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The Manliest Movie Collection in History

February 18, 2013

On a recent trip back home, I spent one evening going over my parents’ movie collection, which is to say, all the films that shaped my childhood. Of course, when you’re young, your parents’ taste in movies is your taste, that, and whatever gamble you make on those Fridays after school — around five or so — at the video store 20 minutes from home. At least, that’s how it was in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Then, when you get older and become an ungrateful little nose-bleeder, you smirk at your parents’ taste.

But on this little excursion, I started to realize that my parents had amazing taste in movies. Not only that, but, after cataloging the collection, I further realized that they have what is, hands-down, the most manly collection of movies in, well, history. Every movie is steeped in tough guys and earnestness, and uncovering this treasure is right up there with discovering say The Lost Dutchman’s Mine or Flying Ducthman’s Treasure Hold or some treasure not Ducth-related.

And that’s not owning to the fact that much of it is on Betamax, although that’s a major bonus; not only do most of the tapes still work, but Beta cover art is stellar. So, this is part to brag about my Mom and Dad’s excellent taste, part to reminisce about the flicks that molded my childhood, part to keep a list of the grittiest flicks out there.

Not really a movie, but what a great cover!

There’s a great appreciation for the BBC in our household — particularly Robert Hardy in All Creatures Great and Small — and we’re all still dumbfounded as to how anyone in the village could possibly find Helen attractive. But again, Hardy more than makes up for it. Granville Bennett and Ronald Lacey as Stewie Brannon are also standouts. The others you may not be able to see are the Granada Sherlock Holmes, the miniseries Mosley, more All Creatures, the complete Lord Peter Wimsey, and some scattered Poirot.

Horse-racing, westerns, cons, gun-slinging, kidnapping, martial arts, pirates, the mentally-ill, werewolves, pulp-comic heroes, WWII — and that’s only a portion of one shelf.

This is a real beauty: with the old Warner Brothers’ logo in the top left, the classification sticker in the top right, the oversized plastic box, and, I think, art exclusive to the packaging. Also one of the best ’50s SciFi horror movies ever made — if the line “Well, Old Man Johnson could’ve died in any one of five ways: His neck and back were broken, his chest was crushed, his skull was fractured… and here’s one for Sherlock Holmes – there was enough formic acid in him to kill twenty men” doesn’t get you interested, you have no love of film.

I don’t know why they went for a screen capture instead of the poster art, but if I were to see this image on a DVD, even without seeing the cast list, I would buy it. Cesar Romero and a gold gatling gun?

Why release the movie? Just release the cover!

Betamax cover art looks so good, it makes you feel like less of a man for not having every release. It’s rare today for the poster art to match the DVD or BLU-Ray cover.

Another great throwback from the ’80s is every home thatre company and their brothers releasing any and all films they could. Hollywood Home Theatre being one of the eeriest in terms of cover art — is there an apocalypse going on in the background?

Dad’s favorite movie — Claude Rains his favorite character, and the line “I’m shocked, schocked…” his favorite as well. The DVD box art may have a better image, but I really like the palms here.

I think we have three copies of Scaramouche, one on Beta, one on VHS, and this one on DVD. Dad grew up watching Stewart Granger movies, which he says were constantly playing Saturdays in Cleveland. He also fondly recalls Ghoulardi.

The Seven-Ups is Mom’s favorite movie, and her favorite line being “Watch me!” — it’s a sort-of sequel to The French Connection starring Roy Scheider as a sort-of adaptation ofthe character Buddy. The title comes from Scheider’s group of plainclothes cops — The Seven-Ups — as the crooks they nab end up serving terms of seven years and up. I don’t have the cover art here, but it’s fantastic — Roy Scheider shoving a snub-nosed revolver up some hooligan’s nose. And every time we’re in a car wash, Mom and I hum the music from a similar scene in the movie.

This must have been one of Gramps’ tapings; he didn’t often do such great calligraphy on each tape, but it looks great here. Self-made labels are a lost art with the dominance of discs, but this is one gem from a bygone age.

I’m pretty sure one of the dogs ripped this. Or Blackbeard was trying to escape.

Betamax also may be the player that featured the best cover art in video library history.

The only thing I remember about Brannigan is John Wayne kicking down a door. But here he’s stopped on a bridge, right where they’re apparently doing construction.

If you’re going to watch it, the only true experience is Betamax.

Dad’s favorite quote: “Let me just have a little feel.”

No collection is complete without the vast array of WWII “Bridge” movies.

Easily the best musical in the collection. And you gotta love the rental sticker in the upper right.

Favorite line, often quoted: “Goody Two-Shoes is going to marry The Filthy Beast!”

