Movies on Hulu: An Investigation

White Lightning

The fabulously popular streaming video site Hulu is useful for keeping abreast of contemporary pop-culture effluvia, sure, but if one peeks into their dusty old movies section, there’s an eclectic collection of auteur rarities, 50′s horror, Poverty Row Westerns, and public domain slapstick comedies to be unearthed. With only 3.77% of the titles listed on TCMDB available on home video, dutiful cinephiles need to devour repertory screenings, lobby intractable studios, and pluck the desirable titles out of what is available, and so Hulu is another prime portal to chip away at our film-historical ignorance. I had used it primarily to catch up with TV series I had fallen behind on (like the ubiquitous 30 Rock), but in researching my piece on Bruce Surtees last week, I discovered that Don Siegel’s The Beguiled was streaming for free on the site. Delving into their archives produced a fascinating hodgepodge of titles, some of which are quite hard to see otherwise. Below the fold is a list of titles ready to view on Hulu that I’m eager get to know, and others with which I’m already in committed relationships (with selected commentary, and each title links to its page on Hulu).

[As Eric P. noted in the comments, these features are broken up by 15 - 30 second commercials that occur throughout the feature every 15 minutes or so. Considering that these titles are free and, more importantly, uncut, I think this is an acceptable trade-off. But be forewarned.]

Blackmail, 1929

The 39 Steps, 1935

Secret Agent, 1936

Sabotage, 1937

The Lady Vanishes, 1938anneoftheindies

Five Hitchcocks. No explanation necessary.

Anne of the Indies, 1951

This is a pirate swashbuckler starring Louis Jourdan and Jean Peters from director Jacques Tourneur, and rated highly by Chris Fujiwara in his definitive study of the director, Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall. This is not on DVD, but occasionally pops up on the Fox Movie Channel, where it’s still sitting on my DVR. Fujiwara says that “Anne of the Indies often gives the impression of a perpetual-motion machine: characters appear and disappear in flurries of back-and-forth activity. [snip] Through these hesitations and shifts, the film suggests the avoidance of something inexpressible, acknowledging that the narrative is based on a lack that can be filled only be fantasy.” Intrigued? Yes. Yes you are.

Bachelor Flat, 1961

No less a personage than Andrew Sarris  claimed that this CinemaScope comedy is Frank Tashlin’s best film. Better than Artists and Models and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Is that even possible? Apparently, yes, led by Tuesday Weld’s impossibly moon-shaped face and a wily dachsund’s dinosaur bone obsession.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42RtZqCP32I&hl=en&fs=1&]

The Beguiled, 1971

I briefly discussed Don Siegel’s libidinous masterpiece last week, but I’m eager to recommend it again. An autumnal American gothic set at a boarding school for girls during the Civil War, it unleashes the violent power of adolescent sexuality, against which Clint Eastwood has little hope.

Bigger Than Life, 1956

James Mason imprisoned in 1950s America, gets hooked on cortisone and becomes a macho gargoyle. A major work from Nicholas Ray.

Breezy, 1973

Underrated Eastwood. With his second feature, Clint detours into light comedy with dark undercurrents. William Holden’s decadent playboy falls for the whims of an 18 year old hippie (Kay Lenz). Holden’s cratered face and Lenz’ airy chatter fill the screen.

Cul-de-Sac, 1966

Roman Polanski’s black comedy follow-up to Repulsion. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICFCs45wh4&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

Fixed Bayonets, 1951

Early Sam Fuller (right before the great Park Row (1952)), and his second Korean War film, after The Steel Helmet (1951). This one is set in the snowy climes of Heartbreak Ridge, and is highlighted by the pearls of sweat accumulating on the soldier’s faces as they cross an iced minefield. Extreme close-ups for extreme times.

His Girl Friday, 1940

Everything is at an angle, from Rosalind Russel’s wide-brimmed hats to Cary Grant’s smirk that almost tumbles to the floor. The dialogue burns through their defenses, until  love is in the air. One of Howard Hawks’ greatest films, and so one of the greatest ever.

