a list of my video library’s contents
List updated Sunday 16 August 2020
If you arrived here from a search engine reference and want to see my home page, it’s here.
One-sentence reviews of the videos in my library (with exemplary quotes, plus in some cases links to expanded commentary/details as of March 2008)
Films in General
The Addams Family 1991
Deliciously true to the Charles Addams cartoons; I had to see it a few times because my friend Rob laughed so loudly at the Shakespeare duel scene that none of us could hear much for a few minutes.
“Are they made from real Girl Scouts?”
Addams Family Values 1993
The only time I’ve ever seen a sequel surpass an original film, for the same reasons.
“But really, Debbie…pastels?”
Not to have seen this film is not to have lived the ’70s…oddly sexy Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, and way way WAY too many others round out the cast of this absolute gas of a film.
“There’s a sale at Penney’s!!”
Alice Through the Looking Glass 1966
Only in my collection because it’s one of the worst videos I’ve ever seen—it’s almost too bad to be camp—but even the awful retelling of the original story/stories can’t compete with the astonishing array of bad performances turned in (accompanied by a kiss-of-death laugh track) by the Smothers Brothers, Ricardo Montalban, Agnes Moorehead, Nanette Fabray, Jack Palance, Jimmy Durante, and a handful of mercifully Nobody others…ah, but wait! I’ve just learned that Bob Mackie was one of the costumers for this monstrosity!
“Oh, no? Well, how about Snow White…and Sleeping Beauty…and, come to think of it, Hansel and Gretel? Oh, no—I’ve read all about you. …You might just as well go back wherever it is you came from…and you can take your old broomsticks with you!”
All About Eve 1950
I’ve always been impressed by this one but didn’t feel it had to be in my collection…until my friend Anna died and I found myself charged with the task of finding homes for *her* video collection, and this was one of eight films in it which I enjoyed and didn’t have.
“Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Allegro Non Troppo 1979
It’s a goofy mess, in some ways, but most of the musical pieces’ animations are pretty good, the linkage stuff probably funnier to an Italian audience (and I confess Maurizio Micheli is kinda hot as the unctuous Presenter); but what I can say with deep conviction is that I literally cannot NOT cry when watching the piece for Sibelius’s Valse Triste, which is devastatingly effective.
Amazing World 1997
Local dyke flick with a hot blonde detective and Yours Truly in a couple of bit parts. :^)
“Ya know, you can get that removed….”
Angels in America 2004
There are very few things I’ve seen in my life so far which have resulted in an accurate application of the word “aghast,” and Angels in America is one of them from start to finish (with assorted kick-boxing hits to my guts throughout); there was just so much to take in that I was (and remain) bewildered by this tremendous work.
HARPER: “In your experience of the world, how do people change?”
MORMON DIORAMA WIFE: “Well, it has something to do with God…so it’s not very nice. God…splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail, from throat to belly…then plunges a huge filthy hand in. He grabs hold of your bloody tubes…and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists…. He pulls, and he pulls, ’til all your innards are yanked out…. And the pain…. Can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs ’em back—dirty, tangled, torn—it’s up to you to do the stitching.”
Bagdad Café 1988
A film that makes me ache to be alive somewhere but also reminds me why I loathe hot places.
“Is anything wrong, Brenda?”
(The Adventures of) Baron Munchausen 1988
I always get it mixed up with Time Bandits in my mind’s eye, because both are so intensely Gilliam; this is the more uplifting one of the two, of course, and it is an overwhelmingly abundant feast on many levels…worthy of countless viewings but requiring long stretches of recovery between them.
“He’s…uh…he is…tickling her feet.”
Birth of a Golem 1990/2003
A must-have rarity for any serious Eurythmics fan, of course, but beyond that it’s south-southwest of obtuse…Annie’s just a momentary yet arresting physical component here (with a few verbal contributions, usually of the reciting-scripture sort), whereas the rest is pretty esoteric and not particularly engagingly so.
Blazing Saddles 1974
Not one of my favorite Mel Brooks films, and quite uneven and dated in its humor, but my friend Anna loved it and quoted it often enough that I can enjoy it in her honor.
“I’ve been with thousands of men, again and again—they sing the same tune: they start with Byron and Shelley then jump on your belly and bust your balloons…. ”
The Blue Bird (Синяя птица) 1976
For years I’d faintly remembered good impressions of having seen this USSR/USA coproduction (filmed in Russia) as a kid, but until 2004 it wasn’t available for purchase as far as I know so I was unable to revisit it; now, with my eyes both nostalgic and jaded, I’m capable of seeing the beautiful aspects of it (whether conceptual, such as Night’s role as guardian of unknowns, or physical, such as Elizabeth Taylor’s lavish Light costume) while also shaking my head at how lousy much of it is (which is not entirely the production’s fault but rather usually the simple fact that such an allegory was anachronistic even when Maeterlinck wrote it in 1905, and allegory rarely works now).
(p.s. This video’s still not commonly found, so if you want to get yourownself a copy it might help to know that I got my copy from russiandvd.com via amazon.com.)
Boys’ Shorts 1996
Resonance R.S.V.P. Anthem Relax Billy Turner’s Secret The Dead Boys’ Club
Saw it at the Neptune in the early 1990s, I think, and found The Dead Boys’ Club especially wry/erotic; since then I’ve hunted down the music for Resonance and RSVP because they’re so impressive. Resonance is especially haunting for me now, as it encapsulates so much of the choreographic essence and fragile sociological desperation that characterized certain dance works of the mid-1980s, to my eye. R.S.V.P. is just a goddamned agonizing weeper of a piece, beautiful but really hard to watch, yet I can’t resist watching it now and then to remind myself of a lot I prefer to ignore.
“Do you believe that things can be…possessed?”
“A dick’s not a ‘thing,’ man….”
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? 1974
A fascinating and inspired pastiche of U.S. newsreels, documentary footage, contemporary songs, and movie clips, all from the 1920s and 1930s, with no narration or subtitles or anything—this is indeed an Experience, an impressionistic cultural immersion in extremes and contradictions; great for the casual social-historian such as myself who loves researching all the stuff shown. (Captioned on the DVD cover: “The Great Depression…from Human Tragedy to Hollywood Glitter”)
Oh my god is this tremendous.
“Oh, screw Maximilian!”
Camille Claudel 1989
Isabelle Adjani is just magnificent in this (although so help me she does look very much like Melissa Manchester), and Depardieu’s not bad either; I love it too because it seeps Frenchness from all over.
Can’t Stop the Music 1980
Starring the Village People, Valerie Perrine, and Bruce Jenner, and directed by Nancy Walker, this is one of the tackiest things I have on video.
“Leathermen don’t get nervous! Leathermen don’t get nervous!”
“Oh yes they do…yes they do!”
The Cockettes 2002
This enchanting, fascinating, yet incomplete, documentary on a group of what John Waters (in an interview clip here) calls “hippie acid freak drag queens” seems to be trying to tell two or three nearly-parallel stories in one, and as a result the film leaves dozens of tantalizing questions in my mind…as well as much, much envy for the queens’ early gatherings at the Palace Theatre in nostalgic celebration of the culture of 1930s films (although I do wonder if it’s truly all documentary footage, as some of it seems too clean and convenient to have been filmed under the circumstances of the events portrayed).
“…and by that time nobody had any clothes on, and everybody got up and came on the stage, and that was how it started—that was it!”
Cold Comfort Farm 1995
Like a cross between AbFab and All Creatures Great and Small; it’s very hard to believe it’s based on a novel written in the 1930s!
(p.s. if you want to read the book, see the film first, then read the book, then see the film again…the visuals help tremendously)
“There’ll be no butter in Hell!!”
Connie and Carla 2004
A well-chosen gift from my friend Rob, and one I’d almost ventured to see in a cinema; although its ending is terribly weak and these two aren’t particularly convincing as drag queens, there’s plenty to enjoy here and many, many excellent lines and so-bad-it’s-good cabaret performances (in fact after Rob and his wife played it for me and gave me this copy, when I got home later I actually watched the whole thing again, that’s how enjoyable most of this comedy is).
“Are you guys thinking what I’m thinking?”
“No more Spandex?”
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2000
“Give me back my comb.”
The Crow Road 1996
Four-part mystery by Scottish novelist Iain Banks, starring a boy with eyes that make you just want to melt; I watched its debut broadcasts while I was in Scotland in 1996 and swore I’d get myself a copy someday.
“But just for the sake of argument, it was the day my grandmother exploded.”
The Day After 1980
Destry Rides Again 1939
Initially I was almost embarrassed to confess that I have this in my collection, though actually it’s too much fun not to have on hand, especially for that legendary barroom-destroying fight between Frenchy and Destry, and then I watched it again and reaffirmed how impressed I was with it, especially its tremendously deft line scripting; amid all the broad Westerns humor therein lies an astonishing artistic heft.
“Ya know, I bet you got kind of a lovely face under all that paint. Why don’t you wipe it off someday and have a good look…figure out how to live up to it.”
Divine Madness 1980
Bette Midler live and raunchy! Although this is hardly the “definitive” presentation of Bette Midler’s various staged incarnations, it is surprisingly cutting-edge for its time and milieu: there’s a hefty wallop of Punk music/attitude/style here in unexpected settings, and it’s still sort of astonishing to see…and the standup routines, for which I originally got this, are great (although after you’ve heard Midler’s later CD Mud WILL Be Flung Tonight you kinda expect more).
“Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Mildew—the Human Maraca….”
Earth Girls Are Easy 1989
Julie Brown’s showcase for “Cuz I’m a Blonde” and other songs, with excellent silliness throughout.
“Oh my god, you’re like totally black!”
