50 Favorite Film Mysteries and/or Thrillers.
Definitely not going to refine everything down to individual
groupings. Life’s too short.
You know where to go to get strict adherence to genre film
lists. (Also, there are many thriller films popular over the years that I just
haven’t seen, hence their omission from this list. I've also omitted films or shows done for television - that will be a separate list.)
I’m aware that many of the films other movie mavens swoon
over may not appear on this list. Here’s the thing: This is MY list. I’m not
saying these are the best mystery (etc) movies ever made. I’m just saying that
these are 50 mystery (etc) films for which I have a great deal of affection for
a variety of reasons which probably make sense only to me. But I’m sharing them
with you anyway. What are friends for?
Feel free to differ, argue, harangue and otherwise disagree.
1) DIVA (1981)
a Jean-Jacques Beineix film starring Frederic Andrei, Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez and Richard Bohringer.
In French with subtitles (for those of us not fluent), DIVA
is a deliciously devious, twisted,
colorful thriller involving an opera singer who has never heard herself sing because
she never allows her voice to be taped, and the hapless, lovelorn postman who
adores her from afar. But that’s not all, there are also low-life cops, despicably
vile henchmen, a knight
metaphysical shining armor, Taiwanese recording pirates, gorgeous camera work,
eye-popping interiors and
the city of
. I mean, really - w
hat on earth more could you
Oh, I forgot, there’s also a gorgeous aria sung by
Wilhelminia Wiggins Fernandez which is at the heart of a lot of the trouble
that befalls our intrepid post man. It all makes for a pretty perfect thriller
of a movie. It’s difficult to combine classic beauty and nasty mayhem in a way that is not off-putting, but Jean-Jacques
Beineix manages it very well.
The funny thing is
that I once shared this film with my brother and his wife and they couldn’t
make heads or tails of it, weren’t impressed, didn’t absorb, didn’t see what I
saw at all. So, DIVA, is, I suppose, what you make of it, what you bring to it.
It may also be that you need a bit of imagination going in. Sorry, bro.
2) The JASON BOURNE
Trilogy: The Bourne Identity (2002) director: Doug Liman, The Bourne Supremacy
(2004) director: Paul Greengrass, and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) director:
Based on the books by
Besides ‘Diva’, I
truly believe these three Bourne films comprise the finest action thriller
movies ever made. At least these are the films that made me change my mind about
modern action thrillers. Tell-tale sign: Never once did I roll my eyes while watching,
something that happens very often to me while in the presence of most ‘action’ packed films.
I rarely watch modern
thrillers (I just don’t have the patience), but when I do, I am very hard to please. The three Bourne
films pleased me very much – I even enjoyed the car chases, especially the one
featuring a beat up mini Morris out-swerving the French police through the
streets of Paris.
(The Bourne Identity) Fabulous!
Matt Damon simply owns this character - he inhabits and
defines the ominously self-contained Jason Bourne. He makes us care for a man
who despite his angst, is, never forget, a trained killer.
My favorite of the three? The Bourne Ultimatum in which if you look away from the screen for
a second or two, you’ll miss something interesting and very often beautiful -from
a movie-making point of view. In fact, two of the things that amazed me most, I
think - about this last film especially: I was not turned off by the
herky-jerky movement of the hand-held camera action and the blink-of-an-eye-quick
cutting - two movie techniques I generally find fatiguing. A terrific film with
an especially heart-stopping ending.
An aside: even an over-acting Albert Finney (who hasn’t aged
well) in false teeth didn’t spoil the final film of the trilogy for me.
3)THE THIN MAN (1934) A film directed by S.S. Van Dyke, starring
William Powell and Myrna Loy. Based on the book by Dashiell Hammett.
An adaptation of the rather dour Hammett book made livelier
by the effervescent presence of Powell and Loy as Nick and Nora Charles and
Asta as Asta (wire-haired terrier extraordinare). The Charles’ have an enviable
marriage - a bouncy, sophisticated life-style of nightclubs, cocktails, friendly
cohorts (many of the Runyonesque low-life variety) and just to keep things
lively, a murder or two every now and then.
The ‘thin man’ of
the title is an inventor who goes missing over the Christmas holidays. His
frantic daughter (Maureen O’Sullivan) wants Nick to find her father.
Apparently, she and he are the only sane members of a rather weird family. And that’s
not saying much.
4) LAURA (1944)
film directed by Otto Preminger, starring Clifton Webb, Gene Tierney, Dana
Andrews and Vincent Price. Based on the book by Vera Caspary.
I never get tired of watching this film even if Dana Andrews
was never my favorite actor. He does manage to be wonderful here as the
cynical, unhappy cop who falls in love with a beautiful dead woman - actually a portrait of a beautiful woman.
Clifton Webb is weirdly perfect as the obsessed, fastidious,
snobbish gossip columnist who befriends Laura and recounts her many attractions
in the smarmy voice-over which begins the film.
Speaking of smarmy,
Vincent Price personifies the word in his turn as a rather pitiful gigolo.
Gene Tierney is vapid but beautiful in her most famous role.
5) THE 39 STEPS
(1935) A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Robert Donat and
Madeleine Carroll. Based on the book by John Buchan.
Almost ruined by Hitchcock’s penchant for icy blond leading
ladies – Madeleine Carroll - she is SO hard
to like to in this. But for Robert Donat, terrific plotting (much better than
the book by John Buchan) and moody camera-work, this film would never have made
Donat is everything a leading man should be, especially when
we first see him in the early part of the film wearing a dashing trench coat,
collar turned up to give him a mysterious air. His speaking voice is
perfection. His character, Richard Hannay, is bewildered by circumstances (a
dead spy in the kitchen will do that to you) but quick-witted, remarkably
self-controlled and, yes, okay I’ll say it, sexy as heck.
Spy thrillers, man-on-the-run films - a Hitchcock specialty
from way back then.
6) THE LADY VANISHES
(1938) A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Margaret Lockwood,
Michael Redgrave and Paul Lukas. A fun (some of it possibly unintentional) thriller,
most of which takes place on a train traveling west from some fictional little
blip of a Balkan country - it’s a great train movie for those few who might not
When Miss Froy (the charming Dame May Whitty), an elderly spinster
on her way home to England (after working as a governess for many years)
suddenly goes missing from the train, only Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood),
a young woman returning home to be married (reluctantly) realizes it. Everyone
else will contend they haven’t seen Miss Froy at all and that Miss Henderson
was alone in the compartment. Very
disturbing, very frustrating.
