A-Z Film Challenge: Day Sixteen

I am really cheered by how so many of you have continued to engage with this challenge, and to add your thoughts and suggestions every day, without fail. It has been genuinely appreciated, as have the numerous re-blogs, re-tweets and other mentions.

We have arrived at the letter ‘P’. What do you think? Lots of choices? There are a great deal, I assure you. And there are three of my all-time favourites, so at least I am happy. I am generously leaving you the obvious titles to explore, and once again concentrating on some that are lesser-known.

In 1960, Michael Powell made what is still perhaps one of the least-known but most effective early psychological horror films, with ‘Peeping Tom’. This British thriller is set in the seedy world of glamour photography, and features Carl Boehm as an aspiring film-maker, earning money to finance his projects by taking photos of young women in saucy underwear. But the amiable young man hides a dark family secret, unknown to the girl who aspires to be his girlfriend. (Anna Massey) With unusual camera angles, a few genuine shocks, and wonderful settings in London before the time of youth culture, this is one of my favourite films in the genre, and worth watching for anyone serious about cinema.

A lot of you are aware of my love for the silent era actress Louise Brooks. She had what is perhaps the best hairstyle of any film star, with her roaring twenties ‘killer bob’. She had beauty too, and an acting talent that made her a box office smash. Her private life was also scandalous. Affairs with both men and women, and living life to the full, in European cities between the wars. ‘Pandora’s Box’, made in 1929, is my favourite film of hers, charting the rise and fall of the vivacious Lulu, as she exploits her career as a courtesan for rich men, until bad luck and murder find her destitute in London, and a chance meeting with a certain Jack The Ripper. Don’t worry about the story, or the holes in the plot, just watch Louise. You will glad you did.

Stanley Kubrick is a rightly-acclaimed director. One of my favorite films of his is the WW1 drama, ‘Paths OF Glory’ (1957). This fact-based tale of events in the French army during that war gives Kirk Douglas one of his best and most satisfying roles. Impressive recreations of trench warfare, sharp black and white filming, and a completely perfect cast, all lend this film a real authenticity. One of the best films ever made about WW1, without a doubt.

Lee Marvin brought gravitas to the wonderful crime thriller, ‘Point Blank’ (1967). John Boorman’s film saw Marvin at his intense best, as the wronged criminal, Walker, seeking revenge on the mob, and his wife, who had both betrayed him. Told in flashback, the superb opening sequence alone is worth the admission ticket, and the relentless pace never ceases to enthrall the viewer. Mel Gibson starred in the remake, ‘Payback’ (1999), changing some elements and names too. Stick with Marvin’s original. You won’t be sorry.

Peter Weir again, this time from 1975, and ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’. This dream-like fantasy of Australian schoolgirls on a picnic outing to the Hanging Rock in the year 1900 has never been bettered, with an overwhelming sense of mystery, and a surreal feel. Haunting theme music, wonderful casting, and impressive location filming all add up to a complete cinema experience that you will never forget. Great performances from the likes of Helen Morse and Rachel Roberts just pile on the quality.

An unusual choice for me. A ‘Brat-Pack’ romantic drama from 1986, ‘Pretty In Pink’ delivered. With reliable performances from Molly Ringwald, Harry Dean Stanton, and the overlooked Jon Cryer, this film had it all. The teen romance centering on the high school prom, with its ‘rich boy-poor girl’ theme, was re-worked into a convincing adult drama, along with serious performances, and outstanding music. For me, the best of John Hughes’ work, and I still love it, to this day.

Regretting all those left behind, and hoping you mention them, I come to my choice for today.

This haunting Spanish film combines childhood fantasy, with the brutal reality of adult life following the protracted civil war in Spain. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2206) is my favourite film from Guillermo Del Toro, and the dramatic events are interspersed with compelling wonder, anchored by an outstanding central performance from child actress, Ivana Baquero. Escaping from the brutal realities of Fascist repression, and the cruelty of her step-father, young Ofelia descends into a nightmarish dream world, populated by fantastic creatures. It is not only unique in its concept, it is unforgettable.

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70 thoughts on “A-Z Film Challenge: Day Sixteen

  1. I admire you choosing these certain foreign movies because they showcase such brilliance in the history of movie making. Like you, I also love Pans Labyrinth, the creature that has eyes for hands is just so creepy. Guillermo knows how to master the art of fantasy so well. For this Post, I shall go with..

