What makes these films different from any other films? Most of them are horror movies. Also, most of them will disappear from The Criterion Channel come midnight, December 31. Stream them before they go away.
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) escapes 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 a very funny Robert De Niro as a heroic plumber. Read my Blu-ray review.
A He Ran All the Way (1951)
I never heard of this short, cheap crime thriller until it blew me away. A violent robbery goes wrong and a guard is dead. The killer (John Garfield) finds himself in the apartment of a very nice family, which includes a young adult daughter (Shelley Winters) who immediately falls for this new guy in her life – even when he’s brandishing a gun and keeping her family hostage. Garfield gives one of his best performances as the thick-headed thug who wants to be liked by his victims. Very suspenseful from the beginning to the end. Co-written, without credit, by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.
A Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
You spend more time scared for the monster than of it in James Whales’ masterpiece. Boris Karloff plays the nameless creature as a child in a too-large body, the ultimate outcast torn between his need for love and his anger at the society that rejects him. With Colin Clive as the mad scientist, Ernest Thesiger as a delightfully over-the-top madder scientist, and Elsa Lanchester as both Mary Shelley and the monster’s mate (technically speaking, Valerie Hobson plays the actual Bride of Frankenstein).
B+ Panic in the Streets (1950)
A ruthless killer (Jack Palance in his first big screen performance) murders a man dying of pneumonic plague. Richard Widmark plays the military doctor whose job it is to contain the likely disaster–which includes finding the criminals (oh if it was only that easy in real life). Set and shot in New Orleans, the suspense tightens by the minute. The terrific climax is exceptional. Zero Mostel plays one of the nicer criminals.
B+ Frankenstein (1931)
James Whales’ original Frankenstein is atmospheric and beautiful. Besides, No one played Dr. Frankenstein’s nameless creation like Boris Karloff, who interpreted the monster as an ugly child in a too-large body – an outcast torn between his need for love and his anger at the society that rejects him.
B The Invisible Man (1833)
A lesser effort by director James Whale – Universal’s “King of Horror.” While not up to Whale’s Frankenstein movies, this H. G. Wells adaptation provides plenty of pleasures. Claude Rains, in his first film role, gives his distinctive voice to the unseen title character – a scientist whose invisibility has turned him into a megalomaniac. The story is full of holes and absurdities. The advantages of being unseen doesn’t help much when you must stay naked in the English countryside. Silly, but fun.
B Island of Lost Souls (1932)
This early Paramount horror film, based on another story by H.G. Wells, relies almost entirely through atmosphere. You’ve got fog, an alcoholic ship captain, the strange island of the title, and a group of creatures that are half-men/half-animal. And, of course, there’s Charles Laughton as the most courteous mad doctor in the history of Hollywood mad doctors. And then, of course, there’s the Panther Woman. A short and entertaining horror movie.
Other films probably worth watching
- The Black Cat
- Cat People (1983 version)
- Creature from the Black Lagoon
- Dracula (1931 version)
- The Hunger
- Libeled Lady
- The Mummy
- Pierrot le fou
- The Postman Always Rings Twice
- The Wolf Man
Click here to see all the films that will disappear from Criterion come 2023.