Battleground (1949)

This print may be gorgeous, but Battleground is grimy. This is a film that is down in the dirt and the snow, eye-level with the foxholes (and, presumably, latrines) as they’re being dug. Everyone is caked in dirt and lord knows what else — in Kinnie’s (James Whitmore’s) case, it’s post-chewed tobacco and saliva. They’re underfed, under-informed, used and abused and forced to wear boots that don’t fit while marching about a thousand miles a day. This may sound strange to say to the uninitiated, but it’s the filth that makes Battleground so great.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Bad Day is mostly known as being an allegory for McCarthyism as well as a statement against the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, but it’s also a taut thriller based on good old-fashioned persecution fantasy, especially considering the quiet, amiable Macreedy is such a cipher that the bad guys can’t dig up even one detail on him that he doesn’t tell them himself. It’s also one of the quintessential examples of the overlap between film noir and western genres that produced such great films in the 1950s; listen to the “patriotic drunk” speech and tell me that couldn’t be picked up and plonked right down into a late-40s black and white noir starring Robert Mitchum.

Loophole (1981)

Loophole has tension and suspense, but its best moments are subtle ones: wide-eyed silence over a polite afternoon tea, a banker spending the very money he is lending, the ancient love letters floating in sewage after robbers threw these worthless items away.

The Internecine Project (1974)

This political thriller wears the mask of a cozy murder mystery, the sunny days and party lights and comfortable wool blend sweaters distracting from the high body count. Internecine is the rare film that can justify its light content, withholding explanations because it trusts the audience to be smart, to not need any hand-holding to understand the plot. The Internecine Project is a quiet little film that is long overdue for a reassessment.

Macbeth (1948)

It’s difficult, even for a very forgiving fan like me, to not wonder if much of the now-celebrated innovations of Orson Welles’ later-career output weren’t just the manifestation of restlessness and hostility. Macbeth (1948), Welles’ adaptation of the Scottish play, was not the first film of his finished by someone else, but it would be…

Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Daisy Kenyon (Joan Crawford) is a successful commercial artist in love with the high-powered (and very married) attorney Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews), the kind of smooth operator that charms everyone but his beleaguered wife (Ruth Warrick). At an uncertain point in their affair, Daisy meets the sensitive war veteran Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda), a widower…

Gas-s-s-s (1970)

Gas-s-s-s investigates the hippie generation’s fear of aging and responsibilities as the 1970s begin, as they got older and life started to seem less in their control. All of the “youths” of the film look 25 or older; they’re definitely old enough to know better… and to be worrying about whether the gas would still be around on their 25th birthdays, if we’re taking the plot literally, which we probably shouldn’t. Yet amidst the Edgar Allan Poe parodies and doofy football players is a very real sense of people hoping for one last fling before they have to cut their hair and turn into yuppies, as God and Greyhound intended.

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Discussions of Johnny Guitar are plagued by the constant question of why Ray and Crawford would make such a Western. The answer is simple: Why not?

Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922)

Mabuse is a timeless character: irretrievably depraved, charismatic, over-the-top and sarcastic, the kind of evildoer who just really loves his job.

Five Days One Summer (1982)

Dr. Douglas Meredith (Sean Connery) is on a climbing holiday in the Alps with his young wife Kate (Betsy Brantley). They’re happy and in love, but complications arise when Johann (Lambert Wilson), a handsome young climbing instructor, falls for Kate, and she begins to have feelings for him as well. Douglas senses the competition as…