Among the remarkably incurious assortment of passengers is
the annoying guest who’d been staying at Iris’s rickety-rack hotel, playing loud music late into the night. Gilbert
(Michael Redgrave) is a musicologist collecting indigenous folk tunes. He becomes
Iris’s aide-de-camp, so to speak, when he is finally convinced that Miss Froy
did, indeed, exist. He and Iris will search the train forwards and backwards to
Also among the passengers (luckily for the movie and for us)
are Caldicott (Naunton Wayne) and Chalmers (Basil Radford) a kibitzing pair of
British travelers who apparently have no use for anything that doesn’t have
something to do with cricket. What I love most about them is that when the
chips are down and needs must, they step up to the plate and deliver. They are
Both will also appear (as the same characters) in another
doozey of a train movie, NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH with Rex Harrison.
THE LADY VANISHES is all about pre-WWII Nazi hijinks, a
secret contained in a musical phrase, a highly improbable secret agent, not to
mention a sinister doctor (Paul Lukas), a nun in high heels and last but not
least, a surprisingly good gun battle at the end.
7) MINISTRY OF FEAR (1944)
A film directed by Fritz Lang, starring Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds and Carl
Esmond. Based on the book by Graham Greene.
Dr. Stephen Neale (Milland) is not your run-of-the-mill
thriller hero - he’s just been released from an insane asylum after two years,
accused of killing his wife.
Neale is on his way back to what passes for normal in a war-time England hobbled
by German bombs, Fifth Column activities, insecurity and dastardly spies. He
stumbles into the middle of a sinister
plot involving a blind man who isn’t, a fishy-eyed fortune teller, a nefarious
refugee organization and a very creepy tailor played by the always reliably
creepy Dan Duryea.
No sooner is Dr. Neale back in London
, when he is again wanted for murder
(the man cannot catch a break) and trying to dodge spies, killers, the police,
all the while falling in love with a beautiful refugee.
Director Fritz Lang creates a London that is dark and ominous, a totally unpleasant
place to be. Nobody’s ‘normal’ here.
8) IN THE HEAT OF THE
NIGHT (1967) A film directed by Norman Jewison and starring Sidney Poitier
and Rod Steiger (in an Academy Award winning performance). Based on a novel by
This film is definitely of its time and yet the basic
ambiance and many of the characterizations, unfortunately, are still
cop Virgil Tibbs
(Sidney Poitier) is arrested for murder while simply waiting for a train at the
station. He’s been picked up for being black and a stranger in town.
But when Gillespie (Rod Steiger), the local sheriff learns
that Tibbs is not only a cop, but a homicide expert, he reluctantly requests
Tibbs’ help in solving the very same local murder for which Tibbs had been scooped
up in the first place. Now that’s chutzpah!
Tibbs has to tread carefully. He is regarded with hostility
and suspicion by both blacks and whites, everyone except the sheriff (who isn’t
that keen on him either) would rather see him gone.
Rod Steiger is perfection as your typical, swaggering, sweaty,
overweight, over-bearing small town officer of the law. What sets him apart
from those around him is the idea that the right man should be charged with
murder (in other words, the man who actually did it) and the galling knowledge
that he [the sheriff] is in over his head.
To find a killer Gillespie needs the forensic help of Virgil
Tibbs. How the two men become wary friends is not too far-fetched. But this is
no fairy tale, Tibbs is very much aware that the sheriff might turn on him at
any moment if he should put a step wrong. He walks a dangerous line as the
sheriff warns him, “I can’t protect you.” Though, in truth, as the murder
investigation develops, Gillespie does his damndest to keep Tibbs - a very
proud man - alive.
This is a movie filmed in dark, gritty color which might
just as well have been black and white. The ugly small-town atmospherics are
presented in an unsparing a manner as was possible in 1967. Sparta, Mississippi
is an indolent, back-of-beyond town with its own rules and its own dirty
How Virgil Tibbs maneuvers the logistics of this very
dangerous hunting ground to find a killer, while slowly establishing a
rapprochement with a man he doesn’t quite trust, makes for a splendid film.
9) SHADOW OF A DOUBT
(1943) A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Joseph Cotton, Theresa
Wright and MacDonald Carey.
The cheery, smiley-face, small town Newton family is about to welcome a viper
into their midst. Sinister and oh-so-psychotic
Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is coming to town. He is the beloved uncle for
whom the daughter, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton (the winsome Theresa
Wright) is named. He is also the younger brother of Charlie’s slightly ditzy
and totally unaware mom (Patricia Collinge). Both eagerly await his visit. The
men in the family – not so much.
Hitchcock’s version of an idyllic Santa Rosa, California
town (and family) at first makes you think he might have comedy in mind. Then
you think it’s a burlesque of ‘family values,’ I mean, these people are just so darned Andy Hardy cute.
But as soon as the grim-faced Uncle Charlie makes his
appearance you realize that Hitchcock just wanted to make sure we noted the
wide divide between ‘banal normality’ and ‘banal evil’. In contrast, Uncle Charlie therefore appears that much
Though Hitchcock’s acerbic eye leaves very few in the film
unscathed. It’s always been obvious to me that he has little affection for this
family of well-meaning slow-wits, almost as little affection as he has for the
predator visiting among them. If Hitchcock likes anyone in the cast, it’s
probably Theresa Wright’s plucky, intelligent ‘young Charlie’.
No spoilers here,
we’re aware almost from the very beginning that Uncle Charlie is a total bad
When a laconic cop (Macdonald Carey) also appears in Santa Rosa, searching for
a serial killer known as the ‘Merry Widow Murderer’, young Charlie (alone in
the entire family) becomes aware that her beloved uncle is the primary suspect.
But surely the police must be on the wrong trail. Soon though,
young Charlie begins to notice signs that uncle Charlie is not who he pretends
to be - suspicions that she is too naïve to hide from her very dangerous uncle.
Joseph Cotton is absolutely chilling as a psychotic predator
temporarily hiding out in the midst of 1950’s normalcy. A superb film with a dandy, heart-pounding ending.
10) THE UNINVITED(1944)
A film directed by Lewis Allen and starring Ray Milland, Ruth
Hussey, Gail Russell, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner and Alan Napier.
My favorite ghost movie which also turns out to be a pretty
fine thriller in its own quiet way.
