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THE TOP TEN MOVIES THAT INFLUENCED THEIR GENRES


Every movie genre and subgenre has those pivotal movies,the cinematic milestones.The ones that either established the basis of it's genre or was the culmination of many films that came before until reaching that moment of perfection.I have listed what I consider to be ten movies that are the most important to their respective genres.The order they are listed in is not meant as a comparison as to how these movies measure up against each other,since I only considered them in relation to their genre and not movies in general.


1.-SUPERMAN THE MOVIE.The measuring stick for every superhero/comic book adaptation movie.Richard Donner juggles the appropiate amount of drama,action,and humor with the help of a top notch cast.Though boasting major Hollywood muscle with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Marlon Brando as Jor-El,it is Christopher Reeve who makes this film fly,with the definative portrayal of Superman/Clark Kent.Unlike other actors to take on the role Reeve approached it as a serious acting role,defining very clear differences between Superman and Clark Kent,in short it was almost a dual role.Also unlike other actors to play superheroes in movies whose saggy physiques were enhanced by padded suits or sculpted rubber,Reeve pumped some serious iron to become the embodiment of the Man of Steel,in effect,this is what a superhero should look like.John Williams gives the film a grand score worthy of the greatest superhero of them all.


2.-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.Zombies have plagued movies since the thirties,but could rarely scare the feathers off of a chicken.That is until George Romero established his masterpiece about people trapped in a house by flesh craving zombies.Past zombie films were hampered by radio melodrama style acting,where everything seemed to be happening in a reality not our own,populated by cartoon characters and no matter what, there is a happy ending.Romero set his film in what could best be described the real world with zombies,and the people who lived in this reality were like the people you meet in everyday life.Romero treated his zombies in realistic fashion,focusing on the people trapped inside the house,who fight amongst themselves as much as with the zombies.The film also trashes the happy ending with the romantic leads walking off into the sunset,as the last survivor,a hardenned sixties black young man,is gunned down by people hunting down zombies,this scene is reminiscent of southern lynch mobs.No zombie movie before or after, including those by Romer himself,has ever achieved this level of raw authenticity in what has long been a genre dominated by cookie cutter silly films.


3.-KING KONG[ORIGINAL].Although THE LOST WORLD came first,this film is considered to be the birth of the "giant monster on the loose" genre.It is also one of the very few monster movies to have mainstream acceptance.Although suffering from a mediocre script and some rather cartoony acting,the superb[for their time]stop motion creatures of Willis O'Brian and Marcel Delgado have made this a timeless classic.For years people have watched this film and thought "So this is what dinosaurs look like".Few films have ever had this sort of effect.The story is an extremely simplistic yet effective three part narrative.The first is of course the setup,where the characters are all introduced and the voyage to the island,the second is the kdnapping of Ann and the events that follow,the appearance of Kong,his battles with other prehistoric beasts,and Jack Driscoll's pursuit,all ending in Kong's rampage in the native village.The third is Kong vs civilization,as he is brought into man's world but refuses to yield to their assumed superiority.The finale is one of the most enduring images[and often lampooned]of movie history,as he makes a valiant last stand atop the Empire State Building.Few stars have ever had such a great sendoff.


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4.-SANTO VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMEN.Considered by genre fans the quintessential Luchahero film.It is the film that has permeated the public conscience as to what the entire genre is about.Although masked wrestlers have popped up in Mexican films since the late forties,it wasn't until this film came along that they became an established profitable genre.Itwas the most succesful lucha libre film up to that point in Mexico,and one of the few Mexican films to gather attention outside of Mexico.Actress Lorena Velasquez recalled a trip to Spain where outside a theatre showing the film stood two giant posters of her and Santo.This was also the first movie in which a masked wrestler took on a supernatural menace,and the idea became a stable of the genre.Although the movie lacked the high budget of American movies,director Alfonso Corona Blake does his best to provide a solid story and keep things as serious as possible,despite a cheesy werewolf showing up.The film's success catapulted Santo from a cinematic novelty to a full fledged bankable movie star,and in the years that followed he was joined by other masked wrestlers wanting to get in on the act.


5.-STAR WARS.Most people tend to think this film broke in new fx techniques in moviemaking.Hogwash.They used pretty much the same techniques that have existed since there were any special fx;miniatures,suitmation, models,stop motion animation,and matte paintings.However they used them to a level of sophistication not seen up to that point.STAR WARS also heralded for better or worse the arrival of the summer blockbuster.Thanks to this film studios now bank their futures on the box offices of fx driven movies.It took the concept of movie related merchandise to insane new levels.Movies were now marketing for t-shirts and overpriced pieces of posable plastic molds.Still George Lucas knew the secret that his successors seemed to have missed.It ain't worth squat if the movie isn't any good.


