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In a purge of catalog titles so epic it caught the attention of the likes of Gothamist, et al, Netflix seemed to hollow out their library of “old movies.” Since the day before what was dubbed, variously, as “Streamageddon” and “Netflixocalypse,” I compiled a list of films, limited to directors of some renown, drawn from, approximately, the first century of cinema. I also made a list of essential/well-regarded auteurs not represented on Netflix, with annotations to let you know which of Netflix’s competitors (Hulu or Warner Archive Instant) offered at least one of his or her feature films.

Those two pages have been updated. If you want to save time, here’s a handful of Netflix titles that are either new (actually new or I simply didn’t notice them before), or they were purged on 5/1 and have been put back:

  • The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich, 1955) – Think of it as the poison-laced cookie of Sweet Smell of Success, without the cookie. Not so much an anomaly of feel-good ’50s dreamland, this extraordinarily bitter, terrified portrait of Hollywood’s indentured is quite at home with many of the pictures United Artist distributed during the same era: Day of the Outlaw, Attack! (also by Aldrich), and, yes, the Curtis-Lancaster masterpiece. Even if you have a hard time with Clifford Odets – as I often do – Aldrich’s granite and wrought-iron aesthetic is as beautiful as ever. A showcase for Jack Palance if ever there was one.
  • Highly Dangerous (Roy Ward Baker, 1950) – Starring Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes) as she battles the likes of the astonishingly decrepit Marius Goring (the tragi-romantic hero of The Red Shoes just two years earlier), Highly Dangerous was penned by versatile novelist-scriptwriter Eric Ambler (The Mask of DimitriosJourney Into FearThe Cruel Sea). High adventure with some gravity – somewhere between John le Carré and Launders/Gilliat.
  • The Killer is Loose (Budd Boetticher, 1956) – Sadly the only Boetticher presently offered on the site isn’t a western, but this thriller, starring noble cop Joseph Cotten in a battle of wits against killer-on-the-lam Wendell Corey, is more than worthwhile.
  • the films of Edward L. Cahn – this part of the purge concerns a nearly invisible director of skid-row westerns, thrillers, and sci-fi pictures, of such non-repute that even the most intrepid cinephiles are likely to give him a miss. Sadly his best movie, It! The Terror Beyond Space – a prototype for Alien and Prometheus – has not been restored to the site, but there’s a lot to choose from. Make a day of it, as my friend Robert Sweeney did.
  • Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
  • Monkey On My Back (André De Toth, 1957) – An addiction melodrama may seem like unlikely material for hard-ass De Toth, who specialized in violent noirs and westerns. (His final “legit” feature, Play Dirty, is one of the greatest, and meanest, films of the 1960s.) I’d like to tell you that De Toth’s two-fisted style is enough to overcome the ham-fisted mechanics of an overtired redemption melodrama, but I can’t. Nevertheless, if you’re on a mission to see everything by the Day of the Outlaw auteur, Monkey On My Back has plenty to offer.
  • Brewster’s Millions (Allan Dwan, 1945)
  • Gregory’s Girl (Bill Forsyth, 1981)
  • The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)
  • 99 River Street (Phil Karlson, 1953) – Starring the great John Payne, who made his debut in William Wyler’s Dodsworth before kicking off a career as a B-movie stalwart (Hidden FearKansas City Confidential), 99 River Street is often cited as one of Karlson’s best movies. Payne is an ex-boxer turned cab driver, framed for the murder of his wife, who’d fallen in with some bad people. You know, every film noir rolled up into one.
  • Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior (Akira Kurosawa, 1980)
  • The Passionate Friends (David Lean, 1949) – Skeptics of Lean’s mega-productions and multiple award winners tend to favor the smaller stuff, like Hobson’s ChoiceBrief Encounter, and this, an adaptation of a romance novel by H.G. Wells (!). Despite its relatively smaller scale, The Passionate Friends is meticulously, inventively filmed, with cinematography by Guy Green and sets by John Bryan.
  • Raw Deal (Anthony Mann, 1948) – Among the greatest film noirs, an ethereal, bittersweet masterpiece. A high-water mark for Mann, a filmmaker who etched many.
  • Allotment Wives (William Nigh, 1945) – It’s not necessary to try and elevate the likes of William Nigh to the lofty status of Joseph H. Lewis, Anthony Mann, or Andre de Toth; it’s enough to take one’s pleasures where they’re found, and in the dusty, skid-row production conditions in which Nigh spent his career (he was one of the main guys assigned to the Mr. Wong series with Karloff), he managed to inject a little verve now and then. After the avant-garde touches that occasionally galvanized a bore like Mystery Liner (close-ups of a noose, the dimming and brightening of a ship’s lightbulbs as two men fight to the death), Allotment Wives is a favorite of mine. A wartime noir with a confusing but understandably then-relevant plot with crooks defrauding the veterans’ affairs department, Wives stars former Lubitsch gal Kay Francis as the criminal kingpin (queenpin?) facing off against do-gooder G-man Paul Kelly. With terrific performances by Francis and creepily avuncular Otto Kruger.
  • The Brass Legend (Gerd Oswald, 1956) – German émigré Oswald, who cut his teeth in features before transitioning to a long run in television, is best-known today for his 1960 masterpiece, Brainwashed, a hallucinatory German thriller starring Curd Jürgens at his flop-sweatiest, the original version of A Kiss Before Dying, and a handful of the very best episodes of The Outer Limits. The Brass Legend, which appeared during Oswald’s teeth-cutting phase, is a slightly sappy, slightly moralizing, generally slight oater wherein the issue of whether the arrest of a cruel outlaw (Raymond Burr) is “justified” enough by the court of public opinion… let’s just say it’s High Noon without the piano-wire-tight premise. In spite of the film’s occasional bouts with lumpenness, The Brass Legend is often impressively made, to include a saloon showdown I liked so much I re-ran it twice, a big chase finale, and Burr’s gleeful sadist, who treats the whole thing like a big game.
  • The Canterbury Tales (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
  • Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (Nicolas Roeg, 1980)  – Roeg’s strongest period began with his debut, Performance, which he co-directed with Donald Cammell, and ended roughly halfway through Insignificance, an ambitious failure. The high point, arguably, is Bad Timing, a moving, repulsive, and transfixing study of sexual obsession. Great lead performances by Art Garfunkel and Theresa Russell – a sentence that would seem to defy so, so many laws of a civilized society.
  • In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo, 2012)
  • First a Girl (Victor Saville, 1935) – It should be quite enough to say that it’s a pre-make of Blake Edwards’ Victor/Victoria (well, technically it’s itself a remake of the 1933 Viktor/Viktoria), made effortlessly charming by its very game, very British, cast. Short, tart, fun, and funny.
  • Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)
  • the films of Edgar G. Ulmer: The Amazing Transparent Man, Beyond the Time Barrierand The Man from Planet X – although best-known for Detour (which is also streaming), Ulmer’s science-fiction movies are (a) sub-shoestring in terms of budgets, and (b) often amazing, with spry camerawork that lend the cardboard sets dense atmosphere of bitterness and desperation.  No one triumphed on the cheap like Ulmer – no one.

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