Aldrich. Aldrich’s eleven (11) archiveable films is right there with Zinnemann and Leroy for the most left for a director not yet on this list. Even Aldrich’s greatest admirers would admit his work is somewhat uneven- but Kiss Me Deadly is a big film—a triumph of style and important to film noir and maybe even better directed than it is good (where something like Double Indemnity may be the opposite). Aldrich’s weakness is having just that one film that lands in the top 100 (Kiss Me Deadly, again) of its respective decade. It’s hard to explain—but even the bad Aldrich films are fascinating.
Best film: Kiss Me Deadly. I don’t think there’s any real debate here. The Dirty Dozen and Baby Jane are great—very rewatchable, good actors and good narratives—but Kiss Me Deadly is easy Aldirch’s most visually ambitious film. I’m not the first one to say it– and I won’t be the last– but stick around for that ending…. wow.
total archiveable films: 11
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Kiss Me Deadly)
most overrated: I don’t really have one. Kiss Me Deadly falls just outside of my top 500 and it is #324 on the TSPDT consensus all-time top 1000—but a 150-200 slots isn’t crazy overrated. It is the only film that lands on the top 1000 for TSPDT. They have Baby Jane, Vera Cruz and Ulzana’s Raid between 1001-2000.
most underrated : The Dirty Dozen. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t think it’s a masterpiece, but TSPDT doesn’t have it in the top 2000. I can’t believe that- had to check it twice.
gem I want to spotlight : The Big Knife. It’s hot off the making of Kiss Me Deadly so Aldrich isn’t yet disillusioned, without budget or resources- he’s swinging for the fences here and features an able Jack Palance and Rod Steiger doing the same.
- A genre master—westerns, war films, noirs- even the string of soapy melodramas—he pushed them to their limits.
- I think Hawks and Sam Fuller made sense as comparisons- Aldrich’s films are often about masculinity, the obscure and grotesque— there’s also a of Robert Altman here (he predates Altman) or Godard—corrupt systems, peopled playing a rigged game, unjust worlds
- There’s an edge to his films when he worked within the system like Hawks did (Vera Cruz, Dirty Dozen) that I love—and often he did go independent and rogue (Baby Jane, Hush Hush) and off the rails like Fuller
- His camera and lighting structure (especially in Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife) is oblique, non-conformist, reflecting the treacherous and corrupt world
- Kiss Me Deadly
- The Dirty Dozen
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
- Vera Cruz
- The Big Knife
- Ulzana’s Raid
- Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
- Autumn Leaves
- The Flight of the Phoenix
- Twilight’s Last Gleaming
By year and grades
|1954- Vera Cruz||R|
|1955- Kiss Me Deadly||HR/MS|
|1955- The Big Knife||R|
|1956- Autumn Leaves||R|
|1962- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?||R|
|1964- Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte||R|
|1965- The Flight of the Phoenix||R|
|1967- The Dirty Dozen||R|
|1972- Ulzana’s Raid|
|1977- Twilight’s Last Gleaming||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives