Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend.
A Trip to the Moon (1902): Here it is, that iconic silent film you’ve seen images from. It’s only 13 minutes long, but cinema pioneer George Méliès packs in a lot of action in that time. Astronomers agree to fire a hollow projectile out of a large cannon (how else would you get to the moon?) filled with their colleagues. Crashing into the moon’s face doesn’t seem to harm any of the passengers, who soon fall afoul of some hostile moon people. It’s silly but gorgeous, and impossible to resist.
Now streaming on The Criterion Channel.
Harper (1966): Here’s the movie that launched the legendary screenwriting career of William Goldman. It’s a smart and sexy riff on The Big Sleep. It even has a sly callback to that movie in Lauren Bacall, this time playing the wheelchair-bound client that hires the detective. Paul Newman, at the height of his movie-star cool, stars as the titular detective. The stellar cast includes Shelley Winters as a flirty drunk, Arthur Hill as a lovesick lawyer, Janet Leigh as the exasperated ex-wife, Robert Wagner as a louche pilot, Julie Harris as a mysterious musician and Pamela Tiffin as Bacall’s extremely annoying stepdaughter. Followed nine years later with a sequel, The Drowning Pool.
Now rentable on Amazon Video.
He Walked By Night (1948): This is an interesting film noir for several reasons. First, it stars the underrated Richard Basehart, who always shines in these types of movies. He plays a cop killer who’s being pursued by some methodical cops (Scott Brady and James Cardwell). The police procedural work in the movie is fascinating and was influential on later crime films. Also, Jack Webb, who plays a forensics specialist, spent a lot of time with the police adviser on the film, and soon created the highly successful radio (and later television) show Dragnet. Finally, the movie has a climax which is reminiscent of the one in The Third Man, and came out a year earlier than that much more famous movie.
Now streaming on Kanopy.
Crip Camp (2020): Ever see a documentary and just get kind of mad because you felt this was a story you should have already known about? That happened to me watching Crip Camp, the Oscar-nominated film about a key civil rights struggle carried on by a strong and determined group of people. The story begins at Camp Jened, a crumbling camp in upstate New York for the disabled. It turns out that the empowerment fostered in the camp helps inspire a group of young activists in their later lives. They were up against a lot — providing equal access to people with disabilities was a new and expensive idea. But people like Judith Heumann and her fellow revolutionaries were not to be trifled with, and it’s inspiring to watch them eventually force the halls of government to listen.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Trivia Question #898: Paul Newman plays the title role in Harper, based on a series of novels by Ross Macdonald. What was the detective’s name in the novels?
Answer to Trivia Question #896: John Ford won four Oscars for directing, more than any other person: The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941) and The Quiet Man (1952).
Ray Ivey is a writer and movie fan in Hollywood, Calif. He would love to hear from you at email@example.com.