By Will the Thrill
On the Thrill-bill this month: TWISTED LOVE STORIES
Feb. 3: Last Tango in Paris (1972, Rated X)
Feb. 10: Some Like it Hot (1959)
Feb. 17: Eyes Without a Face (1958)
Feb. 24: Harold and Maude (1970)
There's been a lot of back-flak regarding the whole Y2K thing. Purists say the real new millennium doesn't kick in officially till Kubrick time, that is, 2001. This is because if you count from Zero, then Ten is the final year of the first Decade, Twenty the final year of the second, etc. But dig it: does that mean when you turn 30 you're not really in your 30s, but the final year of your 20s? That when you're 50 you're at the tail end of your 40s, clinging on for dear life to a semblance of society-sanctioned youth? I bet none of these anal chronological cops politely postpone their own midlife crises, do you?
Anyway, point made in that department. Let's move on.
I told myself I wasn't going to fall into the Top Ten of the Century Trap, like everyone else did last month in a feeding frenzy of media madness. So I waited. Here it is, my highly subjective list of the Top 20 Movies of the 20th Century:
The way I arrived at these conclusions was simple: I went through my favorite film genres - 50s monster movies, film noir, Elvis movies, Russ Meyer movies, Japanese gangster movies, Mexican wrestling movies, Rat Pack movies, Marilyn Monroe movies, Godzilla movies, Ray Harryhausen movies, etc. and chose my absolute desert island favorites from there. (You could ask, is there a difference between Best and Favorite? I say no - if it leaves that strong an impression on you, it's great, no matter what the budget was or how much star power it had.) Sometimes I even had to break it down further - my favorite 50s monster is the Creature From the Black Lagoon, but he made three movies, including Revenge of the Creature and number 9 above (for the record, after the first five, there is no order of preference - I wrote 'em as I thought of 'em). So I chose number nine because that's my favorite of the trilogy. Then I asked myself, what's my favorite Vengeful Walking Tree Monster movie? Hands down, number 15 is it. As for my all-time favorite, I Was A Teenage Werewolf, many of you will ask why? Well, see it, and ask me again. And you'll probably want to. Okay, I'll just tell you now: it was my favorite movie growing up, and since I decided to stop growing up - not finding much future in it - it still is.
Number 17, Tokyo Drifter, is from the unsung Japanese genius action director Seizun Suzuki, who influenced everyone from Peckinpah to John Woo. It was a close call between this one and Youth of the Beast (1963) let me tell you. Likewise, it was virtually a dead heat between Peckinpah's Wild Bunch (number 11) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Ask me again tomorrow, I might choose differently.
Extremely Honorable Mention goes to: This Island Earth (1955), The She Creature (1956), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Daughter of Horror (1955), The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1959), The Hideous Sun Demon (1959), I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (1957), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1959), Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959), The Killer (1989), Goldfinger (1964), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Tarantula (1955), On the Waterfront (1955), High School Confidential (1958), Cool Hand Luke (1967), King Kong (1933), Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1954), Teaserama (with Bettie Page, 1954), Night Tide (1960), Niagara (1953), Blue Hawaii (1961), Pal Joey (1957), The Nutty Professor (1963), and oh, maybe two hundred or so others, obviously too numerous to list here.
"But, Mr. Thrill," some of you are no doubt wondering, "most, in fact, practically all of the movies you chose for your 20th Century list are from the same time period - the 1950s and 60s. Aren't you leaving out a few decades there?"
