Stuff It! Fill Your Movie Collector’s Christmas Stocking 2


If you missed out on the first series of recommendations I made to fill your movie collector’s Christmas stocking, go here to see what I thought you should consider picking up if your favorite film fan already happens to own Citizen Kane, The Godfather, King Kong, High Noon, and the original Star Wars trilogy.

Now, it’s time to finish our stroll through the aisles, because time grows preciously short for you to wrap up your holiday shopping for the movie collector on your list. To reiterate my disclaimer, because it sure seems necessary: I have exactly no idea what your beloved movie fan really likes. There is certainly a way to embark upon this process “safely,” and that’s by cruising over to the Movies Unlimited site and entering any of the following classic titles into our search box and then perusing the “maybe you’ll like these, too”-type recommendations that pop up below.

As I indicated last time out, I’m a risk-taker when it comes to adding to my home video library. I enjoy getting films I love and have seen time and time again, but I’m just as likely to take a chance on something I’ve never seen or bears little resemblance to anything I’ve seen before; I embrace that attitude when it comes to my collection, and I love it when I feel like I can be just as bold when picking out films to share with others. What you’ll see here is a mix of the obvious, and the definitely-not-as-obvious, when it comes to gift ideas.

Now, let’s get busy and complete our quest to fill your movie collector’s Christmas stocking!

They own CASABLANCA…so you get them:


Ingrid Bergman in Sweden; Casablanca: The Complete Series; The Painted Veil (2006)

If your movie collector loves Casablanca, it’s a good bet they love Ingrid Bergman. And if they love Bergman, it’s also a good bet they might own the classic romance Intermezzo; but, more likely than not, they probably own the second version of the story made. I much, much prefer the Swedish version (as I have discussed both here and here), which you get in this collection of Bergman’s early work in her homeland, before David O. Selznick realized she was born to be a Hollywood star—this Intermezzo being the film that resulted in her “discovery” by the legendary producer.

OK, if you’re a fussbudget purist of some kind, you might be mortified that I’d suggest picking up the short-lived 1983 “prequel” television series that dared to allow David Soul to try and fill Bogart’s shoes. That’s on you. It was a flop, yes, but what Casablanca completist can truly call themselves whole without having this on the shelves? (Maybe I’ll retract this when I finally sit down to watch it again, but I am dying to revisit it, and anybody who puts it in my stocking will be looked upon with gratitude!)

Lastly—and this is our first “out-of-the-box” selection this time out—I’d recommend the third filmed version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Painted Veil for the movie collector who treasures the Bogie-Bergman romance. Casablanca involves an exotic locale, a romantic triangle, and self-sacrifice; we have all those things represented in this drama set in the 1920s, starring the terrific Edward Norton as a doctor who blackmails wife Naomi Watts into accompanying him to a cholera-plagued village in China after he catches her in an infidelity. And as memorable as Max Steiner’s music is in the 1942 classic, The Painted Veil boasts a mesmeric score by one of our finest contemporary composers, Alexandre Desplat.

They own SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN…so you get them:


Inherit the Wind; All That Jazz; Venus in Fur

Inherit the Wind more than proved Gene Kelly wasn’t just a song-and-dance man. Playing a cynical reporter covering the (somewhat fictionalized) Scopes Monkey Trial, Kelly shows real dramatic chops.

Singin’ in the Rain probably features what I’d call the most heroic dancing I’ve ever seen in the movies; Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical film All That Jazz showcases a completely different (and, I’d think, just as demanding) kind of dance that captured the popular imagination just as potently in its time. No, Roy Scheider doesn’t really dance; but boy, did they cover that up brilliantly in this film—and the late actor referred to this role as his personal favorite.

Kelly and co-director Stanley Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain is also not just a terrific musical, but also a great example of behind-the-scenes storytelling, and gives us some real insight about both the ego and manipulative posturing sometimes evident in the actor’s craft. That’s where I bring Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur into this picture. Based on the two-person stage play by David Ives, this daring little art-house opus will no doubt shake out to be one of my favorite films from this year; Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner give tour-de-force performances in a sensual and somewhat scandalous “battle of the sexes” that is also a rewarding study of the seductive power of acting and directing for the stage (or the screen, for that matter).

They own DIRTY HARRY…so you get them:


Zodiac; White Hunter, Black Heart; The Strange Case of Angelica

You’ve seen the fiction, now have a look at the facts. Well, maybe not 100% of the facts—because, in the case of the Zodiac killer, it very well looks as if we may never know the ultimate truth—but it’s certainly a far more realistic take on the true crime story that inspired the Clint Eastwood cop classic. Director David Fincher’s richly detailed, studious, and relentlessly tension-filled Zodiac is the perfect complement to the Don Siegel film. Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays Robert Graysmith, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist whose book is the basis for the film) is getting a lot of praise for his work in this year’s Nightcrawler, but Zodiac is hands-down my favorite Gyllenhaal performance.