84 Charing Cross Road 1986
A literature-based platonic love affair between two people on opposite sides of the Atlantic, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, and they never even get to meet; before I knew this film of Helene Hanff’s book I was a long-time devotee of her theatre memoir Underfoot in Show Business, which is a series of screams from beginning to end, so this infinitely more touching and eminently wholesome film always surprises me.
“I never can get interested in things that didn’t happen to people who never lived.”
p.s.: George Fenton’s delicious soundtrack to this film was finally issued on CD in 2007 by Varèse Sarabande!
Elvira, Mistress of the Dark 1987
Having occasionally watched Elvira’s horror-movie hosting in the 1980s and totally enjoyed the supremely cheesy humor of the whole experience (I’ll never forget the “chain letter” bit from her Mailbag), I was naturally going to be a fan of this unabashedly silly spectacle (and I did when I first watched it in the early 1990s); that I didn’t think to add it to my video library until 2007 is a regrettable oversight, as it’s completely at home here (but alas, I can’t quote all my favorite lines here).
“How’s your head?”
“Well, I haven’t had any complaints yet….”
Oh, what the hell—it’s my website, and I can break that one-quote rule if I want to. Here’s one of my other faves:
“Calvin was the one who was paintin’ everybody with apple butter! I was just an innocent on-…licker….”
Elvira’s Haunted Hills 2002
While ordering a copy of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, it seemed only appropriate to get a copy of this belated second film (not a sequel) just in case it had some merit (and if nothing else I was likely to get a new infusion of atrocious gags)—and it turns out to be just as silly as the first film but in an entirely different milieu, this one 1850s Translyvania (and filmed on site, which actually adds to the enjoyment with unexpected authenticity amid all the cheese) at least in name.
(the best quote from this film is probably all the screams exchanged between Lady Ema Hellsubus, Lady Roxana Hellsubus, Elvira, and ZouZou at bedtime)
Enchanted April 1992
One from my friend Anna’s collection, which we each independently decided was just wonderful.
“Yes, but don’t you prefer coming out and finding me well to coming out and finding me ill?”
Forbidden Zone 1990?
Only Highway of Heartache is more awful; with Hervé Villechaize as King Fausto, there’s not a lot you can say about this film besides that which it belches at you itself.
“Aaah, your buns smell like lox, honey, I can smell ’em from here….”
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 1966
Goofy in all the standard 1960s-film ways, with Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford pulling gags that just make me wet myself even after countless viewings; that it was a Stephen Sondheim musical is quite lost amid all the shtick of this particular production.
“He raped Thrace thrice?”
Girls Will Be Girls 2003
I got this in September of 2006 upon discovering that it was available on DVD—not that I’d seen it before or known where one would be able to watch it—because my pal Tom in New York had repeatedly raved about how fantastic Varla Jean Merman was in her own shows; I’m afraid I only got a hint of what that might be like, here, but more importantly I came into possession of a solid contender to Highway of Heartache and Forbidden Zone for the Outrageously Atrocious Flick accolade…“Highway of Heartache still holds the top spot thanks to scenes such as Wynona’s unforgettable cigarette-lighting at Reverend Dusty’s electric chair, and Forbidden Zone has more amateurish ghastliness, but ironically Girls Will Be Girls loses its bid for the top Ouch spot because it actually has enough plot and story arc to deliver a decently gripping climax.
“If you’re like me, your days are jam-packed with activity. It seems that no sooner am I done watching my program—
—If you’re like me, your days are jam-packed with activity—
—Whew! Us gals have it hard enough—
—Us gals have it hard—
—have it hard—
Well, it would HARDly be fair of me to not quote what the actors’/director’s commentaries justifiably acknowledged as the film’s biggest laugh for audiences they observed:
“…or maybe…I was so busy bein’ an… | —A S T R O - P H Y S I C I S T!— | —that I forgot how to be…a woman.”
It’s always been a favorite musical for me, and although the film’s not the most gripping piece of cinema it’s at least a good introduction to the possibilities of the musical…if you haven’t seen it, you really should; the “calling” at the beginning is a lovely and significant bit that the staged version doesn’t have, and I could dwell on its implications at length (Lynne Thigpen’s character reacts/gets called first, Katie Hanley is the first to hear the call, etc.), but for the purpose of this brief mention it will suffice to say that this was well done overall (and that watching them dance on the top of the then-incomplete-and-now-destroyed World Trade Center in at the end of “All For the Best” is a wrenchingly disorienting sensation).
“No fruit, Robin.”
Of all the rarities in my video collection, this is easily the rarest: a terrible recording of a not-quite-ready-for-opening-night performance of the production of Godspell which my siblings and I were all in, years ago; it was a pretty good show, although upon watching it 18 years later I can see how thinly it was played, but to my relief we don’t stink. (Highlights include Daniel Law as J-the-B/Judas falling off the stage during “All for the Best” and performances of varying quality from him, the fabulous Jan Hollar, Kevin Loomer, Julie Jones, and entirely too many other people to name here.)
The Great Muppet Caper 1993
The only Muppet movie I’d be caught dead with (I really enjoyed the TV show but the films are on the whole way too sweet for me), it’s got some howlingly funny quotes.
“…and I said ‘look, Motherrr, it’s my life, okayyy? …if I want to live on the beach and walk around naked…’.”
Greater Tuna 1994
This play, filmed here in its original form and starring its authors, is a pants-wetter and a half which I’ve always wanted to stage sometime with my friend Rob.
“Oh I wish you would get on that table….”
A Tuna Christmas 1996
Well it’s just two hoots and a holler, that’s all I need say about this one, the delightful sequel to Greater Tuna.
“Charlene, you have five seconds to get into a Christmas spirit before I harelip you.”
Happy Birthday Gemini 1980
Sort of a funky coming-out film, scripted a little too much perhaps (though pretty faithful to the Albert Innaurato play “Gemini”) but featuring some lovely memorable moments and also starring Madeleine Kahn and Rita Moreno.
“Shit! Why am I such a whale? Why ain’t I a porpoise or a dolphin? Why do I gotta be a whale wit’ hepatitis hair?”
Hardware Wars 1978
I’ve loved this one for so long, and now that I’ve finally scored myself a copy I discover that like its subject it has been “improved” with new special effects! FEH!!!
Harold and Maude 1971
A magnificent reminder of so much about life.
Shine, shine, shine!
High Anxiety 1974
My friend Anna’s favorite Mel Brooks film—totally over the top but a little uneven (same problems as with Blazing Saddles).
“It is nessa! Don’t tell me what’s nessa—I know what’s nessa!”
Highway of Heartache 199???
The most hilarious, god-awful thing I have ever watched; it’s saying something that I not only hunted down a copy of the video but even went so far as to obtain the soundtrack on CD. “Gobleshyoo!”
“It’s a goddamned fucking Christian miracle!”
The Hobbit 1977
The Rankin-Bass cartoon…not great but kinda fun at times, although as a Tolkien lover I should be aghast (what can I say, it was a gift).
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Special Edition] 2012
“Mithrandir—why the halfling?”
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Extended Edition] 2012
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [Special Edition] 2013
“A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf. I am patient; I can wait.”
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [Extended Edition] 2013
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies [Special Edition] 2014
“One day it’ll grow. And every time I look at it, I’ll remember—remember everything that happened—the good, the bad—and how lucky I am that I made it home.”
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies [Extended Edition] 2014
What it’s like to be awkward and rural in a dismal town in the 1950s, and how one teenager tries to separate herself from “weird” roots while another shyly embraces them; I hurt when I watch it, actually.
“Smile at people…!”
The Hunger 1983
In & Out 1988
I wasn’t sure I liked this film enough to add it to my library, but it certainly has some big laughs (the Kevin Kline/Tom Selleck kiss being probably my favorite laugh, even though it’s obviously done by straight actors and has no actual spark) amid the cartoony simplicity…however, it feels like the Addams Family Values crew simply cranked out another film when they finished that one—there’s Joan Cusack and at least one other AFV bit player onscreen, Paul Rudnick’s well-honed lines, Scott Rudin producing, and Marc Shaiman turning in a score that’s virtually indistinguishable from this one’s (and stuff he used for The First Wives Club, for that matter).
“This is my Peter—my FRIEND Peter! He just ran into me at the intersexual—homosection—INTERSECTION!”
Into the Woods 1990
At the time Sondheim came out with Into the Woods I wasn’t really in the mood for it…the costumes were just too sumptuously overdone, Bernadette Peters’s hair too huge, the premise of the show good but the conclusions a little too trite, to my eye, but after years of waffling on the matter I decided to bring it into my library anyway for those times when I am in the mood for it; Joanna Gleason is worth the DVD’s price throughout, she’s just truly superb in it.
“When the end is right, it justifies the beans!”
I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing 1988
Superficially a Canadian Lesbian milquetoast fantasy flick, but really so much more…a work with an amazing sense of individuality.
“There is a hopefulness in his contextural destruction…”
“…and the lack of resolution of his themes almost adds to a vaguely literal internal transformation of his subject.”
“It’s an external transformation.”
“External. Look at the lemon.”
“What about the fork?”
“Oh, the fork is irrelevant.”
Pretty clean film version of Paul Rudnick stage play, with a few stars thrown in to sell it; not bad but missing sufficient punch in the conceptual part’s denouement. And Bryan Batt is great as Darius, but OH what I would have given to have seen Greg Louganis playing that part back in 1994!!
“And, um, who’s Ann Miller?”
“Leave this house.”
A more representative quote for the overall tone of this film’s zinger-rich script would be this:
“How dare you give up sex when there are children in Europe who can’t get a date!”
