22 Oct 2007
Top 10 Movies at the Internet Archive
Now that Rob and Jon at Top Of The Pods are (hopefully) back to making semi-regular episodes, I thought I might as well send them a list and post it here too while I’m at it…
The digital library at archive.org has dozens of public domain feature films that can be legally downloaded. Yeah, most of them are old and in black & white, but there are some classic movies to be found amongst the dross:
10. Dressed to Kill
The Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce era Sherlock Holmes films look a bit weak after you’ve seen the Jeremy Brett TV adaptations, but this last one in the Rathbone series is decent enough, especially if you grew up watching these old movies on BBC2.
Frank Sinatra is an assassin arriving in a small town to shoot the US President. Years later it was rumoured that Lee Harvey Oswald watched it a few days before killing Kennedy, prompting Sinatra to withdraw the film. Sinatra also starred in The Manchurian Candidate, another (far better) assassination conspiracy movie that he was also rumoured to have had withdrawn post-Kennedy. I guess he was a bit sensitive about the whole thing.
The classic 1922 vampire movie established much of the imagery we now take for granted in horror films, with Max Shreck’s Count Orlok creeping around casting sinister shadows. Bram Stoker’s estate sued the production company for copyright infringement of Dracula, forcing them into bankruptcy and resulting in the destruction of most prints of the film.
Howard Hawks’ screwball newsroom comedy starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. The story it’s based on has been remade several times (e.g. 1988’s Switching Channels starring Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds and Christopher Reeve), and it’s probably just a matter of time before an unimaginative Hollywood producer has another go.
6. Vincent Price Double Bill:
The House on Haunted Hill & The Last Man on Earth
The first one is incredibly cheesy, with Vincent offering strangers $10,000 to stay the night in a house full of bad special effects, but takes itself less seriously than the 1999 remake (the one with Geoffrey Rush offering $1 million each; there’s inflation for you). The latter has Vincent fending off vampires and loneliness in an adaptation of the novel I Am Legend, which was later made into The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and now into a Will Smith movie due for release at the end of the year.
Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece depicting the same events from the perspectives of different characters. He later went on to direct similarly influential films such as Seven Samurai, remade as The Magnificent Seven, and The Hidden Fortress, acknowledged as a Star Wars influence by George Lucas.
The quintessential Ealing comedy, with the Pimlico district of London being declared legally part of Burgundy after the discovery of an ancient parchment. Stiff-upper-lipped hilarity, or at least mild amusement, ensues.
3. The Goat
Superb silent comedy from Buster Keaton, narrowly beating archive.org’s Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin films to make the list. The slapstick gags are pretty standard, but it’s all about the timing.
2. Alfred Hitchcock Triple Bill:
The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, &
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Although he’s best known for blockbusters such as North by Northwest, Psycho and The Birds, Hitchcock only headed off for Hollywood fame and fortune after establishing himself in the UK with thrillers like these.
After the dead rise up feeling rather peckish for human flesh, a group
of survivors struggles to survive the night in a farmhouse under
seige. George A. Romero defined the modern zombie movie and paved the
way for the low-budget horror flicks of the 70s and 80s.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbra!”