Sandy’s 2018 Film Year in Review

Anyone who knows me well could tell you that I don’t see a lot of new films. As a matter of fact, of the 80 films that I saw in 2018 (a paltry total for me … maybe I’ve been reading too much?), only eight were new, and 72 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and 5 Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2018 was eligible for either list. If the film made me laugh, or think, or tear up, or sit suspensefully on the edge of my seat, or amazed me with something that I had not seen before, it had a good shot at being considered. On the other hand, for me, boredom is the worst thing that any film can be guilty of; I don’t care if a film is cheaply made, but please do not torture me with tedium. Anyway, with no further ado, my Top 10 Best and 5 Worst Lists of 2018. The films are listed in the order that I saw them…

TOP 10 BEST:

It Rains On Our Love

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1) Crisis (1946) — The first of three Ingmar Bergman films to make my Top 10 List for 2018, all culled from Film Forum’s remarkable Bergman Centennial fest last winter. In this picture, Bergman’s very first as a director, a young girl from a small town leaves her adopted mother, opting to go to the big city with her recently returned birth mother, leading to tragedy. A surprisingly mature film for the tyro director, already evincing hints of greatness.

2) A Lesson in Love (1954) — The second Bergman film to make this list is subtitled “A Comedy for Grownups,” and OMG, is it ever laugh-out-loud funny! Here, a philandering gynecologist (Bergman regular Gunnar Bjornstrand) tries to win back into the good graces of his wife (a very zesty Eva Dahlbeck) while at the same time trying to communicate with his daughter (the great Harriet Andersson). A sparkling script and three terrific performances really put this one over.

3) It Rains on Our Love (1946) — The third Bergman film to make this list. In this one, a young couple (an ex-con played by Birger Malmsten and a pregnant waif played by Barbro Kollberg) tries to live a peaceful existence, literally shacked up in a seemingly abandoned summer villa, but pressures from a pesky society keep raising their ugly heads. A beautiful little film, and still another early Bergman winner.

4) The Great Silence (1968) — A spaghetti Western directed by Sergio Corbucci, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as the eponymous mute, Silence, and the perpetually wacky Klaus Kinski as the appropriately named Loco … as soft-spoken and sadistic a bounty hunter as has ever been depicted on screen. Boasting sexy support by Vonetta McGee, spectacularly snowbound winter scenery (filmed in the Italian Dolomites), and a stunningly downbeat conclusion, this really is some great Western, indeed.

5) Arizona (1940) — The only Jean Arthur film from her classic period (1935 – ’53) that I had not previously seen, this one gives us Jean starring as Phoebe Titus, a pie seller in 1861 Tucson who dreams of starting her own freight company. And that she does, with the assistance of young and handsome William Holden and the interference of the great Warren William. Some big action scenes and a surprisingly well-lensed and suspenseful final gun duel, finely directed by Wesley Ruggles, only add to the fun. Jean, in a reprise of sorts of her Calamity Jane role in 1936’s The Plainsman, is absolutely wonderful throughout.

6) When You Read This Letter (1953) — More known for his later hard-boiled crime films (such as Bob le Flambeur, Two Men in Manhattan, Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge, etc.), Jean-Pierre Melville here delivered an emotional drama of no small impact. In this one, an immoral cad seduces a young woman and causes her to attempt suicide, leading to stern retribution from her sister (a terrific performance by chanteuse Juliette Greco). Featuring some of the most beautiful B&W nighttime photography that I’ve ever seen, as well as any number of breathtaking plot twists, the film manages to impress all the way through.

7) The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969) — One of the few classic giallo films that I’d never seen before, and every bit as good as I’d been led to believe. In this one, the great Dario Argento, in HIS directing debut, tells a story about an American writer (Tony Musante) in Rome, who witnesses an attempted murder and makes the mistake of investigating it. Loaded with any number of impressive set pieces and fine support by actress Suzy Kendall, this giallo really is a stunner.

8) Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) — Mexican director Juan Lopez Moctezuma had previously impressed me with his films Alucarda and The Mansion of Madness, and this one, part of the Quad’s excellent Lesbian Vampires fest this past fall, makes him a solid 3 for 3 with me. Here, a beautiful American artist (Cristina Ferrare), actually a bloodsucking neck nosher, carries on her depredations through the Mexican countryside. With John Carradine as her old man!

9) Torso (1974) — Another classic giallo that I’d never seen before, directed by another giallo genius, Sergio Martino, and starring Suzy Kendall once again. Here, Suzy and some of her pretty college friends retreat to a mountain villa near Perugia to escape the serial killer who’s been butchering their classmates. Some memorable sequences culminate in a final half hour that must be seen and experienced to be believed, in this truly flabbergasting shocker.

10) The Suspicious Death of a Minor (1975) — Another giallo from Sergio Martino, but this one is a hybrid of sorts, combining the policier and comedic elements into the standard giallo framework. Here, a man with mysterious motivations (played in fine style by Claudio Cassinelli) investigates the murder of a young prostitute and uncovers a web of high-powered crime, drugs and corruption. Some astounding action sequences (including one of the longest car chase sequences ever filmed, and a shoot-out on a speeding roller coaster) highlight this surprising winner.

And now, from the sublime to the ridiculous:

TOP 5 WORST:

1) The Swarm (1978) — Irwin Allen’s film has a reputation as being one of the worst movies ever made, and while I hardly found it to be all THAT bad, this picture — ludicrously detailing an attack of killer bees in the desert Southwest — surely isn’t all that good either. A huge all-star cast can’t save it, plot holes abound, Stirling Silliphant’s script really is kind of silly (very shocking, in view of all the wonderfully literate scripts he’d previously written for the TV show Route 66), and yet … that scene with Henry Fonda giving himself a 6X lethal dose of bee venom, followed by a potential antidote, really is kind of suspenseful…

2) The Snow Devils (1967) — An Italian sci-fi film directed by the man who made so many of these, Antonio Margheriti. Here, the great Giacomo Rossi-Stuart discovers that aliens from the planet Aytia, based in the Himalayas, are changing the Earth’s climate to suit their own purposes, leading to an all-out space battle around the Jovian moon Callisto. Some incredibly lame “special FX” unfortunately sink this otherwise enjoyable slice of Italian cheese.

3) The Laughing Woman (1969) — An exceedingly bizarre Italian thriller from director Piero Schivazappa, but unfortunately, only partially successful. Here, a beautiful reporter (giallo legend Dagmar Lassander) is kidnapped by the woman-hating and sadistic Dr. Sayer (Philippe Leroy) and put through a series of degrading trials at his country estate. A neat twist ending (one that all feminists should just love) comes a bit too late to save this very odd 108 minutes at the movies.

4) Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1968) — I do adore Paul Naschy, the so-called “Boris Karloff of Spain,” but this film, which Naschy scripted but did not direct (Enrique Lopez Eguiluz helmed instead), just didn’t do it for me. Here, Naschy stars for the first time as Waldemar Daninsky, a werewolf hunter who gets bitten and is transformed into a werewolf himself. And the vampire brother-and-sister team who he enlists to cure him, unfortunately, only succeeds in making matters worse! A fun film, as far as it goes, that should have been better, and not abetted by the lousy-looking 3-D print that the Quad unreeled that day. One major plus: Waldemar’s girlfriend, played by Congo-born Belgian actress Dianik Zurakowska, is absolutely gorgeous! And oh, BTW, Frankenstein never makes an appearance in this film at all!

5) Myra Breckinridge (1970) — Another film that has a rep as being one of the all-time worst, that I kinda sorta enjoyed, even though it surely IS, objectively speaking, a true stinker. Here, Myron Breckinridge (played by film critic Rex Reed) undergoes a sex change operation and morphs into the gorgeous Myra (Raquel Welch), who hightails it to her uncle’s acting school to teach a lesson to all men. Mike Sarne’s film is very much a product of its time that has not aged at all well, and features many comedic bits that lead nowhere; the film is surely a bomb, albeit a fascinating one. One saving grace, however: the sight of Mae West, age 77 here, performing “Hard to Handle” … a showstopper if ever there was one!

Wishing you all many wonderful moments at the movies in 2019!


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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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4 comments

  1. thanks for some movies to check out. And for your enjoyable, broadening, insightful work on films throughout the year!

    • Sandy Ferber /

      And thank YOU for the kind words, Bill. For me, it’s a labor of love….

  2. Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1968) is really a bullshit movie

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