THE movies featured in the American Cinematheque's "Overlooked and Underrated" festival don't pop up often on TV and are rarely screened. Few of them have been released on DVD. A few have just disappeared from view with time, others weren't well received upon initial release, and others were considered low-budget genre "B" films.
Chris D, programmer of the retrospective, which begins Thursday at the Egyptian Theatre and continues through Feb. 8, says none of the movies, which encompass numerous genres, decades and countries, deserve their obscurity. "There are generations born in the '60s, '70s, '80s and now the '90s, and they never heard of any of these movies."
One of his favorites is the 1974 film noir "The Nickel Ride," directed by Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") and starring Jason Miller, fresh from his success on "The Exorcist."
Though reviews were mixed for the "Nickel" during its brief theatrical release, it's a great neo noir, he says. "I'm not a huge fan of that director, Robert Mulligan. Some of his other movies are OK, but this is really, extremely good."
"Nickel" shares the bill with another strong '70s noir, "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle under the direction of Peter Yates. "It's been on cable, but not that easy to see. There is a lot of great dialogue in the movie."
Some of the films on the bill, such as Louis Malle's "Black Moon," have been out of circulation for decades. Malle's 1975 adult fairy tale stars Rex Harrison's then-teenage granddaughter Cathryn. Janus Films recently restored and resurrected the film.
"Overlooked and Underrated" also highlights directors whose work has been neglected of late. Frank Borzage, for example, "is a great, great director and now is totally forgotten," says Chris D, who is featuring two Borzage classic MGM films: 1938's "Three Comrades" and 1940's "The Mortal Storm."
"Three Comrades," based on the Erich Maria Remarque bestseller set in Germany after World War I, was adapted by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the film's producer Joseph Mankiewicz. Margaret Sullavan received her sole best actress Academy Award nomination for her performance as a beautiful but fragile woman who is loved by three friends (Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and Robert Young).
Sullavan also stars in 1940's "The Mortal Storm," one of the studio's most aggressively anti-Nazi productions. The film so raised the ire of the Germany government that the Nazis banned all MGM films.
Sullavan plays a German woman whose family is torn apart when her fiance (Young) and brothers join the Nazi Party. James Stewart also stars.
Another director highlighted in the retrospective is Budd Boetticher, whose B westerns made with Randolph Scott were commercially popular in the 1950s but barely caused a ripple with critics, who thought the movies were just fodder for drive-ins and double bills.
Over the decades, Boetticher's hard-nosed, gritty sagebrush sagas have grown in critical reputation, and several filmmakers, such as Clint Eastwood and Taylor Hackford, have discussed the late director's influence on their work.
The Cinematheque is showing three of Boetticher's best as a triple bill.
The 1959 "Ride Lonesome" is a revenge tragedy with Scott, Pernell Roberts and a young James Coburn; 1957's "The Tall T" stars Scott as a rancher kidnapped by a killer (Richard Boone); and 1960's "Comanche Station," the last collaboration between the director and the star, revolves around a man who gets more than he bargained for when he buys a kidnapped woman back from the Indians.
'Overlooked and Underrated'
Where: American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
When: Thursday through Feb. 8. All showings start at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: (323) 466-FILM or go to www.egyptiantheatre.com
Thursday: "Gone to Earth," "A Matter of Life and Death"
Friday: "The Friends of Eddie Coyle," "The Nickel Ride"
Saturday: "Black Moon," "Lacombe Lucien"
Jan. 7: "The Tall Target," "Devil's Doorway"
Jan. 11: "China Gate," "Play Dirty"
Jan. 14: "Our Man in Havana," "The Detective"
Jan. 17: "Our Mother's House," "The Beguiled"
Jan. 19: "Ride Lonesome," "The Tall T," "Comanche Station"
Jan. 20: "Mirage," "Return From the Ashes"
Jan. 21: "True Confessions," "Night of the Following Day"
Jan. 31: "Three Comrades," "The Mortal Storm"