Top films of the year, 1955: crimes and times edition

Night of the HunterNow it’s time to set the film clock back another decade, all the way to… 1955.

Yes, I’m still playing this movie ranking game with Jesse Walker (his 1955 list) and LAGuy (his list).  In 1955 my birth was 12 years in the future, so these films are all historical documents to me.  Which is appropriate, since so many are concerned with history.

  1. Night of the Hunter. One of my favorite movies, a terrifying satire of small town America via a true crime plot at Gothic intensity.  In a way it’s Frankenstein’s monster versus little children and one awesome grandmother.  Dizzying, gorgeous, mythical.
  2. Diabolique. A very clever revenge story, with mystery teasing the supernatural.
  3. Night and Fog. The most powerful Holocaust film ever made. Still.
  4. Rififi.  A splendid crime story.
  5. Bad Day at Black Rock.  Very strange social justice western, with unusual secrets.
  6. The Ladykillers. Inspired British dark comedy about a criminal enterprise that goes awry.
  7. Richard III.  Laurence Olivier powers this (as director and lead actor) with terrifying energy.
  8. To Catch a Thief. Hitchcock being lighthearted.
  9. Killer’s Kiss.  Very early Kubrick, and it still looks amazing.
  10. Rebel Without a Cause.  I actually haven’t seen this for years, and have a dim memory of it.

Honorable mentions:

  • Lady and the Tramp.  Fine Disney animation.
  • The Quatermass Xperiment revved up a uniquely British science fiction franchise.
  • This Island Earth: loved the heck out of this as a kid, screening it on tv.  Heartbroken to see it again, years later, as a MST:3K target.

Horrendous movies: Bride of the Monster, a/k/a Bride of the Atom.

Movies I really want to see: East of Eden (need to finish the novel first); Kiss Me Deadly; Mr. Arkadin; Smiles of a Summer Night; The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz; A Generation; Pather Panchali; Lola Montes; Ordet.

Bonus shot from the best movie of 1955:

Night of the Hunter with LOVE

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2 Responses to Top films of the year, 1955: crimes and times edition

  1. Steven Kaye says:

    I didn’t get the sense of small-town satire from Night of the Hunter? Mr. Arkadin is incredibly self-indulgent, but has its moments.

    • Remember that Night of the Hunter appears during the 1950s, a period of intense social programming: getting women back in the house, growing consumerism, etc. It’s a period of social reconstruction after WWII, where the white picket fenced house is a goal to aspire to.
      In that context Laughton’s film casts shadows all over the place. Think of the prologue, possibly unrelated to the plot, which has an idyllic small town, happy people, kids playing… and a dead body in the basement. Classic Gothic move, and aimed at undermining the contemporary achievement.

      Or look at how the villain’s plot succeeds. He targets children, and *everybody helps him*. All the grownups, all the authorities, even the kids’ mother join in. What a terrifying indictment of American values, that we would so quickly and uniformly bend to the bill of a psychopath. How many years after WWII was this, hm? Pair it with the Twilight Zone classic, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”.

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