1. "Citizen Kane" (1941)
OK, this is a cinematic tour de force by a maligned genius going berserk in the filmic toy store. Indeed. But, really, are you as nearly moved or astonished as you are simply impressed by all the ingenuity? This belongs on the list, but...Number One? The Post-Modernist in me says, um, no...

2. "The Godfather" (1972)
To learn of the extreme difficulties in its production is to marvel the film ever got made, much less, turn out as beautifully as it did. GII may be stronger stuff, but the sheer story-telling bravura of Coppola's (first) Corleone baby is something to behold, as we all watch it for the umpteenth time.

3. "Casablanca" (1942)
As perfectly assembled a cast and realised a Hollywood melodrama as ever was shot, with as hilariously a dysfunctional conception as The Godfather...and equally sublime a result, too.

4. "Raging Bull" (1980)
OK, aside from the gorgeous b&w photography and a clinic in Method madness, the adulation for this film eludes me. You would neither want to sit next to a single character in this film during a long plane ride than you would to have to watch it during the in-flight service...especially compared to Scorsese's eminently more accessible GoodFellas.

5. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
Even for haters of musicals, Donen-Kelly's vision of the MGM archtype is a joy to watch (and hear)...even after seeing A Clockwork Orange.

6. "Gone With the Wind" (1939)
Talk about Epic, in every sense of the word. One of the few such film examples that embody and surpass their literary origins, a touchstone for at least 3 generations of moviegoers that still commands attention almost 70 years after the fact. That's saying something, especially nowadays, when most Hollywood product struggles to do that 70 minutes after the fact.

7. "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962)
One of those indisputable "You MUST see this in a movie theater!" films (I know this, after years of TV viewings followed by a triumphant, freshly minted Los Angeles re-release), Lawrence works so well on so many levels, it's hard to imagine such a film being made today.

8. "Schindler's List" (1993)
Forget the girl in the red coat and a debatable ending - Spielberg's deeply personal unfolding of this small portraiture within the greater eternal horror of the Shoah is American film mastery at work. Considering American cinema's shameful half-century virtual silence on this crucial topic, it is a work whose time had long, long since come.

9. "Vertigo" (1958)
Ah, when movies were drawn from books that were actually worth reading. Not the most suspenseful or entertaining Hitchcock, but certainly the most psychologically complex and rewarding on a multiple-watching level. Pretty surprising to find audiences and critics didn't like it at all upon its initial release.

10. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
Another pitch-perfect MGM extravaganza that has endured like new through the years. The entire productions still looks and feels like new, an indelible footprint in the TV memories of millions of children.

11. "City Lights" (1931)
Chaplin's masterwork, in a career running a surplus of them. Certainly the zenith of silent movie-making, and one of the most genuinely, staggeringly human narratives ever committed to film. I can't believe Charlie thought his female lead was no good; his own performance reaches the perfection he so obsessively demanded in others.

12. "The Searchers" (1956)
The idea ANY cowboy film (besides for maybe Blazing Saddles) makes this list before a work by Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, or Renoir is a question that answers itself.

13. "Star Wars" (1977)
Do you remember watching this for the first time, and how you felt after walking out of the theater in 1977? Empire may be more dramatic, and the 2nd Trilogy longer, more expensive, and eye-poppingly more lavish - but this baby is still the most finely crafted and self-inclusive of the series. To think all of Hollywood turned it down; talk about "Stupid is as stupid does..."

14. "Psycho" (1960)
What must it have been like to see this shocker in a crowded theater in the twilight of the Eisenhower Era? Aside from the original Night of the Living Dead, could you name a more primal horror film? Let me ask you this - have you watched it alone recently?

15. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)
Too young to have partook of this, yes, masterpiece while under the influence, my generation still went and saw this in goodly numbers, mostly for the outer space visuals, which still look quite advanced. Now I watch it for the music as well as the sheer cinematic balls of Kubrick constructing a two-plus hour visual opera out of a one-line story. Unless you have a 5-star home theater system, don't even bother - the film deserves better.

16. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950)
Bitter bitter bitter, that Mr. Wilder...but never better. A true table-setter for that left field stream of daring, uncompromisingly dark films Hollywood gave to the otherwise desultory, conformist 1950's America. One suspects the Hollywood depicted here hasn't appreciably changed in the last half century, aside from the colors.

17. "The Graduate" (1967)
Still one of the smartest, funniest gems of an era rife with them, Nichols puts on a director's clinic that, like a lot (tho not nearly enough) of these on the list, is as knowing - and biting - today as it was when it came out.

18. "The General" (1927)
Chaplin's many silent works look like simple filmed vignettes compared to the complexity and breadth of Keaton's works, this one in particular. Something film students ought to study more.

19. "On the Waterfront" (1954)
Overwrought Commie melodrama, lol.

Arlene Greene writes: Where is Night of the Hunter? It stars Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish, and is directed by Charles Laughton. It's my all time favorite movie and I get chills just thinking about it. Some of the images from this movie are permanently etched in my mind-- a close-up of Mitchum's knuckles tattooed with LOVE and HATE, the bridal night scene with Mitchum telling Winters in no uncertain terms that he will not be sleeping with her sinful self, Gish in a rocking chair on the front porch, brandishing a rifle and singing "Bringing in the Sheaves" with the silhouette of Mitchum off in the distance on the road passing by verrrry slowly, the eerily quiet underwater scene of Winters with her hair floating around her face, and of course, the frog. The only criticism I have about this film is the ending, which is rather sugary and tied up with a bow -- rather a let-down after the emotional intensity of the rest of the film.

20. "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
Give me a break. Talk about overwrought holiday treacle. Give me A Christmas Story, Babes in Toyland, or Millions any day. I hate every frame, as would Mr. Barrymore's character, if he had to endure this cropping up on holiday TV schedules season after season, decade after decade, like an evil virus.

21. "Chinatown" (1974)
We studied Towne's script for this in film school, but I think it makes a better script to study than a film to actually watch, Nicholson, Dunaway, and Polanski's fine work aside.

22. "Some Like It Hot" (1959)
Good, naughty fun by a cast and crew clearly enjoying themselves. Perhaps Clooney and Pitt could see if they have the chops to doll it up and bend some gender. Who could replace Wilder at the helm, well, that's another story.

23. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)
Steinbeck is a drag, OK? Maybe his subject matter was, too, like Sinclair and Lewis, but that doesn't mean you have to like it. Henry Fonda is much more appealing when he isn't brought down by a morose part. Give me Modern Times or Sullivan's Travels for some '30's sociology.

24. "E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)
Before any works of Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, or Renoir? Get real. I almost smacked a school chum who openly wept as we caught this on its opening day.

25. "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)
Attacus, Attacus...back when Hollywood embraced taking on social questions in a literate, adult sort of way. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, it seems.

26. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939)
Great stuff, but Top 100? Insert La Strada or Wild Strawberries here.

27. "High Noon" (1952)
See above.

28. "All About Eve" (1950)
I'm a bit embarassed, but I haven't seen it. If Roger Ebert says it's a Great Movie, then I'll bet it is, though.

29. "Double Indemnity" (1944)
For those of us who grew up with Fred MacMurray as the father of My Three Sons, seeing him in this steamy noir classic is quite an eye-opener. Good dirty fun.