Judgment at Nuremberg 1961
It took me years to get around to watching this film, my fascination with history notwithstanding, and when I finally did see it I was riveted throughout (which is saying something, with a 3-hour film); Maximilian Schell is stupendous in it, Marlene Dietrich and Spencer Tracy just awesome, but it’s Burt Lancaster who gets the most magnificent and devastating lines, though I don’t feel his delivery of them even brushes the level Schell achieves in it.
“We did not know!!”
Giulietta degli Spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) 1965
Not only a fascinating and joyously weird Fellini film but also the source of my sangria recipe; the first time I went to see it was at the Neptune and was because Dave Stewart had said in an interview once that if there was a film Eurythmics would love to have done the soundtrack for that was it.
“Ah, Juliet, we have a message for you: ‘Who do you think you are? You’re no one to anybody…’.”
Koyaanisqatsi [Life Out Of Balance] 1982
A stunning sensory-overload array (especially the ”Grid” sequence, which still blows me away)…music by Philip Glass accompanying cinematography by Dino Dilaurentis, or is it the other way around?
(Monty Python’s) Life of Brian 1979
I’ve actually only watched this a few times; my friend Anna loved it and quoted it often, so now I have her copy and will tackle it again when the moment’s right.
“‘Blessed are the cheesemakers’?”
The Lord of the Rings 1978
The second attempt at filming Tolkien (after Rankin-Bass’s The Hobbit) worked better overall but fell short; the soundtrack is pretty good, and the scenery is very evocative, but let’s face it, it’s got a LOT of problems too.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [Extended Edition] 2001
This really is tremendous, not just because it’s such a mind-blowing improvement on Bakshi’s 1978 The Lord of the Rings; when I emerged from the cinema the first time I saw it (of three), I was almost crying with pride to see my beloved Tolkien world “done right…,” because, for all the omissions and the telescoping of the plot, etc., this remains a stupendous achievement, and I am forever indebted to Peter Jackson and crew for realizing it so magnificently.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers [Extended Edition] 2002
As with the first film, I felt the overall results were so excellent that I was willing to endure the handful of missteps, but I really squirmed with discomfort at the repeat of the dwarf-tossing bit as well as at Theoden’s Bisquick makeup job and exorcism; the extended DVD more than makes up for this, as it includes so much more book-related material that ensures continuity and thoroughness of the story and excellent behind-the-scenes conceptual and thematic development.
“Well, that doesn’t make sense to me; but then…you are very small.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [Extended Edition] 2003
Marvelous, breathtaking, intensely moving, and an almost perfect final piece to complete the trilogy, RotK surpassed my expectations even though it was frustrating to know certain plot lines and story conclusions were going to have to wait for the extended edition DVD late in 2004; Howard Shore’s soundtrack truly was the finest I’ve ever heard.
“That still only counts as one!”
p.s. I’m going to add a review on the full film of The Lord of the Rings now that all three Extended Edition DVDs are out….
A riveting documentary of the making of a documentary of Marlene Dietrich’s life; her superlative Judgement at Nuremberg co-star Maximilien Schell directs and tries to convince her to reverse her last-minute decision to forbid actually filming her for her own biography.
The Madwoman of Chaillot 1969
A withering social critique from Girardeaux, played in a strangely subdued way by quite the big-name cast (Katherine Hepburn, Yul Brenner, Giulietta Massina, Edith Head, Danny Kaye, Richard Chamberlin, etc.).
“To be alive is to be fortunate, Roderick. To be alive is to be fortunate. Of course, in the morning when you first awake it doesn’t always seem so very gay. When you take your hair out of the drawer and your teeth out of the glass, you’re quite likely to feel a little out of place in this naughty world. Particularly if you’ve just been dreaming that you’re a little girl on a pony looking for strawberries in the woods.”
OK, I know it’s not a very good film and that it’s heretical of me to prefer it to the Roz Russell version, but there’s something just deliciously campy about the combination of gravelly voices provided by Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur that just slays me.
“Someone’s been sleeping in my dress!”
Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin in a inoffensively “nice” film that didn’t stay in anyone’s memory very long, BUT it has Ruth Gordon’s last film appearance and she’s great.
“Now, uh, boss-lady, would you take your arm off him, or should I just take your arm off, period?”
The Moderns 1988
I’m surprised that I decided to track down a copy of this in 2013, because my recollection of the film from its debut was mixed (most of the sets are cartoonily un-Parisian, didn’t care for the depiction of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas, etc.), but upon re-watching it I found I actually rather like it, certainly more than I originally did; its soundtrack by Mark Isham remains gorgeous and appropriate (the theme of Art Forgery is appropriately represented in the music as well) and Geneviève Bujold remains a delight in her role as Madame Valentin (“You vex me…!”).
“Don’t call me Oisif!”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1974
See Airplane, then add the weird-British-series element that made some of us automatic “weirdos” among our peers.
“Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.”
If for no other reason than to see how riveting a kiss can be when it’s delivered in such an unconventional way…the kind of film I watch in disbelief that it was done 78 years ago.
(Her Majesty) Mrs Brown 1997
Judi Dench stars as Queen Victoria opposite Scottish comedian Billy Connolly (superb in this mostly-straight role) in a charming and possibly true tale that positively reeks of BBC production excellence.
“I’m no wee spat, Archie….”
Murder By Death 1976
A Neil Simon screenplay for television of a splendid mystery-spoof with a cast that cannot have been surpassed, EVER: Peter Sellers, David Niven, Peter Falk, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, Maggie Smith, Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, Eileen Brennan, Nancy Walker, and Estelle Winwood (and only two “unknowns,” James Cromwell and Richard Narita).
“I don’t understand…why would anybody want to steal a dead, naked body?”
“Well, dear, there are people who, um…[whisper whisper whisper]”
“…oh, that’s tacky…that’s really tacky…!”
(Meredith Willson’s) “The Music Man” 1961
It has some slick writing, Robert Preston is wonderfully wily as Professor Harold Hill, and you can speculate about small-town Midwest politics for hours especially if you’re from a small town yourself.
Naqoyqatsi [Life as War] 2002
The soundtrack’s pretty good, but the visuals are much less profound than in the previous two films of the trilogy and the messages they presumably convey range from banal to obscure; above all, this is a compelling argument for the illegalization of solarization filter effects.
Generally known as “La Femme Nikita” in the U.S., this is the only “action” film I have ever liked (I suppose due to its redolent Frenchness and style).
“T’as malade, Bob…il faut qu’ t’en saches.”
9 to 5 1980
For a long time, this was one of my favorite films (the other was What’s Up, Doc?) but I think I’ve outgrown this one, in that sense; it’s bleak and depressing and presents Orwell’s vision quite plausibly…and the soundtrack partly by Eurythmics was what hooked me in the first place and still keeps me watching it.
p.s. This is now a rarity, as the DVD release of the film features Dominic Muldowney’s score instead, using only the Eurythmics song “Julia” in the end credits. I consider that score to be dreadfully dull: it may be pseudohistorically appropriate, but this isn’t a documentary, it’s a cinematic representation of a literary work…and in that sense it should have some depth, which Muldowney’s score utterly lacks. Consider the two different treatments of the lovemaking scene in the woods (the one which immediately follows the quote below): the Eurythmics score interlaces it with both sexual passion and dark foreboding shadows, and the Muldowney one just…sort of…leaves the scene. It is, in fact, downright boring music.
“Do you like doing this? I don’t mean just me….”
“I adore it.”
Nearly as good as Murder By Death and with a nearly stellar cast (Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Marilu Henner, Nicole Sheridan, John Ritter, Denholm Elliot, Julie Hagerty, and Mark Linn-Baker), directed by Peter Bogdanovich, but most importantly it’s just a film version of a screamingly funny stage play by Michael Frayn.
“Lucky I can’t see far, with this leg….”
One I knew distantly from my childhood but which makes for much better watching as an adult, especially because of its historical aspects and the perspective of knowing of Helene Hanff’s sideline involvement with its original stage version (see the chapter “NO LEGS NO JOKES NO CHANCE” in her delightful Underfoot In Show Business); the Todd-AO version on the second DVD of this 50th Anniversary Edition is stunningly superior to the CinemaScope one on the primary DVD and presents scenes so realistically clear it boggles the mind (and ooooooWEE! does Gene Nelson cut a fine figure as Will Parker in the Todd-AO version of the “Kansas City” number).
“He looks like he’s asleep
it’s a shame that he won’t keep
but it’s summer and we’re runnin’ out of ice”
Oh, WOW, what a trip…Tilda Swenson is just awesome in this Sally Potter film of a Virginia Woolf novel; many other performances are delicious features for various actors, among them Charlotte Valandrey, Lothaire Bluteau, and Billy Zane, but the best casting job of all is that of Quentin Crisp as an old queen (Elizabeth).
“And because this is England, everyone pretends not to notice.”
Parting Glances 1985
This was the first gay film I ever saw, not counting things such as Cabaret; it clarified and complicated my one serious relationship for years and still haunts me, but it’s really an extremely good film, so I have to watch it from time to time to re-appreciate it.
“I like to chase! I’m a wolf in twinkie clothing.”
Actually there’s another line from this film that I consider if not iconic then at least resonantly evocative of its time:
“Straight guys are jerks, gay men are jerks, straight women are jerks. That leaves lesbians, and they’re off in their ivory tower, somewhere, laughing their heads off at the rest of us.”
It’s an intriguingly broad play, very ’70s in some ways, and thankfully someone had the bright idea to film a production while Ben Vereen was still playing the role he debuted (the Narrator), with much of the original Bob Fosse choreography (I think), including Chita Rivera’s portrayal of Fastrada, which is so good it’s almost scary; if you ever decide to rent it or buy a copy, be aware that there are “edited” versions out there which outrageously cut the “frolic” section of “With You.”
