The forgotten. The underrated. The obscure. The underappreciated. The cult. There are a million reasons why some films get consigned to cinematic oblivion and there are a million films that deserve it. These don’t. Grab your shovels and your pick axes, it’s time to unearth the gems of cinema’s past.
Welcome to Monsoon’s Buried Treasures – Volume One.
They All Laughed (1981)
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
Plot: A mad cap private-eye caper about a team of detectives who are following, and are being followed by, a group of beautiful women. The plot is irrelevant.
In the intro, I wrote that “there are a million reasons why some films get consigned to cinematic oblivion and there are a million films that deserve it” and for most of the films I cover, the reasons are usually lack of interest from the general movie-going audiences or poor distribution. While the latter certainly applies to They All Laughed, the circumstances surrounding its failure are far more grim. It’s impossible to talk about this film without the tragedy that proceeded it.
Dorothy Stratten, one of the stars of the film and girlfriend of the director, was murdered during post-production. Her death not only guaranteed this film would be buried by the studio — who had no desire in releasing a comedy starring a dead woman — but would also kill Bogdanovich’s career. He was forced to buy back the film from the studio and release it himself. It bombed and his career would never be the same. Her murder was a tragedy that had many targets, which is unfortunate considering it’s one of the most charming films in existence.
They All Laughed is a screwball comedy that feels like Woody Allen doing his best Billy Wilder impression. There really is no other way to describe this film other than to say that it’s simply delightful.
Directed by: Dallas Richard Hallard & Patrick Horvath
Plot: A woman’s dog is stolen, which causes her to decide to move out of the city.
Mumblecore is a subgenre of independent film characterized by improvisational acting, natural lighting, and zero production values while also typically involving thirty-year-old hipsters bitching about something. An offshoot of that is Mumblegore, which is, as you guessed, Mumblecore mixed with horror.
Mumblecore is the absolute worst subgenre of film. They all look like shit, they’re all boring and/or pretentious and they involve hipsters. It’s the worst. The second worst subgenre is the slow-burn horror film, not because of the inherent boringness but because it’s the hardest to get right. Slow-burn horror films usually do away with the tropes and cliches of the genre, in favor of a constant escalation of tension. It’s a delicate balancing act that few can pull off.
Entrance has the worst elements of Mumblecore mixed with the extreme boredom of a terrible slow-burn horror film. It’s a fucking endurance test to make it to the twenty-minute mark. If everyone I knew decided to watch it, less than 5% would actually finish it. It’s the single worst film I’ve ever recommended, but… it has one of the greatest third acts I’ve ever seen. To say any more would be a spoiler but trust me when I say, I get it. I understand. It’s boring as fuck but that ending is legitimately worth the pain.
Directed by: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Plot: The only residents of a seaside town are women and boys. When he sees a corpse in the ocean one day, he begins to question his existence and surroundings.
If film is art, Evolution is the equivalent of getting to watch Salvador Dalí paint; It’s mesmerizing and often hypnotic but the end result is ultimately befuddling. You’ll be transfixed by the artistry on display but the finished product will most likely leave you scratching your head.
Evolution walks the line between abstractism, surrealism, and absurdism. You’ll constantly question whether the images you’re seeing have any deeper meaning or if they’re just window-dressing in service of nothing. But when the film is this gorgeous and the images this unforgettable, does it really matter? Evolution doesn’t stick the landing and some of the ride is a bit bumpy but (*I’m desperately thinking of a plane/art analogy) the mimosas were amazing and plentiful.
Come and See (1985)
Directed by: Elem Klimov
Plot: A young boy joins the Soviet resistance movement against ruthless German forces and experiences the horrors of World War II.
The film’s original title was Kill Hitler, which was meant as less a cry to action against the worst example of evil imaginable, and more as a plea to kill the system that could create a Hitler in the first place. The system of hate and lack of empathy that resides in all of us. The studio thought the title was too controversial, so the director looked to the bible for his second choice. The book of Revelation, wherein the four horsemen are revealed and we are instructed to “come and see” and that’s what the film ultimately does brilliantly. It depicts the extreme horror and suffering of war and makes us watch every second. It’s a horror film wrapped in a Tarkovsky war drama.
It’s a dark, brutal film that pulls no punches. It was alleged that the director had the young lead hypnotized before every shot in order to be convincingly out of it. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant; the fact that it could be true speaks volumes about the talent of the young lead. He gives one of the all-time great movie performances in this and he’s barely fifteen. War is hell and no film has better exemplified this sentiment better than Come and See.
Once while being interviewed, the director was asked why he never made another film and his response to that was simply, “I said everything I needed to say,” and boy, did he ever.
Together Brothers (1974)
Directed by: William A. Graham
Plot: A group of intercity kids try to figure out who killed a popular police officer.
This was the hardest film to add to the recommendations. Not in terms of subject matter or accessibility but whether or not to spend the entire entry explaining who Encyclopedia Brown is. I originally wrote two long paragraphs getting in-depth on the history of the boy detective, covering his novels, comic strips, and television shows with the punchline being that this film should’ve been called Encyclopedia Black.
Because the kids are black.
But I decided not to. Instead, I decided to forgo the greatest punchline in the history of comedy to shine a light on a true masterpiece of urban cinema. If Together Brothers was more well known, it would be lumped in with the blaxploitation genre and while that’s not inherently a negative, it would be misrepresenting what the film actually is. It’s far closer in tone and style to a Peter Watkins than a Shaft or a Foxy Brown. It’s gritty, it’s real, and sorely underseen. …And it should have been called Encyclopedia Black.
Directed by: Gerald McMorrow
Plot: A portrait of four strangers living in a dystopian future whose lives start to intertwine in interesting ways.
Much like the film I’m about to compare it to in a second, Franklyn is a very hard film to sell. I can understand why a movie like this would flop as there is no demographic you can easily market this film to. There’s not enough sci-fi to hook the nerds, not enough action to get the guys excited, and there’s no love story to get women interested. It’s an island of one.
But just because a film is hard to market, doesn’t mean the product is inferior. Franklyn is an amazing product that I’m going to sell you on with one sentence: Dark City meets steampunk. Not sold yet, eh? Well, how about this: Dark City but with a lot of cool tophats. Still not putting your ass in the seat I see. Ok, try this on for size: Franklyn is better than Dark City. Yeah. That got your attention. It’s bullshit but at least you’re googling the movie now.
They All Laughed. Entrance. Evolution. Come and See. Together Brothers. Franklyn. These films have been unearthed. Now go watch them.