After the success of last months Go, See, Talk Presents – Double Feature Theatre Marc from Go, See, Talk is at it again asking us to pick our Top 10 list of oldies, the only catch, they have to be in black and white. The one stipulation “try to stick to the 30s 40s and 50s…and don’t pick Clerks just because its black and white” so that ruled out some modern classics like: Raging Bull (1980), Schindler’s List (1993), La Haine (1995) and Ed Wood (1994). As a fan of old movies the problem wasn’t coming up with ten movies, it was limiting myself to just ten. Surprisingly no movies by Alfred Hitchcock (my two favourite of his movies are in colour), Orson Welles or John Ford (both hard to leave out) made the final list:
Many old silent films were groundbreaking and influential but now look dated and silly. Whilst some of the acting is over the top and the plot isn’t always clear, Fritz Lang’s German expressionist classic still stands up as an enjoyable movie. Add this to the influence it has had on Sci-Fi and film making in general and you have one of my favourite old films. You don’t have to like it but if you are a film fan you really should see this movie.
King Kong (1933)
Starting life as a B picture, King Kong became an icon of cinema remade and imitated numerous times but never equalled. Its not just about the giant ape and Fay Wray’s screams, it is a well constructed and suspense filled action thriller. Despite being just 100 minutes long you have to wait until nearly the way point before seeing the titular primate. Don’t worry about the old stop motion animation it still looks great, certainly better the CGI the latest version.
Frankenstein (1931) Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Okay so I had to cheat, but these two movies really should be enjoyed together. I first saw them on channel four in the late 80’s and have seen them both numerous times since. Unaccredited in the first movie Boris Karloff has yet to be surpassed as The Monster after eighty years. The second movies is also one of the few sequels that it can be argued is better than the original movie.
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
So you think Quentin Tarantino made an impressive début with Reservoir Dogs, take a look at John Huston’s directorial debut The Maltese Falcon. An almost perfect detective noir thriller based on a Novel (of the same name) by Dashiell Hammett and boasting perfect casting: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting without getting contrived or silly.
The greatest war film ever, with a twist, there isn’t any war/battle scenes in it. Set in unoccupied Africa during World War II an American expatriate in exile meets a former lover. Eminently quotable (and misquoteable!) tells a different side to war mixed in with a complex love story. Made in 1942 it is a contemporary, if fictional WWII movie. And don’t think it was what we now know as a big “tent pole” movie, based on an un-produced play and shot mainly on sound stages and Warner’s Burbank Studios for around $950,000 (a lot of that went to actors salaries) it was one of around 70 movies released by Warner in 1942, but as they say the cream rises to the top.
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
I saw most of the classic Ealing comedies when I was a kid. This remains my favourite. Dennis Price is perfectly cast as Louis Mazzini, a man compelled to murdering the eight of his relative. The real star of the movie is Alec Guinness who plays all eight relatives.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Cinema was built on genre movies and one of my favourite genres in noir. A far darker movie than your average noir thanks to Mickey Spillane’s antihero Mike Hammer. I think I first saw this movie in 1994, it was the last movie Alex Cox introduced on Moviedrome, the BBC2 cult movie series that ran for twelve years from 1988. I have seen it numerous times since and never get tired of it. As well as being a great movie, it is also a highly influential one.
12 Angry Men (1957)
With most of the action taking place in one room over a single day this movie really shouldn’t work. Its little more than a play on screen, but thanks to fantastic writing and perfect casting it is a true classic. I don’t remember when I first saw it, it has always been there in my consciousness. It is one of those movie that you come across when flicking through channels and aren’t turn off. The moment when Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) stabs the knife into the table is one of the simplest but most iconic in cinema history.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
I nearly didn’t include this movie on the list as it came out in 1960, a fraction outside the suggested parameters but as one of the most beautifully photographed black and white movies ever made. It is also a highly influential and classic movie.
As a side to this piece, four of my selected movies (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, King Kong, Some Like It Hot) have been “colorized”. Possibly the most pointless process ever devised in the history of cinema. Humphrey Bogart’s son Stephen is reported to have said: “if you’re going to colorize Casablanca, why not put arms on the Venus de Milo?”
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