“Man, when you frolic, you really frolic!”
Powaqqatsi [Life in Transformation] 1988/2002
Not as mind-blowing as Koyaanisqatsi, but it’s an overload of contemporary cultural information which nearly comes across as a sanctimoniously pitying portrayal of the Third World.
(The Adventures of) Priscilla, Queen of the Desert 1994
Just a brilliant, tremendous film with some wonderfully quotable lines, a film that must be watched whenever your life is feeling too surreal.
“Look—you’re not helping here…just eat your hormones.”
The Producers 1968
Why it took me so many years to get a copy of this for myownself, I do not know, as I first saw it around 1985 and thought it was pretty damned funny (especially of course the waaaaay-over-the-top opening number for “Springtime for Hitler”); it’s not quite as hilarious to me now, as the pacing seems strangely slow, but it certainly has the quotes so many of us love.
(A note on the Deluxe Edition packaging: barfola! I much preferred the old line-drawing of the Hitler-mustached girl.)
“Ulla…go to work.”
The Quiet Earth 1985
The only time I ever had the pleasure of seeing this funky “day-after” sci-fi film (from Australia or New Zealand, I’ve never been sure which) on the “big screen” was when it first played Seattle in 1985-6 and I saw it at the main Broadway cinema (at the corner of Broadway and John, where currently a Rite-Aid continues to use a refurbished version of the old marquee); I never got over the soundtrack (which is nearly as hard to obtain as a videocassette of the film itself), especially as it accompanies the magnificent sunrise which begins the film.
Raising Arizona 1987
An absolutely hysterically well-crafted comedy, one of the only two films I ever got my mother to go see in a cinema and declare was worth the admission cost.
“Son, you got a panty on top your head….”
The Return of the King 1979
If you added everything that was wrong with the Rankin-Bass cartoon of The Hobbit to everything that was wrong with the animated film version of The Lord of the Rings and took out all the good parts, you still wouldn’t have anything as bad as this…this…thing; it was a gift, and I only keep this tape in my collection because it’s so bad it’s almost funny (the song “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way,” for example)—but my GOD is it bad, especially the inexcusably bad stuff such as the references to Heaven and the Devil…in Middle Earth?!?!?…and then there’s the anime éowyn…and the “songs”….
Sam, on the slopes of Mount Doom, upon seeing Gollum: “God help us!”
Seriously, they have him saying that!!!
The Ritz 1976
This, with Absolutely Fabulous and Billy Connolly, is one of the primary reasons my day-to-day English has deteriorated to a state of near-campy in-jokes; with Rita Moreno’s “Googie Gomez” massacring the language and songs, it’s a wonder I can spik at all, tanjoo, tanjoo…!
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a queen without a sense of humor… You can die with your secret! …miserable piss-elegant fairy.”
“In, my second number, ‘Chine, On Harvess Moon,’ the orchestra and me sungtimes get into different keys. But if joo know dat, it won’ matter! Other than dat the act is faboolous and I jus’ know joor going to love it!”
…and for chrissakes…
“I had a drin…a dring about joo, babeeee…iss gonna cung troo, baby…they thing that we’re throooooo, BUT! …Baybee….”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975
Much as I have enjoyed this film in its proper setting, I resisted for years getting a copy for home viewing…until I finally decided that Rocky was too damned yummy to pass up; when I finally sat down one night and watched it all the way through I realized it’s actually a really funny film even without all the mayhem!
“Do you want her to see you…like THIS?!”
The Room 1987
Really I have this as a collector’s item, not because it’s good—after all, I absolutely loathe Harold Pinter’s work, he’s so anti-communication, and this short film is as alienating and unpalatably bizarre as I found it when it first came out, but it does have the unlikely and interesting combination of Linda Hunt, Julian Sands, and Annie Lennox all interacting ominously.
“It’s murder out….”
Round Midnight 1986
Derek Jarman’s film of the martyrdom of Sebastian…intensely homoerotic and filmed entirely in Latin—how’s that for a combination….
In my childhood I tried to catch this film on TV somewhere, having grown to love the soundtrack album at the Walla Walla Public Library, but our family’s lack of TV at the necessary times frustrated me year after year; revenge can be so sweet, I suppose, but now that I can watch it anytime I still find that I cry every time when William Daniels (as John Adams) delivers the breathtakingly expansive “Is Anybody There?” in all its glory, and I very nearly cry in horror (because of the viciously incisive content, not the stellar performance) at John Cullum’s breathtaking, balls-to-the-wall tour de force indictment “Molasses to Rum to Slaves” (although I note that the sync on the DVD for that song is off), and I must add that the songs in this musical are almost entirely top-notch, and I cannot get through “But Mr Adams” without completely bursting into laughter at least a few times.
(A note on the Restored Director’s Cut DVD edition: it’s thrilling to finally see “Cool, Considerate Men,” which truly does give me goosebumps, and the commentary by Director Peter Hunt and Screenwriter Peter Stone is very enjoyably illuminating, but the cover is scandalously badly designed: it shows Richard Henry Lee both at left and at right, Martha and Thomas Jefferson embracing in the middle, and the Conservatives marching at the bottom…no John Adams, no Benjamin Franklin. WTF???)
“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a ‘disgrace,’ that two are called a ‘law firm,’ and that three or more become a ‘congress!’”
I think it’s also worth noting probably the most subtly loaded line in the film, spoken by Benjamin Franklin to John Adams just as Rutledge rises to contest the slavery question, because it speaks prophetically beyond the immediate context in many ways in what it says and how it’s delivered:
The Sheltering Sky 1990
My friend Anna’s favorite dramatic film; I watched it once on her urging and expected it to end about a half hour before it did…unbelievably hypnotic and passionate.
A friend and I went to see this, shortly after it came out, on a day when we were both feeling too intelligent and depressed to do anything but waste some time and desperately-needed cash on a throwaway film, and instead we howled with laughter all the way through this silly piece of intentionally moronic fluff; I still love it, and Sally Fields totally kicks ass as an excellent parody of all the crap of that genre.
“She has more lines than I do, and she’s a GOD-DAMNED MUTE!!!”
Some Like It Hot 1959
To me, it’s overrated…but it is pretty damned funny at times.
JERRY (as DAPHNE, melodramatically): “I can never have children!”
The Sound of Music 1965
If there is a good reason to not have seen and enjoyed this film, I’ve never heard it. (Although I do note that the anti-Semitic nature of Nazism isn’t even mentioned.)
(A note on the 40th Anniversary DVD edition: the reunion of the actors who played the von Trapp children is the most wonderful treat here, but Charmian Carr’s guided tour of the locations in Austria is a strong contender; thankfully, just about everything in the bonus features serves to further celebrate this still-excellent film and to heighten one’s appreciation for it.
“Oh they’re alright, Captain; they’re just happy.”
Star Wars / The Empire Strikes Back / The Return of the Jedi
What can I say…they really are fabulous films. Unfortunately I bought my first copy of the trilogy about the time George Lucas got caught up in his own world of fantasy, and therefore I got stuck with the “improved” visuals (which are AWFUL and which both detract and stand out from the rest of the films) as well as the creepily sycophantic apology-introduction which precedes the first film. I’d never before encountered a director who insisted on rewriting his own work while it was still contemporary, and having seen Lucas go round a few of his own megalomaniac bends on the Star Wars world I don’t wish to see another. The original film was GREAT, and I think it’s pitiful that Lucas not only thinks otherwise but even pointed up the film’s rusticity by superimposing some footage that’ll be even more embarrassing in a few years because of its inconsistency with the original work.
Having said that, I must reiterate that I think the first two films are stunning even now…the third one is too but only if you can mentally excise the Ewoks (which, as with Yoda, is a classic example of the shortsighted fad-driven whims of a director…Jim Henson and Frank Oz did wonders with the Muppets, yes, but let’s not mix milieus, Lucas!).
p.s. I now have letterbox editions of the original films and have finally rid myself of those horrid later editions.
A jift from a friend many years after had I inflicted Highway of Heartache on him and many others…I think it nudges Forbidden Zone out of the #2 spot of Outrageously Bad Films in my library, but Highway of Heartache still wears the crown, I’m delighted to say; if anything, RuPaul’s just too good, which counteracts the clearly intentional dive toward guttertrashosity here, making for an excellent piece to watch while drinking and gabbing with many people around but not necessarily something so enjoyable on a solo outing.
“No! Because you and I have some unfinished business, you pussy-mouthed motherfucktress!!”
Strictly Ballroom 1992
I inherited this copy from a friend who moved overseas and had to regretfully dump some of his favorite flims [sic] on deserving/appreciative beneficiaries…only I wasn’t actually a fan of this one, and it sat in a stack of To Give Away stuff in my apartment for a couple of years before I happened to watch it after all; I’d seen it before and enjoyed it, but I’d forgotten how much…how ridiculous it is…how great the music was on occasion…how hilarious and surreal its extremes could be…and, saddest of all to forget, how supremely gorgeous Paul Mercurio’s ass was in that gold outfit in the opening number (worth ANY price).
[sobbing] “Did I fail him as a mother????”
Sunday in the Park with George 1986
“Sweeney Todd” may be Sondheim’s greatest work (so far), but “Sunday” is the greatest I’ve had the pleasure of watching…and to see a filmed performance by the original cast is almost too much to ask for; this is a guaranteed weeper for me, partly because of the still-too-close-to-home element of romantic debacle and partly because it makes me cry with joy to see such excellence in my own lifetime.
“I have to finish the hat.”
While I haven’t seen enough Japanese films, this and A Taxing Woman (same director, same star) absolutely convulse me time and time again.
