Monday, October 31, 2005


In the spirit of the holiday, these are the top horror movies that I think of when I want to face the demons within, flirt with the idea of teetering on the precipice of madness, or just maximize the acreage of goose flesh upon my arms and legs and get as many cheap, dirty scares as my fragile brainpan can process. Here, then, are 10 (14) sure to churn you and burn you, my favorite horror films, laced with enough asides to get you thinking about other movies that might inspire just as many frights, should these not sate your need for nightmares…

AUDITION (2001; Takeshi Miike) Many of the films on this list made an impression on me in my formative years, when I was discovering the various pleasures of getting scared out of my skin. Seeing them as an adult requires a certain leap of nostalgic faith that somehow I’ll be transported, or at least vividly remember, the states of shock the individual movies were once able to put me in. But being reduced to a shuddering, gelatinous puddle is a tougher condition to slide into when you’re a rational 43-year-old grown-up. Enter Audition. A gentle, decent widower, who is also a TV producer, contrives a fake audition in order to meet a woman who can drag him out of his depression and back into romantic fulfillment. But the shy, demure young thing he falls for may or may not be holding some awful secrets that may or may not lead to a pretty grisly session on the floor of his apartment involving a hypodermic needle, some piano wire and—Well, a good portion of the art house crowd with which I saw this movie, folks who presumably knew of at least some of what they were in for when they paid to get through the front doors of the theater, never made it that far. I’ve never seen so many grown, presumably well-adjusted people flee for the exits before a movie was finished. Part domestic drama, part treatise on sexual relations (particularly as they exist in modern-day Japan), part feminist revenge fantasy, part psychosexual fantasia, this movie rattled me more than any other in recent memory. The midnight walk from the theater lobby to the potentially deadly parking lot after the screening never seemed so long…

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935; James Whale) A sequel that both satisfies expectations for a follow-up, yet simultaneously and subtly subverts them, adding sly commentary and mordant wit to the mix and expanding gloriously upon the minimalist poeticism of the original Frankenstein (1931; also directed by Whale). Young horror fans reveling in Universal Studio’s grandiose monster visions may have experienced, as I did, an extra frisson of familiar terror when the bride, on first laying eyes upon her intended, unleashes her infamous hiss, sending Karloff's pitiable creature into a spiral of rejection that ultimately results in the destruction of the castle and (until Son of Frankenstein anyway) an end to the grotesque manipulations of nature that were Dr. Frankenstein’s specialty. No, I never brought down the house over it, but I sure felt a strange empathy for that rejected monster at the end of this movie, one that made me realize how much more this movie had added to what could have been just another saga of a rampaging creature on the loose.

THE BROOD (1979; David Cronenberg) When I first saw this movie, alone, late at night, alone in an old country house, watching on a rented Beta tape back in 1984, I thought it was almost unbearably frightening. Now, in 2005, as a parent of two, I don’t know if I’ve got the nerve to see it again. Psychoplasmics… Oliver Reed… rage made flesh… and Samantha Eggar as an essential element of some of the most disturbing body horror imagery ever put on film. This is Cronenberg’s first masterpiece, and in it are the seeds of some great work to come ( The Fly, Dead Ringers, and his adaptations of The Dead Zone and Naked Lunch). An essential nightmare.

CARRIE (1976; Brian De Palma) Speaking strictly as an interested observer, this could be the greatest movie (the only movie) about the horrors of menstruation ever made. De Palma also intertwines Stephen King’s somewhat crude text with deft high school satire, a heart-stopping empathy with Carrie White’s fear of rejection, soft-core pornography, perversely entertaining cross-breeding of Christian iconography (gothic Catholicism gets all twisted up with Pentecostal frenzy) and the most teasing, agonizingly drawn-out climax ever filmed. All this, and Piper Laurie too!

DEAD ALIVE (1992; Peter Jackson)
These aren’t your father’s zombies (or George Romero’s either), that’s for sure. Amazing, this literally breakneck romp of the undead hasn’t a mean-spirited bone in any of its dismembered parts, despite the incredibly high body count and creative torso dispatchment quotient. Credit for that particular high-wire act must go to writer-director Jackson, who never met a mutant baby or a disintegrating, pus-pumping zombie mom he didn’t on some level, like. Careful with that lawn mower, Eugene!

THE DEVILS (1971; Ken Russell) When I think of a Ken Russell movie, this is the one that sums him up for me. Based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon, it’s a bizarre mixture political and religious satire, history, black comedy and surrealistic flights of sexual and religious hysteria chronicling the clash between a Catholic priest, himself the object of worship by a convent of frenzied nuns, and the powerful forces of political and sexual oppression/suppression in 17th-century France. Oliver Reed is the priest who is sacrificed (over and over again) in some of the most gruesome, presumably historically accurate rituals of torture ever put on film, and Vanessa Redgrave is the hunchbacked nun who loves him blindly, irrationally, helplessly. It’s virtually impossible to see this film and think that Russell was anything less than unhinged, yet it’s strangely compelling—and serious—stuff.

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969; Terence Fisher) I couldn’t go without mentioning the particular delights of the Hammer horror film, highlighted for me by Plague of the Zombies (1966; John Gilling), The Vampire Lovers (1970; Roy Ward Baker) and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. A midpoint entry in Hammer’s Frankenstein series, Peter Cushing’s titular doctor really started to spin off his nut in this one, and Freddie Jones was probably the series’ most sympathetically psychotic monster. But most important of all, this movie marked the first time I ever saw a decapitation on screen, at the tender age of 11, in that mecca of my childhood cinema, the Alger Theater in Lakeview, Oregon, this laying the groundwork for decades of excesses yet to be experienced.

THE HAUNTING (1963; Robert Wise) The quintessential haunted house movie. Every terror is overheard, insinuated, intangible, ethereal, but never seen, and director Wise gives the audience’s imagination spectacular leeway to turn the fear factor even higher. Everything this movie gets perfectly right was inverted and destroyed by Jan de Bont’s ham-handed, overly literal remake. Wise also co-directed another beautiful ghost story fantasy early in his directorial career, the ostensible sequel to Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942), entitled Curse of the Cat People (1944). It’s just become available on a beautiful Warner’s disc with Cat People, or as part of Warner’s Val Lewton Horror Collection, and I recommend it highly. And while we’re on the subject of ghosts, if you’ve never seen Kenji Mizoguchi’s plaintively creepy Ugetsu monogatari, now would be a good time because, as my wife so succinctly puts it, there’s nothing like Japanese ghosts.