Clint fans who own the Harry Callahan films might, just might, have overlooked his terrific movie White Hunter, Black Heart—a moody, humorous, and emotionally powerful film about director John Huston hunting elephants while making The African Queen. The names have been changed, as they say, but Eastwood’s impersonation of Huston is weirdly spot-on; his approach takes a little getting used to, but ultimately it’s a work that transcends any simple mimicry of Huston’s very distinctive persona.

The Strange Case of Angelica is a pick you’d really have to explain to your movie collector once they unwrap this gift. One thing Eastwood fans admire is how prolific the actor-director has remained well into his eighth decade. Angelica, a humorous romantic fable about a man who is oddly enchanted by something he thinks he sees when he photographs a deceased young woman, was directed by Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira…who was 102 years old at the time of its release in 2010. His most recent film, a short, was released in 2014. Yes: He’s still at it. Those facts are, plainly speaking, extraordinary.

They own THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY…so you get them:


The Man Who Laughs; Zorro (1975); Batman: The Complete Television Series

To be clear about this first recommendation—any young(er) viewer who prizes his/her collection of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films might wind up feeling less than enamored with the gift of the silent melodrama The Man Who Laughs, even if you tell them that Conrad Veidt’s freakish appearance as English nobleman Gwynplaine was the inspiration for the creation of The Joker. This selection would be a fine one, however, for your more bookish movie lovers, who could easily slide this into place next to their copies of the haunted house creeper The Bat Whispers and Douglas Fairbanks’ lively silent The Mark of Zorro, both of which are connected to the origins of Gotham City’s Masked Manhunter.

While we’re speaking of Zorro—the Fairbanks film might be connected more directly to Bob Kane and the comics, and Tyrone Power’s 1940 remake may indeed be the finest Zorro film ever made (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), but it is the 1975 film with Alain Delon that I offer here as a backup pick for the movie collector who enjoys Batman…because they’ll be humming this film’s super-cheesy title song as easily as they can recall the Neil Hefti tune from the Batman television series.

Which brings us to perhaps the most obvious (and probably one of the most in-demand) Christmas picks of the year: The at-long-last release of the wildly popular 1966-68 TV program starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The decision to pick this up for your movie collector might ZAP! your wallet a bit, but there are very few Bat-fans who would not reward you with a WOW! HUG! SMOOCH! should you be the one responsible for fattening up their video library with the BOFFO! release of this beloved comic-book classic.

They own IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE…so you get them:


Wings of Desire; Taste of Cherry; Santa Claus (1959)

Yes, I’ve saved the weirdest, wildest picks for last…because, why not?

It’s a Wonderful life takes, let’s say, a certain “approach” to the idea of angels existing in the real world. Wim Wenders’ hauntingly beautiful movie Wings of Desire takes, let’s say, an entirely other approach. Last year around this time, I was inspired to detail my own thoughts about the film in this space, and I will leave it to you to check those out before deciding if your movie collector could and would be enriched by the poetry of this very special picture.

It’s a Wonderful Life also goes pretty “dark,” with James Stewart’s character in despair and contemplating jumping off a bridge to end his life. Suicide is an awfully tricky element to bring into your movie, whether you are making an uplifting holiday classic or making one of the most talked-about films of 2014. More often than not, the topic comes off as shallow, maudlin, or just exploitative; the Iranian film Taste of Cherry is a rare exception. Director Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist drama–I’ll be reductive about it for a moment and just call it “a guy riding around in a truck for 95 minutes,” because that’s how a lot of viewers might think of it–takes on this intimate and terrible subject matter with an unsettling grace. Kiarostami’s works are definitely an acquired taste—but if you are truly open-minded about embracing a love of unique stylists and challenging stories, this movie can be, in more ways than one, a real gift.

It’s a Wonderful Life is “the” Christmas classic, is it not? Well, that’s about to change! OK, that was not serious at all—because there’s no danger that my final pick is about to dislodge the beloved Capra film on that score. No, I’m recommending the 1959 Mexican oddity Santa Claus because if you were to offer this film as a gift to your children, or grandchildren, or to other relatives, friends, coworkers, or acquaintances, I am certain of one thing: They will not forget it.

How’s that for an endorsement? I’m not saying they’ll like it; I’m not saying they’ll dislike it. I’m not saying they’ll be eternally grateful, and I’m not ruling out the possibility they might never speak to you again. I’m only saying once seen, Santa Claus cannot be forgotten.

Plot: Santa Claus teams up with Merlin the Magician to battle the Devil.

If that sentence alone doesn’t sell you, well…people always need new pairs of socks.

Happy Holidays!