Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My top 136 (and more) favorite movies


   This is just for fun and in no particular order. These are not my picks for best movies ever made, but the 136 films I consider favorites. And actually, 136 titles just doesn't cover it (though I had to set an official limit somewhere). A comment from my friend Seb Godin prompted this, as he'd mentioned having a top 50 list of favorite movies. I'd never tried to shape such a list and was intrigued by the challenge of narrowing out only 50 titles. As you can see, I couldn't! I chose (officially) 136 titles to celebrate my 36th year, but I had no idea how limiting that would really be... Again, this isn't meant as a Best Of list, it's just another excuse I have to talk about movies I enjoy. So, here we go...


1 IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

       This Roger Corman quickie details the attempted conquest of Earth by a super-intelligent monster from Venus. To facilitate this, the invader strokes the ego of a brilliant scientist with a history of being held back by his superiors. Though decidedly small scale, the film has one of my favorite scripts. Also important, the lines are delivered by a cast which includes Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef, Beverly Garland, Sally Fraser, Russ Bender, and Dick Miller. If I had to pick a single favorite film, this'd probably be it. Sadly, the film is pretty obscure these days. Reportedly, copyright issues have prevented a DVD release. There was a nice VHS from Columbia back when, though, and it's worth tracking down.



2 ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953)

     Survival drama based on real incident involving a missing cargo plane probably wins my vote for single Best Movie Ever Made. John Wayne stars, supported by a real who's who of character actors. Gripping stuff expertly brought to the screen. A hit at first, it's release was quickly overshadowed by the blockbuster success of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. A very nice DVD release is packed with making-of materials and features a pristine print of the film. Highly recommended.



3 THE ROCKETEER (1991 - color)

       Disney epic based on Dave Stevens' sporadically-published comic strip about a 1930's pilot who comes into possession of an experimental jet pack. This movie really has everything, from behind-the-scenes Hollywood to Nazi spies! Sheer enjoyment from start to finish. I waited 20 years for a sequel before I finally gave up the dream. Sadly, though predicted to be a hit, the film didn't perform to the expectations of the producers. It didn't take long to become a favorite with a lot of people, though, from aviation buffs to serial fans.



4 CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

    Very influential picture on my childhood, this Universal International release produced one of the greatest screen monsters of all time. Richard Carlson stars, an actor upon whom I modeled my younger self. The plot has now become legend, as fossil hunters go up the Amazon and discover one prehistoric relic very much alive... Followed by two sequels, originally released in 3D, and has so far mercifully avoided being remade by lesser hands.

5 IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953)

      Universal International's first 3D science fiction epic directed by Jack Arnold, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE told of a space craft from another planet which crashes near the sleepy desert town of Sand Rock, Arizona. Scientist Richard Carlson sees the ship, but nobody will believe him. Then townsfolk start vanishing... Just an incredible movie, and every single shot (even something so simple as telephone lines passing by the camera) looks absolutely iconic. No doubt my constant childhood screenings are responsible for my life-long fascination with the desert. Can't say enough good things about this one, and really wish a 3D version would make itself available to DVD. (There's reportedly a 3D bluray, but it requires special cables and a flat-screen TV to see it. I'm a tube man, myself.)

6 KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1963 - color)

      Universal International released this Toho epic, showing the confrontation between the screen's two most famous giant monsters. "Being instinctive rivals, there is no doubt that they will attempt to destroy one another." Rather effectively foreshadowed the omnipresence of televised news and UN pandering so prevalent in the 21st Century. The Japanese cut was a bit more comedic, something toned way down by UI for our version. One positive side-effect of the '05 Kong movie was that KING KONG VS GODZILLA (as well as KING KONG ESCAPES) finally got a wide-scope DVD release (and boy was I happy to see it, as I was really getting tired of watching a subtitled Japanese print). King Kong, Godzilla, and Universal's stock music cues, all in one package!

7 KING KONG (1933)

      My parents thought I might be a genius baby when they found me at age four acting out scenes from the classic adventure film, right down to accurate dialog, sound effects, and music. I've probably screened this one film more than any other over the course of my life, and I still have the VHS I so regularly ran. Robert Armstrong's Carl Denham was my childhood hero. Happily, Denham returned in the same year's SON OF KONG. Since KING KONG was smash hit in initial and multiple reissue releases, it has been officially remade twice. Though profitable, neither of those are a patch on the original one. Closing in on being a century old and it remains one of the best adventure movies ever made. It's a master work across the board, technically, dramatically, and effectively. Composer Max Steiner more or less created the art of film scoring here, and his soundtrack remains haunting, fresh, and exciting. "The stuff for which movies were made" claimed the re-issue trailer. Just a wonderful film in every respect. Make a point to see this one if you haven't already.

8 THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1954 - color)

      CinemaScope all-star cast airplane-in-trouble film predates the disaster cycle by almost 20 years, but it establishes a lot of the genre's trappings. John Wayne headlines a cast which includes such luminaries as Clair Trevor, Phil Harris, and Robert Stack. Story involves developing engine trouble during a flight from Hawaii to California, and how the random assortment of people involved cope. High drama of the best kind. Another picture simply a joy to behold, with every possible emotion given a chance to grab you. A long running time, but one of those films where you never feel it. Gorgeous film was MIA for decades, since it was never sold to television or home video. It remained vivid in memories, though. Now restored, scope, and out on a wonderful DVD.

9 AIRPORT (1969 - color)

      The disaster cycle of the 70's begins with this all-star film based on the best-seller by Arthur Hailey. Burt Lancaster is the airport manager who must confront a potential bombing aboard one of his planes. Dean Martin is the pilot, and gives a performance which established him as a true star in the eyes of critics. Perfect slow build to frenzied excitement, and then joyous resolution. This is one of those films that, were it not two hours long, I'd gladly repeat watch when it's over. Followed by two great sequels, and then a real dog of a fourth film (which I'm sure most don't consider cannon).

10 GIRL HAPPY (1965 - color)

       My favorite Elvis movie finds the King and his band wrangling an assignment to keep an eye on the pretty daughter of a big city theater manager, so as to follow her South and escape the blizzard they're currently stuck in. Expecting to take things easy when they get to Florida, the gang is shocked to find their charge is quite the dish and they'll have to work overtime to keep the wolves away. It's kinda like seeing Elvis starring in a Sgt. Bilko movie. Shelley Farbares is the Girl. Gary Crosby is one of Elvis' most delightful sidekicks. Made during the Beach cycle, this one is crammed with bikini dolls. Lush, wide-screen cinematography is gorgeous, and the cast is crammed with familiar faces. Per usual, there's also a collection of very catchy songs, including the title tune.

11 EARTH VS THE SPIDER (1958)

         Bert I. Gordon's American International Picture is one of the essential 50's monster movies. When June Kenney's father goes missing, she searches the caves outside town. What she finds is a giant bird spider. Ed Kemmer stars, supported by Gene Roth and Sally Fraser. Albert Glasser provides a typically strong musical score. It's Everytown USA setting and prominence of teenagers really secure the vibe befitting a 50's American B monster movie. Recommended. Alternately titled THE SPIDER. "Science better find out what made this thing so big, and find out fast..."

12 SWING PARADE (1946)

       This musical was one of a number of star-studded comedies in which the Three Stooges played support. This one involves a young woman who dreams of becoming a professional singer and gets hired by the manager of a night club, unaware that she was hired as a process server with orders to serve him! Some great gags and wonderful music. As noted, the Stooges made several of these pictures, but this might be the most visible due to it's evident fall into public domain. Supremely enjoyable.

13 HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962 - color) 
        Cinerama all-star cast epic chronicles the development of the American Western frontier as it relates to a single family over several generations. We start with the early expansion into the West, see the riverboats, the Civil War, land races, development of the railroads and war with the Indians, finally coming to the time when civilization reached the West and the law replaced the lone lawman. Marvelous stuff, with all the high drama, spectacle, romance, and humor one would expect. Massive cast of amazing stars, from John Wayne to Debbie Reynolds. Of course, it's that thundering main theme that really makes the movie what it is. Somehow the word "epic" seems too small in describing this one!

14 UHF (1989 - color)

       "Weird Al" Yankovic stars in this berserk, anything-goes comedy about a career loser who finds himself manager of a failing UHF television station. When his unorthodox programming choices suddenly causes the channel to become a hit, this puts him at odds with the network affiliate. Not that the plot is in any way important. The hook of a TV station makes possible seemingly random jokes, parodies, and spoofs effectively presented as programming. Basically a long series of gags, as if Tex Avery had directed, the film is hysterical fun. One of those feel-good movies that make you wish there'd been a sequel. Unfortunately, it opened opposite HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS and a few other big movies. UHF quickly got lost in the shuffle, and ironically found considerable play on UHF stations. One wishes it had managed to find it's audience, because the thought of "Weird Al" making more movies like this is delightful.

15 MUTANT (1984 - color)

       Probably my favorite 80's horror movie. Though it had a troubled production history, none of it shows in this story about two brothers who find themselves stranded in a rural town where the locals are experiencing some changes... Bo Hopkins and Wings Hauser star. Not to be confused with FORBIDDEN WORLD, which was shot under the same title (and briefly released as such).

16 KING KONG ESCAPES (1968 - color)

        Toho's other King Kong movie is based on the King Kong Saturday morning cartoon series. Maniacal Dr. Who captures Kong to mine a rare element from beneath his polar base, but the great ape isn't one to be held for very long. This is the one with the Kong robot. Though primarily a kiddie flick, this is high adventure which mixes all the right 60's pop elements into one super fun package. Giant monsters, mad scientist, manly heroes, pretty gals, espionage, secret lairs, political intrigue, it all seems to be here! I'm glad the scope DVD release finally came into being, as the film's television showings were starting to suffer from heavier and heavier edits for content and time. I found it odd that KING KONG ESCAPES used to run uncut on The Family Channel, only to be trimmed for air on much less family-oriented stations like The Sci-Fi Channel!

17 SON OF PALEFACE (1952 - color)

          This sequel to THE PALEFACE finds Bob Hope heading West to collect the inheritance left by the character he played in the earlier film. What he gets is a treasure map, and he has to find the loot before he's lynched by the townsfolk still owed by the departed! Jane Russell returns, although playing a different character this time. Roy Rogers also joins the cast, spoofing his screen persona. Just a delightful picture, even more cartoon-like than it's parent film! This is another one that used to air on The Family Channel.

18 THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974 - color)

       Irwin Allen's best disaster film, in my opinion. In the early 70's, two very similar books about out-of-control fires in skyscrapers were optioned by two major studios. Allen convinced Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox to join forces and co-produce the biggest disaster film yet. The result is one of the best examples of the genre, as a fire breaks out in the world's newly-completed tallest building. The film's all-star cast includes the two biggest stars of the day, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. McQueen was offered the headlining role of the building's architect, but the actor felt the Fire Chief was a better part. Newman let McQueen have top billing, but had his own name placed slightly higher so people would read it first! One of the longer, more technologically-complex, most realistic of the disaster films, this one is an all-out event. Truly ground-breaking production and effects. The genre at it's best.

19 THEM! (1954)

       The film that made big bugs the premier giant monster of the 50's. Mysterious incidents near White Sands have local police and the FBI stumped. An entomologist from Washington seems to know what's going on, though, and it spells disaster if he's right... Given the mystery angle of the first half, I sometimes with I could selectively erase my memory before screening this major classic! Even so, it's a great film. The pacing, the acting, everything here seems so perfect and downright emblematic of 1950's science fiction. Reportedly, the film was shot in 3D, but released without the process. (The B side was destroyed at some point, so there's no chance of seeing it in 3D.) Looking at the visuals, one can easily believe that it was in fact shot for stereoscopic viewing. Like the work of Jack Arnold at Universal, there's a very strong eye for depth and texture which is enhanced by 3D, but can be enjoyed minus the process. As you can see, the title block was in color! For years, the story was that the film was meant to be shot in color, but that the cameraman was using the wrong film stock on the first day's shooting. For a film which more or less kicked off the Atomic Anxiety In Relation To Enlarged Mutations genre, the film is far less focused on the Bomb than on the monsters themselves. It says something about how permeated the idea of mutation was, since the film never bothers to offer an explanation of how fallout could great monstrous beasts, we just accept that it did. Even so, it's important to note that the film doesn't come across as anti-atomic. Rather, it presents a reality that a new age has dawned and the future of this new age has not yet been written.

20 BEGINNING OF THE END (1956)

        Radioactive agricultural experiments result in massive locusts marching on Chicago. Peter Graves stars, joined by Peggie Castle, Morris Ankrum, and Thomas B. Henry in this wonderful example of 50's science fiction. Better than it's reputation. Director Bert I. Gordon frequently pushed himself, going for the most ambitious of effects while practically creating said effects in his garage (quite literally in the case of his earlier films). BEGINNING OF THE END is larger in scope than many a giant insect movie, but Gordon delivers the goods. Using live grasshoppers, he incorporates them into some impressive visuals with a variety of methods, from optical mattes to simply placing the bugs on a photograph of Chicago skyscrapers! The results are surprisingly solid, and Gordon would continue using the techniques into the 70's. Composer Albert Glasser creates another very strong (if oft-repeated) score, particularly his driving main theme. 50's monster movies were very action-oriented, with the Army and whatever the latest menace was going head to head. Even so economical an example as this one delivers the goods. It would seem the film wasn't long enough and some second unit footage was added here and there to (however slightly) pad things out. This was apparently done after the film had been completed, because the new edits are rather obvious (cutting in on smoothly-edited sequences already scored, we suddenly see redundant footage scored by another refrain of the main theme -and then we cut back to the original version "already in progess!"). Still, the resultant film is a good one.

21 INVASION USA (1952)

        Not to be confused with the 1985 Chuck Norris movie about terrorists invading the country (though that's not a bad picture, either, magical repeat-firing LAWS rockets aside), this film details invasion by the commies and our lack of preparedness for such an event. Dramatic, chilling, with sharp dialog throughout. For obvious reasons, largely disdained by leftist film critics. Kinda sorta remade in the 80's as RED DAWN. Gerald Mohr stars, leading a cast crammed with familiar faces (and voices). Though the actresses are briefly seen, the film has trivia value for sporting both of television's Lois Lanes in small parts: Phyllis Coates as a doomed Texan and Noel Neill as a ticket agent. The film's biggest drawback is that it's concept is far larger than it's budget. Still, for what it's trying to do, it largely succeeds. So powerful a concept has a way of elevating itself above the budgetary restrictions and leave a red-blooded American squirming in his seat! What's more, the film hasn't lost relevancy with the official ending of the Cold War. Rather, the film seems increasingly relevant, and therefore frightening.

