Monday, January 12, 2015

BAB Firsts (Karen's 1st 5X to Love post): Five Films to Love

This post was originally published on August 3 2009

Hi, Karen here, picking up where Doug left off with my five films to love. To be honest, I don’t have a top 10 list or anything like that. It would be difficult for me to narrow down my favorites in any kind of list, as I find my tastes seem to change like my moods. But there are many films that I will, as Doug says, stop and watch when I see them, regardless of how many times I may have seen them before. So without any further ado, here are five films that I have enjoyed and would recommend to anyone.

1. The Great Escape, 1963.

So much has been said about this film already, I don’t know what I can add to it. It features wonderful actors, like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, and Charles Bronson. It has an involving, suspenseful plot, and exciting action sequences.

My thoughts on the film are always colored by my initial viewing, which was with my father. I was in my late teens and we sat up one Saturday night and watched it together. I went in to it dubious about whether I would like it or not. But I came out loving it. I think part of the appeal is the fact that while some of the soldiers do escape from the German camp, many do not, and this realism, this honesty, was appreciated.

2. The Blues Brothers, 1980.

When I first saw this film, I thought it was a mess. I still do, but now it is an entertaining mess. It’s funny as hell, chock full of people you will recognize, and filled with wonderful music. And did I mention car crashes? It has lines that I’ve never forgotten, like “I hate Illinois Nazis”. It’s also one of the best films John Belushi did in his unfortunately short life.

It’s hard to explain to younger people now what Belushi meant to those of us who grew up with him. Sure, he was a comedian, but even more, he was a symbol of rebelliousness and anarchy that teenagers always gravitate towards. The other thing about Belushi was that he was not a good-looking movie star type – in fact he was a fat slob. But he was still cool. That gave all of us a little hope.

3. The Thing, 1982.

I have to preface this by saying that I love the original Howard Hawks film. However, John Carpenter’s version had more staying power for me because of the ability of the alien to assume, or even take over, the identity of others. This results in Carpenter’s version topping out on the paranoia-meter. Kurt Russell and a small army of character actors (including loveable ol’ curmudgeon Wilford Brimley) give very realistic performances. Probably my favorite scene is when Russell’s character tests the humanity of his fellows by putting a hot wire in samples of their blood. When we finally get to the camouflaged alien, the ensuing chaos is truly frightening. Adding to that are the special effects, which even today I find disturbing.

4. The Three Musketeers, 1973.

This is just a flat-out fun movie, directed by Richard Lester of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help” fame. The film succeeds as both a rousing adventure and a slapstick comedy, with more than a hint of bawdiness thrown in. I think I see something new every time I watch it. It has wonderful stars as well: the dashing Michael York, gorgeous Raquel Welch, grim Oliver Reed, the delightful Frank Finlay, as well as Christopher Lee, Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston, and Spike Milligan as Welch’s poor husband. Truly a pleasure to watch – just don’t worry about the plot too much.

5. Excalibur, 1981.

This is another mess of a film, yet one that I find irresistible. Before this film came out, every depiction I had seen or read of King Arthur and his knights was one that showed them as gleaming, pristine saints. This film takes Arthur and company and throws them in the mud. It’s full of lust, violence, betrayal, and pettiness – and yet, we still see in Arthur (and also Percival) the very best in mankind. There’s also a distinctly other-worldly feel to it, particularly in the sequences with Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, and “the Dragon’s breath”. As Merlin states, the old world, the world of magic, is fading away as “the one god” grows in strength. Yet Merlin accepts this, as Arthur and his men represent a necessary change. Still, one can’t help but feel a bit sad for the loss of that world.

Another pleasure of viewing this film is seeing both Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson before they hit the big time. And Carmina Burana never sounded better.


Matthew Bradley said...

If you check out the "Bradley's Hundred" (B100) page and associated reviews on my blog, you'll discover that the three of us have many favorite films in common. I share your love for both versions of THE THING, and rank THE THREE MUSKETEERS (which I can't believe they're remaking AGAIN, even with Milla Jovovich) and especially THE GREAT ESCAPE high in my personal pantheon as well. Good lists, both of you.

Doug said...

Wow, Matthew -- you are indeed dredging up some BAB history!

Thanks for looking, and happy to hear you're finding some interesting nuggets of Bronze Age goodness!


Edo Bosnar said...

That's a damn fine list of movies, Karen. It's come up here before in specific discussions dedicated to them, but I especially agree about the Blues Brothers and Excalibur. In fact, I'm not even as critical as you are - particularly where the Blues Brothers is concerned. I just think that's one of the funniest movies ever made (right up there with a few of the Python films and This is Spinal Tap).

david_b said...

Bravo AGAIN for the 'Three Musketeers' mention, as I always love York, Reed and yes Rachel on screen, and swashbuckling is the best foray. It was also one of the first major studio "Lets Have Fun with This" flicks with major stars.., sort of a precursor to the "Cannonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit" franchises. It works on many fronts.