M (1931; Fritz Lang) Ever wondered why the whistled theme from Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite” sounds so ominous and full of dread? It’s because of this movie. Frightening and complex, the movie has at its center a psychotic child molester, played unforgettably by Peter Lorre, who whistles the aforementioned tune as a come-on to his prey and a prelude to his crimes. Hunted by the Berlin underworld, the murderer is trapped by his criminal pursuers and lets loose a howl of rage upon finally being cornered that is both bone-chilling and eerily sympathetic (“I can’t help what I do. This evil thing inside me—the fire, the voices, the torment!”) Lang’s direction is dazzling, pointing the way toward the future of cinematic psychological character study, while at the same time assuring that this particular achievement would probably never be equaled.

THE PREMATURE BURIAL (1962; Roger Corman) One of the most neglected entries in Corman’s Poe series for American International Pictures. It can’t quite compare with the elegant, imposing terror of The Masque of the Red Death, with which it shares the bill on a terrific MGM Midnite Movies double feature DVD, but it does embrace its seminally horrifying subject matter with appropriate dread and brio. I first saw this film in junior high, around 1971—it was a treat given to my homeroom class as a reward for registering a perfect attendance record. Here we were, a bunch of 11-year-olds shepherded into a school auditorium, many of whom may have never even turned the notion of death around in our tiny little minds before, watching the most grisly, suffocating scenario imaginable play out before our innocent eyes. And this was for good behavior? What were those teachers thinking? Is it such a reach to imagine that the same teaching staff might punish serial absenteeism with a screening of The Sound of Music?

SUSPIRIA (1977; Dario Argento) I’m not sure how I could have forgotten to include Dario Argento’s masterwork in this original post, but my buddy Steve was absolutely right to point out its glaring absence. Argento’s hellishly, garishly beautiful horror owes its effectiveness not to its standard-issue plot— wide-eyed (literally, given that Jessica Harper is the lead) innocent plunked down in the midst of a ballet school where a series of horrendous murders are plaguing the students and faculty—but to Argento’s absolute mastery of mood and visual seduction. The hypnotic musical theme burrows its way into your brain and lays the groundwork for some of the most profoundly bone-chilling moments in any horror film. This is giallo rendered with uncommon confidence, and Argento is far and away its most accomplished practitioner. Any decent director can summon fright from things that go bump in the night down dark hallways. But when Argento sets you down in the middle of a deserted piazza, with no one but a man and his seeing-eye dog anywhere within 200 yards, and convinces you you’re safe, then proceeds to grab you by the throat and tear, you know you’ve been grabbed.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972; Freddie Francis) October 31, 1973. The Alger Theater, Lakeview, Oregon. My first real experience in interactive entertainment. About 25 minutes into this zesty anthology based on the E.C. Comics series, the projector stopped, the lights came up, and the rowdy crowd quieted and was subjected to the dry ire of Donald R. “Bob” Alger himself, unleashed from directly in front of the now-lifeless screen (“We have here before me, on the floor of the auditorium, a fresh egg…”) After the brief lecture’s end, 65 minutes and many more decibels of audience screaming later, came the topper. The Cryptkeeper, essayed by the late Sir Ralph Richardson, turned to the camera as the last of the unsuspecting victims lured into his chambers plummeted down the rabbit hole to hell, and intoned: “Who will be next?” One of Mr. Alger’s ushers, a high school junior by the name of Annette Winer, sarcastically replied aloud as she shuffled down the aisle, flashlight in hand: “Me!” With the timing of a precisely rehearsed comedian came Richardson’s reply: “Perhaps… you?!” The aptly named Ms. Winer let out a shriek and bolted from the auditorium in fright and, I’m sure, embarrassment, and a legend of hometown cinema was born.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974; Tobe Hooper) How can you have a nightmare centered on a movie you haven’t yet seen? Well, some two years before I actually saw this notorious shocker, I did just that—Leatherface was pursuing me down a dirt road, his Husqvarna raging and spewing noxious fumes, and I was barely able to keep two steps ahead of that lunging blade. And then I tripped… When I finally saw the movie at a drive-in in 1977, I was floored by how much the actual movie resembled my nightmare, in look, in feel… and in sound. Hooper’s movie is an amazing feat of tapping into veins of primal horror (and comedy), and the low-budget integrity of the proceedings cast a long, imposing shadow over all of its endless and shameless copies.

THE THING (aka John Carpenter’s The Thing) (1982; John Carpenter) Carpenter’s remake of The Thing (From Another World) hews closer to the paranoia of John W. Campbell’s original short story, “Who Goes There?”, the basis of both films. It also provides makeup maestro Rob Bottin another opportunity to break new ground with special effects, and some of his creations rank among the most Daliesque ever to be featured in a mainstream horror film. The movie itself is terrifying and appropriately downbeat, and it ranks as Carpenter’s best work. But it had the misfortune of being released during the same summer that a happier tale of alien visitation took over American movie houses, and Carpenter’s malignant vision of planetary and corporeal invasion was consequently ignored. However, time has been kinder to the movie than ticket buyers were in 1982, and its reputation as a fright classic has caught up with the enthusiasm some of us had for it back in the summer of E.T.

THE VANISHING (1988; George Sluzier) Sometimes the most banal face is horror is the most profoundly frightening. A couple makes a routine roadside stop at a convenience store, where the woman disappears, sending her lover on an obsessive journey to uncover her fate. Director Sluzier
Remade thios for Hollywood with Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock a couple of years later, but it’s the unfamiliarity of the Dutch actors in the original version that plays so brilliantly into the everyday nightmarish quality of this undertaking. The ending is a marvel of palm-sweating panic that would have caused Edgar Allan Poe to seal himself alive behind a brick wall out of sheer envy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


"The Greatest Movie Of All Time-- does that amuse you? Do you find that funny?"