Felicia Florine Campbell writes: Certainly High Sierra (1941) is a far better choice for this list than, say, Forrest Gump. One of the first films done on location, High Sierra explores the Depression Era through its portrait of an honorable gangster, Roy Earle, played by Humphrey Bogart. In an era filled with corrupt politicians and cops, dust bowl farmers displaced from their farms by greedy bankers and endless bread lines, bank robber Earle stands above the others, an honorable man at odds with the system. Not quite a Robin Hood, his only victims are the oppressors and his betrayers. He is, above all, capable and honest within his context, betrayed by lesser men. He dies with dignity, the final scenes where he is hunted to his death in the Sierras as compelling as when they were filmed. Ida Lupino co-stars as his star crossed lover.

30. "Apocalypse Now" (1979)
May I submit to the AFI that this film is at least 25 slots below where it belongs? A case study in the dark side of moviemaking, yet, a creation of such cinematic - and artistic - magnitude as to exemplify the appellations. I believe this film will loom ever larger as the years pass, as the profound scope of this milestone comes into sharper relief amid the creative aridity of today's movie-making machinery. Number 30, my ass.

31. "The Maltese Falcon" (1941)
Bogie. The bird. The bong. 'Nuff said.

32. "The Godfather, Part II" (1974)
Consider: Francis Ford Coppola wrote, produced, and directed The Godfather, The Conversation, this, and Apocalypse Now in a nearly miraculous 7 year span. Wow.

33. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975)
Milos Forman is a fine, fine director, and the freak show cast of patients, many of whom would emerge in their own right, do, too...but Top 100? Sorry, Jack's unmedicated scenery inhalation just doesn't rock my boat to that degree.

34. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937)
A genuine milestone in cinema that is also about thirty places too low. No child, of any age, has seen this and not long remembered the Evil Queen as one of film's most devilish devils.

35. "Annie Hall" (1977)
Well, only 35 places to get to Woody Allen. Still, in a list that omits Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, and Renoir...a walking -unspooling?- time capsule of '70's urban America (without the Scorsese grot) that is as side-splittingly funny as it is shrewd, cinematic, and magnificently bittersweet. Keaton's cover of 'Seems Like Old Times' sends chills up my spine, and nears inducing tears the second time around every time I re-watch this.

36. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" (1957)
Great, 'Good War' stuff from David Lean and a cast for the ages led by an immortal Alec Guinness.

37. "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946)
Hollywood should have the guts to make such a film now, perhaps about our boys languishing at Walter Reed as we speak. Michael Moore must direct, too.

38. "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948)
Can you still hear Walter Huston's cackle, all these years later?

39. "Dr. Strangelove" (1964)
This may not be 'greatest' embodied, but have you ever been made to laugh harder and longer at characters and situations less humorous? One wonders if Kubrick and Peter Sellers, in a career performance(s), knew they were casting the die of all things Neo-conservative, fifty years before the fact?

Robert David Michael (Cerello) writes: Where is The Fountainhead? It stars Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal (in her film debut), and Raymond Massey as Gail Wynand. The work was directed by legendary talent King Vidor. Since movies are supposed to be fiction, it is my favorite film because it features arguably the most meaningful fictional - moral (worldly), ethical (self-responsible) - central character of all time, architect Howard Roark. It is also the only film in history (thus far) whose characters are motivated by mostly-explicit ideas. Its message - the near-impossibility of anyone's living a responsible and individual life within a nation without categories and regulations being in place to protect each man. The omission of this film, as well as Anthony Mann's Bend of the River, calls the entire list into fatal question.

40. "The Sound of Music" (1965)
I don't care if it made a fortune ("The sound of money," Darryl Zanuck said), this no more belongs on the list than Brigadoon, which is a lot more fun and better scored, besides. Zanuck hated it, too.

41. "King Kong" (1933)
All that money, footage, talent, and ballyhoo, yet, Peter Jackson's modern mess of a remake looks even messier when you savour the delicacies of this ground-breaking and nearly ancient masterpiece.

42. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)
What a treat to experience one of those rare gems that, to put it metaphorically, was a brick flying through the plate glass window of bourgeois American sensibilities, both commercial and social. It ain't just Warren and Faye goin' down in that there hail of bullets!

43. "Midnight Cowboy" (1969)
An X-rated film about a male hustler in an America rotting to its core, composed at a time when there was still a studio willing to produce it and an audience to go an see it. And it won Best Picture, too! Those were the days, indeed.

44. "The Philadelphia Story" (1940)
Cary Grant, Kathryn Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. If this were a cereal commercial with the same cast, it would still be a treat. Not entirely Top 100, tho.

45. "Shane" (1953)
I think I would've shot the kid. Speaking of Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, or Renoir...

46. "It Happened One Night" (1934)
Pre-code delights with still-valid pointers on how to hitchhike.

47. "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951)
Forget the sordid family life that earned its hungered-for privacy in blood and all the physical excess - Brando was once a flesh-and-blood unbeknownst force of nature, and this is a good place to start to appreciate his singular talent.

48. "Rear Window" (1954)
I shanghaied a class of writing students into a revival of this, back when Las Vegas still had an art house movie theater, and they loved every minute of this Hitchcock thriller. You could feel them coursing with adrenaline as Raymond Burr raises his eyes across the apartment buildings and meets Grace Kelly's through the binoculars.

49. "Intolerance" (1916)
Before Greed???

50. "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001)
If the criteria for this title's inclusion on this list is technical cinematic craft, then where is Barry Lyndon or Yellow Submarine? Uh huh.

51. "West Side Story" (1961)
For those of us who are not particularly entranced by the myriad of mythos regarding now vanished postwar NYC (or race-baiting casting practices), not much else to say. Except that I like Lenny's other compositions and Bob Wise's other films much more. My older sister's 8th Grade class was dragooned into seeing this for their class trip. Poor them.

52. "Taxi Driver" (1976)
Great performances in a sea of flotsam and jetsam, physical, psychological, and visual. Take the kids!

53. "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
Fine melodrama, with a admirable sense of the epic often attempted but rarely captured in post-'70's film. Of particular note for its unabashed love for its urban working class cast of characters, that nearly vanished species in the pop culture continuum. I'm looking forward to someone in Hollywood giving our current troops (and current disaster of a war) the same worthy canvas sometime soon.

54. "MASH" (1970)
Imagine that drearily milquetoasted TV sitcom with the same acidic black humour and punch-in-the gut near surrealism as Altman's big bopper. Fox ought to re-release it now, so maybe the kiddies could see what comedies were like when filmmakers made them for grown-ups who could both read and write. "...Goddamn Army..."

55. "North by Northwest" (1959)
This may not be 'great', but it sure rocks! It would make a great double-bill with From Russia with Love.

56. "Jaws" (1975)
Visceral, seat-of-your-pants moviemaking at its finest, with a score for the ages and all you need to know about how scary empty water can really be. And to think they didn't want Spielberg to direct it...

57. "Rocky" (1976)
Anyone who's ever dreamt of conquering an unconquerable dream (see: film school students, aspiring writers, kids in school sports) has to love this film, whether they respect the rest of Stallone's career or not (he's richer than you'll ever be; get over it and respect his wide success).

58. "The Gold Rush" (1925)
I am a huge Charlie Chaplin fan, but, my love for this aside, I don't honestly think this rates better than The Kid, Modern Times, or The Great Dictator.

