From great fire set-pieces to subdued, societal burning, these picks link to this week’s podcast theme, in one arbitrary way or another. Here’s some info on them, and links to watch three of them for free right on ye old faithful YouTube.
Barton Fink, dir: Coen Brothers, 1991
A bit of a cheat but, if ever the opportunity arises, I always like to natter on about my second favourite Coen’s movie.
Barton Fink is a scathing satire on the prosaic nature of Hollywood’s cheap, mindless entertainment. John Turturro stars as revered playright writer Barton who locks himself away in a decrepit hotel room to begrudgingly finish his first movie screenplay. Not only wrestling writer’s block, he ignites an odd and fiery friendship with the beaming insurance salesman living in the hotel room next door, Charlie Meadows (John Goodman). Avoiding all plot spoilers, let’s just say it all ends in a blaze of glory.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, dir: David Lynch, 1992.
Lynch’s most opaque and garbled film to date, this is sort-of prequel to the cult classic TV melodrama soap. Unlike all of our other filmic picks, this 1993 flop features a rare David Bowie acting role, and doesn’t have a single fiery singe in sight. The ‘fire’ inscribed is far more thematic and subversive, looking at how people can move trepidatiously with danger on their side. ‘Psychological pyromania’, I’d call it. Then again, it’s a David Lynch film, so lord knows what he’s really trying to say…
The Awful Dr. Orlof, dir: Jesus Franco, 1962
Jesus Franco’s classic Spanish horror from 1962 borrows from Frenju’s superior chamber-horror Eyes Without a Face from two year’s previous, but it’s still a worthy mention here. The creepy prison Dr. Orlof (Howard Vernon) uses his prowess and intelligence to capture beautiful women and use their skin to repair his daughter’s burned face (a grizzly idea that was once again borrowed in Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In too).
While the film hasn’t aged all that well, it’s still a lot of fun, linking back to the classic Frankenstein paradigm of nature vs. nurture, and who is the real beast – man or man-made monster? Watch the film in it’s entirety up above.
Inglourious Basterds, dir: Quentin Tarantino, 2009
Similarly to the Coens, Tarantino knows how to go out in true torching style. This 2009 WW2 period comedy/drama/action/Tarantino film, is filled with many moments of cinematic mastery, but nonemoreso than the film’s penultimate fiery farewell. Perhaps the jittery, cult filmmaker’s most elaborate scene of all time, he manages not only to advantageously rewrite Third Reich history, but make it so bombastically entertaining, to boot.
Fahrenheit 451, dir: Francois Truffaut, 1966
Based on Ray Bradbury’s novel, Oskar Werner stars as Guy Montag, a disaffected firefighter who is forced by the government to burn any traces of books or the written word. Both figurative and flaming on-screen, this is the most fire-heavy film on our list. Amongst many things, new wave filmmaker Truffaut is questioning the idle, borderline idiotic generation who are left restricted and state censored in a not too distant dystopian realm. Watch it above.
The Towering Inferno, dir: John Guillerman, 1974
Before Die Hard, there was The Towering Inferno. An explosive action flick, under John Guillermin’s directorial wing, heartthrobs Paul Newman and Steve McQueen battle it out for the space in the flame light. It may be a long film, but it’s a thrilling, undisputed classic. Again, watch it all from right above these here words.
Robin Hood, dir: Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973
This much loved adaptation of the famous English folklore yarn really stands the test of time as one of the most striking Disney animation pictures of all time (and from one of Disney’s best artists Reitherman, who directed other classics like 101 Dalmations, The Jungle Book and the under-appreciated mixed media masterwork The Sword in the Stone).
The brilliant voice cast and soundtrack notwithstanding, Robin Hood ends in a sumptuous fiery foray.
That’s our favourite FIRE FILMS, but what are yours? Let us know which ones we missed out.