29. Riviére du Hibou, La (An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge) (1962)
This short film has about as near-perfect camera work as any film I’ve ever viewed. Well-timed close-ups and long shots, dolly-shots, French angles, and other camera trickery are all employed within the mere 28 it takes to tell this story.
But…this is more than just a study in how to use a camera; it also tells a captivating story. From the moment we see the first troops approaching the bridge, we are scarcely given a moment to breathe. The story is gut-wrenching, edge-of-your-seat Hitchcockian fare that made me gasp more than once, all leading up to an amazing denouement. I used to exclude this film from my list of all-time bests due to it not being a feature-lenght film. But I think that was a bit of an arbitrary exclusion, so I have placed it here, amongst all the ‘big’ films.
Why not rank it higher? There’s this really corny part where we hear wat the lead character is thinking (“I’m free! I’m free!”) and then a really losuy song begins playing. It makes me cringe. In a film that’s not even a half-hour long, that three minutes really wrecks things.
28. Dial ‘M’ for Murder (1954)
Here’s another Hitchcock faithfully adapted from a play. And you can tell, too – almost the entire movie takes place in a single room in a single house. Still, in true Hitchcock fashion, the camera is used to the fullest extent, taking an active role in the story. The excitement of what is, initially, a perfect crime and how it goes awry kept me engaged throughout. This was the first of three films Grace Kelly starred in for Hitchcock, and she plays the best role in this one. Her defense against her attacker is original and unexpected (I fully expected her to be killed the first time I saw this film, even though I knew she was the main character).
Why not rank it higher? The film was shot with the belief that it would be distributed in 3-D. It wasn’t, and as a consequence, it suffers somewhat seeing it in basic 2-D. Also, Ray Milland, the lead actor in the film? He’s a bit stodgy.
27. The Ten Commandments (1956)
This mega-mother-of-all-epics holds my attention like no other 4-hour movie I’ve seen. The narration ties it all together until the climax of the penning of the commandments. The special-effects are awesome & the basic theme of a people being rescued from a horrible life are spectacularly displayed. There are so many characters and so much going on over so many years, it’s amazing they were able to keep it down to four hours. Also, great acting from Yul Brenner, Cedric Hardwicke and Anne Baxter.
Why not rank it higher? Some of the dialogue is (unintentionally) laughable. And Charleton Heston appears to have gone to the William Shatner school of acting. It’s also odd that, during the last three hours of this film, which take place over the course of 80 years, Moses is the only one who ages.