Today in Movie History: September 14

I’m going to go with the classy ones first today, though my pulpy little heart desperately years in another direction. But David Cronenberg scored a quietly amazing coup with Eastern Promises, a film that combines his creepy atmosphere, fascination with bio-mechanical fusion and a capacity for brutal violence into one of the best films he’s ever made. The power of his chilling look at the Russian mob displays the maturity of his later work without denying the unsettling strangeness that put him on the map. It opened today in 2007.

While I find much of Robert Redford’s work as a director overrated, I can’t deny the power of Quiz Show, his earnest account of a real-life scandal in which the noted champion of a top-rate 1950s game show (Ralph Fiennes) turned out to be a big fat cheater. Its observations about how perception shapes reality are still relevant and the tender trap Fiennes’s polished intellectual walks into can quietly break the heart. Quiz Show opened today in 1994.

September is ninja month, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my absolute favorite. Ninja III: The Domination posits the spirit of an ancient ninja possessing the body of an innocent aerobics instructor (column favorite Lucinda Dickey) in order to rule the universe from beyond the grave or something. No, I’m not making that up. And of course, who better to save her than Sho Kosugi, the man with whom no ninja movie would be complete? The film arrived in the middle of Cannon Pictures’ earnest attempt to make Dickey a star (along with Breakin’ and its immortal sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo). It failed, but the effort carried the perfect mixture of sweetness and pathos to make it a source of amusement. (And Dickey is now happily married to one of the producers of Survivor.) Ninja III: The Domination opened today in 1984.

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