The Best of 2017: Rewatches

The Best Movies I Watched in 2017

Probably like most of you reading this blog, I rewatch movies all the time, some on a more-or-less yearly basis. This list doesn’t cover any of those films, but rather movies I hadn’t seen for at least 10 years. (Okay, I bent this rule a couple of times…)

Some of these films I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. Rewatching a film you haven’t seen in a long time can be nostalgic, reaffirming, or possibly devastating. Should you run the risk of destroying what was a good memory of a film by discovering that it is, in reality, a turkey? Such are the gambles one takes…

So here are the 20 best or most interesting films I rewatched this year in the order I saw them:

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Bubba Ho-tep (2002) Don Coscarelli (previously watched in 2005?)
Shout! Factory Blu-ray (1:32)

I haven’t read the Joe Lansdale story this film is based on, but Don Coscarelli has put together something of pure genius: Elvis (Bruce Campbell) in a nursing home with JFK (Ossie Davis) fighting an ancient Egyptian mummy sucking the souls out of the home’s elderly residents. It’s funny sweet, and in many ways profound. Seriously! I love this movie… If you’re a fan, you must pick up the Shout! Factory Blu-ray which is loaded with extras.

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Rififi (1955) Jules Dassin (previously watched circa 1998)
Noir City 15, The Castro Theatre, San Francisco (2:02)

Arguably the best heist film of all time, Rififi is a stellar film from Jules Dassin, who made several stellar films in his career. The film deserves much more coverage, but to be honest, I don’t know where to start. Just see it.

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Choose Me (1984) Alan Rudolph (previously watched in 1985)
MGM DVD (1:54)

It’s rare that I revisit a film I haven’t seen in 20+ years and find that it still holds up as well as I’d imagined it from my original viewing, but that rarity happened with Choose Me, a film I probably saw at my friend Terry’s house in 1985 probably on a VHS rental. I realize there are a couple of “probably”s in that sentence, but I’m very clear on the quality of the film: excellent.

Choose Me has a very 80s look and feel, but you can’t blame a film for the era that produced it; take it for what it is: a smart, sophisticated romantic comedy/drama. It’s been largely forgotten, which is a real shame. I’ll try to give you a little of the story without giving away too much, which would be criminal.

A man named Mickey (Keith Carradine) walks out of a mental hospital and heads to Los Angeles, where he finds a bar named for a woman named Eve (Lesley Ann Warren). Mickey is attracted to Eve. Who isn’t? She’s smart, charming, gorgeous. Mickey begins to tell Eve a series of tales, chronicling his many accomplishments and achievements. He’s just walked out of a mental hospital, so these things couldn’t be true, could they?

Other people either frequent or work at the bar, Rae Dawn Chong as the former, John Larroquette the latter. But things get more interesting. Eve has just found a roommate, a woman named Ann (Geneviève Bujold) who’s a stranger, but seems nice. What Eve doesn’t know is that she’s actually been talking to Ann for a long time as a caller to the love relationship/confessional radio talk show hosted by Dr. Nancy Love.

Okay, so I refuse to tell you anything else about the film other than this: it’s smart, sexy, unpredictable, and marvelously acted. If you’ve never seen the film, I envy you. You’re in for a real treat. Available on DVD, but urgently needs a Blu-ray release.

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Hud (1963) Martin Ritt (previously watched circa 1983)
Paramount DVD (1:51)

Previously discussed here.

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Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCary (previously watched circa 1985)
Universal – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray (1:08)

Possibly the Marx Brothers at their finest in their final Paramount film and the last film to star Zeppo. Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the newly appointed leader of Freedonia, a tiny country that’s struggling financially. The ambassador of the neighboring country Sylvania (Louis Calhern) tries to spark a revolution and sends his two best spies (I’d sure hate to see his two worst spies) Chicolini (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo). Duck Soup has so many great scenes and no musical scenes that aren’t advancing the plot. (And I’ll say nothing about the many comparisons to the current political landscape.) If you only see one Marx Brothers movie in your life (and who wants to see only one?), see Duck Soup.

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Let the Right One In (2008) Tomas Alfredson (previously watched in 2009)
Momentum Pictures Blu-ray (UK, Region B) (1:54)

I first saw the Swedish film Let the Right One In shortly after it first appeared in the U.S. so this was my first rewatch. My friend Kristina over at Speakeasy thinks of this more as a coming-of-age story than a horror story and I agree with her. It’s the story of a troubled young boy named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) who tries to befriend a new girl in his apartment complex in a Stockholm suburb. The girl, named Eli (Lina Leandersson) immediately informs Oskar that she can’t be his friend and that she’s not even a girl. It’s no spoiler to tell you that she’s a vampire and that while he’s not one, Oskar has his own demons.

