When Wes proposed that every member of the Blood Sprayer team contribute their own list of 10 “desert island” films, I was both intrigued and, to tell the truth, skeptical. I honestly didn’t know if I could narrow my list down to 10 films; and even if I could, would anyone besides Wes really care what I’d take with me? However, I set myself to work, with the additional caveat of “no porno,” since that would be too easy – SCALE BUSTIN’ BABES vol. 20-30. Boom, list done. So, in no particular order, here are ten non-erotic films I’d want to have with me if stranded on a desert island:
STREETS OF FIRE (1984) — This is the most perfect film ever made, and if you disagree, you’re wrong. Walter Hill’s Rock & Roll Fable, starring Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe and Rick Moranis, features a soundtrack of Ry Cooder, Dan Hartman and most importantly, Jim Steinman, the Svengali responsible for…let’s be honest here…every good song Meat Loaf ever sang. A tale of young love, hardboiled action and the power of Rock & Roll, it’s a film that tugs at the heartstrings of even the most jaded viewer. It’s a cult film that’s only grown in appeal since its release in 1984, and while it’s a film next to impossible to classify by genre, it’s absolutely a must-see film. It’s my go-to film whenever I’ve had a bad day at work, and it never fails to brighten my day.
THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO (2009) — This is 77 minutes of what goes on inside my brain 24/7. The only thing wrong with this movie is that it’s too damn short and there’s not fifteen sequels. Muscle cars, Luchadors, big bouncing tits and classic horror from Nosferatu and Edward Van Sloan to the Abominable Dr. Phibes, Michael Myers and Jack Torrance. This is what I think about all day, every day, and I can’t imagine needing any more reason than that to include it on my list.
JOHN CARTER (2012) — The fact that this film wasn’t given the advertising campaign it deserved and was written off as a failure less than two weeks after release, before all the numbers were even in (it ultimately turned a fair profit and scored rave reviews from both critics and audiences alike) fills me with a blind, seething rage. This is, to be perfectly frank, the film I’ve been waiting for since I was 10 years old, and it was the first film I’ve ever seen that truly, genuinely moved me – made me feel the same emotions I felt the first time I read the books upon which it was based, and from which realistically almost every interplanetary adventure film of the last century, from Buck Rogers to AVATAR, drew inspiration. Lynn Collins’ performance as Dejah Thoris is the strongest, bravest woman I’ve ever seen committed to celluloid, and deserves to be an inspiration for a dozen generations of girls.
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) — the last of the major Universal monsters, the Gill-Man was a throwback to the Devonian persisting into the modern day, and in some ways the film is the same; a survivor from an earlier era, a gothic horror in tropical trappings existing during the Atomic Age. Following the eternal theme of “Beauty and the Beast,” the film follows a team of paleontologists as they search the Amazon for fossil evidence of the “Missing Link” between land and sea. They discover more then they bargain for when they find a surviving example, and the creature becomes fixated on the team’s female member (Julia Adams). This has been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid, and I wore out two VHS copies of the film.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) — Another film that suffered due to not being a concrete genre to market, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is John Carpenter’s fun take on the martial arts films that were in vogue at the time, starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, Victor Wong and James Hong as the incredibly villainous Lo Pan. Weaving centuries-old Chinese mythology into the modern legendry of Chinatown and the myth of the American Action Hero, BIG TROUBLE follows trucker Jack Burton as he attempts to retrieve his stolen rig and help his friend Wang Chi rescue his kidnapped fiancee. Following up on these things, however, brings Jack face to face with a world of ghosts, ape-men, divine curses and Black Magic. The terrific energy of the film, the love-hate chemistry between Russell and Cattrall, and the brilliance Carpenter showed in turning the stereotype of the white martial artist with a Chinese “ethnic” sidekick on its head to give us a Jack Burton who stumbles through conflict with more luck then skill, all while convinced he’s the hero, cement this film’s place on my list.