Blues Brothers..? I'll whole-heartedly agree on the original with some reservations about the current extended DVDs. While I love the blues music and that flick had the most amazing talent, I'm not such a fan of the 'extended version'. Granted, you get to hear more fantastic music, but from the actual 'movie' standpoint, the pacing now suffers.., where the movie sort of drags in places. Nowhere as bad as watching the now-revised original Lucas SW Trilogy films (and you can still watch the originals on DVD, which is good..), but there was a good reason why BB was edited the way it originally was.

(Of course, I know you can make the opposite argument for 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture', with most folks now preferring the later 'directors cut' version, same is true for 'Alien'..)

Still, overall it's a great film to watch. Excellent list.

Garett said...

The Thing is probably my favorite horror movie. Great one all-round. I'd like to see the 3 Musketeers again--hmm, Michael York is on both Karen and Doug's list.

John Boorman is an interesting director, not only with Excalibur but others like Point Blank. He doesn't take the audience-friendly route of someone like Spielberg. Merlin has some great lines. Great, unusual show.

I'm not a fan of the Blues Brothers, but maybe I'll give it another try as everyone seems to like it. Great Escape is enjoyable, nice roster of actors.

Karen said...

The soundtrack for Excalibur is excellent. I tracked it down and purchased it last year and I really like to listen to it during "quiet" activities like reading or writing.

While I love The Three Musketeers, its sequel, The Four Musketeers (which was filmed actually at the same time, there was no stopping and the actors thought they were making one long film) is much darker and I'm not nearly as fond of it. But it still has some fine actors and the production is excellent.

Graham said...

I got to see The Three Muskateers a few weeks ago on TV. Hadn't seen it in years. It really is a lot of fun. Like you, Karen, I didn't care for the sequel quite as much.

I found Excalibur on DVD several years ago. Had not seen it since it was in theaters. I agree with what you wrote about it. It wasn't what I was expecting, but I still liked it.

Of course, the Blues Brothers was the kicking-off point for my love of all things blues. I've probably seen it more than any other movie. Love it.

The Prowler said...

I have yet to see John Carpenter's The Thing. I've seen the other four. A while back, I purchased a three pack from Fry's that had Alien, Aliens and The Abyss. I do believe they were the extended cuts of all three movies. Not that impressed with the Aliens version. I fell in love with the original and couldn't quite see why you needed the extra scenes. You know, come to think of it, I've seen The Great Escape and The Three Musketeers on TV but with commercials. I would love to see them uncut/unedited for time and content.

A few movies that make me stop and watch, in no particular order, Silent Running, The Cowboys, Repo Man, and The Breakfast Club. I think there was one more but I forgot. Oh, Das Boot. Saw that in the theatre.

Speaking of movies, the wife and I went to see The Hobbit part 3 on New Year's Eve. Saw trailers for the new Terminator, Mad Max, and Jurassic Park. Is this for real or were we in a time warp (again)!?!

(Who wants an Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Three Oranges Whips).

Edo Bosnar said...

I would indeed like an Orange Whip, but no place I've ever been to serves them...e

Humanbelly said...

Now, is an orange whip the same thing as that 70's mall staple, an Orange Julius?


Humanbelly said...

I did have a little more time to mull this topic over after the Doug Round, and I've tried to stay very mindful of separating the "Best Film I've Seen" criterion from the "Film I LOVE and enjoy repeatedly" one, 'cause they truly aren't exactly the same thing, are they?

And I think I can probably come up with a second five:

1) Back to the Future-- on a couple of earlier lists, and I can't believe it slipped my mind (hmm, like a disappearing photograph. . . ). I saw it in a second-run theater about 45 minutes from my apartment the first time I saw it. . . and made the trip again the next day 'cause I loved it so much. I've probably seen it about 10 times over the years. There's not a single performance in that film that I don't utterly love (Thomas Wilson actually makes a TON of that whole series work, but that fact kind of flies under the radar).

2) North by Northwest. Saw it in my film history class in college (we had an AWESOME film history class!), and fell under its spell forever. Paradoxically, it's very easy to get caught right up in it as a passer-by, because the plot is such a convoluted, meandering mess that it pretty much disappears into the relentless cat & mouse dynamic.

3) Rocky Horror Picture Show. Saw it in theaters in college at the height of its craze so many times. First time, all of the unexpected audience stuff drove me crazy ("Tryin' to watch a movie, here!"). Second time, surrendered to it all, and had a whale of a good time. Third time, audience had no clue about the Participation, so just watched it as a film-- and honestly loved it for its own quirky charms. It's also one of my very straight-laced wife's favorite films. The message underneath all of its schlock, camp, and bawdiness is achingly sincere: Don't dream it; be it.

4) The Thin Man (well, and the first two sequels, for that matter). If anything, age has made this film better, as it's still hilarious and engaging, even as it provides a fascinating time capsule view of what golden age Hollywood was producing.

5) This may not be officially eligible, but-- the 86 minute pilot episode for FIREFLY ("Serenity").
Small Moments of Brilliance.

HB (finally had a couple of unoccupied moments. . . )

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