A controversy arose over the subtitles on the American DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film, claiming that the translations were in some cases wildly inaccurate. I have that DVD release and the British Blu-ray and can’t recall noticing much difference, but consider that it’s been eight years between viewings for me. Just see the film. I don’t think the differences in translation would make that much difference.

Speaking of differences, Let the Right One In was Americanized as Let Me In (2010), which is a good film, but is (at least to me) not so much inferior to the Swedish version, but unnecessary.

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Stakeout (1987) John Badham (previously watched in 1988)
DVD (1:57)

Another movie mentioned by the guys at Pure Cinema Podcast is also a movie I saw when it first appeared, not in theaters, but on VHS. Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez play two detectives on a nightshift stakeout of a woman named Maria McGuire (Madeleine Stowe) whose boyfriend Richard “Stick” Montgomery (Aidan Quinn) has escaped from prison. Hoping they can learn Montgomery’s whereabouts, Dreyfuss and Estevez create more havoc than they try to contain. Although most people remember Dreyfuss from his performances in blockbusters like Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he made some pretty good films in the 80s including this one. If you haven’t seen it and enjoy action/adventure movies, buddy films, or comedy in general, check it out.

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Hang ‘Em High (1968)Ted Post (previously watched circa 1970)
MGM/UA DVD (1:54)

Another movie that’s gone unseen since my youth, Hang ‘Em High stars Clint Eastwood as an innocent man charged by a lynch mob with stealing cattle. The lynch mob, led by Ed Begley and including a young Bruce Dern, don’t finish the job, so Clint is able to track these guys down and give ‘em what for. The love story with Inger Stevens is pretty routine but there are some nice moments with Clint arguing over the role and purpose of justice with the local judge Pat Hingle. Film noir fans will notice Charles McGraw in a couple of scenes.

After the enormous success of his appearances in the Sergio Leone “Man with No Name” trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars [1964], For a Few Dollars More [1965], The Good, the Bad and the Ugly [1966]), Eastwood had enough money and clout to create his own production company, Malpaso Productions. Hang ‘Em High was the first film under the Malpaso banner, and at the time had the largest United Artists opening in history, which includes the James Bond films. Not bad…

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The Silent Partner (1978) Daryl Duke (previously watched in 1979)
FilmStruck (1:46)

The Silent Partner is one of my favorite Canadian films and one of the best heist films most people haven’t seen. Elliott Gould plays Miles, a teller at a small Toronto bank located inside a shopping mall. Miles suspects that a mall Santa Claus (Christopher Plummer) is going to rob the bank. When the suspicious Santa does come to his window demanding money, Miles uses the opportunity to keep some for himself. Thus begins a wonderful cat-and-mouse game which also involves two women Miles has his eye on (Susanna York and Celine Lomez). Look for John Candy as a fellow bank employee. Seek this one out; you won’t regret it.

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Used Cars (1980) Robert Zemeckis (previously watched in 1981)
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:53)

Everyone knows Robert Zemeckis as the director of the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and several other big films, but most people have never heard of his second film (1978’s I Wanna Hold Your Hand was his first) Used Cars. In that film, you can see some of the genesis of Zemeckis’s later work, not only in its frantic action scenes, but in the way that its crazed characters interact with each other. (You see this somewhat in the Back to the Future movies, but see it in spades in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.) Yet Used Cars is an outrageous film loaded with great comedic scenes and lines. (Just know that this is not a film for the whole family!)

Kurt Russell plays Rudy Russo, a crooked (Is there any other kind?) used car salesman working for dealer Luke Fuchs (Jack Warden), whose dealership is about to tank due to Luke’s brother Roy Fuchs (also played by Jack Warden) and his fancier, more prosperous used car dealership across the street. The plot – which I won’t get into – is absolutely outrageous, fierce, manic, ribald, slightly mean-spirited, non-PC, and often hilarious. Like many of the cars on Russo’s lot, Used Cars feels like it’s going to fall apart at any moment, but Zemeckis manages to hold things together until after you’ve driven off the lot.

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The Changeling (1980) Peter Medak (previously watched circa 1981)
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:47)

Previously discussed here.

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Vision Quest (1985) Harold Becker (previously watched in 1986)
DVD (1:47)

Previously discussed here.

