Alex’s Top Film Discoveries of 2016

Here we go with my favourite vintage films I watched for the first time this year, they’re in no order and I can’t vouch that you’ll enjoy them if you watch them, but here are my favourite new old finds from the past 12-months!

Alias Nick Beal (1949) An undeservedly obscure Noir here, starring Ray Milland as the shadowy figure of Nick Beal, a mysterious man who helps out an ambitious district attorney with leads that crack big cases, but who really is Nick Beal? An essential slice of prime Noir mixed with a teasing dose of the fantastic; it’s a great watch and well worth trying to track down.


An American Dream (1966) Stuart Whitman leads the cast of this over-the-top drama that comes with a crime tinged edge, it’s a powerhouse of back stabbing and over acting as a TV hosts finds himself mixed up with the police and the mob after the death of his wife.  The nihilistic tone is perfect and the eye popping colours and sets place this obscurity right in the heart if the 60s! Also know by the fantastic title of: See You In Hell, Darling.

The No Mercy Man (1973) Possibly my favourite film find of the year, it’s a familiar tale but an early take on it, where we follow a Vietnam veteran who returns home to find his town overtaken by bikers, carnies and all sorts of corruption.  Of course things are going to get violent, but it’s how violent and how freak-out psychotic our hero gets that places this at the top of the list. Vietnam flashbacks are all over the place as the tensions builds to a truly wild showdown.

Family Honor (1972) We’ve already talked about this super low budget gangster feature on the blog, but it’s worth highlighting again simply for how raw and gritty this thing is! Unseen for years this is more of a drama really with a dose of crime dropped in towards the end, fans of grim and raw New York City should check this one out for sure.

Geronimo (1990) We dropped this Christian scare film on the Duke audience back in 2016 and it rocked the place all night long. A disillusioned Christian camp volunteer agrees to work with a group of inner city kids over their stay at a summer camp in the hope of him finding his religion again and them learning how to get along with everyone. Only things don’t work out like that as everything seems to go wrong in the worst possible ways. Featuring a group of street kids who act the Christians off the screen this is a super fun watch and way better than the standard Christian efforts.

Joey (1986) This super obscure 1980s music drama doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but does pack itself with enough guts and authenticity that it makes the list simply for how enjoyable it is. Mix that in with a host of great musical appearances, including the one and only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and you’ve got yourself a totally mixed up rock’n’roll, doo-wop infused 1980s teen film oddity.

Paris Is Burning (1990) The only documentary to make the list this year is a fascinating look at the world of male drag balls in late 80s New York City. This one had passed me by but I’m so glad to have caught up with it now, it’s a great document of a scene I knew nothing about and it’s incredible to see how important these events are for those taking part and how they live for their glamorous short time in the spotlight.

Child’s Play (1972) A classic slice of psychological drama from the always great Sidney Lumet, here Beau Bridges stars as an idealist young teacher who gets mixed up in a long running feud between two teachers at an exclusive religious school. Dark as night and very bleak with a film stealing performance from James Mason, who seems to embody every unpleasant teacher that’s ever walked the hallowed halls of education.

The London Connection (1979) Imagine if Disney decided to make their version of The Sweeney, only it’s aimed at kids; that’s what we’ve got here with this little known Disney live action crime thriller. OK it’s really more of a spy adventure, but the sight of old British cars chasing around the dusty backstreets of 1970s London brings to mind far more violent images than I think they really intended. Roy Kinnear features, of course.

Blue Murder (1985) Ah here we go with an entry from the great Emmeritus Productions from Canada, a company who manage to imbue a strange other-worldly tone to all their productions, as if the films are produced from another dimension where people don’t have real emotions, just pretend ones. Here’s another odd entry from them as a policeman tracks down a killer who’s taking out porn stars in an attempt to stop their films from being made, yes it’s as odd as it sounds…


Here’s a few other films I watched but that didn’t quite make the top list: Fresh Horses (1988), Sheila Levine Is Dead And Living In New York (1975), War Dancing (1989) and Rock’N’ Roll Cowboys (1987).

Plus my favourite new film of 2016 was…

And my favourite new TV show was…

Check out my favourite films finds from 2014 here!

Evrim Ersoy’s Top Duke Discoveries Of 2014

What better way to start the New Year than with a list of Top Duke Discoveries – these are pulled from across the entire watching spectrum – there are no rules, no limits, no release date limitations – these are simply my favourite films I saw this year all across 2014.

Whiplash: I don’t think there are enough words in the English language for me to be able to do justice to the experience of watching ‘Whiplash’ – it’s a kind of exhilaration, a constructive perfection that I have not seen for years. Anyone with any love for film should make sure to watch this on the biggest, loudest screen that they can catch it on.

