Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Overlooked cult classics


With the recent resurgence in popularity of such films as “The Holy Mountain” and “Suspiria,” the cult film is a phenomenon that won’t be dying any time soon. For audiences looking for the most unusual films of yesteryear, here is a guide that includes everything from a mostly-forgotten Oscar winner to a madcap 1960s extravaganza.

8. “Prizzi’s Honor”- Despite its Oscar-winning performance from Anjelica Huston and blisteringly brilliant character roles from Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner, this darkly-comic John Huston mob movie has been mostly forgotten by today’s audiences. It’s too bad, because with the current popularity of such films as “In Bruges” and “The Ice Harvest” one would assume a film such as this would catch on.

7. “Lord Love a Duck”- Everybody loves a good madcap British 1960s comedy. So why has this Roddy McDowell and Tuesday Weld lifestyle pastiche fallen by the wayside? With cameos from Ruth Gordon – who you may remember as Maude, from “Harold and Maude,” and the nosy neighbor from “Rosemary’s Baby” – and Harvey Corman, who you may remember better from basically every Mel Brooks movie – this film is sure to be a hit at your next movie party. You’ll never look at a Cashmere sweater the same way.

6. “Morvern Callar”- Samantha Morton’s supporting roles in “Synecdoche, NY” and “Mister Lonely” gained her much acclaim, at least to a certain extent. But what many people don’t know is that in 2002 she had a starring role in this spiritual exploration of a Scottish woman whose boyfriend killed himself moments before the film begins. We follow her wandering through her hometown, going to parties, even traveling to Ibiza; all while listening to the mix-CD made for her by her boyfriend. This is a deep, contemplative kind of film which admittedly won’t be for all tastes. But the emotional heights this film eventually reaches are sure to connect with some kind of audience.

5. The Mick Travis trilogy- Whatever your opinion of the film’s quality may be – Kubrick isn’t for everyone – it is difficult to question the fact that Malcom Macdowell’s performance will live forever in the realm of cult classics. What you may not be aware of is a series of films made over the course of a decade by British auteur Lindsay Anderson. These films, titled “If….,” “O’ Lucky Man!,” and “Britannia Hospital” all serve to deconstruct and undermine British society in the late 60s and 70s. And boy, are they bizarre. Musical numbers, dream sequences and near-nihilistic themes all combine to create wonderfully disorienting film experiences.

4. “A Canterbury Tale”- No, this isn’t a direct adaptation of one of Chaucer’s famous stories. Rather, it is a film made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the creators of the ballet films “The Red Shoes” and “Tales of Hoffman.” What we have is a WWII propaganda piece disguised as a village mystery disguised as an allegory for spiritual connection with countryside. It is a profoundly odd and beautiful work.

3. “The Magic Christian”- Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night” will endure forever as a classic example of 1960s British comedy. Unfortunately, this quirky 1969 Terry Southern-penned adaptation of his own novel has fallen by the wayside. It tells the tale of an eccentric billionaire played by Peter Sellars, who adopts a street boy played by Ringo Starr. Featuring some of the oddest cameos you’ve ever seen – Roman Polanski doing a striptease while reciting Shakespeare is a highlight – this film is heartily recommended to every 1960s fanatic.

2. “After Hours”- It almost feels like Joel Schumacher’s “Falling Down.” A commercially viable director – in this case, Martin Scorcese – got his hands on an incredibly strange and almost disturbing script and managed to push it into the mainstream film market. While it wasn’t exactly a commercial success, it still features bit parts from Rosanne Arquette, Catherine O’Hara and even Cheech and Chong. But make no mistake – while this film does have its funny moments, for the most part this Gulliver’s Travels-esque adventure into Downtown New York, NY will leave you unsettled and nerve-racked. Perfect for a night of popcorn and friends.

1. “The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor & Humanity” – For the marathon film-viewers, it’s hard to do much better than this five-part Japanese crime saga. Betrayal, blood-ties, lopped-off limbs and an oddly pleasant sense of morality at the conclusion make this series of films a must-see. And devotees of cult film should take note: The entire series was directed by Kinji Fukasaku, creator of must-see “Battle Royale.”

Mark Schiffer can be reached at [email protected].

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