59. "Nashville" (1975)
Having grown up in the same oddly muddled '70's this oddity mirrors, I'm still working on appreciating all the nuances and subtlties every reviewer cites in this Altman opus.

Adam Henry Carriere writes: Where are either Frankenstein or Dracula? Like virtually all such 'classical' horror films, these two genre-creating masterpieces from Universal remain touchstones of cinematic story-telling. The respective star-making performances by Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi continue to delight, as does the dramatic bravura of both, simply towering over anything else coming out of Hollywood in the early 1930's. Judge their greatness by the amazing loom of their long, dark shadows - from RKO's Val Lewton to AIP's Roger Corman, Britain's Hammer & Amicus Films to our own EC Comics, the rest of the Universal monster universe to Hitchcock himself...James Whale's Frankenstein and Tod Browning's Dracula are cinema greatness defined. Shame on the AFI voters for forgetting them.

60. "Duck Soup" (1933)
At last, an indisputable classic that is both amazingly modern (at least 30 years ahead of its time and as relevant as all hell now) and transcendantly hilarious. If this were the only Marx Brothers' film ever made, it would be enough. This is MY idea of a movie musical ;->

61. "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)
Again, perhaps not greatness, but damn fine, funny moviemaking with a heart as big as the America it squinted its eyes at...and possessing an inteligent, thought-provoking sense of the world, to boot. Try and find that at the cineplex.

62. "American Graffiti" (1973)
Were I older than 10 when this was first released, I'm sure the hyper-nostalgic gist of this would've better reached me, but just about every kid I know enjoyed it, just the same. I recently caught this on TCM, the first time I'd seen it in at least 20 years, and was plenty nostalgic all over again. Here is the USC grad George Lucas who got kidnapped on the way to the Federal Reserve just a few years later.

63. "Cabaret" (1972)
Oh, please. While a smoky, sleazy, sexy Weimar musical sounds good to me in the abstract, this closeted glam dross just ain't a great film, any more than Liza is a great female lead. Calling Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, and Fritz Lang!

64. "Network" (1976)
You think Peter Finch's heart attack, subsequent to his explosive performance here, constitutes 'leaving it on the field'?

65. "The African Queen" (1951)
Come on. Try Key Largo, instead.

66. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
The 1981 Best Picture That Wasn't. Watch the exceedingly ordinary Ordinary People, then this, and tell me the Academy wasn't drug-induced by the political commissars of the Reagan Administration into voting for who they did.

67. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966)
Great Mike Nichols direction and vocal chord-shattering performances by Burton and Taylor, but 'greatest' cinema-making, this is not. Still a stagey play stagily committed to film.

68. "Unforgiven" (1992)
One cowboy film I can stomach. And here I thought this list was giving short-shrift to Woody - here comes Clint in at...#68? Is the '81 Academy drawing up these lists? The whole of Shane and High Noon do not approach one frame of this elegiac noir gem or its near perfect cast. I'm not sure the genre has anything left to say after this one.

69. "Tootsie" (1982)
Smart, sassy, and pretty hilarious, if you see it...once. But, hey, I'm QUITE sure nothing Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, or Renoir ever did is as good as this, right? Right?

Joyce Corbett writes: Now Voyager is probably the most famous, most quoted and most admired film about female tyranny versus feminine freedom ever made. I suggest it should not have been dismissed by AFI's voters merely because its subject was "victimized females fighting back". The film, expertly directed by Irving Rapper, starred Bette Davis as a very repressed young woman, one who is aided by psychiatrist Claude Rains and falls in love with Paul Henreid, a married man. This is a beautiful, important and very artistic film; it certainly belongs, as Laura does, in the Top One Hundred Films' list.

70. "A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
A magnificently savage and bollock-rattling clinic in cinematic bravura, Kubrick's post-modern paradigm smasher hasn't aged a day since it rolled in the cash and notoriety over three decades ago. Ludwig van, Rossini, and Gene Kelly haven't been the same since, my brother.

71. "Saving Private Ryan" (1998)
To really gauge the impact of this dambuster, try watching nearly any war film (but perhaps 5 or 6 oddities) produced before and see if you're not mightily unimpressed as a result of this, arguably Spielberg's most accomplished work. The first 20 minutes alone display more craft, creative vision, and raw power than 90% of the genre. Too low, too low.

72. "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)
Can an art house character study also be a soaring epic in the finest Hollywood tradition? Well, maybe not very often, but it is, here. Simply apply the Many Multiple Cable Showings Test - how often can you catch this, at any point in the film, and still be immediately pulled into it? Like many, my answer, regarding Shawshank, is probably every other day. At least 50 places too low.

73. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969)
Speaking of Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, Eisenstein, and Renoir...I think Rules of the Game would be a nice fit here.

74. "The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)
The only horror film to win Best Picture - bloody revenge for Ordinary People, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, and My Fair Lady! Oh, Sir Anthony...!

75. "In the Heat of the Night" (1967)
Right smack dab into a society convulsing in the civil rights struggle comes this sharply honed police thriller (and deserving Best Picture) from Norman Jewison and United Artists. Deeply discouraging how such timely explorations of living, breathing societal crises are utterly absent today, save for Michael Moore's work.

76. "Forrest Gump" (1994)
Great fx. Cool soundtrack. A USC film grad produced and directed. embarassingly self-congratulatory an orgy of narcissism committed to film for (and by) thems that know from narcissism: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...The Baby Boom! Still, marginally worthwhile as a life lesson for 21st Century American careerists - the simpler if not dumber you are, the further you'll go.

77. "All the President's Men" (1976)
Crackling suspense in what you have to say is a minutia-based narrative that rather works against suspense, on the face of it. Ah, when journalism was still journalism, and major Hollywood movies were still designed for literate grown-ups.

78. "Modern Times" (1936)
Timeless and universal, heartfelt and hilarious, Chaplin's loving Valentine to the underprivileged working classes remains a gem.

79. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)
Were this produced today, it would run at least 45 minutes shorter and have at least triple the gunplay. But it wasn't, thankfully, and what's what is Peckinpah's signature work. (Older) William Holden and Robert Ryan were never better. I saw this in Hollywood revival with a twentysomething Japanese animator who had never heard of it, and he (and I) were rightfully astonished at the artistry going on here.

80. "The Apartment" (1960)
Um, I'm not so sure. How about a little Ozu or Kurosawa here?

81. "Spartacus" (1960)
Stanley himself would dispute this sand-and-sandal ballyhoo being on this list, certainly before or in lieu of Paths of Glory or Barry Lyndon. Maybe what this needs is Peter Sellers playing one of the Roman Senators. Or someone less...Brooklyn...playing Tony Curtis' role.

82. "Sunrise" (1927)
Me no see. Better had.

83. "Titanic" (1997)
Truth be told, I was thoroughly unimpressed when I saw this during its first run, noting that it took longer for the damn movie to unspool than it did for the actual ship to sink. A few years later, I rented this for no good reason and gave it the kind of close examination one can when stuck in a distasteful foreign country with nothing better to do than watch movies to death. Well, I found the work far more enjoyable the second time around, better appreciating the amazing levels of craft and storytelling on display. A Best Picture nod you can agree with on scope and success alone.

84. "Easy Rider" (1969)
This is pretty far down the list, considering the tectonic impact its vast box office success had on the industry during its then-current identity crisis. But at least it's here, so that's something. As delicious as guerrila filmmaking gets, offering a breathless, near hallucinogenic glimpse of the '60's cultural divide from ground zero. Too bad Fonda & Hopper didn't shoot the rednecks, instead.

