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C What’s On: The Criterion Channel’s Programming for October 2019

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It’s the beginning of a new month, which means it’s time once again for C What’s On, our look at what the Criterion Channel has programmed for its subscribers. The October offerings are spooky, scary, and covered in blood. Well, some of them, at least. We have showcases for experimental filmmaker Shirley Clark, exploitation filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis, and influential documentarian Errol Morris. There is also The Devils, the king of monsters, and the man behind memorable RKO horror films.

October is seriously the best month of all. There is even a modern horror-adjacent hipster movie for all the vampire lovers (as in lovers who are vampires) out there.

The full October schedule for the Criterion Channel is below. My picks for the month are designated by a double asterisk (**), and I’ve included some commentary where warranted.

Tuesday, October 1**

Short + Feature: American Gothic

Möbius (Sam Kuhn, 2017) and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Featuring an introduction by Möbius director Sam Kuhn

Wednesday, October 2** 

Directed by Shirley Clarke

Feature films:

  • The Connection (1961)
  • Robert Frost: A Lover’s Quarrel with the World (1963)
  • Portrait of Jason (1967)
  • Ornette: Made in America (1985)

Shorts include:

  • Dance in the Sun (1953)
  • In Paris Parks (1954)
  • Bullfight (1955)
  • A Moment in Love (1956)
  • Brussels Film Loops/Gestures/World Kitchen (Shirley Clarke and D. A. Pennebaker, 1957)
  • Bridges-Go-Round 1 (1958)
  • Bridges-Go-Round 2 (1958)
  • Skyscraper (Shirley Clarke and Willard Van Dyke, 1960)
  • A Scary Time (Shirley Clarke and Robert Hughes, 1960)
  • Christopher and Me (Richard Leacock, 1960)
  • Butterfly (1967)
  • 24 Frames Per Second (1977)
  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Initiation (1978)
  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Trans (1978)
  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: One-Two-Three (1978)
  • Four Journeys into Mystic Time: Mysterium (1978)
  • Savage/Love (1981)
  • Tongues (1982)

Featuring Rome Is Burning, a 1970 profile of Clarke with appearances by Yoko Ono and Jacques Rivette

Commentary: Continuing the tradition of highlighting the work of women filmmakers, one of this month’s programs is a showcase of Shirley Clarke’s work. It’ll be great to immerse myself in her experimental and indie work, and get a feel for New York filmmaking in the middle of the 20th century.

Thursday, October 3

From the Archive: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)

Featuring a laserdisc commentary by film scholar Maurice Yacowar

Friday, October 4**

Double Feature: Bad Kitty!

Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942) and The Living Idol (Albert Lewin, 1957)

Commentary: Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People was the last film for The 300 last year, and holds a feral place in my heart for it. The Living Idol I’m totally unfamiliar with, but it sounds like a hoot. (From a Google search: “An archaeologist believes a Mexican woman is the reincarnation of an Aztec princess.”)

Saturday, October 5**

Saturday Matinee: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger and Carl Koch, 1926)

Commentary: This early animated feature film was done using paper dolls and silhouettes. This has been on my to-watch list for a while, which is weird since it is readily available online. Now that I have written about it and highlighted it, I feel like I have to finally give this a look.

Sunday, October 6**

Val Lewton Presents

  • Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)
  • I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
  • The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson, 1943)
  • The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson, 1943)
  • The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
  • The Curse of the Cat People (Gunther von Frisch and Robert Wise, 1944)
  • Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945)
  • The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise, 1945)
  • Bedlam (Mark Robson, 1946)

Featuring Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows, a 2007 documentary by Kent Jones

Commentary: While I know the name Val Lewton and have heard it mentioned many times talking about classic 40’s horror, I often think more of the directors of these films than Lewton himself. This selection of Lewton-produced pictures looks likes a joyous romp through RKO’s genre pictures, with a documentary to help contextualize the man and the works.

Monday, October 7**

Detour: Criterion Collection Edition #966 (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945)

Commentary: Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour is a pulpy B-picture shot fast and quick, and likely benefits for it. At one time lost to obscurity, it developed a cult following and has been regarded by some as one of the hidden gems of film noir.

Tuesday, October 8**

Short + Feature: Look What the Cat Dragged In

Call of Cuteness (Brenda Lien, 2017) and House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)

Commentary: House is a cult movie masterwork, carried out with the feverish madness of a child recounting a dream. Writer/director Nobuhiko Obayashi is still working today. His other films vary in quality and style, but he will always be loved and venerated for the unmatched uniqueness of his feature film debut. Man, 1977 was a great year for film.

