Here’s something to scare you as Halloween approaches: 45 movies will disappear from the Criterion Channel as the kids go virtual trick-or-treat. Here are six of these movies that I can recommend.
That doesn’t mean I hate the other 39. I just haven’t seen most of them. Others I haven’t seen or didn’t really like.
Unlike Kanopy, Criterion isn’t free. For a subscription of $11 a month or $100 a year, Criterion offers many US and international classics, along with extras such as commentary tracks. And you can start with a 14-day free trial.
Here are the six films that will disappear from the Criterion Channel Saturday:
A+ Brazil (1985)
One of the best black comedies ever filmed, and the best dystopian fantasy ever. In a bizarre, repressive, anally bureaucratic, and thoroughly dysfunctional society, one government worker (Jonathan Pryce) tries to escape into his own romantically heroic imagination. But when he finds a real woman who looks like the girl of his dreams (Kim Greist), everything starts to fall apart. With Robert De Niro as a heroic plumber. This is the second and best of Terry Gilliam’s three great fantasies of the 1980’s, and the only one clearly intended for adults. Read my Blu-ray review.
A Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
Cary Grant heads a team of mail plane pilots in a remote corner of South America. There’s little plot here, just a study of men who routinely fly under extremely dangerous conditions, and how they cope with death as an every-day part of life. The only non-comedy out of the five films that Grant made with director Howard Hawks.
A The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953)
The strangest children’s fantasy movie ever made by a major Hollywood studio is hilarious, bizarre, crazy, filled with very silly music, and with choreography like nothing you’ve seen before. The plot involves an evil music teacher (Hans Conried in the performance of his career) preparing to enslave 500 young boys to play his giant piano. Child actor and future computer genius Tommy Rettig plays the boy who must save the others. This is the only feature-length Dr. Seuss film made while Seuss (real name Theodor Geisel) was alive. He co-wrote the screenplay. He wrote the hilarious lyrics (well, most of the songs are hilarious). The bizarre sets designed by Cary Odell are clearly inspired by Seuss’ style of illustration.
A- Gallipoli (1981)
Two young, exceptional sprinters (Mark Lee and Mel Gibson) meet at a competition, become friends, and go to war almost for a lark. At first, it all seems like fun–especially when they’re in Egypt and acting like first-world tourists in a third-world country. But then they’re shipped off to Turkey, where the British use the Australians as cannon fodder. The turning point is a visual masterpiece: handsome and happy young men frolic and swim in a bay…until shrapnel starts hitting the water’s surface.
A- Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Preston Sturges bit the hand that fed him caviar with this satire of Hollywood itself. Joel McCrea stars as a successful director tired of making light-hearted comedies like Ants in Your Pants of 1939. To prepare himself for making a serious drama about the depression, he disguises himself as a hobo and rides the rails. The movie turns surprisingly dark in the last act and ends with a stirring speech proclaiming Sturges’ message: “Movies shouldn’t have messages.”
B The Killers (1946)
Burt Lancaster’s breakthrough movie isn’t called the “Citizen Kane of film noir” because it’s the best of its genre, but because of its multiple flashback story structure. When a gas station attendant (Burt Lancaster) is murdered, an investigator starts asking questions and a life of crime is revealed. It’s a fun little movie, and it introduced Burt Lancaster to the world as the likeable thug whose murder sets all those flashbacks in motion. Ava Gardner plays the femme fatale who enjoys and exploits Lancaster’s beefcake lug.