Today in Movie History: August 22

Having found himself a western superstar, Clint Eastwood didn’t have any compunctions taking the gloves off when he felt he had something to say. Case in point: High Plains Drifter, a searing indictment of the basket case our country had become at the time (unlike now, when we’re all doing just fine, thanks). It’s raw and searing and quite crude at times, but the power of Eastwood’s vision cannot be denied, and it eventually opened up a long and fruitful career for the man as a director. Also, John Wayne hated it. HATED it. High Plains Drifter opened today in 1973.

As Gen-X icons go, Pump Up the Volume doesn’t have quite the cache of, say, Heathers or The Goonies. But it’s a fine film in and of itself, featuring Christian Slater as a lonely high school student who finds his voice — and a surprisingly discontented audience — when he starts broadcasting a pirate radio show out of his basement. Credit it for taking its concept to its logical conclusion without once losing sight of its core message. Don’t trust The Man, kids. The Man lies. Pump Up the Volume opened today in 1990.


Today in Movie History: April 19

Two big films and three smaller-but-notable ones today. We start with La Dolce Vita, Frederico Fellini’s ode to Rome, the jet set, and sexy girls splashing around in fountains. It took the world by storm when it was initially released, and for my money remains Fellini’s best film. It was released in the United States today in 1961.

For a home-grown classic with Italian roots, there’s High Plains Drifter, Clint Eastwood’s searing indictment of communal cowardice and the genre that made him a star. Hard to watch at times and still controversial to this day, it showed the world that Mr. Eastwood meant it when he said he wanted to direct. It opened today in 1973.

A filmmaker like Neil Jordan isn’t always brilliant, but he is always interesting. Case in point: The Company of Wolves, his strange, surreal and unforgettable retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with sexual awakenings and copious werewolf fu. It opened today in 1985.

For something a little more irreverent, there’s MST 3K: The Movie, a successful transplant of the classic TV show onto the big screen. In essence, it’s no different than the TV show, with only a bigger budget and a bigger film — the 50s sci-fi classic This Island Earth — for Michael J. Nelson and the gang to snark at. It’s a glorious romp, like most of the efforts from this particular gang of lunatics, and it hit screens today in 1996.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the original My Big Fat Greek Wedding, aka Great Aunt Millie’s Favorite Movie, which opened today in 2002. Initially conceived as a one-woman play, it blossomed into a monster hit and made a star out of actress-screenwriter Nia Vardelos. She stumbled badly after that, but the film itself remains one of the most profitable in terms of cost-to-gross ratio in history. So, um, yay?