85. "A Night at the Opera" (1935)
You'd have to know a bit about both the Marx Brothers and the mid-'30's MGM studio product to truly appreciate how remarkable their initial collaborations were. Critical to this was studio boss Irving Thalberg's strong hand in conceiving a closely-drawn (melo)dramatic template for the Marx bedlam to occur within. Opera queens rejoice - the film is a sheer delight. Allan Jones makes a pretty good Zeppo, too.

86. "Platoon" (1986)
I vividly remember catching an opening day afternoon matinee of this with a fellow graduate writing student. Exhilarated and emotionally drained, we both agreed it was by far the best picture we'd seen that year, and, lo and behold, Oliver Stone's first classic did in fact win the big one at the next Oscars. I've known a goodly number of men who were in country then, and all agree this film captures the truth of that steamy jungle portal to hell.

87. "12 Angry Men" (1957)
It speaks to Sidney Lumet's taut directing chops that what is essentially a one stage theater piece can be translated so energetically to the screen. Knowing his craft cold, from his lenses to his always expert casts, is part and parcel of Lumet's gifts. Sadly, his successor has yet to emerge.

88. "Bringing Up Baby" (1938)
Cute, fun, and light as a feather, but...

89. "The Sixth Sense" (1999)
Get real. Why not Blair Witch Project, too?

90. "Swing Time" (1936)
Good stuff, but...

91. "Sophie's Choice" (1982)

92. "Goodfellas" (1990)
Perhaps the foulest mouthed mainstream classic ever made, not to mention riveting, joyous, remoreless, and scathing in equal parts. Scorsese clears the fences with this, the 1990 Best Picture That Wasn't.

93. "The French Connection" (1971)
Speaking of Best Picture...One handy way to gauge an older film's transcendant qualities (assuming it has any) is to watch it like it were new, preferrably in a theater, with someone too young to have seen it when it actually was new. In this case, Friedkin's Cyclone ride of a picture show was new to myself and another film maven, having bailed from Bus Stop and ending up watching this by fortuitous default. We were both knocked out cold. 1971 Best Picture, indeed.

94. "Pulp Fiction" (1994)
I was on a reasonably hot date when I first saw this, so I was unable to appreciate the many complexities of the grand grotty guignol screenplay and the collection of performances that brought it to life. On cable, however, I see it all...but still prefer Jackie Brown as a much more cohesive overall Tarantino achievement.

95. "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
Like Nashville, I'm still working on this, but adore the raw b&w photography.

96. "Do the Right Thing" (1989)
Why does this look and feel like a token add-on to this list? Great, attention-grabbing stuff, but not really Spike's best. It is, however, about a thousand times more vital and compelling than Driving Miss Daisy, which took the big Oscar that year. Spike was right then and he's right now: Miss Daisy is everything you need to know about Hollywood's view of Black Americans.

97. "Blade Runner" (1982)
A science fiction film milestone that still looks and feels new, minus CGI. One of Harrison Ford's best performances.

98. "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942)
Not before Frankenstein and/or Dracula, babe.

99. "Toy Story" (1995)
A lot of lesser 'critics' (movie-watchers, really) throw around the phrase "The film that changed it all!". Well, this one actually did change animated movies, and pretty much for the better, technology-wise, anyway. For us old skoolers, tho, Yellow Submarine or even The Triplets of Belleville still rate higher, even if they didn't make nearly as much money.

100. "Ben-Hur" (1959)
Take away Yak Canutt's show-stopping chariot race and Gore Vidal's crypto-queer Stephen Boyd character and there isn't much else here, aside from what Vidal hilariously refers to as Heston's uncontrolled channeling of Francis X. Bushman. At least Gladiator didn't squeeze in here.

...compiled by Adam Henry Carriere

The Anti-AFI - Roger Ebert's Great Movies

Mr. Roger Ebert's Introduction to his Great Movies list

12 Angry Men (1957)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The 400 Blows (1959)
8 1/2 (1963)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Alien (1979)
All About Eve (1950)
Amadeus (1984)
Amarcord (1974)
Annie Hall (1977)
The Apartment (1960)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Apu Trilogy (1959)
Atlantic City (1980)
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Au Revoir, les Enfants (1987)
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Bank Dick (1940)
The Battle of Algiers (1967)
The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Beat the Devil (1954)
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Being There (1979)
Belle de Jour (1967)
The Bicycle Thief (1949)
The Big Heat (1953)
The Big Red One (1980)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Blowup (1966)
The Blue Kite (1993)
Bob le Flambeur (1955)
Body Heat (1981)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Breathless (1960)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Cabiria (1914)
Casablanca (1942)
Cat People (1942)
Children of Paradise (1945)
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Chinatown (1974)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Chuck Jones: Three Cartoons (1953-1957)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City Lights (1931)
The Color Purple (1985)
The Conversation (1974)
Cries and Whispers (1972)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Crumb (1994)
Dark City (2005)
Day for Night (1973)
Days of Heaven (1978)
The Decalogue (1988)
Detour (1945)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Don't Look Now (1974)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Dracula (1931)
Duck Soup (1933)
E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The Earrings of Madame de... (1953)
Easy Rider (1969)
El Norte (1983)
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Killer of Sheep (1977)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
Samurai Rebellion (1967)
Fanny and Alexander (1983)
Fargo (1996)
Faust (1926)
The Films of Buster Keaton (1923)
The Firemen's Ball (1968)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Floating Weeds (1959)
Forbidden Games (1952)
Gates of Heaven (1978)
The General (1927)
The Godfather (1972)
Goldfinger (1964)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968)
GoodFellas (1991)
Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Grand Illusion (1937)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Great Expectations (1946)
Greed (1925)
Groundhog Day (1993)
A Hard Day's Night (1964)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
House of Games (1987)
Howards End (1992)
The Hustler (1961)
Ikiru (1952)
In Cold Blood (1967)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jaws (1975)
JFK (1991)
Jules and Jim (1961)
Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
King Kong (1933)
Army of Shadows (1969)
L'Atalante (1934)
L'Avventura (1960)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
The Lady Eve (1941)
The Last Laugh (1924)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Late Spring (1972)
Laura (1944)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Le Boucher / The Butcher (2003)
Le Samourai (1967)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Leolo (1993)
The Leopard (1963)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The River (Le Fleuve) (1951)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
M (1931)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Manhattan (1979)
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Mean Streets (1973)
Metropolis (1926)
Mon Oncle (1958)
Moolaade (2007)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953)
The Music Room (1958)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
My Dinner With Andre (1981)
My Fair Lady (1964)
My Life to Live / Vivre sa Vie (1963)
My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
Nanook of the North (1922)
Nashville (1975)
Network (1976)
Night Moves (1975)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Nosferatu (1922)
Notorious (1946)
On the Waterfront (1954)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Orpheus (1949)
Out of the Past (1947)
Pandora's Box (1928)
Paris, Texas (1984)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Patton (1970)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Persona (1966)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Pickpocket (1959)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Pinocchio (1940)
Pixote (1981)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Playtime (1967)
The Producers (1968)
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Raging Bull (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raise the Red Lantern (1990)
Ran (1985)
Rashomon (1950)
Rear Window (1954)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Red River (1948)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Rififi (1954)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Ripley's Game (2002)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
Safety Last (1923)
Santa Sangre (1989)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Say Anything (1989)
Scarface (1983)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Schindler's List (1993)
The Searchers (1956)
The Seven Samurai (1954)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Shane (1953)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shining (1980)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Solaris (1972)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Star Wars (1977)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Stroszek (1977)
A Sunday in the Country (1984)
Sunrise (1928)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Swing Time (1936)
A Tale of Winter (1992)
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Terrorist (2000)
The Dead (1987)
The Thin Man (1934)
The Third Man (1949)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red (1993-1994)
3 Women (1977)
Tokyo Story (1953)
Top Hat (1935)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Ugetsu (1953)
Umberto D (1952)
Un Chien Andalou (1928)
Unforgiven (1992)
The Up Documentaries (1985)
Vertigo (1958)
Victim (1961)
Walkabout (1971)
West Side Story (1961)
WR -- Mysteries of the Organism (1971)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Wings of Desire (1988)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Woman in the Dunes (1964)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
A Woman's Tale (1992)
Woodstock (1970)
Written on the Wind (1956)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
A Year of the Quiet Sun (1984)
Yellow Submarine (1968)
Yojimbo (1961)