22 ROCK-A-DOODLE (1990 - color)

       Bizarre Don Bluth film about singing cartoon rooster has it's issues, but it's relentlessly fun stuff. A young boy believes that only a storybook rooster can save his flood-endangered family by raising the sun. The book's villain, though, objects and turns the boy into a cartoon kitten. There follows an animated adventure through the big city, as the book's other characters join our young hero in trying to locate their rooster -now a singing star! Perfect voice cast includes Glen Campbell, Ellen Greene, Eddie Deezen, Sandy Duncan, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Christopher Plummer. Most prominent is Phil Harris, and this would be his last feature film. Problematically, the film doesn't allow many of it's songs to be heard without interruption. There was a soundtrack album. I don't know how rare these are, but I'd love to get one for my birthday!

23 PAJAMA PARTY (1964 - color)

         Although there were a lot of fun movies in the AIP Beach series, this one is probably my favorite. Tommy Kirk is a Martian advance scout come to pave the way for invasion, but he falls in love with Annette Funicello. Meanwhile, crooks are trying to burgle beloved Elsa Lanchester's house and throw a pajama-party poolside bash to cover for the operation! Breaking from the established continuity, the film offers a touch of freshness in it's proceedings, but audiences preferred the traditional Frankie/Annette dynamic. Many of the new elements introduced here, however, were washed back into the regular films. Buster Keaton and Bobbi Shaw became regulars, and weirdly Harvey Lembeck's Eric Von Zipper retains continuity through both variations! PAJAMA PARTY is as delightful as one could imagine, complete with the standard assortment of great tunes. Donna Loren has a bit more of an acting opportunity here, actually given a few lines of dialog and everything, but she would subsequently fade out of the series. Although a stand-apart Beach adventure, the film does play on the assumption that the audience has seen the previous trilogy of films. As result, the film has one of the funniest ending gags of the entire franchise.  

24 LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS (1989 - color)

         This affectionate send-up of 1950's monster movies stars Tony Curtis as a movie studio mogul in desperate need of a guaranteed bomb in order to avoid going to jail for tax matters. When a young man enters the picture with his home-made science fiction epic, Curtis thinks he has the flop he's after. The film within the film tells of how the Martians send the dreaded Lobster Man to Earth in order to steal our air supply. Fun, knowing parody/tribute to the greatest era of monster movies. The dialog is an absolute scream, particularly that delivered by Patrick MacNee as the film's learned Man Of Science. A true valentine to both the classic B science fiction film and to any of us who ever dreamed of making our own.

25 GOLDFINGER (1964 - color)

        The James Bond adventure which catapulted the secret agent from popular film property to international cinematic icon. 007 matches wits with gold smuggler Auric Goldfinger, and continually humiliates the portly criminal until the tables are turned and Bond ends up at the mercy of a man far more ruthless than we first imagined. Bond seems more genuinely within inches of death this time around than in almost any other Bond film. Goldfinger's plot to destroy the American, and thus world, economy with an atomic bomb is nothing short of inspired. A gilded murder victim remains iconic. The theme song alone would've made the film a hit, but it delivers in spades all the adventure one could ask. This one probably created more instant fans than any other entry. My first 007 adventure, and it's still as thrilling for me as it was that first time I saw it!

26 YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

         Powerhouse James Cagney stars in this snappy biopic of powerhouse George M. Cohan. Possibly my favorite Cagney picture AND my favorite musical. Recommended. It was widely known and accepted at the time of release that the film plays fast and loose with the facts of Cohan's life, but that seems secondary to seeing Cagney in action. This may be the best showcase the actor ever had, and even those who don't care for musicals are likely to enjoy this one. One thing that helps is that all the musical numbers here are within the context of performance pieces, rather than the accepted fantasy use of songs in traditional musicals (such as, say, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN or THE BANDWAGON, other musicals I'm keen on). Fitting all of Cohen's life into about two hours makes for a breathless pace, as we see the child actor wow 'em on the stage before growing into a successful songwriter, producer, and performer in countless hit plays. The film actually climaxes as it opens, and Cohen is invited to the White House! The rest of the story is told in flashback, which neatly allows for minor episodes to be skipped over. An interesting double bill might be this and Cagney's biopic of Lon Chaney, THE MAN WITH 1,000 FACES.

27 HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945)

         Universal's last monster-rally picture before the monsters began meeting Abbott and Costello. Larry Talbot comes to an esteemed experimental scientist in hopes of having his condition cured medically. Dracula also pops up seemingly seeking similar help, but his evil nature gets the better of him when the nurse catches his eye. The Frankenstein Monster is discovered in a cave near the shore. Dracula's sabotage of his blood transfusions turns the kindly scientist in a murderous half-vampire! The film also offers a Hunchback as a fifth monster, but that's a complete cheat. This hunchback is a sweet young lady who acts as lab assistant. She's easily one of the most likeable and tragic characters in all these Universal monster films combined! Lon Chaney finally gets top billing, and his fans delight in seeing Talbot finally cured of the curse of the wolf. A fine send-off for a group of films which established Universal as a studio of horrors. Of course, the monsters would be back for ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, and history was made yet again...

28 BIKINI BEACH (1964 - color)

        My first AIP Beach picture was the third entry of the series. The gang contends with a British pop star who's come over to compete in a drag race tournament. Meanwhile, a columnist sets out to prove that beach culture corrupts and reduces American youth to the level of his pet chimp, Clyde. Frankie Avalon plays both Frankie and his British rival for Annette Funicello's affections, the Potato Bug. Harvey Lembeck's Eric Von Zipper was absent from the previous entry, but makes up for it here. Madcap comedy for those with a sense of fun, the film functions as the last third of a trilogy began with BEACH PARTY and continued with MUSCLE BEACH PARTY. After this, AIP would experiment a bit with the sci-fi spoof PAJAMA PARTY and the snowbound SKI PARTY. Audiences preferred the traditional Frankie/Annette antics and the series returned to such with BEACH BLANKET BINGO, which may've been the most successful of the entire run.

29 THE AMBUSHERS (1967 - color)

          My first Matt Helm movie was the third of that series, too. When an experimental flying saucer is lost over a Spanish nation, Helm must locate the disk -believed to be held by a ruthless dictator planning to auction the vehicle to the highest bidder! Matt's female partner in the field is the pilot of the saucer, as the machine emits a form of radiation deadly to males! The Helm movies always had a sense of humor, but they were legitimate espionage adventures. Sadly, this would be the last in the series to feature James Gregory as Matt's boss. Dean Martin as a super spy is a level of cool that'll chill a three-story home in August. Weirdly, it wasn't until this entry that we finally learn what BIG-O stands for: Bureau of International Government and Order. Senta Berger is the BIG-O agent who makes a shaky alliance with our hero. Nifty theme song has nothing to do with the main story, but boy is it catchy. Martin would play Helm in one more film, but the announced fifth film wasn't to be -unless you count the pilot for the 70's television series as the fifth film, as I do.

30 OUR MAN FLINT (1966 - color)

          If anything could be cooler than Dean Martin as a secret agent, it was James Coburn's human computer and war machine Derek Flint. When mad scientists set out to control the weather, Flint is called into action. Like the Helm movies, Flint never took himself too seriously but the movies were still real adventure stories. They were exaggerated, but not outright spoofs. I saw the Flint moves as a teen and I fell for the character hard. This might be the slightly better of the two films, but both deliver the goods.

31 IN LIKE FLINT (1967 - color)

         In fact, I may enjoy IN LIKE FLINT just a little better than OUR MAN FLINT. This may be because the characters are established now, and seeing them triumph in the end is supremely satisfying. In this one, female scientists set out to wrest the world away from male domination by arming an experimental space platform with atomic weapons. To facilitate this, they've replaced the American President with a look-a-like actor! If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because that second G.I. JOE movie was practically a remake! Slightly more elegant than the first film, with one of composer Jerry Goldsmith's best scores, this entry fell victim to over-saturation of the spy genre. There would be no third assignment for James Coburn, but he didn't want to get tied to a series anyway. Despite there only being two Flint films, the character is still remembered as the most prominent copy of 007. (In the 70's, Ray Danton would play a version of the character for a forgotten TV pilot movie, which remains one of the most threadbare and inept productions I've ever seen.)

32 TICKLE ME (1965 - color)

         Elvis Presley stars as a rodeo rider/singer who takes on a job at a health ranch for beautiful young women. There's a subplot which involves a buried treasure in a ghost town. Probably my favorite moment is a dream sequence spoof of westerns in which Presley plays "The Pan Handle Kid." This segment would make a dandy 8mm short.

33 THE GIANT CLAW (1957)

          Jeff Morrow and Mara Corday star in this much maligned picture about a bird from outer space that terrorizes Earth. The effects were turned over to a Mexican outfit, and the monster is considered one of the goofiest things ever put on film. Still, the script is sharp and clever, and the acting superb. It's as if THE THIN MAN were mixed with a B monster movie. And the bird itself is rather life-like. You can joke all you want, the thing would be terrifying if it were real.

34 MATINEE (1993 - color)

        Joe Dante's charming coming-of-age comedy set during the Cuban missile crisis centers on William Castle-like showman John Goodman releasing his latest monster movie, MANT!, upon an unsuspecting public already on pins and needles. Charming and nostalgic film is most remembered for the movie-within-a-movie segments, which represent the neatest monster movie that never was. I'd love to make a sequel set in the 80's.

35 THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960 - color)

         Hammer's first sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA follows Peter Cushing's heroic Van Helsing as he uncovers another vampire infestation. The climax is boffo, but the film wins favor with me mainly for the scene in which Van Helsing must treat a vampire bite on his own neck! Classic Hammer stuff. Audiences seemed to feel cheated that the film doesn't actually involve Dracula, however, and Hammer brought Christopher Lee's undead Count back in 1966's DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS. This proved popular and a whole series of Dracula adventures followed. Lee and Cushing wouldn't be reunited in a Dracula movie until DRACULA A.D.1972, however.
    THE BRIDES OF DRACULA presents what might've been a more interesting series of films, one based on Van Helsing taking on supernatural menaces. Instead, Hammer featured Cushing in a series of Frankenstein movies.

36 DESTINATION INNER SPACE (1966 - color)

         An undersea lab is menaced by a fish-like monster from outer space in this aquatic variation on THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD. Great cast, imaginative set design, and one of the screen's best monsters. Unfortunately, the film seems to be hung up in copyright snares. It was never issued on VHS or Laserdisc so far as I'm aware, and the one DVD release is a disappointment with a faded, fuzzy transfer. The film looked much better on old TV screenings. One certainly hopes a pristine print finds it's way to disk.

37 BIGFOOT (1969/72 - color)

          Admittedly not a great movie or anything, but I have quite an affection for this rural monster romp in which Bigfoot and his family terrorize the locals. Joi Lansing and a number of familiar faces are on hand, but John Carradine steals the show as wanna-be showman Jasper B. Hawks. If there's any one film I most desire to see given a restored widescreen release on disk, this is it. Bigfoot movies in general seem to be extremely obscure, and most in fact look like they should be. There are some exceptions however. CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE was quite good, with real production values and a cast. SASQUATCH, THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT (not to be confused with Ivan Marx's pseudo documentary THE LEGEND OF BIGFOOT) was an enjoyable wildlife adventure, and of course THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK was a veritable cult hit. The most high profile Bigfoot movie was late to the party, that being the smash comedy HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS.

38 APOLLO 13 (1995 - color)

        Ron Howard's epic about the ill-fated space mission is one of the best dramas of the 1990's. The 60's space program has always been a favored subject of mine, and tales of heroic men of action in courageous situations are usually a good theme for big movies. The all-star cast doesn't hurt, either. This was a huge hit when released, and became a subsequent hit on television and home video. People remember two major events in the history of our space program, the lunar landing and this affair. See also the 1969 all-star fictional (though prophetic) space epic MAROONED.

39 ANASTASIA (1997 - color)

        Don Bluth's first big hit after a string of failures was this lavish, CinemaScope, Disney-esque musical about the lost Romanov Princess. Departs a bit from the actual history, but the results are quite satisfying. The film works very hard to come across like a live-action musical from Hollywood's Golden Age, and in many ways succeeds in capturing that vibe. Some digital effects are utilized this time around, and the trend was shortly to jump fully into that territory. This is just a wonderful movie. Nice to see that it gave Bluth another hit, though it could also be seen as his last big hurrah, and thus somewhat bittersweet. The heavy is an undead Rasputin, who has in his employ a sweet bat named Bartok. Bartok was spun off into his own direct-to-video movie, BARTOK THE MAGNIFICENT, which was quite charming.

40 MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)

         The creative forces behind KING KONG re-teamed for this story of a gentle gorilla named Joe. Joe is taken from his native home and made to perform at a jungle-themed night club in the States. When some drunks enrage Joe, the ape breaks loose and goes on a rampage. This puts Joe in hot water with the authorities, who demand the beast be destroyed. Terry Moore is Joe's keeper, Ben Johnson her cowboy romantic interest, and Robert Armstrong plays showman Max O'Hara. Some of the best work you'll ever see from animators Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen. While an adventure film, this is rather sweeter than the menacing monster mayhem of Kong. Joe is basically a big pet, but his great size and animal nature make him a danger. In fact, it's interesting to observe how drastically different from Kong subsequent RKO apes were. Kong was a monster, ultimately, no matter how much character he had. Kong's son and Joe here were gentle, downright heroic figures. In fact, they effectively foreshadow the more majestic nature adventures of the 60's and 70's. Contemporary animal adventures were a lot more danger-oriented, as they focused more on man going into the wilderness. Later films would focus less on humanity and more on the exotic beauty of the jungle. Eventually, the animals became the real stars of the pictures. Indeed, while there is a human cast here, Joe is our real focus. Some sources include this under the umbrella banner of "monster" movies, but that must be due entirely to the contributions of the effects animators. Joe is no monster, and the film never plays to that sort of aesthetic. If you're looking for a monster movie, you won't find it here. If you're looking for some charm, adventure, and fun, that you'll find in spades. 

