Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What is Your Favorite "180-Degree Movie"?

In case you're wondering, a "180 degree movie" is one that you didn't particularly care for (or maybe even disliked) that became a favorite after watching it again later in life. Perhaps, this phenomenon has never happened to you...but I've experienced it on multiple occasions. My favorite 180-degree movie is Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie.

When I saw Marnie as a teenager, it made no impression at all. I thought Tippi Hedren was miscast and Sean Connery dull. The plot--what there was of one--was thin and the characters lacked interest. The cheap production values shocked me, especially the horrible use of rear screen projection during the fox hunt and the hokey set used for the closing "exterior" shot.

Flash forward three deacdes later. During a routine video store visit, I spotted Marine on the shelves. I had recently watched a slew of Hitchcock films during an AMC marathon and thus decided: "Oh, what the heck, I'll give Marine another try."

To my complete surprise, I loved it. Tippi Hedren's subtle detached performance made Marnie a vulnerable, intriguing character. The progressively complex relationship between Marnie and Mark (Connery) generated suspense--in its own quiet way--worthy of Hitch’s best man-on-the-run films. I was captivated by Hitch's finest use of color (especially during the opening scenes). And finally, there was Bernard Herrmann's incredible score (which, for me, ranks second only to Vertigo among his Hitchcock soundtracks). I've often wondered how I missed all of this the first time around?

The answer is a complex one, of course. It's easy to forget that "we" are a part of the movie-watching experience. Each time we watch a movie, we overlay it with our own emotions, our likes and dislikes, and even our remembrances of every movie we've seen. Our tastes in the arts naturally evolve over time. Had I not been exposed to  foreign-language films in college, would I be one of those people who never watch a foreign film because of those darn subtitles? I'd like to think not, but who knows!

I also think one can't underestimate the environment and state of mind when viewing a movie. If you're in the midst of a heavy romance, then Somewhere in Time may be an enchanting, tear-inducing experience. But watch it for the first time after a bitter breakup and one's assessment may be altogether different.

There are many reasons why a film may go from zero to favorite. But the question is: What is your favorite 180-degree movie?


  1. I love this idea for a post, Rick! The movie that I made a 180 degree turn on was Bette Davis' Mr. Skeffington. I always loved Bette Davis, but saw Mr. Skeffington when I was pretty young. I didn't understand it's relationships at all, and thought Bette was just too fluttery and silly. I don't remember even finishing it. Later, as an adult, I watched it again and found that I liked it very much. Claude Rains' character, his desire for the love and acceptance of the beautiful socialite, and the whole Jewish undercurrent had been completely lost on me as a young teenager, so a lot of the power of the story just didn't come through. Bette did a remarkable job as a vain and shallow person who learned nothing until she was forced to by life realities. Now I just love it.
    I also did not appreciate the talent of Kay Francis for a long time, not until the last 10 years or so actually, when I started watching them on TCM. Now she is one of my favorite actresses.
    You are quite right. Many factors make up our reactions and understanding of movies, sometimes maturity and sometimes just being in a different mood when we watch them!

  2. Becky, could not agree with you more on the glorious Kay Francis! I did a 180 after seeing more of her films -- she was quite a talent and I had not seen enough movies to realize how great she was.
    Ricky I had a 180 turn for the worse and better with the same movie but two different versions: Back Street. I remembered the Charles Boyer/Margaret Sullavan version fondly and only liked the Susan Hayward/John Gavin version. However, last year I saw both again and loved Hayward/Gavin but disliked Boyer/Sullavan. The Ross Hunter remake really did a better job making you like the two leads and showed them in a very human light. The older version painted a pathetic woman and selfish man -- plus, Boyer and Sullavan had little chemistry in my opinion. I did not think that possible -- Boyer had chemistry with everyone!

  3. Like Classic Becky, your post made me think of Bette Davis.

    I keep going back to my earlier confusion over her popularity with film buffs.

    The fan base for a movie like ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), where Bette Davis' Margo is mean to her loved ones, was just maddening. I'm supposed to like this wretched person? Forget that! Get her, Eve!

    Today, I still disagree with Margo's method of dealing with her problems, but I understand her now. And I like the film.

