King Hu directs this classic of Chinese cinema

‘A Touch of Zen’ on The Criterion Channel

A Touch of Zen (Taiwan, 1967), King Hu’s romantic chivalry adventure, is a masterpiece of Chinese cinema, a magnificent epic with grand battles fought with the grace of a ballet with swords, and the most significant cinematic inspiration for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The three-hour film took the uniquely Chinese genre of wuxia […]

Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Claudia Cardinale star in Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel

Burt Lancaster is ‘The Leopard’ in Luchino Visconti’s masterpiece on FilmStruck

The Leopard (Italy, 1963), Luchino Visconti’s adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel (said to be a national touchstone for Italy), is his masterpiece. Burt Lancaster (his voice is dubbed by a deep-voiced Italian) may seem an unusual choice to play Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, an idealistic 19th century Sicilian prince (Visconti favored Laurence Olivier, a […]

Robert Hays and Julie Haggerty lead the cast in the disaster movie farce from David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams

‘Airplane!’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Airplane! (1980, PG), the directorial debut of the writing/directing team of David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams (who apprenticed on the screenplay of Kentucky Fried Movie), has my vote for the funniest film ever made. Ostensibly a goof on the barely remembered 1957 aviation thriller Zero Hour! (note the exclamation mark) by way of […]

Vera Clouzot in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Hitchcockian thriller with Simone Signoret

The original ‘Diabolique’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Henri-Georges Clouzot was called the Hitchcock of France for his shadowy thrillers and the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that ran through so many of his films. Diabolique (France, 1955, not rated, with subtitles), his 1955 thriller about a plot to commit a perfect murder and the wrenching tension when the corpse disappears, plays like […]

Kevin McCarthy stars in Don Siegel's 1956 'Invasion of the Body Snatcher'

‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ – the original pod people on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – The original version of the oft-filmed science fiction horror is still the most insidious alien invasion film ever made. This is an invasion from within. Small town family doctor Kevin McCarthy returns to his small California coastal community from an out-of-town trip to find everything just a bit […]

Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and Ed Burns in Steven Spielberg's World War II platoon drama

‘Saving Private Ryan’ – Spielberg, Hanks, and WWII on Hulu

Saving Private Ryan (1998) was the first major World War II film made by Hollywood in decades and the timing was right. The 50th Anniversary of D-Day in 1994 brought the cultural conversation back to the sacrifice of American soldiers. After a generation of films revisiting Vietnam, Steven Spielberg steered Hollywood back to the pride […]

Harold Russell, Dana Andrews, and Fredric March in William Wyler's 1946 drama

‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ – Coming home on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

By all rights, the homecoming drama The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) should have been another well intentioned film left to the dated dustbins of history, but World War II vet William Wyler (working from an original Robert Sherwood script) put more soul into this picture than anything else in his career. Clocking in […]

Rod Steiger and Marlon Brandon in the Oscar-winning film by Elia Kazan

Marlon Brando in ‘On the Waterfront’ on VOD and Blu-ray/DVD

On the Waterfront (1954) –”I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” Marlon Brando won his first Academy Award as Terry Malloy, the former prize fighter turned longshoreman on the mob-dominated docks of New York. Directed by Elia Kazan and starring Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, […]

‘The Red Shoes’ on The Criterion Channel

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger’s The Red Shoes (1948) has been called the greatest ballet film ever made. To girls of a certain age and a predisposition to the romance and beauty of ballet, this film is a touchstone that remains an impassioned favorite long after their invitation to the dance is over. To me, […]