I watched at least 80 movies on FilmStruck, between the time I finally joined over the summer and the service’s final day on Nov. 29. It is hard to pick five favorite discoveries from that crop, but since I saw my friend Angela at The Hollywood Revue take a shot at it, I figured I would as well. So, on with the show…
In September, Warner Bros. shocked the film world by posting Ken Russell‘s controversial 1971 film The Devils on FilmStruck. The company has long refused to release the film on home video in the U.S., so while they only shared a non-anamorphic SD version on the streaming service, it was still a reason to celebrate.
Needless to say, The Devils lived up to the hype, featuring a monumental performance from Oliver Reed as a priest accused of being possessed by the devil. Although a 47-year-old film inspired by true events from 17th Century France, it remains a frightfully relevant indictment on how easily people can be swayed.
Today, Julien Duvivier is best known for his French films, but he did make several films in English, including the Alexander Korda production Lydia. The 1941 film is not available on DVD, although it began with a Criterion logo, so maybe it will show up in a future Duvivier set. Lydia is one of those movies you can’t possibly imagine anyone making today. It involves a group of old men (Joseph Cotten, George Reeves and Hans Jaray) getting together with their former flame Lydia (Merle Oberon) to reminisce about old times. The film, a remake of Duvivier’s Un carnet de bal (1937), is a fascinating look at the tricks memory can play on you.
The Silver Cord
The last week of FilmStruck featured Irene Dunne, one of my favorite actresses, as the Star of the Week. One of the films included was the incredibly rare 1933 RKO movie The Silver Cord, directed by John Cromwell and based on the 1926 Broadway play. It is very talky and stagey, but you quickly forget that because the story is so shocking. Laura Hope Crews plays an overly possessive mother, hell-bent on destroying her sons’ (Joel McCrae and Eric Linden) relationships with women (Dunne and Frances Dee). While she drives Hester (Dee) to an attempted suicide, Christina (Dunne) proves to be more difficult. It is a shocking turn from Dunne, but all four lead actors are brilliant.
It’s hard to call Auntie Mame a “discovery,” since TCM airs it frequently, but it was for me. I made it one of the last movies I watched on FilmStruck and was ashamed that I hadn’t seen it before when it ended. Although episodic in nature, this mammoth, 143-minute comedy rushed by. Rosalind Russell was hilarious, and Morton DaCosta proves to be a very underrated director. My favorite aspect was the fades at the end of each episode, where a spotlight remained on Mame, just as it would on the stage.
The Films of Kelly Reichardt
Before FilmStruck, the only Kelly Reichardt movie I saw was the wonderfully sparse Certain Women thanks to the Criterion Blu-ray (which I still need to review). However, once I watched Wendy and Lucy (2008), I rushed through the other films that were available – her debut River of Grass (1994), Old Joy (2006) and Meek’s Cutoff (2010). (Unfortunately, the only film of hers that was not posted was 2013’s Night Moves.) Her movies have this patent, poetic storytelling. The style might not be for everyone, but it clicked with me, especially Meek’s Cutoff. Wendy and Lucy also felt like a hidden gem, one that I could not understand why I hadn’t heard of before.
Thanks again FilmStruck and all the people who worked so hard to make it as great as it was. The service introduced me to plenty of movies I had never heard of, and made it possible to see many I had been longing to see.