“Yes. They’d be nice with some soy sauce and horseradish.”
A Taxing Woman 1987
Clever, witty, compelling, and so funny at times it hurts…with a very cool soundtrack by Toshiyuki Honda (sadly unavailable on CD).
“I was nervous; I had to pee. Here’s the key.”
Thoroughly Modern Millie 1967
I saw this on television at odd times for so many years you’d think I’d know it by heart and wouldn’t need to even rent it…but the fact is that it takes multiple viewings at home to take in all its campiness (and to master those facial expressions Julie Andrews tosses off); after all, it’s a film that screams to be done as an audience-participation event. And that is why I simply must quote more than one line from the film here despite myself.
“Oh heck, let’s just be kissy right off!”
“You know, Baron, I’m gonna need popping again, I really am!”
“Let me get you some more coffee, Mr Graydon… —Strong SPIRITS!”
“Not strong enough!”
“Bolt the door and take off your things; let’s have a sample.”
(while getting successively smooched) “I’m your equal. I’m going to meet you men on your own terms…cater to your craving for efficiency, learn to talk sports, tell jokes, smoke, drink, and yes if I have to I’ll even kiss you back! (mmrmrmphl!)”
“Do you think that—”
“You don’t mean—”
“But by now, then she could—”
Time Bandits 1981
Although I always get it mixed up in my mind with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, I’ve always been extremely impressed with this darkly ’80s-tinged comedy.
“Mum! Dad! Don’t touch it! It’s Evil!”
Somehow this film has never struck me as “dated,” which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on whether you appreciate it as comedy or as a comment on the progress of the fight against inequal treatment and sexism; as with a few other videos featured here, I have belatedly decided this one needs to have more than one of my favorite quotes provided if I’m to sufficiently share the love.
“Hi! I’m new in town and I’m awfully lonely; I wonder if you wouldn’t mind buying me luuunch?”
“ ‘…well, I really think of [clears throat] of you all as m-m-my daughters, and, uh, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t give my girls tits?’ ‘Tips.’ It’s ‘tips.’ ‘Tips.’ ”
“In fact she was was so terrified that she would, uh, tha-th, tha-th, that the baby daughter would bear the stigma of illegitimacy that she’d-she-she decided to change her name and she contracted a disfiguring disease. [LONG PAUSE] After moving to Tangiers, which is where she raised the, the, the little girl as her sister.”
Tricia’s Wedding 1968
Starring the Cockettes! I thought it would be just as bad as it was obviously going to be silly, but actually I enjoyed the whole thing on first viewing…by the end, when Richard Nixon (played by Kreemah Ritz, who’s billed in the credits as Harold Thunderpussy) is giving Mick Jagger (not sure who was playing him) a hand job, I was just shaking my head in bewildered amusement.
The Triplets of Belleville 2003
Tropic Thunder [Director’s Cut] 2008
This is technically not in my library for me but as a “bunny movie” for my friend Cat to have on hand during her visits—an already-known film to let play in the background as she works on her artistic projects, especially when I’m not available to read to her and chat; I didn’t think I’d be into it, but I came into the room as it had just started and I lingered for a few minutes…eventually deciding to watch it all, because it struck me as being a Vietnam-War-film-industry equivalent of Soapdish (is it just coincidental that Robert Downey Jr is in both?)…and, in that sense, it’s actually really funny.
2001—A Space Odyssey 1968
2010—The Year We Make Contact 1968
This isn’t a great film, and its presence in my library is probably due to both a general hunger for space-flicks stuff and the Part II nature of the story started by the original film. There is a lot of garbage in this film, script-wise, but I still like to watch it now and then.
Vegas in Space 1995
It’s bad but intentionally so, and I actually really love this awful, low-budget, cross-gender-cast thing.
(BTW, I used to quote the line about being “mad at the hors d’oeuvres” here, but in retrospect I think this exchange between Empress Noodles Nebula and “that piss-yellow Princess Jaundice” is funnier, and certainly Noodles’s delivery of the line is brill.)
PRINCESS JAUNDICE: “Do you mean to tell me you’re not going to Nueva’s tonight?”
EMPRESS NOODLES NEBULA: “That dog show? Honey, don’t make me hurt you. It’s a tired scene. Every year, Nueva invites every queen in the universe, and the only people who show up are the same old tired people in brand-new tired outfits. It is a tired scene.”
Waiting for the Moon 1987
I remembered having a generally positive response to this when it first came out but only saw it one other time (within a year or two, on video), but by 2019 it was tugging at my heart and coaxing me to try it again; I’m very protective of portrayals of Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas, and, although this is more of an artistic-storytelling riff on their relationship rather than a full-on historical one, Linda Bassett and Linda Hunt do deliver a lovely representation with fine acting of a script that at times is brilliant.
“Just what is it we’re fighting about?”
“What do you think we’re fighting about?”
Westler: East of the Wall 1986
Curiosity about the film’s mid-1980s depiction of life in East Berlin led me to revisit this low-budget but not at all amateurish (and largely unknown) gay love story some 20 years after I’d first seen it; above all, although most of Engelbert Rehm’s music for it is pretty trite and unappealing (albeit perhaps appropriate for East Berlin of the day, I speculate), its main theme has stayed in my mind all these years—something like George Benson’s “On Broadway” as done by Bronski Beat (or perhaps Pet Shop Boys), with its haunting shift between slightly shadowed sunny outlook and darker apprehension.
“Wait till you see the king!”
“What’s Up, Doc?” 1972
With 1984, one of my two favorite films…I can’t explain why it’s good, you just have to see it for yourself and either laugh hysterically or not; when I finally visited San Francisco for my first time as an adult, an acquaintance of mine there very generously showed me around and included several places featured in the film, which was great but a little surreal actually.
And, as with Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Ritz, this is a film that cannot be left with only one quote to represent it, so here’s a stack of my favorites:
“Oh my goodness! There goes my napkin!”
“Don’t you dare strike that brave, unbalanced woman!”
“Snakes, as you know, live in mortal fear of…tile.”
“‘Eunice’?…that’s a person named Eunice?”
“What on earth are you doing with Howard Bannister’s rocks?”
“Lissen, whaddya think I am, a piece of ripe fruit you can squeeze the juice out of and cast aside?”
“Eunice, I swear this is a bizarre joke—”
“Sure, it’s easy for you, everywhere you go another heart broken—women, women, women!—you call it joking, Eunice and I we call it lust!”
“Don’t you know the meaning of propriety??”
“Propriety? Noun: conformity to established standards of behavior or manners; suitability; rightness or justice; see Etiquette!”
“The slight error, mesdames and messieurs, is in the so-called identity of these alleged colleagues. I don’t know who he is, but she is definitely not herself.”
“I have been following this man’s movements for some time, and, Your Honor, I can prove that he is in unauthorized possession of secret government…underwear. Underwear???”
“First of all, there was the trouble between me and Hugh.”
“You and me?”
“No, me and Hugh.”
“I am Hugh.”
“You are me??”
“No, I am Hugh.”
“Stop…saying that…make him stop saying that….”
“Don’t touch me, I’m a doctor.”
“Can you fix a hi-fi?”
“Then shut up!”
“You go right down to her room, right, and you knock on the door, OK, and she answers the door. Now she will have been crying, so her eyes will be all puffy and bloodshot, you know, and her nose is all red and running, but you overlook that! You put your hand on her shoulder, and you’ll stare purposefully into those red-rimmed swollen eyes and say in a calm, masculine voice: ‘Eunice, my dear, there has been a terrible misunderstanding. I’ve acted like a, a cad, a bounder, but now I see everything clearly…and I have decided that Judy and I are going to put you into a home.’ ”
“I—I know you didn’t mean any harm. You’re just—just different.”
“Thank you. I know I’m different, but from now on, I’m gonna try to be the same.”
“The same as what?”
“The same as people who aren’t different.”
“Just testing a theory Howard has about vocal reverberation under spinal pressure.”
“‘Vocal reverberation under spinal pressure’?”
“Yyyyou know, V R U S P?”
“Oh, yes! …I think I read a monograph on that….”
“What more can they do to me??”
“The address is—do you have a pencil, dolling? Foh, fiyiv, niyin, Dirella Street.”
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966
Not for the faint of heart…not even for the strong; for the perverse, maybe.
The Wiz 1978
I think I knew the music from this before I ever saw the film itself, and now that I reflect on things I think if I’d been a little more astute at the time I might have had my first sexual encounter when I finally saw this film, several years earlier than I actually did, but that’s another story that slightly tinges my view of the film itself; the fact is, despite the obvious late-’70s kitsch, funk-o-rama soundtrack, and glitzy cast, this is actually a kick-ass retelling of The Wizard of Oz which, while it may not be a faithful presentation of the stage play The Wiz, is exceptional in its own right (and maybe Quincy Jones is the reason).
“Would you like sauerkraut…or mustard, my dear…on your HOT DOG?!”
The Wizard of Oz 1939
Well what can I say, it’s like The Sound of Music, there’s just nothing left to add to the commentary already extant, it’s a lovely film which should be seen by everyone at least once in their life (when it’s convenient).
“Well that’s you all over!”
The Women 1939
Watched it once and then spent about six years drumming my fingers as to whether or not to add it to my library; it’s good and bad, in various ways, certainly a camp classic that must be seen in one’s lifetime if one is to understand “camp,” with some wicked lines and best of all lots of glimpses of arch bitch behavior of the era.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de “Nervios”) 1988
An extremely funny and wacky film from Pedro Almadóvar which has made me wary of gazpacho for years to come.