41 KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1985 - color)

          Cannon's lavish adaptation of the famous novel relocates Allan Quatermain to the early 20th Century and has him racing WW1 Germans to the fabled lost storehouse of treasures belonging to history's most powerful and wealthy monarch. Though a pretty blatant copy of Paramount's Indiana Jones franchise, this is easily one of the best jungle movies since the 1950 KING SOLOMON'S MINES. Breathless pace and a strong sense of fun really help. So light-hearted is the film that some have taken it to be a spoof of the Jones adventures. It has a moment or two of reaching into outright parody (such as our hero being drug behind a train and able to return to his feet by pressing his boots against the rails), but largely stays true to the mood of old adventure serials. Richard Chamberlain is the new Quatermain, and he does extremely well with the character presented here -though it has practically zero relation to the book or any previous screen versions. Sharon Stone is the romantic interest. Amusingly, her shorts continue to deteriorate throughout the last half of the film, thus exposing more and more of her quite lovely gams. This is such a fun and satisfying adventure movie that I may ultimately enjoy it a little more than the film that inspired it in the first place!
   Followed by a sequel, ALLAN QUATERMAIN AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD, which has it's moments but doesn't come near the level of it's parent movie (it's almost exactly like the situation of GHOSTBUSTERS and GHOSTBUSTERS II). The main problem with the second Quatermain film is that the last half feels incomplete, due to a lot of excised footage. The tone is slightly straighter, too, which helps in some ways but hurts in others. On it's own, it's a serviceable adventure movie with quite a bit of production value. Unfortunately, it's a much stronger movie before our heroes reach the titular lost city, and the city section of the film seems a lot longer. Not a total dog or anything, but the first one was better. KING SOLOMON'S MINES is boffo!

42 LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (2003 - color)

          The spirit of Chuck Jones is captured in this madcap live-action comedy featuring animated characters from the Warner Brothers stable. Daffy Duck is fired from the studio, so he follows the security guard home. Turns out the guy's father, an actor known for playing super spies, is a real secret agent and soon Daffy and his new pal are on the road looking to find a gigantic diamond (and to save the world, of course). Bugs Bunny convinces the woman who got Daffy fired to track him down. Meanwhile, the sinisterly silly CEO of the ACME corporation is also seeking the legendary Blue Monkey Diamond so he can rule the world. With anything this rapid-fire, the plot is secondary, but the results are very, very fun. And funny. Celebrity cameos include Peter Graves and Kevin McCarthy, and even Marc Lawrence, in addition to your Anne Cusaks and Heather Locklears. Stars Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, and an almost unrecognizable Steve Martin. Many of the cartoon characters are voiced by Joe Alaskey, the only actor to really recreate the Mel Blanc voices effectively. He would voice Daffy Duck again for the surprisingly fun Duck Dogers series. He passed on a few years ago, depriving animation of the only man who ever effectively replaced Mel.
   Back to the movie, the self-referencing lunacy of the old cartoons lives on. As had been the case in several shorts, the characters here are actors working for Warner Brothers. They're also, per tradition, entirely aware that they are in fact IN a movie -a condition extended to the human characters as well. Irreverent mocking of the studio, Hollywood in general, cinematic conventions, actors, producers, etc. is the order of the day. Rapid-fire fun, the movie spoofs just about everything. Director Joe Dante is a fan of 50's monster movies, and pays tribute to a number of them in a sequence which detours to a super-secret science lab facility. As is so often the case, Joe also casts Dick Miller in a supporting role. Sadly, the film failed at the boxoffice. It's release coincided with a new slate of one-reel cartoons which were supposedly created for theatrical showings. When the movie bombed, it cratered any plans to utilize the cartoons and they were hastily (and rather quietly) issued on video. Why exactly the movie failed, I can't figure out. If you're just looking for some feel-good fun, it's hard to go wrong with this one.

43 THE PHANTOM (1996 - color)

           Billy Zane plays The Ghost Who Walks in this wonderful period adventure tale, THE ROCKETEER's only real rival for fun, serial-style super-heroics. Opening in the manner of the old newspaper strip, we learn of how a shipwrecked child took a vow to fight piracy and injustice and adopted the guise of The Phantom. This identity was passed from father to son over generations, thus creating the myth of an undying hero. In the 1930's, a mad industrialist wants to use a trio of mystical skulls to take over the world. Fortunately, this prompts the Phantom's involvement and we're off on a great adventure. Probably the best leading role Zane ever had, and Treat Williams is a blast as the ego-maniacal madman intent on world conquest. Coming out during a season awash with Summer blockbusters, I seem to recall THE PHANTOM did only mild business and found most of it's audience on home video. Sad, as a sequel would've been terrific!

44 REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)

       First sequel to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON finds the Gillman captured and brought to Florida's Marineland for study. Of course, the monster breaks loose and eventually abducts pretty Lori Nelson. John Agar must save the day. While not as original as the first film, this one tends to entertain even more. The Gillman running around free in civilization gives him a bit more unpredictable menace than when he was swimming around at the bottom of a remote lagoon. Like the first film, originally released in 3D. Fortunately, Jack Arnold in the director's seat usually means that 3D visuals translate well to 2D screenings. Some have lamented the gillman's new costume design, though I must admit being partial to it. (It doesn't look as dynamite as the first costume, of course, but it still works.) I must not've been the only one who liked it. Marx's plastic figure was based on this movie's Creature.

45 IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD (1982 - color)

          Clips from something like 100 old movies are featured in this early 80's release, hosted by the top comedy stars of the period (John Candy, Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner, and Cheech and Chong). Though Candy and Akroyd and the gang are (mostly) amusing, the comics are largely superfluous to the real attraction, which is a bunch of clips from what are mostly old monster movies. This film gave me my first glimpses of films like FROM HELL IT CAME, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, THE X FROM OUTER SPACE, and so on. I still find myself watching monster movies and considering what clips I would use if I were making a similar compilation. Due to all the copyrighted clips, the film can't be released on DVD. Those not slave to only the most recent technologies can find (at high price, most of the time) very nice VHS and Laserdisc releases from the 80's.

46 THE TIME TRAVELERS (1964 - color)

         A team of scientists working on a window into the future discover that their device creates an open doorway which allows solid matter to cross the time barrier. Unfortunately, they become stranded in a post-apocalyptic future where the remains of humanity are at war with mutants who live on the surface. Secure in underground caves, the future humans are building a rocket which will carry them to a living planet in another system. Colorful pulp science fiction is a joy to watch, even when the middle segment largely takes time out to showcase a number of stage illusions in science fiction setting. I think this was the first film to feature a gratuitous cameo by Forry Ackerman. Re-works a bit of material from WORLD WITHOUT END, and would itself be reworked a few years later as JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME. That one manages to be it's own movie, but it recycles a LOT of dialog so it sorta feels like watching one of those Larry Buchanan AIP TV movies.

47 GHIDRAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964/65 - color)

         Toho's HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN finds Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra forced to join forces against the titular invader from outer space. This film marked the new, more kid-friendly direction of the series -and the genre in general. From this time out, Godzilla would be a hero -though he wouldn't fully convince humanity of that until nearly a decade later. Despite the giant monsters, the main plot is rooted more in political intrigue, as we witness a Princess set to visit Japan when her royal plane explodes. The cop assigned to protect her discovers that the assassins failed in their murder attempt when the Princess pops up claiming to be a Martian! She details coming terrors in the form of Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidrah, and the tiny twins from Mothra's island are convinced that Ghidrah can only be stopped if the other monsters join forces. There's some weird sub-sub-plot about "saucer people" that a group of scientists are waiting to meet, who may be able to explain why a heat wave is hitting Japan during January. Thing is, nothing ever comes of this. The team of scientists are subject for a lady reporter preparing a new series about the unexplained (Mysteries Of The 20th Century, the show will be called). The Saucer People certainly fall into the Unexplained category. Conceivably, they have some connection to the Princess surviving the bomb and then believing that she's a Martian, but no lines are directly connected to indicate this. If you walked in late, you'd never've given the unseen saucer people a thought!

48 MONSTER ZERO (1965/70 - color)

        For some reason, this 1965 production didn't see US release until 1970. Still, one of the best Godzilla movies of the franchise (and just a great science fiction adventure film). Astronauts discover that a newly discovered planet is inhabited, and the natives are under siege by Ghidrah, the three-headed monster (whom they call "Monster Zero"). The natives ask for Earth to provide them Godzilla and Rodan to chase Ghidrah off. Of course, the whole thing is a big double-cross, and before long the invaders have thrown the world into chaos. Mind control places Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidrah under their control, but mankind doesn't give up without a fight. Nick Adams stars, alongside some of Toho's biggest stars, including Akira Takarada and Kumi Mizuno. Toho here began cutting corners to reduce production costs. These films were expensive to produce, after all. The bulk of the model work remains solid, but there are a few model trucks that don't quite measure up to what we'd seen in previous Toho films. Also, a considerable chunk of stock footage is recycled from RODAN, to pad out the destruction scenes. Still, those are minor slips in one swell adventure picture sporting a very strong script. Nick Adams makes for a great hero in this kind of picture. Sadly, the film wouldn't be seen State-side until after his mysterious death.

49 THE GREEN SLIME (1968 - color)

           US/Japanese/Italian co-production manages to feel simultaneously like the product of all three nationalities (which is more impressive than it might sound, since most multi-national co-productions tend to more fully take on the flavor of only one country involved). The result is one of the most enjoyable pulp science fiction space operas ever seen. When a meteor threatens to slam into Earth, Robert Horton must blow the rock into dust. Unfortunately, the crew planting charges on the meteor discover some peculiar, living, green slime puddles. When a speck of the goo is inadvertently taken back to space station Gamma 3, it grows into an army of energy-sucking monsters! This film has an odd reputation. Fans seem to consider it both a junky "bad" movie and a highly enjoyable "fun" movie. It's classic 60's pulp sci-fi, and it's good stuff. Memorable monsters and a great leading cast, gorgeous color and wide-scope, and an unforgettable theme song. Unofficially (or officially by some sources) lumped into the Italian Gamma series, though this isn't really the same universe as they featured. Still, I'm keen on the Gamma movies too.

50 ZERO HOUR! (1957)

         Traumatized former fighter pilot Dana Andrews must take the controls of a passenger plane when the crew comes down with food poisoning. Gripping, thrilling drama had the unfortunate mishap of being used at the backbone of the 1980 disaster spoof AIRPLANE! and being forever associated with that film. Those who can look through the haze of the spoof and accept ZERO HOUR! on it's own merits will find a fine suspense film waiting for them. Co-stars Linda Darnell and Sterling Hayden. Just a great movie. Dana Andrews would have quite an association with air disaster films. Close to a decade later he was again in the pilot's seat for THE CROWDED SKY, about a mid-air collision between a passenger liner and a small fighter plane piloted by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.. Another decade passes and we find Andrews and Zimbalist in reverse seats for AIRPORT 1975!

51 SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977 - color)

         Landmark car chase movie established Hal Needham as a director and made one of the biggest hits for star Burt Reynolds. When Bandit stops to pick up hitchhiking runaway bride Sally Field, he and fellow contraband runner Jerry Reed become prey for obsessed Sheriff Jackie Gleason. The result is a cross-country chase which causes multiple collisions and crashes. Amazing stuntwork and humorous script combine into one feel-good adventure. The catchy song "East Bound And Down" really pushes this one over the top of the happy meter. Fun all the way. Followed by a fun-but-inferior sequel, and then a few more sequels that didn't star Burt Reynolds.

52 CANNONBALL RUN II (1984 - color)

            THE CANNONBALL RUN might be the slightly better film, but this sequel is even funnier (also, this is the one I managed to tape and thus have seen it more times). A who's who of comedy stars join a cross-country road race which must be temporarily detoured when Sheik Jamie Farr is kidnapped by gangsters. Fun stuff from start to finish, and it never tries to be anything but. Considered junk by professional film critics. But if I listened to them, I'd have missed out on a lot of great stuff.

53 SPEEDWAY (1968 - color)

         Elvis Presley is a champion racer, but his manager Bill Bixby has been withholding from Uncle Sam. Tax agent Nancy Sinatra keeps an eye on the winnings from here on until everything owed is paid off. Presley and Bixby make for a wonderful comedy team, and it's a shame they didn't do more pictures together. (Bixby is in CLAMBAKE, but as a rival instead of a sidekick. That was very disappointing for a guy who saw SPEEDWAY first.) Another good one is IT HAPPENED AT THE WORLD'S FAIR.

54 DAVY CROCKETT, KING OF THE WILD FRONTIER (1954 - color)

      Fess Parker stars as the legendary frontiersman-turned-folk hero. We follow a stylized recreation of the man's life as an Indian fighter, pioneer, politician, and doomed hero of the Alamo. Thrilling, fun, romantic, with one of the greatest endings ever filmed, with Davy swinging away as he's swarmed by the Mexican army. Edited from episodes of The Wonderful World of Color, this feature became a massive hit for Walt Disney and got nearly every boy in the States to start wearing coonskin caps. Just a magical picture from start to finish. Fess Parker would later plays Daniel Boone on television.

55 THE ADVENTURES OF THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (1986 - color)

           Largely overlooked animated 80's Disney comedy/adventure follows the efforts of Basil of Baker Street to foil the evil plot of Professor Rattigan to take over the British Empire (at least the rodent subset of it). Sherlock Homles with mice, in other words. Vincent Price plays the heavy, and that alone is reason to love it, but there's a ton of other great things to be found here. The idea is that Basil is the mouse that lives in the walls of Sherlock Holmes' house, and he shares the nature of his human counterpart. Intriguing concept here, and it's become something of a fan favorite, but it's never been one of Disney's most visible efforts. That's sad.

56 EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956)

         Columbia science fiction epic details Earth's struggles against an army from outer space. Fairly generic plot is elevated by the incredible special effects of Ray Harryhausen. His spinning, death ray dealing saucers are nothing short of iconic. Another of those films where Ray's skills make the results look more expensive than they really are. Hugh Marlow is the scientist hero, and Morris Ankrum plays another in a long string of military leaders. Some great visuals in this one. The invaders themselves were briefly recycled as crude robots in the opening of THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS.

57 FROM HELL IT CAME (1957)

         A killer tree monster stalks a tiny Pacific island where the natives are at odds with the white men come to help them after an atomic test has gone awry and saturated parts of the ground with radioactive fallout. Pretty obscure 50's monster movie doesn't have a great reputation, but it's pretty neat stuff. Sports a great script, a unique monster, and a simply amazing score by composer Darrell Caulker.

58 OLD YELLER (1957 - color)

          Disney classic about growing up in the American frontier is every bit as great as you've heard it is. One of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. I was too obsessed with monsters as a kid to even give it a look. I wish that hadn't been the case. This is just a wonderful movie.

