The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed: Warner Archive Edition
Let’s face it. When it comes to Monday mornings, we’re all Melancholia’s Justine—walking to work in slow motion, ankles wrapped in muddy vines dragging us down as we crawl into what feels like the great demise. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, it’s the beginning of another week and whether you spent your weekend trading in the concrete of the city for some late summer greenery, or perhaps used your time wisely to hide away in a darkened movie theater, I’m sure you’re already looking forward to diving into bed tonight with a good film.
But with myriad sites and thousands of films to choose from, making a decision that properly suits the existential dilemma you’ve transferred onto your viewing selection, proves daunting. So to help, I’ve rounded up the best of what’s streaming online this week from the Warner Archive Instant library. From Martin Scorsese’s absurdly brilliant After Hours and Who’s That Knocking at My Door to Robert Altman’s dark and smokey McCabe & Mrs. Miller and a bit of everything in between, here’s what you should be watching from beneath the sheets this week. Enjoy.
Day for Night
The drama on screen is nothing compared to the drama behind the camera! During production of the film "Je Vous Presente Pamela" (May I Introduce Pamela), the actresses are drunk and emotionally unstable. The male lead’s affair with the script girl is getting rocky. And the shoot is beset by endless technical problems in director François Trauffaut’s loving and humorous homage to the cinema.
Paul Hackett’s (Griffin Dunne) terrible night happens in the SoHo area of downtown Manhattan when he goes to keep a date with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). Nothing in his humdrum life as a word processor has prepared him for his surreal encounters with Marcy; her far-out artist roommate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino); cocktail waitress Julie (Teri Garr); ice cream vendor Gail (Catherine O’Hara); June (Verna Bloom), who lives in the basement of a nightclub; and Mark (Robert Plunket) who is ripe for his first gay experience. Now, Paul longs only for the safety of his upper-East Side apartment … but will he ever make it home?
Fashion photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) casually takes a somewhat voyeuristic shot of a man and a young woman in each other’s arms on a park bench. The young woman (Vanessa Redgrave) follows Thomas home and makes love to him in exchange for the photograph. But Thomas keeps the negative, and when he enlarges it, what had seemed a carnal moment, appears to be murder. Thomas returns to the park, and discovers that the man in the photograph is dead. Yet when Thomas enlarges the photo again, he notices a shadow in the bushes that could be barrel of the gun. Is the woman with whom Thomas made love a murderer? Reality seems to change with each blow-up he makes.
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Martin Scorcese directs Ellen Burstyn delivers an Academy Award-winning performance, in the feature that inspired the long-running sitcom "Alice". At 32, Alice Hyatt (Burstyn) watches her dreams slipping away. Instead of a career as a singer, she has an abusive husband, an ill-mannered 12-year-old son and a life in small-town Oklahoma. But when her husband dies in a traffic accident, Alice heads west to pursue her dreams, working as a lounge singer along the way. Life, however, never seems to go according to plan, and Alice must again face a choice between love and the career that seems as elusive as ever.
"Gooble-gobble…we accept her…one of us," goes the haunting chant of Freaks. Yet it would be decades before this widely banned morality play gained acceptance as a cult masterpiece. Tod Browning (1931’s Dracula) directs this landmark movie in which the true freaks are not the story’s sideshow performers, but "normals" who mock and abuse them. Browning, a former circus contortionist, cast real-life sideshow professionals. A living torso who nimbly lights his own cigarette despite having no arms or legs, microcephalics (whom the film calls "pinheads") – they and others play the big-top troupers who inflict a terrible revenge on a trapeze artist who treats them as subhumans. In 1994, Freaks was selected for the National Film Registry’s archive of cinematic treasures.
Centuries-old Egyptian vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and her centuries-old lover, John (David Bowie), feed on urban nightclub goers. But while Miriam can bestow a very long life on her lovers, she cannot grant them her immortality. When John starts to rapidly age, Miriam seduces Sarah (Susan Sarandon), a doctor researching premature aging.