In my defense I must say that I didn’t buy this video. It was sort of a retribution gift from a dear friend who knew that I loved/hated this musical. Gene Kelley is of course delightful, even in this state of almost-unnatural animation…his dance number with Olivia Newton-John really is quite nice. But the sequence where the 1940s Big Band merges with the Tubes is actually one of my favorite parts of this film. Well, after the Muses’ sequence at the beginning, which I still adore. That’s the most impressive attempt I’ve seen at representing the Muses in a modern context.
“If you want me to work, I’ll work. If you wanna stand there and argue, I can get into that too.”
The Year of Living Dangerously 1982
Not only does this have a terrific story, cast, and soundtrack, but it also features some of the most enthralling sexual tension without gratuitous sex…right up there with Dietrich and the rest of the best; Weaver’s playing of the scene where Jill Bryant gets the coded message about the arms shipment and then struggles with her feelings toward Guy Hamilton is one of my heart’s bookmarks.
(p.s. if you buy the soundtrack hoping to get this musical theme and are bitterly disappointed when you find it’s not there, don’t despair: that part is from Vangelis’s album “Opera Sauvage” and is the crux of the third track (L’Enfant).)
“‘Green stuff’ usually has ice, doesn’t it?”
Young Frankenstein 1974
It was years before I ever had the pleasure of seeing this zany film in its full uncut majesty, but I had a copy of the movie-novel to amuse me in the meantime…and my GOD is it a motherlode for quotes.
“Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!”
Comedy Performance / Series
Carol Burnett’s “My Personal Best” 1987
This is the tape with “Went With the Wind”…I believe that’s all I need say to explain its cherished presence in my library.
“I saw it in a window and I just couldn’t resist it.”
Benny Hill: The Naughty Early Years (1969–1977) and The Hill’s Angels Years (Set Four, 1978–1981) Complete & Unadulterated 2005 & 2006
I truly lucked out on Set Two: I bought it in hopes that it would contain some of the classics I remember watching in the mid-’70s, although the hilarious Charlie’s Angels spoofs would be on later releases, and within a few minutes of the start of the first of these discs I was writhing with laughter—jackpot! (Because of this I got Set One shortly thereafter, but I think Set Two is a greater hit.)
“What’s THAT in the road? A head?”
Billy and Albert 1987
Billy Connolly is just about the funniest comedian I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing in person…this tape is funny but not as funny as some others, but that’s sort of a moot opinion as a relentless sequence of belly-laughs is hardly quantifiable.
Billy Connolly Live 1991
The most painfully funny of all of Billy’s tapes, in my book, because it has Scone Shoes, Crimplene Suit, Spanish Cheapo Holiday, Rottweilers & Their Owners, and Leftover Venison and much, much more all on one 90-minute span that leaves you just aching.
“I can’t get the fridge door shut…them antlers are spillin’ all the yoghurt…!”
The Best of 25 Years of Billy Connolly 1992
A fascinating telescoping of his career as a comedian; especially fun to watch his interviewers crack up (and poor Angie Dickinson’s reaction to his line “I felt about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit…”).
Billy Connolly Live 1994 1994
Filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo (London), it is just too much fun—it’s where I first picked up the expression “Jesus sufferin’ FUCK!”, the bit about the scrotum originally being a “wee bag” made from leftover elbow skin, “tell us in your own words,” Eastern-European fart sounds, “Potatoes of the Night,” fascinating uses for those giant Toblerones you can buy at Heathrow, and so much other great stuff.
Two Bites of Billy Connolly 1995
This is the World Tour of Scotland series followed by Live at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, and again it’s just scream after scream of laughter.
“There’s a rugby team missing a jersey tonight!”
Billy Connolly’s World Tour of Australia 1996
Very fun as well as interesting if you aren’t driven to distraction by the relentless theme music; after all, two tapes containing eight episodes of this full series adds up to 320 minutes, with the opening and closing sequence included on all of them.
“I met Estée Lauder one day! ‘This is Estée Lauder’—I said ‘Fuck, I thought you were a SMELL!’”
Billy Connolly: Two Night Stand (London/Glasgow) 1997
When I finally watched this tape, having waited six or seven months in order to see it first with my friend Windy (a fellow Billy fan), I literally fell off my couch laughing a couple of times.
“Isn’t Norway a strange shape?”
Billy Connolly Live ’99 (One Night Stand / Down Under / The Best of the Rest) 1999
Billy Connolly Live—Dublin 2002 2002
Billy Connolly’s World Tour of England, Ireland, & Wales 2002
I just got this (summer 2003) and have only had time to watch the Ireland episodes and the first of the England ones, and I must say it’s making up for how tepid the Dublin 2002 tape (above) was.
Gilda Live 1980
Gilda Radner at Carnegie Hall, featuring many of her finer Saturday Night Live characters, including Roseanne Roseannadanna, Candy Slice, Rhonda Weiss, Lisa Loopner, and Emily Litella; especially fantastic is the pair of Candy Slice songs, with G.E. Smith and Paul Shaffer putting in performances up to Gilda’s in this frantic and glorious sendup of (or tribute to) that wonderful moment when rock got an injection of punk and revived from its lethargy.
“…and I heard it was the third stubbing this week at this school! So mind your toes!”
The Charles Pierce Show 1993
“Was the material really that good?” says the postcard I received from Charles after I had mentioned to his webmaster how floored I was by his performances on this tape; sadly he died shortly after that, so I never got to tell him how many friends I’ve watched completely lose control laughing at his acid impersonations and that, yes, it really WAS and IS that good…my god, is this fun stuff.
(as Mae West) “I woke up in a cow pasture outside of town…ooh, there was a bull, chasing me. I was tired, so I ran….”
“Marie Antoinette…dainty queen of France…surely not the only queen of history that lost her head over a basket, oh, no….”
(as Mae West) “See this face, honey? It’s leaving town in five minutes: be on it!”
The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus 1969–1974
Albatross! Dinsdale! Spam! Lumberjack! Ex-parrot! Dennis Moore! I just got this 45-episode set (24 HOURS of Python! GAWD!!!) from my brother as a Christmas prezzie, and I’m getting loopy just diving back into all that madness and the strange sensation of seeing stuff I could only see late at night waaaaay back then when Seattle’s KCTS-9 would broadcast it (sponsored by Ivar’s Acres of Clams) and somehow we were able to tune it in in little ol’ Walla Walla….
Monty Python Live! 2001
New Christmas prezzie from my brother, with the aforementioned box set; I’ll have to write a review when I’ve made it through the whole mess!
Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything 1992–2008
“Sweetie! Sweetie! Sweetie!” This show ruined my ability to speak English like a normal person…and then I saw The Ritz and sank even further; it’s not everybody’s cup of voddy, but if you like it you love it.
“Now, Pats, should we finish off the beluga or should we have some smoked salmon and nibbly things?”
“Oh, whatever, Sweetie….”
The Last Shout 1996
The gloriously funny “extra” hour-long episode with Saffy’s wedding and Edina’s encounter with God (Marianne Faithfull).
Absolutely Not [Outtakes] 1997
Only for the diehard fans, this tape has some moments that are only really funny if you know the episodes in question so well that you’ve got the context running concurrently with the outtakes being shown (though the wine-tasting outtakes from the France episode are great on their own).
“Mmm! Smoking is good for you!”
Anna Russell: The Clown Princess of Comedy 1996
Three of her standard pieces—Wind Instruments I Have Known: The Bagpipes, A Lecture on the French Horn, and An Address by the President of the Women’s Festival Committee—from a 1977 concert, followed by a three-part 1976 interview that verges on excruciating.
You’ve Had Worse Things in Your Mouth—Billi Gordon’s Cooking Show 1994
I’m a fan of Billi Gordon’s humor writing, so when I realized this was out there (waaaay out there) I figured I had to have it in my library; sadly, everything about it is cringingly amateurish except the set, and although Gordon is delivering good material (and Lillian Müller is actually kinda interesting, oddly, and of course you have to wonder how these two became pals…oh, and then there’s former “Mike Teavee” actor Paris Themmen trying his best to elevate the performance level but only fitting in) it’s forced through apertures that are just WRONG for it all.
“The heifer is not well…”
Dos Fallopia: Pretty Girls, Not Too Bright 1996
Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch, two of Seattle’s funniest people, have performed as Dos Fallopia and as The Spudds (Wynotta and Euomi), among other characters, over the years in and around Seattle; when I discovered they had put out a videotape I nabbed a copy so fast I got blisters.
“But did you know that objects do appear larger in the vagina?”
L’Ultima Récital 1998
Just about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen from France, even without subtitles; I had the joy of seeing the show in Paris in 1998, having seen its startling poster around town and knowing it would be terrific…and I’ve played the tape for countless friends to rave reactions. Marianne James and Ariane Cadier are brilliant, brilliant, in this production (filmed in this instance at the Théâtre Molièe in Brussels). I fervently wish James had more recordings available.
“Là-bas, là-bas, là-bas, dans la forêt-forêt ….”
On Location with Phyllis Diller 1977
An HBO special featuring a full performance (including straight piano duets) in Denver; the material’s dated at times, but some of the jokes are still bark-out-loud hilarious, especially with her unique delivery quirk of not even pausing where a written joke would have a colon or em-dash before the punch.
(regarding her huge mother-in-law) “She was born on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of June.”
“She was so big she could only play Seek.”
Goodnight, We Love You—The Life and Legend of Phyllis Diller 2006
This is a fun look into what Phyllis Diller thinks of being Phyllis Diller, with lots of great samples of her material, filmed to mark her last performance as a stand-up comic.
“I attended a gay wedding, and I’m going to tell you what upset me: I caught the jockstrap. But what the hell—I had it bronzed; I serve onion dip in it.”
