Films are great, so why not watch two in a row? And if you’re going to watch two films, why not watch two that complement each other well?
Here are four more double feature recommendations.
After Hours (1985) / Wake in Fright (1971)
After Hours is one of Martin Scorsese’s more overlooked films. A wonderful black comedy, it follows an office worker (Griffin Dunne) through one long, crazy night in New York City’s SoHo district. There’s a school of thought that comedy comes from tension and release, but After Hours is extremely funny even as it never relieves the tension. Instead, it twists the tension into strange directions. It goes on so many diversions that you can hardly call them diversions, from suicide to sadomasichism to Cheech and Chong. The best way to sum it up is that it feels like a nightmare.
While After Hours is a distinctly urban nightmare, Wake in Fright is a rural one. It’s a nightmare in a small town in the Australian Outback. Like After Hours, its outsider protagonist seems to be pulled along by his environment and the strange characters who populate it. Gary Bond plays a teacher who intends to spend only a night in The Yabba, a mining town, before catching a flight to Sydney to spend the Christmas holidays with his girlfriend. But The Yabba is like a vortex from which he cannot escape, no matter how much it repulses him. It’s a deeply disturbing film, but a very funny one, too: like After Hours, its humour and horror are intertwined, derived from the same sources. For After Hours, that’s the strangeness of New York – “For New Yorkers,” Roger Ebert wrote, “parts of the film will no doubt play as a documentary” – and for Wake in Fright, it’s a small Australian town. The sources may be radically different, but the effect is surprisingly similar.
The General (1926) / Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Buster Keaton’s The General and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road feel intimately related even though they were made nearly a century apart. Keaton is remembered as a comedian, but The General is an action movie first and foremost: it consists almost entirely of one big chase sequence, inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase during the American Civil War. It’s heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat stuff, all the more so because of Keaton’s tendency to perform dangerous stunts for real. Cinema is a mongrel medium, cannibalising what it needs from theatre and literature and photography, but if there is such a thing as pure cinema, The General is it.
And if any film of our time approaches action filmmaking the same way, it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Like The General, it’s essentially one big chase. But where The General is set on a train during the Civil War, Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s less a sequel to the original Mad Max trilogy than a total reimagining. And it’s exhilarating: pure cinema in the way that The General is. Whereas so many modern blockbusters over-use CGI – not a stylistic choice, but by default – and produce dull sludge for action sequences, Fury Road reveres stunt work and practical effects. (“I don’t understand two things,” Steven Soderbergh said, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”) It’s a masterclass in cinematic craft, from editing to cinematography to production design.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) / 12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Angry Men is rightfully one of the most beloved films of all time, even among people to claim to have no interest in old black-and-white movies. Henry Fonda plays Juror #8, the only one on the jury to initially vote not guilty in the case of a young man accused of murdering his father. He spends the film winning the other jurors over to his side. It’s a great film about the nature of justice, actively calling on the viewer to critically evaluate their own perception. It was the first film that Sidney Lumet directed, but it feels like there’s an old master behind the camera: it’s set entirely in one room, but never feels “stagey”, just utterly cinematic.
A decade and a half earlier, Henry Fonda starred in The Ox-Bow Incident, exploring many of the same themes in a western setting. A group of men are accused of murder on the outskirts of a western town, and most of the film centres on a mob debating whether to hang them. Henry Fonda plays a drifter who gets caught up in it all, but his arguments for fairness, for getting the full picture before giving judgment, fall on much less fertile soil. The Ox-Bow Incident is a courtroom drama without a courtroom, without the veneer of any authority besides might is right. I can imagine it’s non-descript title and a general aversion to westerns might put people off watching it, but that’s a shame. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
Tom Jones (1963) / House (1977)
Tom Jones and House are a couple of wild rides: each is a mad, mad delight.
Tom Jones is possibly the most forgotten of all best picture winners. But even a basic description – it’s a British period film from 1963, based on Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel – will inevitably give you a false impression. It seems fated to be a stuffy comedy-in-name-only. But instead, it’s a riotous-good-time picture. I kept saying after I saw it, “They just really went for it!” and they did. Tom Jones is full of fourth wall breaks and unabashed silliness. It’s committed to giving you bang for your buck by being as much fun as it possibly can, so it throws absolutely everything at the wall. It regularly changes genre and style at the drop of a hat: it’s a silent movie, it’s a sex comedy, it’s Benny Hill, it’s Oscar Wilde. It is, for a moment, a horror film about the grim reality of fox hunting.
House, too, throws absolutely everything at the wall, and then throws some more. A Japanese horror film about teenage girls in a haunted house, it takes broadly the shape of a typical teen horror but tells it in the maddest way imaginable. It’s candy-coloured surrealism, merrily torching all the rules of filmmaking. It’s hyper-stylised in a dozen clashing ways. I’m not sure anything can prepare someone for watching House, but Tom Jones seems as good a bet as any: a gentler introduction to the wild, gleeful abandon that House takes to its natural endpoint.