59 THE SECRET OF NIMH (1982 - color)

          Don Bluth's first major animated feature is a wonder to behold. Part Disney, part Harryhausen. Super-intelligent rats seek a place in the world, and offer aid to a mouse who is the widow of their former leader. Amazing voice cast includes John Carradine, who you'd think would've done a lot more animated movies. Fantasy/science fiction cartoon animal movie was a hit. The rest of the 80's saw Bluth cranking out some of the most beloved animated films of the era. Sadly, the 90's brought a reversal of fortunes. The MGM DVD has one of the nicest transfers I've ever seen. It's almost like watching an actual film print.

60 THE WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966/70 - color)

         Russ Tamblyn stars in this Toho production which finds a pair of monstrous giants dueling in Japan. One lives in the sea and eats human beings, the other lives in the mountains and doesn't eat human beings. This is the film that introduced those nifty ray cannons. A real success for Toho, and the studio toyed with bringing the Gargantuas back in a Godzilla movie. Russ Tamblyn, somewhat bitter about the downturn his career had taken, doesn't take full advantage of his role here. Decades later, upon reexamining the film, Tamblyn admitted he goofed. Not that he sleep-walks through the part or anything, but he doesn't muster much passion either. He basically shows up and does a professional job, but doesn't stretch himself beyond the bare minimum required of him. In retrospect, one can see why he was pre-occupied with other things. He was on the fast track to becoming one of Holywood's biggest musical stars when the complete collapse of the studio system more or less left him out in the proverbial cold. Going to another country to make a monster movie was rather insulting for an actor in Tamblyn's position during the 60's. The rest of the cast carries the slack, and Kumi Mizuno gives one of her trademark passionate performances. Kipp Hamilton has a brief cameo as herself. Some incredible effects in this one. The American version finally being issued on a scope DVD release was a very good day indeed.

61 JOSHUA (2002 - color)

        A mysterious stranger comes to a seemingly peaceful town and helps people in almost supernatural ways. 90's family film is somewhat enigmatic in it's ultimate conclusion, but it's a wonderful drama filled with funny moments. A real delight. I won't go into much detail, either, as I think this one works better the less you know about it before hand. I myself caught the film on television with no idea what to expect. I'm glad I taped it!

62 QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958 - color)

         This CinemaScope pulp space opera has a bad reputation, but it's a joyous colorful romp. Astronauts find themselves crashed on Venus and find the planet populated by amazons with designs on the rest of the galaxy. With men in their midst, though, the Queen's hold over her subjects begins to weaken and rebellion is short in coming. Zsa Zsa Gabor stars, though not as the Queen. Props, costumes, and even some stock shots are left over from FORBIDDEN PLANET and WORLD WITHOUT END. I liken this movie to a big, colorful candy dish. So happy that a pristine scope version is now on DVD.

63 THE MANSTER (1962)

         Odd black and white American movie shot in Japan concerns a reporter who becomes the unwilling subject of a mad scientist's mutation experiment. Moody little film with exotic flavor. Best watched with the lights off. Very obscure film, though it's turning up in those discount multi-pack DVDs from Mill Creek. It was the very first movie showcased on TNT's 100% WEIRD late-night Friday block.

64 AIRPORT 1975 (1975 - color)

         First sequel to AIRPORT is nearly as good as the film which spawned it. A mid-air collision leaves a 747 without a flight crew and stewardess Karen Black must take the controls. Her boyfriend Charlton Heston must talk her down. One of the best disaster movies not directed by Irwin Allen. The cast is incredible, even for this genre. See also SKYJACKED, also starring Chuck Heston.

65 THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1958)

        One of my favorite Universal International 50's science fiction films finds meteorite fragments (which grow when exposed to water) threatening to demolish a desert town. Unique concept and wonderful performances combined with some incredible miniature effects. Add to that Universal International music and production values, and you've got a real winner. Recommended.

66 BEN-HUR (1959 - color)

        Ground-breaking epic was a remake of the silent film. This time Charlton Heston plays Judah Ben-Hur, a Jew framed by his childhood friend who is now a bigwig in the Roman empire. A series of adventures place Hur into a position to challenge his old friend directly in a chariot race which remains one of the most exciting sequences ever put on film. The film's full title is actually BEN-HUR, A TALE OF THE CHRIST, and Hur's adventures have him periodically crossing paths with the pre-crucified Savior. A long movie, but worth the time it takes to see it. Everything you've heard about the film "is surpassed by the actuality!" The similarly long silent version is also quite good. At least one DVD release included both versions.

67 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956 - color)

         Landmark Biblical spectacle is one of Hollywood's greatest epics. Charlton Heston is Moses, a Jew raised in the very palace of the regime which sought to slaughter him. As director Cecile B. DeMille noted in the film's preview, what could make for better drama? When Moses comes of age, he discovers his roots and slays an Egyptian soldier. He's then exiled to the wilderness, but his adventure is just beginning. God has chosen Moses to lead His people out of Egyptian bondage. Wonderfully powerful film, though it's ending is somewhat of a downer since this is the moment in history in which God's chosen people decided they would rather live under Law than God's Grace. Mankind wouldn't be redeemed until the resurrection of Christ hundreds of years later. Powerful motion picture, though, and a beautiful one too in it's color CinemaScope frame. An essential, along with BEN-HUR, QUO VADIS, and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

68 THUNDERBALL (1965 - color)

        Sean Connery's fourth assignment as 007, even after numerous sequels, largely remains The Biggest Bond of All! SPECTRE steals a pair of atomic warheads, and Bond heads to the islands to recover them from the grip of ruthless agent Largo. First wide-scope Bond film. "Remade" in 1983 as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, starring Sean Connery in his last turn as James Bond. I once screened GOLDFINGER and THUNDERBALL back-to-back, When it was all over, I literally felt pummeled, it was so exciting. 

69 KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS (1977 - color)

         One of the best of the 70's Nature Strikes Back subgenre, which was by and large a rather dubious lot (hindered mostly by their main concept). Tarantulas, deprived of their natural food source by insecticides, begin to amass themselves into armies in order to bring down larger prey -such as cattle, and, most disturbingly, humans! William Shatner stars. Much of the music consists of stock themes recorded for The Twilight Zone back in the 50's, which I note as a plus. Sharp script, good acting, overall one of the finer 70's drive-in treats you'll run across. On par, check out DOGS
    (Far inferior, you can also check out THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION, Bill Rebane's tale of extra-dimensional tarantulas stalking rural Wisconsin. Cheesy in the extreme, but it delivers the drive-in goods.)

70 INVASION EARTH! THE ALIENS ARE HERE! (1986 - color)

          Like IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD, this one is largely a clip show that celebrates monster movies of the 50's and 60's. This time, however, the movie clips are actually part of a larger plot which involves Martians invading a theater and then running a monster movie marathon in order to tap the subconscious impulses of the audience and create a monster of their own. Amusing stuff, but to a kid in the 80's, this was the best way to see footage from movies you'd only read about in backissues of Famous Monsters, so the clips were the real draw. Fun stuff, whatever you watch it for. As in the case of IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD, legal issues have prevented a wide DVD release. I think there was a limited release in England, but you'd need a region-free player. Or, you can always hunt down one of the old New World VHS tapes.

71 THE BLOB (1958 - color)

          Steve McQueen began his career as professional Cool Guy by starring in a monster movie. In this case, an exceptionally good one, as THE BLOB remains the quintessential 50's monster epic. I'm sure you've heard of the plot, in which a meteorite falls to Earth and brings with it an indestructible flesh-eating ooze that threatens all life. If you haven't seen it, make a point to. DVD release is gorgeous, with color so vivid it's practically bleeding from the screen -in a good way, of course! Larry Hagman directed a bizarre quasi-sequel in the early 70's, which might've been a bit stronger if it'd picked the tone it wanted to have and then stuck with it, known alternately as BEWARE! THE BLOB! and SON OF BLOB (aka SON OF THE BLOB). A remake of the original film (mixed liberally with THE CRAZIES) came along in 1988. The remake isn't bad, but it's not a patch on it's inspiration. Meanwhile, the producers of the original film followed up with THE 4D MAN, which was also to star McQueen. Steve's star rose too quickly, though, and he was replaced by Robert Lansing -who gives a rather McQueen-like performance. That one is also worth a look.

72 I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (1958)

         Gloria Talbot begins her life with husband Tom Tryon, unaware that he's been replaced by a Martian agent part of a plan to repopulate a dying race of spacemen. A certified classic that lives up to it's reputation as such, with perfect performances. An essential. The sort of movie that demonstrates just why 50's monster movies remain so popular decades after their initial release. Always recommended.

73 BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER (1960)
        Test pilot Robert Clarke breaks the time barrier and ends up in a diseased future where the few remaining humans face sterility in an underground city. This one could easily've been released as a feature version of The Twilight Zone. Kinda-sorta-almost remade as THE TIME TRAVELERS, in a way. An obscure film, sadly, but worth seeking out. Economical, to be sure, but a nice solid production.

74 MURDERERS' ROW (1966 - color)

          The second Matt Helm movie is arguably the best, with Matt assigned to locate a missing scientist and prevent BIG-O from destroying Washington D.C. with a revolutionary new laser weapon. Ann-Margret joins Dean Martin for this adventure, with Karl Malden as the bad guy. Tom Reese plays BIG-O assassin "Ironhead." Mighty fine spy antics. Detractors of the cinematic Helm like to point to fight scenes shot from a distance away to cover for Martin's stunt double, an issue prevalent in both this film and THE AMBUSHERS (Martin did more of his own stunts and fight scenes in THE WRECKING CREW). Somewhat smaller production value than the first film, with climactic scenes set at sea quite obviously filmed in a studio tank. The Helms were rather comic book-like, admittedly. Even so, the results remain pretty exciting.

75 THE SILENCERS (1966 - color)

         The first Matt Helm movie hits all the right marks, with Matt pulled out of retirement to stop Oriental madman Victor Buno from causing an atomic accident which could cripple the United States. Stella Stevens is the girl, which is reason enough to check the film out. Dean Martin is an obvious choice to play a cool super-spy, and this entry is the least joke-laced. Lead to three sequels, and later a short television series starring Tony Franciosa. 

76 OPERATION KID BROTHER (1967 - color)

           Sean Connery's brother Neil Connery plays hypnotist/surgeon (and general man-of-action) Neil Connery, the brother of "our top agent" recruited into the world of espionage when one of his patients becomes involved in a world take-over plot. Many a Bond veteran appear here, and the whole affair could easily have been a joke. But it isn't. OPERATION KID BROTHER is actually one of the best spy movies of the cycle! A shame it's so obscure.

77 GODZILLA VERSUS THE SEA MONSTER (1966 - color)

         Castaways find themselves battling an enemy army on a tiny Pacific island where natives from Mothra's island are being held as slave labor. A giant lobster patrols the waters around the island. Fortunately, the Big Blue Dinosaur is on the scene. Enjoyable film seen Stateside as a TV movie. Beware of scope DVD releases, which use an inferior International dub. Once a stable of television and home video, copies of the better dub can be found if you're willing to hunt them down.

78 DEEP RISING (1998 - color)

        Treat Williams starred in this 90's adventure/monster movie set aboard an empty cruise ship boarded by pirates. It soon becomes clear the passengers didn't leave, they've just... gone. Plenty of laughs, but not a comedy. One of Jerry Goldsmith's finest scores. Famke Jansen is the girl. I thought she'd become a much bigger star than she did.

79 MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967 - color)

        Another in the it's-better-than-you've-heard stack, Larry Buchanan's cheap-but-effective tale of invasion made for his best TV movie. Tommy Kirk is the head Martian seeking to acquire human females on Earth, and fortunately for us, he falls in love with his intended breeding unit, female scientist Yvonne Craig. Buchanan here shows more directorial skills than one usually finds in his AIP-TV movies, and it helps that he's working from an original script. The production values are threadbare, but Larry gets more out of them than you might expect. Somber effort, though the acting is all over the map. I was happy to see a very nice release from MGM on DVD. It had earlier been issued on VHS by Orion. Before that, the film was a UHF staple.

80 PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962)

         Ray Milland stars in and directs this AIP film about the aftermath of an atomic attack. One of the few such films to accurately depict the use of atomic weapons in a time of war. Survival drama was released in wide scope. Issued on DVD opposite the Vincent Price end-of-the-world epic THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. This is one I wish were a bit better known, because it's a fine drama. I'm sure we all hope we'd be as prepared and intelligent as Milland's character here is, in case of a disaster. You might also check out THIS IS NOT A TEST.

81 THE GIRLS ON THE BEACH (1965 - color)

        Paramount film plays on the AIP Beach cycle, and does so effectively. A sorority needs to raise money in a hurry. Some guys hoping to make time with the girls give the impression that the Beatles will perform for their fund-raiser. This puts the girls in hot water when it becomes clear the whole thing was a lie. Breezy fun with some of the most beautiful beach girls the genre has to offer, including Lori Saunders as nice girl with uncontrollable hips that gyrate whenever she hears harem music! Lot's of AIP regulars appear, including Dick Miller and Bruno VeSota. Musical guests include The Beach Boys and Lesley Gore.

82 AFRICA SCREAMS (1949)

        Abbott and Costello star in this parody of jungle pictures, in which the boys are hired by Hillary Brooke to lead an expedition into darkest Africa. Shemp Howard and Joe Besser join the fun, along with real life animal wranglers Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck. One of Bud and Lou's funniest pictures, and one of the scant few they made outside of Universal.

83 WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988 - color)

        I had to get a little older to appreciate this detective movie in which live-action human beings interact with animated cartoons. Set in 1947 Hollywood, the plot involves cartoon star Roger Rabbit trying to clear himself for the murder of a man caught playing pattycake with his wife, Jessica. Affectionate valentine to classic movies and cartoons balances the absurd with serious business like murder. Animation fans delighted in seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, as well as Donald and Daffy Duck, share scenes together. Animated siren Jessica Rabbit became an instant glamor icon. Fun stuff, but so technologically complex that this sort of thing was destined to be a one-off. A prequel was planned, but it never got very far. Roger did appear in three theatrical cartoon shorts, however.

84 GODZILLA ON MONSTER ISLAND (1972/77 - color)

        The Big Blue Dinosaur takes on invaders from space again, this time intelligent cockroaches posing as human beings in an under-construction amusement park. Lots of sustained monster action has made this one a favorite of many, regardless of the tons of stock footage used to keep production costs down. Doesn't hurt that the dog-like Angillas gets a nice showy role.

