, Tar, has Cate Blanchett playing a female orchestra conductor, and the latter, After Sun, tells the story of a woman looking back at her father and trying to reconcile the man she knew with aspects of his life that didn’t know about. Both look dramatic, probably pretty heavy, but seem like they’d be good films. Tar is actually coming to our local independent theater soon.

After the Sun Fell (2016)
This movie came up when I was searching IMDb for the previous film After Sun. It looked interesting, so I added it. The synopsis says, “When Adam arrives at Brandon’s childhood home for the weekend, he uncovers a hole in the roof and a dark family secret: the death of a troubled brother nobody wants to talk about.” Who could pass that up?

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
I don’t usually watch action films and have little interest in fast-paced Asian action films, which seem be a genre in and of themselves, but this one came highly recommended in another end-of-year news segment about best films. It looks visually interesting, and the critic who discussed it said it is the main actress Michelle Yeoh’s best performance ever.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
After watching In Bruges, I would watch just about anything starring both Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell.

What I’m also going to be keeping an eye out for are these eighteen movies that I cut from the watchlist in 2021 and 2022. I’m not going to revive or reinstate the films I started or half-watched then quit. Because those were just bad. These are the ones I couldn’t find or could only find without subtitles.

The Panic in Needle Park (1971) and Dusty and Sweets McGee (1971)
These were are both from the early ’70s and are all about hardcore drug users. I’m not sure that I’ll ever watch them, but I have them in the list in case I decide to.

Mountain Cry (2015)
This movies came up when I searched the term ‘haiku.’ It appears to be a beautifully filmed Chinese drama about a family in a small village.

The Vampires of Poverty (1978) and La mansion du Araucaima (1986)
Two by director Carlos Mayolo. Films out of Colombia in the late ’70s are a bit out of my wheelhouse, but both look intriguing. Vampires of Poverty is fictional but made to look a documentary about the poor. The latter is about an actress who wanders off a film set and into a weird castle. In both cases, I’ll need subtitles.

Alabama (1985)
The title of this one lured me in. But it’s not about Alabama, the state where I live. The film is Polish and has no description on IMDb. One of the posters says “love story” on it, so I’m guessing that it’s a love story. I’m mainly curious why it’s titled Alabama.

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud (2017)
I love Carson McCullers. That is all.

The Night They Robbed Big Bertha’s (1975)
This movies look awful, but along with Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws, it also look like a great example of that mid- to late 1970s Southern kitsch, that goofy comedy sub-genre that spawned Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard.

Mondo Candido (1975)
I read the novel Candide in graduate school and liked it, and I taught it every once in a while in my twelfth-grade English class. It’s a pretty wild story, and this adaptation is Italian. However, I’ll need English subtitles.

Widespread Panic: Live from the Georgia Theatre (1991) and The Earth Will Swallow You (2002)
How has a guy who loves Widespread Panic never seen either of these early concert films? Ridiculous.

The Girl Behind the White Picket Fence (2013)
I found this movie in a search for Udo Kier, who I’ve liked since seeing Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Dracula when I was in high school. The cinematic style of this one looks pretty cool, as does the story.

Endless Poetry (2016)
Alejandro Jodorowsky is hit-or-miss for me. I liked The Holy Mountain and Santa Sangre but not El Topo. This movie about him is supposed to be done in his very strange style.

Beginner’s Luck (2001) and Tykho Moon (1996)
Both of these movies star Julia Delpy, who was one of my 1990s celebrity crushes after I saw Killing Zoe and Before Sunrise. (The other was Hope Sandoval, singer for Mazzy Star.) These movies look very different from each other, Delpy is the common element.

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 have enough others to watch that I didn’t see any sense in continuing to chase this one. It is available to rent on YouTube, so I might 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 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!

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