• Murders in the Zoo

    Murders in the Zoo

    ★★★

    This is a nasty little pre-code story of jealousy and murder. Anyone with a fear of being brutally killed by wild animals will have nightmares over this one. And Lionel Atwill is wonderfully menacing as the ruthless murderer. There's an annoying comedic sub-plot that is completely out of place with the tone of the rest of the film, but it's still well worth a watch for fans of classic horror.

  • The Headless Woman

    The Headless Woman

    ★★★½

    I discovered this film through an excellent Letterboxd list called “Aickmanesque” letterboxd.com/claxtondog/list/aickmanesque/. It compiles films that are reminiscent of the strange fiction by English author Robert Aickman, whose stories often involve ordinary people who have ambiguously disruptive experiences that begin a succession of bizarre, illogical, and unsettling events that raise many questions but answer few. That type of narrative is certainly not for everyone, but any fan of Aickman will find The Headless Woman to be uncomfortably familiar territory. Early…

  • The Pumpkin Eater

    The Pumpkin Eater

    ★★★★

    Back in 1964, terms like “gaslighting”, “toxic masculinity”, and “mansplaining” were not in the common vernacular, but those practices are everywhere in The Pumpkin Eater. (The film’s title is taken from a line in a nursery rhyme.) Anne Bancroft’s character certainly has her issues, but literally everything that the men in her life did attempting to help her simply made her condition worse. Under the circumstances, her breakdown in the middle of a crowded Harrod’s department store is completely understandable. The film doesn’t quite have the gut punch of Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence, but it’s in the ballpark.

  • Le Plaisir

    Le Plaisir

    ★★★★

    This is only my second Max Ophüls film, and my top takeaway is that I need to see more. I watched The Earrings of Madame de… about a year ago, and liked it WAY more than I expected to, but I largely forgot about it. Then today, when I realized that it is the 118th anniversary of the birth of my favorite French actor – Jean Gabin – I decided to find a film of his I hadn’t see yet,…

  • The Cursed

    The Cursed

    ★★★

    Dark and misty forests, clandestine acts of brutal exploitation, gypsy witches, ancient relics, vengeful curses, and bloodthirsty creatures. Throw in some werewolf lore and a scene that is clearly an homage to the alien autopsy scene in The Thing, along with some heavy-handed social commentary about how the rich shit on the poor and powerless, and you end up with a film that breaks no new ground, but still somehow managed to hold my attention with a consistent atmosphere of foreboding, some impressive gore, and well-done action sequences. I set my expectations low for this one and was therefore not disappointed.

  • Love Is My Profession

    Love Is My Profession

    ★★★½

    On the face of it, this film should be much more popular than it is. It joins France’s most beloved actor (Jean Gabin) in the twilight of his career, with the 23 year old bombshell (Brigitte Bardot) whose career was beginning to take off. It’s a May/December romance based on a story by the great Belgian crime fiction author Georges Simenon. It was shot on location in Paris, giving it the feel of the fantastic poetic realism films that Gabin…

  • Maniac

    Maniac

    ★★★

    Both the sleaze and glamour of Los Angeles are on full display here, and there's no better place - the land of the plastic people - to depict a man entirely on the fringes who desperately wants to possess those beautiful mannequins, even if the only way he can connect with them is to kill them. The social commentary here is as brutal as the murders.

  • Muscle Shoals

    Muscle Shoals

    ★★★★½

    There's nothing original about the the structure of this music documentary: a mixture of voice-over exposition, story-telling by those who experienced it, and pontificating by famous people about the importance of it in the larger context. Yet there's something so compelling about the spectacular improbability of it all - that a group of dirt-poor guys in a tiny town in northwest Alabama could create something so magical that musicians all over the world want to come and experience it. They put out great music for decades (and still do) but the 1960s R&B simply can't be touched.

  • The Man from London

    The Man from London

    ★★★★

    Béla Tarr called this film his homage to film noir, and since I’m a massive fan of both his late-career black and white films and film noir, The Man From London is right up my dark and foggy alley. And since it’s a Tarr film, it plays like a slow motion noir, where the plot (based on a story by the great Georges Simenon) comprises about 40 minutes of the run time, and the other 100 minutes is Béla Tarr…

  • We're All Going to the World's Fair

    We're All Going to the World's Fair

    ★★★½

    This is an independent, low budget “horror” film that has been generating some positive buzz but requires patience. Indeed, there are only a couple of points where the film felt like a standard horror movie, with the rest more of a creepy psychodrama. And once I adjusted my expectations, I found the film’s depiction of a completely isolated teenager (who has zero in-person interaction with anyone in the entire film) to be quite unsettling.

    We are placed, for roughly 90…

  • In the Realm of the Senses

    In the Realm of the Senses

    ★★★★½

    This is the honest truth: I did not know about this film’s controversially explicit sex when I started it. I had decided to watch a Japanese film, and chose it because it was one of the few Japanese films on the “They Shoot Pictures…” Top 1,000 List that I hadn’t seen yet. And wow, the sex certainly comes fast and furious (pun intended), yet I wouldn’t call it “shocking”; in fact it’s rather tame by porn standards. But it’s certainly…

  • Written on the Wind

    Written on the Wind

    ★★★★

    It's my favorite by Douglas Sirk, and Written on the Wind confirms my earlier impression that his melodramas amount to Tennessee Williams with a Technicolor happy ending. Not that there's anything wrong with that.