When I meet someone who has never seen The Third Man or Singin' in the Rain, I envy them the experience they are about to have. Roger Ebert


Fear in film - filmic fear - the horror film. There's a phrase we've all heard a few times, but one I'm not sure any of us really appreciate. What does HORROR mean, anyhow? The American Heritage Dictionary defines 'horror' as: An intense and painful feeling of repugnance and fear; intense dislike; abhorrence. Speaking only for myself, that definition would cover anything from balancing my checkbook to starting a new diet, but I can't say I'm particularly afraid of either - I just don't LIKE them. American Heritage's definition raises the question: if 'horror' is some intense and painful feeling of repugnance and fear, than a 'Horror Film' must then be about such matters, and who the hell pays to watch a couple hours worth of painful feelings, repugnance, and fear?

Well, I'll tell you. Nearly everyone.

We all have fears, and almost all of us have a quiet, perverse desire to brush up with this fear, to touch our fingertips along it's cold surface, to graze it with our hands as you might caress a dead body. This desire has been the stuff of colorful and fantastic literature for centuries, and, in our American Century, this desire has flourished like never before in the film genre we call 'horror'.

The fantastic and splendid list is long: the expressionistic madness of UFA's Dr. Caligari; Murnau's chilling Nosferatu; Lon Chaney's nightmare picture-book of faces; Universal Studio's gothic pantheon of monochrome monsters; the sometimes outlandish yet always engaging Edgar Allen Poe adaptations of Roger Corman; and, last but not least, the little studio that could, Britain's Hammer Films.

The spring of 1957 saw the release of The Curse of Frankenstein, a lurid new look at the Mary Shelley classic, vividly mounted in Technicolor and starring the redoubtable Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as his handiwork. Just another monster film, you'd think. But this one was different. Universal's second version of The Phantom of the Opera, starring Claude Rains, was the first horror film shot in full color (Lon Chaney's 1920's landmark used only two-tone color), but had so few horrific elements in it as to render the color meaningless. Hammer Films' approach was to use Technicolor to the fullest...A) to bring the gory canvass of the Frankenstein monster to full voice, and B) to make sure they got a lucrative American distribution deal by being the best-looking, most literate horror film any Hollywood studio had yet seen, all produced for the (unheard of sum, by Hollywood standards) of 70,000 pounds.

The Curse of Frankenstein went through the roof, and so did the critics, who called the film horrific. Disgusting. Repugnant. And, yes, Abhorrent! No doubt, these were the same critics who soon called the James Bond films 'sadistic', and still think Eddie Murphy isn't funny and rap music isn't music. They never learn. But Hammer, they learned. Hammer went from being 'the studio in the box', the box being the converted home in England's pastoral Hammersmith called Bray, to being the Hammer House of Horror. Soon, Universal's monsters became Hammer's, and Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee became international stars.

But what made the Hammer Films so different, so new, so rich, and so important? How do stupid little horror films get important in the first place? By making money? The Hammer Films, almost without exception, did so regularly and impressively. (The late Peter Cushing once quipped; "We made our films for less than $100,000, and that included us actors, the sets, and that damned Technicolor processing; how on earth couldn't they turn a profit on us?")

To a much greater and consistent a degree than any other body of horror films before or since, Hammer Films seized upon the wealth of classical dramatic and cultural themes and put them to maximum use (and effect) in such a way that raised the cinematic level of the horror film to new heights that are rarely reached today. This was no mean feat for what the Hammer family would casually and without irony describe as 'tarted-up Saturday matinee fare'.

Was it the Technicolor, or the Panavision (HammerScope! screamed the lobby posters)? Was it the canny used of media-imagined 'sex-kittens', such as the ex-Miss France, who turned up in 1961's The Brides of Dracula, or the then-unknown American model, Raquel Welch, who took us back One Million Years B.C.? Was it Peter Cushing's repertory training, taking Shelley's Victor Frankenstein into unheard-of dramatic proportions, or Christopher Lee's ruthless screen presence that survived many a bad script and amateur director? Or, fellow matinee goers, was it that the way Hammer treated the material?

The horror film is our 20th Century equivalent of the traditional fairy tale, the bedtime story meant to put children in bed, or, rather more to the heart of the matter, keep children in line. You name the fable or fairy tale, the bedtime story or the folk tale that, somehow, somewhere, doesn't have the all-important 'moral of the story', and you've got a fantastic story that isn't much fantastic, one that most assuredly the kids won't like, either.

These kinds of stories have had either cleverly implicit or nakedly explicit determinist tones from day one. Stuart Mill's determinism holds our volitions to be determined by pre-existing circumstances. The social determinism of the fairy tale, and of the essential, classical horror film, is no different. The actions of the story, however lurid, fantastic, and/or colorful, and their inevitable resolutions, all clearly underline some distinct lesson to be learned, some clear message to be heeded, some behavior to be closely followed or strictly avoided. In short, social determinism - hard at work for you, parents, taxpayers, and citizens.

Children aren't cognitive thinkers. They never have been, and they never will be, despite modern day efforts of tragically misguided parents who prefer to treat their child as a functioning friend rather than...their child. They may be a little smarter than we once were, us poor, deprived sods who managed to reach adulthood without the Internet, cable TV, cell phones or text-messaging, but they're still kids, and, if anyone can be successfully directed by a good determinist message, it's a kid. Why should a body of films directed at the young and playful of all ages, the Saturday matinee-goer or late-night, "Creature Features" viewer be any different? We all get that little chill from that quick decision to jump into an open lane in traffic, or to take up a sport better left to anyone other than you, or to hit that ATM for just one more round at the tables.

Likewise, we all get a different chill, perhaps a more rewarding chill and certainly a longer lasting one, by walking into that dark movie theater and plunging ourselves into that intense, abhorrent, and fearsome netherworld of the horror film.

Mr. Marshall McLuhan was more right than anyone imagined: The media is the message. And the most vibrant messenger of the solid determinist call has been the literature of the fantastic. Hammer Films are independent cinema's apotheosis of this message.