Wednesday, October 9**

Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, 2007)

Featuring a program on the making of the film

Commentary: Marjane Satrapi translates the visual language of her graphic novels into wonderful, compelling motion. It’s such a heartfelt coming-of-age memoir. As much as I admire Ratatouille, I still prefer Persepolis and wish it won the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar that year. Pixar and Disney don’t need more clout.

Thursday, October 10

Three by Byron Haskin

  • I Walk Alone (1947)
  • The War of the Worlds (1953)
  • Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)

Friday, October 11**

Double Feature: The Deviant and the Divine

Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932) and Multiple Maniacs (John Waters, 1970)

Commentary: Tod Browning’s Freaks is a classic work of horror, though maybe its use of real circus and sideshow performers borders on exploitation (which reminds me that I should finally get around to Aaron Schimberg’s Chained for Life). Multiple Maniacs is one of the few John Waters movies I haven’t seen, so this freakshow double-feature is a keen way to rectify.

Saturday, October 12

Saturday Matinee: Animation Celebration

Commentary: I have no idea what will be included in this collection of animated shorts, but the Criterion Channel promises “stop-motion monkeys, mischievous chairs, a cosmic reverie, and more.” I’m secretly hoping for work by Jan Švankmajer, JiÅ™í Trnka, Nick Park, and maybe one of Hayao Miyazaki’s rarely seen shorts or music videos.

Sunday, October 13

Art-House America: The Loft Cinema, Tucson, AZ

Monday, October 14**

Judex: Criterion Collection Edition #710 (Georges Franju, 1963)

Commentary: Judex features such remarkably surreal, hallucinatory moments, but that’s to be expected from the director of The Eyes Without a Face. Above, you can watch American magician Channing Pollock doing what he does best: producing doves as if from thin air. What incredible magic, and what a strange, lovely moment in the film.

Tuesday, October 15

Short + Feature: Bizarre Love Triangles

Bad at Dancing (Joanna Arnow, 2015) and Jules and Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

With a new introduction by Bad at Dancing director Joanna Arnow

Wednesday, October 16**

La Ciénaga: Criterion Collection Edition #743 (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)

Commentary: Lucrecia Martel is one of the best filmmakers in the world. While her debut La Cienaga doesn’t have the same controlled long-take aesthetic of her later films, it’s still an interesting exploration of bourgeois ennui, bigotry, and provincialism.

Thursday, October 17

Following: Criterion Collection Edition #638 (Christopher Nolan, 1999)

Commentary: I haven’t seen Following or Memento in so long. It’ll be interesting to revisit Following, which I saw after Memento but remember liking well enough. It’s always remarkable to think of where an artists started, what they’ve become, and what formal elements and concerns may still be present from their earliest works.

Friday, October 18**

Double Feature: Bad Habits

Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947) and The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

Commentary: I want to shake the hand of whoever pairs these double features. If you’ve never seen The Devils, buckle the f**k up, pal. It is essential viewing for people who love horror and cult films. Once you see it, you’ll notice The Devils’ fingerprints on so many other genre movies in the last 40+ years.

Saturday, October 19

Saturday Matinee: The Blob (Irvin Yeaworth, 1958)

Commentary: Might be a hot take, but I think the 1988 remake of The Blob from director Chuck Russell is better than the 1958 original. Regardless, I still have a fondness for this film and its goofy song.

Sunday, October 20**

Directed by Errol Morris

  • Gates of Heaven (1978)
  • Vernon, Florida (1981)
  • The Thin Blue Line (1988)
  • A Brief History of Time (1991)
  • Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)
  • The Fog of War (2003)
  • Tabloid (2010)

Featuring a selection of archival interviews with Morris

Commentary: Errol Morris is one of America’s best documentarians, and you can partially thank Werner Herzog for his success. (Herzog promised to eat one of his own shoes if Morris completed his first feature film. Herzog did eat a shoe, and there’s even a Les Blank documentary about it on the Criterion Channel.) The selection of works above include numerous Morris classics. I think my favorite is still Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, which turns four separate interviews with experts in different fields into a hybrid conversation/monologue about manifestations of genius.

I should also bring up that Morris’ most recent film, American Dharma, finally secured distribution. The controversial documentary on the rise of Steve Bannon was my favorite horror movie of 2018. I say that unironically.

