(Roman Polanski, USA/France, 1976): With the creative freedom earned by the box office and prestige success of Chinatown, Roman Polanski returned to France, a project -- Roland Topor's 1964 novel -- he'd been nursing for years, and the concept of the apartment as manifestation of creeping psychic...

(Shohei Imamura, Japan, 1979): The first murder committed by the main character in Shohei Imamura's potently disturbing Vengeance is Mine sets the tone for the rest of the movie, but that doesn't make the film either easier to take or even understand. After coldly bludgeoning a co-worker with...

(Samuel Fuller, USA, 1963): "What a tragedy," sighs the newspaper editor who'd previously endorsed his prize reporter's nutty decision to admit himself into a mental hospital -- under the guise of an incestuous fetishist -- in order to solve a murder. "An insane mute will win...

(Karel Reisz, USA, 1978): "In a world where elephants are pursued by flying men, people are just naturally going to want to get high." So goes the inciting rationalization of John Converse (Michael Moriarity) in Karel Reisz's outrageously overlooked, terminally post-Nixonian Vietnam-noir Who'll Stop the Rain. Converse...

(Arthur Penn, USA, 1975): With his shaggy combover, receding hairline, and untrimmed sideburns and 'stache, Gene Hackman's Harry Moseby looks like he rolled into the 1970s off the back of a truck. He isn't wearing the decade well, and it does not bode well for the case...

(Alan J. Pakula, USA, 1974): Of all the intimations of dark conspiracy that insinuated into Hollywood movies in the 1970s, none suggested the utter hopelessness of escape with quite the devastating power and totalizing dread of Alan J. Pakula's The Parallax View. Other movies might...

(Hiroshi Teshigahara, Japan, 1964): Using sand as the operative metaphor for the instability of identity and futility of escape, Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes blends a modernist cinematic sensibility with a near noir account of fate and desire at the bottom of a big hole....

(Michael Powell, UK, 1960): The London street corner where a hooker lingers beneath a streetlamp is as phony looking as any New York avenue concocted by Stanley Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut nearly forty years later, but the effect is considerably more sinister, instantly establishing an aura of...

(Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea, France, 2009): The madness on display in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, a pastiche assembly of the unfinished 1964 film noir the notoriously perfectionistic director of Quai des Orfevres and Diabolique nearly lost his mind and life in the making, is nothing if...

(John Boorman, USA, 1967): The image of Lee Marvin, perched on the rocks surrounding Alcatraz, about to slip into the deathly waves rolling between him and the city of San Francisco rising in the distance, suggests a primal force on the move: a monster on the...