Since today is Dario Argento’s 80th birthday, I’m going to share a scene that I love that he directed.
I love the opening of Argento’s 1971 giallo, Four Flies On Grey Velvet. This was Argento’s third film as a director and it tells the story of an American drummer who gets caught up in a gruesome murder. In the opening credits, we watch as Michael Brandon drums away and finds time to take care of a distracting fly. In just a matter of minutes, Argento tells us everything we need to know about our hero and the role that he’ll be playing in this film. Like the best drummers, he holds everything together and that’s a good skill to have because, in typical Argento fashion, his entire life is about to fall apart.
Werner Herzog and Friend (Image from the documentary The Burden of Dreams)
Since today is Werner Herzog’s birthday, I thought I would share a Herzog scene that I love.
Herzog is such an iconic and eccentric figure that I think there’s a tendency to overlook just how good of a director and a storyteller he actually is. People just tend to think of him as being the man with the German accent who makes random comments about how the universe is governed by chaos.
But, he’s actually a brilliant director as well and if you need proof, just watch his 1972 film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God. The scene below is actually from the final few minutes of the film so I guess it’s technically a spoiler if you haven’t seen the film yet. That said, people who get upset about spoilers are wimps.
Klaus Kinski plays Aguirre, a Spanish conquistador who attempts to conquer the South America by floating down the Amazon River. Things don’t quite go the way that he intended. By the end of the film, all of his man are dead and a large amount of monkeys are congregating on his raft. Has Aguirre conquered the monkeys or have they conquered him?
The film is 1968’s Danger Diabolik! The music is courtesy of Morricone. The direction is courtesy of Mario Bava. Does the scene make any sense? Does it have to? This film is all about pure style and it’s hard to think of any place as stylish (by 1968 standards) as Valmont’s Nightclub.
Today, as we continue to honor the memory of Ennio Morricone and celebrate the birthday of Mario Bava, this just seems like the perfect scene to share.
Stanley Kubrick would have been 92 years old today!
In honor of this visionary and his career, here is a wonderfully creepy scene from his final film, 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut. Like so many of Kubrick’s films, it took a while for people to really appreciate Eyes Wide Shut. It’s an odd and, at times, frustrating film but still a film touched by genius.
In this scene, Tom Cruise discovers that it’s not quite as easy to crash a super secret party as he thought it would be.
I woke up today to the news that Olivia De Havilland, the last of the great Golden Age stars, had died. She was 104 years old and she spent all of those years as the epitome of a type of grace and class that we really don’t see much nowadays. Her famous feud with her sister Joan Fontaine aside, it’s impossible to imagine an actress like Olivia de Havilland getting caught up in a silly twitter fight.
Mel Brooks. What can you say Mel Brooks? Not only did he help to redefine American comedy but he was also responsible for bringing David Lynch to Hollywood. Brooks was the one who hired Lynch to direct The Elephant Man. It can probably be argued that, if not for Brooks, Lynch’s feature film career would have begun and ended with Eraserhead. Brooks not only hired Lynch but also protected him for studio interference. When the execs tried to make Lynch remove two surrealistic sequences from The Elephant Man, Brooks stood up to them. When they requested a more conventional biopic, Brooks defended Lynch’s vision and the result was one of the best films ever made.
Of course, Brooks isn’t listed in the credits of The Elephant Man. Though he produced the film, he went uncredited because he didn’t want people to assume that the movie was a comedy. By doing so, Brooks missed out on an Oscar nomination but he also ensured that the film was taken seriously. It’s hard not to respect someone who was willing to go uncredited to help make the film a success.
Though Brooks, as a producers, was responsible for a number of serious films, there’s a reason why Brooks is associated with comedy. He’s a very funny man and he directed some very funny films. In honor of Mel Brooks, here’s a scene that I love from 1974’s Young Frankenstein.
Today is Daria Nicolodi’s birthday so what better time than now to share a scene that I love from Dario Argento’s 1975 masterpiece, Deep Red?
Now, this might seem like a strange scene to love but you have to understand it in context of the overall film. (And yes, the scene is in Italian but surely you can figure out that it’s a scene of two people flirting.) Deep Red is often thought as being merely a superior giallo film but it’s also, in its way, a rather sweet love story. David Hemmings and Daria Nicolodi may investigate a murder but they also fall in love and the two of them have a very sweet chemistry, which is fully displayed in this scene and which elevates the entire film. Deep Red is a giallo where you care about the characters as much as you care about the murders.
While making this film, Daria Nicolodi and Dario Argento also fell in love and they went on to have a rather tumultuous relationship. Personally, I think that Argento’s most recent films are underrated but it’s still hard to deny that the ones that he made with Nicolodi have a heart to them that is missing from some of his later work.
So, in honor of Daria Nicolodi and her important role in the history of Italian horror, here she is with David Hemmings in Deep Red!
Since today is the 113th anniversary of the birth of John Wayne, I decided to watch the 1962 classic, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance! And then I decided to share a scene that I love from the film.
The famous steak scene features three of the greatest screen icons of Hollywood’s golden age: James Stewart, John Wayne, and Lee Marvin. Lee Marvin is the bully who is terrorizing the entire town. James Stewart is the idealist who thinks that the law, and not violence, is the answer. And John Wayne is …. well, he’s John Wayne. He’s the only man in town who can stand up to Lee Marvin but, at the same time, he’s also aware that his time is coming to a close. In the scene below, all three of the characters display their different approaches to life and a disagreement with steak nearly leads to violence.
This scene — and really, the entire film — features these three actors at their best. John Wayne is an actor who is often described as having “just played himself” but that’s really not quite fair. While Wayne’s outsized persona definitely does influence how the audience reacts to any character that he plays, he was a better actor than he’s often given credit for being. That’s especially evident in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, in which Wayne plays a confident man’s man who knows that fate is closing in on him. The coming of civilization (represented by James Stewart) will be great for the town of Shinbone but it will also leave men like Wayne’s Ton Doniphon with nowhere to go. The coming of civilization means that the heroes of the past are destined to become obsolete.
Enjoy this scene from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:
Harvey Keitel is one of those actors who has given so many great performances that it’s difficult to pick which one is his best. He’s almost always great, even when the film sometimes isn’t. That said, I’ll always have a lot of affection for the character of Winston Wolfe, the cleaner that Keitel played in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Keitel doesn’t show up until the final third of Pulp Fiction but once he does, he pretty much takes over the entire film. For me, though, my favorite Winston Wolfe moment comes at the end of his story, when he says goodbye to John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson and essentially reveals himself to be kind of an old-fashioned, almost dorky (if impeccably dressed) guy.