The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.
Night of the Living Dead [1968, Romero]
Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman
Ah yes, the godfather of zombie films. Romero’s low budget black-and-white horror classic can be found EVERYWHERE thanks to its public domain status, yet I didn’t actually sit down to watch it until recently. This movie’s influence is massive, as the popularity of zombies has went through the roof in recent years. And to think, none of this would be possible without this 1968 film. The premise is simple: a group of survivors are holed up in a farmhouse and are trying to survive the attacking hordes of zombies (of the slow moving type). During this, the humans fight amongst each other (as expected) and struggle with their collective intelligence. The women, in particular, are a waste of bodies as they mostly just act comatose and offer little value to the group. You would think that if your house is being swarmed by zombies that you would actually make an effort to fight for your life! The men in the group suffer from testosterone issues (“I’m right!” “No, I’m right!”), but at least they try to survive.
While I was annoyed with the general ineptitude of some of the characters, I still really enjoyed the movie. Perhaps aided by the low budget, the film feels more authentic and is still genuinely frightening today. It was also refreshing to see a black lead character (Duane Jones), which was not a common occurrence during the time period. Night of the Living Dead holds up rather well, and is a fun watch some 40+ years later. 8/10
Double Indemnity [1944, Wilder]
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
Double Indemnity is a film that I have been looking forward to seeing for a while now, as it seems to get brought up often when discussing Film Noir. I was especially excited to watch this because I had never seen a Billy Wilder film before (a travesty, I know). This classic tale seems to be the quintessential example of Film Noir. Fred MacMurray stars as an insurance salesman who gets caught up in a dangerous murder plot. He becomes deeply enamored with a lonely housewife (Barbara Stanwyck, the fantastic femme fatale), who comes up with the idea of having her husband murdered while making it appear as an accidental death. The duo concoct a plan that would evoke the double indemnity clause in the insurance contract, meaning that the payout would be double the normal amount. While the murder plan is meticulously carried out, other unexpected issues come up, particularly from the insurance company who have their suspicions about the incident.
The screenplay, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, is fantastic. The dialogue is fast and witty, with lots of sharp one-liners. The story is well-crafted, with many twists and turns. I was impressed with the two leads, as Stanwyck and MacMurray have a dynamic chemistry. I believe this was the first movie I had seen with either star, though I am sure it will not be the last. I would be remiss not to mention Edward G. Robinson’s role as Walter’s boss, as he was a very likable and intriguing character with exceptional investigative skills. Essentially, Double Indemnity is a perfect example of everything I have loved about Film Noir so far. It’s easy to see why this is so well-regarded. 9/10