Let me quote from Richard Matheson's powerful screenplay, adapted from Dennis Wheatley's downright frightening novel, The Devil Rides Out:

Greene - magic...
Richelieu - Do you believe in evil?
Greene - As an idea...
Richelieu - Do you believe in the power of darkness?
Greene - As a superstition...
Richelieu - Now, there you are wrong. The power of darkness is more than just a superstition. It is a living force which can be tapped at any given moment of the night.

I'd have to fall out of my seat if dialogue like that turned up in any indie movie marketed to the under-25 set nowadays. Does it sound a little old-fashioned to you? It does to me, and, by God, I love it. What an elegance of form. What style in that clear moral and ethical sense. And what power. Maybe it's romantic of me to respond to the longing I think I share with millions of others for that lost sense of clarity. Hammer Films used the traditional literary approach to right and wrong, good and evil, and put those messages in simple yet forceful costume melodramas to make a mark that, at the time seemed like good business and a decent living, but, now, thirty years after the studio produced its last feature (another Denis Wheatley adaptation, To the Devil A Daughter), seems a little more like art.

Hammer used all forms of iconography to achieve their ends: from ancient Egyptian burial ceremonies to modern Catholic rites; the sexual gulag of the Victorian era to the nervous meeting of alien cultures in faraway colonial lands; and the legendary storybook myths of macabre Mitteleuropa to the social determinisms of the West, no scenario was left untapped by this small group of British craftsman who knocked out film after film for almost no money for nearly two decades.

Every Hammer Film gave us that ageless drama of a clearly defined evil (person, force, idea) engaged by and (for the most part) defeated by an unambiguous good (person, and so on). Some of the drearily cynical among us would wheeze that such story-telling is, at best, quaint, or, at it's worst, fantasy. Perhaps, if you look at things like that. Let's put our post-modern funk aside for a moment and consider the stark, one thousand fine value of such moral clarity.

Is there no value in presenting, in promoting, and, yes, in determining, in our children AND in ourselves a greater, clearer moral sense, such as those you find so prominently and so vividly in a good horror film, and any Hammer Film you care to name?

"Only those who love without desire shall have power granted them in their darkest hour."

(That's from The Devil Rides Out, too.)

I must say, the last few months of going back and re-watching all of my favorite Hammer Films was a lot of fun. They're every bit as sumptuously produced as I remembered, and quite a bit more sophisticated than I ever recalled. Not so bad in the chills department, either. A lot of directors worked for Hammer, but none of them are so identified with their work at the studio as Terence Fisher, who helmed all the early Hammer classics (plus a few of their very best later entries, such as The Devil Rides Out) and established the 'Hammer look' - MGM dress at one-reeler prices.

Terry Fisher wasn't much for fancy camera angles or showy film school gimmicks - it's a good thing he died in 1975, because the man couldn't get a job directing a school play these days - but he had a way of framing up something. Every Hammer film he did has some scene done in a fair long shot, with a door or window in the background. The only person on Earth who didn't know a monster or something was about to burst through that door or window was the character already in the room. Sometimes, even they knew it. But when that monster came crashing through, WHAM! There it was! I still giggle nervously when Chris Lee's muscular Mummy shambles in to kill Peter Cushing's shotgun-armed archeologist, or when David Prowse (the original guy under Darth Vader's mask and cape), playing Terry Fisher and Hammer's last Frankenstein monster (in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell), crashes through an asylum window during a rain storm to kill the asylum director. What a hoot! Want to get your kid to cry themselves into submission? Make them listen to the title music of any Hammer Film. They'll carry every note with them well into their college years. Believe me, I know.

But, let's not forget the long list of fine actors bringing life not just to a couple of musty, one-dimensional roles, but to some equally musty ideas about the whole good and evil thing. That the collected casts of the Hammer catalogue rose above the inherently melodramatic, one-note nature of their roles is one thing; the fact that they did so in such an accomplished manner, with such cinematic gusto, communicating so wide and vital a range of emotions and representative values still impresses an avowed fan like myself.

Where are three-plus dimensional actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee nowadays? People of intelligence and wit who could communicate the full, icy intensity of profound evil (Dracula, Frankenstein) and, later that year, emote the complete essence of virtue and good (Van Helsing, Richelieu). Men who were gentlemen, and effortless ones, at that. Where have they all gone? Men whose dignity, presence, and natural substance made their every performance a rewarding one, appearances in roles we in the cheap seats find easy to snigger at.
Vincent Price, who was a close personal friend of both Cushing and Lee (remarkably, all of whom were born on the same day, though in different years) once remarked to an interviewer that none of them made truly frightening movies. To him, the really frightening things were outside the movie theaters. When the reporter pressed him to name a scene or a movie that scared him, Vincent Price, the abominable Dr. Phibes himself, replied: "Snow White. The evil Queen. Now, she was scary!"

Think about all the determinist moralizing in the great Disney animations - the donkey boys and the whale in Pinocchio; the hunters and the fire in Bambi; the circus handlers in Dumbo; and the rogue's gallery of kiddie-scaring figures in, that's scary!

The fabulous and valuable success of "Sesame Street" notwithstanding, to the devil with Barney and this nice stuff - bring on the good, scary, determinist children's stories! Hail, Walt Disney! Hail, Hammer!

Let me regale you to one more excerpt. This is an exchange between Peter Cushing's quietly assured archeologist and George Pastell's calculating Egyptian, taken from Jimmy Sangster's taut screenplay of The Mummy:

Banning - I made an extensive study of this so-called "religion". It's based on artificial creeds and beliefs, some of them ludicrous in the extreme.
Ahmed - Did it ever occur to you that, beneath the superficial you've learned about, there could be a great and passionate devotion to this God?
Banning - It occurred to me, but I dismissed it.
Ahmed - You're intolerant, Mr. Banning.
Banning - Not intolerant, just practical.
Ahmed - Intolerant. Because you are unable to experience the greatness of a deity, you dismiss it as of no consequence. But, believe me, to those who worship and serve, he is all powerful.
Banning - But, surely, there can't be people who still have such beliefs.
Ahmed - Now you are talking about something of which you know nothing. You've scratched only the surface, and you know nothing. You assume the right to disturb the ever-lasting peace of the Gods. You pry and meddle with unclean hands and eyes. Profanity, blasphemy, religious desecration - all these you are guilty of. But the powers with which you have meddled do not rest easy. I think you will not go unpunished.
Banning - Punished? By who?
Ahmed - There are certain things for which civilization has no answer. But if you choose to meddle thus, you must be prepared to face the consequences, whatever they are.
Banning - Consequences? That sounds like a threat.
Ahmed - You must excuse me, Mr. Banning. We like to think that our European dress, our liberal education, has buried the past. But, occasionally, one is forced to realize that all this is only a veneer. Thousands of years of traditional belief cannot be dismissed in one generation.

I wouldn't mind a roll of nickels for every phrase in that passage you'll never, ever hear in any movie, horror or otherwise, lurching out of today's dumbed-down, tarted up mainstream Hollywood product. In a segment of one scene in one film, we hear serious references to serious issues that are as relevant today as they were, for the hundreds of years before the film got made. This is the sort of material that used to run like a river through common storytelling for all ages. This is the sort of message-oriented, thought-provoking material both our children and our imaginative landscape need more of. That's entertainment. That's art. And that's Hammer.

