Features: The 20 Greatest Philly Movies: Movie Irv’s Philly Filmography

What about all those other movies made in town? Our resident film expert, Irv Slifkin, weighs in

The Age of Innocence (1993). Martin Scorsese adapts Edith Wharton, with Philly standing in for New York.  bbb

Arnold’s Wrecking Co. (1973). An early effort from Die Hard writer Steven de Souza about a pot-dealing entrepreneur, this scattershot drug farce came out years ahead of Up in Smoke.  bb  

The Burglar (1957). A crackerjack heist-flick film noir, with Jayne Mansfield and locations on the Main Line and at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. Rarely shown; highly atmospheric.  bbb

A Chronicle of Corpses (2000). Andrew Repasky McElhinney’s shadowy 19th-century gothic tale of dark secrets within a wealthy Philadelphia family is an eccentric mix of artsy and exploitation.  bbb

Clean and Sober (1988). Alcoholic real estate agent Michael Keaton tries to kick booze after meeting his AA sponsor at the Snow White diner. The decent drama is helped by Keaton’s serious Batman tune-up and a top-notch supporting cast.  bb

Crumb (1994). Fritz the Cat cartoonist R. Crumb’s Fairmount-based troubled brother is visited in this remarkable documentary in which the cartoonist’s kooky life and fantasies are powerfully explored.  bbbb

The Demo Crew (2001). Street hockey is the name of the game in a Rocky-esque story that scores points for its working-class qualities.  bbb  

Diary of a City Priest (2001). David Morse plays an inner-city holy man in an inspirational, solemn true-life tale from localite Eugene Martin.  bbb  

Downtown (1990). Main Line cop Anthony Edwards teams with North Philly policeman Forest Whitaker to take on some car smugglers. Like Stakeout set in Philly—only worse.  bb  

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983). A sleeper hit about a Jersey Shore bar band led by a mysterious singer, played by Michael Paré. The music by John Cafferty captures the vibes, but not much else.  bb

Fallen (1998). Denzel Washington and John Goodman star in this creepy occult thriller. The ever-swerving plot is worth enduring for the eerie atmospherics.  bbb
 
Fighting Back (1982). Tom Skerritt stars in this gritty, fact-based revenge flick, shot in Kensington, that’s chock-full of realistic vigilante shtick in the Death Wish mold.  bbb

The Florentine (1999). A working-class bar in Easton is the setting for a decent multi-character story. The superb ensemble cast includes Virginia Madsen, brother Michael Madsen, James Belushi and Temple grad Tom Sizemore.  bb

Girls School Screamers (1986). A ghost story shot around Chestnut Hill, with Catholic schoolgirls in trouble! Dollops of gore were added late to try to schlock up this laid-back gothic yarn.  bb

The Happiest Millionaire (1967). Those Biddles from the Main Line sure are eccentric in this Disney musical with Fred MacMurray. The lavish production is marred by an unmemorable score.  bb

The In Crowd (1998). The coming-of-age drama may be hokey, but everything else is right in this nostalgic ode to Philly in the 1960s, with great tunes, real locales, and Joe Pantoliano playing a Geator-esque disc jockey. bbb

Jesus’ Son (1999). This 1970s druggie road odyssey with Billy Crudup, Samantha Morton and Jack Black makes a stop in Burlington County. A film that seems like it popped out of the era it depicts—in a good way.  bbb  

Independence (1976). Even as a short film, this John Huston-directed flick about the founding fathers’ fight for freedom is too long-winded.  bb

Jersey Girl (2004). Clerks auteur Kevin Smith gets mushy as flack Ben Affleck raises his daughter after mother J-Lo dies in childbirth. A decent opening gives way to labored sitcom.  bb

Kimberly (1999). Which rower impregnated pretty Gabrielle Anwar? The question is eventually answered in this lovingly shot coming-of-age odyssey.  bbb

The Last Broadcast (1998): This faux documentary about the search for the Jersey Devil preceded The Blair Witch Project with its you-are-there immediacy and gripping video technique.  bbb

The Lost Man (1969). Sidney Poitier stars in a tale of black revolutionaries robbing a North Philly factory. An intelligent take on the classic Odd Man Out, made at the dawn of the blaxploitation cycle.  bbb