The Knack…and how to get it, 1965

Richard Lester perfects the mod film.

ArkadinThe Last Man on Earth, 1964

Vincent Price perfects the Richard Matheson story “I Am Legend”. Sorry Will Smith!

The Stranger, 1946

Mr. Arkadin, 1962

Two samplings of Orson Welles, the first his stab at commercial relevancy, the second a European co-production with echoes of Citizen Kane. Both suffering from studio/producer interference.  I prefer the latter’s fake noses and tipsy cinematography to the former’s expressionist flourishes, but I won’t hold it against you if you disagree.

Night of the Living Dead, 1968

The series that won’t die. George Romero will debut his latest zombie-fest, Survival of the Dead, at this year’s Toronto Film Festival. See what all the fuss is about.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, 1970

Before subjecting yourself to Guy Ritchie’s roided up version of the Holmes legend, sample Billy Wilder’s mellow, melancholy take on the natty inspector.

Rings on Her Fingers, 1942

In an attempt to cash in on the success of The Lady Eve, Fox tried their own con-artist romantic comedy, and signed on Henry Fonda to re-create the magic. Rouben Mamoulian was no Preston Sturges at this point in his career, although the results are sure to be diverting.

The Spikes Gang, 1974

Richard Fleischer’s light-hearted bank robbing movie finds fatherly outlaw Lee Marvin taking on three young kids (including Ron Howard) to form the least intimidating gang in the Wild West.

The Taking of Pelham, 1 2 3, 1974

White Lightning, 1973

Or, the curious case of Joseph Sargent. Sargent, a TV lifer, took some time out in the 70s to crank out a couple of genre whitelightningclassics. Then he moseyed on back to the small screen. White Lightning is a rousingly entertaining Southern revenge drama, starring Burt Reynolds at his aw shucks peak. Taking of Pelham is a no-nonsense police procedural recently remade by Tony Scott. His unfussy direction and his talent for working class argot shines in both features, with White Lightning taking the crown because of a stronger emotional pull, especially in an extraordinarily surreal sequence in an unwed mothers home. Also because of Ned Beatty, whose laid-back menace slithers out of every sweat-oozing pore.

Thunder Birds, 1942

A William Wellman pilot melodrama, with Gene Tierney. That’s enough for me.

Time Limit, 1957

The only film Karl Malden directed. Rest in peace.

The Train, 1965

John Frankenheimer’s sturdy actioner starring Burt Lancaster. He has to transport some fine art under the noses of Nazi scum. Frankenheimer knows how to handle pace and Lancaster’s torso.

Vigilante Force, 1976

Another Southern good-ole-boy action film, this one a cheap knockoff of Phil Karlson’s Walking Tall (1973), directed by George Armitage, who later went on to film Grosse Point Blank 20 odd years later. Instead of Joe Don Baker in Walking Tall though, the lead vigilante is Jan Michael Vincent. Not a good trade-off, although Kris Kristofferson is around to add some shirtless, mellow menace, a young Bernadette Peters belts out a few numbers on the periphery, and there is some jaw-dropping stunt falls in the final (ridiculous) shootout. It also musters a handful of  memorable lines. The town in CA just opened an oil field, and two government employees talk shop: “Thank God for the energy crisis! Thank Allah!”  And another on the influx of wildcatter oilmen: “If I wanted to live with degenerates I’d move to L.A.”  Truer words have never been spoken.

vigilante_force


0 Response Movies on Hulu: An Investigation
Posted By Eric P : August 4, 2009 5:04 pm

my main problem with movies on hulu are the commericals.

they seem to be time inserted and will break up scenes in a most obnoxious way.

Posted By Eric P : August 4, 2009 5:04 pm

my main problem with movies on hulu are the commericals.

they seem to be time inserted and will break up scenes in a most obnoxious way.

