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No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Watch
July 31, 2012  | By David Bianculli  | 29 comments

I saw the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger when Encore televised it earlier this month, and I’ll see it again when it’s repeated July 31. I can’t help myself. For me, it’s one of those irresistible spider-web movies: a film that ensnares me every time it’s on TV…

I don’t need to see Goldfinger again. And if I do, I can see it any time I want: I have the DVD in my own home-video library. But like a mythical siren luring me towards the rocks, any network televising Goldfinger will trap me in its inescapable current. Even if I tune in partway, by accident, that’s it. Once I’m there, I can’t leave. I check in, but I can’t check out…

And Goldfinger, with Sean Connery’s suave sneer, Oddjob’s razor-sharp hat brim, and Goldfinger’s almost bored villainy while aiming a laser at 007’s crotch (“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die”), isn’t the only spider-web movie that grabs me each and every time, even though I own my own commercial-free, watch-when-I-want copy.

The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is another one — fabulous plot and performances, and, thanks to Robert Shaw, another great villain. And another Newman-Redford teaming, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with a perfect script by the great William Goldman, is yet another.

So is another Goldman-scripted movie, The Princess Bride — a movie that can make you laugh just as hard the 20th time as the first. I know this from personal experience.

The Sting, like Goldfinger, was shown on TV this month (on TCM). So were two other films I consider spider-web movies: the comedy Galaxy Quest, shown on Cinemax, and the much darker Deliverance, shown on AMC.

I not only recommended these as Best Bets, I watched them, too. It didn't matter what else was being shown on those nights.

A list of other movies whose charms, for me, are irresistible, would include Jaws (no summer is complete without it), American Graffiti, and any number of Stanley Kubrick movies, starting with Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.

My son, Mark, is visiting at the moment. After briefly explaining the “spider-web movie” concept, I asked him if he had any of his own, and his answer was as immediate as it was definitive.

The Big Lebowski. Pulp Fiction,” he said instantly. “Shawshank Redemption. Jurassic Park.”

I stopped listening around then. For all I know, he may still be rattling off names.

But if my own son gets the idea right away, and has his own candidates, I wonder — is this a universal kind of reaction?

And, if so — if you have your own “spider-web movies” that grab you every time they’re on television — what are they?

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Surprised that no one has mentioned "My Cousin Vinny" -- a family favorite that has provided many catchphrases we use all the time around here.
May 3, 2013   |  Reply
Steve Valentine
Ditto: Terminator, Die Hard, Great Escape, Bridge on the River Kwai, Pulp Fiction, Silence of the Lambs and Blazing Saddles.
I'll add: The Hunt For Red October, Seven, A Bridge Too Far and The Train (1964).
Jan 29, 2013   |  Reply
I second Sarah's comment about knowing them well enough to watch from any point. For me, this class of movie is one where watching 15 - 30 minutes out of the middle is just fine because I know the story and the characters. It works when you are waiting for your spouse to finish dressing or you have 20 minutes before something else starts. My list includes some of the previously named and just about any Matt Damon, the Bourne series especially.
Nov 30, 2012   |  Reply
ken kahn
I'd like to add "Fly Away Home" to the list. Especially the last 1/2 or so always gets to me, but I thoroughly enjoy the entire every time.
Aug 30, 2012   |  Reply
It is nice to see I am not the only one who does this. The best thing about these movies is knowing them well enough so you can watch at any point in the film. I have to agree with The Princess Bride(even writing a short story which referances the movie and book) and will add Ghostbusters (first mivie I memorized by heart before I was 10) and Titanic. There are a few more but I seem to forget about them until I'm flipping through and see one.
Aug 20, 2012   |  Reply
My spider-web movies also have to have a feel-better-if-you've-got-the-flu quality. So I definitely agree with Galaxy Quest! Here are others:
Groundhog Day
Heaven Can Wait (Beatty version)

Then when not sick, I agree with The Sting and:
Breaking Away
Thunderheart (oddly watchable)
Witness (can't turn it off)
To Kill A Mockingbird

and in a category all by itself, the best film ever:
The Third Man
Aug 15, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Great choices! And To Kill a Mockingbird just grabbed me again recently...
Sep 20, 2012
All of your choices are great - and I'd echo all of Mark's, especially Jurassic Park. My first addition is What About Bob? But my other pick is an odd one: Drumline. Not a particularly great movie, and well outside of my usual style, but every time it's on, I watch it all the way through. Ridiculous.
Aug 15, 2012   |  Reply
Have to agree with many of the Bianculli and reader suggestions for "spider-web" films, but no one's mentioned my favorite: Blazing Saddles. I've seen it dozens of times, have it on both DVD and VHS, and still stop to watch it whenever I stumble across it on a channel. It fires on so many cylinders -- silliness, skewering racism, belittling Nazis, the Klan, small-minded bigots and "gay" musicals. The sight (and sound!) gags like the infamous campfire scene. And the breaking of the fourth wall all over the place, especially at the end when the big brawl intrudes on an adjacent soundstage and out into modern-day Los Angeles. Silly and smart at the same time. Mel Brooks' best movie.
Aug 15, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
And the last time I interviewed Mel Brooks, he told me he'd written a couple new songs for a planned "Blazing Saddles" musical. Can't wait.
Sep 20, 2012
Marti Porterfield
"Live and Let Die" -- only the part near the beginning where they kill a guy on the streets of NOLA and then they go into the Second Line dance.

