It was very sad news that Sidney Lumet passed away on 09/04/11. He has always been a favorite of mine and I feel that sometimes his films weren't viewed in the same light as some of his contemporaries. He definitely had an Anglophile persuasion often using british casts and scripts and he often made quite theatrical films (some were based on plays) preferring films set in one location and small casts. What follows is my personal top five faves:
1: The Offence (1972)
What a film. If you think you are a fan of Sean Connery then you have to watch this film. It simply blows away any performance he's ever given. Its a brutal, raw film and deals with a violent police Detective (Connery) who has had a life surrounded with Murder, Rape and and violence. He works on a
child molestation case and starts to slowly unravel. It ends with a fantastic scene with the suspect played brilliantly by Ian Bannen which gets tenser by the minute and explodes in bloody violence. This film has some fantastic camera work including amazing super slow 3-D and has a great script from Jon Hopkins which he adapted from his play. It has the feel of a play especially the ending in the interrogation room.
Warning the opening credits give away the ending of the film.
2: Network (1976)
"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Best movie speech of all time? Peter Finch is superb as Howard Beale a news anchor going mad and being exploited by the TV studio he works for. Great script and great cast, Will Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty. There comes a time in every young mans life when he has to try and learn the "Mad as hell speech".
3: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
John Cazale, what a great actor. He was in 5 of the most important films of the 70s and sadly died of cancer after making The Deer Hunter (1978), I love everything about his performance in this film and it always upsets me at the end in the airport. Al Pacino proves there was a time when he could show some restraint and he shows a different side which is very sweet and often quite funny.
4: Equus (1977)
Richard Burton at the top of his game. "There is a light in the darkness and it will never go out". I have the soundtrack on vinyl and its just Richard Burtons dialogue booming back at you over the soundtrack.
Another example of Sidney working with English Playwrights its adapted by Peter Shaffer from his play. Though he hated the ending saying it was too much like Psycho.
I believe it has another fine breast performance from Jenny Agutter.
5: The Verdict (1982)
Proving again that Sidney was an "actors" directed he teases out an outstanding performance from Paul Newman as an alcoholic lawyer who sees a medical malpractice case as way to redeem himself at the end of his career.
I could have done my top 10 Sidney Lumet films and have to mention:
12 Angry Men (1957)
The Pawnbroker (1964)...Superb Rod Steiger performance
The Hill (1965)
The Anderson Tapes (1971)...Have to watch this whenever its on TV
Murder On The Orient Express (1974)...What a cast!
I didn't mention The Wiz once.