85 ISLAND OF TERROR (1966 - color)

         When a scientific experiment goes awry, it results in the creation of armored creatures which eat human bone. The creatures march across a tiny Scotch island, feeding on anything hapless enough to cross their collective path. Very realistic approach to a fantastic idea, as our heroes use laborious scientific process to uncover the mystery of a boneless corpse. The bit where various weapons are tested against the monsters, starting at the basic and moving up the ladder of destructive force, remains one of my favorite sequences in all film. Fine British science fiction, worth seeking out. Peter Cushing and Edward Judd star. 
   (See also ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED, aka ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED and NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT. Though this one is pretty adult in nature, so use discretion if you've got kids.)

86 THE CRAWLING EYE (1958)

        Forest Tucker stars in this moody tale of invasion from space, where monstrous creatures encased in an artificial atmosphere of extreme cold set up shop on a high mountain slope. I've loved this one since childhood. Climax suffers a bit for it's modest budget, but the monsters are marvelously life-like. A bit gory, though, as 1958 seemed to be the year that began wider experimentation with on-screen bloodiness. This increased blood count was made all the more effective since so many films of this type were still being shot in black and white. It'd be considered pretty tame stuff now, but this is one of the earliest films I can think of to show the bloodied stump left after a man's head has been ripped off!

87 HOODWINKED (2005 - color)

        Charming, hysterical computer-animated comedy that spins the story of Little Red Riding Hood into a crime mystery spoof of fairy tales and classic movies. Intentionally limited, a sort of B movie of the CGI realm. The characters were largely modeled after old Puppetoon figures, and reportedly at least one unobservant critic thought the film had been rendered in stop-motion! Very, very fun. Followed by a sequel, HOODWINKED TOO! HOOD VS EVIL, which was also charming and funny, though it lacked the freshness of this first entry (replacing the limited nature of this film for over-the-top epicness). Still, I would've loved a continuing series.

88 THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1958)

          Classic 50's B science fiction picture stars John Agar as a scientist who has his body taken over by a criminal brain from another planet. A literal brain, roughly three feet long. Iconic monster and a familiar cast make this one go down really easy, even if the ending feels cut short and a bit unresolved. 

89 THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (1981 - color)

           Third telefeature spun off from the beloved series Gilligan's Island, and the last hurrah for the full cast -minus Tina Louise, of course. Jim Backus passed shortly after filming, and in fact fell ill before filming started. Scrambling to fill his absence, the writers created a previously non-existent son to take over Jim's lines. Thus David Ruprecht as Thurston Howell IV. Judith Baldwin is also absent and we're introduced to Ginger Grant no. 3: Constance Forslund. By far the prettiest Ginger, this is the one time when I can't decide if I want to stare at Ginger or Mary Ann when both are on screen. In one last cast change, this film was reportedly to star the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in it's original conception. When they proved unavailable, the legendary basketball team substituted admirably.
    Following up THE CASTAWAYS ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, with the island changed into a resort hotel, this should be the farthest removed from the original series. However, it's tone and sense of fun seem the most in line with the series, when compared to the two previous TV movies. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain plot to take the island away from the Howells in order to possess a newly discovered element (Supremium) which exists in large quantities in the island caves. When the Globetrotters crash land on the island, Landau challenges them to go up against his basketball-playing robots, The New Invincibles. Fun, funny, and charming film simply meant to entertain. Also delightful to spend our last real visit to the Castaways, though Alan Hale looks a little ragged (he actually looks a bit healthier in BACK TO THE BEACH a few years later). Jim Backus in particular, who joins in for a last-minute scene, looks very weak. It's all kind of bittersweet, but it's still charming. The mixture of 60's and early 80's elements works surprisingly well. Good solid kiddie/family entertainment. There really should be a boxed set with the three Gilligan movies by now. 

90 THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE (1972/? - color)

        Well-cast 1960's space opera had to shut down production because the actors couldn't be paid their SAG wages. Then, apparently, the shot footage was sold for stock footage, since clips of it appear in the Italian space opera STAR PILOT. (Another story is that the footage was added to STAR PILOT by the US distributor for it's American release in 1977.) Finally, in 1972 or so, someone tried to cobble the original elements together as best as possible, shoot some new footage to fill in the gaps, and release the results upon an unsuspecting world. I think the actual release didn't occur until '76 or '77. Meanwhile, the events in the film itself are set in a futuristic 1975! 
   What remains visible of the 60's film makes me wish SAG had been a little less demanding and allowed the cast to finish what looked like a single day's remaining shooting time. Though cheap, and pretty questionable in the science department, the original picture was a dandy pulp space opera. In the original script, the first manned flight to Venus is mysteriously pushed forward and last-minute changes are made to the crew so as to include three female members. Only after the ship has been hurriedly pushed into space do the men discover that the Chinese have detonated a doomsday machine. Earth is destroyed, and only the astronauts can continue the human race -if they survive the journey to Venus! What could've been a good beginning is undercut by a new first sequence which lays out the doomsday machine concept (it's even in the title, though as far as I know that was the original shooting title anyway), thus removing any sense of mystery to the suspense. The bulk of the movie plays out as you'd expect it should, though there are some jumps which indicate unfilmed scenes. The ending, though, is where the real problem lies, since apparently none of it was shot. With the cast footage not including a finish, a new ending was whipped up for which a couple of characters could operate while wearing their space helmets to hide the faces of the new actors! Being a 70's product, the new ending is also considerably more downbeat than the original must've been. What could've been a fairly enjoyable 60's space opera became one of the legendary Bad movies consumed by early videonauts. Still, look at this cast: Ruta Lee, Bobby Van, Mala Powers, Denny Miller, Grant Williams, James Craig, Henry Wilcoxon, Casey Kasem! Mike Farrell has a small bit as a reporter. I have a soft spot for this one, despite it's issues. It's ALMOST a good movie.

91 THE KILLER THAT STALKED NEW YORK (1950)

        Based on a true incident, this film tells of a late 40's smallpox outbreak in New York city. According to the film, the cause was a woman unknowingly bringing the germ into the country while avoiding customs inspectors -as she was smuggling diamonds for her sleazy boyfriend. When it becomes clear he's double-crossed her, she manages to hang onto life long enough to catch up with him. Dandy little drama packed with familiar faces. Very much worth a look. I'm surprised there aren't more of these 40's/50's crime pictures on this list, as it's a genre I greatly enjoy. 

92 AGENT FOR H.A.R.M. (1967 - color)

        Mark Richman is an actor I've always enjoyed, particularly when he gets to play the hero. For some reason, that isn't too often, but here he plays secret agent Adam Chance. Chance is hired to protect a defected scientist who holds the secret to immunization against a horrific weapon born of a space fungus which completely dissolves human flesh. Barbara Bouchet is the girl, and spends much of her time in a tiny bikini. Intended to be the pilot for a series, which would've been pretty neat, but apparently it was decided to abandon the series before the movie had even finished shooting. It was instead released as a feature theatrically. Some posters, which sold the spy epic as a science fiction thriller, erroneously label the star "Mark Richmond"!!! Sadly, this particular spy film is very obscure.

93 TARANTULA (1955)

         Universal International's first giant bug movie is another of Jack Arnold's science fiction hits -this one based partly on an episode of Science Fiction Theatre. Nutrient experiments involving radioactive isotopes result in over-sized test animals. Most die in a lab fire, but the giant tarantula escapes. And continues growing. And growing. And growing. John Agar and Mara Corday star, alongside Leo. G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva, Ross Elliott, and Hank Patterson. The photo-enlarged tarantula is one of the best-realized effects in all of movie history. EARTH VS THE SPIDER (in which Hank Patterson also appeared) might be a little better when all is said and done, but TARANTULA is a certified classic in it's own right.

94 SON OF GODZILLA (1967 - color)

         Godzilla's second "island" picture is this delightful adventure in which UN scientists attempt to test a weather control machine with disastrous results. The equipment malfunction is caused by interference from brain waves emanating from a prehistoric egg which hatches a baby Godzilla. The Big Blue Dinosaur shows up to take the young giant in hand and raise him in the ways of monsterhood. There's also a jungle girl, huge mantises, and a gigantic spider which threatens to eat Godzilla's adopted offspring. Charming film was released directly to television in the US, and removed a brief pre-credit scene featuring the king of monsters. Official DVD release used the inferior International dub track. Those looking for a better dub, but a cropped picture, can hunt down several VHS releases.

95 THE BEATNIKS (1960)
         This film's title really should've been swapped with THE BLOODY BROOD, about murderous beatnik Peter Falk and his gang (a great little picture worth checking out, by the way). THE BEATNIKS has nothing to do with the beat scene, but is instead the story of a gang of delinquents. When their leader suddenly scores a recording contract that can release him from gang life, his violent best friend doesn't respond well. From legendary voice actor Paul Frees.

96 THE SANDLOT (1993 - color)

        I'm not a sports fan, but have noticed that I enjoy a lot of baseball movies. This coming-of-age comedy is set during the very early 60's, and concerns a socially awkward boy who finds acceptance with a gang of kids who play an endless game of baseball. When circumstances result in his father's Babe Ruth-signed baseball flying over a fence and into a yard patrolled by a vicious guard dog, the gang tries various ploys to recover it. Delightful stuff.

97 VIRUS (1980 - color)

        One of the last all-star disaster epics was this Japanese production about a killer microbe which quickly spreads across the globe. Ultimately, only research bases at the South Pole escape the plague due to the cold temperatures there. The danger isn't over for them, though... Great survival drama has an amazing collection of actors, including George Kennedy, Henry Silva, Robert Vaughn, Chuck Connors, Bo Svenson, and Glenn Ford as the US President! Released on VHS in the 80's, and it saw at least one DVD release (though said disks are apparently known for being problematic, a number of them unplayable). The American version is so neatly structured that it seems hard to believe that it was actually trimmed down from the much longer Japanese print. It was apparently trimmed down to the European cut, and then further cut down for American release. Reportedly, this was to the film's improvement, and the film we now have is just about perfect. Unfortunately, it's pretty obscure. Word has it that the film passed through theaters almost unnoticed.

98 WORLD WITHOUT END (1956 - color)

         Astronauts pass through a time warp and find themselves on a future Earth where physically-diminished human survivors of an ancient atomic war live in an underground city. The surface of the planet is teaming with hideous mutants. Dandy pulp science fiction fare explores territory later reworked by films like BEYOND THE TIME BARRIER and THE TIME TRAVELERS. This Allied Artists release was fairly opulent, in color and CinemaScope. Stars Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, and Rod Taylor. The film's big rubber spider seems to've later appeared in QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE and VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS. Intriguingly, the film is entirely allegorical to 21st Century America, with easily-manipulated milksops fearful of alpha males who promise deliverance from a welfare state. It's entirely coincidence, of course, but it couldn't be more vivid. At any rate, wonderful pulp sci-fi. Recommended.

99 DINOSAURUS! (1960 - color)

         My favorite dinosaur movie is this wonderful adventure tale from 1960, from the same production crew that gave us THE BLOB and THE 4D MAN. A construction crew building a dock for a tiny Pacific island open up an underwater chamber to find two perfectly preserved frozen dinosaurs. When lightning revives the creatures, the islanders fight for survival. The dinosaur footage was later used on the time-travel sitcom It's About Time. Composer Ronald Stein provides one of his very best scores. Magic stuff, in both color and CinemaScope. Happily, a beautiful scope transfer was issued on DVD by Image.

100 MAD LOVE (1935)
           Peter Lorre (in his first American feature) is brilliant surgeon Dr. Gogol, hopelessly obsessed with actress Francis Drake. When her husband, pianist Colin Clive, is involved in an accident which damages his hands, Gogol performs the surgery to repair them. Later, Clive becomes convinced that he's been given the hands of a recently executed murderer with a talent for throwing knives. The screen's finest adaptation of The Hands of Orlac is one of the best 30's horror films I've ever seen. Every shot is absolutely amazing, the characterization is incredibly solid, and the script very strong. This one is recommended highly. "I, a poor peasant, have conquered science. Why can't I conquer love?!!"

101 ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1941/44)

          Classic screwball comedy suspenser remains the perfect halloween movie, as theater critic Cary Grant and his young bride Priscilla Lane stop off at his Aunts' house before leaving for the honeymoon. An absolute scream. Go see it if you haven't already. Completed in '41, but held back for years due to an obligation to let the play end it's run before the picture could be released. Interestingly, this undercut a bit of product placement. The new model in telephones combined the speaker and earphone into a single piece contained within a handle. The use of such a telephone here was meant to promote them, but such phones had become the standard by the time the film was actually released!

102 ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS (1987 - color)

           Jim Varney's second feature film as lovable moron Ernest P. Worrell is my vote for best of the "series" of pictures. When Santa Claus decides to retire, he goes to Florida to hire his replacement. Your old buddy Ernest lends a hand, as well as help Santa set a teen runaway back on the right path. Warm, hysterical, charming. The Ernest movies tend to be kinda hit or miss, but there's usually some bright spots in each. This one is the best, but ERNEST GOES TO JAIL, ERNEST SCARED STUPID, and ERNEST RIDES AGAIN are pretty good, too. Also quite fun was the short-lived Saturday morning series Hey Vern, It's Ernest!.

103 THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967 - color)

          British science fiction picture has been described as a cross between INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and The Avengers. And honestly, that's a pretty good description. Invisible invaders begin taking over human bodies in order to construct a rocket which will return them to their own planet. Scientist Robert Hutton is unable to have his body taken over by virtue of a metal plate in his skull. Really neat opening theme. I have a bit of a personal connection with this one because God gave me an original one sheet for the picture. I asked, I received! Actually, I'm not sure if I out-and-out asked, or if I just mentioned to Him that I'd like to have one. Either way, my Father blessed me. Praise God!

104 HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944)

          Universal saw it's monster franchises revived by teaming the Frankenstein monster with the Wolf Man. It made financial sense to cram as many monsters as possible into one film, thus this one features a Mad Scientist, the Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, and a mad Hunchback. Some amazing coincidences occur, but the film moves along so smoothly and crisply that it's hard to raise issue with it. When Boris Karloff and his hunchbacked sidekick J. Carrol Naish escape from prison during an earthquake, they take over a traveling carnival which houses the bones of Count Dracula. Karloff revives Dracula (John Carradine, in his first of many turns as the undead Count), and then sends the vampire out to kill some enemies. They catch on and Dracula is out of the picture before Karloff and Naish reach another town and find the remains of the Monster (Glenn Strange) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney). Terrific fun.