  4. Gilby, when growing up, I always wanted to see Basil Rathbone's HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES. But every time the newspaper or TV Guide listed it, I'd tune in to discover Hammer's version was being shown instead. I'd watch it; thought it was OK. Finally, when I was in college, CBS showed Rathbone's version on its late movie. I liked it well enough, but my expectations were probably pretty high. Several years later, I saw the Hammer version again and loved it. I have ever since...as much as I enjoy Basil Rathbone as Holmes, the Hammer HOUND with Peter Cushing is superior for me! Becks and Java, thanks for sharing your Bette Davis experiences. LFD, welcome to the Cafe!

  5. Rick, I agree with Becky, this is an interesting post idea. This makes me have to think...I don't know if that's such a good idea when it comes to the plethora of films I have lodged inside my brain.

    My 180-film would have to be The Bodyguard (please don't laugh!). I was a big Whitney fan in the day, so I went to see this film on opening night. I remember just being awe-struck by this film. (Please, stop laughing.) After the film, my brother had to drive me to the nearest Wal-Mart so I could buy the soundtrack. By the next day I knew every song by heart and was making plans to see the film again. When the VHS came out, I bought it the first day. I don't know how many times I watched that film. Anyway, at some point that tape got put aside for boys, beer, and college. Flash-forward about ten years and see me turning on TNT or TBS (whichever one shows it all the time) and being mortified that I had thought the film was even good, let alone great. I'm sure Whitney's addiction to coke and nervous breakdown somehow contributed to this feeling, but nonetheless, I now know that The Bodyguard was not film's finest hour.

  6. Unfortunately, for me, it's more common (and pessimistic) to experience a 180-film for the worse, like Kim described. I love a film, watch it multiple times, and then one day, after having not seen it for some time, I suddenly don't like it and wonder what I ever saw in it.

    So it took me a while to recall a film that I didn't like and then liked after a repeated viewing. Back in college, I watched Fellini's "8½" and was unimpressed. I thought it was a plot-less, pompous movie. A character loosely based on the director himself, a title as such because it was film no. eight-and-a-half (six previous movies, two short films, and one he co-directed, the latter three considered "halves"). But then, needing a course in foreign studies, I went the easy route (due to a lack of intelligence) and took a film class, and one that focused on Fellini was my only option at the time. We watched his films chronologically, and I slowly fell in love with them. By the time we reached "8½", I was gushing over everything Fellini did, and I loved it and continued loving all his films (including CASANOVA, universally panned even by Fellini advocates).

    Great post, Rick. Sometimes you may hate or strongly dislike a movie, but, if you have the time, you might try watching it again. Maybe the second time it'll pull a 180.

  7. This movie-watching phenomenon has always intrigued me and the comments have been delightful. Sark and Kim, you made think of another 180 for me: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, which is both Italian (ala Fellini) and used to be shown on TBS all the time (like THE BODYGUARD) in the early 1990s. I saw it as a teenager and thought it paled in comparison to the Leone-Eastwood Westerns. I tried to watch it a few times in my 20s, but--with commercials on TV--it didn't seem worth the four-hour investment. Finally, I decided one Sunday to watch the whole darn thing because it was on TBS, like, every month (well, it seemed that way). I was blown away! And, ironically, my favorite scene is one of the things I used to hate about it: That leisurely 13-minute opening while the baddies wait for Charles Bronson during the credits. I now admire that incredibly slow build-up and fast payoff so much that I show it to guests who have never seen the movie (alas, they're often unimpressed as I once was). The fact is that I have a long list of 180 movies, some which probably amaze classic movie fans. For example, it took awhile for me to fall in love with ANATOMY OF A MURDER and become a fan of LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. I thought the BEACH PARTY movies were stupid at one time in my life, but now own all of them.

  8. This is a great discussion! Kim, I have to admit my mom and I thought The Bodyguard was a great at the time too. Now, it's like What was I thinking? Rick, I have also done a 180 with respect to NBC Mystery Movie installments. I used to think Bancek and McMillan & Wife were the best. However, I discovered how dated and indulgent the stars were. Meanwhile, Dennis Weaver as Sam McCloud and Diana Muldar as his girlfriend Christine are still a great couple and fun to watch!

  9. My favorite 180 degree movie: Citizen Kane! The first three times I watched it I thought that okay, this is a cool film with amazing special effects for the time - but it's just not interesting. Last time I saw it was on the big screen, and now that I knew it so well and could allow myself to take in every detail and engage fully in the film... I thought it was a masterpiece. Weird, but I guess some films are just better after viewing them several times.