Up to the letter ‘O’. It’s another challenging one, though my top choice was already made. I am interested to see what you think of these ‘O’ films, and to read your own selections. I think I have left out enough obvious ones for some of you to mention.
I rarely mention comedy films on this blog. However, I am a lifelong fan of the madcap comedy of the British star, Will Hay. He made a series of films with an ensemble cast, with his most successful period during the 1930s. Accompanied by the grizzled figure of Moore Marriott, and the overgrown schoolboy character always portrayed by Graham Moffatt, he produced a series of hilarious films looking at aspects of British life at the time. ‘Oh Mr Porter’ (1937) remains as one of my enduring favourites, and is also a fascinating glimpse at a railway industry that has long disappeared from this country.
Ten years later, and Carol Reed directed a convincing James Mason in the dark thriller, ‘Odd Man Out’ (1947). Set in Belfast, this is an early look at ‘The Troubles’, the war of Irish Nationalists against British rule of the six counties. Ably supported by Robert Newton and Cyril Cusack, Mason stars as Johhny, the leader of an IRA group operating in the city. After a robbery goes wrong, the action follows a wounded Johnny as he seeks shelter in the city at different locations. Memorable indeed.
More or less accurately described at the time as ‘High Noon’ in space, an almost forgotten Sean Connery role takes my next spot. One of my favourite ‘Space’ films, I have always wondered why ‘Outland’ (1981) is so rarely mentioned. Connery is on great form as the lawman of the future, given the bleak and unpopular posting to the lawless mining colony of Con-Am 27. Unexplained deaths, drugs, prostitution, and a huge corporation out to get him, this film has all the elements of a crime thriller and western combined, imaginatively transferred to a distant planet. The tension is ever present, and the performances solid. Connery is confronted by the villainous Peter Boyle, and turns for help to the kindly female doctor, played with conviction by Frances Sternhagen. This is a really good film, and deserves to be better known.
In the shadow of ‘The Godfather’, another gangster saga is often missed. With leading roles for Robert de Niro, James Woods, and many other fine actors, ‘One Upon A Time In America’ (1984) is an epic work from Sergio Leone. It follows a group of young New Yorkers from their childhood on the streets, through to late middle age. The full-length edit (available on DVD) runs to over four hours, and is far superior to the widely distributed shorter version. Lovingly recreated period feel, memorable set-pieces, and beautifully filmed by Leone. Add a wonderful soundtrack too, and you have a complete cinema experience.
Rarely does a remake meet the standards of a good original. This is one case where it almost succeeds, but not quite. The crime thriller ‘Old Boy’ (2003) is a masterful Korean film, presenting one of the most unusual stories ever filmed. With a killer twist near the end, this unforgettable work from Park Chan-Wook wowed both audiences and critics alike, and with good reason. To avoid spoilers, I cannot really describe the story, but I will say, “just see it!”
Ten years later, the film was remade, this time by the talented Spike Lee. I approached this with some trepidation, but I am pleased to be able to tell you that it is actually very good indeed. Josh Brolin is a revelation in the starring role, and the story stays true to the Korean original. But watch the 2003 original first. Please.
My choice today is a Japanese film that proves it was not only Akira Kurosawa who made outstanding films in that country. A few years after its release, I went to see this film as a teenager, at the National Film Theatre, in London. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. This historical story of women preying on wounded and displaced samurai warriors in the spooky marshlands of feudal Japan is a visual feast in black and white. Jealousy, murder, and a scary mask may not sound like much, I agree. But don’t be fooled by the description, it is just magnificent. ‘Onibaba’ (1964).