Posted By R. Emmet Sweeney : August 4, 2009 5:12 pm

Eric P:

Yes, this is an annoyance, and I should have mentioned this in my post. But in providing all of this content at no charge, there has to be a trade-off, and commercials are the result. Thanks for pointing this out, though.

Posted By R. Emmet Sweeney : August 4, 2009 5:12 pm

Eric P:

Yes, this is an annoyance, and I should have mentioned this in my post. But in providing all of this content at no charge, there has to be a trade-off, and commercials are the result. Thanks for pointing this out, though.

Posted By David Savage : August 4, 2009 8:53 pm

Thank you for this valuable article Emmet! I’ve noted some of these films for future viewing appointments with Hulu. I have to add that Hulu has become my destination for my favorite TV series of all time: Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY. Was there ever a better creepy serial? One episode in particular has haunted my brother and I for decades, and we never knew the title of it, or how to find it — until now. We always called it “The Mousey Pin” for shorthand, but now, after discovering it on Hulu’s NIGHT GALLERY archive, we know what is was titled: BLOOD FEAST, starring Sondra Locke.
Best,
David Savage
CinemaRetro.com

Posted By David Savage : August 4, 2009 8:53 pm

Thank you for this valuable article Emmet! I’ve noted some of these films for future viewing appointments with Hulu. I have to add that Hulu has become my destination for my favorite TV series of all time: Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY. Was there ever a better creepy serial? One episode in particular has haunted my brother and I for decades, and we never knew the title of it, or how to find it — until now. We always called it “The Mousey Pin” for shorthand, but now, after discovering it on Hulu’s NIGHT GALLERY archive, we know what is was titled: BLOOD FEAST, starring Sondra Locke.
Best,
David Savage
CinemaRetro.com

Posted By Jenni : August 4, 2009 8:59 pm

I have watched The Beguiled(Eastwood’s character doesn’t try very hard to ignore the teen girls at this school!), Bigger Than Life, and I did begin The Last Man on Earth and need to finish it. I enjoy searching Hulu for old movies to view,especially if the tv is tied up with what the other members of my household are watching. I think a couple of weeks ago Puppet People was on there, which was written about on this site a couple of months ago.
As you have said, with some classic movies not out on vhs or dvd, Hulu and other like-minded sites can fill the void.

Posted By Jenni : August 4, 2009 8:59 pm

I have watched The Beguiled(Eastwood’s character doesn’t try very hard to ignore the teen girls at this school!), Bigger Than Life, and I did begin The Last Man on Earth and need to finish it. I enjoy searching Hulu for old movies to view,especially if the tv is tied up with what the other members of my household are watching. I think a couple of weeks ago Puppet People was on there, which was written about on this site a couple of months ago.
As you have said, with some classic movies not out on vhs or dvd, Hulu and other like-minded sites can fill the void.

Posted By Steve-O : August 5, 2009 5:21 pm

also checkout Fancast… it has Hulu videos but also some movies Hulu doesn’t: including Shield for Murder (last week’s NOTW) and 5 Steps to Danger!

Posted By Steve-O : August 5, 2009 5:21 pm

also checkout Fancast… it has Hulu videos but also some movies Hulu doesn’t: including Shield for Murder (last week’s NOTW) and 5 Steps to Danger!

Posted By Michael J. Anderson : August 5, 2009 8:51 pm

Thanks for this, R. I watched Breezy this afternoon (one of the very few directed by Eastwood’s still outstanding for me) and was *very* pleasantly surprised. But why should I have been? It is exceedingly clear to me that Eastwood is the greatest American director of the past three-plus decades.

Next up, Bachelor Flat!

Posted By Michael J. Anderson : August 5, 2009 8:51 pm

Thanks for this, R. I watched Breezy this afternoon (one of the very few directed by Eastwood’s still outstanding for me) and was *very* pleasantly surprised. But why should I have been? It is exceedingly clear to me that Eastwood is the greatest American director of the past three-plus decades.