105 FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1942)

          Universal's first experiment in mixing it's monsters was this wonderful follow-up to THE WOLF MAN and GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. Graverobbers open the crypt of Larry Talbot and expose the body to the full moon. This revives the Wolf Man, much to Talbot's remorse. Seeking the release of death, he seeks out Dr. Frankenstein, only to find the scientist has died. His Monster is still around, however... One of Universal's most satisfying monster pictures of the 40's.

106 FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965 - color)

          Great-but-oddball Toho film has a Frankenstein monster which grows to tremendous size and then takes on a flesh-eating, subterranean dinosaur. Strange as it might sound, this is one of Toho's best monster epics of the 60's. Stars Nick Adams. Sadly, the American International Pictures version is tied up in some sort of issue which prevented it's being used on Tokyo Shock's DVD release. They patched together a version of the film which used titles from the TV master and the AIP dub laid over the Japanese print. Since the American version included scenes not in the Japanese print, this created a bit of a problem in the middle of the movie. You can hear the monster ripping up a light pole while seeing him hiding quietly in the bushes! The older, cropped version is actually more fun to watch until this issue is finally resolved.

107 HOLLYWOOD OR BUST (1956 - color)

            The last Martin and Lewis movie is my favorite, a gorgeous Technicolor romp packed with some of the most beautiful young ladies ever put on film. Conman Dino and movie nut Jerry both win a car raffle and must share the prize of a new convertible. They head for Hollywood so Jerry can meet Anita Ekberg, while Dino falls in love with Pat Crowley along the way. Directed by Frank Tashlin, former cartoon director. Non-stop fun from start to finish. Just wonderful stuff.

108 THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967 - color)

          The last Disney animated feature in which Walt was personally involved, Kipling's stories of life in the Indian jungle were framed into this fun, feel-good adventure in which Mogli the man-cub must be taken to his own kind before Shere Kahn the tiger can kill him. Walt suggested Phil Harris to voice Baloo the bear, and the studio staff thought he was crazy. But, the results speak for themselves (and of Walt's instincts, which changed the film drastically from the darker, more narrative-driven film developed in pre-production). Also in the cast can be heard such heavyweights as George Sanders, Sebastian Cabot, Sterling Holloway, and Louis Prima. Release a few months after Walt's passing. 

109 THE NAVY VS THE NIGHT MONSTERS (1965 - color)

          One of those films much better than it's reputation. Polar expedition cargo plane crashes on tiny Gow Island in the Pacific, releasing it's samples onto a Naval outpost. This means the island is soon crawling with acidic, ambulatory trees that devour anything and everything. One of those 60's genre films boasting an incredible cast. This one has Mamie Van Doren, Anthony Eisley, Bobby Van, Walter Sande, Russ Bender, Philip Terry, Pamela Mason, Biff Elliot, and Edward Faulkner! Expanded prior to release with some less-compelling filler footage, including a more explosive climax for which most of the cast was unavailable and some editing of re-used shots had to indicate their presence. Released on double bill with the really obscure WOMEN OF THE PREHISTORIC PLANET, which also boasted an impressive cast. Unfortunately, home video hasn't been overly kind to the film. The VHS edition had slightly faded color. The DVD release (so bad that the original distributor dumped it onto a smaller company not known for great prints) was a horrible transfer which got steadily worse as the film progressed. This is sad because, reputation aside, it's a neat little thriller.

110 THE NIGHT CREATURES (1962 - color)

          Possibly my favorite Hammer film, and I only got to see it once! Basically the same material used in Disney's THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH (aka ALIAS DR. SYN), but starring Peter Cushing as a swashbuckler former-pirate intent on protecting his people. Oliver Reed and Yvonne Romain also star. I really need to see this one again, but it was issued on a DVD collection that apparently is notorious for breaking down over time. Classic adventure stuff, sold State-side as a horror movie.

111 THUNDERBIRD 6 (1968 - color)

           Thunderbirds was spun onto the big screen in the feature film THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO. Though it didn't perform as hoped, Gerry Anderson was asked by a wealthy friend to make a second film. THUNDERBIRD 6 was more plot-driven than the previous film, and so far as I'm aware didn't make it to America until television airings began in the early 90's. That's a shame, because this was one of the finest adventure films Anderson was ever associated with. Enemy agents infiltrate the new airship Skyship One on her maiden voyage for the purpose of tricking Lady Penelope into sending a message to International Rescue. The level of technical achievement here is extraordinary. I like both movies, but this one has a slight edge with me.

112 BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH (1967 - color)

           Though you'd never know it from a casual look, this was actually a British picture. Rogue Red Chinese are tunneling under the United States, and fortunately we find out in time to take action against them. Another wonderful pulp science fiction adventure filmed in lovely color. Kerwin Matthews stars. 

113 FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1957)

          Great 50's science fiction horror film involves mysterious deaths near a USAF base in rural Canada. Marshall Thompson grows to suspect the experiments of a local scientist may be responsible for energy drains crippling the base's atomic reactor critical for conducting high altitude surveillance operations. The climax features some of the coolest monsters ever seen in a picture like this.

114 MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (1996 - color)

          Delightful fun as the Muppets spin the classic adventure tale into high comedy. A real stand-out here is Tim Curry as Long John Silver. Catchy songs and self-parody of adventure movies make this one very, very watchable. A few catchy songs never hurt, either.

115 DOCTOR X (1932 - color)

          30's two-strip Technicolor horror about a mad scientist's synthetic flesh experiments is a wower, with grand art deco sets and moody photography. One of a handful of 30's horror pictures to star the beautiful Fay Wray.

116 HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958)

           American International Pictures spoofs itself in this crime/horror story about a pink-slipped makeup man who vows to destroy the new studio regime with the very movie monsters they mocked. This is the film that features both the teenage werewolf and the teenage Frankenstein monster, though monster fans have sounded disappointment that the monster duel which fueled several publicity photos never actually happens. A real treat is makeup man Pete's inner sanctum, where he has on display several monster masks from previous AIP films. What's more, the last reel is shot in color! Fun stuff, but it's also a neat little drama packed with familiar faces and good performances. Not really the end of the 50's teenage monster cycle, but certainly the zenith. 

117 GODZILLA 1985 (1985 - color)

          Toho re-started it's most popular franchise with this back-to-basics science fiction film in which Godzilla suddenly reappears 30 years after his initial rampage. Japan braces for the inevitable moment when the big blue dinosaur wades ashore and starts smashing buildings, while the government tries to ease tensions between the superpowers after Godzilla destroys a Russian submarine. As had been done with the original, Raymond Burr is edited into the film as reporter Steve Martin. Due to the rise of a certain comic, he's referred to in dialog only as "Mr. Martin." Though not a runaway success in it's theatrical run, the film was a smashing hit on home video. The mixture of familiar and freshness kept the film a rental staple for a decade. Once the most visible Godzilla movie, it now stands as the most obscure.

118 THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953 - color)

          Certified classic Technicolor invasion from space epic from producer George Pal remains one of the giants of 50's science fiction. Gorgeous color and exciting human drama packed with nice little moments. Some films are deserving of their reputation, and here's one of the few that are.

119 A VIEW TO A KILL (1985 - color)

             Roger Moore's final assignment as 007 finds James Bond racing to stop psychotic industrialist Christopher Walken from destroying Silicon Valley with an artificial earthquake. After a spat of breathy ballads, the theme song for this one returns to aggressive machismo associated with 007 songs -courtesy the promptly dismantled pop rock band Duran Duran. The film also sports one of composer John Barry's strongest incidental scores in a long time. This one has what may be my favorite moment of the entire Bond franchise in the scene where Bond carries Tanya Roberts down a firetruck ladder to a burst of genuinely moving music which doesn't dial back in the least the heroism on display. Sir Roger makes his last showing as Bond a very strong one.

120 SPACED INVADERS (1990 - color)

          Hysterical comedy concerns a small town's anniversary re-broadcast of the Mercury Theater War of the Worlds play, and the Martian scouts who mistake the broadcast for a real invasion. Laughs are hard and non-stop, and the technical effects are some of the most impressive you'll ever see. 

121 THE INCREDIBLES (2004 - color)

          This one seemed to come out of nowhere and leap right to the top of a lot of favorites lists. 60's sci-fi mod design aesthetic and throwback musical score highlight this digitally-animated adventure about superheroes forced to live anonymously. The once-great hero Mr. Incredible is now a suburban dad wishing he could still make a difference. When a mysterious benefactor suddenly appears, it looks as if Mr. Incredible has a second shot. But things are not as they seem... Though a superhero movie, THE INCREDIBLES takes most of it's cues from the 60's spy genre -complete with a faux John Barry soundtrack. Even the most cynical genre fan was won over by Pixar thanks to this movie.

122 GRIZZLY (1976 - color)

         Film Ventures cashed-in on JAWS by basically remaking the film with a different setting. As the title suggests, this one finds a huge, man-killing Grizzly on the loose. Ranger Christopher George and naturalist Richard Jaeckel want to kill the bear, but park administration waits until it's too late and bodies pile up. Helicopter pilot Andrew Prine joins the hunt. What probably sounds like a cheap knock-off is actually a pretty lush production (particularly for a small outfit like Film Ventures), and it's easily one of the most satisfying copies a popular film ever had. Somehow, it's the blatant similarity to the earlier film which actually makes GRIZZLY so much stronger than it's brethren. Having helmed a handful of cheap-but-exploitable genre movies, director Bill Girdler firmly establishes himself here. Sadly, it would only be a few years later that the man died in an air crash while scouting locations. Girdler followed up GRIZZLY with another nature-attack film for Film Ventures, the under-rated SOMETHING IS OUT THERE -an all-star disaster movie somewhat better known as DAY OF THE ANIMALS. George and Jaeckel return, joined by such stars as Paul Mantee, Leslie Nielsen, and Michael Ansara.  

123 SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (2004 - color)

          I didn't see the first film, and word has it I made out better by seeing this one instead. Colorful suspense comedy actually honors the format and history of the television cartoon rather well. The Mystery Inc. gang opens a museum housing all the gathered ghost costumes they've collected over the years, but one of the costumes turns out to be a real ghost. Soon, the gang is unraveling the mystery while also combating a dishonest lady reporter intent on destroying Mystery Inc. Meanwhile, a ghoulish assortment of the captured costumes are subjected to a process which turns them into living ghosts! Surprisingly fun stuff with quite a few good laughs sprinkled throughout.   

124 THE ALPHA INCIDENT (1977 - color)

            Bill Rebane's best movie is something of a cross between THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and THE CRAZIES. A germ brought to Earth via meteorite is unleashed at a remote rural train station, and the station's tiny staff is quarantined by a gruff G-man. They must stay awake or face death by expanding brain! Ralph Meeker stars, although his part is somewhat small. Rather grim, but intriguing.

125 BLOOD OF DRACULA (1958)

           AIP found it had a hit in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, so they followed it up with the logical next step, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN. That film's co-feature was BLOOD OF DRACULA, AIP's teenage vampire movie. Basically a female swap on the werewolf movie, this one finds fireball Nancy stuck in a girls' academy after her recently-widowed father has quickly remarried and must move across the country to his new job. Nancy doesn't take kindly to the ribbing she gets from the other girls, but soon enough slides into the routine of things with the help of her science teacher Mrs. Branding. Then Branding decides Nancy is the perfect subject for her regression experiments... Until the horror stuff kicks in about half-way through, this one functions as a very good drama about troubled Nancy. As is so often the theme of Harry Cohen pictures, though, the figure that should be helping Nancy adjust is exploiting her for scientific purposes. As in the werewolf movie, the idea is that post-atomic war humans will only be able to survive if their bestial instincts are brought back to the surface. This turned temper-prone Tony into a werewolf. Nancy becomes a vampire. At about 70 minutes, this one never spins long enough for us to question just how strange the plot is. It's a fine performance piece and a solid little thriller as well. Of particular note is Paul Dunlap's emotionally charged score. This one kinda fell off the radar after it's release. You can find a DVD pairing it with HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (that one complete with it's color ending). Recommended.

126 STAR PILOT (1965/77 - color)

          This 60's Italian pulp space opera wasn't brought over until the late 70's, when it was used to cash-in on the phenomenal success of STAR WARS. Audiences must've thought they were seeing someone try to pull a fast one, as the movie looks like nothing so much as the sort of 60's import then frequently airing on UHF TV stations. The film is really in two halves. The first half is a science fiction film vaguely of the Quatermass variety (through an Italian filter, of course) involving a mysterious patch of dead ground in a rural location. A scientist and his sexy daughter join an investigation team, largely unaware that they are being tailed by Oriental spies. When the ground breaks open during an earthquake, it's discovered that a space craft is buried down there. What's more, the ship's crew is still alive! There's a tussle with the spies, but the space people soon have the rest of our cast enslaved and forced to repair the damaged ship. Representing the planet Hydra is a sexy female captain and her two hulking assistants. In the film's second half, the ship blasts off and the assembled crew bobs about in outer space. Wild, and often goofy, film is still very fun. Sheer tights are the space fashion of comely females. Kirk Morris, star of muscle epics, is kinda wasted in a supporting role as one of the Hydrans. Odd movie, but enjoyable if you have a taste for Italian pulp. Often listed in the plural, but the on-screen title is singular. Meanwhile, it's (relatively) somewhat more widely known by the video title 2 + 5 = MISSION HYDRA

127 THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009 - color)

             Disney's first traditionally animated movie after some years of digital productions is an absolute delight. Unfortunately, it torpedoed at the box office and the Mouse hasn't dabbled in traditional animation since. Likely, audiences avoided the film fearing it would be used to PC preach at them, since the characters are mostly black. Astonishingly, though, the film completely avoids any political correctness lecture and focuses instead on being entertaining. (Insanely, this approach has reportedly caused ill feeling toward the film from prominent civil rights groups.) The story concerns a poor waitress who dreams of opening her own restaurant, but is stymied by her economic condition even after she's managed to raise the money for her down-payment. Frustrated, she finds herself in the company a talking frog -he really a foreign Prince transformed by a voodoo master! She kisses the frog expecting the old fairy tale to hold true, but since she isn't a true princess, the spell backfires and she becomes a frog too! Soon, both are trying to survive a dangerous trek through the swamps in order to find a magical old woman who can change them back. I enjoyed this movie so much, and if I hadn't known otherwise I might've mistaken it for a late 80's release.  

