Sunday, April 1, 2007

Five Overlooked Films

In the interest of educating you, my beloved readers, I have provided five films of note for your consideration from the 50s and 60s that while not often counted among the ranks of the great films of their era, have enough merit within them to warrant consideration of inclusion within the pantheon of great films. (In order from fifth to first best.)

The Starfighters (1964)
This is the heart wrenching story of a young Air Force fighter pilot who has to prove himself to his father who is both a congressman and a decorated Air Force pilot in his own right. This in and of itself would make for a wonderful film, but we are also treated to a glimpse into the daily lives of Air Force pilots and the rigorous training they have to endure to become the best of the best. As a added bonus, the footage of the pilots doing their maneuvers features actual Air Force jets in the performance of their duties; to the best of my knowledge no trickery with models is used.

Santa Claus (1959)
This whimsical tale from Mexico is a reimagining of the classic tales of Santa Claus. All the contraptions in Santa's headquarters (it's much too spacious and elaborate simply to be called a "workshop") look like giant toys. It also works as a morality tale as we follow the trials of little Lupita, who must struggle against the temptations of evil to make the right decisions. Add to that cleverly worked in characters from mythology, and what results is a delightful film to be enjoyed by the whole family.

La Momia azteca contra el robot humano (1958)
Another film from Mexico, this supernatural thriller examines the nature of memory and how our memories can be used against us, as well as the nature of humanity in general. It's also told out of linear fashion, which keeps the audience on its toes.

Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966)
Writer-director Coleman Francis stars as an escaped convict who tries his best to become a respectable citizen, but whose past refuses to give him up. This tragic antihero tries to gain respectability by joining the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, and when that fails, tries to be a miner. But even though his intentions are good, he is forced to continually break the law, just to keep himself alive, culminating in a tragic conclusion. Also of note are Coleman Francis' other two films: Fiend from Half Moon Bay (1963) and Girl Madness (1961) which feature similar themes of an outsider's inability to fit in with mainstream society.

The Lodge of Sins (1966)
This film is a cautionary tale, examining what happens when one family comes too close to the flame of evil and gets burned. What makes the film even more terrifying is that not even the young daughter or her small dog are immune to the influences of evil, and are pulled in just as deeply as her parents are. Special note must be made to writer-director Harold P. Warren, who refuses to cut away from the horrors on screen, but lets the camera linger, forcing the audience to take in the full impact the horrors present. And at the conclusion of the film, when the cycle starts all over again, it is both shocking and yet the pitch-perfect end to the film. Sadly, the film was not well received on its initial run, which deprived the world of any further gems from Warren.


Randall Knutson said...

I've seen these films as well and I must say that they should be included as a part of Semi-Decent Cinema. Of course, they all have secondary titles that they may be better known as. Might I suggest watching them with some friends, especially an astronaut and two robots.

Herch said...

I actually had quite a good time writing all snobbish about these five pieces of dreck. For a more honest look at the films, check out my post from April 2.