    Panic Room, Peeping Tom, (The) People Under The Stairs, Perfect Blue, (A) Prophet, Psycho and Princess Mononoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping someone would mention ‘A Prophet’, MV. That’s a searing French drama that I bought on DVD as soon as it was released. I didn’t have room for it on this post though. Thanks for those other additions too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a Steve McQueen fan, but because of “Papillon” and the motorcycle scene in “The Great Escape”, he always comes to mind as one the poster boys for Never Say Die, along with Jon Voight in “Runaway Train”, so I’ll submit that movie for honorable mention when you get to the “R’s”. I thought I’d seen “Paris, Texas” but just realized it was mixed up in my mind with “The Last Picture Show”. And Harry Dean Stanton reminds me to also sneak in an early vote for “Repo Man”.
    I saw “Payback,” hated it, Mel Gibson outdid himself with cheesy pomposity, and I didn’t even realize it was a remake. “Point Blank” and “Grosse Pointe Blank” would make a nice contrast.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Those two are very different films, Robert. Although I have a fondness for that Cusack film, ‘Point Blank’ is markedly superior.
      You are getting ahead of the action!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Yes, sorry, jumping the gun. I remember being told by sev’l people, that “Paper Chase” was a worthwhile movie, but two hours of John Houseman was about 110 minutes too much. And no one thought “Pacific Rim” was both a clever social commentary and rock’em sock’em Saturday morning fun?? Just kidding about the social commentary, just good mindless fun with giant robots and monsters.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have never seen ‘Pacific Rim’. I think I can die happily, without adding that to my list of checked-off films.
          I didn’t mind Houseman in ‘Paper Chase’. Though once was enough.
          Regards, Pete.

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    2. I had to write my comments twice because I accidentally x’d out of this tab while looking up a film date. The first time around, I did mention “Papillon” (1973), plus the fact that I’ve read the book and its sequel, written by Henri Charriรจre, in the original French text. I’m not sure how I overlooked this film in my second go. I also mentioned there is an upcoming remake of “Papillon.” Needless to say, I’m not expecting it to surpass the original.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought was The Pianist, a big film in Poland as you can imagine, The scenes at the end showing the total destruction of Warsaw always blow my mind a little. I have visited a few spots in Warsaw where the building survived the war and they are still pock marked with bullet holes!
    Paris Texas will always be remembered for the music alone.
    And finally, Papillion stands out, almost like an early Shawshank redemption (ok maybe not now I have though about it a bit more) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had thought that ‘The Pianist’ might get more mentions, and ‘Papillon’ too. (Nothing at all like ‘Shawshank’. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I mentioned the Ry Cooder music from ‘Paris, Texas’ earlier in the comments,
      Thanks for your thoughts on Warsaw, Eddy. I really must go there one day. (If I live long enough, that is.)
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pete, the only film you mentioned that I’ve seen is “Paths of Glory” (1957), which I borrowed from the public library two years ago. I agree that it has to be one of the best films set during the First World
    War. Growing up, I used to enjoy watching “The Blue Max” (1966) on late night TV. The only WWI film I have on DVD is “Hell’s Angels” (1930), which is quite fitting since I’ve spent over 20 years living here in Las Vegas, where Howard Hughes is a big name, and over 30 years in Kansas City, MO, where Jean Harlow was born and spent her childhood.

    I didn’t know which film you were going to pick as your favorite, but I bet all my gambling dollars on “The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak” (1984). You probably thought I was going to bet them on “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1959). The sad truth is that I actually have Tawny Kitaen’s film on DVD. I think it’s the worst film sitting on my shelf, and wonder how it ended up there….

    Do I have a guilty pleasure? I don’t know, does “pleasure” start with the letter p? I’ve been to Lake Havasu City, Arizona a couple of times. An arm of the lake there is spanned by the London Bridge (1831), which is open to vehicular traffic. The bridge, whose exterior masonry was moved here from the UK, was reconstructed, and completed in 1971. Lake Havasu is the film setting for Alexandre Ajo’s “Piranha 3D” (2010). The film has a 73% approval rating at RottenTomatoes, so this is one guilty pleasure that is no cause for embarrassment.

    I have plenty of “P” films in my DVD collection. I’d like to mention just three of them.

