Another
100 Greatest Films

Summaries - Part 3





Another 100 Greatest Films
Summaries - Part 3
(Links to Comprehensive Film Reviews)
Selection Criteria

D (continued)

Dracula (1931)
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan
Director: Tod Browning
The classic horror film, the first screen version of Bram Stoker's famous tale, that launched Bela Lugosi's career in his most famous role as the Transylvanian, blood-sucking vampire. Begins with a masterful twenty minutes, in the Carpathian Mountains at Count Dracula's castle, and Dracula's lugubrious introduction: "I...am...Dracula." British real-estate salesman Renfield (Frye) arrives at the dark castle to arrange for the sale of an English manor house to Count Dracula (Lugosi). Renfield becomes Dracula's demented slave as they return to London, where Dracula is smitten by Mina Seward (Chandler), but is fought off by vampire-hunter Van Helsing (Van Sloan). Followed by the sequel Dracula's Daughter. No Academy Award nominations.
 

E

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (tie)
Starring:
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams
Director: Irvin Kershner
The second in the famous Star Wars trilogy of fantastic science-fiction films, often rated as the best in the trilogy, with stunning special-effects, great characters and a rich, comic-bookish storyline. Again, evil Darth Vader continues to aid the Emperor to determinedly crush the Rebel forces. The Rebel Alliance, on the frozen and icy planet Hoth, are threatened by troops attacking from the Galactic Empire, and space jockey Han Solo (Ford) and Princess Leia Organa (Fisher) - with the Wookie Chewbacca and the two robotic droids (R2-D2 and C-3PO) - flee to Cloud City ruled by supposed-ally Lando Calrissian (Williams). Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is mentored about the wise ways of the Force and Jedi Knights by the last great Jedi Master, a gnome-like, swamp-dwelling Yoda on the planet Dagobah. The film culminates with a climactic show-down between Luke and Darth Vader. Followed by Return of the Jedi (1983). Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Original Score. Academy Awards: 1, including Best Sound. Also a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects.
The Exorcist (1973)
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max von Sydow
Director: William Friedkin
A disturbing, shocking, exploitative, and frightening film adaptation of William Peter Blatty's best-selling, blockbuster book about satanic demon possession. A sweet pre-teenaged girl Regan (Blair) becomes possessed by an evil spirit - and is soon transformed and disfigured into a head-rotating, levitating, green vomit-spewing, obscenity-shouting creature. Her divorced mother Mrs. MacNeil (Burstyn) is at wit's end, until she calls on a dedicated, faith-questioning Jesuit priest Father Karras (Miller) to exorcise the malevolent devil from her daughter's body. An elderly priest Father Merrin (von Sydow), whose archaeology project released the Satanic being, also risks his life to administer rites of exorcism with incantations and holy water. Academy Award Nominations: 10, including Best Picture, Best Actress--Ellen Burstyn, Best Supporting Actor--Jason Miller, Best Supporting Actress--Linda Blair, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Film Editing. Academy Awards: 2, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound.
 