Set on the English coast though very obviously filmed on a
California movie backlot, this is the story of a brother and sister, Roderick
Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) who, on the spur of
the moment, buy Meredith House, a large, cliff-side mansion overlooking the ocean. Fitzgerald wants
to devote himself to writing music for a living in this out-of-the-way, seaside
spot. Makes sense to me. (The wonderful music by Victor Young, Stella By Starlight, is used as the film’s theme.)
But dangerous things that go bump in the night will keep
interfering. It isn’t long before the presence of a rather unpleasant ghost
makes itself known to the Fitzgeralds. It has all to do with the frail and lovely
and sad ingénue, Stella Meredith (Gail Russell in her first film), fey granddaughter
of the house’s grumpy old seller, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp).
Starry-eyed Stella becomes an object of bewilderment, then
love for Roderick (called ‘Rick’) – though Ray Milland is obviously too old for
Meredith House was originally the home and studio of
Stella’s father, an artist with a roving eye. He lived there with his cold fish
of a wife and his not so cold, Spanish model - a nice, combustible mix.
All three are dead now and one of them, or perhaps two,
haunt the house on the cliff. Stella is not allowed anywhere near the home she
shared with her parents long ago. Her cantankerous grandfather is much put out
when he realizes that she has, indeed, gone there to visit with the new owners.
He immediately has Stella shipped off to a ‘rest’ home. (?!)
Though the film generates an aura of other-wordly
creepiness, there are few special effects except for the chilling breezes that
snuff out candles and the dank, iciness which seeps into the room just before a
ghostly presence is felt. It’s all mood and atmospherics and terrific camera
That’s all you need, really, in the hands of a good
11) CHARLIE CHAN ATTHE OPERA (1936)
A film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, starring Warner
Oland, Keye Luke and Boris Karloff. Based on characters created by Earl Derr
I used to think I preferred Warner Oland’s portrayal of Chan
over Sidney Toler’s, but I’ve since decided I like them both – though Oland
still has a slight edge. They each bring something
unique to the part that I enjoy watching. (But Toler is appreciated by me only
in the early Chan films. Later, when Mantan Morland came on board, the movies
became silly, unfunny parodies.) If you stick with the Charlie Chan films of
the 1930’s and early 1940’s, you won’t go wrong.
In CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA, Boris Karloff (yes, that Boris Karloff) plays an opera
singer with amnesia who, as the film begins, is residing in a lunatic asylum.
When a newspaper article reawakens his memory, he breaks out and heads for NYC
to wreak havoc at the opera house where his most famous role is currently being
revived by his ex-wife and those who tried to kill him seven years before.
(This part of the plot makes little sense, given the time line, but hey, I’m
not a total stickler for reality.)
All these early Charlie Chan movies are worth a good look. I
have several favorites (these are just three) that I fully realize are not
great films - just good Charlie Chan mysteries, perfect for a chilly autumn
night. Okay, I admit I am a Charlie Chan
groupie or as Caftan Woman and I like to say, we’re Charlie Chan Fan-girls. I
own a bunch of the films.
12) CHARLIE CHAN AT
TREASURE ISLAND (1939) A film directed by Norman Foster, starring Sidney
Toler, Victor Sen Yung and Caesar Romero. Based on characters created by Earl
Here Charlie Chan is called on to solve the in-flight death
of an author writing an expose of San
Francisco fortune tellers.
Connecting the dots, suspecting a wide-spread blackmailing
racket, Charlie decides to get the low-down on the infamous (and downright
sinister) mystic known as The Zodiac.
Lots of good production values, snappy dialogue, moody
camera-work and a few special effects make for a terrific film.
13) CHARLIE CHAN IN
PANAMA (1940) A film directed by Norman Foster, starring Sidney Toler,
Victor Sen Yung and Lionel Atwill. Based on characters created by Earl Derr
Charlie Chan is incognito, posing as a Panama
hatter (though not a mad one), working
undercover to try and stop recurring sabotage at the Panama
prior to WWII. When his British intelligence contact is
murdered right before Charlie’s eyes, the result of a poison-spouting cigarette
(?!), it’s time to drop the incognito.
With spies and sinister-browed types lurking about and
leaving a trail of bodies for Charlie and Jimmy Chan (who makes his entrance
from a jail cell) to find, not to mention a bunch of plague carrying rats, the
time begins to run out for the U.S. Naval Fleet soon to enter the Canal.
Kane Richmond shows up in this one as a Canal engineer, the
requisite romantic interest for another of those lackluster actresses that turn
up regularly in Charlie Chan movies. This time it’s Jean Rogers playing a
refugee with no papers who gets a job singing at the local seedy night club.
She is dreadful. But since everyone else in the film is pretty terrific, I just
There’s lots of action (improbable and otherwise) as well as
the always excellent Lionel Atwill playing a suspicious looking British writer
and Mary Nash as a middle-aged spinster school-teacher hoping for a bit of
14) THE GHOSTBREAKERS(1940)
A film directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope, Paulette
Goddard, Willie Best and Richard Carlson.
When Mary Carter (Paulette Goddard) inherits a small island
off the coast of Cuba,
she is warned to stay away (by a very sinister Paul Lukas - a Cuban businessman
with a rather odd accent). ‘No one has
ever survived a night at Castillo
Maldito’. But, undaunted, Mary decides to go anyway. She’s a plucky gal.
Along for the ocean voyage is Bob Hope as Larry Lawrence (“My middle name is Lawrence too, my parents
had no imagination.”) a radio personality who spills mob gossip on the air
and has decided, after earlier being mistaken for a murderer, to help Mary
survive a night on the ghostly island where a zombie is said to walk.
This film has one of the best set-ups – the first ten or so
minutes – I’ve ever seen. Just fabulous. Hint: the lights go out all over New York in the middle
of a furious thunderstorm - perfect for a fun mystery and my favorite Bob Hope
University professor Horatio Smith (Leslie Howard), a
mild-mannered and unassuming chap, is in actuality, a fearless foe of the Nazis.
With Great Britain and Germany not yet
officially at war, he has helped many victims of the Third Reich escape under
the noses of the Gestapo while travel between both countries is still allowed. (Note
the resemblance in theme to the 1934 film of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy which also starred Leslie Howard.)
Francis L. Sullivan plays an odiously pompous Nazi officer
determined to stop Smith.
One of my favorite scenes: Smith, evading his pursuers by
masquerading as a scarecrow in a field.
Not a great film, but a very entertaining one if you, like
me, love this sort of thing.
16) NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940)
A film directed by Carol Reed, starring Rex Harrison,
Margaret Lockwood and Paul Henreid (who, strangely, goes unacknowledged in the
Another favorite film which, among other things, features a
thrilling train ride with a clever English spy, Gus Bennet (Rex Harrison)
masquerading as a Nazi officer trying to save a young Czechoslovakian woman and
her scientist father from the grasp of the Gestapo. As if the train ride
weren’t enough, there’s also a desperate mountain cable car ride to the finish.
This is a spiffy spy flick which I discovered only last year.
A very young Rex Harrison is quite unexpectedly fetching.
And remember that Caldicott and Chalmers (the two Brit-Twits from THE LADY
VANISHES) make their appearance here as well.)
17) GREEN FOR DANGER(1947)
A film directed by Sidney Gilliat, starring Alastair Sim, Trevor
Howard and Leo Genn. Based on the book by Christianna Brand.
During WWII when patients are plentiful, a postman – injured
by an incendiary bomb - dies on the operating table at a hospital in the
English countryside. When later, unaccountably, it is determined that the
patient was murdered, an oddly quirky Scotland Yard detective with a steely
gleam in his eye, shows up to annoy the suspects and track down the culprit.
Inspector Cockrill (Alastair Sim) at first seems a bit too
strange to be any good, but he quickly disabuses everyone of that notion. Though
in the end, he doesn’t exactly cover himself with glory, the culprit is caught.
But not before more murder is done.
18) DIAL M FOR MURDER
(1954) A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland, Grace
Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams.
Though I must tell you up front that the very idea of Grace
Kelly and Bob Cummings having any kind of affair (of the heart or otherwise)
makes me cringe – still, this remains one of my favorite thrillers. Why? Oh,
the plotting which is excellent and the acting of Ray Milland as the conniving
husband and that of John Williams as the wily, veteran Scotland Yard inspector
who is not a fool.
A murder for hire plan goes seriously awry when the assassin
is killed instead, but the villain, open-minded to new possibilities, quickly
twists the plot around and works it to his advantage.
Not one of Hitchcock’s flashier pictures, produced in an antiseptic sort of color, set in a studio back-lot London,
but despite this, it works. It’s all in the writing and the skill of Milland
and Williams playing a cat and mouse game.
19) THE FUGITIVE (1993) A film directed by Andrew Davis, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy
Lee Jones. At the time it was unimaginable that the long-running and very much
adored 1960’s television series starring David Janssen as Dr. David Kimble could
ever work transferred to the big screen.
Well, somehow, the writers (Jeb Stuart and David Twohy based
on characters created by Roy Huggins) did it. The casting too, was key.
Harrison Ford is about as sympathetic an actor as the 90’s produced. He is
perfect as the innocent Kimble who, on the run from the police after being
found guilty of his wife’s brutal murder, still manages to stop along the way
and help where help is needed.
Tommy Lee Jones as Gerard, the dogged, intensely keen
marshal (head of a coterie of quirky law enforcement associates) whose job it
is to capture Kimble after an incredible escape in one of the most frightening
train crashes ever filmed, is wonderful – very deserving of his Oscar.
My only quibbles with the film are the flashbacks to the
murder of Kimble’s wife (Sela Ward) which really, after the first couple of
times, seem gratuitous. But other than that, this is a film I can watch over
and over again, gratuitously.
A little-known Robert Donat film and the only reason for
that that I can come up with is the lame title. It is a very nifty spy thriller
set during WWII, with the always superb Donat playing Captain Terence
Stephenson aka Jan Tartu, a member of
the Romanian Guard.
Stephenson is a London
bomb defuser called upon (because of his fluency in both the Romanian and
German languages) to infiltrate a German poison gas factory and blow it up.
Sooner than you can say, ‘show
me your papers’, Tartu is being dropped by parachute behind enemy lines and
with much guile, intelligence and deadly nerve, sets forth to carry out his
A film that for reasons hard to define, is always watchable.
No matter when or where it’s playing, I’m watching.
I’ve heard from a few other movie mavens that they too feel
the same way. There are just certain films that mysteriously weave an immediate
spell, and this appears to be one of them.
Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin), some sort of covert studies
government researcher is brought in to help figure out whether the Russian
submarine Red October is on a mission to destroy the east coast of the United
States with nuclear weapons or
captain (played by Sean Connery) has decided to defect – brand new submarine in
tow. Most of the action takes place fathoms deep under the Atlantic
in the rather claustrophobic confines of the Russian sub and the American sub
(captained by Scott Glenn) sent to stop it.
A fast-paced, high-stakes, intelligent thriller from the
good old days of the Cold War.
22) REAR WINDOW
(1954) A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart, Grace
Kelly and Raymond Burr.
Jeff Jeffries (James Stewart) a photographer sidelined with
a broken leg spends most of his time convalescing at home and spying
(binoculars or telescope, can’t remember which) on his neighbors. His Greenwich Village
apartment is perfectly situated with a
rear window view of a large courtyard and the several buildings backing on to
Jeffries has a beautiful girlfriend (Grace Kelly is her
least objectionable role, in my opinion), a wise-cracking secretary (or nurse,
I forget) played by Thelma Ritter and a very restless and inquiring mind. He
hates being trussed up and spying is a way to relieve his boredom.
After observing the curious actions of man across the way (a
platinum haired and rather hulking Raymond Burr), Jeffries becomes convinced
that the guy has murdered his wife.
This is a film steeped in tension and a cloying sense of
claustrophobia. I’m also not sure, when I’m watching this, that Jeffries ought
to be doing what he’s doing – in a way it’s kind of a creepy hobby.
Raymond Burr brings an extra dimension to his part which is
all about how he looks and moves.
23) ALL THE
PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) A film directed by Alan J. Pakula, starring Robert
Redford, Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards, Jr. Based on the book by Bob
Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
My favorite political thriller. It couldn’t be any more
entertaining (or outrageous) if it were fiction, and yet the story is true
(though I’m sure some license was taken with the screenplay.) Casting was
obviously done with particular care, there’s not a single dud in the bunch.
The story of how two lowly Washington Post reporters helped
bring down Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States,
has entered the American folklore and acquired near-mythic status.
A bungled burglary at the Watergate apartment house in Washington, D.C.
is only the beginning.
