20 Great ‘Double Features’ That Are Worth Your Time (Part I)
A double feature can be defined as two different films with similar theme, style, substance and/or ideas. It can consist of two twin movies from one director like Stalker & Solaris, El Topo & The Holy Mountain or Onibaba & Kuroneko, where the same theme’s are executed with the same style – fleshing out one intriguing subject.
They can be two films from the same genre like those of Chaplin & Keaton or maybe Coffy & Shaft. They can even be unofficial remakes of a film like A History of Violence & Wu Xia or Yojimbo & A Fistful of Dollars, setting the same story and plot in a vastly different surrounding, making a wonderfully interesting endurance test on said story, posing the question: how many genre’s can it go through without feeling boringly uninspired?
You can even expand on your viewing pleasure and go for broke with a tripple feature like Avatar, Pocahontas & Dancing with Wolves. Or how about Little Big Man, Forrest Gump & The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Even four titles: The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, The Big Lebowski & Inherent Vice.
Please note that this is only the first part of the list, we will publish the second part this weekend.
1. The Quiet Family & The Happiness of the Katakuris.
The Quiet Family
Jee-woon Kim, one of South Korea’s finest filmmakers, brings us a highly original, deeply unsettling and insanely funny film, featuring the two finest South Korean actors, namely: Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) and Kang-ho Song (Memories of Murder). This was before Je-kyu Kang’s mega-hit Shiri, one year later, turned South Korea into one of the worlds leading film countries.
The premise is simple: Family opens up a mountain inn, costumers show up, costumers die’s (tough luck). The family must now, not to bring a bad name to their business, bury/hide the bodies of their ill-fated customers.
A great debute for Kim who went on to make great films like: A Bittersweet Life, A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw the Devil”.
The Happiness of the Katakuris
This is it, right here, one of the coolest pieces of film trivia one could ever hope to find. Takashi Miike made a musical remake out of The Quiet Family – Awesome.
“The hills are alive with the sound of screaming”.
So we have what is basically a musical of The Quiet Family. Add in some out-of-this-world bizarre stop-motion scenes followed by dancing zombies. Insane doesn’t begin to describe the film but from a filmmaker such as Miike – director of Ichi the Killer, Gozu and Visitor Q – who’d expect anything else?
What They Have in Common
The first one is dark, funny, bizarre and original. The second one is darker, funnier, more bizarre and even more of an original. It’s a Miike Musical for Christ’s sake! The both of them highlight the beauty of east-asian cinema. The comedy, the weirdness, the inventiveness and (maybe most importantly) the originality.
2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show & Phantom of the Paradise.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Upon hearing the phrase “cult film” one tends to find titles like Bad Boy Bubby, Ichi the Killer or perhaps Eraserhead, however, what is without a doubt the motherload of all that is cult lands on one special feature, namely Jim Sharman’s gothic B-movie schlock homage musical (or as Roger Ebert would call it, “a horror-rock-transvestite-camp-omnisexual-musical parody”): The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Brad (Barry Bostwick as the hero) and Janet (Susan Sarandon as the heroin) search for shelter one rainy night and end up in the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry as the transvestite scientist), a transvestite from the planet Transexual in the galaxy Transylvanian.
We are here treated with some wonderful songs, jokes and ideas, monsters being created, some successful and some not so much. It is all fun and energetic and energetically funny and well worth repeated viewings.
Phantom of the Paradise
Another appropriate title would be The Phantom of the Rock Opera.
Winslow Leach (William Finley) is a composer who gets his life ruined by one evil little record producer called Swan (Paul Williams, who also wrote the songs for this film and for the Muppet Movies). Leach’s face is disfigured, the love of his life has been kidnapped and he starts to haunt Swan’s rock palace called the paradise.
The songs are terrific, the costumes are memorable, the performances are great and the end result is classic.
What They Have in Common
These are two wonderful tribute musicals to the horror films of old. They are campy, over the top and inventive, Phantom is the better structured one for sure, but the argument could easily be made that you don’t come to this kinds of movies for their structure, but rather for their ideas.
3. Reservoir Dogs & City on Fire.
In 1992, a cinematic genius bursts out on to the scene with what is now widely thought of as one of the top 10 greatest debut films of all time.
It’s a heist film where you never get to see the heist. Six criminals, all with their very own code-name (something they argued about in one of the funnier scenes), they go on duty and they mess up. Now they are on the run with everyone suspecting each other for snitching.
The film has a non-linear narrative that is told through chapters. Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney and finally Edward Bunker are all part of what makes this film so unbelievably cool.
Filled with brilliant dialogue, a great deal of violence and with a master storyteller at the helm – Reservoir Dogs doesn’t disappoint.