F

Fargo (1996)
Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Kristin Rudrid
Director: Joel Coen
An offbeat, clever, kidnap whodunit-caper and black comedy, a tale of greed and crime, involving a financially-stricken Midwestern car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (Macy) who ineptly schemes to kidnap his own wife Jean (Rudrid). When his hired henchmen Carl and Gaear (Buscemi and Stormare) botch the kidnapping, their murderous plan is persistently investigated by Marge Gunderson (McDormand), the pregnant police chief of Brainerd, Minnesota. Academy Award nominations: 7, including Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Best Director, Best Supporting Actor -- William H. Macy. Academy Awards: 2, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Original Screenplay (Ethan and Joel Coen).
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Sally Struthers
Director: Bob Rafelson
An existential, off-beat road movie and character study of classical concert pianist-turned-oil rigger who must reluctantly return home. A talented musician-pianist Robert Dupea (Nicholson) abandons his privileged, well-to-do family background, becoming the black sheep of his family as a crass, drifting, redneck, rough, beer-drinking oil worker in Southern California. After a period of twenty years, he confronts his past when he returns home to Washington State (Puget Sound) to his artistic, upper-class family and his dying father's deathbed, accompanied by his adoring but clinging, dim-witted, pregnant girlfriend Rayette (Black). With the most-famous scene in the road-side restaurant when he orders a chicken-salad sandwich from a stubborn, strict waitress. Academy Award Nominations: 4, including Best Picture, Best Actor--Jack Nicholson, Best Supporting Actress--Karen Black, Best Adapted Screenplay.
Frankenstein (1931)
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye
Director: James Whale
The classic horror film, adapted from Mary Shelley's famous 1818 novel, from the great director James Whale. With his hunchbacked, twitchy assistant Fritz (Frye), fanatical mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein (Clive) steals bodies from graves to assemble a creature - a mute, lumbering, flat-headed and browed Monster (Karloff) with visible facial scars, bolts in his neck and sunken eyes. Frankenstein shouts: "It's alive! Alive!" during the fantastic creation scene in his castle, when the hulking body comes alive with electricity harnassed from lightning. The revived, childlike brute with a criminal brain is misunderstood, and while playfully tossing flowers into a lake heaves in an innocent eight-year-old girl - who he imagines as another flower - to her drowning death. No Academy Award nominations.
The French Connection (1971)
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzufi
Director: William Friedkin
An action-packed, intense, gritty crime thriller filmed on location and based on a true story, starring two hard-nosed, vulgar New York City police cops who expose an international, heroin-smuggling operation based in Marseilles - headed by suave, elusive, mastermind crime boss Alain Charnier (Rey). Passionate, tough, pushy, and unorthodox narcotics detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Hackman) recklessly and obsessively fights crime with partner Buddy Russo (Scheider). With the breath-taking, famous elevated-railway scene of Doyle fearlessly chasing a runaway train - with Charnier's henchman Pierre Nicoli (Bozzufi) in a borrowed car while narrowly dodging traffic and bystanders. A sequel four years later chased Charnier to Marseilles. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Supporting Actor--Roy Scheider, Best Cinematography, Best Sound. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor--Gene Hackman, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing.
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Based on James Jones' best-selling, hard-hitting novel of on-duty/off-duty military life among recruits in the pre-Pearl Harbor era of 1941 - on the eve of WWII. A combination romance, combat and melodramatic film set at the Schofield Barracks Army base on Oahu. Sensitive bugler Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt (Clift) is dealt harsh treatment when he stubbornly refuses to fight for the company's boxing team. The bored company commander's wife Karen Holmes (Kerr) engages in a torrid affair with the good-guy Sgt. Milton Warden (Lancaster) - their embrace in the pounding surf is indelibly imprinted in cinematic history. Pruitt falls in love with a nightclub "hostess" (prostitute) Alma (Lorene) (Reed). Meanwhile, Prew's Italian friend Angelo Maggio (Sinatra) is tormented by sadistic stockade Sgt. "Fatso" Judson (Borgnine). Academy Award Nominations: 13, including Best Actor--Montgomery Clift, Best Actor--Burt Lancaster, Best Actress--Deborah Kerr, Best Dramatic Score, Best B/W Costume Design. Academy Awards: 8, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor--Frank Sinatra, Best Supporting Actress--Donna Reed, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best B/W Cinematography, Best Sound Recording, Best Film Editing.
 

G

GoodFellas (1990)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco
Director: Martin Scorsese
Based on Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction book Wiseguys - a definitive and stylish, violent gangster film, with a soundtrack that chronicles the passage of time through three decades of crime (the 50s to the 70s) in the life of a mid-level, aspiring mobster Henry Hill (Liotta). Raised on the streets of a Brooklyn neighborhood, he marries Karen (Bracco) and slowly advances up and climbs the Mafioso ladder. With superb performances by Joe Pesci as meanly psychotic wiseguy Tommy DeVito, and Robert DeNiro as paranoid James Conway. In the end as his life unravels, after dealing narcotics and becoming hooked, Hill protects himself and his wife by testifying and becoming part of the federal witness protection program - and being left in anonymous, suburbanized exile. Academy Award Nominations: 6, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress--Lorraine Bracco, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing. Academy Awards: 1, Best Supporting Actor--Joe Pesci.
Gun Crazy (1949 or 1950)
Starring: Peggy Cummins, John Dall
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
A cult, noirish love-on-the-run tale based on MacKinlay Kantor's story, pre Bonnie and Clyde, about a reckless couple fatally attracted to their firearms - and each other. One of the best B films ever made. After serving in the Army, gun-loving Bert Tare (Dall) meets trick sharp-shooter femme fatale Annie Laurie Starr (Cummins), portraying Annie Oakley in a Wild West carnival side-show - they are perfect companions. The two wild, amoral lovers marry - when financially strapped, they turn to a series of exciting cross-country robberies. One unnerving sequence is shot non-stop from a camera planted in the back seat of their getaway car. Their amour fou ultimately leads to their tragic end in a foggy swamp, brought down by their violent, jarring, reckless natures. No Academy Award nominations.
 