A newcomer to my list since I only watched it for the first
time recently. This is another terrific spy thriller burdened by a supremely
An RAF pilot (John Mills) is shot down and plucked out of
the water by locals. Left to convalesce in a ‘cottage to let’ on the grounds of a large English country house
belonging to an inventor (Leslie Banks) currently working on an important
bomb-sight formula, the pilot is soon wasting no time in making friends with the
local pretty young thing who comes in to nurse him.
There’s lots of humor (primarily supplied by the inventor’s
ditzy wife) atmosphere, shadowy lurkings, spies, henchmen and an extremely odd
duck (is he good or is he bad?) played by Alastair Sim who made a habit of
playing odd ducks.
Terrific film even if the premise is highly unlikely.
25) THE MANCHURIAN
CANDIDATE (1962) A film directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Frank
Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury who plays Harvey’s
mother even though she was only a few years older than him. Based on a book by
An eerie and disturbing look at brain-washing taken to an
extreme. Ben Marco (Sinatra) and Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) are part of an
Army unit taken captive by the North Koreans during a botched military operation.
Watch for the tea party scene – indescribably chilling.
Some time later, back home in the United States, neither man suspects
(except for recurring bad dreams) what was done to them in captivity or that
the residue of brain washing is still alive and kicking in their sub-conscious
minds. Shaw, a troubled young man with mommy issues, was/is especially
It’s all about a communist plot to assassinate a
Presidential candidate, seize power and infiltrate the White House. The film is
more of a ‘how-done-it’ than a ‘who-done-it’ but I don’t want to give
too much away. I’ll just say that Angela Lansbury steals the show.
26) CAT PEOPLE (1942)
A Val Lewton film directed by Jacques Tourneur, starring Simone Simone, Kent
Smith and Tom Conway.
A haunting (photographed by Nicholas Musuraca) dream-like,
‘horror’ film that is more psychological thriller than anything else since we
never really see the object of horror except in shadow. Cue the ‘swimming pool’
scene which is an unforgettable bit of movie-making magic.
A strange young Serbian woman (Simone Simone) meets a
gullible and oh-so-bland architect played by Kent Smith (expert in bland) and
falls instantly in love with him – one has to wonder why. (Maybe because he
seems so ‘normal’?) But then, for every woman there’s a man and vice versa.
Unfortunately, once they are married, the young woman
exhibits a possessive jealousy which turns her young hubby off. Also
unfortunately, the young woman believes that under stress, she turns into a
vicious cat. No, I mean a ‘real’ cat
with claws and sharp teeth.
We know this because she takes to hanging out at the zoo and
staring intently at the black panther on display there.
A terrific film which also has Tom Conway playing the
slimiest psychiatrist on record.
27) DAY OF THE JACKAL
(1973) A film directed by Fred Zinneman, starring Edward Fox, Terence
Alexander, and Michel Audair. Based on the book by Frederick Forsyth.
High tension and suspense despite the fact that we know the
A killer known only as ‘The Jackal’ is hired to assassinate
French President Charles de Gaulle. Edward Fox is perfection as the elusive
assassin, cold-blooded, blank-eyed and devoid of human emotion.
The film cleverly evolves from the killer’s point of view as
well from the view of the French police as they – armed only with the knowledge
that The Jackal is on the way – must try and stop him.
Now we all know that Charles de Gaulle was never
assassinated, but does that stop us watching this film until the very exciting
end? Nope. That, my friends, is the power of great movie-making and
Despite the annoying mischief making of having top name
actors like Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, etc, brought in
(someone must have lost a bet) to make ‘cameo’
appearances in heavy rubbery disguises, the film isn’t ruined for me. Though I
can understand how it might be for some.
I am simply mad about George C. Scott’s character, ex-Intelligence
agent, Anthony Gethryn and his charming French cohort, Raoul Le Borg (Philip
Roux) ex-French Intelligence. These two actors, working so well together, make the movie for me and I will gladly
watch it over and over – especially now since I own the DVD.
Make note of the delightfully prune-faced and very talented
Gladys Cooper as she steals the one scene she appears in. While her brow-beaten
wimp of a hubby (Marcel Dalio) fuels her impatient dislike, she relates an
important connecting event in the unknown killer’s background.
Murder on such a grand scale as to defy belief is at the
black heart of the story - I can
say no more.
29) LADY IN THE LAKE (I947)
A film directed by Robert Montgomery,
starring Robert Montgomery and Audrey Totter. Based on the book by Raymond
A film with a gimmick – the camera fills in for Philip
Marlowe and there’s a voice-over by Robert Montgomery as he tells this rather
sordid tale of adultery and murder. In other words, we are Philip Marlowe – I
am a camera – get it?
The only time we really see Marlowe’s face is when he looks
in a mirror. It’s all very well done and you get used to it after a few
This is one of my favorite Raymond Chandler books and the
film isn’t bad at all. Montgomery
makes for a pugnacious Marlowe, different from Humprhey Bogart’s take, but just
Marlowe is hired to find a missing wife, but not by the
publisher husband who seems rather complacent about the whole thing, but by the
husband’s secretary (Audrey Totter) who has her eye on the boss.
There are crooked cops (Lloyd Nolan is especially good),
fistfights, murder and the geekiest gigolo ever, who apparently, buys his
clothes at the local ‘Gigolos Are Us’.
Though the lake and the lady in it are never shown, there’s plenty else to keep
us intrigued. The film is set at Christmas time too, which makes it a holiday
movie if you’re in the mood for murder and chicanery at that particular time of
the year. As many of us are. Ha!
I’ve yet to meet anyone or talk to anyone online who loves
this film (and the recent book Operation
Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre) based on an absolutely true story, as much as I
do, so I continue to be its number one champion.
It’s 1943 and the Brits are on the brink of invading Sicily’s coast. However,
matters would be helped enormously if the Nazis didn’t know this - if they
thought the Brits were going to come ashore on some other coast.
To that end, British Intelligence hatches a plot to use a
dead body and false papers to trick the Germans into moving some of their tanks
and munitions away from the Sicilian coastline.
Clifton Webb plays the real life Ewen Montagu, the Lt. Cmdr.
who brilliantly crafted the plan known as Operation Mincemeat. (He wrote his
own book about it after the war from which the film gets its title.) Webb is
perfection in this low-key, stiff-upper-lip sort of role as is the entire cast
of British stalwarts. The movie was filmed on location and has a sort of
newsreel feel to it which suits the story and the crisp, no gimmicks direction.
