It's very long and extremely po-faced, and most of the performances are pretty wooden, Yul Brynner's imperious pharaoh aside. Even so, Cecil B DeMille's 1956 account of the life of Moses (Charlton Heston) still has some impressive sequences-notably the Exodus from Egypt, with 60,000 extras—and remains the definitive Biblical epic.
Much-misunderstood 1975 John Schlesinger reading of Nathaniel West's classic parody of Hollywood's corrupting influence in the '30s. Bristling with brilliant scenes exposing the individual's vulnerability in a crowd which worships bland celebrity, it lurches between satire and the truly horrifying. Donald Sutherland and Karen Black (miscast) star, while Conrad Hall photographs.
Underrated late John Wayne vehicle, a bracing 1971 western with The Duke, in formidable form, in hot pursuit of Richard Boone's gang of colourfully villainous and cheerfully murderous kidnappers. Surprisingly brutal, with Boone a fearsome presence and several very bloody shoot-outs. Much enjoyed by John Carpenter, who appropriated the "I thought you were dead" catchline for Escape From New York.
Originally a TV mini series, this is a satisfying, three-hour adaptation of Larry McMurty's offbeat and poignant take on Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. A strong cast (Anjelica Houston, Sam Elliott, Peter Coyote) get blown off the screen by Jack Palance as a grizzled, dusty old trapper.
You would have thought that Richard Dreyfuss might have analysed his own contribution to the wretched Krippendorf's Tribe. Yet here he is again, hamming wildly from start to fin, as a perennial loser enjoying one startlingly successful day at the races. David Johansen and the adorable Jennifer Tilly provide brief but inspired moments of comic brilliance, but it's dear, dear Dickie's show. More's the pity.
The definitive Hollywood western, George Stevens' Shane has inimitable narrative momentum, rolling effortlessly from the introduction of Alan Ladd's buckskin dandy to the initial saloon tensions ("You talking to me?") and the epic punch-up, through the homesteader murder and the final confrontation with Jack Palance's beguiling assassin. Magnificent.
William Wyler's 1955 suspense classic, later remade by Michael Cimino, finds Humphrey Bogart frowning and sweating as only he can (in a role first played on stage by Paul Newman). Three on-the-run cons hold a family hostage in their home, but after plenty of mind games, the suburbanites outfox them. Humph had done it better in Key Largo, but it still crackles gamely.
Multiple Oscar-winner (beating out Scorsese's Raging Bull) from 1980, directed calmly (and, for some, soporifically) by Robert Redford. It's a sombre, actorly affair in which wealthy Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore grieve for their son's death; his brother Timothy Hutton blames and shames. An early, earnest look at the dysfunctional family: American Beauty without the laughs.