Stanley Kramer's star-studded 1961 version of the Nuremberg Trials sees Burt Lancaster as a German collaborator, Spencer Tracy as a US judge, and has cameos for practically everyone else: Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland. The latter two, emaciated and tattered, provide unintentionally ghoulish viewing, but the flick itself is a tad worthy.
Sad, funny and cynical, Billy Wilder's 1970 movie presents a classically Holmesian mystery—a missing person case which ends with the Loch Ness Monster—as cover for an exploration of the great detective's myth, seeking to identify the crippled man behind the machine-like facade. Beautifully shot, the movie was cut by the studio and ignored by critics, but it's gorgeous. Robert Stephens is a complex Holmes, Colin Blakely a most human Watson.
The Vietnam war had been over for three years by the time Hal Ashby made Coming Home in 1978. Those who'd survived the combat zones of South-East Asia had returned to find themselves shunned and quarantined, like lepers in their home towns; a living, breathing reminder of a shameful war many back home would rather forget had ever happened. Some of those who came back perhaps wished they'd died out there in the jungles—the paraplegics, the traumatised, forever dreading the nameless, shapeless things that whispered to them in the night.
Bafflingly shite title belies one of the great courtroom flicks of all time. A 1960 Stanley Kramer classic based on the true story of a Hillsboro professor arrested for teaching "God-bashing" Darwinism, it features effortless turns from Spencer Tracy and Fredric March as the duelling lawyers, some able support from a de-cheesed Gene Kelly, and a script bristling with one-liners.
Susan Hayward won the Oscar for committed scene-trashing in this 1958 movie, which—based on the real-life execution of Barbara Graham, a "goodtime girl" (possibly) framed for murder and sent to the gas chamber in 1955—was very much the Monster of its day. Robert Wise directs as if it were a jazz documentary, taking cues from the great score by Johnny Mandel, itself cooled to within an inch of its life by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet.
And at least an hour too long. Representing the tail-end of the epic war movie wave, Richard Attenborough's 1977 superproduction reconstructs the disastrous Allied attempt to seize half-a-dozen Dutch bridges behind enemy lines. Ponderous, but with a cast featuring everyone from Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Sean Connery and Michael Caine to Gene Hackman, Robert Redford, James Caan and Elliott Gould, it's satisfyingly star-studded.
Before The Trip starts, an earnest middle-aged voice warns us that we're about to witness "a shocking commentary on a prevalent trend of our time". This is Roger Corman's ass-covering joke at Middle America's expense:his 1967 drugzploitation classic is nothing more than Jack Nicholson's paean to lysergic acid. Ad exec Peter Fonda takes the trip in question, encountering sundry LA groovers along the way: Bruce Dern, the inevitable Dennis Hopper, even an unknown Gram Parsons. Turn on and tune in!
Susan Strasberg is a deaf Carole Caplin döppelganger in 1968 Haight-Ashbury in this hilariously inept 'look' at the counterculture. Jack Nicholson is guitarist Stoney, beneficiary of lines such as "it don't sound so good without acid". Strasberg is searching for The Seeker, aka her big brother Steve (Bruce Dern). Dean Stockwell intones Manson-esque platitudes about "head games". The Strawberry Alarm 'Schlock' sing "Incense And Peppermints" and Sky Saxon plays in the park. It's that good, and it's that bad.
When we rave about the force of nature that is James Woods, we tend to neglect this cautionary 1988 Harold Becker tale of how cocaine destroys the careers and marriage of a silver-tongued salesman and his wife (Sean Young, with whom, notoriously, Woods had a history). We shouldn't: it absolutely rocks, with Woods in his element as a cocky crack-up waiting to happen. And then, explosively, happening. Electric.