H

The Heiress (1949)
Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins
Director: William Wyler
A great romantic drama based on Henry James' 1880 novella Washington Square, with an icy musical score from Aaron Copland. In mid-19th century New York City, a plain, repressed, shy and virginal 'heiress' daughter Catherine Sloper (de Havilland) lives with her wealthy, arrogant, imperiously abusive, and domineering, widowed, patriarchal physician Dr. Sloper (Richardson). She remains a spinster, after her young, first love toward a handsome, but penniless, mysterious suitor and mercenary, scheming fortune hunter Morris Townsend (Clift) is thwarted by her stern, tyrannically-selfish father, who threatens to deny the bride-to-be her inheritance. Pitifully, she is jilted on the night of their elopement. Over many years, her anger is suppressed and simmers, and surfaces when insincere scoundrel Townsend returns and again asks for her hand in marriage. With rational, cold, controlled rage, she turns the tables on him in the final, chilling scene. Academy Award Nominations: 8, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor--Ralph Richardson, Best B/W Cinematography. Academy Awards: Best Actress--Olivia de Havilland, Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Dramatic Score, Best B/W Costume Design.
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, Roddy McDowall
Director: John Ford
A compelling, classic, heart-wrenching drama of a Welsh coal-mining family over a fifty-year period, adapted from a story by Richard Llewellyn. Told in voice-over narration and flashback as intelligent and sensitive 10 year-old Huw Morgan (McDowall) nostalgically looks back on a bygone way of life. Huw is the youngest of seven children (six sons and one beautiful daughter Angharad (O'Hara)) in the Morgan family, led by elderly Mr. and Mrs. Morgan (Crisp and Allgood). Tensions in the family grow at the beginning of the 20th century, during periods of labor unrest and workers' strike. When stern Mr. Morgan resentfully refuses to join a miners' union, calling it "socialist nonsense," the family is split and the older brothers depart for a boarding house. Among other crises and losses that devastate the community, Angharad's romantic love for the local preacher Mr. Gruffydd (Pidgeon) is ultimately thwarted. The film concludes with Huw's understanding of the vanished old way of life. Academy Award Nominations: 10, including Best Supporting Actress--Sara Allgood, Best Screenplay, Best Sound Recording, Best Dramatic Score, Best Film Editing. Academy Awards: 5, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor--Donald Crisp, Best Director, Best B/W Cinematography, Best B/W Interior Decoration.
The Hustler (1961)
Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott
Director: Robert Rossen
A dramatic, realistic character study based on Walter Tevis' novel. A young, arrogantly-cocky, anti-hero, pool-hall hustler, "Fast Eddie" Felson (Newman), challenges acclaimed, cool, professional Minnesota Fats (Gleason) in Ames Billiards Room in New York City. The naive, talented, and ultimately self-destructive challenger loses. Defeated and self-pitying, he meets and falls in love with another loner - alcoholic, desperate, waifish cripple Sarah Packard (Laurie) - whom he ultimately forsakes. He attracts the attention of slimy, calculating, venal, and repulsive promoter Bert Gordon (Scott). With financial backing from the pimpish entrepreneur, Felson struggles to get back on top - at a great cost to his own self-esteem and soul. Reprised twenty-five years later, with Paul Newman as an older, wiser Eddie Felson in director Martin Scorsese's Color of Money. Academy Award Nominations: 9, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor--Paul Newman, Best Actress--Piper Laurie, Best Supporting Actor--Jackie Gleason, Best Supporting Actor--George C. Scott, Best Adapted Screenplay. Academy Awards: 2, including Best B/W Cinematography, Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration.


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