111. Get Carter (GB 1971)
London villain returns to his Newcastle birthplace seeking revenge.
Get Carter is based on a novel with the most prosaic title in the history of publishing. Ted Willis's 'Jack Returns Home to the North' is set in an unnamed provincial town, and contains many of the essential elements of the film: a web of John Poulson-like provincial corruption, pornography and squalid killings.
Michael Caine represents the realisation of a certain type of lads' mag role model, but any keen observer of his acting and choice of film would often be embarrassed by what what was on show. This is his best performance by a long way. Particularly impressive is his tearful reaction when the performer in his Super-8 'stag' film turns out to be his missing niece.
When Alex Cox spotted certain thematic similarities, he immediately (well fourteen years later) went out and made 'The Revengers' Tragedy', a slightly futuristic version of Ike and Tina Tourneurs' Jacobean classic.
112. Housekeeping (US 1987)
Eccentric Auntie is called on to look after two orphaned sisters in the American wilderness.
'Housekeeping' sounds like a bad Lily Tomlin/Steve Martin comedy, but is actually a strange, sombre little film based on Marilyn Robinson's classic modern novel.
Christine Lahti gives a good performance as the child-like, but ultimately dangerous Aunt Sylvie and Bill Forsyth proves to be a good choice as director of a film which could easily have degenerated into a form of slightly left-field chick flickery.
113. La Regle du Jeu (France 1939)
A shooting party weekend exposes the moral shortcomings of the different classes in rural pre war France.
This was another of those films (Quai des Brumes/Le Jour se Leve) so despised by the Vichy government because of its seeming lack of moral turptitude and its alleged effect on France's immediate pre war malaise.
Director Jean Renoir's 'this is how it is' style of film making is hardly neutral or ambivalent. The famous hunting/slaughter scenes are a fairly obvious call for change (without offering a solution), but there will always be those who are seduced by the most appalling of images ('A Clockwork Orange', 'Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer' etc) and take that director's/writer's/artist's version as an endorsement of the grotesquerie on offer.
114. Performance (GB 1969)
Gangster holes up (literally this time; see '81' ) in the London hideaway of a reclusive, dissolute star.
If you've seen this film, you'll probably understand the Warner Brothers' executives reaction upon seeing the final 'cut'. Notionally a gangster films, the strange temporal shifts, non linear editing, lack of exposition and the clash of styles of the two directors (Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg) must have had them doing whatever perturbed executives do in such situations.
Posho actor James Fox is surprisingly good as Cockney villain Chas (compare him with Richard Burton's execrable performance in 'Villain', or indeed Richard Burton's performance in anything) and his immersal in the role (look carefully at the mirror/androgyny scene in the film) is said to have caused him massive mental health problems resulting in his disappearance from public life for many years.
The directors made the wise decision to keep Mick Jagger's involvement to the bare minimum, and when he sticks to what he knows (playing a ripped to the tits on drink and drugs rock star tosser in a bath), he's fine.
A film which features real-life Cockney fringe villain Johnny Shannon, who was later immortalised as Fawlty Towers' 'satisfied guest': "Vewwy nice stay, Mr Fawlty. You wouldn't 'appen to be a betting man, would you, Mr Fawlty?"
A good film, but degenerate.
115. Carlito's Way (US 1993)
Puerto Rican gangster tries to avoid trouble after leaving prison, but.....
Normally a short, male actor tries to overcome his vertical challenge with bombast and tilted camera angles to suggest invulnerability. Al Pacino was recently voted Channel 4's all time greatest film star, and although I'm not a huge fan of the little bastard and do my best to avoid confusing an actor with a star pesona, it's remarkable how this 5' 7" actor can exude such charisma and have such a commanding presence by being quiet; not taciturn or laconic like Clint or innumerable other male stars, but honest to goodness quiet.
Pacino can be as Brian Blessedy as the next actor (see 'Scent of a Woman'), but is always watchable, and he hasn't made any where near as many ale money films as Robert de Niro.
Carlito's Way offers nothing new, but there are good performances from Pacino and an oddly coiffeured Sean Penn. There are some great de Palma set pieces, the best of which is an edgy and tautly edited fight/shoot out when Carlito's nephew makes a drugs pay off to a particularly vicious gangster. The film uses a Kane-like 'body at the start' flashback narrative (see also 108) and has an involving and ominous sense of impending tragedy as forces beyond the control of the titular hero begin to take control.
A film that is spoilt by a spew making interlude featuring Pacino longingly observing his middle class bird whilst Joe Cocker warbles 'You Are So Beautiful' on the soundtrack.
