REDISCOVERED - long forgotten movies that deserve a wider audience.

Recently I rented through Quickflix the 1980 movie Melvin and Howard which I vaguely recalled enjoying many years ago. I realized that director Jonathon Demme had gone on to make Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and The Manchurian Candidate but had forgotten that this movie marked the start of my lust for Mary Steenburgen.

Ostensibly the movie is about the possibly true story of Melvin Dummar. He is terribly unlucky, almost cursed. When Howard Hughes dies, Melvin is delivered a will leaving him part of the estate, Hughes supposedly being the elderly man Melvin helped at the start of the movie.

The filmmakers avoid all the obvious ways to tell the story and end up with a really funny and likeable slice of working class life.

The biggest mystery about the movie is why the hell, having already played John Milner in American Grafitti, didn’t this role make Paul Le Mat a star?

Highly recommended.

Big Trouble, starring- get this- Tim Allen, Rene Russo, Janeane Garafalo, Patrick Warburton, Heavy D, Stanley Tucci, Johnny Knoxville, and Jason Lee.

The casting is goofy as all hell, which may have been a strike against it, and also, it was scheduled release in late 2001 but was delayed because there are airport/plane related hijinks. (Trying not to spoil.) But it really was a great, funny movie.

Based on a book by Dave Barry. Nutty book, nutty film.

I just read an essay praising a 1964 movie, Man in the Middle, starring Robert Mitchum, as an “undiscovered classic.” The review made it sound really good. However, checking on IMdB I see that it is not available in videotape, DVD, or anything else.

So how the heck is anybody supposed to discover this undiscovered classic?

Anybody seen it? Is it worth tracking down/watching for on late-night TV?

I can think of many:

Resurrection – great drama with Ellen Burstyn that was forgotten for some reason (despite a couple of Oscar nominations). The final scene is one of the most emotionally beautiful things ever put on film.

Cobb – Surprisingly brilliant biography of Ty Cobb. Tommy Lee Jones is just plain magnificent as the aging ballplayer, a mass of hate and complexity. Robert Wohl is Cobb’s biographer. Got great reviews, but nobody went to see it (maybe because it has little to do with baseball). Ron Shelton’s script is brilliant. My favorite dialog:

I think Cobb is one of the best movies I have ever seen, and one of the few that I have only seen once. It was so intense, and Jones was so brilliant. Why the hell he didn’t win the Oscar for it, I have no idea.

I have a soft spot for Melvin & Howard because my mom’s HS acting teacher is in it! Bob Wentz- he plays a preacher. I had the opportunity to do Our Town with him when I was in HS, and he was still phenomenal.
Some Mother’s Son and Cal, both featuring Helen Mirren and John Lynch, both focussing on life Ireland during the bad old bombing years.

I love Cobb. Tommy Lee Jones is just so perfect for that role. And anytime Roger Clemens is shown getting super pissed about something is comedy gold.

It took forever to come out on DVD and I think that has had a big hand in delaying it’s eventual status as a classic sports movie.

And while they’re not old (or classic by any means of the definition), I always loved The Faculty and Disturbing Behavior

The Faculty had Robert Patrick, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Bebe Neurwirth, Clea Duvall, Selma Hayek and Harry freaking Knowles all doing a great Scream-style reworking of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

And Disturbing Behavior is just awesome. Nick Stahl before he was famous and probably the best non-X-Files episode of The X-Files ever.

Both movies were also heavily cut with The Faculty originally getting an NC-17 for all the gore that we didn’t get to see in the finished product and Disturbing Behavior had a whole nother subplot with evil government agents and a completely different (and better) ending. I can dream about Director’s Cut DVDs can’t I?

Thief starring James Caan. Directed by Michael Mann. This is a fantastic movie. Not only is it a great character study, but it works as a thriller and as a caper movie. The realism is amazing - every detail down to the voltages on the telephone wires they are trying to bug is absolutely correct. The scenes where Caan is cracking safes? Those a real safes, and he’s really cracking them using real burglar tools provided by ex-con ‘technical experts’ they hired for the movie. And it’s got a great, atmospheric soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.

I’ve always thought that Fandango never got it’s due.

The Blue Iguana, noir-spoof heist movie starring a pre-Practice Dylan McDermott.

Six String Samurai

First of all, don’t take it too seriously. When the premise of the movie is that the UUSr dropped the atomic bomb on the U.S. in 1959, and Evlis has been the King of America until 1999, ruling from his captial city of Lost (sic) Vegas, you know it’s supposed to be silly. No one seemed to get the joke. When Elvis dies in 1959, guitar playing, samurai sword-swinging warriors come out of the woodwork, all fighting to be the next king. Did I meantion that Death, a dead-ringer for Slash from Gun-N-Roses by the way, is stalking our mighty hero, Buddy?

It has everything you could ask for in a movie you don’t want to take too seriously. Fight scenes (Buddy at one point fights men in space suits for peet’s sake), outstanding music (by the Red Elvises, a russian band that plays 50’s style rock), and great one liners.

