Featured image from The Perfume of the Lady in Black
Amazon prime is so amazing now. Month after month they just keep adding incredible stuff that’s not easily accessible elsewhere. The one thing to watch out for is that they often run stuff in terrible quality or the wrong aspect ratio, but as long as one is careful to check whether a better version is available there are many treasures to be found. I vetted the quality of any title I’m recommending where I thought there might be a concern.
The Perfume of the Lady in Black (Barilli, 1974)
This is a peak giallo. It’s ultra lurid and moody, full of creepy hallucinations and perverse secrets. I would rank it up there with better known gialli from Bava, Argento, Fulci, and Martino.
Basket Case (Henenlotter, 1982)
American exploitation classic from the great Frank Henenlotter, now part of the permanent collection of the MoMA! Exceptional practical effects, a wicked sense of humor, and more psychoanalytic acuity than one might expect.
Performance (Roeg and Cammell, 1970)
In honor of Roeg’s recent passing, I recommend this batshit early work starring Mick Jagger. Roeg took it to 11, making heavy use of the jarring crosscuts that were characteristic of his style throughout his career.
The Proposition (Hillcoat, 2005)
Written by Nick Cave, this is an extremely dark and intense Aussie western. I think it’s easily one of the best entries in the western genre in this millennium.
Dog Soldiers (Marshall, 2002)
I was so thrilled to see this show up on streaming! This is one of the best modern werewolf movies. It uses practical effects throughout, no CGI wolf morphing crap.
House of Games (Mamet, 1987)
In honor of Ricky Jay’s recent passing, I recommend this wonderful David Mamet con artist flick. I grew up loving this movie, and I think it holds up well. As one would expect, there are lots of twists and turns and it’s full of amazing Mamet dialogue.
Dolls (Stuart Gordon, 1987)
No one can execute an awesome horror premise like Stuart Gordon can. Every Stuart Gordon movie is worthwhile, and this one’s on Prime.
Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper, 1976)
Yes! This is where to go next if you like Texas Chainsaw and want to dig deeper into Tobe Hooper’s filmography. Creepy bayou hotel, crocodile, etc. It’s crazy and awesome.
Alexandra’s Project (Rolf de Heer, 2003)
Interesting to see this one pop up. I rented it from Netflix dvd ages ago while watching through Rolf de Heer’s complete works and it’s stuck with me every since. It’s not the most cinematic of his works (far from it), but it’s distinctive in how angry and hardass it is as a feminist invective.
The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (Pasolini, 1964)
One of the only Pasolini movies I fully love, and possibly the best movie about the life of Jesus Christ. It plays up Christ’s activities as a lefty political agitator.
Excalibur (Boorman, 1981)
This is pure, distilled awesomeness. All the totally on the nose Wagner is what really puts it over the top.
Point Blank (Boorman, 1967)
This was remade as Payback with Mel Gibson. As much as I love Mel Gibson, Payback is a very shoddy movie compared to Boorman’s masterpiece, and Mel is just no Lee Marvin. If you haven’t seen it, don’t hesitate.
Blind Woman’s Curse (Ishii, 1970)
Meiko Kaji yakuza revenge movie. I don’t think it’s ever been readily available in the US before.
Sukiyaki Western Django (Miike, 2007)
Very fun mashup of the spaghetti western and samurai genres.
First Reformed (Schrader, 2018)
This has come up several times already on Strohltopia and yeah, I’ll say it again: this is the movie of the year.
Netflix has been better lately. It’s still fundamentally awful and curse them to hell for the bait-and-switch they pulled by killing the rental store and then removing nearly all classic cinema from their platform, but some of their recent proprietary movies have been awesome and they finally have a couple decent reality food shows. Prime is still vastly better but I have some solid Netlix recs this time.
The Five Venoms (Chang Cheh, 1978), Return to the 36th Chamber (Lau Kar-leung, 1980)
The problem with vintage Shaw Brothers on streaming is that it’s usually presented with dubbed English audio. One should never (I repeat, NEVER) watch a Shaw Bros martial arts movie dubbed. These movies are amazing and the English dubbing always completely destroys their tone and essentially makes a mockery of them. Netflix has done us a solid and presented these two titles (and a couple others that are a bit later) with the original audio and subtitles. You’ll need to go into the audio menu to switch it.
Christine (Carpenter, 1983)
John Carpenter’s classic Stephen King adaptation is essential viewing and holds up extremely well.
May the Devil Take You (Tjahjanto, 2018)
I’m an instant fan of Timo Tjahjanto. I loved the two horror anthology shorts I had seen, and his two new features on netflix (this and The Night Comes for Us) are both excellent. This is sort of like Hereditary but not boring and with more of a Raimi-esque style. Top tier for recent horror.
47 Meters Down (Roberts, 2017)
Extremely effective, unambitious shark horror. It delivers. I screamed an involuntary, high pitched scream at one point.
The Final Table
There are so many bad cooking shows on Netflix. Of course Bake off is amazing, but I can’t stand most of their proprietary content. Ugly, Delicious was good, but I’ve found most episodes of Chef’s Table that I’ve tried watching to be unbearably pretentious and the reality competitions to be shrill and uninteresting. This is the big exception: it’s at least on par with the very best reality cooking competitions. The cooking and most of the judging is at a very high level. There are some judges that are brought in more for humorous banter but every episode has a world class food critic and a world class chef. I enjoyed the way so many different world cuisines are represented, even if the downside is that they are represented rather superficially. But yeah, if you’ve been reading my commentary you’ll know that I’m generally very down on Netflix’s original content, so it was sort of a coup for me to enjoy one of their shows as much as I enjoyed this.
Slim pickins on Hulu, though The Duchess of Langeais, which I recommended last time, is still available.
Let the Sunshine In (Denis, 2018)
This is an odd duck of a movie. She made it to kill time while waiting to start a more expensive project, and she clearly wasn’t trying to make the greatest movie ever. It feels like she had a couple ideas and characters in mind and she took the opportunity to explore them in a free-form manner. The acting and direction are just exquisite, and although in one sense this is an unambitious movie, it’s also something very special and unique. I love it, and I think it’s easily one of the best movies of the year.
Lifeforce (Hooper, 1985)
Totally bonkers naked space vampire shit. A crown jewel of Hooper’s filmography. I believe this is also on Prime.
All is Lost (Chandor, 2013)
Very effective, well-crafted Robert Redford nautical thriller.
A Fistful of Dynamite (Leone, 1971)
One Sergio Leone’s less well-known works. James Coburn plays an IRA explosives expert who gets involved with the Mexican Revolution. It’s fantastic and something you should definitely see if you like his other movies.