Next up, Bachelor Flat!

Posted By jbryant : August 5, 2009 11:14 pm

Coincidentally, I just watched White Lightning on hulu a couple of weeks ago. Quite a treat.

Anne of the Indies is excellent (though I watched it on Fox Movie Channel rather than hulu). I’ll add to the kudos for Bachelor Flat and Breezy, too.

The hulu title I’m most excited about, however, is Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s otherwise difficult to see The Honey Pot.

Posted By jbryant : August 5, 2009 11:14 pm

Coincidentally, I just watched White Lightning on hulu a couple of weeks ago. Quite a treat.

Anne of the Indies is excellent (though I watched it on Fox Movie Channel rather than hulu). I’ll add to the kudos for Bachelor Flat and Breezy, too.

The hulu title I’m most excited about, however, is Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s otherwise difficult to see The Honey Pot.

Posted By Medusa : August 6, 2009 4:50 pm

Until Hulu opens itself up to international viewers I have to hate them a little, of course. I know it’s just a bunch of lawyers standing in the way, and the vague idea that somebody must be making some money that they aren’t…but it’s just fans wanting to see stuff. Until the sites like Hulu are open and available to everyone, the notion of a truly worldwide web is a misnomer.

But glad theoretically to see things on there, at least!

Posted By Medusa : August 6, 2009 4:50 pm

Until Hulu opens itself up to international viewers I have to hate them a little, of course. I know it’s just a bunch of lawyers standing in the way, and the vague idea that somebody must be making some money that they aren’t…but it’s just fans wanting to see stuff. Until the sites like Hulu are open and available to everyone, the notion of a truly worldwide web is a misnomer.

But glad theoretically to see things on there, at least!

Posted By Rick : August 6, 2009 6:45 pm

For the most part I compare the experience of watching movies on my computer to watching them on an airplane … that is to say, hardly ideal. But as you point out, some of the selections on Hulu are hard to find elsewhere. Be aware, in addition to the commercials, the Hitchcock titles you mention are, unfortunately, all inferior dupes. Tashlin’s Bachelor Flat is pan & scan. Bigger Than Life is the the wrong aspect ratio (1.85:1, should be 2.35:1). I mention these flaws because they can be pretty serious to the films in question. Also purists who are irritated by the occasional watermarks which appear on TCM movies at regular intervals, should note that Hulu’s watermark is omnipresent, though tucked rather discretely in a lower corner. That said, rather than watching Hitchcock or Welles, Ray or Tourneur on Hulu, its usefulness is perhaps best suited to movies like Mario Bava’s otherwise hard-to-find Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, which IS in the proper aspect ratio, and loses very little by the compromise of screening on a laptop with commercials rather than one’s pride and joy home theater system. Appreciate your recommendations of some titles I’ve been prone to overlook (eg. White Lightning, as I’m quite a fan of Pelham). Hulu reminds me of a channel that I used to watch on cable called Flix (which may still be in operation, though not in my area), which was very undisciplined in their selections, a mass mixture of mostly filler and occasional gems that nobody else seemed to show, though the channel didn’t seem to have a clue that there was any aesthetic difference between giving us a rare look at Fuller’s White Dog or an endless rerun of Jaws IV (the Revenge). Even though Flix or Hulu will never replace TCM, alternatives such as these are always welcome. And the picture quality on some of the rarities, particularly from Fox and MGM, really isn’t bad on a small screen … some look quite pristine, and standards will likely improve in due course.