Among the cast is one American, Gloria Graham who –
unbeknown to the character - plays a pivotal (and likely fictional) part in the
bizarre plot. She is quite wonderful as a young woman devastated by the death
of her RAF boyfriend. There’s also an Irishman, Stephen Boyd (I think this is
his first movie.) a chiseled, florid actor who is also very good in the part of a spy for the Nazis.
Everyone does their bit and the result is a tense, sober,
enormously intelligent thriller.
31) REBECCA (1940)
A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Lawrence Olivier and Joan
Fontaine. Based on the book by Daphne Du Maurier.
All we need to read is:“Last
night I dreamed I went to Manderley again…” and we’re good to go. This is
one of the more famous opening lines of any book ever written drummed into my
head at school even before I read the book, when we began studying iambic
In the film, Joan Fontaine plays the unnamed heroine. She is
naive, withdrawn, shy, a bit on the klutzy side and not a raving beauty. While
working as a companion/dogsbody
wealthy woman vacationing in Monte
, unnamed heroine catches the interest (although
in truth, one wonders why) of the handsome, dashing and rich, Max De Winter
He is a widower with secrets. (Aren’t they all?)
Soon after their whirlwind courtship and marriage, De Winter
brings unnamed heroine back to his stately home, Manderley. And that’s where
the trouble begins. You see, there’s this skulking, stone-faced housekeeper,
Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) who has an unnatural attachment to the memory of
Rebecca, the first Mrs. De Winter.
I can say no more.
32) AIR FORCE ONE
(1997) A film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, starring Harrison Ford, Glenn
Close and Gary Oldman.
When hijackers, through brilliantly devious means, take
control of Air Force One with the President and his family on board, President
Marshall (Harrison Ford) goes into warrior mode. The resourceful Commander in
Chief draws on his experience as a soldier to try and thwart murderous
hijackers whose aim is to force the release of one of their leaders currently
rotting in a Russian prison.
Glenn Close is steady and resolute as the Vice President
trying to calm a jittery cabinet and a horde of curious reporters.
Another fast-paced thriller that hardly allows you any
breathing time. A dandy popcorn movie.
33) EVIL UNDER THE
SUN (1982) A film directed by Guy Hamilton, starring Peter Ustinov, Maggie
Smith, James Mason, Roddy McDowall and Diana Rigg. Based on the book by Agatha
The book is superior, but the film is so smartly directed,
outfitted and photographed, that I still enjoyed it. Beginning with the superb
opening credits - music by Cole Porter - you suspect almost immediately that
you’re in for a champagne fizz of a good time. Except that when the credits
end, we’re thrust immediately into a nasty crime scene on the English moors.
But then, just minutes later, we’re on the French Riviera
(one of the best scenes in the film, ambience-wise) with Hercule Poirot (Peter
Ustinov) who has been hired by an insurance company to find a missing jewel.
(This part of the movie alone is worth the price of admission.)
And a few scenes after that, we’re off to the beautiful
island of I don’t know where – the film was shot on or near Majorca – but it’s
supposed to be someplace once owned by royalty, off the coast of, I think, a
Balkan country. The island is small and private and has been turned into an
exclusive resort by the resourceful ex-mistress of the King of Tyrania, Daphne Castle
Someone, of course, arrives to be murdered and the rest
arrive as suspects and it’s all very British, very sophisticated and very fun
to the eye. The gorgeous costumes designed by Anthony Powell have to be seen to
be believed and the bouncy Cole Porter score is a dream.
Though Peter Ustinov never was my idea of Hercule Poirot,
neither was Albert Finney. Still, Ustinov
makes of the part what he can and he is not without a lumbering sort of charm.
34) REMO WILLIAMS:
The Adventure Begins (1985) A film directed by Guy Hamilton, starring Fred Ward, Joel Grey and Kate Mulgrew.
This is a film that should have spawned several sequels and
made Fred Ward a household name. But for whatever reason, it didn’t. Who can
say why one film captures an audience’s imagination and another one, just as
good or even better, doesn’t. It’s a mystery.
For me, this is a super-duper thriller with action, humor,
charismatic leads in Ward and Grey and a story that incorporates ‘six million dollar man’ medical
mumbo-jumbo and spurious martial arts mythology, spying and secret weapons and
mixes it all up with just enough imagination and movie know-how to deliver the
Through it all Fred Ward is oh-so-terrific as a cop brought
back from the brink of death to join a top secret government organization, under
a new identity (and with a few new body parts). But first he must survive the
rigorous training of Chuin, an adorably ancient
marital arts master played (with a great deal of joie de vivre) by Joel Grey
who practically steals the movie from under the granite countenance of Fred
Though admittedly the first two thirds (or so) of the movie are
better than the last, it’s not enough of a slip to have caused the movie’s
lackluster box office.
35) FIVE CAME BACK(1939)
A film directed by John Farrow, starring Chester Morris, Lucille
Ball, Wendy Barrie, Joseph Calleia, C. Aubrey Smith, John Carradine, Allen Jenkins
and Kent Taylor.
A story that has been filmed twice and both times, I’ve
enjoyed the results. It’s an engrossing thriller, adventure and love story with
a few things to say about honor and self-sacrifice.
A plane with an assortment of passengers, including a wily
killer manacled to a police officer, crashes in a very inhospitable jungle
somewhere in South America
(I think). As the
survivors try to adapt to their surroundings, their inner characters are, of
course, revealed. The two pilots attempt to make the plane flyable once again
and in the meantime, we get to know who we like, who we don’t and take bets on
who will survive and who won’t.
Turns out that the little group is under a terrible deadline
- off in the distance we can hear the drums of a tribe of head-hunters who are
known to inhabit that part of the jungle. Uh-oh.
A terrific movie, in either version. (Surprises me there
hasn’t been a third remake.)
36) LONE STAR (1996)
A film directed by John Sayles, starring Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena and
The gifted actor Chris Cooper is outstanding as Sam Deeds, a
small town Texas sheriff who must investigate the death of his predecessor
(Kris Kristofferson) – a volatile man whose disappearance had remained a mystery
until a skeleton (very inconveniently) turns up.
As we all know, small towns can harbor big secrets - some
deadlier than others - most better left undetected. Sam is about to find that
If you haven’t seen this, I suggest you line it up on your
queue. Chris Cooper’s performance alone is a definite must-see. But the rest of
the cast is almost as good.
37) THE BIRDS (1963)
A film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren and Jessica
Tandy. Based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier.