Based on the best-selling Vincent Bugliosi book of the same name, Helter Skelter is a made-for-TV account of the investigation and prosecution of Charles Manson (Steve Railsback), who was convicted of leading a group of followers (known as "The Family") to murder seven people in California, including actress Sharon Tate. The film takes a Law & Order-like approach, starting with the discovery of the murders, which leads to the police gathering snippets of evidence that they eventually connect to the bigger picture. The second half of the movie concentrates on how District Attorney Bugliosi (George DiCenzo) attains a conviction despite the enormous amount of press coverage the case received. Nancy Wolfe, Christina Hart, and Cathey Paine portray the three loyal Manson Family members who were the co-defendants at his trial.
Who’s That Knocking At my Door
American legend Martin Scorsese ("GoodFellas," "Taxi Driver") made his feature directorial debut with this autobiographical drama starring frequent Scorsese collaborator Harvey Keitel, who makes his film debut. J.R. (Keitel) is a typical Italian-American on the streets of New York. When he gets involved with a local girl, he decides to get married and settle down, but when he learns that she was once raped, he cannot handle it. More explicitly linked with Catholic guilt that Scorsese’s later work, we see what happens to J.R. when his religious guilt catches up with him. Full of Scorsese touches, in both embryonic and fully-fleshed form.
The Illustrated Man
Three classic tales by great American fabulist Ray Bradbury from his storied Illustrated Man collection, The Veldt, The Long Rain, The Last Night of the World get the big screen treatment, linked by a pair of extraordinary performers (Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom) and the anthology’s central conceit. Jack Smight’s film has benefited from the passage of time, which has seen SF’s place as the literature of ideas become supplanted by the spectacle of cinema Sci-Fi. Also stars Robert Drivas.
The first part of his "paranoia trilogy," Alan J. Pakula’s 1971 thriller details the troubled life of a Manhattan prostitute stalked by one of her tricks. Investigating the disappearance of his friend Tom Gruneman (Robert Milli), rural Pennsylvania private eye John Klute (Donald Sutherland) follows a lead provided by Gruneman’s associate Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) to seek out a call girl who Gruneman knew in New York City. The call girl is Bree Daniels (Jane Fonda), an aspiring actress who turns tricks for the cash and to be free of emotional bondage. Klute follows Bree’s every move, observing the city’s decadence and her isolation, eventually contacting her about Gruneman. Bree claims not to know Gruneman, but she does reveal that she has received threats from a john. As Bree becomes involved in Klute’s search and realizes that she is in danger, she reluctantly falls in love with Klute, despite her wish to remain unattached to any man. When she finally comes face to face with the killer, however, she is forced to reconsider her detached urban life.
Producer Arthur Freed gathered together a bevy of MGM musical luminaries including Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Gene Kelly for this all-star Technicolor spectacular revue produced in the style of the great Florenz Ziegfeld. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, and introduced by William Powell re-creating his 1936 screen role as Ziegfeld.
Love in the Afternoon
In his first pairing with co-writer I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder plays tribute to the effervescent romantic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch with this May-December romance starring Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper. Hepburn plays Ariane Chavasse, a coltish young conservatory cellist who yearns for a more mature understanding of life. Overhearing a client of her private detective father (frequent Lubitsch collaborator Maurice Chevalier) threatening to murder American playboy Frank Flannagan (Cooper), Ariane decides to warn Frank of the danger herself. Sparks fly when the two meet up, and the worldly Frank finds he is no match for ‘innocent’ Ariane. But Ariane’s gumshoe pop is still on the case… I.A.L. Diamond was not the only future-frequent player for team Wilder to work on the film, production designer Alexandre Trauner delivers the first of his six Wilder collaborations in stunning fashion. Trauner’s sets weave the city of Paris in and out of the mise-en-scene, magically blending the real and the romantic. Franz Waxmen’s score, in turn, sends the romance soaring.
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
A gambler and a prostitute go into business together in a grimy Western mining town as they cater to the vices of the morally bankrupt residents. But their success attracts notice by corporate interests that are too big and too ruthless for the pair to fight. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie star in this altered take on the American Western from famed director Robert Altman. Based on the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton.
From famed director Sidney Pollack comes this suspenseful adventure about Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), an American determined to rescue his employer’s kidnapped daughter from the Japanese mafia in Kyoto. Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne .
Private eye Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is dedicated to his job, but his dedication does not make him happy or powerful in his personal life, and his wife (Susan Clark) is cheating on him. Aging actress Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward) hires Harry to find her trust-funded daughter Delly (Melanie Griffith), distracting Harry from his marital problems as he tracks the lascivious runaway teen to Florida. In the Keys, Harry has an affair of his own with Paula (Jennifer Warren), and he succeeds in locating Delly, even as he learns that finding her is only the beginning of a much larger case. As the "accidental" deaths multiply, Harry discovers that everyone has his or her own motives and that he cannot do much to stem the tide of deep-seated depravity. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
Of Human Bondage
Laurence Harvey and the legendary Kim Novak star in this adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham classic of sexual obssession. Philip Carey (Harvey), a club-footed artist who decides to pursue a medical career after two unsuccessful years in Paris, meets waitress Mildred Rogers (Novak) and falls in love. However, Rogers takes advantage of Carey’s affections time and again as he finds himself unable or unwilling to resist her mercenary advances on his heart and spirit.
Wait Until Dark
A photographer’s blind wife, trapped in her New York apartment by an evil trio who are ready to murder to retrieve a heroin-filled doll hidden in her apartment, cleverly outwits them. Music by Henry Mancini. Based on the long running Broadway play by Frederick Knott.
Paroled criminal Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is compelled to withstand the calculated cruelties of slimy parole officer Earl Frank (M. Emmet Walsh). The more Max tries to go straight, the more he is defeated by circumstance or hectored by the sadistic Frank. It becomes clear after a while that neither Max nor his fellow ex-cons will be able to survive looking for legitimate work. Max is too "far gone" as a human being to succeed at anything other than crime. He goes back to his old thieving ways, inveigling reformed crook Jerry Schue (Harry Dean Stanton) into helping him. A climactic "big caper" goes tragically awry, thanks in great part to the tragic flaws in Max’s personality. Based on a novel by Edward Bunker, Straight Time is possibly the most realistic cinematic probe into the sociopathic psyche of the career criminal. Famed theatrical director and instructor Ulu Grosbard directed, with an uncredited assist from star Hoffman; it was their second film together, after Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?
Until the End of the World
Shot in fifteen cities, seven countries and across four continents, famed director Wim Wenders film is part love story, part dream quest, part Sci-Fi apocalypse, and, in the words of Wenders himself “the ultimate road movie.” From the palazzos of Venice to the wilds of the Australian outback, the film challenges and delights, thanks to its wondrous vision and equally wondrous ensemble, including William Hurt, Sam Neill and Max Von Sydow. The year is 1991 and it is a time of great sophistication in personal communications, travel and lifestyle. Video telephones, monitors and hand-held tracking machines make it possible to observe the movements of people anywhere on the globe, yet the hearts and minds of Earth’s inhabitants are more isolated than ever (sound familiar?). But a nuclear satellite has spun out of control and now the world waits in terror to see if, and where!, it will land.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Bob Rafelson’s remake of 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, with a screenplay by the award-winning playwright David Mamet, stars Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, a depression-era drifter who ends up at a diner run by Nick Papadakis (John Colicos), who offers Frank a job. Frank takes him up on the offer, but quickly begins a torrid affair with Nick’s wife Cora (Jessica Lange). The adulterous lovers soon hatch a plan to kill Nick and share in the insurance payout. The second big-screen adaptation of the James M. Cain novel, the film garnered a certain degree of notoriety for the explicit sex scenes between Lange and Nicholson.
Meeting in a sexually charged carny shooting contest, young lovers Bart (John Dall) and Annie (Peggy Cummins) are driven by impulses of violence and arousal they don’t fully understand. As their passions grows, the cordite barks and the two become bank robbers on the run, eluding roadblocks and roaring into movie history as one of the benchmark Film Noir works. Joseph H. Lewis directs this ferocious thriller that set the blueprint of killer couple flicks for years to come, buoyed by the electrifying performances of its two leads. Screenplay co-written by winner Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) working during the Hollywood blacklist as Millard Kaufman.