Blind: The nuances of ‘Blind’ are mesmerizing – switching between fantasy and reality and carefully intertwining the stories of a blind woman trapped within her own head and the construct world she has created, this emotionally astute and darkly funny film manages to achieve an emotional honesty which I have not yet encountered since the astonishing ‘Vanishing Waves’.

I Am Here: Perhaps one of the most daring films of 2014, this astonishing film features a standout performance by Kim Basinger who brings an incredibly delicate vulnerability to the role of Maria – a succesfull businesswoman with a particular obsession. Asking some of the most difficult questions on-screen this or any year, ‘I Am Here’ succeeds despite its occasional failings – a flawed masterpiece if there was ever one.

Street Wars: The less I say about this 1992 gem the better as there might be a Duke surprise for everyone in store. But let me just put this out there: of all the boys-in-the-hood gang films I’ve seen across the course of my film-discovering life, none has had the swagger and the daring of Jamaa Fanaka’s epic which delights and surprises in every turn with outlandish characters, brilliant action scenes and a sense of rebellion that touches the viewer even after all this time.

When Animals Dream: Gentle and melancholy, this incredible effort from director Jonas Alexander Arnby blends the gentle horror of classic Universal monster movies with an updated treaty on female sexuality and small-town oppression. A love story, an exploration of puberty and an out-and-out horror film, this incredible effort deserves to be seen more widely.

Eat Your Bones: Of all the films about masculinity in 2014, none could match the swagger and honesty of ‘Mange Tes Morts’ – set within a gypsy community in Northern France, this incredible outing blends documentary cinema with the best of classic gangster films and captures a world so familiar and yet foreign that it’s impossible not to be mesmerized. The final confrontation left me breathless and hopefully will capture audiences elsewhere in a similar fashion.

The Treatment: The closest to the hard-nosed thrillers of 80’s that any film has ever come, ‘The Treatment’ ; on surface; is a classic police thriller – but its dark corners are many and its unflinching handling of the central concept is incredibly brave and daring. Perhaps the staging is by the numbers and the resolution of the case a little clichéd – and yet it’s hard not to be taken in by the brilliant acting and the sense of dread and tension that director Hans Herbots builds from the first scene and does not let go until the very final, dreadful, heart-breaking frame. You will not see a better thriller this year.

Petit Quinquin: Let’s be honest, I’m not a fan of Bruno Dumont and his over-composed and very slow approach to filmmaking but in his first T.V. outing he has managed to create one of the out-and-out masterpieces of the year. Funny AND incredibly astute this tale of an investigation into a series of Northern France is blessed with outstanding performances and an ever-darkening mood which draws the audience right in. Unmissable whenever it airs anywhere, it’s even worth tracking down on the big screen just to appreciate the majesty of the cinematography.

Magical Girl: Carlos Vermut’s tale of unpleasant things happening to odd people is finely judged, brilliantly executed and incredibly hard-to-watch. The material is familiar, yes, but the result is so outlandish it’s hard not to be impressed by his building on the brilliant debut of ‘Diamond Flash’. A director to watch if there was ever one.

The Raid 2: Look, it ended and I wanted to be thrown against objects and run around screaming. It’s the best adrenalined ride I’ve ever encountered. The car chase scene alone puts everything else within the genre to shame. Just – let’s accept it – Gareth Evans has discovered the fountain of fighting and the rest of us will have to look on whilst he brings together sequences technically impressive and visually arresting beyond imagination.

La French: It’s familiar, it’s predictable, it’s totally stuff we’ve seen before – and yet… who cares when the end result is so absolutely brilliant? Blessed with mesmerizing performances from the two leads, this gorgeous and utterly wonderful gangster epic treads familiar territory with such confidence that you’d have to be cinematically blind not to be impressed. I love ‘La French’ and I want to forever live in its sun-drenched, blood-soaked vision of 70’s Marseille. There.

Wild Tales: The funniest film of the year by a wide margin. The last 20 minutes alone is worth the price of admission but that’s not enough for director Damián Szifrón who invents even more outrageous scenarios with a speed hitherto unknown in comedy films. Sheer marvel and bloody funny.

The World of Kanako: No other film can match the outrageous madness of director Tetsuya Nakashima‘s story of awful people doing awful things to each other. Fantastically nasty and wonderfuly ugly, this has to be the best neo-noir that has hit our screen for a long, long time.

Norway: Flawed? Yes. Repetitive? Sometimes. But damn if it’s not also engrossing, funny and absolutely mesmerising to watch. Blessed with a killer soundtrack and an ending which demands to be played loud, ‘Norway‘ is the best Greek-disco-vampire story that I’ve ever seen.