For reasons never explained, but probably having something
to do with a pissed off Mother Nature fed up and flexing her muscles, flocks of
birds suddenly consolidate and begin coordinated attacks on human beings in a
small northern California
Caught in the inexplicable avian furor is a San Francisco socialite, Melanie Daniels who
has her sophisticated eye on Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) who is on his way to
visit his mother (Jessica Tandy). They wind up barricaded in a small house.
What follows is a constant barrage of bird attacks which are
not only bizarre, but frightening as heck. Even for that time, the special
effects still startle.
You will never look at gulls and crows or for that matter,
any other bird, in quite the same way again.
38) A SOLDIER’S STORY
(1984) A film directed by Norman Jewison, starring Howard E. Rollins, Jr.,
Adolph Caesar and Art Evans. Based on the play by Charles Fuller.
During WWII, Captain Davenport (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.), a
black state-side officer and lawyer, is sent to a Southern army base
to help find the killer of an unpopular black Sergeant (Adolph Caesar who is
superb). The white townspeople are naturally suspected (the killing took place
away from the base), but as Davenport
begins to dig, he finds that the killer may be one of the Sgt’s own men.
dogged investigation uncovers seething undercurrents of racial and class
hatred within the black Army unit itself.
At the same time, Captain’s stripes on an African American cause much
consternation among the white soldiers on the base. They hesitate then do a
double-take before saluting – some need to be reminded to salute. This is
during WWII, don’t forget, when a black officer is not someone most of these
men have never seen or been taught to expect or respect.
This is an intense, tension-filled film aided and abetted by
a wonderful cast, including David Alan Grier, David Harris, Robert Townsend,
Larry Riley, Patti LaBelle and last, but not least, Denzel Washington in an
The stirring ending gave me goose-bumps.
39) GILDA (1946)
A film directed by Charles Vidor, starring Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George
The setting: Argentina
bathed in noir shadows. A sinister man named Ballin (?!) Mundson saves Johnny
Farrell (a very sleazy looking Glenn Ford) from a beating and takes him on as
his nightclub associate. Why? Well, I think that Ballin Mundson just likes the
cut of Johnny’s jib. (And a very nice jib it is, too.)
Oddly enough, Mundson spends a lot of time looking lovingly
at his carved walking stick…hmmm. And
Johnny spends time gazing not only at the walking stick, but at Mundsen. Hmmm…..! There’s more happening here
than meets the eye.
Well, one day this cozy little Eden that Johnny and Ballin
have carved out for themselves down Argentina
way, is thrown into
disarray when the boss comes back from a business trip with a beautiful, young
wife, Gilda (Rita Hayworth).
It’s like, ‘look what
I got, Johnny.’
Turns out that Johnny and Gilda were once an item, but the
relationship didn’t end well. Now the two ex-lovers hate each other’s guts. I
mean, they HATE each other with a passion. Uh-oh.
You know what they say about thwarted love.
This is a very strange movie primarily because the hatred
between Gilda and Johnny is of a very juvenile nature, even though both have
been around the block a few times. And George Macready – not an actor I’d have
picked to play anyone’s hubby - simply has this bizarre movie aura and speaks
in a harsh staccato voice. You cannot imagine in what universe a woman like Gilda
would have married him.
So why is this film on my list? Well, it’s all so weirdly
enjoyable. Plus Rita gets to look especially beguiling singing “Put the Blame on Mame, Boys” while her
black strapless dress clings precariously. She could be and was a very likable
screen presence – the sort of beautiful woman other less fortunate women didn’t
40) THE MALTESE
FALCON (1941) A film directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart,
Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet. Based on the book by Dashiell Hammett.
When the uneasy detective partnership of Spade and Archer
ends abruptly late one night with the murder of Archer, Sam Spade (Humphrey
Bogart) sets out to find the killer.
The cops suspect Spade primarily because he was bonking
Archer’s needy wife. But how involved is Brigid O’Shaughnessy, the very
inventive liar who is Spade’s current client?
And what about the odd cast of characters which swirl around
Miss O’Shaughnessy? Led by Kasper Gutman, an ominously jaunty fat man, they are
not only seedy, but dangerous. The object of their mutual desire? A fabled
black bird encrusted with jewels.
Though Mary Astor nearly ruins the film for me (reason why
it’s #40 on my list) – she is so totally miscast – I watch this film for
Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Jerome Cowan, Barton MacLane, Lee
Patrick, Ward Bond and Elisha Cook, Jr.
I know, I know, many purists reject the idea of bringing Holmes forward to 1942 England to fight the Nazis. (Then how about bringing Holmes forward to current day England? Or turning Holmes and Watson into rock 'em/sock 'em action heroes ala Robert Downey and Jude Law? It was always unavoidable, I suppose - beginning way back then.)
But I must tell you I love the idea of Holmes and Watson going up against the Nazis. It's one of the better films in the series and features a terrific cast of characters and a wonderful, soul-stirring speech in the end by Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes.
When the British public (and Downing Street) is subjected to nightly doses of propaganda from a dislocated voice on the radio taunting the Brit's inability to stop deadly acts of terror timed to coincide with the voice's jeering - defense ministers turn to Holmes to put a stop to it.
42) ABOVE SUSPICION (1943)
A film directed by Richard Thorpe, starring Fred MacMurray, Joan Crawford, Basil Rathbone and Conrad Veidt. Based on the book by Helen MacInnes.
officially declared war, there was lots of behind the scenes skullduggery. When
professor Richard Myles and his wife
Frances (MacMurray and Crawford) go on a European honeymoon, they’re recruited
by British Intelligence to stop in Germany
and do a little bit of spying.
At first, it’s a lark, but then they are threatened by real danger in the form
of the Gestapo and Basil Rathbone as a Nazi who knew Richard when both were at Oxford
The always wonderful Conrad Veidt plays a debonair tourist
‘guide’ who may or may not be a wrong ‘un.
A terrific film with the most unlikely pairing of MacMurray
and Crawford that, for some odd reason, works well enough. But I keep my eye on
Basil and Conrad, love them both.
43) THE SPIRAL
STAIRCASE (1945) A film directed by Robert Siodmak, starring Dorothy
McGuire, Ethel Barrymore and George Brent. Based on a novel by Ethel Lina
This is the film which features the two blandest leading men
in the history of movies, George Brent and Kent Smith. I wrote a piece a while
back in which I basically prove that Brent and Smith are the same person. Istill think that.
But putting my theory aside, this film’s creepy/spooky
quotient is through the roof. That shadowy staircase alone is worth the price
of admission. Think twice before watching this alone in a dark room.
