131. Point Blank ( 1967)

Bank robber finds himself an anachronism in the world of corporate crime.

A film of its time and with a number of evident flaws, but filled with powerful imagery and imbued with an hallucinatory quality in its more accomplished sections. Particularly good are Lee Marvin's heel clacking stride down the long existential corridor of revenge and Marvin's assassination of his marital bed.

A good cast of late 60s/early 70s stalwarts such as John Vernon, Carol O'Connor, Keenan Wynn and Angie Dickinson and often brilliant directing from 'mostly crap films' John Boorman.

132. Diva (France 1981)

A bootlegged recording of an enigmatic opera star causes death and mayhem in Paris.

'Cinema du Look' is a poseur's delight and is all style and little content. Diva looks like a classy eighties tv advert for most of the time but it has a certain retrospective charm and has one of the best baddies of recent cinema history.

A film to be dipped into rather than savoured.

133. The Shootist (US 1976)

Ageing gunfighter arranges his own death.

John Wayne's last film and all the more interesting for examining his screen persona in a pre credits montage of images from his earlier films.

Much of The Shootist looks and feels like a tv movie, but Wayne's performance and Don Siegel's taut direction of the final saloon shoot out are worth watching at least once.

A bad performance from the actor Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard is a clever anagram) as Wayne's impressionable ward (a bit like the Brandon de Wilde role in Shane), but good support from Hugh O'Brian and James Stewart.

One of two films featuring an absolute bastard of a milkman (in this case, Bill McKinney); the other being  The Early Bird, a Norman Wisdom film featuring Bryan "Cheese and Egg" Pringle as a bullying, threatening, erm, bastard of a milkman.

133. Raging Bull (US 1980)

The rise and fall of boxer Jake La Motta. 

Not a lot to say about this except that the passing of time and over familiarity have made many people somewhat blasé about de Niro's performance. Has any actor bettered it? Or even come close?

Whatever you do, don't watch Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein if you were moved by de Niro in  Raging Bull.  

And don't watch Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein if you remember John Cleese at the height of his powers in  Fawlty Towers.

In fact, don't watch Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein. 

But DO watch it if you're keen on:

134. The Hustler (US 1960)

Pool shark is devoured by a bigger fish.

A first-rate film which benefits from good direction and great acting, the best of which comes from Jackie Gleason as outsized pool legend Minnesota Fats and particularly from George C. Scott as the ace gambler/manipulator/people reader Bert Gordon. Scott can be a silly, pretentious and laughable presence, but here in this this Machiavellian/Mephistophelian role, he steals the thunder from Paul Newman by observing the dictum that less is more.

The original novel was written by Walter Tevis, who also wrote The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Scorsese's sequel 'The Colour of Money' is not very good and has aged far more than Robert Rossen's film despite being made almost thirty years after the original.

135. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (US 1956)

Alien invaders replicate human beings in a covert attempt to take over Earth.

More Don Siegel and a big favourite of The Simpsons writers. A film that takes a while to get going, but it's worth waiting for Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter's flight from the assimilated townsfolk; a tense, nerve wracking affair and deeply symbolic. Wynter's betrayal of McCarthy is brilliantly realised and very disturbing.

Probably the best ever B-movie.

136. Touch of Evil (US 1958)

Honeymooning Mexican detective clashes with a corrupt border town policeman over a murder.

Charlton Heston is not everybody's idea of a zealous (can you still use that word in company?) Mexican law enforcer, but it's fairly easy to be accustomed to seeing Orson Welles as a fat, greasy, sweaty, badly suited cop.

The most famous long take, single edit opening shot in film history and when I went to see it, I was convinced that Marlene Dietrich's head was floating in front of the screen. Then again, something had made me not well.

She did look beautiful though, despite her advancing years.

137. Crimes and Misdemeanors (US 1989)

A Manhattan dentist's guilt over the contract killing of his mistress: a documentary film maker's unrequited love.

Woody Allen's wholly serious films aren't very good. You could say the same about most of his comedies and those films which fall somewhere between the two. In terms of addressing Begmanesque themes, this is probably his most satisfying film.

Martin Landau's angst-ridden dentist is finally persuaded that there is no God and that if you get away with the crime and can handle/suppress the guilt, then that's it.  No Hell, no damnation, nothing.

In the other story, Allen plays a director of worthy, but neglected documentaries. His character's film biography of a thinly disguised Primo Levi exemplifies Allen's idea that noble, life affirming art does not have the caché of even the most tawdry form of celebrity.

Allen's character loses Mia Farrow to vacuous, slimy tv presenter Alan Alda. The writer/director seems to be suggesting that even the cleverest, most sensitive of people (women?) are blinded by the dazzle of prestige and celebrity.

The theme of sight and blindness runs through the film. Sam Waterston plays a rabbi whose impending blindness is offset by his ability to 'see' into people's hearts and souls. He is a Tyresias for the modern age. Landau's temptation not to look into his own mind and memories echoes the torments of Lady Macbeth.

The casting of Alan Alda is unwittingly perfect. Is he the smuggest, slimiest arsehole that ever stained the tv screen? The apex of his career is the tv version of MASH; all the verbal and visual cues from this programme suggest that we the audience are supposed to side with this tosser and see things from his 'iconoclastic' perspective. The actor thinks that he, like his character is a 'laugh' when in reality he has all the appeal of an unflushed lavatory. 

The only good thing I can say about MASH the tv programme is that at least it's not MASH the film.

138. Dirty Work (US 1933)

Chimney sweeps Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy tinker with a mad scientists's life rejuvenating experiment with predictable results.*

Ace violence, gross stupidity and terrific non-sequitujr one liners. What more could you ask for? Best of all is the scientist's prissy, effeminate butler, who on being plastered with soot utters the immortal line (with all the dignity he can muster):

"Somewhere an electric chair is waiting."

*If the transmogrification of fat chimney sweep to chimp can be described as 'predictable'.

139 The Untouchables (US 1987)

Eliot Ness nicks Al Capone.

A fine array of talent here. David Mamet wrote the screenplay, Brian de Palma directs and De Niro and Connery vie for acting honours.

Mamet goes for a fairytale story of good and evil, whilst de Palma includes his usual visual trickery (a slow motion Battleship Potemkin steps homage and a giant deep focus conversation in a church between Connery and Kevin Costner being the highlights) to enliven what is basically a genre film.

Connery got the Oscar for his best performance since The Offence,although it was universally agreed that Irish cops called Malone don't usually have Scottish accents.

 

140 The Picture of Dorian Grey (US 1947)

London bon viveur stays young whilst his hidden painted portrait begins to age.

Generally I have no interest in these 1940s 'high quality' productions, but there's something about Oscar Wilde's original story and the sense of damnation and sin in this film which gives it a certain element of modernity.

The bizarrely named Hurd Hatfield plays the titular Dorien and there's good support from George Sanders as the epigram spouting Sir Henry Wotton.

Herbert Stothart's sense of dread inducing music is another of the better features of his film but best of all (for those of us who were children before the video nasty boom) is the painting of the sinful Dorien Grey, thirty seconds of depraved technicolour amidst the hour and forty minutes of classy MGM  black and white photography.