NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (George Romero)
The world needed this movie. To revitalize the horror genre, all it took was a low-budget black and white shocker shot in Pittsburgh with no-name actors and an unknown director. Everything worked. Its very limitations work in its favor. From the opening scene, the mood is set. Then the creepy factor just keeps on growing. Romero would up the ante (and of course, the budget) in his DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and quite effectively. But he would never duplicate that element of the unexpected that this one brought.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (Roman Polanski)
Paramount studio head Robert Evans stuck his neck out when he insisted that Roman Polanski was the man to direct Ira Levin’s novel. His instincts were good and so were Polanski’s when things were done his way. Pray for Rosemary’s baby.
TOBY DAMMIT (Federico Fellini)
As one part of a trilogy released as SPIRITS OF THE DEAD (the other segments being directed by Louis Malle and Roger Vadim), TOBY DAMMIT is a stand-alone fever dream. Fellini chronicles the last few hours of a jaded, burnt-out film star (Terence Stamp) in what was becoming his signature style. Fantasmagoric and dark with humor, Fellini teases us forward to an inevitable conclusion.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick)
It opened in New York first to a rather lukewarm reception. Audiences and critics couldn’t be sure just what hit them. Within a week, word of mouth had begun. Shot and projected in the nearly obsolete Cinerama, this was a head trip for the 60’s and beyond. I know that when I first saw it, I went back the very next week. I was 14 years old. Many decades later, I respect and admire it more than ever.
Ambitious yet personal, 2001 proved once and for all that it was possible for a big-budget, deep-idea, high-concept movie to be both a commercial and artistic success. 2001 is Kubrick’s film from the very first frame, although the concept embraces the work of Arthur C. Clarke and everyone else who contemplates the infinite. Technologically, the film is obviously dated (although not nearly as much as you’d think). Emotionally and cerebrally, it never will be.