September is traditionally the worst month for new movie releases; the summer blockbuster season is over and the Oscar-potentials are a month or two away, so it’s a great time to fire up the DVD or Blu-Ray player and enjoy some of the classics. I’ve broken down some of the best films in three different genres for your viewing pleasure. All of these are on my “must” list, so get cracking.Thrillers
It’s hard to accept that the best work of Alfred Hitchcock is nearly sixty years old. Every film buff has their own favourite, but for my eyeball fatigue, I’ll take 1959’s North by Northwest starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. It’s no secret that Hitchcock loved the idea of the mistaken identity, and North by Northwest is thought to be the best example of this theme.
Grant plays Madison Avenue advertising executive Roger Thornbull, who’s thought to be spy George Kaplan, and is kidnapped, almost murdered, and chased across the United States in an effort to recover secrets contained in a roll of microfilm. The microfilm (and some people think that the mistaken identity of George Kaplan as well) is a classic MacGuffin, a plot device that drives the story (like the Rabbit’s Foot in Mission Impossible III, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, and the mineral unobtanium in Avatar).
Never mind that the classic crop-dusting scene, where Grant is being chased thru a cornfield in by a biplane, is undoubtedly the prototype for every great chase scene, the entire flick is a go-getter from start to finish. Other sequences of note are any with Eva Marie Saint, the use of Mount Rushmore as the setting for one of the climatic scenes, and is #4 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Top Thrillers of all time.Sci-Fi/Horror
Nothing terrified me more than Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright (also a Hitchcock alumnae), John Hurt, and Ian Holm. Then again I was a pre-teen at the time.
The space ship Nostromo is returning to Earth after mining a far away planet. So far, in fact, that the entire crew was put into suspended animation in order to make the journey bearable. Acting on orders from the Earth based corporation, the computer controlled ship awakens the crew to investigate a transmission from a nearby planetoid.
Captain Dallas (Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (Hurt), and Navigator Lambert (Cartwright) investigate the signal’s source while Warrant Officer Ripley (Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Holm), and the others stay on the ship to monitor their progress and make repairs. As expected, mayhem ensues, nightmares created, and a classic is born.
Alien was arguably the first major film of the Sci-Fi/Horror genre and it’s easy to see why; the pacing and tone of the film ebb and flow like a classical masterpiece and the special effects (especially the HR Geiger designed titular character) hold up better than expected. Add the fact that it spawned (pun intended) numerous sequels and crossovers (along with the Predator series),
Alien is also credited with launching both the career of Sigourney Weaver and the female action stars. You might not have Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider or Mila Jojovich as Alice in the Resident Evil movies has it not been for Ripley. Note: Alien is #6 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Top Thrillers of all time.Comedy
Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I grab my copy of 1980’s Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Bill Murray, and Michael O’Keefe. Caddyshack somewhat meanderingly follows the story of young caddy Danny Noonan (O’Keefe) who is trying to get a scholarship to college from Bushwood Country Club co-founder Judge Smails (Knight).
While working for Ty Webb (Chase), Danny learns about golf (“Be the ball, Danny”), life (“Remember Danny - Two wrongs don’t make a right but three rights make a left.”) and love (“Don’t be obsessed with your desires Danny. The Zen philosopher Basha once wrote, ‘A flute with no holes, is not a flute. A donut with no hole, is a Danish.’ He was a funny guy.”)
Along the way, we are treated to some of the best improv ever, courtesy of assistant greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Murray). Entire websites have been created to honour this bastion of expressiveness in his quest to eliminate the dreaded gopher incursion at Bushwood.
When Al Czervik (Dangerfield) shows up as a rich real estate tycoon hell-bent on making Bushwood a little less stuffy, the sparks fly. The climax of the movie features explosions galore during a wagered golf match between Webb and Czervik versus Smails and Dr. Beeper (played by Dan Resin).
Two of the most memorable scenes in the movie, one where Carl is telling another caddy about his time working for the Dali Lama, and the famous “Cinderella story” sequence were entirely ad-libbed from Murray and can be quoted verbatim by many Caddyshack fans.
Even though this classic golf slapstick comedy got mixed reviews when it was released, it has gone on to become one of the classic comedies of all time, ranking on the AFI Top 100 funniest American films
, and even resides at #2 on Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movie
list. Caddyshack is a must-watch for any sports or comedy loving movie fan. WH