Continuing with this series of posts that I had in drafts, we are up to ‘D’. I will leave you the obvious ‘D’ (Walt) and feature some different choices. Please continue to offer your own selections in the comments.
One name that may not come to mind straight away is that of Edward Dmytryk. This Canadian director was responsible for some excellent films though, and most may sound familiar, once you hear the titles. From 1935 until 1976, he directed more than fifty feature films, many starring the big names of the day. One of his entries in the film noir genre was ‘Crossfire’ (1947), a classic ‘B’-film thriller with a cast including Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, and Gloria Grahame. It doesn’t get much better than this, and the film rightly received five Oscar nominations. Dmytryk was also famous for his war films ‘Back To Bataan’ (1945) starring John Wayne, and ‘The Young Lions’ (1958), with Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift. Later on, he worked with Robert Mitchum again, on the war epic, ‘Anzio’ (1968).
Brian De Palma (Yes, the De counts as ‘D’) has had a long career, with over fifty years in the film industry. Perhaps best known for his often lurid psychological thrillers, his distinct style has often been copied, but rarely bettered. But did you know he also directed ‘Carrie’ (1976), the great adaptation of the Stephen King novel? After that, his film credits are too numerous to list here, but I am sure that most of you have seen and enjoyed many of his films. Here are just some that you will know, even if you never knew (nor cared) who directed them. ‘Dressed To Kill’ (1980), ‘Blow Out’ (1981), with John Travolta starring in a very gripping thriller. Al Pacino’s over the top gangster in ‘Scarface’ (1983), ‘The Untouchables’ (1987), ‘Carlito’s Way’ (1993), and ‘The Black Dahlia’ (2006). Just a selection of his body of work, and he still continues to direct today.
My next choice is Terence Davies, an English film-maker who may not be that well known to many readers. However, I respectfully suggest that you explore his work, and seek out some of his outstanding dramas.
He is most famous for his two autobiographical dramas set in the 1940s and 1950s. ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’ (1988) is a beautifully-filmed nostalgic story of family life in Liverpool. It feels completely authentic, and the whole cast is never less than totally convincing in their roles. ‘The Long Day Closes’ (1992) is set in post-war Britain too, and shows the life of a young boy at the time, unflinching in its portrayal of working class life in the 1950s.
Someone else whose name gets into ‘D’ by virtue of its foreign origin is Guillermo Del Toro. He also gets today’s top spot. Guillermo is currently being lauded in the Oscar nominations for his new film ‘The Shape of Water’, which I haven’t seen. But I was always going to include this Mexican film director for other films I have already enjoyed. Leaving out his unseen (by me) blockbuster films like ‘Pacific Rim'(2013), and the ‘Hellboy’ franchise, I have chosen this film-maker for just three films. Not many, to include someone in such articles, I agree. But each one had such a profound affect on me, I just had to put him in.
‘Cronos’ (1993) is a Spanish-language horror film with a difference. With minimal shocks, and a creeping sense of menace, it delivered just the right combination of B-film scares, alongside some superb casting, and a great atmospheric feel. I really recommend that one. Two of his films were set during and after the Spanish Civil war, using fantasy and child actors to portray the confusion of war, and their escape through surreal worlds and ghostly happenings. ‘The Devil’s Backbone'(2001) was also produced by Pedro Almodovar, and the combined talents of the two resulted in a powerful and often spine-tingling film, with tremendous performances from the mainly young cast. The third, and by far the best, film that gets Del Toro into this list is ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’.(2006) This is just a stunning fantasy, with the unforgettable performance of a young actress (Ivana Baquero) in the lead. It would need its own post to fully describe just how good this film is, so I will leave you with the American trailer instead.