The very first time anything I wrote turned up in print was a review of The Satanic Rites of Dracula in my high school newspaper. The Jesuits were appalled, but my editor, a sophomore math geek, loved it and kept me on. He's clerking for Justice Scalia now, and I'm still on about the Hammer Films. I'm not sure which one of us needs to get a life more, but I think we'd both agree that our kids will learn a whole lot more about how to comport themselves and what to engage their minds with from a good classical horror film like a Hammer Film, rather than these idiotic special-effects exercises that have run-down the genre of late. Those, or that puffy closeted dear named Barney. Adam Henry Carriere


"Cinema noir" refers to any movie about a fictional situation set in any society wherein the civil defenders/avengers of individual ethical rights refuse to lend support to or cannot be invoked by a morally-ethically blameless, purposive result-seeking individual, for any cause whatever...

The anti-thisworldist/Postmodernist version of this situation, on the other hand, is a movie about a society of collectivized dictators and obedients, wherein crime cinema noir refers to that man who does an unpermitted or unordained action and thus forfeits the support of unethical "legal" authority--which is a categorically different matter--and nominated differently since it is decidedly not fiction; or the term refers to the action of criminal in a legal society who cannot invoke aid because he is living outside the legal framework.

Four years ago, the following blurb appeared for a then new book. Please study what its author has to say..."________ is that rarity, a movie reference book that is both sensible and readable. It is also very enlightening, for by compiling this exhaustive, well-annotated encyclopedia, listing the hundreds of pictures comprising the noir tradition, the authors make us see that it was more signifying a characteristically American way of making films--and of observing the world than was probably realized before."

I admit to having being embittered beyond words by such fantastic claims. This is what I wrote about the quoted baseless claim, at the time I first read it: "The book cited in this blurb undoubtedly offers no acceptable scientific definition of cinema, nor of cinema blanc nor of cinema noir. Since only I can claim to possess and defend all these and have announced them, and the author is not quoting me, what I say must be true; even if my definitions were wrong, without his attempting his own definition of film he could hardly be "right"."

I would not doubt that every one of the films listed in that gentlemen's work contains some visual or story element of a "cinema noir aspect". But, please, consider the impossibility of the idea of compiling an "exhaustive" or "well-annotated" list of examples of a sort of film that only I have defined and which no one else even tries to define any longer! How could that possibly be done?

This is an action insane on the face of its claim; an act of arrogance aimed at cowing the opposition, who would otherwise object to its pretensions; what it is not is a scientific proof aimed at accomplishing anything else on Earth in regard to earned virtues. As to the volume's value, surely that must have been severely compromised by the writer's defalcation of not supplying a categorizing definition of 'that of which cinema noir consists', in a book on the topic of "cinema noir"?

German Expressionism is often cited as a source of noir characteristics, but its heyday preceded most noir by twenty years. McCarthyism, cited in the review of the book I mentioned above also belongs to an era much later, and was not in practice when noir was being created. French critics named the genre, originally, for secondary characteristics, without being able to define it sufficiently either.

I argue (as a scientist) that cinema, noir or blanc cannot be defined by visual style alone; because I claim nothing can be ever be adequately defined by ostensive detail alone, not on a categorizing or science level. Scientific-level definition must (realistically) deal with the 5 or 6 prioritized centrally important function-level inner workings or man-created characteristics of anything "at normative condition"; and such a definition cannot deal merely with a "recognition silhouette", or appearances alone.

Since cinema noir, moreover, is a genre of morality-and-ethics, one with constitutional-societal implications, this means it cannot be identified by concrete visible details nor even by concrete narrative structural elements; it has to be defined, I assert again, according to the philosophical ideas that separate its content from those contents of competing genres--such as crime films, police films, mean streets docu-realism, and a dozen other genres, which all are primarily "locale-grounded" sub-genres. (All these sorts of films, I remind the reader, are sub-divisions of film that also can contain noir elements and noir stylistics wiithout being wholly "noir" rather than "blanc".)

For these reasons, the book referred to in the quote cited above I say cannot be "comprehensive", not without a fundamental defining of "cinema", "noir" and "blanc" being adduced as its basis. It cannot be illustrated either, except by the inclusions of chosen discontexted visual examples--instances chosen without regard to any such informing definition as I have argued is absolutely necessary in this case, not so long as such a definition remains unsubmitted and/or imperfect.

There can be no such creation as an encyclopedia of the undefined.

Cinema noir is socio-ethical in its basis; its stories can take place in the country or the city, wherever danger exists and where help is hard to come by; but it can also exist in boardrooms, mansions, courts of law, the offices of politicians and anywhere else its characteristic sort of action can be engineered to happen.

Cinema noir also cannot exist only in savage country, where no authority-law protective organization is present to be "unavailing or unavailable". If the book I referred to earlier was intelligently organized, so much the better; but that attractive feature cannot overcome its fundamental falsity. And what the world needs is a scientific definition of noir, not a coffee table book of pictures embedded in pretentious text.

Any book written thus far on noir has, thus, primarily to be a fraud for the above-cited reasons; those who produced, approved and lionized the one whose ads I noted had to know its shortcomings, if they are scientists; and if they are not scientists, they know logically the author couldn't have produced the level of value they claimed it represents.

And this must remain true so long as no conception of 'noir' and 'blanc' or even of "film" have been accomplished; but, in particular, this has to be so while no agreement among those in the field has been obtained as to a definition of their central topic.

Several books on cinema noir have been written, already, and several I suggest may be valuable additions to this field. Ethan Mordden in 1979 in his widest-ranging volume on film said, "No one really knows what cinema noir is"; I claim to have proven him wrong--but only I have done so, I assert; certainly not the author of the above-noted "encyclopedia's' failed science..(Yes, that's what it was supposed to be--an ecncyclopedia...).

The subject of cinema noir is not being neglected. So many others in film having been the province of government academics for decades, a field of thought they cannot define and have despaired of silencing their increasingly vocal critics. So it was that the author(s) of this volume, being in this academic position, I claim, may simply be downplaying the problem of absolute understanding by substituting false headlines for epistemological functions.

Consider: Many people have had valuable things to say about cinema noir, but they have not said enough about what cinema is, cinema blanc nor cinema noir, to establish anything--unless it is their lack of requisite knowledge to be called scientists of their field.

These analysts have I argue mistaken and substituted "appearances" for deeper realities and then constructed an tautological anti-concept as in this work's advertisement: "Film noir is whatever you see in a film noir movie. This is a book about all film noir movies. Therefore, this is a book about whatever you see in any film noir movie."

The book may contain valuable insights, pretty pictures, valuable lists, historical details, discontexted evaluations and much more. I will admit that it probably does contain good material. But on a basis of non-definition, it can hardly offer any provable nor foundational truths.

The constituent elements of 'noir' in science have to be evaluated and accounted for, not merely guessed at as visible elements of locale, epoch or 'style'. The elements of westerns, police movies, historical adventures or even musical-theatrical films might be so treated with no certainty but more success. Police movies must be after all about some police operative; westerns must take place in a locale called "The frontier" or "The West:, and musicals must feature a sufficient amount of orchestral, band, solo or vocal numbers. These genres can thus be defined in a way cinema noir cannot, therefore.

