What will likely shiver your bones on Halloween? It’s not the fake tombstones. Or the recorded witch voice. And not even the children’s dentist bills.
The true terror will be the realization that at midnight, on Halloween, many movies will disappear from the Criterion Channel. Now that’s scary! So here are some of the best films that will leave the Channel when October becomes November.
A The Wedding Banquet (1993)
This comedic drama made director Ang Lee famous. A Chinese immigrant in New York has never told his parents in Taiwan that he’s gay, and has been living with his boyfriend for years. He marries a woman for tax purposes, and also to stop his parents’ nagging (this was before same-sex marriage was a thing). So, Mom and Dad fly half-way around the world for the wedding, and an appropriate charade of festivities must be played out. The movie is warm, funny, and sad.
A Touch of Evil (1958)
Orson Welles’ film noir classic, and his last Hollywood studio feature. He lacked the freedom he found in Europe, but the bigger budget – and perhaps even the studio oversight – resulted in one of his best works. As a corrupt border-town sheriff, Welles makes a bloated, scary, yet strangely sympathetic villain. Janet Leigh is a lovely and effective damsel in distress. As the hero, a brilliant Mexican detective played by Charlton Heston is…well, he’s miscast, although not as badly as some people say. Read my Blu-ray review.
A- 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
This George Pal fantasy is still one of the best children’s films ever made – and yet, much of it is pointed to the adults in the audience. Tony Randall, made up as an old, brilliant Chinese magician, comes to a small town in the old west and sets up a circus. This new stranger uses magic to help the townspeople understand themselves and find their true happiness. Yes, the yellow face is a problem, but it wasn’t when the film was made.
A- The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
There’s no one main character in this noir directed by John Huston. Instead, we get to know six very different criminals as they set out together to steal a fortune in diamonds. Sam Jaffe plays the German egghead who plans the heist. Louis Calhern performs the wealthy and respectable lawyer with plans to take all the loot for himself. Marc Lawrence is a husband and father. The cast also includes Sterling Hayden, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, and a not-yet famous Marilyn Monroe. The movie gets a bit slow at the end, with a speech we didn’t near to hear.
A- Bernie (2011)
Jack Black stars as Bernie Tiede, a real person who became a popular assistant funeral director in a small Texas town. As Black plays Tiede, he’s sweet, likeable, and a murderer. He seems to genuinely care about the bereaved people he comforts as part of his job. His voice and mannerisms suggest that he’s gay, yet you suspect he’s never acted on those urges. He ardently loves Jesus, as well as the people living around him. And yet he shot an old woman four times in the back and hid her body in a trunk for nine months. Also starring Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. Directed and co-written by Richard Linklater. Read my full article.
B+ The Good Earth (1937)
I didn’t expect a movie with Hollywood stars in yellowface to be so good. I became immediately engrossed in this epic about a Chinese farmer (Paul Muni) and his family. His wife (Luise Rainer) is stronger and smarter than he. They struggle with draught, famine, and immigration to the big city. The production values are amazing. Unfortunately, most of the main characters are played by white actors in yellow face.
Other films probably worth watching
If you want to see all the films that will disappear after Halloween, here’s the full list.