The Life and Times of Charlie Putz (1994). A lonely elevator operator finds a mate in this nostalgic comedy with South Philly and Center City locations. A sweet tale with special appeal to Chaplin and Keaton fans.  bb

mafioso: The Father, The Son (2004). Cheesesteak king Tony Luke Jr. co-stars in a South Philly mob drama boasting a kung fu fight in the old China Castle restaurant. A tad too solemn for its own good.  bb

Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973). A horror flick shot in Willow Grove Park, with a pre-“Tattoo” Herve Villechaize. Not quite Night of the Living Dead, but you gotta dig the sights of the long-gone park.  bb

Mannequin (1987). Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall as a Wanamaker’s statue who comes to life in hopes of finding love. Even with James Spader, the amateurish film’s popularity baffles. bb

Marnie (1964). This Hitchcock film, featuring Tippi Hedren as a klepto and Sean Connery with hair, offers scenes shot at 30th Street Station. Not the master’s best, but it has deservedly gained some critical steam in recent years.  bbb

Money for Nothing (1993). John Cusack is South Philly armored-car money-grabber Joey Coyle. Would have been better if it stuck to the facts, which are truly stranger than this fiction.  bb

National Treasure (2004). The big-budget action flick comes to Philly, with Nicolas Cage defending the Declaration of Independence.  bbb

Pride of the Marines (1945). True story, with John Garfield as Philly war hero Al Schmid. Strong war flick.    bbbb

Renegades (1989). Philly cops Lou Diamond Phillips and Kiefer Sutherland chase down a crook on the El. Worth a look on USA Network at 3:14 a.m. Maybe.    bb

Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990). Dumb sequels that invalidate and tarnish the reputation of the original.    bb

Signs (2002). Farmer Mel Gibson finds faith after
confronting aliens in Bucks County for Night ­Shyamalan. Despite serious logical gaps—they’re afraid of water?—this film packs some interstellar punches.  bbb

State Property (2002): Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z and Damon Dash in a rough-and-tumble gangsta yarn that’s brutal, poorly made, and so popular on DVD that it led to a sequel.  bb

Stealing Home (1988). Mark Harmon is a washed-up baseball player who carries the urn of his late friend Jodie Foster around Chestnut Hill. Too touchy-feely to have a real impact, but the Philly locales are swell.  bb

Strut! (2002). A loving, colorful salute to the Mummers from local institution Max Raab. Get up as close and personal to the feathers and fellas as you’d ever want to—and keep warm at home while you do.  bbb

Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise (1980). Space was the place for the local jazz giant, whose creativity and weirdness come through loud and clear in this scruffy but effective overview.  bb   

Taps (1981). Tim Hutton, Tom Cruise and Sean Penn defending Valley Forge Military Academy. Intense, exciting drama.  bbb

The Trouble With Angels (1966). Hayley Mills as a teen at a convent school in Ambler, with Rosalind Russell as the mother superior. Fun.  bbb

Two Bits (1995). Al Pacino is a grandfather offering life lessons in this Italian Market drama. Love the shots of the Colonial Theater and fruit vendors, but Al’s performance is overripe.  bb

Unbreakable (2000). Superhero Bruce Willis vs. ­super-villain Samuel L. Jackson in Shyamalan effort with Manayunk and Franklin Field locales. Often riveting, and undervalued.  bbb

Uncle Scam (1981). A farce about Abscam shenanigans, with cameos by Pat Cooper and Joan Rivers. Pretty obscure, but you can understand why.  b

Up Close and Personal (1996). Romantic drama with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer, loosely based on Jessica Savitch’s life.  bbb

The Village (2004). M. Night’s misfire about beasties scaring occupants of a 19th-century town.  bb

The Watermelon Woman (1996). A lesbian TLA Video clerk becomes obsessed with an actress while making a documentary on her. The scant budget shows, but this scores points for ambition.   bb

Wide Awake (1998). M. Night Shyamalan’s real first film is a sentimental fable about a Catholic schoolboy, with Denis Leary and Rosie O’Donnell. Many themes of The Sixth Sense are here if you’re looking.  bb  

Worth Winning (1989). Playboy weatherman Mark Harmon’s romantic forecast is cloudy unless he picks the right girl soon. It would play like a TV movie if not for 1980s faves Madeleine Stowe and Lesley Ann Warren.  bb

Movie Irv Slifkin is the author of Video Hound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era. E-mail: [email protected].