The elements of noir most often cited by reviewers, I argue, are neither prioritized in order nor fundamental to the genre's nature. The authors commenting on noir talk about dangerous women in the genre, shadows, dark alleyways, perils, uncertainties, callous or cruel motivations, eerie music, actions that take place by night, vivid action scenes, violence, mean streets and cheap rooms as locations, runnings, fightings, escapings, chasings, etc.; and they are undoubtedly noting factors prominent in some noir films.

But, as I defined at the outset here, both cinema noir and cinema blanc are the categorical contrasted central pair of legitimate potentials (in all but wilderness-based, moral-ethical hero-centered fictional movies); and so there exist a corresponding categorically opposed set of crime noir opposites (in crime-noir "case history" or "totalitarian noir" films).

What I said in 2002, at a Popular Culture Association Western regional Convention in Las Vegas is truer than ever today. I first defined cinema noir that day, as I did above. I then added the following comment: "The reason cinema noir is not being made today is a strange one. Men made noir when they saw the authorized governors of their nation failing to do their Consitutional duty. Now that such leaders have given up even a pretense at efficacy, in so many ways, since 1994 and the end of the sixth 90-year-long mental century since the Renaissance was begun in the Engish speaking world (1470), the situation can be summed up in two sentences: "Men can't make noir because they will not admit in the US that their government is now an unconstitutional one. Therefore, in the US you do not have noir films--but you have noir lives instead."

This is central importance of defining hero-centered thisworldly narrative as "fiction", and then differentiating cinema blanc and cinema noir in moral-ethical and societal terms, not according to visual cues, but instead according to philosophic "genetic" idea bases. Nothing anyone can say can be more important I suggest than the insistence that "one cannot ever fake reality in any way and attain success in reality".

In defining cinema, realism first consists in dealing with the fundamental nature of reality, of man (its natural offspring) and with the societies men form as category-level definitional and existential marketplaces of ideas, goods, work and governmental choosings. It is within this context that film, noir and blanc, I insist needs to be identified and understood. Blanc refers to "a legal society whose government helps the moral-ethical"; noir refers instead to "a society where the government's servitors cannot or will not aid the moral-ethical central character of the purposive work."

Cinema noir can be:

comedy--The Court Jester, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Golden Blade, Many Rivers to Cross, The Sheepman;

satire (idea-level happy-ending film)--Picnic, The Assassination Bureau, Charade, Cat Ballou, Don't Go Near the Water;

adventure--North By Northwest, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Rear Window, Dead Reckoning;

drama--The Fountainhead, The Second Woman, A Tattered Dress, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Model For Murder Robert David Michael Cerello


from the desk of the Witchfinder General, Potomac City, United States of Amerikkka

This classic film was first made in 1962 or 1963, I can't be certain of the date without checking IMDB. While I don't remember actually having seen it myself, others have reported to me that it is a very important and timely film. I can honestly state that I believe I have seen it, and my recollection corresponds reliably with reports I have gotten from colleagues and staff members who have assured me that they have seen the film. Each and every one of these colleagues and staff members have proven themselves to be exemplary public servants and inveterate cineistes, and I have depended on them to fill me in on the parts I may have missed, due to having to catch a cat nap, or going to get a Coke, or going to drain the Coke, if you know what I mean. Film criticism, I have found, can be thirsty work.

The plot of the film centers around lead Laurence Harvey, who has just returned from a lengthy internment in a Southeast Asian POW camp, run, it turns out, by the Red Chinese. This prisoner of war camp, having none of the amenities of Western, not to mention American internment camps, returns Harvey to his family and loved ones, but his release, we learn, has nothing to do with international good will. No, we learn that Harvey's mother, chillingly played by Angela Lansbury in a role that eerily anticipates Hillary Clinton (at least that was Dana Perino's take on the character, and Dana has heretofore proven herself to be spot on in these matters), has been working in tandem with the Chinese to brainwash her son and program him to assassinate a patriotic American presidential candidate and replace him with a Communist plant, which we all know is code for "Democrat".

Frank Sinatra plays Harvey's best friend, a fellow P.O.W. who tries to save his friend and the country from the evil Oriental/Angela/Hillary plot. A subplot involving Frank and love interest Deborah Kerr, climaxed by a torrid love scene on the beach, as the surf washes over them, is tastefully done, though tame by today's standards, and reminds us what a hottie a prim and proper "librarian" type can be in the right vehicle.

The hideous Hillary will haunt your dreams for months after you've seen this classic political thriller. All my thumbs are up for this one.

...transcribed by Jim Earp

FRIENDSHIP by Adam Henry Carriere

My best friend is movies
always was

do you have better friends than Benji or Beetlejuice?

I took an airplane into the abyss with Alice
I went back to school and beat the devil with my billion dollar brain
child's play for a carefree city slicker

my attending physicians?

Dr. No, physical therapist
Dr. Phibes, internal medicine
Dr. Cyclops, opthamologist
Dr. Mabuse, psychiatrist
Dr. Goldfoot, podiatrist
Dr. Zhivago, psychologist
Dr. Strangelove, surgeon extraordinare
and Doctor Dolittle, pediatrician

(see if your HMO can do better)

Dr. Kildare? bit too latent for me

I had sex with Eddie and the cruisers
followed the fleet with the flying deuces
and had more sex in the grand hotel with the gay divorcee
I was his kind of woman
high heels and all

if I had a million, I'm all right, Jack
just one of the guys on a journey of hope

kiss me deadly, Kafka
what a date that was

Leolo and Lawrence of Arabia, those mos
Lolita and La Femme Nikita, them dykes

Hell...! M...!

my friends travel often and well -
they always bring me with

I've gone Africa, Texas style...Bush in the bush
worn a dress in bonnie Scotland...nakedity!
been shocked in Casablanca...largely at the service
smoked Dementia 13...surgeon general regardless
and dreamed, dreamed of Europa, Europa
fucked Fanny and Alexander flying down to Rio
and found my mind in the torrid zone

zombies on Broadway

terrible monkey business with Monsieur Verdoux,
spending a notorious night at the opera
a quick change
a race with the devil for a room with a view
sleeping on the beach
dreaming only when I laugh
making pillow talk
a sense of loss and a shadow of a doubt
until the end of the unforgiven
the vampire lover's circus
where eagle's dare the heart is
the year of the dragon living dangerously

I committed the first deadly sin
with the second best secret agent in the whole wide world
and became the third man
under the fourth protocol
five days one summer
six days and six nights
and seven days in May

I won on the dead pool last week
before getting stuck in heavy traffic
with Amadeus, Mad Max,
Frankenstein and the monster from Hell
followed by Charlie Chan and Boston Blackie
in a yellow Rolls-Royce on Sunset Boulevard

I fought beside Sergeant York
made a bad lieutenant
sailed with Captain Nemo
trained Major Payne
served under Colonel Chabert
before sleeping through the night of the generals

so they do shoot horses

Rufus T. Firefly for President
(could he do worse?)

it's (a wonderful life)
kind of k(l)ute
staring at a (all we are is another brick in the) wall
in (like Flint)
the dark (of the sun)
with a (wild) bunch
of (ordinary) people
you (don't look now) know

but we're all good friends (of Eddie Coyle)

...and now for something completely different...

this is the big picture, cat people
the bloodsport of my mind

my cocoon
my comfort and joy
my compulsion

desperate hours spent in the company of wolves,
the fiction makers

once around would be a perfect world

the road to utopia a tender mercy to me,
true believer

a world apart
yep, that's this boy's life Adam Henry Carriere