    Nevada’s first state park, Valley of Fire, is only an hour’s drive away from Las Vegas. A number of films have featured its impressive sandstone formations. In “Star Trek Generations” (1994), for example, all the scenes on Veridian III were filmed here. This is where the fictional Captain Kirk uttered his last words, “Oh,my…” But there is also a “P” film for which Valley of Fire served as a major location: “The Professionals” (1966). It stars Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode, Jack Palance, and Claudia Cardinale (who would star in “Once Upon a Time in the West” two years later). A bullet-ridden wall that appeared in the movie is still standing there, and the slot canyon featured in the film is literally only a few feet away. I can identify every rock in the film. “The Professionals” is a favorite western of mine.

    I’m also going to mention a Marilyn Monroe film that is generally overlooked by her fans: “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957). The film is generally criticized because of the perceived lack of chemistry between Elsie and The Regent (buttressed by the fact that Laurence Olivier actually despised Monroe). However, I think the chemistry is as it should be in view of the characters being portrayed. My only fault with this film is the poorly conceived coronation scene (King George V), which should have been left on the cutting room floor. But this is compensated by Monroe’s bubbly performance. She is also at the peak of her beauty.

    Finally, I’ll mention “The Piano” (1993), starring Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, and Harvey Keitel. The film, set in New Zealand, won multiple awards. It’s one of those rare art films that was also a commercial success, and it definitely should be included in everyone’s film collection.

    I’m going to turn a blind eye to predators, pirates, phantoms, and apes, and ignore Paris (even though Audrey Hepburn made it sizzle), and name my favorite “P” film as the one for which George C. Scott turned down his Oscar statuette for Best Actor: “PATTON” (1970). Just as “Paths of Glory” is a standout WWI film, “Patton” is a giant among WWII films. I see no need to discuss this film, as anyone who is serious about cinema knows it very well. Of course, I’d love to throw a few famous quotes your way, but I suppose this is a family blog…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘Patton’ was left for others to mention, as was ‘The Piano’. Both impressive films indeed, David. I expected you to mention ‘The Professionals’ as it has featured on your blog before. And you didn’t let me down. I saw that film at the cinema, aged about 13, and loved the action. ‘Plan 9’ is a bad film that sadly does not even qualify in the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category. I have long disliked ‘The Prince and The Showgirl’. Not for Monroe, but for Olivier’s worst-ever performance.
      Thanks as always for your valued engagement, and great suggestions.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay! Pans Labyrinth is definitely my favorite P film. My honorable mentions would be: Panic Room, The Piano, Pride and Prejudice (both the one with Greer Garson and the mini series with Colin Firth, although I suppose I can’t count that as a film.), and the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Paddington, and the original Poltergeist for my popcorn picks.๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pan’s Labyrinth is a great choice and Paths of Glory is a very powerful film, which I thought might get up.

    Nice to see Picnic at Hanging Rock, for years my favourite Oz film, on the list.
    Another very good, less well-known Oz film is Proof, with Hugo Weaving as a blind man with trust issues and a young Russell Crowe.

    Peeping Tom has been on my list for a while, but I haven’t managed it – despite the film’s fallout driving Michael Powell to make a couple of films in Australia in the late 60s, for which I’m grateful.
    Pretty in Pink I didn;t see, despite liking The Psychedelic Furs who did the song.

    A few other P’s for people’s consideration: The Piano (a great NZ film made with Australian money and American lead actors), Padre Padrone (my first Taviani bros film about a tough childhood in Sardinia), Persona (Ingmar Bergman’s psychological games), The Player (Altman’s dissection of the Hollywood), Paris, Texas (Wenders down south) and The Philadelphia Story (someone had to say it).

    Thanks Pete. Not far to go now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, ozflicks. Well, you hit the following ‘deliberate omissions’; ‘The Piano’, ‘Padre Padrone’, and ‘Paris,Texas’. I felt sure they would all get a mention. (I also thought ‘The Pianist’, with Adrien Brody, not mentioned so far, and ‘Pather Panchali’ too) I have ‘Paris, Texas’ on DVD and love that slow-paced Wenders film, with the wonderful Ry Cooder soundtrack. I have seen ‘Proof’, but did not think of it this time.
      I heartily recommend ‘Peeping Tom’.
      (And that Fur’s song is only heard over the closing credits of ‘Pretty In Pink’.)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ve not seen Pather Panchali – I missed it when it was on the circuit in the 70s and 80s somehow, nor The Pianist. So many films, so little time …

