Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Favorite (four), part four

Just like in my other three posts thus far in this series, I want to take a second to single out the highlights of my recent film viewing.  I'm trying right now to take in almost a film a day.  Most have been first-time viewings.  And most I have been glad to finally see, but only very few have stayed with me.  This series is my filter for those (and hopefully one or two of these will be good to someone else, too).

Mark Robson's The Seventh Victim
Another one of Val Lewton's lo-fi horror films.  This one though is actually as much noir in spirit as it is horror.  And it's a tremendously compact, atmospheric, suggestive film that packs a real punch.  Of all the Lewton films I've seen so far, this one is my favorite.

Luchino Visconti's Ossessione
Based on the same James M Cain novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, that led to two American films, this early film from one of Italian cinema's masters is a neorealist marvel.  Detailed, beautifully observed, this seems like a key influence on Godard's Breathless, and many of the other early French New Wave works.  

Carl Theodor Dreyer's Day of Wrath
Dreyer makes films that feel like six or seven-course meals.  This one is heavy, hard-hitting, and gets under your skin in a robust kinda way.  I can't say I liked it as much as a few of his other films.  But those few other films are among my favorite of all time.

William Wellman's The Ox-Bow Incident
Interesting to think how much of an influence it might have had on both the tone and look of Jarmusch's Dead Man.  The dialogue and feel of the film is stunningly modern at times.  And it once again confirmed how much the war factored in as subtext to the majority of films made during WWII.


  1. Some good choices. I've always absolutely loved The Seventh Victim. It's up there with I Walked With a Zombie and the two Cat People films as the best work to come from Lewton's horror cycle. As I've said before, what makes this one so special is that it's an existential horror film, where the horror is more or less synonymous with our simultaneous fear of and fascination with our own eventual deaths. The long scene where the cult tries to compel the heroine into drinking poison is harrowing because it's her own mind, her subconscious desire for death, that's causing her to struggle.

  2. Ed, yes I think you were one of the ones to really push me towards the Lewton work, and I'm so glad you did. Very well put above about some of the allure of The Seventh Victim. Always a treat to have your perspective. Thanks, Ed.

  3. Jeffrey: This is a stellar and diverse lot here.

    Obviously I am more in the affirmative with DAY OF WRATH, which views with THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC as Dreyer's masterpiece, but I this one may work better on repeat viewing. I am a huge Lewton fan as well as have long championed THE SEVENTH VICTIM and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, his two irrefutable masterworks (with THE BODY SNATCHER, GHOST SHIP and CAT PEOPLE) following up. Troy Olson penned a fantastic review of THE SEVENTH VICTIM just recently for the WitD horror countdown in fact:

    THE OX-BOW INCIDENT is one of the underrated Wellman's greatets films, and it's based on Walter Van Tillberg Clark's seminal literary work. And I couldn't agree with you more on the Visconti, which was indeed influential.

    Excellent choices and great capsules here Jeffrey!

  4. Sam, wonderful addition to this post. I have to once again thank you and Dave Hicks and John Greco and the others who inspired me to go back and fill in some of these gaps. It's really lit a fire under me and led to some incredibly memorable discoveries.

    Love all that you say above and look forward to catching many more of your recommendations as I move forward.