Total Film, a British magazine which, as far as I can tell, is a would-be Empire (itself a snarky hellspawn of America’s Premiere and Entertainment Weekly magazines) has seen fit to release its own 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list. True, nobody’s gonna mistake this list for Halliwell’s Top 1000 Films or a British Film Institute/Sight and Sound critics poll. Still, you can feel the nods in the direction of such lists all the same by noting the number 6, 7 and 10 entries (Citizen Kane, Tokyo Story and His Girl Friday). But nods is all they are—the big honors are reserved for such serious fanboy favorites (and undeniably grand movies) as the The Lord of the Rings trilogy (#9), The Empire Strikes Back (#8), Fight Club (#4) and Jaws (#3). But I have to roll my eyes to the back of my skull over Total Film’s pick for number-one Greatest Movie of All Time, Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas (Total Film's sub-headline: “Er, it’s GoodFellas… you can go home now…” Like, what else, dude?)

If you didn’t know that GoodFellas was the Best Movie of All Time, well, that’s probably because you don’t subscribe to, or even thumb through, Total Film or Empire or any of these other like-minded, glossy, overly enthusiastic publications. If you didn’t know it was the Greatest Movie of All-Time, maybe you still think it's great, but at the same time suspect there might 400-500 worthier titles to consider for such grandiose coronation. Maybe you think, as many do, that it’s a fine film but perhaps not top-drawer Scorsese. Or maybe you think, as I do, that it’s a dazzling but intermittently effective drama that collapses in its third act right along with the sensibilities of the cipher at its center, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta). That as many as five films that probably would be at home in a more comprehensive collection like Halliwell’s or the critics and directors polls generated by the BFI are on Total Film's list is, frankly, a bit of a shock—it’s hard to imagine the Red Bull generation of film fans that constitute Total Film’s readership having much patience with Tokyo Story, a movie the editorial staff of Total Film was probably largely unaware of before Halliwell made its splash in June and named it number one over Citizen Kane. That very historical consensus would make them look foolish for excluding familiar old Kane itself, and the irresistible attraction of film cred gained by association with films like Vertigo (#2), His Girl Friday (#10) and The Godfather Part II (#5) is probably not to be underestimated. Such cachet must account for the presence of these films, for how else to explain the exclusion from the top 10 of such hyperviolent hipster favorites as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs or Brian De Palma’s Scarface? Surely they and a passel of other usual suspects, including The Usual Suspects and that perennial and inexplicable favorite, The Shawshank Redemption, are hovering not far below the rarified top 10, but personally I don’t really care to find out what actually lies further beneath the line. Lists like the Total Film 100 Greatest Movies of All Time aren’t edifying or interesting, nor do they generate much free-associative thinking to spur readers on to titles they might not know about; instead, they’re back-patting sessions among young film fans who already know it all, insider trading of titles already widely accepted as the hip choices, and they just serve to make me uneasy. I never know whether I should laugh or cry at the prospect of the encroaching enshrinement of a new generation of slick, garish “classic” films that can’t hold a candle to works of art that are gradually being ushered into the musty closet of film history in order to make room for the likes of GoodFellas.


Over at Caption Jockey’s Too Much Bloody Perspective you can find, amongst the sharp political writing and commentary, a recent post (dated October 8, 2005) in which he engages with David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. CJ saw it and loved it, as did I, but he got to it way before I’ll get a chance to, and his observations and reactions are strong and worth reading, so I feel honored to be able to recommend them and link you to them-- but only if you’ve seen the movie. Cronenberg’s amazing film works like a down-and-dirty B-movie programmer made under the gun (no pun intended) by someone like Phil Karlson-- it’s that brutal and efficient and prickly and limber of tone. But it’s also insistently disturbing in its ability to feed on both our impulses to see brutal violence, to participate in it, and our need to stand back from it and take measure of the moral quandary we’ve steeped ourselves in by doing so. CJ has more, especially on Viggo Mortensen, so if you’ve experienced the movie I urge you to experience what Caption Jockey has to say about it. If you haven’t seen it, it may already be too late, but I hope you can stay relatively far away from any reviews (including CJ’s) which might point, however directly or indirectly, to elements of the story that are integral to the film’s meaning and impact, elements that should be experienced as fresh and without foreknowledge as is possible. I’ll have more to say on the movie later, as I suspect it will stay where it is now, very near the top of my list of best films of the year.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


(The following is part two of a four-part article gathering up the answers to Professor Wagstaff’s Summer of 42 (Questions, That Is) Movie Quiz. You can find part one posted directly below this article by scrolling down.)

Now, let’s see. Where were we?

8) Your Favorite Concert Movie

As might be expected, Stop Making Sense and The Last Waltz were the big winners in this category. But Jen gets mad props (did I just type that?) from me for mentioning one that I wish I had—the delightful Down from the Mountain, chronicling a concert (which eventually became a sensational nationwide tour that I was lucky enough to see in person) featuring the bluegrass music and artists highlighted by the Coen Brothers’ unpredictably, deservedly popular O Brother, Where Art Thou?. (Pictured here are David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch.) Elsewhere, Blaaagh digs The Kids are Alright and Bring on the Night, Virgil Hilts holds up the self-reflexive, mesmerizing and horrifying Gimme Shelter for praise, Machine Gun McCain grooves to Shake!: Otis at Monterey, Robert finds favor with The Decline of Western Civilization (Part 1), and PSaga wants you to know that the Tom Waits concert doc is Big Time. Finally, sorry, Beege—I gave you From Conception to Childbirth, but I gotta take a stand somewhere—in no way, shape or form can Dirty Dancing be considered a concert documentary.

