I have never thought of the long-running series of SLIFR quizzes that have become a fixture of this blog as memes in the strictest sense. They have always resided here on this page and those who have participated have had to come and get it—oftentimes the quiz-takers have opted to post their answers on their own blogs, but that was never a requirement or suggestion, just a happy outcome which provides further linkage to a lot of other blogs well worth reading. As I understand it, memes are questions or a series of questions sent to a specific person or group of people, who then answer the questions, either at the host’s site or on their own, and then “tag” five or six or ten other people to answer the same questions, presumably people whose answers they would find most interesting/fascinating/curiosity-inspiring. I don’t get tagged with many of these, but when I do it’s usually a pretty challenging question, one that I like to take my time answering. Well, a couple of weeks ago SLIFR reader Joseph B., himself the proprietor of It’saMadMadBlog2, honored me with a tag and the challenge of a good question indeed:
What are 12 Movies I’ve Never Seen and Desperately Want to See?
Well, as happens with memes of this type, the original intent of the question tends to get warped to the participant’s own special purposes, and so it is here. Joseph’s original question included the qualifier that the movies on your list should be ones that are virtually impossible to find. Whether through confessional compulsion or sheer masochism, I bristled at that part of the question because it seemed like an easy out to me—if the important films for me that I haven’t seen are virtually impossible to find, well, then it can hardly be my fault if I haven’t seen them, can it? As it turns out, with maybe one exception, the movies I came up with—off the top of my head and with no reference to lists of any kind—are all movies that are easily (or less easily) available on DVD, either at Best Buy, through Netflix or one of many outré video outlets on the Internet. It’s nobody’s fault but my own that I have not yet found time or opportunity to see them, because the desire is definitely there. These are all movies that most people who know me or my taste in films would be surprised, perplexed or out-and-out confused to find out haven’t yet managed time in my DVD player, as they all (with, again, perhaps one notable exception) are of genres or areas of interest that occupy large chunks of real estate in my cinema wheelhouse.
All right, to the movies.
Ben-Hur (1959; William Wyler)
I’ve never felt an urgent need to see Wyler’s Oscar-winning epic, even though I’ve always wanted to. (What are you scribbling on that pad, Doctor?) I once borrowed the DVD from a friend, kept it for over two years, then returned it to him unwatched. I fear I would do the same if I ever rented it from Netflix. Can anyone convince me to pick up this movie and watch it right now?
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965; Russ Meyer)
I’ve already confessed having never seen this one in my Dr. Smith Answers, but it’s so iconic that I’m feeling guiltier about this hole in my cinematic education (pneumatic division) as each year passes. No less an authority than Russ Meyer himself recommended it—he was serving popcorn at the old Vagabond Theater off of Macarthur Park in Downtown L.A. when I took my soon-to-be-wife to a double bill of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Cherry, Harry and Raquel, and I asked him which one of his movies I should see right away. He responded with FPKK. Any right-thinking person would have gone out and rented it that very next night. Some 16 years later, I am still delinquent in my responsibility.
God’s Angry Man (1980; Werner Herzog)
This documentary nugget about the oddball televangelist/curmudgeon Dr. Gene Scott, from the oeuvre of the German New Wave’s most durable icon, has been on my must-see list for years. Incredibly, one of my other favorite film directors e-mailed me one day a couple of years ago with a web address where I could find it. I ordered it as soon as I finished this post, and you can too!)
Hickey and Boggs (1972; Robert Culp)
I remember seeing part of this well-regarded thriller, a reteaming of the Culp/Cosby I Spy team in a much different, hard-boiled, sun-scorched noir context (with a script by Walter Hill), on Cinemax in a motel room one night. But as badly as I wanted to stay awake, I simply could not. I’ve never run into it since, and the DVD that’s available looks, to be generous, like it would not be of optimum quality.
High School (1968; Fredrick Wiseman)
I’ll never forget reading Pauline Kael’s review of this movie 30 or so years ago, in her Deeper into Movies collection, if I’m not mistaken, and thinking I’d probably never get a chance to see it. In the intervening years my interest in documentaries has only increased, and now would seem to be the perfect time to seek out High School and all the other important films made by this pioneering verite filmmaker, many of which are available from Zipporah Films.
I Vitelloni (1953; Federico Fellini)
Of all the films on this list, it’s this one that I’m most embarrassed to admit having never seen. What else can I say?
Mad Love (1935; Karl Freund)
All Karl Freund did before fleeing Germany in the early ‘30s was shoot 70-some movies, including The Golem, The Last Laugh and Metropolis before coming to Hollywood and doing the same for Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) and countless other features (before ending up as the cinematographer on I Love Lucy). His career as a cinematographer was punctuated by a brief run as a director—he made the unfathomably creepy Boris Karloff version of The Mummy (1932) for Universal, and ended in 1935 with this Peter Lorre movie, made famous to me and most of my generation through the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
Masculin Feminin (1966; Jean-Luc Godard)
There are many Godard films I haven’t seen. Of the ones I haven’t, it pains me most to have this one still gone missing.
Putney Swope (1969; Robert Downey, Sr.)
I was fascinated by the ads for this movie that ran in the movie pages of the Portland Oregonian, partly because it was rated X, and partly because I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what it might be about. Though I know now what the subject matter is, there’s still an air of mystery for me about this movie and what it might feel like. I look forward to solving that mystery soon.
Ulzana’s Raid (1971; Robert Aldrich)
During the heady days of the Robert Aldrich Blog-a-Thon I had hoped Matt Zoller Seitz was going to write about Ulzana’s Raid, a preamble to my finally getting hold of the film and seeing it. Matt ended up writing about Kiss Me Deadly, and I still haven’t seen Ulzana’s Raid. Coincidence? You make the call…
The Way We Were (1973; Sydney Pollack)
One of those ’70s movies that has always eluded me—I figured the Mad movie satire would be good enough, thank you very much, and never wrung my hands much over this particular oversight. But then Sydney Pollack went and died last year and got me thinking about the scads of movies of his I hadn’t seen-- The Scalphunters, Castle Keep, Jeremiah Johnson-- and I realized that I really did want to see The Way We Were someday. I mean, I saw Havana (and I liked it), but I hadn’t seen this one?
White Heat (1949; Raoul Walsh)
Okay, maybe I’m just as embarrassed to admit I haven’t seen this one as I am about not having seen the Fellini movie. And I can’t possibly hold nearly 70 years of Cagney parodies against this picture—it just looks too damned raw, too damned nasty, too damned good. There really are no more excuses.
And now the tagging. I would love to see a list from anyone who would care to deposit it in the comments column, to be sure, but since it is the rule of the game I must tag five people to come up with 12 titles too. So here I go, tagging away. I wanna see what kinds of unseen movies would make the list of the following 10 (so sue me) film folks, whose viewing habits and backlog of cinematic experience are so rich and varied and scholarly as to make the exposure of the little blots and shadows on their viewing records even more fascinating:
Larry Aydlette Welcome to L.A.
Campaspe Self-Styled Siren
Brian Doan Bubblegum Aesthetics
Jim Emerson Scanners
Jonathan Lapper Cinema Styles
Kimberly Lindbergs Cinebeats
Paul Matwychuk The Moviegoer
Kim Morgan Sunset Gun
Peter Nellhaus Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee
Bill R. The Kind of Face You Hate