The Fotomat logo on Death Wish is larger than the actual title of the movie. Classic. And though we watch Babes in Toyland every Christmas, I think Mom and Dad have seen The Devil’s Brother the most of any Laurel and Hardy movie. Stan and Ollie (or Stanlio and Ollio) become bandits, Ollio is almost hanged, used as a human bridge, and gets miffed at Stanlio’s ability to play Earsie, Kneesy, Nosie.

Darren McGavin was a lot like Claude Rains — they were both tremendous talents who could have done high drama, but instead they stuck to genre flicks, elevating B movies into classics. And McGavin’s performance in The Nightstalker is no exception. Dad also does a fine reenactment of the scene where McGavin researches vampires.

Dad bought Austin Powers for Mom, because she kept hearing the Quincy Jones song on the radio in reference to its use in Austin Powers. The three of us sat down to watch it, and all of us were quiet until the bathroom scene with Tom Arnold. Both Dad and I were trying to stifle our laughter, as we weren’t sure how Mom would take us laughing at such, ahem, tasteless humor. And then Mom broke out laughing. It took about ten minutes for us to cool down and resume the flick.

This may be the most eclectic grouping of films in the collection. And these are the ones in the exercise part of the basement — working out to The Blue Angel is an intense experience — reading while not trying to fall down on the treadmill.

I haven’t seen The Bruce in about 15 years, but I do remember the opening scene, which has a group of Scotsmen wandering in the desert, about to fight a band of nomads. They throw a heart encased in wood into the dunes then charge into certain death. But you really don’t need to know anything other than it stars Oliver Reed (one of Mom’s favorites) and Brian Blessed.

Dad’s favorite line from Commando is, of course, “I lied.” From Independence Day it’s “Do you think this guy has any idea what’s about to happen to him?” And you can never have too many copies of Rocky. Dad’s also a big fan of anything Zulu-related, which goes in hand with being a military history buff.

Red Sun has a stellar cast, though I don’t think Toshiro Mifune actually kills a guy on a cliff as pictured on the box. Though Ursula Andress does undress. And I’ve never seen The Package, but Hackman looks more like a mix between Joe Don Baker and Brian Dennehy on the cover art.

Mom and Dad have many more James Bonds on VHS, two of the favorites being From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Young Frankenstein is another Mel Brooks favorite, and we compare it to Woody Allen’s Sleeper in that it’s more structured then Blazing Saddles/Bananas. For the record, Dad prefers Blazing Saddles and Sleeper. Of the four Steven Seagal films, the one I hear Dad quote the most is Marked for Death, and the line is “I hope he wasn’t triplets.”

Rounding out the photo, there’s Witness, which, in addition to being a fantastic thriller, also features one of Dad’s absolute favorite songs — Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” in possibly the best dance scene of the ’80s. And that’s The Wizard of Oz to the far right — Bert Lahr was a favorite comedian of Dad’s mother, and whenever Bert Lahr’s mentioned, Dad tells the story of his mother attending a vaudeville show where Lahr was performing. The skit featured Lahr doing a series of gags with a pool table. Midway through the bit, Ed Wynn sneaked under the table without Lahr noticing and started doing his own gags. The audience ate it up, and poor Lahr was wondering why the laughs weren’t coming at the right time. Suspecting something was up, he looked under the table to discover Wynn stealing his show. So Lahr took his pool cue, thwacked Wynn on the head with it, and knocked him out cold. He then went back to his bit as if nothing happened.

Dad has a great admiration for Akira Kurosawa, and I found this on sale at Best Buy for $80 back in 2003 or so, figuring it’d make a good birthday gift. Their copies of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo were Beta, and fading, so it seemed smart to replace them, plus, Criterion tends to have great extras. The other two films in the set are The Hidden Fortress and Sanjuro, the sequel to Yojimbo. Dad watched all of them, and his favorite ended up being Sanjuro,¬† — particularly the reluctance of the samurai to kill for money and the massive amount of blood erupting from the villain’s heart in the end.

Another copy of True Grit, but the standout is a young Sam Elliott in The Sacketts. Another oddity is Sunset with James Garner and Bruce Willis.

Full list on Letterboxd:

Not Pictured:
The Betsy
Big Jake
Cannery Row
Cat Ballou
Citizen Kane
Coogan’s Bluff
The Empire Strikes Back
The French Connection
From Russia with Love
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Guns of Navarone
Hard Times
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Jurassic Park
L.A. Confidential
Lonesome Dove
Lost Horizon
The Maltese Falcon
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Play Misty for Me
The Producers
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Return of the Jedi
Revenge of the Nerds
The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!
Star Wars
The Twelve Chairs
Zulu Dawn



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