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From Beyond (1986) Stuart Gordon (previously watched in 1986)
Scream Factory Blu-ray (1:25)

I first saw this movie with my good friend Terry back in 1986. We both loved it and were both freaked out by it – in a good way. Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, From Beyond is about a scientist named Dr. Pretorius (Ted Sorel) who develops a device called the Resonator which will allow him to see things far beyond normal reality. In the film’s opening, Pretorius’s assistant Dr. Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) flees a dangerous experiment (which takes place in a creepy old house), only to be captured by the police and placed in a psych ward. While there, Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton) believes Tillinghast’s crazy story and wants to see the Resonator for herself.

I was afraid the film might not hold up well after all these years, but it does. Although you can find a multitude of horror films with larger amounts of gore, for its time, From Beyond was pretty gory. The otherworldliness of the film – accomplished mostly with lighting – still looks good, but what sets the film apart is the possibilities and implications of the experiments. the Scream Factory Blu-ray contains several good supplements.

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Ice Station Zebra (1968) John Sturges (previously watched in 1991?)
DVD (2:29)

I’d been wanting to revisit this movie for years and finally found it on DVD at a good price while vacationing. I tweeted that I was watching it and got a comment from Eddie Muller that the film was Howard Hughes’s favorite movie. I’m not sure how I feel about that…

James Ferraday (Rock Hudson) commands a nuclear submarine whose mission on paper is to reach the North Pole to rescue the personnel at a British weather station, but his real mission is something so secret Ferraday isn’t even told about it. He is told that a mysterious British agent called “Mr. Jones” (Patrick McGoohan) will be onboard with the real orders. You should probably know that I love submarine movies, even bad submarine movies, and this one takes a long time to get going, but the suspense, tension and espionage angles all work for me. So much of the film – particularly the last half hour or so – simply does not work, so much so that large parts of it are laughable. But for reasons I can’t explain, I really like it. Call it a guilty pleasure. I’m not sure what that says about me or Howard Hughes…

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Re-Animator (1985) Stuart Gordon (previously watched in 1985)
Arrow U.S. Limited Edition Blu-ray (1:26)

When I first saw Re-Animator in 1985 I thought it was absolutely wheels-off wacko (in a good way). I was concerned that after 30+ years it might not hold up, but it does, especially with the recent Arrow (U.S.) Limited Edition Blu-ray, which includes two cuts of the film: an unrated 86-minute version (the one I watched) and a 105-minute version I hope to watch in the next few days. Re-Animator is probably one of the first splatter horror-comedies I ever saw, plus it’s based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “Herbert West – Reanimator,” so you really can’t miss. I won’t tell you any more about the film except that you should see it and if you like it, you really should pick up the Arrow edition. You can find out more about it here.

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Night Moves (1975) Arthur Penn (previously watched in 1990?)
Warner DVD – interlibrary loan

Previously discussed here.

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The Country Girl (1954) George Seaton (previously watched in the mid-1980s)
DVD – library (1:44)

Previously discussed here.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper (previously watched in 1988?)
DVD (1:24)

Previously discussed here.

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Gaslight (1944) George Cukor (previously watched in 1979?)
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (1:54)

Previously discussed here.

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The Old Dark House (1932) James Whale (previously watched circa 2000)
Cohen Media Blu-ray (1:11)

You could easily pick this movie apart, saying that it has no plot, it doesn’t go anywhere, and dismiss it completely, but The Old Dark House has a weird magic to it that other horror movies can’t quite match. Any film with Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Ernst Thesiger, Gloria Stuart, and Lilian Bond is going to be worth watching. Plus the new Cohen Media Blu-ray is one of the best releases of 2017.

Did you rewatch anything in 2017 that really resonated with you? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Next time: silent movies

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4 thoughts on “The Best of 2017: Rewatches

  1. Pingback: The Best of 2017: The 1940s | Journeys in Darkness and Light

  2. CHOOSE ME is a lot of fun. Right now my friend Kristina has it, but when she’s done with it, I’ll bring it in.

    Remember that YOU got me to watch ALMOST FAMOUS! I need to revisit that one again. It would be interesting to see it in light of the current cases…

    And don’t you want to see TEXAS CHAINSAW again soon? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I want to watch some of these for the first time! I might need to borrow “Choose Me” because I’ve never even heard of it and it sounds like a buried treasure.

    I just rewatched ‘Almost Famous’ and boy did I pick a weird time to revisit that movie since the main plot focuses on a groupie and her relationship to a rock star. When the movie first came out, I was HUGE in following bands around so it got me at the right time. Watching it again, while all the news is full of sexual abuse/assault cases, it was a little awkward though I still felt it held up well, perhaps because of the whole groupie subculture? Or maybe I’m making excuses because I just have a soft spot for the film.

    Liked by 1 person

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