makes one a Chewer? It isn’t just reading CHUD.com regularly, although
that’s a great start. It definitely isn’t being an expert at
mastication. Being a Chewer requires a certain sensibility that’s
outside of the mainstream. Sure, a Chewer can hold his or her own in a Star Wars
OT vs PT argument with a standard movie geek, and sure, a Chewer can go
with the rest of the film snobs to an Ozu revival, but a Chewer also
gets really, really excited about the DVD release of The Manitou.
the next few weeks we’re going to be bringing you The CHUD.com
Essential Films Collection – the films that would be in our dream
Chewer DVD Box Set. These are 50 movies that we think every Chewer
should see and love. This is by no means the definitive list of movies
that make one a Chewer, but it’s a good start. It’s also in no order –
the first films that we list are just as essential as the last ones.
And it’s a list that will leave off the obvious as much as possible –
you don’t need us to tell you to see Lawrence of Arabia or Seven
fire up your Netflix or your Amazon accounts – every day we’ll be
bringing you two movies that are worth seeing, and probably worth
owning as well. Chew on, Chewers.
Nighthawks (Buy it from CHUD!)
Why it’s Essential:Well, first of all, I’d put Deke DaSilva up against Lincoln Hawk, Kit Latura, Cosmo Carboni, and Extra/Man Dancing in Club in the Grand Pantheon of Stallone Character Names (G.P.S.C.), and it’s a very dense and competetive crowd.
Second of all, Billy Dee Williams gets a knife to the face in this flick, revealing that Lando’s not a system but rather a man. I don’t know why, but I really like seeing Sir William of the Williams take on extra battle damage. Call me a sicko if you must.
Thirdly, Nighthawks was one of the earlier films in my life that allowed me to enjoy a somewhat classy and adult-themed movie on its merits alone, though seen through a portal of unnatural Stallone love I still somewhat harbor. That it was a Stallone film is why myself and a lot of other 70’s babies saw it, but because it’s quite good was why I still defend it today. It’s a solid film made even better by the good work of Sly, Rutger, and the once and future Police Woman.
Why it’s Essential: How perfect is it that what will probably be the oldest film on this incarnation of the Essentials list is about giant nuclear ants? For my money, Them! is the best in the “giant monster formed by nuclear fallout” genre that was so popular in the 50s – and that includes Godzilla, or Gojira, or whatever your otaku self wants to call it. Them! is just better, for a couple of reasons, but I think the main one is that it manages to make a bunch of giant ants creepy and menacing. I mean, anyone can make a huge, fire breathing dinosaur a threat, but big ants?
Horror movies are often the best representation of their time period because, consciously or not, they reflect what people are thinking about and afraid of right at that moment. Today we see a lot of movies with torture while we’re hearing about the government using torture and while we’re seeing bloody footage coming back from the Middle East nightly. Back in 1954 it was fear of the Bomb that drove people – but Them! is a twofer, as ants are the communists of the insect kingdom. And Them! is refreshing if you’ve seen a zillion of these films, since the usual set-up has a handsome and manly scientist (oh, the 50s) coming up with a wacky solution to kill the rampaging monster. Here it’s the US Army and flamethrowers, and while there are scientists afoot, our heroes also include a cop and an FBI man (The Thing‘s James Arness, natch).
When I was a kid I would run around imitating that sound the ants make in Them!, and I know that it was this film and King Kong that created my lifelong love of seeing people getting eaten by huge monsters. Looking at it as an adult I’m amazed at how good it actually is – this isn’t a quickie B-movie, even though it’s been treated as such for decades. The threat is taken seriously, as are the characters. Not all of our heroes make it out of this one alive. And the ants are held back, creating honest to God suspense. Director Gordon Douglas, who began his career as an actor with Hal Roach, would go on to make other potentially Essentials-worthy movies like The Detective with Frank Sinatra and James Coburn’s In Like Flint.