The List (15-11):
14) TIE: Les Diaboliques (Clouzot, 1955)—Les Diaboliques follows a plot hatched between two women to kill a man who is abusive toward both (one of the women is his wife, the other his mistress). After the deed is committed, though, the body disappears. Based off a novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac—their work also provided the basis for Vertigo—it is frequently compared to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. This comparison might be unfair in that it denies Clouzot his own voice, but what the comparison does communicate is the skill demonstrated in building overwhelming suspense in this fine film.
14) TIE: Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 1935)—While its predecessor, Frankenstein (also directed by Whale) might be the more famous of the two, it is this sequel that is often upheld as his masterpiece, and one of the finest of the “Universal Horror” films (a series of horror films commissioned and produced by Universal Studios from the 20s through the 50s). It has often been discussed for its use of Christian imagery, as well as its gay sensibility, demonstrating both a camp flavor and possible metaphors for homosexuality.
Oscar Spotlight: Nominated for Best Sound.
13) Eraserhead (Lynch, 1977)—I’ve seen this film twice, and I’ve sworn off it ever since. Never again. That’s not because it’s bad, though. It’s a masterpiece. But this film taps into an anxiety that is all too real and absolutely overwhelming. Along with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it is one of the most visceral experiences I’ve ever had with a film. A plot summary of a Lynch film seems superfluous, but this movie is full of disturbing images like that of a deformed baby with a dinosaur-like head, a woman who seems to live in a radiator, and a cooked chicken that bleeds. And it all takes place in a suffocating, hellish industrial wasteland complimented by Lynch’s always stellar sound-design.
12) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel, 1956)—Don Siegel’s sci-fi thriller tells the story of a small town that becomes infiltrated by an extraterrestrial force that replaces the citizens with visual duplicates that are devoid of personality or individuality. Like all the best sci-fi, whether by design or not, the film has been read as social allegory; some see it as reflecting concerns about McCarthyism while others have read it as a reaction against communism.
11) Repulsion (Polanski, 1965)—Roman Polanski’s film about one woman’s loosening grasp on reality is propelled by a tour-de-force and nearly wordless performance by Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve is Carole, a woman who seems repulsed by the notion of human sexuality. Several men make advances on and even assault her, and they meet grisly ends at her hands. The practical effects (arms coming out of the apartment and groping at Carole, walls suddenly developing enormous cracks) are a highlight along with Deneuve.
Next up: The List (10-6)