128 LAS VEGAS HILLBILLYS (1965 - color)

          The rural comedy wave of the 60's wasn't limited to television. This seemed to be an attempt to turn crooner Ferlin Husky into a country-themed Elvis Presley. Hillbilly Woody Weatherbe has never really been out in the World, but he has to dive in with both feet when he inherits a rundown night club in Las Vegas. Joined by nervous sidekick Jeepers, Woody heads to Vegas and discovers his best asset is his contract with sexy singer "Boots" Malone. Some fuss with local mobsters doesn't prevent an all-star country music extravaganza concert to raise funds and bring a little of the South to the West. While I was never a big fan of country music, this era of the mid 60's produced some pretty fine recordings. Husky seems to be having a blast, and he's given support by some familiar faces from both movies and music. Mamie Van Doren plays the cynical "Boots" and Jayne Mansfield is a potential investor. Delightful fun, and a modest hit. Husky and the gang (Van Doren replaced by the much warmer Joi Lansing) returned for HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE. This entry, though amusing and packed with veteran horror stars, wasn't as strong. It would be the last in the series (though by virtue of it's horror trappings remains the better known of the pair).

129 VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965 - color)

           Director Bert I. Gordon doesn't seem sure what tone to shoot for in this science fiction pop teen adventure with comedy trappings. About half of it is played for laughs, the other half for straight thrills. It's been described as a Beach movie minus the beach, but that isn't a very good assessment. Ronny Howard is Genius, child scientist who accidentally creates a "goo" which causes life forms to expand to several times their original size. Tommy Kirk figures there's a fortune to be made for farmers, but tough Beau Bridges and his gang steal the Goo and then ingest it themselves! The result: giant teenagers take over town and the good guys must fight back. Groovy stuff, with the usual compliment of pretty 60's girls. The MGM DVD release is pretty, but the image is ever-so-slightly squeezed. This is so slight as to go unnoticed by the casual observer and yet be glaringly obvious to anyone versed in film. 

130 ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958)

          Released on DVD opposite VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE is one of the most unique science fiction thrillers you're likely to run across. Salesman John Agar and secretary June Kenney know something's odd about doll-maker John Hoyt, but he seems harmless enough. That is, until the people close to him start going missing -something that always seems to coincide with his creating a detailed doll in their likeness. Yes, he's actually got a miniaturizer and he shrinks people to toy size in order to keep them from leaving his life. While the film is well done (cheap, but well done) and the cast is strong, it's really John Hoyt who makes the show. His somewhat monstrous character is one of the most vividly etched, deeply motivated, and ultimately highly sympathetic heavies to ever grace the screen. The script, Hoyt's performance, and Albert Glasser's tragic musical score combine to create one of the great screen menaces of all time.   

131 THE LONG, LONG TRAILER (1953 - color)

           Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball bring their brand of magic to the big screen in what is for all intents and purposes an I Love Lucy feature film. Desi is a construction engineer about to wed Lucy, and she thinks they should buy a trailer rather than a house -the better for them to be together as his job takes him all over the country for months at a time. He's hesitant, but Lucy eventually has her way and their adventures on the open road really begin. Gorgeous film, delightful, and in a way quite dreamy. Filmed in numerous scenic locations across the country, in Technicolor no less!

132 THE PATRIOT (2000 - color)

          Devlin and Emmerich were fan favorites until their disappointing Godzilla movie. Basically, they made high profile B pictures which won big boxoffice but critical disdain. The new century saw them parting ways, but not before they produced this, a massive epic about the American Revolution. A real throwback to the glamorous old-Hollywood historical epics, THE PATRIOT captured American greatness in a stirring story about Mel Gibson's reluctant rebel forced by British killers into joining the war for independence. Sweeping drama with an eye for history. Long, but worth the investment. Unfortunately, it came too late to restore the production team's reputation with movie fans.

133 SPECIAL MISSION LADY CHAPLIN (1966 - color)

          Fine espionage antics focus on a secret agent's involvement with fashion designer Lady Chaplin and her connection to some missing atomic warheads. Features my all-time favorite spy gadget: a cigarette gas mask. Sadly, this one is pretty obscure. The same production team made a couple more espionage epics, but nothing as fun as this.

134 HIGH SCHOOL BIG SHOT (1959)

          50's B picture has a complex and intriguing, if downbeat, script. Student discovers his boss is about to make an illicit drop-off and plots with a pair of professional thieves to steal it. Akin to QUICKSAND in some ways, and released on a nifty DVD from Something Weird (paired with similarly strong JD flicks DATE BAIT and HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR). Recommended. While I'm at it, toss in THE GIRL IN LOVER'S LANE.

135 THE FAT SPY (1965 - color)

          Goofy, but fun, spoof of the Frankie/Annette Beach pictures. Jack E. Leonard plays two roles, slimy industrial spy Herman and his innocent twin brother Irving. Herman works for make-up tycoon Brian Donlevy. Donlevy's daughter is Jayne Mansfield, who pines for Irving. Phyllis Diller is Donlevy's rival and seeks to destroy him. She teams up with Herman to find the Fountain of Youth, which is also being searched for by a group of teens on Irving's island. Silly, but enjoyable, with some nice songs sprinkled throughout. 

136 WALL*E (2008 - color)

           Pixar release concerns a lonely robot who, apart from a cockroach, seems to be the only inhabitant of an Earth so cluttered with trash that mankind has simply left it behind. Aboard massive cruise liners 700 years out in space, humanity has been pampered to the point of near immobility. Wall*E was one of thousands of robots left on Earth to clean up the mess before man returns, and it's been so long that our hero seems to be the only robot still working. Wall*E discovers a plant shortly before the arrival of EVE, a sleek robot tasked with finding evidence of Earth's habitability. All leads to a cosmic adventure with lots of heart and plenty of laughs. I had no idea what to expect with this picture, which turned out to be absolutely charming. 


     And those are the 136. That doesn't cover things nearly well enough, so, at the very least honorable mention is extended to the following... 

EASY MONEY 
(Edward G. Robinson is a likeable gambler who takes on criminals and builds his own empire. James Cagney is also on hand.) 

LILO & STITCH 
(Wonderful Disney animated feature about a space monster who poses as a dog and finds love with a Hawaiian family.)

THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE
(A shift in the planet's axis causes increasing heat and atmospheric disturbances. A British newspaper follows the disaster. Rather adult fare, but gripping. More action-packed was CRACK IN THE WORLD a couple years later. Somewhat more comic book-ish was THE NIGHT THE WORLD EXPLODED, a few years earlier.)

HEY THERE, IT'S YOGI BEAR!
(Hanna-Barbera's first theatrical feature follows Yogi and Boo Boo as they journey cross country to find the missing Cindy Lou. Some nice songs and rich background art, and plenty of laughs.)

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES 
(One of the great classic crime pictures. An opportunistic gangster and a priest, childhood pals, love each other, but oppose each other, and both are guiding forces in the lives of the city's youngsters. With Cagney, O'Brien, Bogart, and the DEAD END kids.)

MOON PILOT
(Charming forgotten live-action Disney comedy from the early 60's plays sort of like I Dream Of Jeannie, with astronaut Tom Tryon running into mysterious space-lady Dani Saval. At first he thinks she's a spy, but she eventually convinces him that she's on the level and has information vital to his scheduled moon-launch. Were the other planets populated by such adorable creatures, we never would've stopped at the moon.)

A CHRISTMAS STORY 
(One of the last films to become a Christmas tradition, following the misadventures of a young boy who dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB gun.)

WESTWORLD 
(Amusement park where people live out their fantasies by interacting with humanoid robots breaks down, resulting in gunslinger robot Yul Brynner hunting Richard Benjamin.)

THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE 
(Edward G. Robinson is a doctor convinced criminal behavior is a medical condition, and he joins the underworld to prove his theory.)

TOY STORY 3 
(A good film begat a great sequel, and this third chapter is even better. The toys find themselves relegated to a good will donation box when Andy goes off to college...)

DOGS 
(Canines revolt against mankind in this superior 70's animal attack movie. Recommended. Nearly on par with KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. Well done on all points, but what really makes it work is an unusually intelligent script. That fact in itself is pretty sad, because writing a script this good shouldn't be so hard.)

THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE 
(Classic western concerns Eastern lawman who finds the Wild West isn't quite ready for law and order. John Wayne, James Stewart, and Lee Marvin as the titular owlhoot.)

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION 
(A man wrongly sent to prison for murder spends the next few decades trying to survive. Unusual film defies typical three-act structure. A modern masterpiece.)

THE LAST COMMAND 
(The saga of the Alamo centers on Sterling Hayden's Jim Bowie. Richard Carlson is Col. Travis!)

FOURTEEN HOURS 
(A young Richard Basehart climbs onto the ledge of a skyscraper to commit suicide. The next several hours are spent with authorities -including beat cop Paul Douglas- trying to talk him down.)

DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK 
(Richard Wydmark makes a play for psychologically-troubled babysitter Marilyn Monroe in this chilling drama suspenser. Worth a look.)

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY 
(Bud and Lou, in their last movie for Universal, run afoul of an Egyptian cult seeking an ancient amulet. Typically hysterical stuff. Though given character names in the credits, the boys call each other by their real names in this one.)

THE GIANT GILA MONSTER 
(Good, solid script with strong characterization raises this one above some of the lackluster miniatures in this story of a giant reptile roaming the back woods and eating people unfortunate enough to cross it's path. Shot in Texas, but sporting full professional production value by the hire of California talent. Don Sullivan stars. The same production team also made THE KILLER SHREWS. Speaking of....)

THE KILLER SHREWS
(A scientific experiment goes awry and results in a tiny island being over-run with wolf-sized shrews which must consume several times their own weight in meat each day. Moody, suspenseful picture starring James Best -who made a belated sequel shortly before his passing- and Ken Curtis. The film gets a lot of knocks because the pack-hunting* shrews are played by dogs. One wonders if these people were expecting cows or chickens to play the monsters instead, the way they react to this. Given the logistics of the script, the use of dogs seems entirely reasonable. They also nicely match the puppet shrew heads used in close-ups. Crisp editing and an intelligent script. Better than you've heard.)
 *Shrews are notorious loners by nature, but then the movie shrews are giant, poisonous mutations, so the departure from natural habits seems a minor quibble.

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES 
(Best feature to star Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe finds our heroes inadvertently putting in working order an inventor's time machine, and all are whisked off to ancient Greece. Great stuff.) 

HERCULES, SAMSON, AND ULYSSES 
(A lot of Sword and Sandal movies used the name Samson for their generic muscle-bound heroes, but this one actually involves the historical Samson. When Hercules and his friends go hunting a sea monster, they end up lost and find themselves in the Holy Land. There, Samson is slaughtering the Philistines and the bad guys hire Hercules to take out Samson. The two giants meet in combat and fight each other to a draw before deciding they should team up. Delilah catches Samson's eye, though Hercules doesn't trust her. Simply fantastic Sword and Sandal epic is easily one of the best films of the genre.)

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS 
(A certified classic involving space-born seed pods which replace human beings with socialist clones, which plot to take over the world. Kevin McCarthy stars.)

THE MAN CALLED FLINTSTONE
(Theatrical offshoot of The Flintstones finds the Flintstones and the Rubbles entangled in super-villain's world take-over scheme in this spoof of the then-hot secret agent genre. The film's poster even played on the OUR MAN FLINT ad art. Not a perfect vehicle, but certainly a fun one.)

THIS ISLAND EARTH 
(Scientist Rex Reason comes into possession of advanced scientific materials by mail-order, which is only to test him for a project headed up by mysterious Jeff Morrow in this classic Universal International science fiction epic. Technicolor.)

THE AVIATOR 
(The life of industrialist/engineer/producer/inventor/tycoon/aviator Howard Hughes is explored in this episodic historical drama. Makes for an interesting companion piece to THE CARPETBAGGERS, an all-star 60's Harold Robbins adaptation which was also based on the life of Hughes.)

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS 
(I preferred this 1962 feature film to the famous novel -though those looking for something more traditional can seek out the fine BBC adaptation from the 80's. A meteor shower leaves most people on Earth blinded, and gives rise to a plague of mobile, flesh-eating plants called Triffids. Pockets of human survivors try to reach safety where government works to restore order.) 

HOT RODS TO HELL 
(Dana Andrews is a traumatized suburban father/husband who moves his family to the desert. When his family is targeted by hot-rodding rebels, he must fight back. A great JD flick. Nobody played average Joes who had to overcome past trauma like Dana Andrews. Highly recommended.) 

COLOSSUS, THE FORBIN PROJECT 
(Dr. Forbin thinks he has the ultimate computer, and the US government turns total control over to Colossus. Who woulda thought that would be a bad idea? Man vs machine, literally, in this unsettling Universal science fictioner.)

SONG OF THE SOUTH 
(Amazing Disney film about children living on an old South plantation and falling in love with Uncle Remus is charming, delightful, wondrous. Overly-sensitive -and baseless- outcry got the film effectively banned, despite it long being a massive hit with critics and audiences alike. If you can find a copy, my highest recommendation.)

MILLION DOLLAR KID 
(East Side Kids meet up with a kind tycoon and his troubled son -who is turning to a life of crime. Equal parts comedy and drama, this is probably my favorite of the long-running series.)

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH 
(Ray Harryhausen's last black and white B was this story of a specimen brought back from Venus. When the ship crashes on return, an ever-growing dinosaur-like monster is soon on the loose in Rome.) 

DEATH FLIGHT 
(1977 TV movie about the doomed maiden flight of America's first SST is one of the best of the genre, comfortably standing alongside more prestigious theatrical films of similar nature.) 

GODZILLA VS THE THING 
(Godzilla resurfaces after a massive hurricane, which has also washed ashore Mothra's egg. Considered by many fans to be the best of the Godzilla films.)

THE FLINTSTONES IN VIVA ROCK VEGAS
(Second live-action Flintstones movie takes place when Fred and Wilma first met. Laughs a plenty in a film which more or less retains the feel of the original series. Both films are fun, but I like this one a little more -and this time they remembered that Betty was the hot one! I must wonder what they did with all those sets when filming was done.)

TORMENTED 
(Richard Carlson kinda-sorta is almost responsible for the death of his blackmailing former flame, and she comes back to haunt him before he can get married to a nice girl he's found. My favorite ghost movie, in desperate need of a pristine official release.)

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT 
(Doris Day and Rod Taylor fall in love in this romance/comedy espionage spoof. Robert Vaughn's cameo is priceless.)

HACKSAW RIDGE 
(Mel Gibson's powerful epic about Desmond Doss, Army medic who refused to carry a gun for religious reasons and became one of the military's greatest heroes. Hollywood was interested in the Doss story during the War, but Doss didn't feel it right to capitalize on his deeds. It wasn't until the 21st Century that permission to do a movie was finally given, and result is one of the best war movies to come along. This is right up there with THE DIRTY DOZEN and it's kin, and it's a true story to boot.)