CASABLANCA (1942) — I think a lot of people will be surprised to see this on my list, but I’ve had a soft spot for this classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, with strong supporting performances by Claude Raines, Paul Heinreid, Peter Lorre, Sidney Greenstreet and Conrad Veidt, for a very long time. Some of those names should sound familiar; Raines, Lorre and Veidt all had some pretty impressive horror credentials under their belts. CASABLANCA tells the story of Rick Blaine, an American ex-pat living in Casablanca at the time of the Nazi occupation, running a nightclub. One night, an ex-flame of his who left on bad terms shows up…with her husband, a prominent figure in the resistance movement. Old passions flare as Rick struggles between his attitude of “I never stick my neck out for nobody” and the needs of the free world, ultimately concluding that “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” The emotion-charged ending gets me right in the tear ducts every time.
CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981) — Anyone who knows my history with genre film (or who read my tribute to Ray Harryhausen) knows the importance this film holds for me. CLASH OF THE TITANS was my earliest cinematic experience, or at the very least, the earliest I can remember. From the first shot of Danae and Perseus being consigned to the sea to the final shot of Zeus placing the images of Perseus, Pegasus, Andromeda and Cassiopeia in the stars, this film holds an irresistible, hypnotic pull for me. Harryhausen’s effects work was at its peak and monsters like the Kraken and Medusa showcase his talents to the utmost. How could I leave this film off my list? Answer: I couldn’t.
FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965) — While I might not go so far as John Waters does in declaring Russ Meyer’s Ode to Violence “The best movie ever made, and possibly better than any movie that will ever be made,” I will describe it as a truly brilliant piece of cinema, the absolute pinnacle of Meyer’s career. It’s from this film that I learned to truly appreciate the art of good editing. Meyer used a static camera, but through clever editing, created the illusion of motion around his hard-working (to put it mildly; by all accounts Meyer was a slave-driver on set) cast of statuesque glamazons and weak, feeble men. This was Tura Satana’s only starring role, and one that defined the rest of her cinematic career. A simple story of bad girls looking for kicks and the trouble they find, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! is perhaps the defining piece of “outsider art” in cinema history, and I can’t imagine life without it.
GOJIRA (1954) — I knew from the start that there would be a Godzilla film on my list. Along with CLASH OF THE TITANS, the Godzilla series on VHS were a staple of my childhood and a major player in my development as a horror fan and cinema nerd. But which film, out of a half-century of films, would go on the list? The monster-filled romp that is DESTROY ALL MONSTERS? The dirgeful GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH? But ultimately, I knew that the only real choice was the 1954 original, a dark and stirring allegory for the horrors of nuclear warfare and the human cost of science corrupted to suit the demands of politics. And forget that 1956 hackjob GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS with that tub Raymond Burr edited in. The original Japanese cut is dark, suspenseful and serious; not your average atomic monster romp.
MAREBITO (2004) — Every so often I find myself in the mood for something more unsettling than outright “horrifying,” a film that isn’t so much horror as it is simply, The Weird. VIDEODROME is an excellent example of this, though often lauded more for its outrageous gore effects then for its disquiet. I almost went with VIDEODROME for this entry, and considered the quiet fear of society in THEY LIVE as well before deciding to go with Takashi Shimizu’s 2004 psychological horror MAREBITO. Better known for the GRUDGE films, with MAREBITO Shimizu has delivered an unsung masterpiece of creeping, human dread. The film follows Masuoka (played by Shinya Tsukomoto, director of TETSUO: THE IRON MAN), an independent cameraman as he tries to unravel the cause of a suicide he witnessed in the subways. His inquiries lead him into a strange underworld populated by monstrously human creatures…or at least, so it seems. The film chooses to remain noncommittal on that subject, and I love it for that.
Tags: Barsoom, Big Trouble in Little China, Casablanca, Clash of the Titans, Claude Raines, Conrad Veidt, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Godzilla, Gojira, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, James Hong, John Carpenter, John Carter, kaiju, Kim Cattrall, Kurt Russell, Lo Pan, Lynn Collins, Marebito, Peter Lorre, Ray Harryhausen, Rob Zombie, Russ Meyer, Shinya Tsukuomoto, Streets of Fire, Takashi Shimizu, Tetsuo the Iron Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Tura Satana, Victor Wong, Walter Hill