9) Your Favorite Movie Incorporating Religion or Religious Themes

Heretics worldwide (or at least SLIFR-wide) agree: The Last Temptation of Christ is the standard bearer for cinematic contemplation of religion—it made my (short) list, and was the flat-out pick for Blaaagh, Thom McG and Rodger. Jen put it second tier, alongside Jesus of Montreal, reserving, as did Sharon, first-place honors for Kevin Smith’s Dogma (another inspired heretical pick, I’d say). I also thought Scorsese probed religious themes with profundity in Mean Streets and Kundun, but my first choice was Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. Finally, I had to reserve room for one of my favorite religious allegories in all cinema, Tron. (Rent it, unbelievers, if you dare!) Benaiah cites a title I have passing familiarity with, but no real knowledge of-- Boondock Saints-- and I’d be curious to hear more about how it works on this level. Novotny offers up Bunuel’s Nazarin, the M.A.B. refers us all to Roberto Rossellini’s magnificent The Flowers of St. Francis, and Murray lists Moses as his number-one (Murray, is that the one with Burt Lancaster from 1975, which is also known as Moses the Lawgiver?). Robert, whose list, by number 9, was becoming singularly intriguing to me, comes up with an ace here by citing Michael Tolkin’s fascinating and terrifying directorial debut, The Rapture, which chronicles the conversion of a unfulfilled hedonist (Mimi Rogers) to a life of Christian awareness and belief, only to find herself driven to bizarre Abrahamesque extremes by the voices only she can hear. This is the one, of all mentioned, I most want to see again, if only to see if it still holds the power it had over me when I first saw it. And finally, Preacher Beege offers up a couple of titles I wouldn’t have expected from a person of the cloth (but then Beege is delightfully unpredictable in that regard)-- A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall. I saw the Robert Redford movie, and I understand why you, Beege, or anyone might be thusly moved by it. I have not seen Legends of the Fall, however, but nothing I’ve heard about it ever suggested to me that it functioned at all on a level of religious consideration. Would you be offended if I asked for a little extrapolation here? Unless, of course, it’s Brad Pitt worship that these two titles are meant to represent, in which case you can respectfully keep it as your own little treasure, thanks!

10) Your Best Story (Long or Short) About Attending a Drive-In Movie
I’m just gonna share my favorite responses to this one uncut…

Preacher Beege: “Um, ahem, the last time I attended a drive in movie, I didn't (ahem) actually WATCH the movie?, yeah. Next question?”

The M.A.B.: ”This is also my first movie memory I am now just remembering! My parents decided to take us to Clash of the Titans. So we went to the drive-in. I don't remember where. Maybe it was in New Hampshire somewhere. I'm pretty sure. The place is long gone now. We came early and saw the last 15 or 20 minutes of The Spy Who Loved Me, which was pretty damn exciting! Then we saw Clash of the Titans, which I don't remember, although I do remember it from TV later of course. But that 20 minutes of Bond excitement I remember for some reason. Maybe I fell asleep during Titans! I must have been only about 7. NOTE: Actually, I just looked up the dates of the movies, and it must have been For Your Eyes Only, which came out the same year as Clash of the Titans. But I could swear it was the other one. Also, 7 is kind of old, so maybe I saw movies before that.” (Hooray for repressed memories and all that, but this is another one of those answers that made me feel very old—Ed.)

Blaaagh: ”I have a good memory of when we had moved to Oregon and lived on a farm, and my dad and mom took those of us who'd been born to the drive-in to see The Day of the Triffids and probably something else which I slept through. But we wore our pajamas, we got to play on the swing set right under the screen until the previews came on--at which point we ran back to the car--and the triffids were the scariest things I had ever seen, other than King Kong and Godzilla, which were on a small black & white TV, so not quite so impressive. I remember my excitement at Dad telling us we were all going to the drive-in, and how hard I tried to stay awake through the whole movie (I failed, of course--I was maybe four).”

Dennis: ”My first make-out session (at a drive-in) came just before the end of my senior year of high school. Somehow I ended up in my car with a girl I had a huge crush on and, incredibly, she made the first move, and for the next two hours we had lots of fun steaming up the windows of my 1968 VW Bug. And what was the romantic film that served as a background to our fun? That classic of love and passion, Marathon Man, which is why that girl is still known (to Blaaagh and I, anyway) as M.M.W., the Marathon Man Woman.”

Murray: Going to Patton at Circle JM Drive-In Theater in Lakeview, with girlfriend, now wife of 31 years, expecting to steam the windows, and ending up watching the movie unstead while she napped.” (You thinking you were gonna get some action during Patton, me actually getting a little action during Marathon Man-- What the hell is wrong with us? Didn’t anybody ever make out to The Harrad Experiment or Slumber Party ‘57 at that drive-in?—Ed.)

Jen: ”When I was a tiny kid, there was a double feature of some innocuous family movie and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (drive-in theaters can pair 'em off like nobody's business).I think my parents assumed my sister and I would be asleep by the time BtVotD rolled up, but I remember it vividly. I believe this explains a great deal of the damage to my psyche.” (Jen, they’ll never see it, at least on my watch anyway, but my three and five-year-old girls have developed a fondness for the pop tunes sung by the Carrie Nations on the soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which I exposed them to this summer. Are they in trouble? Am I in trouble? With the law, I mean.—Ed.)

Rodger: ”I miss them. The last movie I saw at a drive-in was Batman at the Pickwick in Burbank. The site is now a Pavillions Shopping Center. Bastards.” (Rodger, if you’ve read this site with any regularity this summer you probably are already aware, but a click here might just cure what ails ya—Ed.)

PSaga: ”Mom claims she took me and my younger sibs to see Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal at the Garrett, Indiana drive-in. I sure as HECK remember the movies (which made a huge impression on me), but sadly I don’t remember the drive-in experience. [ Sighs ] That’s the best I can do, Dennis.” (No worries, PSaga. In a couple of days you too will be here.—Ed.)

Robert: ”I have no good drive-in stories… I remember attending drive-ins twice with family members – an odd billing of At The Earth’s Core with Old Dracula; and then watching It’s Alive with It Lives Again as a birthday present from my grandfather. During the heyday, the drive in seemed to be this forbidden place; seeing the ads in the newspapers, which promised sights so lurid, one would have to be lucky to survive an evening.” (I love your concluding description, Robert; and believe me, just name-dropping those four titles in the context of attending a drive-in in the late-70s qualifies as a good drive-in story—Ed.)

11) Your Favorite Brian De Palma Movie
I admit I was trying to goad some juicy responses out of people with this one, and I’d say I was pretty successful:

Benaiah:Scarface, but mostly by default since I thought The Untouchables was crap.”

The M.A.B.: ”I'm looking at the filmography, and I just don't want to pick any. Not sure why. If I had to, I'd go with Blow Out I guess. I also have a soft spot for Bonfire of the Vanities because I love extravagant failures and Bruce Willis.” (I bet you loved Hudson Hawk, didn’t you? But Murray and I are with you on Blow Out—Ed.)

Novotny: Femme Fatale. Pure cinematic experience.”

Preacher Beege: ”Who’s Brian De Palma?”