Have I Got [Unbroadcastable] News for You 1995
Something you don’t see on many U.S. shelves…I very much enjoyed this weekly show during my residencies in Scotland in the 1990s and wanted a sample of it to share with my friends Stateside; also, for years I subscribed to the satirical British fortnightly rag Private Eye, run and edited by Ian Hislop, who is one of the three regulars on the show.
Shooting Stars: The Complete Collection 1996
Same reasons as for the Have I Got News For You tape.
The Very Best of Father Ted 1998
When I watched episodes of this show while I was in Scotland in the 1990s I was frankly amazed that it could be broadcast at all…truly a sign of the times, I suppose; these episodes (the Eurovision, Elvises, and Lent ones) aren’t actually as funny as the ones I recall seeing, but that’s sort of irrelevant when you’re dealing with something as gobsmacking as this (addendum: somehow I missed watching the Pat The Milkman episode until a year or two after buying the tape, and my GOD was that more like it!).
“Hello, Father…. Oh! Pat was wonderin’ if he could put his massive tool in my box.”
South Park 1997
(Volume 4: Pinkeye Damien, Volume 5: Starvin’ Marvin Mecha-Streisand, Volume 6: Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo Tom’s Rhinoplasty)
(What kind of person would have both “South Park” and “The Guns of August” in their collection?)
Little Red Riding Rabbit
I laughed so hard the first time I saw the title cartoon, I thought it was a one-time thrill; I was wrong, and that one still breaks me every time.
“Haay, Graaaandma…’at’s an awfully big nose for you…TA HAAAVE…!”
Pepe Le Pew’s Skunk Tales
When I’m in love, or severely amorous, Pepe is my alter ego, big-time; then again, it’s been a very very long time since I saw this kick in with that force…in the off-season he is certainly my role model.
“I remove them from you, the bonds of sla-vé-ree: viola!”
Looney Tunes Golden Collection
Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2
The Muppet Show—Season One 2005
The Spike Jones Story—A Jazz Documentary 2003
History and Performance (and Stragglers)
Battle of Algiers 1967
I’d never heard about this earth-shaking film before 2001, and seeing it once was all it took to get me to want it on hand; it’s so intense and real it’s hard to remember that it’s just a reenactment (although some of the “actors” were participants in the original events).
“one of the most viciously realistic films of all time” (from the packaging copy)
At 2 hours 37 minutes long, this is an impressive documentary of Turkish military interventions (in the country’s government) from 1960 to the present, directed by soprano Elif Savas; it is astonishing in its scope and detail. (For more about Coup, click here.)
“The following is an oral history of Turkish military interventions from 1960 to present. Not one word of voice-over narration, nor one frame of simulated footage, has been used.”
(the only verbiage preceding the documentary)
“To establish the Republic and democracy was M Kemal Ataturk’s primary goal. And to that end, attempts were made to cross over to a multi-party system in 1924 with the foundation of the Progressive Party and with the establishment of the Liberal Party in 1930. But for me, a point to criticize Ataturk on is his inability to keep the people around him under control. And because of this, these attempts were unsuccessful. Then begins a single-party period, headed by Ismet Inonu from 1930 to 1945. When you look at these unsuccessful attempts at a multi-party system, you’ll find that the parties’ leaders are still of army origin. The Progressive Party’s leader was general Karabekir, and his secretary was General Fuat. The Liberal Party leader Fethi Bey had a liberal mentality but also came from the army. From this, we can reach the following conclusion: Ataturk’s goal was a civil democracy, but only if there were no threat to the Republic itself. But if such a threat should arise, the guarantor of the Republic would be the army. This trust in the army as guarantor and implicit lack of trust in political leadership is the main seed from those days that was planted in the army, as well as in the people of the nation.”
—Nurşen Mazıcı, author and Political Science professor at Mediterranean University
Paris 1900 1950
The cheesy narration by Monty Woolley is the only thing wrong with this tape, which provides the viewer with an hour of astonishing historical film footage you just wouldn’t have thought existed.
The Guns of August 1965
I enjoy Barbara Tuchman’s books and am sad that we won’t be getting any more from her, but this documentary-version of her book The Guns of August teeters between being a good 100-minute video condensation of the text and being a tacky paste-up job complete with bad accents on the quotations.
Paris Was a Woman 1997
Out of this film grew Andrea Weiss’s book of the same title, a richly illustrated and impressively researched treasure, so upon discovering that the film was now available on DVD I snatched up a copy so fast I nearly blistered my fingers.
The World at War 1974
The full, magnificent 26-episode series narrated by Laurence Olivier, plus two extra programs (recollections from Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge and extensive assessments from historian Stephen Ambrose).
La Libération de Paris 1944
This is indeed the 1944 footage filmed by the Résistance’s film group, but this DVD copy is of dubious provenance indeed…I got it via ebay.com from a guy in Florida, the screen’s bottom-right corner makes it clear that this was broadcast (or made available) by ina.fr (the Institut national de l’audiovisuel), there’s no DVD interface aside from a title screen to click on to start the film, and the cover is an inkject-printed copy of a low-quality original product; still, the content gives a fascinating if not broad look into the experience of Parisians that August, and the audio track is little worse than the original would have been (more of it’s clear enough to follow than I would have expected from this copy).
In the Shadow of the Moon 2006
What a treat: a documentary with no voiceovers, only minimal titling/info text, featuring just a superb combination of archival video (ranging from technical to commercial, with a little home-movie-level stuff along the way) and contemporary interviews (with all but one of the surviving astronauts involved) from the time of the film’s making, beautifully edited together to tell a single story across multiple missions and crews; how individually and personally the astronauts connect in their storytelling and reflections is the film’s charm, matched breathtakingly by the films from the Moon missions…but I was most surprised to find that astronaut Mike Collins was a total hottie back then and is a darling here!
The Singing Revolution 2008
A superb and moving documentary of Estonia’s survival of the Communist era, with a focus on its cultural identity, including coverage of the Baltic Way, the human chain formed in August 1989 across all three of the Baltic states—an impressive event that’s little known in the US.
Philippe Decouflé: La Planète Decouflé / Abracadabra 1999
Philippe Decouflé is amazing: ever since I watched the wonderworld he created for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville (well, the bits I could see between the inane stretches of U.S. network commentators) I’ve had my eyes peeled for a video of either that spectacle or some of his other work; this tape is mostly the latter but also takes us through his creative processes for the Albertville games ceremonies.
Spartacus—The Bolshoi Ballet 1984
Semi-cheesy choreography by Yuri Grigorovich at least distracts from the balletic over-acting of the leads (Irek Mukhamedov who has a truly impressive sequence of turns when Spartacus’s slave army breaks up Crassus’s party, Mikhail Gabovich whose makeup is far too draggy, Natalya Bessmertnova who frankly looks like a hag in this, and taut Maria Bylova, although at least Bylova’s expressiveness is appropriate to her character); I’m not a ballet fan by any means, and I have this because I wanted to see how Khachaturian’s mighty score was used to tell the story.
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture 1986
The only time I ever saw this film, in the early 2000s, I was dreadfully impressed by its opening sequence and the way the “Ouverture miniature” was presented entirely as a conceptual, non-balletic scene of Drosselmeier (played alarmingly by a strangely sexy Hugh Bigney) in his shop delighting in his creations; the Sendak influence restores such a delicious darkening to the long-sanitized story, the rats in the parlor for example or the significant dual-casting of Clara’s mother as the exotic caged bird who dances the gorgeous “Danse Arabe”, and really I can’t do justice to this lovely re-thinking of a too-static confectionery piece (kin to Swan Lake, below, in that, but not to anywhere near that extreme) in just one sentence, but at the very least I can emphatically and intriguedly recommend watching this.
Swan Lake 1996
This is the Matthew Bourne production from Adventures in Motion Pictures, with the original cast—an astonishingly violent, erotic, and clever presentation of a tired old story that is suddenly a lot more interesting.
Tap Dogs 1996
My friend Karen introduced me to this show on videotape in Edinburgh several years ago and I was hooked on the production quality as well as its formidable exuberance.
Joni Mitchell’s “The Fiddle and the Drum” 2007
Astonishingly beautiful, intensely moving at times…but I still cannot stand the sanctimonious “If I Had a Heart,” which thankfully is the only weak point in this superb production by Jean Grand-Maître and the Alberta Ballet.
D.A. Pennebaker documentary of the recording of the original cast album of Company…while Company has never been one of my favorite musicals, I appreciate it a lot more now because of this tape; “Another Hundred People” is newly enjoyable for its orchestration, for example, as is the difficulty of nailing “Ladies Who Lunch.”
Leonard Bernstein Conducts West Side Story 1985
I’d wanted a copy of this Deutsche Grammophon video for about a decade before I landed one; although the star opera singers are almost more painful to watch bombasting the slick-and-natural rhythms of Bernstein’s superb songs than they are to listen to on the otherwise magnificent audio recording (José Carreras being unfortunately the least capable of unclenching in this case), getting to see some of the chorus and orchestral numbers coming together to their final knockout recordings is quite a treat, as is watching Bernstein getting into his own music up there on the podium.
Follies (In Concert) 1985
How Sweet It Was—The Sights and Sounds of Gospel’s Golden Age 2010
Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition—Seattle’s Forgotten World’s Fair 2009
A Christmas present from my parents, who know I find world’s fairs an interesting historical phenomenon, this is a mostly lovely documentary (there’s a superb book too) marred really only by the sloppy enunciation of narrator Tom Skerrit.