When asked to give an advice for young filmmakers Tarantino gave a flawless answer: “Make Reservoir Dogs… I’m not even being a smartass, that was a fucking kickass movie, alright”.
City on Fire
A Hong Kong version of Reservoir Dogs. Or rather, Reservoir Dogs is a Tarantino version of City on Fire.
Chow Yun-Fat plays the lead, with Ringo Lam directing, resulting in a terrific film. A cop (Chow) goes undercover. They go on a heist, it doesn’t work out (putting it mildly) and the framework for Tarantino’s first film has been laid out.
City on Fire stands as a prime example that Hong Kong Action is an underrated genre, worthy of our utmost respect.
What They Have in Common
Being the cinematic kleptomaniac that he is, Tarantino “steals from every single movie ever made”. The story is so clearly taken from City on Fire, even a lot of the scenes are nearly identical. But does this matter? The answer is no, if the film has enough creativity, originality and imagination, it survives being labeled a piece of plagiarism.
To summerize the double: They are both Interesting, impressive, entertaining and dramatic, one double feature you don’t wanna miss.
4. The Thief of Bagdad & Aladdin
The Thief of Bagdad
A movie about special effects. The grandest spectacle of its time. The Avatar of 1940.
Prince Ahmad loses his ability to see and gets imprisoned by the treacherous Grand Vizier Jaffar. His adventure begins as he escapes the prison with his new found friend, The thief Abu (played by the great Sabu). The story also features a beautiful princess.
The film is structured in a way that takes us from one special effect scene to another. There is a giant genie in a bottle, a flying carpet, a flying mechanical horse, a giant spider and more.
The acting is campy but that only adds to the charm, the images are in wonderful Technicolor and every parent who let their child grow up without this fantastic fantasy adventure should feel thoroughly ashamed.
One of Disney’s best in their greatest streak of great films: The Little Mermaid, The Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.
Aladdin, the thief with his friend abu, the thieving monkey, gets tossed in jail by the the really evil, evil character Jafar -the Sultan’s right hand. Jafar tricks Aladdin to find him a magical lamp in a magical cave. In the cave Aladdin meets a flying carpet and ofcourse the late great Robin Williams as the every so memorable Genie. This story does also feature a beautiful princess.
This should be the film to award a voice acting Oscar, Robin Williams is quite simply brilliant (with improvising a crazy amount of dialogue, 16 hours of material according to IMDB).
Great animations, wonderful musical scenes, terrific characters (causing controversy due to some ethnical stereotyping) – this is one Disney experience you do not want to miss.
What They Have in Common
It is pretty clear that Aladdin stole quite a bit from The Thief of Bagdad, with the character Jafar, Abu (they didn’t even bother to change the names), the beautiful princess, the flying carpet, the genie in the lamp and so on. So a majority of the plot elements are unoriginal ones, but since the film puts its very own spin on the material, giving it own ground to walk on, it passes the test of filmmaking integrity.
5. Evil Dead & Re-Animator
“The most ferociously original horror movie I have ever seen.” – Stephen King.
With a budget of only 350 000 dollars and (as Leading actor Bruce Campbell puts it) “a nearly twelve weeks of mirthless exercise in agony”, Sam Raimi crafted a low-budget horror masterpiece in 1981.
The plot line is one of the simpler ones. We follow five friends who aim to spend their vacation in a deserted cabin. However, after reading aloud from a piece of cursed literature (The book of the dead), they unleash evil forces capable of possessing human bodies.
Innovative filming techniques along with fantastically original and energetic pieces of cinematography are at the center of Evil Dead’s winning formula. Originally it was meant as a pure horror film yet it resulted in an impossibly pinpoint perfect balance act between horror and comedy. Evil Dead rains supreme in this area and it is followed by what is arguably the greatest horror sequel since The Bride of Frankenstein. The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.
Stuart Gordon gives camp a new name with what is essentially a re-imagining of James Whale’s 1931 classic: Frankenstein (another great double feature).
Jeffrey Combs gives an amazing over the top performance as the mad scientist Herbert West. As you can imagine, he becomes obsessed with bringing life to the dead and as you probably imagined further, the results of said experiments turned out to be less than satisfactory to say the least.
This is low grade satire at its very finest, without an ounce of self-importance or pretensions of any kind. This is entertainment for the masses and for the hardcore film buffs, with everyone in between being simply unworthy. Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator re-invigorates our respect for great cinema trash, without apologizing and without asking permission. It’s terrific.
What They Have in Common
These are two of the finest, if not the finest, examples of 80’s gore cinema. Both being laugh out loud funny and at the same time, or followed by, being strangely/bizarrely frightening. Genuinely funny, genuinely scary, low budget over the top delicious 80’s treats for the gore hounds, made perfect by ingenious special effects including some awesome stop-motion.
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