5 more essential films from the Masters of Cinema collection
Right then, it’s been a month since I last penned something on this blog, but the wait is finally over. Here is a new blog post, and by extension, a continuation of the very first one I wrote on this blog.
As you may recall, for that particular post, I compiled a top five list of the most essential parts of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema collection. And seeing as how we’re running a competition in conjunction with the Masters of Cinema collection, here is a countdown of the top five next best instalments in the series.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
When you think of Stanley Kubrick and the war genre, what is the first thing that comes into your head? Full Metal Jacket? Dr. Strangelove? Maybe even Fear and Desire? Well how about Kubrick’s controversial World War I fable Paths of Glory? Starring Kirk Douglas (whose influence managed to get Kubrick the directing gig on Spartacus following the dismissal of Anthony Mann), the film tells of a general desperately trying to achieve the acquittal of three shell-shocked members of his platoon, after they are scapegoated for a military blunder.
There are many admirable things about this film, including the frank depiction of life in the trenches during the conflict, demonstrated by the lengthy tracking shots throughout the opening battle sequences as Colonel Dax (Douglas) makes his way through the trenches and the soldiers advance over the top. There are even elements of German Expressionism thrown in, such as the lighting of a prison cell as the soldiers are held throughout the trial.
Of course, this would not be a Stanley Kubrick feature if the film did not contain a blunt and forthright depiction of trials for cowardice and a look at the human condition that really caused a stir among military features across Europe and the States upon its original release. Want to know more? Watch the film.
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Dir: Raoul Walsh
Now onto a film that I first watched during my university days, before it landed a spot in the collection. As Blazing Saddles put it: “How did he do such terrific stunts with such little feet?”. Well, let’s find out.
A pinnacle of silent cinema swashbucklers, The Thief of Bagdad provides Douglas Fairbanks an opportunity to show his stuff on the screen. Adapted from the time-old tale 1001 Arabian Nights, the film tells the story of a thief who falls in love with the daughter of a caliph (guess which certain animated feature took influence here) and must take on numerous tasks to win her hand.
What we receive is a feature crammed with romance, stunts and otherworldly visuals (including trick photography to create the illusion of a flying carpet and magic rope), demonstrating why this is the high point in the career of Douglas Fairbanks.
Bonus points for cinephiles who will note this film as the stepping stone for Anna May Wong, one of the many prominent Asian-American actresses of early Hollywood. It also serves as a good double feature with the 1940 British Technicolour remake produced by Alexander Korda and co-directed by a then-unknown Michael Powell.
The Quiet Man (1952)
Dir: John Ford
A personal, passion-project shaped departure for two men named John, Ford and Wayne, The Quiet Man is an adaptation of a 1933 short story that tells the story of a romance set in 1920s Ireland.
Mostly associated with the Western genre (they had to go through three of them for Republic Pictures to get this film made), this film serves an interesting deviation for both Ford and Wayne as the two head off to the country of the former’s roots. Although, this isn’t the first time Ford has paid homage to his Gaelic roots, given he made the 1935 remake of the 1929 silent feature The Informer and 1941’s How Green Was My Valley, or deviated from the western genre, as his adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath showed, The Quiet Man serves as another worthy addition to that string of films Ford made alongside his Westerns.
The performances are quite something from the likes of Wayne and co-stars Maureen O’Hara and Victor McLaglen (all because Ford criticised his performance and his fight scene shows that rage boiling over). But the thing that makes The Quiet Man really stand out is Winton Hoch’s cinematography. It perfectly captures the beauty of the Irish landscape (sweeping vistas of the rolling hills) and the tone of each scene, including the boxing match that sent Sean Thornton (Wayne) away from America and to the land of his birth. So make yourselves useful and purchase a copy.
Dir: George Stevens
Okay, let’s talk the revisionist western. Starting at some point in 1943 with Henry Hathaway’s The Ox-Bow Incident, we have had countless additions to the genre, including The Searchers, Johnny Guitar, High Noon, Anthony Mann’s contributions and of course the subject of this entry, Shane.
Adapted from Jack Schaefer’s 1949 novel, the film presents the tale of a gunfighter trying to settle down at a homestead, until he is called into action once more when a rancher (Emile Meyer) and gunfighter Jack Wilson (a pretty creepy Jack Palance) come calling. You may have seen this movie referenced recently in Logan (which also took influence from the film), when Professor X is watching the movie on TV and talks about when he first saw it, but I’ll go into more detail (my apologies Sir Patrick).
Shane is truly a classic western, from the performances from leads Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur, as well as supporting players as young Brandon deWilde and the aforementioned Palance. Like some of our other entries on the list, the cinematography (this time by Loyal Griggs – what a name) is a sight to behold, taking advantage of the epic landscape, apt for the film’s conflict. A copy of the film awaits the contents of your wallet.
Paper Moon (1973)
Dir: Peter Bogdanovich
Our final entry on the list comes from a certain New Hollywood figure feeling a bit of nostalgia for classical cinema. After reminiscing about the past with two love letters in the form of films Targets, The Last Picture Show and What’s Up Doc?, Peter Bogdanovich opens the Frank Capra and John Ford box of tricks to present an adaptation Joe David Brown’s novel Addie Pray.
With a screenplay penned by Oscar winning writer Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People, Spider-Man 2), Paper Moon tells the story of a road trip taken by a con artist posing as a bible salesman and a young girl (played by Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum) and the unlikely bond they form.
The performances are admirable, especially that of Tatum O’Neal who took home the Best Supporting Actress accolade for her performance of Addie Loggins (beating out fellow teenage nominee Linda Blair of The Exorcist), and the bond between the two main characters is made believable given the leads are family.
Like Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, the film is laden with monochrome cinematography evoking the sense of nostalgia the director has for the past and acting as homage to John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. There’s a lot to love about this movie, so get purchasing.
Honourable mentions: The Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932), Wooden Crosses (Raymond Bernard, 1932), The Saga of Anatahan (Josef von Sternberg, 1953), The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955), Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo, 1964), A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971), Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1971)
You can check out the entire Masters of Cinema collection on the musicMagpie Store right now. Hundreds of classic movies at amazing prices – why wouldn’t you?