51. The Ninth Configuration (US 1979)
Stacy Keach is the new psychiatrist at a home for mentally damaged Vietnam vets and tries out a number of outlandish shock cures before his secret is revealed.
A work of religious devotion from Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty. A great cast, great one liners and an excellent one-man massacre of some of the strangest Hell's Angels in film history.
Acting honours to Keach, Scott Wilson and Neville Brand (who would have made an excellent Butch/Spike the bulldog in a movie version of Tom and Jerry.)
52. The Boost (US 1988)
Nice Yuppie couple's descent into 'cocaine Hell'.
Admittedly, not the greatest film ever, but one of the few chances to see James Woods in full-on berserk mode. Woods doesn't have a De Niro portfolio to fall back on or excuse his ale-money performances but he has made a number of decent films* (The Onion Field, Salvador, Best Seller, Videodrome, Casino) which give some indication of what might have been.
A stellar performance, seen to best effect during Woods's character's charlie-fuelled restaurant business meeting.
And Sean Young's in it.
*NOT 'Once Upon a Time in America'.
53. Planet of the Apes (US 1968)
Good start, so-so middle, good ending.
Screenwriter Rod Serling lived in a state of permanent depression because he believed that he looked much older than his actual age. Gets my vote, anyway.
This film's been talked about too much. I quite like Tim Burton's version. And for those pedants who wondered where the horses came from on Ape Planet: just fuck off, will you?
54. Darby O'Gill and The Little People
Some films are obviously cack but have one scene, one performance or even one image that makes the whole thing worthwhile.
Saw this piece of cod-Irish Disney whimsy at the age of three and hid in the folds of Frank's coat. In later life I thought that the fear was because due to my tender years on first viewing, but I was wrong. Darby O'Gill's daughter dies during the film and as her soul leaves her body (advanced metaphysics an apt subject for what was in essence a toddler) a banshee appears.
Very fucking distressing even now.
Better still, the ageing Darby O'Gill exchanges his life for that of his daughter and has to ride to the netherworld in a coach driven by a headless driver, who (against the backdrop of a midnight storm) gives the old man the simple, unequivocal command: "Darby O'Gill. Get in."
Indeed. No wonder I grew up weird.
Some weaselly, knowfuckall film student once said to me: "Sean Connery only made two good films; name them."
"The Untouchables*, Darby O'Gill and The Little People, Diamonds are Forever*, The Offence* and The Hill*," I replied.
That confused the little gobshite.
I'd forgotten about Marnie.
*None of these films are actually 'good'**, but like 'Darby', they have redeeming factors.
**Well, maybe The Hill (at a push).
Click on the pic and Sean sings a little song !
Shit your trousers scary: Connery's acting and accent.
55. Serie Noire (France 1979)
One of the great misconceptions of our time is that France is a very stylish place and that there is no French equivalent of say, Leigh, Little Hulton, Telford or Reading. Anyone who has seen La Vie de Jesus, Les Valseuse or Serie Noire knows that France can be as grubby as anything Britain has to offer.
King of the French meffs is Partick Dewaere, a man seemingly unconcerned with image or presenting himself in the best possible light as is most stars' wont.
A great actor who sadly committed suicide in the early 80s.
Serie Noire is a difficult film to watch all the way through (very strange changes in mood and a number of exasperating characters), but like all intelligent films, it contains moments of perspicacity and illumination of the human condition missing from the usual Hollywood shite.
Dewaere's performance as Frank Poupart (honestly) is outstanding. Best bit is his self-loathing piss up with his strange, almost retarded Yugoslavian mate which contains the immortal line:
"Look at us getting pissed like two old puffs." (But in French.)
57. The Wicker Man
An obvious choice, you might think, but let's face it, I was calling this a classic when it was on the arse end shift of ITV's scheduling*.
Much of it is terrible (the music-especially the Maypole/'tree' song and not forgetting the truly ghastly 'landlord's daughter' song, the accents, the appalling notions of that which constitutes 'sensuality', Christopher Lee's barnet), but the best ending to any film I can think of, off hand and a damn good performance from Edward Woodward as the prim and moral Sergeant Howie.
*Not that there's any way of proving it, of course.
"Can I just say, and I'm speaking here as a member of Her Majesty's Royal Tayside Constabulary, that you're all nothing but a bunch of real ale swilling, dirty heathen, tinned broad bean eating, folkie fucking bastards?"
58. Salem's Lot (1979 US TV)
Mini-series truncated to badly edited feature form for limited cinema release.
Many serious critics dismiss Stephen King as being a mere pulp paper waster. He deals in a genre that is easily rubbished because much of it is rubbish and because it's, well, genre. But you get what you are seeking from the works of Stephen King and some of it is impressive: allegorical treatments of important themes, an analysis of psychological illness and relationships in peril and of course, some genuinely tense passages of horror writing.
At one stage, the world's best directors were falling over themselves to film the works of Stephen King and Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot contains many memorable images and a real sense of foreboding.
The best bit of course, is the floating child vampires scratching at the windows and being repulsed by a tiny cross ripped from a model graveyard.
One of James Mason's better films.
59. The Incredible Shrinking Man (US 1954)
Man encounters radioactive cloud. Foolishly showers in pesticide. Shrinks.
More Richard Matheson (novel and screenplay). A B-movie (and Mansfield's best ever band) that lingers in the memory for its famous set pieces (the attacks of the cat and the spider; Scott Carey's realisation that he's started shrinking again when he tries to kiss his dwarf 'mistress' and the climbing of the north face of the step ladder) and its plaintive, Zen-like ending.
60. Barton Fink (US 1992)
The Coen brothers found their market early on in their career and have pandered their too obvious cleverness to their chin-stroking 'I'm a cinéaste, me' audience ever since. In much the same way as there was a certain type of arsehole who forced the laugh at Woody Allen films just to prove that they'd spotted a reference that you supposedly hadn't., there is a certain type of Coen brothers irritating arsehole audience.
One of the most terrible films I have ever had the misfortune to sit through is the Big Lebowski, a Coen-by-committee, not weird (though the directors obviously think it is), not funny, not anything waste of the talents of the occasionally mighty John Goodman.
Barton Fink, though, is just brilliant at times: a genuinely weird and unsettling film about the degeneration of the mind and the soul. It's one of those films that make you wonder how such an idea was conceived and is the complete antithesis of the lameness of Lebowski.
Best bit? The peeling wallpaper in John Turturro's room/head. Honestly.