116. Helpmates (US 1932)
Stan Laurel helps his friend Oliver Hardy to clean up his house following a wild party. The arrival of Mr Hardy's shrewish, violent wife is imminent.
Needless to say, Hardy's house is almost tidy on a number of occasions before avoidable Laurel-occasioned mishaps leave it trashed.
The final few minutes of this film are told in elliptical edits and fades, leaving the audience to surmise what has happened or to predict an inevitable outcome.
Despite overwhelming evidence to suggest that it might not be the best of ideas, Olly tells Stan to light the fire in order to warm the house for Mrs Hardy's return. He tries many times. He fails. Eventually, the audience sees Stan pouring copious amounts of kerosene on the unlit coals.
The picture fades.
This could have been the greatest ending in Hollywood history.
The scene which follows IS the best ending in Hollywood history.
117. The Shining (US 1979)
Cabin fever and malicious supernatural forces unbalance the mind of a hotel caretaker.
Stephen King constantly moans about the lack of serious critical appreciation for his work, but his choice of oeuvre affords little else. In some ways, this is a pity. The Shining, despite its supernatural embellishments, is often a very clever examination of Larkin's adage ("They fuck you up, your mum and dad; they don't want to, but they do") particularly when he examines the culpability of the parents of Jack and Wendy Torrance (as played by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall in the film) in the unfolding tragedy.
Much of the authorial voice of the novel has autobiographical elements (I would assume) given King's past alcohol and drug addictions, and there are many salient points made about the nature of addiction and the importance of good parenting. However, if the reader completely refutes the existence of a supernatural, it's almost impossible to engage with the better elements of the novel.
I didn't see The Shining until some ten years after its release. The film was rubbished by many critics and most people I know who'd seen it also dismissed it out of hand. Being a Kubrick film, however, The Shining is quality. It's also very scary at times and as others have noticed, it seems to have a resonating quality that continues after the film has ended.
This is a film that is best experienced alone. The Shining's sound has an eerie echoing quality not found in any other film, and the almost subliminal cuts of the weird, murdered twin girls are very disturbing.
Elements of the film suggest that this is could be the best of all horror films, but the final scenes of the murderous Jack Torrance chasing his family are unconvincing, and in the case of the famous "Here's Johnny!" sequence, just plain silly.
The film's real weakness is, however, Jack Nicholson, whose scenery chewing, over acting spoils a number of very tense moments and gives the impression that he's having fun at the audience's expense.
Considering Kubrick's reputation for filming hundreds of takes of the same shot or scene, you would have thought he might have said: "Mr Nicholson; do you think you could do some proper acting in this take rather just pissing about?"
And if you've seen the documentary of the making of The Shining, you might have wondered why Kubrick was bullying Shelley Duvall about her acting performance rather than 'Jack'.
118. The Lost Continent (GB 1967)
A cargo ship packed with illegal explosives is stranded in a strange world of monsters and sixteenth century Conquistadors.
Doesn't sound good, does it? The Lost Continent is based on a Dennis Wheatley potboiler and follows the fortunes of 1930s-style ship of fools as they make their way to salvation or damnation.
After a series of typical British transport system mishaps, the ship is becalmed in a Bermuda Triangle/Sargasso Sea type netherworld.
It's not really one for the CGI generation (or perhaps ANY generation): the monsters are shit, the British B-movie actors (Victor Maddern, Jimmy Hanley and the unfeasibly large breasted Dana Gillespie) are 'up for it' but not very good, and the whole exercise is fairly risible, and yet.....(I'm trying to convince myself here).....it does have a certain lyricism and strange quality that makes it rather good.
Like being caught with my special 'love picture' of Angela Baddely, I know I'm going to regret this......
119. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Germany 1919)
A carnival mesmerist manipulates a somnambulist into committing murder.
Like 'Nosferatu', this is a difficult film for a modern audience to enjoy, but it can be appreciated in short bursts.
Much has been made of the odd angles, Expressionist mise-en-scene and chiarascuro lighting, but these are the elements which make the film unique and difficult to forget. It's not one to watch as you're drifting off to sleep, but like all great works of art, it should be experienced at least once in your life.
120. The Apartment (US 1960)
Office worker Jack Lemmon lets his boss (Fred MacMurray) use his apartment to entertain his mistress (Shirley MacLaine).
Splendid, adult, Billy Wilder fare, but why are we meant to sympathise with a foolish fellow who falls in love with a woman who's spread 'em for another man just because he's got money?