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY 
(Summer-set sequel to A CHRISTMAS STORY is another winner, as we explore humorist Jean Shepard's memories of childhood during that other Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.)

MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT? 
(Rock Hudson is a fishing expert who has never actually gone fishing, books the source of his wisdom. His skills are put to the test when Paula Prentiss enters him in a fishing competition. Delightful fun. Norman Alden steals the show as a conman redskin who puts on a Tonto routine for the tourists.)

THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH 
(Goofy, cheesy 60's drive-in movie about corpses transformed into literally blood thirsty fishmen by exposure to toxic waste delivers the goods, and at times even sports some pretty effective scenes.)

CALL ME B'WANA 
(Bob Hope is forced to lead a jungle expedition to recover a fallen space probe before the enemy can get to it. Fun stuff.)

WAKE ISLAND
("The Alamo of the Pacific" was still a real battle when this morale-boosting war epic was pressed into production. The first major battle with the Japanese was a technical loss, but audiences cheered this cinematic version which showed a tiny US force fighting to the last man against ever-increasing odds. Though the real battle ended with a handful of survivors who surrendered, this all-or-nothing film version truly captures the American spirit. And what a cast!)

WAKKO'S WISH 
(Animaniacs video feature spoofs fairy tales, musicals, and just about everything else. The destitute kingdom of Warnerstock is under heavy taxation by a cruel monarch, and little Wakko Warner makes a wish upon a falling star to make things better. Wakko has to actually touch the fallen star to make his wish, though, and whoever touches it first will get that privilege. An assortment of characters set off on a race to be the first to reach the wishing star in this fun wrap-up to the berserk franchise. Fun, though heavy on the songs, and most characters from the show make an appearance here. Delightful stuff, if very, very 90's. Tom Bodett -sp?- is the narrator.)

EEGAH
(A pretty girl finds a caveman, played by Richard Keil, living in the desert outside Las Vegas. Cheap little production, even by contemporary standards, was a drive-in hit that played for years. From Archie Hall, subject of the terrific Jack Webb service comedy THE LAST TIME I SAW ARCHIE, who cast his son Arch Hall Jr. as lead in the hopes of making him a star. The elder Hall plays the father of leading lady Marilyn Manning, and she's quite fetching here. Jr. did a handful of pictures, but none were this successful financially. Of note, Hall Jr. and Marilyn Manning play on-the-run psycho killers in the tense chiller THE SADIST. That one is highly recommended.)    

WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE
(Heather Langenkamp, star of the two best films in the A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, finds herself being plagued by nightmares terrifyingly similar to those experienced by her fictional counterpart. Turns out cinematic boogeyman Freddy Kruger is "real" and he's trying his best to escape into our world. Intriguing and intelligent cerebral horror film didn't do very well at the boxoffice. The first of these films that I saw, and it makes for a nice trilogy with the original film and the third entry -which also featured Heather Langenkamp and John Saxon. The second film is pretty good, too, as is -shockingly enough- FREDDY VS JASON.)

8 ON THE LAM 
(Bob Hope and his brood go on the run when he's framed for embezzling the bank where he works. Shirley Eaton, Phyllis Diller, Johnathan Winters, and Jill St. John co-star.)

A GOOFY MOVIE 
(90's animated comedy finds Goofy dragging his unwilling son Max along for a cross-country vacation. Tied to the cartoon series Goof Troop. Followed by a college-set sequel, AN EXTREMELY GOOFY MOVIE. I wish there'd been a third focused on the marriage of Max to his high school sweetheart Roxanne. They could've called it AN EXTRA GOOFY MOVIE...)

THE CAT PEOPLE 
(Val Lewton classic stars Simone Simon as an immigrant girl convinced that she'll turn into a murderous cat-woman if she consummates her wedding to Kent Smith. Perfect 40's horror movie was followed by the rather sweeter sequel THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.) 

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN 
(Bud and Lou meet the Universal monsters in this fan favorite. Go see it if you haven't already.)

INVADERS FROM MARS 
(A young boy sees a flying saucer land behind his house, but nobody will believe him -then the monsters begin taking over the bodies of his loved ones! British cut had a different ending. Remade in the 80's. That version, a different animal than it's nightmarish model, was pretty nifty too.)

CHISUM 
(John Wayne stars in this star-studded biopic of cattle baron John Chisum.)

THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD 
(Giant snails are the menace of this mighty fine 50's monster movie. Recommended.)  

FACE OF TERROR 
(Lisa Gaye is an escaped mental patient with a burned face. Fernando Rey is the brilliant surgeon with an experimental technique for repairing damaged tissue. Only after he operates does he discover how dangerous his patient is. Sold as a horror movie, and it does have moments of being such, but it's more of a drama. Captivating and sympathetic performances from all concerned. Recommended.)

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA 
(Irwin Allen's nautical science fiction adventure movie is terrific, and sports an all-star cast. Not long after, the successful film was adapted to a television series of the same name.)

THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER 
(Sequel to the 70's hit THE RESCUERS returns Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor as secret agent mice who help endangered children. This time, they head for Australia to save a young boy kidnapped by poacher George C. Scott. John Candy provides most of the laughs as fun-loving albatross Wilbur.) 

DRACULA A.D.2015 
(Joshua Kennedy's YouTube tribute to Hammer's Dracula films is the best vampire movie to be produced since the 80's.)

BACK TO THE BEACH 
(Frankie and Annette return in this valentine to 60's surf culture, and must reclaim their old beach from a band of punks. Very 80's, but manages to capture the fun of the old AIPs in a way I wouldn't have thought possible.)

THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
(I was always most partial to the third of the STAR WARS films, likely because it seemed the most fun. Naturally, whenever I mention a STAR WARS movie, I'm referencing the original, pre-Special Edition version -and completely ignoring the prequel trilogy. This one wraps up the original trilogy with one last huge star battle between the Rebellion and the Empire, and Luke Skywalker's attempt to recover Darth Vader's humanity. And of course, Carrie Fisher steals the show with her metal harem-wear. The increased creature-count no doubt helped the film with my younger self.)

ROBIN HOOD
(Disney's animated version of the legendary rebel was the first version I saw, and it remains a favorite. Amazing voice cast includes a who's who of colorful television actors.)

SATURDAY THE 14TH
(Light-hearted, rapid-fire send-up of monster movies has a typical American family inheriting a cursed house inside which is the dreaded Book Of Evil. When flipped through, the book's catalog of monsters escape into the real world. Not that the story is important, as it's basically a series of gags and genre jokes of every type imaginable. A family horror comedy, packed with nifty monsters.)

HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID 
(Sequel to HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS is a little different animal, and I find I actually prefer it over the original. As the title implies, this time it's an enlarging ray which causes trouble and a giant toddler is soon running around Las Vegas. Though a charming comedy, the last half is interesting in that it plays out more or less legitimately, as if the writers genuinely asked themselves what would happen if a giant baby were suddenly running loose. Some mighty fine effects work highlights a pretty decent familial relationship story.)

STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
(The Star Trek feature films were largely extensions of each other, one leading directly into the next from chapters 2 through 5. This one picks up with Starfleet investigating the newly-formed Genesis planet and finding unexpected life readings. Meanwhile, Kirk mourns the death of Spock until he learns that Spock has placed his soul in McCoy's mind -a condition the sawbones isn't pleased to discover! There are arguably better entries in the series, but this one I enjoy most. My favorite scene of the series happens here, as Kirk looks upon the flaming debris of the Enterprise and asks "What have I done?" McCoy responds "What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live." Really, that sums up why Kirk is such a beloved character.)

IT'S A BIKINI WORLD 
(Tommy Kirk and Deborah Walley star in this non-AIP beach movie about the war of the sexes. Not the best in the genre, but it's pretty fun. I do hope a scope version is out there somewhere....)

NEVADA SMITH  
(Prequel spin-off of THE CARPETBAGGERS focuses on the titular character as he sets out to avenge the murder of his parents. Steve McQueen seems odd casting as an adolescent half-breed, what with his aged features and blond curly hair, but he somehow makes it work.) 

THE SATAN BUG 
(The world may be doomed unless a vial containing a deadly germ is recovered from the madman who wants to pop the cork. All-star espionage/science fiction/crime picture from director John Sturges and writer Alistair MacLean. I don't screen this one nearly as often as I'd like to.)

I'LL TAKE SWEDEN  
(Bob Hope tries to save daughter Tuesday Weld from making a mistake by marrying musical bum Frankie Avalon, so he takes a job in Sweden. Over there, he risks losing Tuesday to the loose morals of the Swede she starts seeing, and Bob flies Frankie over to win her back to the American side. Fun comedy deals with some serious subjects, but it's classic Hope.)

DONOVAN'S REEF 
(Christmas time in Hawaii. John Wayne is Donovan, all-around good guy who operates, among other things, the local bar known as "Donovan's Reef." When a friend is at risk of losing his State-side business interests, Donovan and his assortment of friends make to impress the guy's prudish East-coast daughter. Charming comedy/drama sports an incredible cast. One of those films that makes you want to move to the 50th State and set down roots.) 

WRECK-IT RALPH
(Odd-but-fun Disney CGI fest involves video game characters living in an arcade. Ralph is the heavy of a 30 year old console game called Fix-It Felix Jr, which is largely a play on the old Donkey Kong game. Ralph desires to escape from his rut, and maybe even play the good guy, despite his wish to do so being strictly taboo. The resulting adventure takes Ralph to other games and their worlds. A bit hard to explain, but a joy to watch. I'm not a big video game guy, but I remember playing console games as a kid back in the late 80's and that seemed to be all the reference I really needed to keep up.)

THE VALLEY OF GWANGI
(Some of animator Ray Harryhausen's finest work appears in this 1969 production based on an abandoned project Ray's mentor Willis O'Brien began working on in the 1940's. Cowboy James Franciscus and circus owner Gila Golan discover a prehistoric valley south of the Rio Grande near the turn of the century. Basically a play on KING KONG set in the old West, king dinosaur Gwangi ends up captured and put on display at the circus -naturally, Gwangi breaks loose to terrorize the city. Wonderful stuff sadly was barely promoted by Warner Brothers when released. What should've been a kiddie matinee bonanza was instead discovered later through television and home video.)
 
ICE STATION ZEBRA  
(I only saw it once as a kid, but I was thrilled by it. Would very much like to see it again. US and red forces race to find a fallen satellite if I remember rightly.)
 
ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT 
(Bogart and a gaggle of popular character actors take on fifth columnists in this fun crime thriller/comedy.)

THE TERRORNAUTS 
(Scientists answer a signal from outer space and their laboratory building is scooped into a flying saucer and taken to a distant alien world where they must defend it from attack by another planet. Colorful British picture has imagination, that's for sure!)

TANGLED 
(Disney's first in-house digital movie, produced without Pixar, was this humorous take on the story of Rapunzel. As is so often the case, the animals steal the show away from the human characters, though the love story is pretty good, too. A sequel of sorts was made in the form of a one-reel cartoon.) 

SABOTEUR 
(War-time Hitchcock has plant engineer Bob Cummings framed for sabotage, and we follow him as he tries to clear his name before the police can grab him. Recommended very highly.) 

CITY OF FEAR 
(Killer Vince Edwards steals what he thinks is a canister of heroin, but it's really a container of radioactive material. If he opens it while hiding out in the city, he could contaminate the entire populace before the authorities find him.) 

CURSE OF BIGFOOT
(Around 1963 was shot a movie about students unearthing a prehistoric mummy which returns to life and goes on a rampage. In 1976, the film was given an awkward and unrelated prolog in which a teacher was discussing mythological monsters -bigfoot in particular- with his class. The original version of the film was a charming and imaginative picture. A video version under the goofy title of TEENAGERS VS THE THING restored the film more or less to it's original form. Sinister Cinema recently unearthed a gorgeous 35mm print of the 1976 version, offering evidence that this film saw at least regional theatrical distribution before becoming a late-night UHF television staple.)

SING 
(Uplifting musical looked fairly ho-hum in the TV spots I saw, but this turned out to be one of the most watchable digital movies released outside of Disney. Throwback of sorts to the old Muppet movies, as showbiz koala Buster Moon tries to save his literally crumbling theater by holding an open singing contest. Various hopefuls join the competition for the $100,000 first prize -which doesn't exist and only appears on the flyers because of a typo! Agreeable and satisfying.) 

THE ENDLESS SUMMER
(Bruce Brown's engaging documentary about surfing around the world is a wonder and a joy to watch.)

ENEMY FROM SPACE 
(Brian Donlevy's second, and sadly final, turn as brilliant rocket scientist Professor Quatermass finds our hero confronted with spore-like creatures that take over human bodies. The character had earlier appeared in the moody THE CREEPING UNKNOWN. A third film wouldn't come until the late 60's, and although it's considered a classic, it really doesn't stack up to these two black and white vehicles with me.) 

X THE UNKNOWN 
(This sort of unofficial Quatermass adventure concerns a flesh-melting blob that rises from a deep trench opened during an earthquake. Highly recommended. Shockingly gory for a movie from 1956.) 

THE GREAT ESCAPE 
(All-star blockbuster about the infamous WW2 POW escape plays around with the facts a little, but creates a highly entertaining war/prison movie. A bit long at three hours, but one of those films that breeze by so you don't really notice the clock.)

RISEN 
(The resurrection of the Christ is told from the perspective of a Roman soldier, and unfolded in the structure of a classic detective drama. Departs a bit from scriptural history in the last bit -due largely to budget restrictions one must imagine-, but a very interesting film.) 

THE CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS 
(Stagey pulp science fiction picture tells of humanity in a post-apocalyptic landscape where robot servants threaten to replace human beings. Considered too talky by most, but overall an intriguing picture seemingly trying for a Twilight Zone sort of aesthetic.) 

TARZAN AND THE VALLEY OF GOLD 
(Tarzan faces off against plunderers in this combination of the jungle and espionage genres.)

THE WILD, WILD PLANET 
(The liveliest and best of the Gamma series, though in truth I like all four films. Italian pulp space operas followed the crew of the space station Gamma One as they dealt with invaders from other worlds and other hostile cosmic forces. Weird films somehow manage to at the same time look really expensive and really cheap. The series included WAR OF THE PLANETS, THE WILD, WILD PLANET, WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS, and THE SNOW DEVILS. Incredible fun.)

    And this is me trying to be picky (if honest). I still feel like I've ignored some titles fully deserving to be here, though. Did I mention CLUE? WHISTLING IN DIXIE? CRITTERS? GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE? BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA?