Hidden Gems #4
Hidden Gem #40: Big Business (1929, U.S.A.)
Director: J. Wesley Horne (Supervising Director: Leo McCarey)
Laurel and Hardy, the "go to" specialists in hilarious tit for tat types of confrontations, were graced with a special distinction in this early silent short, namely the duo's innocent attempt at retrieving an unwanted Christmas tree (inadvertently caught in a potential customer's slammed door) that begins the slow buildup to its brilliantly staged Armageddon.
Hidden Gem #39: One Froggy Evening (1955, U.S.A.)
Director: Chuck Jones
Over half a century later this outrageously funny Warner Bros. classic is still the king of animation; plus it even manages to spread a profound message about greed over its 7 minute running time.
Hidden Gem #38: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs a.k.a. Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (1960, Japan)
Director: Mikio Naruse
This surprisingly prolific director's name is hardly recognised compared to the other masters of a simple, more personal style of Japanese cinematic storytelling (namely Ozu, Kurosawa and Mizoguchi) yet this film alone, with its cumulative emotional impact derived from such a poignantly detailed character study, should place Naruse's name in equal standing with his peers.
Hidden Gem #37: Castle of Purity a.k.a. El castillo de la pureza (1973, Mexico)
Director: Arturo Ripstein
This very focused look into domestic life has a uniquely alarming premise: A man keeps his family locked up inside their home ostensibly to shelter them from the evils of the outside world in this deeply felt, emotionally precise little gem of a film.
Hidden Gem #36: America: From Hitler to M-X (1982, U.S.A.)
Director: Joan Harvey
A once seen, never forgotten feature-length anti war documentary that not only hits hard, chronicling the devastating consequences of America's deliberate proliferation of nuclear arms, but also has the courage to expose with detailed evidence the same country's corporate ties to Nazi Germany before and during WW 2.
Hidden Gem #35: Cash on Demand (1962, U.K.)
Director: Quentin Lawrence
This ingenious little psychological thriller from Hammer Studios is ripe with suspense, partly due to its claustrophobic, close-quarters setting, and fascinatingly ironic because the victim (a bank manager played by Peter Cushing, pictured at left) is an anal, bullish, stick-in-the-mud who's devilishly toyed with and subsequently terrorised by a clever, albeit sinister individual introduced as his superior officer (actor Andre Morell on the right).
Hidden Gem #34: Steppenwolf (1976, U.S.A./Switzerland/U.K./France/Italy)
Director: Fred Haines
Based on the novel by Herman Hesse, this remarkable existential voyage into the mind of a depressed, middle-aged intellectual (perfectly embodied by Max Von Sydow) who "drops out and turns on", contains one of cinema's thoroughly engrossing displays of a psychedelic drug trip (Performance and Easy Rider being a few others).
Hidden Gem #33: The Fire Within a.k.a. Le Fue Follet (1963, France)
Director: Louis Malle
The "recovery" of a painfully depressed alcoholic might pertain to his alcoholism, but cannot do anything to alleviate his thoughts of suicide, so after being discharged from a clinic, our subject visits some "friends", desperately hoping to find a reason to go on living in cinema's greatest portrayal of an inevitable personal tragedy. (More here).
Hidden Gem #32: The Bedford Incident (1965, U.S.A.)
Director: James B. Harris
The plot of a submarine hunt, during the cold war, in this tension bursting thriller (expertly directed by Stanley Kubrick's one time producer) is so well connected to its characters' conflicting psychologies you'll be grasping your chair by the time it reaches its stunning climax. (More here).
Hidden Gem #31: Private Hell 36 (1954, U.S.A.)
Director: Don Siegel
Before he unleashed Dirty Harry, cinema's ultimate craftsman directed this tight little noir about a couple of cops who, when they find a bunch of stolen cash with no one around, decide to keep it for themselves, which in addition to its enthralling premise contains a tour de force performance by Steve Cochran as the "badder" of the two cops.
Hidden Gems #5 is here.