It sounds funny saying something like “the last word on guys wearing dresses,” but here we are. Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, often cited as the greatest comedy ever made, opened today in 1959: securing stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis a spot in pop culture immortality, as well as giving Marilyn Monroe the best showcase she ever had.
Taking a step down on the quality scale, we come to The Great Gatsby… the Robert Redford version, not the Leonardo DiCaprio version. It adopts a much stodgier technique than Baz Luhrmann’s more frenetic approach (problematic in a different way), and loses some of the danger and allure that the later version had. That said, it still makes excellent us of its talented cast, including Bruce Dern and Mia Farrow, while Redford’s Gay Gatsby holds the same longing and loss that DiCaprio exemplified so well. It opened today in 1974.
For those of you afraid that the Earth will soon become a blasted hellscape and want to take steps to preserve all plant life for future generations, Douglas Trumbull made a really good guidebook for you. It was called Silent Running and it opened today in 1972.
There is something about sticking an outlaw on a train, and while 3:10 to Yuma kind of wrote the book on it, director Tom Gries did all right with Breakheart Pass, a decent little Charles Bronson flick that opened today in 1975. Jerry Goldsmith composed a great score, which helps a lot.
If Charles Bronson isn’t your thing, may we suggest The Little Princess? The Shirley Temple version? It’s got Cesar Romero! No? Your loss. It opened today in 1939.
Finally, we would be remiss without noting any lugubrious overblown Brian De Palma film which creeps onto the radar. In this case, it’s The Fury: a bit of sturm und drang featuring Kirk Douglas in pursuit of psychics the CIA is turning into weapons. Or something. It opened today in 1978. Wait for Scanners. It’s better.
If you need some John Wayne in your life, today had it, with the release of Mark Rydell’s The Cowboys in 1972. As late-era Wayne goes, it’s hard to top… and Bruce Dern is still living down what his character did to the Duke in this movie.
On a completely different note, visual effects maestro Stan Winston made a rare stint as director with Pumpkinhead, released today in 1989. It’s standard horror fare in a lot of ways, but the monster is top-notch thanks to Winston and his brilliant team, while the great Lance Henriksen provides us with a suitably tormented protagonist.
And while we’re on the horror kick, we might as well go old school: Son of Frankenstein hit theaters today in 1939, featuring Boris Karloff’s final turn as the Monster that made him famous and Bela Lugosi as the good doctor’s sinister assistant.
Are we gonna mention Demon Knight? Yeah, we’re gonna. Demon Knight. Un film du Tales from the Crypt. Jada Pinkett-Smith. A pair of Bills (Zane and Sadler). Released today in 1995. We hate that we love it so much, but we do. We really, really do.