Shakespearean adaptations have their ups and downs. The great ones define the Bard for a generation, while the less-than-great ones tend to live on in high school classrooms if nowhere else. But few can deny the standing of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet in their ranks: a timeless take on the age-old story that still feels as pertinent as it did when it was released five decades ago. It opened 50 years ago today in 1968.
Only slightly further down on the list comes My Favorite Year, a fictionalized account of Errol Flynn’s infamous appearance on the Sid Caesar show in the 1950s. Peter O’Toole secured an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an aging matinee idol terrified of live television, with Mark Linn Baker matching him step for step as his nebbish Sancho Panzo. My Favorite Year opened today in 1982.
On a completely different note, we have Demolition Man, the late-era Sly Stallone sci-fi actioner now best known for inspiring Dennis Rodman’s unfortunate hairstyles. truth be told, though, it holds up surprisingly well, with a sense of satire and comic-book fun that evaded Stallone’s later Judge Dredd adaptations. Wesley Snipes gets into the spirit of things quite nicely, but the real scene-stealer is a pre-star Sandra Bullock playing Stallone’s future-cop partner. Demolition Man opened 25 years ago today in 1993.
We’ve saved the best/worst for last: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, one of the original so-bad-it’s-good cult classics, about the titular squishy fruit that grows to gigantic size and threatens life as we know it, or something. Featuring such oddities as a talking dog and an African-American master of disguise dressed as Adolf Hitler, it remains a singular oddity in the annals of cinema… and it was released 40 years ago today in 1978.