The 1964 World’s Fair 1996/1998
While shopping for holiday prezzies for friends and family in December of 2004 I saw this DVD at Downtown Seattle’s Barnes & Noble (which has a very small but unexpectedly diverse music and video department) and forced myself to resist buying it, just in case it was also seen somewhere by someone who knew that I was a casual world’s-fairs buff, and when January came and it hadn’t appeared I went ahead and indulged; it’s good but not great, presenting the “big picture” of the fair overall very very well but completely omitting certain major elements of the fair such as the New York pavilion, which was huge if nothing else and later served (in much-dressed-up form) as the setting for one big musical number in the film of The Wiz.
Expo 67—Back to the Future… 2004
An interesting and very nicely personalized documentary about Montréal’s world’s fair in 1967 and Canada’s own sense of self-awareness at the time; this is part of The Canadian Experience, from the CBC.
Reflections by the River: Expo ’74 1994
Expo ’74 is a hobby interest of mine, and this tape is really quite interesting if you’re into that sort of thing…although the Spokane accents (yes, there is such a thing) and the news-desk delivery of the presenter (a woman from one of the local TV stations) can be very annoying.
Winged Migration 2001
Fantastic, breathtaking footage, great ideas, the storylines are a bit contrived at times…ironically because it’s so mesmerizing I’m in the odd position of hating the soundtrack (a first for me), in which the human voices are just NOT right (and those singing in English are particularly gutless).
The World of Sid & Marty Krofft
One episode each of The Bugaloos, Lidsville, Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost, Far Out Space Nuts, The Lost Saucer, Electra-Woman & Dynagirl, Dr Shrinker, Wonderbug, Magic Mongo, Bigfoot & Wildboy, and Pryor’s Place; fun for a hop down Nostalgia Lane.
Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends—Complete Season 1 & 2 2003/2004
A major indulgence, yes, and not the best of the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons (the wit got sharper and the puns more outrageous later), but ironically it’s the “& Friends” that makes this 78-episode pair of DVD sets well worth having; “Fractured Fairy Tales” are the BEST!
Bullwinkle: “Uh-oh!! What ARE they, Rock?”
Rocky: “Tanks, Bullwinkle!”
Bullwinkle: [grimaces] “…hmmm?”
Rocky: “I said, ‘Tanks,’ Bullwinkle!”
Bullwinkle: “(…oh, do I HAVE to say it?)”
Rocky: “You better—our time is runnin’ out!”
Bullwinkle: [resignedly] “Okay…. You’re welc—”
Narrator: “—Too late!”
The Avengers The Complete Emma Peel Megaset™ Collector’s Edition 2006 (episode dates 1965–1967)
Diana Rigg; ’nuff said.
Wonder Woman: The Complete First Season 2004
It can be TOTALLY bizarre to watch these as an adult, especially as in the 29 years since the pilot episode I’ve seen the various actors in many other shows and contexts, but Lynda Carter was and still is gloriously beautiful to behold in these episodes as well as superbly Wonder Woman in herself.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Second Season 2005
Having the first season on DVD was such a gas, I decided to splurge on the second season when it came out…boy is it ’70s and wow is Lynda Carter still a knockout; however, while some of these are pretty good there are some mega-ghastlies—the inexcusably 2-part “Mind Stealers From Outer Space” being an amazingly egregious example of the latter, complete with California locations being passed off as Virginia, a total Darth Vader ripoff, and Plan-9-From-Outer-Space-level costuming for the aliens.
Wonder Woman: The Complete Third Season 2005
Still Lynda Carter being the wondrous centerpiece of this show.
Laurie Anderson: Home of the Brave 1986
A very fun and engaging tape of a concert from her Home of the Brave tour in the mid-1980s.
“This is my first life as a woman.”
The B-52’s: Time Capsule 1998
Not the greatest music videos in the world, but dang this group is wonderful!
(Actually I should clarify one thing: the video for the new song, “Debbie,” is as fiercely fun as the song itself is, and it’s delightful to watch them having such fun with it. And, by the way, who knew Keith Strickland would turn out to be such a babe???)
Björk: Albumen 1998
I got this out of curiosity, to put some visions with the music I had come to enjoy so much, and found that Björk is talented even in some of the least of these videos (like Kate Bush in that way but Kate has precious few good videos in which to shine); “Hunter” is the most breathtaking.
Kate Bush: The Singles File 1983
This is sort of a historical artifact, a curio more than anything else, to me…Kate badly needs someone like Sophie Muller to give her a stunning context and presentation.
Kate Bush: The Sensual World 1990
These three videos are the closest Kate’s ever gotten to a video worthy of her talents…and yet they’re still not quite there.
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams 1983
Sure, Dave & Annie objected to the release of this MTV concert at London’s Heaven, with good reason (backup singers still learning the parts, Annie with laryngitis, lousy venue for filming a concert, etc.), but I still enjoy it somewhat…probably because it’s how I first heard how they can turn their own songs on their heads and strut them in completely different styles (as they have done with various B-sides over the years, to my eternal delight).
“But it is the future.”
Eurythmics: Live 1987
A bit too mid-’80s, perhaps, but it’s fun to watch Annie deliver hit after hit after hit with no letup in the power or strength.
“Come on, Mr Stewart, let’s go….”
Eurythmics: Brand New Day 1987
Filmed in Japan by Amos Gitai at the end of Eurythmics’s “Revenge” tour but never commercially released, I got this from the great French store Fnac’s online store in the mid-2000s and can see why it was never released: for serious Eurythmics fans it’s good because it captures the moment when their Revenge style started giving way to their Savage one, but for anybody else it just looks like a bad “rockumentary” that ends with a really obscure and slow photography session.
Eurythmics: Savage 1988
“Some women think that they don’t count.”
Eurythmics: We Two Are One Too 1990
An odd video album with some very interesting glimpses into the balance of personalities that make up this creative nucleus.
“Oh my god. What an incredible view.”
Eurythmics: Greatest Hits 1991
If you haven’t seen this array of videos, you really should…get a taste of the visual scope of their artistry and a reminder of the diversity and quality of their songwriting power.
Eurythmics: Peacetour 2000
This was filmed in London a week after I saw them in Manchester, in the winter of 1999, and it’s a terrific concert which they both were clearly enjoying tremendously as much as we all did; Annie’s in fine, fine, strong form throughout (with the hilarious exception of one spectacularly fluffed note at the climax of “The Miracle of Love” that just got a warmer reaction from the crowd), and it’s a treat to watch the entire band completely melt down with the joy of playing at the end of “I Need a Man,” as well as to hear the audience singing along with the quiet first chorus of “Who’s That Girl.”
(For the record, by the way, I did become a member of Amnesty International’s ranks because of Eurythmics’s appeal to do so, and I stayed with AI for I think two or three years, until their proclamations were too broadly sweeping for me to put my name to. I mention this because Eurythmics did this tour largely to publicize Amnesty and Greenpeace, and they donated the profits from the tour to the two organizations. On the whole I do endorse and appreciate Amnesty, however; Greenpeace on the other hand I have usually found to be too extremist and self-righteously “infallible” to support unquestioningly.)
“…and this is a loovely song about the two of us!”
Peter Gabriel: Play [The Videos] 2004
Boris Grebenshikov: The Long Way Home 1989
Spot the serious Eurythmics fan! Boris’s album is decent but not enough to justify getting a video on its making…but with Chrissie Hynde and Annie Lennox recording backup vocals together for him, and glimpses into the strange moment in Russian history which formed the album’s context, it’s actually very interesting.
“I’m comin’, Miss Annie, I’m comin’!”
Grace Jones: A One Man Show 1982
She can groove like nobody’s business, and the visuals of this very early music-video experiment stay with me strangely; I suppose you could extract any number of snippets from this to use to mock robotic-’80s stuff, but you can mock snippets of anything, whereas this is the real article…besides, it’s video art.
KISS: KISS My Ass 1994
I’ve loved KISS’s makeup-years music (with the exception of The Elder and Dynasty) since I was a teen, but because I’m not so much a fan of the group itself I didn’t know about this video’s existence until 2004, and when I saw how much of it featured old performances of the stuff I liked I decided to go for it; it’s actually really fun to watch—and an electrifying, mesmerising treat to see one of Ace Frehley’s smoking-guitar performances, complete with virtuosic playing if inept acting, in the 1977 concert clip of his “Shock Me”—and good *heavens* did Paul Stanley have a fine form back in the mid-1970s….
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares: A Bird Is Singing 1993
Not a brilliant video, but the relaxing imagery makes a nice match for the celestially otherworldly sound of the choir.
Annie Lennox: Totally Diva 1992
As brilliant as Eurythmics’s Savage video album, with Annie playing dress-up with riveting camera-working skill. (One critical observation about the DVD: its menu is cute but inaccurate.)
Annie Lennox: Live in Central Park 1995
This is a fun concert to watch, not Annie’s greatest live work certainly but at the time much-needed by her fans; after the concert footage Annie chats and introduces the videos for the Medusa album, and it’s even more interesting than the concert.
“…but then again, you know, it’s just a pop video…!”
Paul Simon: Graceland: The African Concert 1987
Now this is a delightful concert film…wonderful to hear the songs in one of their contexts (their African elements, performed by dazzlingly gifted African musicians, in Africa) while still featuring many elements that are part of what makes Paul Simon such a magnificent artist; I often cry my head off while watching this, because it is so full of the intensity of feelings urging the ending of the South African apartheid rule.
The Smiths: The Complete Picture 1992
It’s a pity The Smiths didn’t get decent videos made to go with their compelling songs, though Derek Jarman’s contribution of “The Queen Is Dead” is pretty close to excellent; the Top-of-the-Pops-style “live” lip-synch performances are just embarrassingly bad.
The The: Infected 1987
Matt Johnson is an incredibly talented and intense musician, and when you see this video album you just have to wonder what the hell goes on inside him to get things like this when it all boils over and explodes.