Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 3rd 2019
Not as bad as everyone claims
I have talked about my favourite film of all time here at Weekend Notes before, reviewing the DVD. The feedback I received ranged from "That was your favourite film?" to "Really? That was your favourite film?" Apparently, I am alone in thinking it to be as awesome as I do. However, looking at my own personal list of favourite films, I realise that a lot of them just would not appear on anyone's list of the wonderful and watchable and "must-see".
Well, this column is to introduce you to five films that I think are underrated and all appear in my top films of all time. Now, I am under no illusions as to how most of these films will be perceived. I don't care. I think they are worth catching and watching. I also know that if you ask 100 people to name their top 10 films, you will probably end up with a list of 1000 different films. It is all subjective; what makes a "favourite" differs from person to person. It might be the acting, the writing, the special effects, the story, the pace, the emotion. Different horses for different courses. It does not matter – it's your opinion.
Although if anyone says Santa With Muscles is the best movie ever made, I will shun them for eternity.
[Note: That is the worst film I have ever seen. I mean, worse than anything Ed Wood made, worse than those Twilight turds, worse than anything featuring Adam Sandler. I own it on DVD. I've watched it more than a dozen times. I am sad…]
Okay, I am the first to admit these are not going to win awards anywhere, but to me, they are fun and entertaining, and, when it comes down to it, isn't that all that matters?
I know this tends to be dismissed as a nothing more than kid's film, and, yes, it certainly does appeal to children (my son used to love this!), but there is more than enough adult humour in it for it to appeal to any viewer. From the constantly fourth wall breaking narrator to George's constant failure to "watch out for that tree!", from Cleese's Ape Named Ape to the loyal elephant Shep, there is plenty to like here. It's silly, sure, but it's fun and, more to the point, it doesn't take itself seriously. When the narrator tells a character that he doesn't like him, then you know this is a movie that is having a laugh and wants you to join in.
No, not the remake. Never the remake… All right, I am the first to admit that the actors in this film take themselves – and the film in general – a little too seriously, with only Burgess Meredith seeming to be in on the campishness of the whole production. But the film is a wonderful piece of escapism-adventure. While the story of Perseus, son of Zeus, as presented here, leaves a lot to be desired if one knows the original myths (and just what was the Kraken, a Norse monster, doing in an ancient Greek mythos?), the story as written is certainly a roller coaster ride of fun. Yes, there are some dodgy green screen process shots, and yes some of the acting leaves a bit to be desired, but the film as a whole works. It also brings to my mind something else. The remake (from 2010) used CGI effects, while this used Ray Harryhausen and his famed stop motion animation. The creatures here have a lot more solidity and move more naturally than the computer-generated beasts of the remake; they seem somehow more 'real'. I think CGI is taking away something, all for the sake of just using computers. Bad stop motion still looks like something; bad CGI looks like an awful computer game gone wrong.
Bill Murray is one of the finest actors of our times. He has made classic comedies (Ghostbusters, Stripes) and great serious movies (Lost In Translation, Hyde Park On Hudson). But somewhere in the middle of this comes Groundhog Day, a bizarre fantasy film that, on the surface looks like a film of discovery or a rom-com, but at its heart is dark and depressing. I have read more essays about this film than any other except maybe Citizen Kane. Murray's increasing world-weariness works so well with the time-stop mechanism of the film. His acting is sublime, and this is possibly due to director Harold Ramis, an old friend of Murray, and the comfort that would have created on the set. Just ignoring the improbability of the whole situation has proven difficult for some viewers, but if you can do that, there is a strong tale of a man struggling with just what his life means, what it has come to, and what it could be. A comedy that makes you think.
I am huge fan of Vincent Price, and in all the films I have seen of his, this is my favourite, and this features in my top 5 films of all time. It is camp and it is cheesy, and it is so wonderfully written. An actor getting revenge on his critics in the best Shakespearean manner should not work, but it does, and it works brilliantly. Add to that a gorgeous Diana Rigg playing his daughter, some delightful death scenes and Price just commanding the screen with a presence so few others possess. More than that, the supporting actors are also wonderful in their roles. The Titus Andronicus scene still makes me laugh. It is not a film that could be set in today's world and work, but that does not matter – it is of its time and it is gloriously over the top.
And we finish with the number 3 film on my personal list. (So, Rollerball is number one, and number two is Monty Python's Life Of Brian, while number four is Casino… yes, my list of top films is slightly eclectic.) I have been a fan of the Arthurian mythos since my maternal grandmother introduced me to T.H. White's book The Sword In The Stone, and so when I got the chance to see this film, I leapt at it. It follows quite well Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (I've read a translation) telling the tale of King Arthur from conception to death. Sure, a number of the legends are left out, but the core of Arthur becoming king, forming the Round Table, being betrayed by Lancelot and Guinevere, facing Mordred and then being taken to the Isle of Apples is all there. The use of the track 'O Fortuna' is superbly done, the sense of the Arthurian tales being a metaphor for the cycle of the year through its seasons is also right there, and the final forgiveness of those who betrayed him feels sincere. The acting is occasionally over the top (especially Nicol Williamson's Merlin) but the fight scenes, with heavy weapons, blood and pain, and struggling to battle through are amazing. And Helen Mirren has rarely looked that good. This is a beautiful film to watch. This is a great film.
And there you have it – 5 films that I feel are underrated and should be given more love. Sometimes it feels like the big blockbusters are the only films people talk about, or else pretentious films with more "meaning" than story. These films are designed to be fun, for entertainment, to be watched and enjoyed.
I hope you find something here to pique your interest!