Greetings, fellow cinephiles,
Over the next week or two, I plan to add a couple of additional writers to the Bottom Shelf. As a way of introduction, I will ask them to complete a brief questionnaire about their movie preferences and remembrances. Of course, I’ll never ask a member of the team to do something I wouldn’t do myself. Consequently, below are my answers to that very same survey:
Favorite film: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) — Imagine a major Hollywood studio in 1944 daring to release a comedy about unplanned pregnancy. Then imagine that the film also included a veiled satire of the Nativity story. Well, it actually happened. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is subversive, slightly blasphemous, and absolutely hilarious. The “miracle” is that the film got past the studio heads and the the censorship board and went on to become a box office smash.
Favorite filmmaker: Preston Sturges, who helmed The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. Sturges was the wittiest, most subversive writer/director in Hollywood history.
Favorite film comedian: W.C. Fields — The most modern of the classic film comedians, Fields paved the way for all the misanthropic humor, cringe comedy, and creative vulgarity that followed.
Favorite horror star: Peter Cushing is the best actor to be known primarily for horror, but my heart belongs to Vincent “Anton Phibes” Price.
Sexiest movie star: I dare anyone (male or female) to watch I Knew Her Well (Io la conoscevo bene, 1965) and not fall in love with Stefania Sandrelli.
Favorite film genre(s): I like all kinds of movies, but classic comedy (Chaplin, Keaton, Fields, The Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, etc.) was my gateway into film, and it remains my favorite genre. Other favorites include horror, film noir, and Westerns. Two smaller sub-genres that I especially enjoy are overblown, star-studded epic comedies (The Great Race; It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; 1941 etc.) and “old dark house” horror/mystery/comedies (The Cat and the Canary, The Smiling Ghost, etc.).
Favorite score/soundtrack: Nothing beats Once Upon a Time in the West by Ennio Morricone, but It’s a Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World by Ernest Gold and The Great Race by Henry Mancini are close runners-up.
First film you remember seeing in a theater: Pinocchio (1940), which remained my favorite animated film until the release of Spirited Away (2001).
Greatest movie theater experience: Seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), perhaps the greatest adventure film ever made, during its original release. I was just 12, but I was already enough of a film nerd to recognize which stunts were lifted from Zorro’s Fighting Legion (1939).
Favorite video that was a “blind buy: The Pierre Etaix Collection (Criterion) — If Buster Keaton and Ernie Kovacs had a love child in Paris, the result would be something like Pierre Etaix. This forgotten comedy genius deserves to be rediscovered.
I’d watch just about any film that starred… Dick Powell, especially in the latter half of his career, from Murder, My Sweet (1944) forward. No one could deliver a wisecrack quite like Dick Powell.
Why do you love movies so much: They’re the stuff that dreams are made of.