Jen: "Phantom of the Paradise. My girlies and I got obsessed with this flick in high school, and we saw it at least 10 times at the La Paloma in Encinitas. It was on Cinemax just a few nights ago—at 4:00 in the morning—and I recited/sang along, amazed I could remember every goddamn word of every goddamn song, and nearly every goddamn line of dialog. Oh, yeah. I was hip as all get-out in 1974.” (I have only one thing to say to you, Jen: “There really is a phantom!”—Ed.)

Thom McGregor: ”I despise this question! Why? I find De Palma to be generally misogynistic and hateful. But I'll answer it because Dennis loves him. Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark" video. Sorry, honey. That's the best I can do.” (Nice dodge, honey! Very clever!—Ed.)

Caption Jockey: ”I hate this guy. But I kind of like the first Mission: Impossible.”

Virgil Hilts: ”Uh… pass.”

Robert: “I used to love DePalma; then when I started watching Hitchcock films, started to love him a lot less. Dressed To Kill holds up a lot better than some of his other films.”

Machine Gun McCain: ”The more I think about it, the more I love Raising Cain.” (Good one!—Ed.)

Rodger:Scarface, of course, the only decent movie that thieving, plagiarizing, Hitchcock-bone-eating freak ever made. And most of that credit goes to Pacino.” (Rodger, I’d wager it was you Pauline Kael was thinking of when she called Scarface “a Brian De Palma movie for people who hate Brian De Palma movies.”—Ed.)

By the way, Blaaagh says it’s Carrie “hands down.” So there!

12) Name One Movie You Initially Loved, Saw Again and Ended Up Significantly Less Of

The Butterfly Effect (Benaiah), Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Novotny—“First I loved it because it looks amazing, then I hated it for being Orientalism for dummies”—Care to elaborate?—Ed.), The Devil’s Advocate (Blaaagh—I might finally be ready for this one—Ed.), Titanic (Murray—Okay, you just made up a smidgen of ground that you’d previously lost on This is Spinal Tap; care to rebut, M.A.B.?-- Ed.), Obsession (Thom McG), The Deer Hunter (Dennis), Apocalypse Now (Virgil Hilts), Short Cuts (Rodger—This Altman fan thanks you, R.J.—Ed.), Wedding Crashers (Machine Gun McCain), William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet/Moulin Rouge! (PSaga).

13) Name One Movie You Initially Hated, Saw Again, and Ended Up Liking or Loving

Nashville (Machine Gun McCain—Me too!—Ed.), Last Tango in Paris (Caption Jockey), Laura (Rodger—“I have to get past Dana Andrews”), Love, Actually (Jen), Madame X (Virgil Hilts—“Nah, just kidding!”), 1941 (Dennis), Pulp Fiction (Thom McG), Eraserhead (Blaaagh), The Son (Novotny), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Beege), Punch-Drunk Love (Benaiah)

15) Favorite Blaxploitation Theme Song

I guess the omnipresence of Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” shouldn’t have been too surprising, its predictability cushioned by its sheer wonderfulosity. But there were other keen picks:

The M.A.B. liked Earth, Wind and Fire from Sweet Sweetback’s Baadaaass Song

I reserve awe and admiration not only for Blaaagh’s choice of J.J. Johnson’s main title theme from Willie Dynamite, but that he actually got to see the movie, featuring Roscoe Orman as the titular pimp (“Ain’t no one crosses Willie D!”) and the late and lovely Diana Sands in a theater back in the day…

Thom McG is down with the awesome Isaac Hayes title track for the singer’s one and only blaxploitation starring role, Truck Turner, even as she will have no further truck with the movie itself…

Me and Robert, we like Superfly

Caption Jockey wonders if there’s one for Dolemite and assures us that if there is, he likes it…

James Brown’s “The Boss” from Larry Cohen’s Black Caesar is what does it for Machine Gun McCain…

Finally (and I do mean finally), Novotny replies: “None. I’m not Tarantino.”

16) The First Movie You Remember Seeing In A Theater

Benaiah and Preacher Beege start the ball rolling on Disney classics-- Peter Pan and The Jungle Book, respectively (something tells me those screenings weren’t on the original 1953 and 1967 releases)-- but I bet that when Rodger says his was also The Jungle Book he’s talkin’ 1967 for sure; Blaaagh cites the Hayley Mills/Disney epic The Moon-Spinners; Murray cops to yet another Disney feature, The Sword and the Stone, and yet, with that as a formative moviegoing experience, he stills likes movies—amazing!; Ditto Jen and her primal experience in a movie theater with Disney’s Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.; and Thom McG says she was supposed to see some Disney movie or other, but her parents mistakenly herded her and and her older sister into a reissue of Ben-Hur instead. (Ben-Hur, The Boatniks-- what’s the diff? A Tokar’s as good as a Wyler, right?) Myself, I recall seeing some likable Disney knockoff (coscripted by Chuck Jones!) called, and I’m not kidding, Gay Purr-ee.

Then we move on from Disney so that the Mysterious Adrian Betamax might expose the roots of his Spielberg obsession: “Raiders of the Lost Ark. (1981 again, the year I guess I started seeing movies!). This may be after the other one listed above, and actually I don't remember seeing it. It's a family story that my father took me and my 5-year-old brother to see this, thinking it was a good idea, but then had to cover our eyes during the ark-opening melting people sequence. So I guess I didn't see that scene until later in life. But what's with traumatizing my early childhood with exposure to Spielberg! Aaah!” (Poor little fella—Ed.)

Virgil Hilts got all Cinerama on his first movie memory-- How the West Was Won; Machine Gun McCain claims Good Morning, Vietnam for his; Robert had Blue Meanie nightmares over his first, Yellow Submarine; and Caption Jockey reveals all by citing Deep Throat as his introduction to the joys of cinema.

Finally, Sharon says that the first movie she remembers seeing in a theater is King Kong. Though she provides no definitive date to go along with her response, I’m going to assume that she’s referring to the 1976 remake from producer Dino (“People gonna cry when Konk, he die”) De Laurentiis, and not the original 1933 Cooper/Schoedsack classic. I’d have to believe she had a little deal with Prince Sirki in order to think otherwise.

17) The Movie You Remember Most Fondly from Childhood

For several of the respondents, the answer they gave to number 16 could also serve here. But for others it was not so…

Undoubtedly the joys of Sunday-afternoon TV brought Benaiah to the shores of Red River

Attaining full “Twisted Freak” status is the M.A.B. for waxing nostalgic over the likes of Kidco, Super Fuzz and C.H.O.M.P.S.-- M.A.B., the designation “twisted freak” is actually a term of endearment; just ask Thom McG or Virgil H.!

Novotny allows for the childhood pleasures of the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web

Doctor Zhivago looms large in the memory of Blaaagh…

Murray returns us to Disney country with Old Yeller, and I carry the ball further down the road with Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks in a Circus

Jaws made Thom McG all giddy with the visceral possibilities of cinema, leaving the charms of The World’s Greatest Athlete in its wake like so much played-out chum…

The Magnificent Seven is the big one for Virgil Hilts…

Rodger bet that no one else would tag The Omega Man, and he was right (although Blaaagh and I both dig it too)…

Surprisingly, Deep Throat was not even in Caption Jockey’s top two—he settled for Grease and The Jerk instead…

Machine Gun McCain remembers fondly those nights on Endor-- Return of the Jedi

PSaga cites Stand by Me as her first R-rated feature…

and Robert has much cocoa-love for Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Did the Tim Burton version do anything for ya, Robert?—Ed.)

18) Your Favorite Clint Eastwood Movie

I figured this one might raise some hackles too, and in a couple of cases I guess it did, but I think across the board there’s more love in this particular forum for Eastwood than De Palma.

Robert can’t choose between The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Outlaw Josey Wales, nor should he have to, dammit…

PSaga: “Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo, or the one with the monkey that my dad always liked. (Sorry, Caption Jockey. I mean, ape.) And what’s all this about Eastwood DIRECTING movies?” (That last line reminds me of Pauline Kael remarking upon the marvelous ambivalence of the old bumper sticker that was fairly prevalent in the late ‘60s that said, simply, “John Wayne for President”…--Ed.)

And speaking of Caption Jockey, he favors The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, unless we’re talking directorially, PSaga, in which case Million Dolllar Baby fills the bill…

Machine Gun McCain wins the cheekiest response award by citing The Gauntlet

Rodger takes the Fifth: “Shit. Tough one. Impossible to answer, damn you.” (At least he didn’t pick Heartbreak Ridge--Ed.)

Jen is fairly emphatic about Unforgiven; Thom McG less so, though it’s still her pick; Novotny and Benaiah like it too…

No doubt inspired by fevered nightmares of Jessica Walter brandishing a large butcher knife, or Donna Mills flapping those heavily crimped, mascara-laden carpets she calls eyelashes, Virgil Hilts stumps for Play Misty for Me

In the spirit of Robert’s indecision, here’s my own response: “As an actor: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Dirty Harry is an almost imperceptibly close second); As a director: Unforgiven (Bronco Billy, A Perfect World and Million Dollar Baby are in an almost imperceptibly close three-way tie for second-- how's that for a hedge?!)”

Murray loves Paint Your Wagon, and too bad for you if you don’t!...

Ditto Sharon, who once punched a very large man through a wall when he made fun of The Bridges of Madison County

The M.A.B. will undoubtedly be annoyed that someone else likes Bronco Billy too, but he picks it as his favorite Eastwood movie in both directing and acting…

And Beege flirts with endorsing Sharon’s pick before backing off (“Just kidding!”) and then making this admission: “While I've watched every single Eastwood movie with my father, I really don't enjoy them.” I like this idea-- sometimes it isn’t the movie so much as the person you see it with. Still, Beege, have you seen Bronco Billy?

(Next: Part Three of Professor Wagstaff’s Key, “Stereovision, Oscars, Action and Good Eats”)

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Professor Wagstaff’s Summer of 42 (Questions, That Is) Movie Quiz was originally posted way back on July 18 of this year. I had at first intended to compile the “key” and highlight all the best, most provocative, funniest answers in a follow-up post a month or so after that date. Well, a month or so passed, I was busy as hell working for a living and posting other items, so I rationalized my own foot-dragging by saying that I was waiting for some lists to be posted that I just knew would be coming down the pipe. Then I’d wrestle this beast to the ground and post the answers. Another month passed-- we’re now on the downside of September. Those two or three lists that I’d been hoping for finally did arrive, along with a couple of others from readers who had never posted a comment before. Exciting! Now I could finally get to the answers. I spent a long evening culling the best of the best from the 47 or so posts I got in response to the summer quiz, and by the time I finished processing all that material, I had about four hours to go before it was time to get up and get ready to go to work. Yeesh. Nearly a month later, here I am, starting the writing part and hoping that I’ll finally have something for you to read before I post the Christmas vacation quiz. Believe me, I don’t have any illusions that there’s a great horde of SLIFR readers huddled over their laptops at Starbucks or holed up in their basements, lit blue by the cathode ray tube emanations and colored orange by Cheetos stains, awaiting this post. It’s strictly a kind of deadline pressure I put on myself; I planned to do the article, I announced that I would, and even though it’s about three months late, no one’s head is going to roll over its tardiness, and no one’s life is going to go unfulfilled until it does get published. But as publication on this site approaches its first anniversary, I find myself still wanting to take the pressure I put on myself seriously enough not to give myself a heart attack, but seriously enough that those who do find themselves caring about what ends up on these pages will have a sense that it really is a regular deal, somewhere they can come every other day or so and find something new, interesting, complex or straightforward, compact or long-winded and drawn-out. And I really have been putting together a list that will compile the professor’s pop Christmas quiz, so I’d better get this one in the books first. Without further ado, I now turn the program over to Professor Wagstaff…

1) Your Favorite Movie Genre, and a Prime Example Of It

The usual genre suspects were all represented, most sweepingly by bitter San Diego Padres fan Jen (“I love them all, mostly… really and truly—like music, if it’s good it’s good, be it jazz, classical, rock, punk, reggae, polka…). And film aficionado nonpareil, superb crank and faithful SLIFR reader the Mysterious Adrian Betamax said simply, “I love genre films. I preferred the Hollywood studio system when it was organized around the classic genres that don’t really exist anymore—film noir, westerns, musicals (classic pre-Rodgers and Hammerstein).”

Benaiah, a faithful reader and Dodger fan completing his senior year of college in Georgia right now, was the first reader to check in with complete answers to the Wagstaffian madness. He favored Crime/Film Noir and felt compelled to make a distinction between that genre and a subgenre of Mafia-oriented films. For him, Angels with Dirty Faces (the only example he cited) could comfortably co-exist under this genre umbrella with, say, Out of the Past or Detour, or Anthony Quinn in Across 110th Street, but not with, say, Anthony Quinn in The Don is Dead, whereas some might even make the case that Angels is more closely related, thematically, with the Mafia film (it was part of a Warners boxed set earlier this year entitled “Gangsters”) than with the presence of the heavy hand of fate that typifies film noir. I’m guessing Benaiah would draw his boundaries based more on period, and in that case I’m with him all the way.

The western was chosen by new reader Novotny, who picked The Searchers as a favorite (“The creation of nation is depicted here in some of its most important aspects… family, racism, law, the killing of a race, war, etc.”). I favored the western because of its seemingly infinite adaptability to contemporary and historical concerns while remaining an essentially conservative genre (like horror); I couldn’t argue with The Searchers as an excellent example of the form, but I chose one I’d seen recently that seemed to me nearly perfect in terms of thematic execution and storytelling prowess—Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River. SLIFR vets Virgil Hilts, Machine Gun McCain and Caption Jockey cast votes for the western too-- Virgil holds up The Magnificent Seven for high praise, while CJ likes Once Upon a Time in the West and The Wild Bunch (a choice I think Virgil could probably live with too). And Machine Gun says of Once Upon a Time in the West, “I could’ve chosen a classical choice, but I figure this sums up the entire genre in one perfect film.”

Number-one SLIFR reader and supporter Blaaagh serves up what was number two for me-- horror films—again displaying a pleasing tendency toward the classical titles: “A prime example… Jeez, which one?! Pick a decade, and I’ll give you one-- The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Frankenstein (1931), The Wolf Man (1940), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Exorcist (1973)… hmm, that brings me to the ‘80s… hmmm…”

Fellow blogger Robert, who discovered SLIFR while looking for reviews of the notorious slaves-and-sex-and violence epic Mandingo, displayed a sensibility and taste in his answers with which I could readily empathize (more on that later), and he had an interesting genre pick: black comedy. Given that genre preference, it’s not much of a leap to imagine he might have pointed to Dr. Strangelove… as a particular peak, or perhaps M*A*S*H, or perhaps even the aforementioned Mandingo (and no, I’m not kidding or going for some cheap racial joke). More interestingly, Robert’s choice is a movie many may not even remember—James Coburn in The President’s Analyst (1967), which is according to Robert, “an on-target satire of surveillance culture.” Based on Robert’s raking of my subconscious to remind me all over again about this movie, it’s become one of the hot titles on my Netflix queue.

Similarly, Rodger, who hosts the terrific Los Angeles crime-oriented blog 8763 Wonderland (which is looking for a resident film critic), narrowed the focus somewhat: “I have a passion for a particular sub-genre, namely films set in Los Angeles. (As a prime example) I think I would have to insert Billy Friedkin’s woefully underrated To Live and Die in L.A. here.” This made me think of a couple of things. I saw To Live and Die In L.A. in its original theatrical release at the (then) Mann’s Chinese in 1985, while on a visit here to see my best friend, and I remember it seeming, to someone who knew nothing of the city, simultaneously believable, absurd and terrifying. Two years later I would call Los Angeles home myself, and I still do, but I’ve not seen Friedkin’s movie in probably 15 years or more. Again, I’m grateful to Rodger for bringing it front-and-center in my awareness again, because I’m very curious as to what my reaction will be after having lived here for almost 20 years. And I had a question for Rodger as well: given your particular subgenre, have you seen Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, if you have.

Finally, leave it to Thom McGregor, love of my life, and PSaga, fine Oregon-bound friend and fellow blogger to blow up, in creative and amusing ways, of course, the whole concept of the question. Thom McG says, simply, “Independent British movies of the ‘80s”—my inside track here can inform you that such a genre would be comprised of titles like My Beautiful Laundrette (but probably not Sammy and Rosie Get Laid), No Surrender, perhaps A Private Function and most definitely Withnail & I, but probably not Eat the Rich. PSaga, on the other hand, after disqualifying herself from being able to judge westerns or martial arts movies based on relative unfamiliarity, gets nitty and gritty: “The genres I am qualified to name as favorites would have to be ‘Quirky Dramedy Types Which I Deem Brilliant’ (Down by Law) and ‘Movies That Don’t Totally Suck, In My Opinion’ (you know… movies that don’t star Brad Pitt)…”

2) Your Least Favorite Genre Movie and a Prime Example of It
Benaiah has it in for “Depressing Movies” like House of Sand and Fog-- “I hate it when people think a movie is good just because it made them sad.” (Boy, there’s a long list!--Ed.)

I felt like I had to finally cop to not being able to understand what people see in the overly emotional romantic dramas of the 50s and 60s, typified, but certainly not limited to, the films of Douglas Sirk. Virgil backs me up and calls out Lana Turner in Madame X as a particularly squishy example.

Beege, Murray (best first cousin and brother I never had), Thom McG and friend Sharon tag Blaaagh’s favorite genre, horror. Beege then admits to being frightened by the 1999 remake of The Haunting-- “Hard-core horror buffs would probably place (it) in the comedy category; it scared the piss out of me”—while Sharon sniffs, “Blood, guts, stupidity—who needs it?” Well!

The Mysterious Adrian Betamax calls out documentaries for, in general, not being unusual enough in style or approach to suit his taste, preferring narrative or experimental film. M.A.B., where do you stand on Errol Morris? (My favorite of his: Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.)

Proving that one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, Rodger admits to purple hatred of any musical that isn’t a rock opera—“Just name a musical, and I undoubtedly despise its existence and would burn every print I could get my hands on.” Being a fan of musicals, M.A.B., just how well do you like Tommy?

Surprisingly, there is someone who doesn’t much care for comedies, and that someone is Novotny, who singles out Jacques Tati as a serial offender. And as a subgenre, Romantic Comedies didn’t take nearly as big a hit as I thought they might, though Caption Jockey comes through with some white-hot bile for a particular title: “The saccharine horribleness of movies like The Mirror Has Two Faces… cause me to want to injure myself.”