Well, children, this is because those are my favorite decades of the past millennium. So all my favorite stuff comes from that era. However, for the record, here are my Top Five Films from each of the last three decades, just so you know I'm still awake and alert in the current time zone:
1.Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (I feel better now)
2.Sugar Hill (the blaxploitation classic about a babe and her zombie hit men, not the lame Wesley Snipes movie)
3.The Godfather 1 and 2 (of course - I'm a guy)
4.American Graffiti (a period piece that actually gets it right - George Lucas went downhill fast from here)
5.Dawn of the Dead (but so intense I can only watch it every three years or so)
1.Lost Highway (David Lynch's masterpiece, and odds are, you disagree, which only enforces my opinion)
2.Ed Wood (a perfect movie - Tim Burton and I must be related somehow, and Johnny Depp is the Anti-Cruise)
3.Mars Attacks! (there're two kinds of people in this world - the other kind prefers Independence Day)
4.Swingers (one word: it starts with an 'm')
5. True Romance (the only Tarantino flick I dig, but this homage to Elvis/comic books/Hong Kong action movies and pop culture in general rocks, excuse me, swings)
BEST MOVIE OF 1999: The Iron Giant.
Key element of all my choices: Style. But lists are stupid and pointless. I just saw a great cheesy movie the other day, The Atomic Submarine (1960), that I thoroughly enjoyed, more so than any other movie I've seen this century. Fact is, I can't live without any of my favorite movies, all five hundred or so of 'em. And I don't plan to.
Anyway, my theme this month, in honor of Valentine's Day, is Twisted Love Stories. Vic Valentine, the pathetic detective hero of my one published novel of the 20th Century, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, knows all about twisted romance. He learned from me. Here's one for you: Many of you thrill seekers don't realize that my first lovely assistant was my ex-wife. I met her in a video store, Movie Image, in Berkeley, where I was a clerk and she was a customer. We dated for two wacky weeks. Got engaged. Celebrated our engagement at an Elvis birthday party guest starring my pal Yvonne Craig (Batgirl and Kissin' Cousins) and the fabulous local legend Elvis Herselvis, almost got married that night, but decided it was prudent to wait. So two weeks later we got hitched in the comedy section of the video store. Six months later we got divorced. (As Lounge Lizard King, I had to have an ex-wife, so I decided to get it over with.) I resorted to pulling lovely assistants out of the audience. When I showed Jailhouse Rock back in May of 1997 in the old Midnight Lounge here at The Parkway, the one I chose turned out to be the future Tiki Goddess, Monica . She even showed me her Elvis tattoo, but we didn't get together right away. I didn't see her again for six months, then ran into her again at the Ivy Room in Albany - at another Elvis birthday celebration. And now she's my lovely assistant off and of stage. We're engaged to be married at the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Showroom at the Cal Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe on May 31, 2001. I'm taking my time with this one, since she's my one and only. With her, I have all the time in the world.
So the point of me relating all of this is to encourage you to come to Thrillville Theater this month and roll your own dice in The Parkway's casino of love.
First is Bernardo Bertolucci's famous cosmopolitan tale of dysfunctional lust, Last Tango in Paris (Feb. 3rd), featuring the great Brando before he started using all that butter for making cookies, not love. Then there's Billy Wilder's matchless comedy gem Some Like It Hot (Feb. 10), set in the Roaring (19)20s, featuring cross-dressing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, gorgeous and endearingly neurotic Marilyn Monroe, plus the rest of a killer cast including George Raft and Joe E. Brown, all at their absolute funniest - and sexiest. Remember - "nobody's perfect!" (This one also makes Honorable Mention for my All Time Favorites list). Next is the eerie French horror masterpiece Eyes Without a Face (Feb. 17th; AKA The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus), which qualifies as being the most twisted of the whole bunch. It is also very influential - the plot of a mad scientist searching for bodies to replace dead tissue on his beloved (daughter) has been done many times since, but never with the same nightmarishly poetic brilliance. Last is the crowd-pleasing counter-culture cult classic Harold and Maude (Feb. 24th), the sick, hilarious May-December romance of Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon that proves where's there's a Thrill, there's a way.
NEXT MONTH: BIKERS AND REBELS!
March 2: The Wild One
March 9: Rebel Without a Cause
March 16: Blackboard Jungle
March 23: The Misfits
March 30: The Warriors