        There are so many films for some letters – it must be a real challenge whittling them down. You’ll have a lot of whittling for R,S & T, I predict, Good luck. (Not sure what you’ll pick for Q – I’ve only got one.)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Q is written up for tomorrow. My choice for Q was easy, one of my all-time favourites. R is going to be difficult, but I have my top pick locked in. Some letters really need two posts, but that breaks the ‘rules’.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Will have to checkout Pans Labyrinth, never heard of it! Anyway no ‘P’ in Marvel or DC universes so I am putting in my all time favourite Disney movie Peter Pan (no labyrinth ๐Ÿ˜Š) which I loved as a child and can still watch and be enchanted with. Great story of course and amazing animation when Disney were at their most brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did miss that one out of ‘D’, Ian. I have it on DVD, and also watched it at the cinema. A nice spooky tale, also set in the Spanish Civil War. Glad to hear that you are enjoying this challenge, mate.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. I liked a number of movies mentioned. I would like to add, The Poseidon Adventure’. It had a great cast and Shelley Winters even received an Oscar nomination for it – she did her own stunt work underwater despite her age and weight.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. A great and offbeat list – “Paths Of Glory” AND “Pretty In Pink!” A history fan could have gone with “Patton”, a horror fan would love “Poultergeist”, a mobster movie fan could add “Pizzi’s Honor”, and Mel Brooks shows up with “The Producers” as well!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Great list today, Pete, as I have only seen one of these and have the rest to look forward to enjoying! Yesterday, we were commenting with ozflicks about Australian “P” movies. You did choose one that I’d completely forgotten. The other I want to add that has long been on my favourite movie list is actually, now that I look it up, an “A” movie … since the complete title is “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109045/?ref_=nv_sr_1 We’ve always just referred to it as “Priscilla”. Oh, well …

    And while I’m not a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean series either, the first two parts were partially filmed in St. Vincent & the Grenadines where I have a home and winter every year. No filming was done on Bequia, but the actors spent days off from the set on our island lounging on the beaches and eating at the restaurants. All kind of cool for the residents! Plus a number of locals had bit-parts in those films.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m kind of a purist, preferring originals to remakes. Oz Priscilla was just so over-the-top and “Australian” that it was all that much better, in my opinion, and could never be duplicated or remade.

        Bequia is how I know Felicity! And Felicity is the reason I discovered your blog.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. A fabulous selection, Pete (must catch up on some days. I’m doing some training for the next couple of weeks but I hope I’ll find a bit of time to read blogs). Peeping Tom is a film I remember watching in Spain many years back, and I’ve never forgotten it. We watched ‘Psycho’ (it would be worthy of featuring too, the original, of course) and I remember talking to the students about Peeping Tom as they came out the same year but Peeping Tom cost Michael Powell dearly (the home movies about the psychologist and his experiments… Oh, what a film!). I couldn’t agree more on ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. Such a hauntingly beautiful and disturbing film. Sergi Lรณpez, who plays the stepfather (he is absolutely fabulous) is currently in Barcelona on stage and I’m trying to get tickets to go and see him (it finishes at the end of this month, so must make haste).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to meet another fan of ‘Peeping Tom’, Olga. It did indeed end Powell’s career in most respects, and I often feel that the tabloid title diminishes the film too. It was very nearly my top pick.
      Enjoy your training.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Thanks, William. I have never seen ‘Pi’ (1998) but it looks very interesting.
      ‘The Pillow Book’ is beautifully filmed indeed.
      You can always track-back to the previous days!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Oh no, NOT Life of Pi it is just called Pi Directed by Darren Aronofsky, filmed in Black & White starring Sean Gullette as Maximillian Cohen, a paranoid mathematician and computer genius. It’s a late 90’s film before Aronofsky did Black Swan, The Wrestler etc. Check it out!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Marvellous selection though I can’t say I’m enamoured by Pretty in Pink. However, as soon as I saw Pan’s Labyrinth, it went straight into my top ten – powerful and beautiful and can be seen over and over again without any loss of enjoyment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sarah. I agree that ‘Pretty In Pink’ is not to everyone’s taste. It is a diversion for me too, to be sure. However, it just ‘got me’, and I cannot shake it! ๐Ÿ™‚
      ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ gets better every time I watch it.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The “Phantom of the Opera” both versions…..Now to my forte…..”B” SciFi….a wealth of “Planet of the ______” and phantom movies like “Phantom Planet” and “Phantom From Space”…Don’t forget “Pirates of the Caribbean”……and “Parasite” I believe it was a made for TV movie….now time for coffee and a biscuit…..have a great day….chuq

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Lon Chaney silent version of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ scared me as a youngster.
      I can’t stand the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films myself, but they have legions of fans.
      Glad you were able to add some of your beloved sci-fi films, chuq. Enjoy that biscuit.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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