"A Few Good Men," the part near the end when Nicholson does his rant on the witness stand.

I have seen the former, many times, and the latter a few times. Now, I just try to "catch" them so I can watch my favorite scenes.
Aug 8, 2012   |  Reply
Jim Connell
Number one on the list for some inexplicable reason - That Thing You Do - I always catch the scene where their song is played on the radio for the first time. - Hmm, maybe not so inexplicable.
Also, as Tom Bergeron would intone, "in no particular order", (most already mentioned)
Pulp Fiction
Princess Bride
Maltese Falcon
Sullivan's Travels (or any Preston Sturges)
The Big Lebowski,
I guess it could go on....
Aug 2, 2012   |  Reply
I can't help myself, but anytime Witness is on, gotta watch it. Beautiful film, great story, and Harrison Ford at his very finest. Also, Goodfellas for Ray Liotta's performance alone, Godfather I & II, Saturday Night Fever, Mommy Dearest (especially if I'm feverish with the flu), Moonstruck, Mask, This is Spinal Tap, The Exorcist, Bridge on the River Kwai, From Here to Eternity and Psycho (as well as anything by Hitchcock).
Aug 2, 2012   |  Reply
Blade Runner is a great choice; I could listen to Roy Batty's "Tears in Rain" soliloquy a million times and never tire of it. One film that seems to air in great spurts, and then disappear for a while is The Usual Suspects, which I can also watch over and over and over, even knowing the great gotcha ending (and, while we're on the subject of Gabriel Byrne, I would throw Miller's Crossing in there as well).
Aug 1, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Great choices, every one. The Coen Brothers have quite a few on my list, and Miller's Crossing is one I feel is particularly underrated. And what an evocative soundtrack!
Aug 1, 2012
The Shining. No question. Those visuals snare me every time and at any point in the movie. Kubrick was a film god.
Aug 1, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
You wrote four sentences, and I concur emphatically with every one. Redrum! Redrum!
Aug 1, 2012
Most of the movies mentioned already get me everytime...I will add to the list.."The man who shot Liberty Valance"..."Silverado"...any John Ford/John Wayne movie or any Jimmy Cagney (it's tough for me to surf past TCM ever) The idea of a "spider-web" movie reminds me of" The Millon Dollar Movie" of my childhood when ch9 would feature a movie of the week and show it every night(multiple times on Sat & Sun) and I would watch every showing (esp. Abbott & Costello) I used to to love when "It's a Wonderful Life" took over TV in Dec...somehow .a once a year showing doesn't have the same effect on me
Aug 1, 2012   |  Reply
David, For a person who once all but adopted several bottles of wine labeled Silverado," ("I like it because I love the movie," you said), I wouldn't have guessed you were so discriminating about venues for viewing this film. The label, as you may remember, was of a higher quality than the contents of the bottle.
Aug 1, 2012
David Bianculli
Vince -- Silverado is a wonderful example! But only when shown on widescreen, so you can enjoy, all over again, that fabulous scene with Kevin Costner shooting on the saloon porch.
Aug 1, 2012
I don't have time to rewatch movies on tv. TV shows especially situation comedies fit better into my six day work week. My favorite situation comedies are the older shows that are shown on rerun channels other than TVBland. Regarding Bond the early serious toned Connery movies are great. Daniel Craigs Bond is very cool serious and dangerous which is exactly how the character should be.
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
The Princess Bride — a movie that can make you laugh just as hard the 20th time as the first. Sorry David. That movie is BORING.
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Oh, my. I couldn't agree less. But okay...
Aug 1, 2012
A spider-web movie for me is one that I'm willing to watch on basic cable with commercials and less than ideal editing--if I'm compelled to bring out the DVD, then it's no longer a spider-web for me. Those movies include The American President, The Princess Bride, The Bourne movies, the Indy movies, Rocky, Jurassic Park, and Sleepless in Seattle.
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
Mark N
Dear David
Sorry for the double post but Da Wife insisted that I post her Spider-web films.
Firstly and truly bestest...The Goonies...have watched it many, many times...luv Chunk...Apocalypse Now(already mentioned but worthy)...Harvey and Operation Petticoat...(she also mentioned Ferris Bueller's Day Off but said "Don't post it"))
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
jeff hayden
ditto princess bride, sting, & butch cassidy, i'd also add young frankenstein, godfather, marathon man, dirty harry, french connection, chinatown, & bonnie and clyde.
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Oh, my, what a wild bunch! You hit several more of mine: Young Frankenstein, marathon man, french connection, chinatown and bonnie especially...
Aug 1, 2012
And when you DO watch "Goldfinger" again, David, note the number of lines of dialogue James Bond has between the scene before the raid on Ft. Knox and the moment the bomb is defused at the end of the sequence. Answer: ZERO. And then try and imagine a more modern action film doing the same.
Jul 31, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Great point! But there's one other action movie with an almost silent protagonist in the final reel: Jon Voight in "Deliverance," from the '70s. And that, too, is one of my "spider web" movies...
Aug 1, 2012
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