If you consider yourself a film buff, these five hidden gems need to be added to your must-watch list!
These are just a selection of a rather wonderful collection of Hollywood Classics from studios such as MGM, Paramount and Universal, which are available on DVD for the first time in the UK, thanks to Simply Media.
We’re delighted to help you delve into these forgotten gems with this fantastic offer – 3 for £18 or 5 for £25.
Below are five of my personal favourites from Simply Media’s MGM and Hollywood Classics collection, including Oscar-winners starring Hollywood legends and future stars in their early roles.
Melvin and Howard (1980)
What is special about this film? – It won two Oscars for Best Writing (Screenplay) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mary Steenburgen). The film also holds a rare 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and an even rarer seal of approval from film critic Roger Ebert who called the film “wonderful” and gave it 3.5/4 stars. Rolling Stone magazine listed it amongst the 20 Most Essential Jonathan Demme Movies.
Who Are the Key Players? – Silence of the Lambs’ director Jonathan Demme and Bo Goldman, screenplay writer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Starring Jason Robards, Paul Le Mat and Mary Steenburgen.
What’s it about? – A witty and uplifting comedy based on a true story. Things couldn’t go more wrong for poor down-on-his-luck Melvin Drummar (Le Mat). He’s lost his job, had his truck repossessed, and his wife has just left him. But his fortunes change when he gives a lift to a stranger stranded in the desert, who turns out to be none other than billionaire Howard Hughes! Touched by his generosity and the conversations they share on the journey, Hughes ends up making Drummar a beneficiary to his vast fortune, and Drummar’s life is changed considerably.
What the critics say – “A beautifully observed, beautifully performed offbeat comedy” – Time Out
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1967)
What is special about this film? – A critically acclaimed film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical comedy of the same name, which still regularly tours in the UK. Staged by one of the most famous musical-film directors Bob Fosse, who brought us the multi-Oscar-winning Cabaret (1972) and Chicago (2002)
Who Are the Key Players? – King of musical-film direction Bob Fosse, and adapted for screen by David Swift (The Parent Trap (1961)). Mad Men’s Robert Morse stars, recreating his Tony-winning stage performance in the play version.
What’s it about? – An upbeat comedy musical. The film follows the exploits of an ambitious young window cleaner J. Pierpont Finch as he attempts to rise up in the business world by following the advice of a book called How to Succeed in Business. However, some of the advice proves to be morally questionable, leading to Finch becoming Vice-President, but only by ensuring everyone else is fired or transferred as he moves up the corporate ladder!
What the critics say – “We'll wait long for a better musical film than "How to Succeed." – New York Times
Bad Sister (1931)
What is special about this film? – It was Bette Davies first ever on-screen performance! This film was chosen to be preserved in US Library of Congress Collection, an accolade reserved for films of historical importance.
Who Are the Key Players? – A whole host of Hollywood screen icons. Humphrey Bogart, Conrad Nagel, Zasu Pitts, Slim Summerville, and the first on-screen performances by Bette Davies and Sidney Fox.
What’s it about? – An engaged naïve young woman Marianne Madison (Fox), bored with routine life, falls for the dashing con artist Valentine Corliss (Bogart). Lying about her wealth and Father’s status to gain Corliss’ attention, Marianne ends up becoming a pawn in Corliss’ schemes. But after their wedding night, Corliss abandons Marianne, who tries to go home and beg forgiveness from her jilted fiancé (Nagel), but he has now turned his attention to the younger sister (Davies).
What the critics say – “Miss Fox makes a charming Marianne…while the reliable Zasu Pitts and Slim Summerville perform well in minor roles”. – New York Times
They Might be Giants (1971)
What is special about this film? – An intelligent and completely original spin on the popular story of Sherlock Holmes that we are all so familiar with and love. If you enjoy BBC’s Sherlock, you must give this a try! George C. Scott was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor for his performance.
Who Are the Key Players? – Filled with Academy Award-winning talent. It was directed by Oscar-nominee Anthony Harvey and written by Oscar-winner James Goldman, who both collaborated on the highly acclaimed The Lion in Winter. Starring Oscar-winners George C. Scott (Dr. Strangelove) and Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve) in the two lead roles.
What’s it about? – Former Judge Justin has retreated into a fantasy caused by the death of his wife where he is completely convinced he is Sherlock Holmes. Complete with his deerstalker hat, pipe and violin, he spends his days investigating in his homemade laboratory, paranoid about any plots being hatched by Holmes’ archenemy Moriarty. When his brother admits him to a Manhattan psychiatric hospital, he is treated by a female doctor named Watson. She becomes so fascinated with Justin’s delusions, she ends up succumbing to his fantasy as well, and the duo begin an enigmatic quest for Moriarty.
What the critics say – “Scott and Woodward battle the script valiantly” – Variety
A Child Is Waiting (1963)
What is special about this film? – A fascinating and controversial drama studying social taboos which holds a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Who Are the Key Players? – Features fantastic acting talent including Burt Lancaster, Gena Rowlands and one of the last performances from Judy Garland.
Written by Kojak writer Abby Mann, directed by John Cassavetes and produced by Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’s Stanley Kramer.
What’s it about? – Set in a state institution for emotionally disturbed and mentally handicapped children, demanding Psychologist Dr. Matthew Clark (Lancaster) takes a chance hiring former concert Pianist Jean Hansen (Garland) as the school’s music teacher, despite her lack of experience in teaching. Both clash and disagree over how best to deal with a particularly difficult student with Autism, Reuben Widdicombe. Clark sees Reuben as a type of child impossible to deal with, while Hansen shows him sympathy and believes he needs special attention, giving his parents are divorced and refuse to visit him, but Clark does not want Hansen to get too involved with him.
What the critics say – “One should learn a great deal from this picture -- all of which should be helpful and give hope.” – New York Times.
By Hannah Page