There are good movies, there are great movies, and then there are movies that have become an ingrained part of the culture. The greatest movie ever made? You could make the case very easily. The one and only Casablanca went wide today in 1943.
A few years later, Robert Montgomery attempted a strange — and ultimately unsuccessful — cinematic experiment that now sits as an interesting curiosity. The Lady in the Lake, a film noir detective story attempting to show the entire movie from the PI’s point of view, is ultimately far too frustrating a viewing experience to endure, but as an exercise in pushing the boundaries of what the medium can do, it’s invaluable. It opened today in 1947.
We’ll close with The Stepfather, an ordinary thriller in lots of ways, but bolstered by an amazing performance from the great Terry O’Quinn. He helped the film achieve cult classic status, and if you like your grindhouse fare slightly overheated, it’s a tasty treat. It opened today in 1987.
No contest as to what we’re starting with today: The Big Sleep Howard Hawks’ adaptation of the famed Raymond Chandler novel, now widely regarded as one of the greatest detective movies ever made. Its status as a staple of film noir hides a few too many twists — who the hell did kill that chauffeur? — but with Humphrey Bogart at the height of his fame playing off of his lady love Lauren Bacall, it’s a slice of heaven for any film lover. It opened today in 1946.
Further down the noir ladder (but still with much to recommend it), there’s Dead Again, Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous and delightful update on the genre. He plays a Los Angeles PI tracking down the history of an amnesic woman (Emma Thompson), only to realize that he may have met her, loved her and possibly murdered her in a previous life. The flashbacks make for a delicious throwback to the classic era of noir, and while Branagh’s detective is a bit hammy, his earlier incarnation as a stormy composer is positively chilling. All that and a fine dramatic performance form Robin Williams too… Dead Again opened today in 1991.
And because we just can’t say no to the stinky ones, there’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, the film that destroyed the dreams of director Richard Stanley, cemented Marlon Brando’s irrefutable Marlon Brando-ness, and ensured that Val Kilmer would never eat lunch in this town again. Yes, it’s objectively awful… but the kind of hypnotically fascinating awful that makes it impossible to look away. (And we’re gonna give a shout-out to Fairuza Balk, who kind of rocked her role in the midst of all the carnage.) It opened today in 1996.