6. The Duellists (1977)
Another director we already mentioned in the intro of this article and another debut film. It also happens to be one of Ridley Scott’s most underrated films. “The Duellists” should be a source of admiration for every beginning filmmaker, since after directing hundreds of commercials, Scott took it upon himself to make his career shift to film happen. With a limited budget, a public domain story, and with “Barry Lyndon” as a sort of blueprint, Scott managed to make one of the best Napoleonic films.
We’re in France, 1801. When Lieutenant Feraud (Harvey Keitel) of the French army perceives a comment of Officer d’Hubert (Keith Carradine) as an insult, he forces d’Hubert into a duel. The duel turns into a life-long feud, spanning over a decade. With large conflicts of the war in the background the two have a number of duels spanning over years.
The story being told mostly from d’Hubert’s perspective, helps tremendously in getting immersed in this duel, since we as the viewer come to sympathize with d’Hubert and ask ourselves what has driven this Feraud character to this point of no return.
7. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
The only film from the past 10 years comes from the brilliant mind of Peter Strickland. This entry could have been replaced for his most recent feature, “In Fabric,” which was also praised by Wright, but for us, “Berberian Sound Studio” still takes the cake.
The story follows British sound engineer Gilderoy, excellently portrayed by Toby Jones, who goes to Italy to work on a film he only there discovers to be a giallo. Even though it’s not what he had in mind, he starts working on the film’s sound engineering. Things get worse as time passes and his co-workers seem to be increasingly rude to him and each other alike. With it, the horror sequences of the film gradually become more brutal and Gilderoy slowly gets detached from reality.
Needless to say, Strickland’s second feature is a masterclass in sound design, as it should be given the subject matter. Aside from the technical aspect alone being worth the watch, the nods to the giallo genres make it even better. It captures all that’s great about your favourite Bava or Argento film, so it’s no surprise Wright himself called Argento’s “Suspiria” and “Berberian Sound Studio” a perfect double feature.
8. Raw Meat (1972)
“Raw Meat,” also known for its slightly less cool title “Death Line,” is exactly what you’d expect from a ‘70s movie with that title: Filthy fun.
The film takes place 100 years after a tragic accident that trapped workers in an abandoned part of the London Underground. Here, they lived as cannibals and bred amongst themselves, until in present time one remains. This one, portrayed by Hugh Armstrong, finds his way back to the surface and starts abducting people. After the civil servant is the latest to disappear, Scotland Yard starts an investigation in the matter. Meanwhile, a young couple finds out about the underground horrors on their own.
It’s a shame that “Raw Meat” has stayed such an unknown little horror flick, since it has a lot of great things going for it, starting immediately with simple but beautiful opening credits. Aside from the gruesome but funny performance from Armstrong, Donald Pleasence steals the show as inspector Calhoun.
Edgar Wright praised the film on numerous occasions, as he is a fan of its American-born director Gary Sherman (“Dead & Buried”). Wright even has a video talking about just this movie for “Trailers from Hell”; a recommended watch if you need any more convincing to watch “Raw Meat.”
9. Jabberwocky (1977)
“Jabberwocky” could be considered another debut, as it’s Terry Gilliam’s first directed film without his Monty Python troupe. This if you don’t take into account that Michael Palin has the starring role.
Although it’s not a Monty Python production, the Pythonesque humor shines through every scene. Dennis Cooper (Sir Michael Palin) is a young Cooper, who travels to a medieval city with his eye on adventure after his father died. To impress Griselda, the woman he loves, he will take the quest of defending the town and the whole kingdom for that matter, from a terrible beast known as the Jabberwocky.
“Jabberwocky” is an impressive film that showcases a lot of the brilliant visual and comedic tropes that Gilliam would eventually be known for. It’s especially impressive considering the low budget the film was made with. The tale of Jabberwocky lends itself perfectly for that surrealism that Gilliam loves. For fans of the film, the short adaptation by the Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer is recommended as well.
10. Venom (1981)
Another film that Edgar Wright discussed on “Trailers from Hell,” especially praising director Piers Haggard (“The Blood on Satan’s Claw”) for working with this eccentric bunch of performers, maybe most notably Klaus Kinski, Sterling Hayden, and Oliver Reed. Wright also recommends watching the commentary of Haggard for more in-depth insights. Haggard’s experience replacing Tobe Hooper is best described by him saying that the Black Mamba snake was the nicest person on set.
In “Venom,” terrorists attempt to kidnap a child of wealthy parents in their own home. What they don’t know is that the boy’s pet snake was accidentally replaced with a deadly Black Mamba at the pet store and coincidentally, that deadly snake is now on the loose in the house. Now the terrorists, the child, and more hostages are trapped in the house, frightened for their lives, because the snake has made some victims already.
The film is, as suspected, more about the opposition between Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed, than the characters versus the snake. For the two alone, “Venom” is already a joy to watch, but it’s only a plus that the rest of the film is a ton of fun as well.