Posted By Rick : August 6, 2009 6:45 pm

For the most part I compare the experience of watching movies on my computer to watching them on an airplane … that is to say, hardly ideal. But as you point out, some of the selections on Hulu are hard to find elsewhere. Be aware, in addition to the commercials, the Hitchcock titles you mention are, unfortunately, all inferior dupes. Tashlin’s Bachelor Flat is pan & scan. Bigger Than Life is the the wrong aspect ratio (1.85:1, should be 2.35:1). I mention these flaws because they can be pretty serious to the films in question. Also purists who are irritated by the occasional watermarks which appear on TCM movies at regular intervals, should note that Hulu’s watermark is omnipresent, though tucked rather discretely in a lower corner. That said, rather than watching Hitchcock or Welles, Ray or Tourneur on Hulu, its usefulness is perhaps best suited to movies like Mario Bava’s otherwise hard-to-find Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs, which IS in the proper aspect ratio, and loses very little by the compromise of screening on a laptop with commercials rather than one’s pride and joy home theater system. Appreciate your recommendations of some titles I’ve been prone to overlook (eg. White Lightning, as I’m quite a fan of Pelham). Hulu reminds me of a channel that I used to watch on cable called Flix (which may still be in operation, though not in my area), which was very undisciplined in their selections, a mass mixture of mostly filler and occasional gems that nobody else seemed to show, though the channel didn’t seem to have a clue that there was any aesthetic difference between giving us a rare look at Fuller’s White Dog or an endless rerun of Jaws IV (the Revenge). Even though Flix or Hulu will never replace TCM, alternatives such as these are always welcome. And the picture quality on some of the rarities, particularly from Fox and MGM, really isn’t bad on a small screen … some look quite pristine, and standards will likely improve in due course.

Posted By Ken Loar : August 12, 2009 3:29 pm

Many of these are titles that I have already seen thanks to TCM. Your comment about “The Last Man On Earth”, echoes my sentiments exactly. As much as I like Will and his movie, it realy wasn’t “I AM LEGEND”. Seems to be some really good ones available, and if I ever get the HP Media Center back on my big TV I may be looking there. I know that if I try watching it on a 17″ monitor, I will end up reducing the screen continue web surfing which really does not help me appreciate what I am seeing.

Not sure I’m in a hurry to see Viligante Force, though. Looks like drive in fodder to me.

Posted By Ken Loar : August 12, 2009 3:29 pm

Many of these are titles that I have already seen thanks to TCM. Your comment about “The Last Man On Earth”, echoes my sentiments exactly. As much as I like Will and his movie, it realy wasn’t “I AM LEGEND”. Seems to be some really good ones available, and if I ever get the HP Media Center back on my big TV I may be looking there. I know that if I try watching it on a 17″ monitor, I will end up reducing the screen continue web surfing which really does not help me appreciate what I am seeing.

Not sure I’m in a hurry to see Viligante Force, though. Looks like drive in fodder to me.

Posted By Amanda By Night : August 18, 2009 1:51 pm

Maybe not of interest, but there are some pretty cool 70s & 80s TV movies playing online on Fancast. They are listed under the Full TV Episodes section (!), and I recently watched Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction with Dennis Weaver. They are also showing things like Are You in the House Alone and Return of the Rebels with Barbara Eden. I love it. I mostly watch stuff like Scarecrow and Mrs. King or Eight is Enough, but the discovery of the movies has been a total treat!

Posted By Amanda By Night : August 18, 2009 1:51 pm

Maybe not of interest, but there are some pretty cool 70s & 80s TV movies playing online on Fancast. They are listed under the Full TV Episodes section (!), and I recently watched Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction with Dennis Weaver. They are also showing things like Are You in the House Alone and Return of the Rebels with Barbara Eden. I love it. I mostly watch stuff like Scarecrow and Mrs. King or Eight is Enough, but the discovery of the movies has been a total treat!

Posted By TCM’s Classic Movie Blog : August 18, 2009 2:39 pm

[...] exploring Hulu for cinematic surprises two weeks back, I discovered the nifty search engine SpeedCine [Speed-Sinny], which claims to make  “it [...]

Posted By TCM’s Classic Movie Blog : August 18, 2009 2:39 pm

[...] exploring Hulu for cinematic surprises two weeks back, I discovered the nifty search engine SpeedCine [Speed-Sinny], which claims to make  “it [...]

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