The plot: Helen (Dorothy McGuire) is domestically employed
as a drudge in a spooky old house ruled by a cranky old lady played by Ethel
Barrymore, who lives there with her two sons. Helen is mute (but attractive)
and naturally, everyone wants to take care of her – especially men. But this is
a setting ripe for menace. For one thing, there never seems to be any daylight.
Everything happens at night. The story is set in 1917, so candles are usually
One other thing: there’s a serial killer loose in the
neighborhood targeting handicapped women. Need I say more?
44) MURDER SHE SAID(1961)
A film directed by George Pollock, starring Margaret Rutherford.
Based on the book, 4:50 FROM PADDINGTON by Agatha Christie.
Okay so she’s not anyone’s idea of Miss Marple (well, except
for the people who made the movie), still, Margaret Rutherford is such a
wonderfully dotty screen presence that if you pretend it’s not Christie’s Miss
Marple, everything works out fine. That’s what I do.
A murder taking place in a passing train, spied from the
window of another passing train has the police thinking Miss Marple is loose a
few marbles since no body can be found. Hers must be the imaginings of an old
spinster with too much imagination. Miss Marple is naturally, indignant.
Soon, as part of her own investigation, Miss Marple has been
hired on as a maid of all work (!?) at Rutherford Hall where she promptly comes
across the dead body in question, in an old sarcophagus. Go figure.
45) 16 BLOCKS (2006)
A film directed by Richard Donner, starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def and David
NYPD Detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is a washed up cop
nearing retirement. He is handed the deceptively simple job of escorting a
witness (fast talking Def Mos) sixteen city blocks to give an important deposition.
But within minutes of accepting the assignment Mosley learns
that deadly forces will stop at nothing to keep him from doing just that.
One quibble: Def Mos’ mumblings are very difficult to
understand, other than that, an engrossing, little-known and under-appreciated
thriller. Willis is excellent as is David Morse playing a sinister cop.
46) CASINO ROYALE
(2006) A film directed by Martin Campbell, starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green
and Judy Dench. Based on the book by Ian Fleming.
The first film in this long-running series, in which the
physically imposing Craig gets to play a very swoon-worthy James Bond.
Admittedly, the scene in which Craig rises out of the ocean in a nicely filled
swim-suit is worth the price of admission, but let’s not get carried away…..ahem!
The film isn’t just about the hottie-ness of its leading man,
CASINO ROYALE also happens to be a helluva well-written and executed thriller. It begins with a heart-thumping opening chase sequence which leaves you
breathless and gasping for breath. To my mind, this is the best James Bond
movie since GOLDFINGER, but then, I’m not the world’s biggest James Bond fan. But
no question about it, Daniel Craig is simply wonderful to watch as is the
The basic storyline pertains to a high stakes poker
tournament in Montenegro
in which Bond must keep Le Chiffre
these bad guys gotta’ have monikers), a banker with terrorist clients, from
winning. Of course there’s a beautiful, mysterious woman, gorgeous scenery and techy
gadgetry. Plus Judy Dench as ‘M’.
Plus, plus Daniel
Craig in and out of a tux.
47) BAD DAY AT BLACK
ROCK (1955) A film directed by John Sturges, starring Spencer Tracy and
When one-armed stranger, John J. McCreedy (Spencer Tracy),
arrives in a dusty, parched, small western town on a mysterious mission, he is
met with hostility and threats.
The unfriendly townspeople are hiding a terrible secret
which they will go to any lengths to keep. As McCreedy doggedly goes about his
business, the ugly truth slowly comes to light.
A mostly forgotten Spencer Tracy film in which he is
perfectly (if somewhat
unexpectedly) cast, playing opposite an equally strong
Robert Ryan and a talented cast of character actors including Walter Brennan, Lee
Marvin, Dean Jagger, Anne Francis and Ernest Borgnine.
48) CONTRABAND (1940) aka BLACKOUT
. A film directed by Michael Powell, starring Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson.
It's early in WWII and England is gearing up for the Germans. To prevent black market munitions, medical supplies etc. from being delivered to the enemy, there is a naval blockade on - something the Brits take very
When Danish captain Anderson (Conrad Veidt) is detained at anchor while his passengers and ships content are checked and paperwork gone over, he illegally comes ashore on the trail of two of his passengers, a beautiful woman (Valerie Hobson) and her cohort (Esmond Knight), a man named Mr. Pidgeon. In black-out shrouded London, the captain is soon involved in a desperate game with Nazi spies who are after - what else - a code.
The best part of this wonderful spy thriller - for me at least - is how the wily Captain makes use of the ebulliently charming proprietor (the adorable Hay Petrie who plays two parts) and enthusiastic waiters of a Danish restaurant in London to help him save a lady in distress and bring down the bad guys.
A little-known film that I'd never heard of until Sergio at Tipping My Fedora
brought it to my attention. I received the film (at my request) for Christmas (last year I think), saw it and loved it.
So much so that I adjusted this list to make room.
49) DÉJÀ VU (2006)
A film directed by Tony Scott, starring Denzel Washington, Paula Patton and Jim
ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is part of a
large-scale investigation of a terrorist act - a bomb explosion aboard a New Orleans ferry crowded
with members of the U.S.S. Nimitz and their families. To that end he comes
across a mysterious FBI unit which is using ‘space-folding’
technology to look backwards through a four day window at events happening
in the present. It’s implausible mumbo-jumbo, but the film-makers make it all
work so that it makes some sort of sense.
Long story, short – Carlin uses the technology (adapted) to
travel back in time and try and change history. Though the ending doesn’t
really work, this is still an intriguing, occasionally startling thriller with
a chilling premise and cerebral possibilites. There are scenes of dark
violence, so be-warned. But if I can take it, so can you.
50) SUSPECT (1987)
A film directed by Peter Yates, starring Cher
Dennis Quaid, Liam Neeson and John Mahoney.
A judge commits suicide and later his secretary is found
murdered. The police arrest Carl Anderson (Liam Neesom in one of his first
roles) a deaf mute homeless man. But public defender Kathleen Riley (Cher) –
assigned to his case - is not convinced Anderson
When a member of the jury (Dennis Quaid) draws Riley into a
search for the real killer, a very willing suspension of disbelief is required.
The silly proposition that a lawyer and a juror (part of the
same trial) could/would actually work together to find the real killer only
seems plausible in movie-land, but it still makes for a pretty suspenseful film
with a terrific ending.