About a year ago, I was watching TV with my family when we stumbled across a fascinating program. It was a presentation of the American Film Institute's Top 10 Lists. With great pomp, they would introduce a film genre with a celebrity host and then name the top ten movies of that particular genre. Being an addict of both top ten lists and great cinema, I watched until late in the night. The lists were fairly predictable, The Godfather was named the greatest gangster film, City Lights the greatest romantic comedy, The Searchers the greatest western. I was particularly proud when I was the only one in my family that guessed that the number one sports film would be Raging Bull. When it was announced, my family was shocked. My mother turned to me and asked how I could have possibly known that. “The Institute will always vote Scorsese, Mom,” I replied. When the program was over, we went to bed discussing the results of the lists and arguing over some of the more controversial selections. That is all well and good, though. I have always thought that the idea of a top ten list was to inspire discussion and debate. The idea that one movie could be declared as “better” than another movie always frustrated me. Can you really call Citizen Kane a better movie than Lawrence of Arabia? Both were groundbreaking films by inspired artists. They just inhabited two different genres and by that logic, two different worlds. The idea that one is resolutely superior to another is offense to everyone involved in the creation of those two consummate works of art. But we list them anyway, providing them with glory and the ultimate goal of any film distributor, ticket sales and movie rentals. But creating a list of movies always prompts a particular question: what about the other movies?
Well, what about them? When The Searchers was named the greatest western of all time, it was labeled as superior to every other western ever made. Believe me when I say, there have been quite a few of them. In fact, it is my personal belief that John Ford, the director of The Searchers, could have easily filled the top ten westerns list with his own movies. But what about the movies that John Ford made that were not westerns? My favorite John Ford is How Green is My Valley? Unfortunately, instead of being remembered for the masterpiece that it is, it will always be regarded as the movie that stole the Best Picture Academy Award from Citizen Kane. And that is the fate of most movies, isn't it? A small handful will always be remembered and loved while the majority of them will be destined to collect dust inside a warehouse. But that isn't right. There are many movies that would be regarded as masterpieces today if only people would go out and see them! But we don't know what they are because we have forgotten about them.
Take, for example, one of the greatest directors who has ever graced the sliver screen, Alfred Hitchcock. Even people who are not interested in cinema are familiar with Mr. Hitchcock. Just to mention his name is enough to elicit cries of scree, scree, scree accompanied with an enthusiastic pantomime of stabbing Janet Leigh. But how familiar is the world with his work? Over his lengthy career as a celluloid workhorse, Mr. Hitchcock made 54 feature films. Two of them have been lost to the sands of time, but fifty-two of them remain. How many of these 52 films are the movie going public familiar with? The average movie-goer, those who will casually visit their local cinemas every Friday afternoon, could at best name 2-5 of his movies. There are the famous Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. If they are accustomed to surfing classic movie channels on the TV, then they may also know North By Northwest and Rear Window. But to those who see the art of cinema as more than just a passive time-filler, there is a greater appreciation for Mr. Hitchcock's work. They know that not all of his films star Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or Tippi Hedren. Some of them feature stars like, gasp, Ingrid Bergman. To these enthusiasts, they could probably name 10-12 of Mr. Hitchcock's works. Including the aforementioned works, they could be familiar with films such as Strangers on a Train, Family Plot, Notorious, Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, The 39 Steps, and even The Lady Vanishes. If a person were to familiarize themselves with just these twelve works, many would instantly accept them as a Hitchcock aficionado. But wait a minute. Even if they know those twelve pictures, that still leaves forty movies that they have never seen. Forty movies by the man who many consider to be the greatest director of all time. How could someone possibly consider themselves a Hitchcock fan without at least seeing half of them? Or even a third of them?
What about classics that Mr. Hitchcock directed before he realized he was Alfred Hitchcock and started to slap his name on to his movie titles? What about classics that Mr. Hitchcock directed before he even came to the United States? What about the classic silent films that Mr. Hitchcock directed? People do not usually give Mr. Hitchcock with the credit that he deserves as one of the true pioneers of sound pictures. Movies like Blackmail and Murder! were crucial to the development of talkies. How can anyone who has not seen them call themselves a Hitchcock fan, or even a film buff?
That is the problem that this blog will set out to address. I want to bring to light films that have been forgotten or overlooked. I am not some kind of archive digger. Well, okay, I am. What I mean is that I will not go raiding video stores for films that nobody has ever heard of. I don't want cheap exploitation films from the seventies or ultra-art house queries. There are plenty of other people who make their livings searching for such relics. I am concerned with things like the other forty Hitchcock films. The films of Akira Kurosawa that don't appear on the Criterion Collection. The works of Jean-Luc Godard that people didn't line up for in front of American art-house theaters in the 60s and 70s. The movies that won single Academy Awards, like best supporting actress, and then were promptly forgotten about the night after the award ceremony. The movies that could, and more importantly, should, be regarded as classics if people would just go out and watch them! You may have even seen some of them when you were a teenager in the 70s or a child in the 90s. It doesn't matter. These are the films that have been overlooked, stuffed in the back row, and forgotten about. These are the films that I wish to save. The films that I want to get the recognition that they deserve.
I have not been professionally trained as a movie critic (if such a thing is possible), I have not taken college classes on film theory, I have not even spent a lifetime scavenging local video stores for movies that nobody else has ever heard of. I just have a feverish love for the art of cinema. This blog is a collection of my personal opinions about movies that I dearly love. I can offer nothing more than my guarantee that my opinions will be informed ones, compiled as the result of personal observation and independent research. Although I will write about movies that I care about, I will not allow childish enthusiasm to cloud my judgment. I will strive to be fair about everything that I write. I believe that only then can I do these films justice. The justice that they so sorely deserve.