I have made it to day five, and the letter ‘E’. Thanks to those of you who have stuck with it, and the new visitors who have come aboard for the ride.
Once again, I am starting this with the certain knowledge of my top spot. However, ‘E’ has been something of a challenge, so I really had to put my thinking cap on.
Unsurprisingly, a foreign language film comes straight to mind. The wonderful Brazilian film from 2007, ‘Elite Squad’. (Tropa de Elite) This is a terrific no-holds-barred look at the work of the special police squad trying to tackle out of control crime in the slums and shanty towns of Rio. Police corruption is rife, and the gangs are left free to control their territories. When the Elite Squad move in, they face extreme violence, as well as betrayal from within. A hard-hitting action film, that is thoughtful as well as very exciting.
Two American motorcycle films come next. ‘Easy Rider’ (1969) brought us the definitive ‘road film’, along with a great soundtrack, and compelling performances from Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and a young-looking Jack Nicholson. This is a trip back to pot-smoking, free-love nostalgia, at the end of the ‘Flower Power’ era. I have written about the cop drama ‘Electra Glide In Blue’ (1973) before, but could not leave it out of ‘E’. Robert Blake’s best performance, and superb support from the underrated Billy Green Bush.
Not a great film, but one I have always liked, ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ (1976). This is the wartime tale of German paratroops arriving in a sleepy English village. They are disguised as friendly Polish troops, but their intention is to assassinate Churchill. It has some flaws, but was so true to the novel, that I couldn’t help but like it. Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Jenny Agutter, and Treat Williams all acquit themselves well. Even Larry Hagman shows up! Spielberg again, but with a very impressive debut in a lead role from the young Christian Bale, in the 1987 epic, ‘Empire of The Sun’. This is a star-studded adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel, dealing with events surrounding the internment of a British family in China by the Japanese, during WW2. As well as Bale’s impressive turn as a schoolboy, you get John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson, and Nigel Havers too.
And the underrated American actor, Joe Pantoliano.
James Dean had a short-lived career, and though his angst-ridden, cry-baby acting style is a matter of taste, it showed promise of things to come that were never to be. ‘East of Eden’ (1955) is a great drama, directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Raymond Massey, as the overbearing father of Dean’s character. Based on the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, this is a faithful adaptation of one of John Steinbeck’s great american novels. Forward to the 90s, and a completely different genre, the science fiction film ‘Event Horizon’ (1997) was made almost twenty years after ‘Alien’, and is nearly as good as that seminal film. Hardly mentioned these days, ‘Event Horizon’ is an exciting tale of a lost space ship, and the crew that are sent to rescue it. Packed with atmosphere and suspense, great special effects, and convincing leads from Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson. If you have never seen it, what are you waiting for?
I have barely scratched the surface of ‘E’. Once I started looking, I could have written a whole blog about the films beginning with this letter. But I will leave it to you to come up with some other suggestions. Here’s my top pick. Historical drama, the early years of photography, cameras, and subtitles. A film that was made to order for me, and without doubt one of the most magical I have ever seen, with one of the best central performances from an actress that I can recall. From the moment I saw this film advertised, I knew I would love it. And I was right. ‘Everlasting Moments’ (2008).