6.-ENTER THE DRAGON.The Mona Lisa of the martial arts film genre.And Bruce Lee is it's Leonardo Da Vinci.The film combines the best of Hong Kong action with Hollywood budget and production values.Before this film kung fu films were relegated to run down drive ins and late night on UHF tv stations.However Lee took his martial arts skills and burst onto mainstream America cinema with a vengeance.His impact was so great that martial arts dojos multiplied almost overnight.By the eighties action movies became martial arts oriented,and a new breed of heroes emerged.Gone were the John Waynes and Kirk Douglases,in came Chuck Norris,Steven Seagal,Jean Claude Van Damme,and Wesley Snipes. In Hong Kong Jackie Chan provided his own twist,bringing humor to the genre and becoming a star in his own right.With the advent of CGI american moviemakers can cheat and pass off untrained acots as martial arts experts,but this only reinforces whey Lee was the best.He was the real deal.


7.

-GODZILLA.The film that gave birth to the "guy in a rubber suit knocking over cardboard buildings" genre. Lacking the stop motion techniques of KING KONG fx creator used unconvincing marrionettes and a well made theropod dinosaur suit operated by Haruo Nakajima to make the monster come to life.Perhaps it lacked the technical finesse of KONG,but director Inoshiro Honda refused to go the way of other film directors and churn out a factory made,by the numbers monster film,and instead produced a provocative statement about the use of atomic weapons.The film is embedded with a sense of inescapable doom that will consume the world.In America,giant monsters were treated as overgrown animals that messed up a few buildings,ate some truck drivers,and generally got on people's nerves.Godzilla was more like a vengeful god whose wrath could not be appeased,leaving an entire city destroyed in it's wake.The film was such a success that Toho began to churn out sequels and imitations,and other studios followed suit.By the late sixties theatres and tv sets were overcrowded with gigantic dinosaurs,insects,robots,and aliens.And the genre is still going strong to this day.


8.-TARZAN THE APEMAN.There were a few Tarzan films and serials before this adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's character came along.But this was the one that the public took as THE Tarzan film,and Johny Weismuller became the embodiment of the character.Past filmmakers have made the mistake of casting someone to play the part of Tarzan,which led to some embarrasing choices.The makers of this film realized it was important to cast someone that LOOKED the part.Enter Weismuller,an olymoic swimmer with no acting experience.However his lack of thespian skills was a benefit,since he played someone who didn't have any contact with humans and so didn't talk.And when compared to some of his costars,Weismuller isn't half bad as an actor.[He isn't half good either.]The film also established so many cliches of the jungle film,stock footage of animals,white explores walking of the rear of the line with rifles,while their black porters walk up in front unarmed where they can easily be eaten by a lion or a leopard or a hyena or Rosanne Barr.The success of this film prompted many sequels,making it the first film franchise in cinema. It also proved that for some strange,stupid reason,it's fun to watch chimpanzeez act like imbeciles in fron of the camera.


9.-FRANKENSTEIN.The horror film masterpiece through which all others are judged.The movie that finally gave a face to Mary Shelly's novel.And the face was that of Karloff.It was one of those instances where actor and character meshed perfectly thanks in no small part to make up artisan Jack Pierce.Director James Whales inserted a devilish sense of humor,seeming to say "It's fun to scare people".Many plot elements have carried over into countless movies,domestic and from other countries.However it is Karloff"s portrayal of the Monster that has survived the test of time,becoming the definitave Frankenstein.


10.-JURASSIC PARK.The movie that finally made stop motion obsolete.Although computer generated effects in movies have been around since the early eighties,they never looked like anything other than video game graphics.That was until Steven Spielberg unleashed cgi raptors and a Tyrannosaurus on Jeff Goldblum and other no name actors.[Ok,Samuel Jackson became a big star but that came after this film.]The sophisticated digital animation fooled people into believing they were looking at realistic depictions of dinosaurs.[Like KING KONG did sixty years prior.]The box office success unfortunately led Hollywood people to believe all people wanted to see were Sony Playstation graphics,which has enabled an overgrown anorexic iguana to run around Manhattan,or cardboard actors like Keanu Reeves and Cameron Diaz to try to pass themselves as blackbelts in martial arts.For better or worse JURASSIC PARK changed the look of the summer blockbuster films.