Monday, October 21**

The 39 Steps: Criterion Collection Edition #56 (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)

Tuesday, October 22**

Short + Feature: Far-Out Fantasies

Les escargots (René Laloux, 1965) and Fantastic Planet (René Laloux, 1973)

Commentary: The work of Rene Laloux is magnificent, and I still remember my first viewing of Fantastic Planet in the mid-1990s on a local PBS affiliate. The strangeness of the imagery is heightened by the paper doll-like movement by the characters. If you’ve not seen Fantastic Planet before, make a point to check it out.

Wednesday, October 23**

Frida (Julie Taymor, 2002)

Featuring a new interview with director Julie Taymor

Commentary: Has it really been 17 years since the release of Frida? I need to watch it again to see how it both conforms to and subverts biopic cliches. If anything, I remember loving Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina’s performances, and the way Julie Taymor incorporated Kahlo’s surreal tableaux into the on-screen imagery.

Thursday, October 24**

Three by Gillo Pontecorvo

  • Kapò (1959)
  • The Battle of Algiers (1966)
  • Burn! (1969)

Featuring Gillo Pontecorvo: The Dictatorship of Truth, a 1992 documentary narrated by literary critic Edward Said

Commentary: Somehow I have still not seen The Battle of Algiers. I should really do something about that, and also watch the other two films in this program.

Friday, October 25**

Double Feature: Critical Massey

The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) and Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)

Saturday, October 26**

Saturday Matinee: Godzilla (Ishiro Honda, 1954)

Commentary: I have a feeling that this Godzilla matinee coincides with the release of Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975: Criterion Collection Edition #1000. This box set includes 15 of the most beloved classic Godzilla movies, with box art by major comic book illustrators such as Arthur Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Becky Cloonan, and Geof Darrow.

Sunday, October 27**

Meet the Filmmakers: Herschell Gordon Lewis

  • Carving Magic (1959)
  • Blood Feast (1963)
  • Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
  • Color Me Blood Red (1965)
  • The Gruesome Twosome (1967)
  • The Wizard of Gore (1970)
  • The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
  • Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon, 2010)

Commentary: Influential gore hound H.G. Lewis on the Criterion Channel? The grandaddy of the goremeisters? Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

My first exposure to Lewis’ bloody oeuvre came late in high school while working at a video store. One of my co-workers was a horror obsessive who spoke in glowing terms about Lewis’ seminal works. With organs and cuts from the local butcher, Lewis shocked audiences with lurid dismemberments and disembowelments. The selection includes Lewis’ Blood Trilogy (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Color Me Blood Red) as well as The Gore Gore Girls, which merges Lewis’ horror movies with the titillation of his nudie cuties—it’s the peanut butter and chocolate of exploitation.

I should also note that the theme song to Two Thousand Maniacs! is a gloriously hokey ear worm about evil neo-confederates vowing revenge on them evil Yankees up north. Given contemporary politics, it’s maybe more chilling on a re-listen than I anticipated.

Monday, October 28

Observations of Film Art #32: Withholding and Revealing in An Angel at My Table

Tuesday, October 29**

Short + Feature: Baseball and Broomsticks

The Beaning (Sean McCoy, 2017) and Häxan (Benjamin Christensen, 1922)

With a new introduction by The Beaning director Sean McCoy

Commentary: The first time I saw Haxan was maybe 13 years ago when I first moved to New York. The Two Boots Pioneer Theater (RIP) used to do an all-night horror marathon on Halloween weekend. I’d only been in the city for two months and hadn’t made any friends, so I spent a couple hours that night in a darkened theater listening to William S. Burroughs give me a history lesson about witches. There are far worse ways to spend a spooky evening.

Wednesday, October 30**

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)

Commentary: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was a stunning debut from Ana Lily Amirpour. This indie vampire romance has shades of Jim Jarmusch and is awash in a languid, swaggering cool. I still recall some of its longer takes and how scenes unfold like watching shadows cross the wall. While I was disappointed by 2017’s The Bad Batch, I am hopeful that Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a return to form.

Thursday, October 31**

The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo del Toro, 2001)

Commentary: This is still my favorite del Toro film. It’s so small in scope and carefully controlled, merging his political and fantastical concerns. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, and October seems like a great month for a revisit. One afternoon I’d like to watch this and Pan’s Labyrinth back to back to see how they complement one another.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.