But Blaaagh gets the honors here for coming up with the best annoying genre: “Wealthy, attractive white couple with incredible sex life, big house on the water, adorable kid or kids, and minimally busy jobs has a problem: someone terrorizes them, one of them has an affair, or one has an addiction (it's not an official genre, but I'm sure you can come up with some examples).” Oh, I don’t know-- Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal or just about anything from oeuvre of Adrian Lyne, and what about When a Man Loves a Woman-- please, someone stop me now!

3) 7) 14) 26) 29) 32) 38) Among Those Who Cited A Preference, Here Are Those Whom You Preferred…

* In the great battle of cranky quackers, Daffy Duck, 11, pounded Donald Duck, 2 (Beege, ever the rebel, cast her vote for Rubber Ducky)

* Steve Martin put an arrow through Jim Carrey’s head, 12-1

* Vivien Leigh squeaked by Olivia De Havilland, 5-4

* Lee Marvin outcooled Steve McQueen, 9-3 (Rodger: “Marvin would back your play in a bar fight. McQueen I’m not so sure about. He might be working some angle with the crowd and watch you get your ass handed to you in a hat.”)

* It was Kim Novak over Tippi Hedren by a bleached-blonde hair, 7-6

* You gave three shits for Bela (Lugosi, that is), but the majority of those who cared shat more frequently (six times) for Karloff (Boris, that is)

* And it was Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) over Queen/Senator/Dewy Ingenue Amidala (Natalie Portman), 7-4

4) Your Favorite Alfred Hitchcock Movie

Most mentions here went to Rear Window (Benaiah, Thom McG and Jen), followed by Psycho (Blaaagh, Caption Jockey), The Birds (Virgil, Rodger) and North by Northwest (Robert, the M.A.B.), with Benaiah also providing the most idiosyncratic observation in the category, disqualifying North by Northwest from consideration based on the loftiness of Eva Marie Saint’s hairline. Other mentions for top Hitchcock honors were Shadow of a Doubt (Novotny), Vertigo (Murray), Notorious (Dennis) and Rope (Sharon).

5) The Longest You Ever Waited In Line To See A Movie (and the Name of the Movie That Inspired Such Preparation and Dedication)
For some reason, looking at some of the answers to this question made me feel very old—like when Beege says she waited three hours to see the re-release of Star Wars when she was in college. And Sharon, why did you wait in line eight hours for the same 1997 re-release? Hadn’t you seen the movie before? Couldn’t you have called Moviefone? What the hell, woman?! Thom McGregor admits a two-hour wait outside the old Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to see The Empire Strikes Back, a feat I can’t even conceive of, knowing her impatience for The Line these days. Drawing a quite different line in the sand is The Mysterious Adrian Betamax, ever cultivating his inner Mr. Wilson, who deflates all Lucasfilm line-waiters thusly: “I’m not one of those schmuck losers who waits in line for frickin’ Star Wars movies!” Rodger, who sounds like a man who would suffer even fewer inconveniences than Thom McG or the M.A.B. when it comes to movie lines, admits to a one-hour wait outside the Glendale Exchange for a sneak preview of In the Line of Fire (Rodger, you do know that George Lucas had nothing to do with that movie, don’t you?), and Blaaagh looks back to the summer of 1975 when he and his sister braved unruly crowds for two hours in the Portland, Oregon sun (yes, Portland does get sunshine in the summer) to see Jaws. But although he doesn’t specify an amount of time, I think we can infer that Robert spent much longer than the bloated running time of 1979’s Star Trek—The Motion Picture (at least three hours) queued up to see that sausage. I once spent 7 hours outside a Medford, Oregon movie palace waiting to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but I was being paid to review it and meet an ungodly deadline. Which leaves us with our champeen line waiter, Caption Jockey, who admits (boasts?) a 12-hour marathon outside the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard to be among the first to see Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. Hey, I was there that morning too, CJ, but I was working as a supervisor on a night shift, and we talked the biggest Batman nerd among us all into taking off from work early (around 3:00 a.m.) and standing in line, so the rest of us, who spent the rest of the night earning a living, could sashay up to the theater a half-hour before show time and waltz right in. Geeky enthusiasm or humiliating indentured servitude? You make the call!

6) Your Favorite Nature Documentary

The clear favorite among favorites here was Microcosmos, and since I was one of its champions (the others were Thom McG, PSaga and Jen) I will say that if you haven’t seen this one yet, you really should—it is available on DVD, so buyers and Netflixers have no excuses (except utter disinterest, I suppose).

The only other movie that got a duplicate vote was that classic for those “of a certain age,” Charlie the Lonesome Cougar, which is probably just the other side of Disney’s stirring “True-Life Adventure” The Vanishing Prairie when it comes to documentary verisimiltude. But if it’s good enough for Virgil and Blaaagh, it’s good enough for me—I remember seeing it several times and liking it quite a lot, though I think my enthusiasm, and probably Virgil and Blaaagh’s, pales next to Wesley Covey’s, whose review on IMDb is purple enough to reproduce here whole-hog (all punctuation and emphasis is Wesley’s):

”this is one of my favorite movies ever! along with casablanca and cannibal holocaust, this is near perfect cinema. rex allen narrates this wonderful tale of a cougar who just needs a little loving. contains action, adventure, suspense, comedy, and riverbed chaos! SEE THIS MOVIE IF YOU HAVE TO KILL TO DO IT!!! you will not find a better cat picture anywhere, with cat from outer space coming in as a not so close second. charlie's performance is magnificent. even includes animal cruelty and intense logging! gotta love disney, for all moral failures!”

Wow! I’m now officially shamed for not choosing it myself!

Other favorites include Robert’s provocative pick, The Hellstrom Chronicle, Blue Planet (Benaiah), Croc Files (Murray), From Conception to Childbirth (to answer your question, Beege, if it can be found on IMDb, it counts!), The Polar Bears of Churchill (I’m truncating the actual title, in case anyone would like to click on it and hazard a guess as to why Thom McG put this one down as an alternative choice), Hatari! (Nice, M.A.B., real nice), and perhaps the favorite with the most elasticity when it comes to defining the nature documentary as a genre, Deep Throat (Caption Jockey, can you confirm or deny Marlin Perkins’ association with this movie, or were those Mutual of Omaha connections just filthy rumors?)

(Next: Part 2 of Professor Wagstaff's Key, "God, Music, De Palma, Eastwood, Love, Hate and Memories")