Cannibal Windmill Cultist in a Hazmat Suit, with Gas-Mask: “If I were you, I’d run!”

Buddy: “If you were me, you’d be good looking.”

Oh yeah. It wasn’t too funny or too serious or too sentimental. Very honest movie, IMHO.

My nomination is for A Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith. It’s about celebrity, and Griffith’s acting is outstanding. Plus, he’s kinda hot in it.

Hearts of the West. With Jeff Bridges and Blythe Danner (and another film with Andy Griffith). Evidently not available in DVD.

Let it Ride. Richard Dreyfuss, David Johansen, Terry Garr and Jennifer Tilly.

The Twelve Chairs is an early Mel Brooks movie, and it’s brilliant.

Second Hand Lions is from not that long ago, but it never got the traffic it deserved. Michael Caine and Robert Duvall are two grouchy old adventurers who take in a young nephew when his floozy mother runs off to Las Vegas. It is simply wonderful.

I found Clay Pigeons at Blockbuster a few years back, and loved it.

Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn, and Janeane Garofalo, among others.

Antonia’s Line won an Oscar in 1995 for Best Foreign Language Film, but I have yet to meet someone who has heard of it or seen prior to me introducing them to it. Oddly enough, I’ve been able to find it at every Blockbuster I’ve ever had the notion to look for it in, even this past summer in Bismarck, ND of all places, when I wanted to watch it while visiting my girlfriend.

Here’s my lifetime top 20. Most of them would probably qualify as “overlooked.”

[ol][li]The Passion of Joan of Arc[/li][li]Europa '51 [/li][li]Solyaris [/li][li]Sunrise [/li][li]The Crowd [/li][li]Tokyo monogatari [/li][li]Night of the Hunter [/li][li]Ugetsu monogatari [/li][li]Sullivan’s Travels [/li][li]Once Upon a Time in the West[/li][li]The Searchers [/li][li]The Singing Detective [/li][li]The General [/li][li]Barry Lyndon [/li][li]Distant Voices, Still Lives [/li][li]Showgirls [/li][li]Dancer in the Dark [/li][li]City Lights [/li][li]Rio Bravo [/li][li]Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia[/li][/ol]

The Stuntman One of the greatest movies ever to be remebered only by film geeks. Plus its got Peter O’Toole as GOD…I mean as the all powerful film director. And its got a score that will keep you humming for a week. Good stuff I tell ya.

A great movie, with a great soundtrack. A nearly flawless movie, actually, which is weird, considering that the writer-director, Richard Rush, didn’t direct another movie for fourteen years, when he lowered the overall quality of the universe by by giving us Color of Night. I’ve gone back since then to revisit The Stunt Man, to see if maybe it was a fluke, and Nope, still brilliant. Still can’t fathom it. IMDB says there’s a 2000 documentary about the making of The Stunt Man. I wonder if it addresses why one man could make such too such wildly disparate movies: a masterpiece, and a steaming pile. Oh, plus* Freebie and the Bean*. I suspect drugs.

Agreed. The Stunt Man is, indeed, a masterpiece. I purchased the Limited Ed. 2 disc DVD set that includes the documentary The Sinister Saga of Making “The Stunt Man.”, a couple of years ago and it’s well worth tracking down.

The documentary was written, produced, directed and narrated by Richard Rush, himself, so you won’t find any objective examination of Rush or his post-Stuntman career. Regardless, it is a fascinating study of the making of the movie and the themes it addresses. Rush’s self-aggrandizing presence does at least hint that the man is perhaps too self-involved to realize that he may have blown his entire creative load in one movie.

My own nomination is John Amiel’s Queen of Hearts. It’s comic-tragic fable of an Italian immigrant family living in London. It has hints of myth, magic, melodrama, comedy and even a heist sub-plot thrown in for good measure. Far from being a mess, all of these elements work together form an enchanting movie about the importance of family. Sadly, it’s still only on VHS but I still encourage dopers to give it chance if they’re lucky to find it. Highly recommended.

Were you referring to the US or the British *“Singing Detective” *? I can highly endorse the British one; I saw it when it first aired, and immediately bought it upon its release on DVD.

“Once Upon a Time in the West”. Absolutely. Anything by Sergio Leone, especially *“Once Upon a Time in America”. * Rumors have been flying that *“A Fistful of Dynamite (Duck You Sucker)” * will be released on DVD, but I haven’t seen anything so far.

“Dancer in the Dark”. I can’t believe how much I liked this one.

Another vote here for “The Stunt Man”. I saw it when it first came out, and I’m embarassed to say that I haven’t seen it since. Thanks for the reminder.

Here are a few others that I can recommend:

*“The Norman Conquests” * Probably not available on DVD. A trio of interlinked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Light, but brilliant.

The reference to “The Queen of Hearts” above reminded me of de Broca’s *“King of Hearts”. * A little dated, and a little light, but enjoyable.