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All Movie Talk

Welcome to All Movie Talk! In this audio podcast, Samuel Stoddard and Stephen Keller talk about old and new movies, famous directors, historical film movements, movie trivia, and more.

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Top 6 Word: Queen

Queen Elizabeth II reigned longer than any other British monarch. Most people alive today never saw another on the throne until this week, when she passed away at age 96. Few people who have ever lived have been so highly regarded by so many. I thought I'd pay tribute to her in what I admit is a very silly way but no less earnest for it.

The top 6 movies with "Queen" in the title follow. Missing the cut are a whole bunch of terrible but sometimes fun sword-and-sandal flicks: Colossus and the Amazon Queen, Samson and the Slave Queen, Warrior Queen, Barbarian Queen, and Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back. There is also the cheapie jungle romp Queen of the Amazons and a truly terrible effort to revive the Charlie Chan franchise with Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen.

6. Queen of the Yukon (1940)

Okay, so this isn't that good either, but it bubbles above all those sword-and-sandal movies because you can tell that beneath the amateur production values and clunky dialogue is the raw material for something that might have sparkled with a little more money and talent behind the camera. The eponymous heroine is Sadie Martin, who operates a riverboat to take miners up to their claims, but there's a plot afoot to wrest control of the business away so some unscrupulous folks can cheat the miners.

5. The Viking Queen (1967)

Hammer Films is best known for its horror movies, but it churned out a fair number of science fiction films, thrillers, prehistoric adventures, and even comedies. With The Viking Queen, Hammer took a stab at the kind of lush Roman epic that was popular a decade or so previously but without the literary clout: this is unapologetically escapist fare, generously drenched with cheese. Provided your expectations are appropriately calibrated, it works nicely as a guilty pleasure.

4. Queen Kelly (1929)

It's a big leap in quality to arrive at this next pick, which is good enough to secure a spot on the list even though it's an unfinished film. Erich von Stroheim shot about four hours of footage for this lavish silent epic before its producer and star Gloria Swanson (a superstar of the silent era but best known as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard) fired him, and the picture was abandoned. Footage was shot later to package up what he'd completed into a finished film, but the seams show. Nevertheless, what's here is some of Von Stroheim's best work, daring and beautiful and haunting.

3. Queen of Katwe (2016)

This biopic tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a female chess prodigy from Uganda, whose prowess at the game suddenly affords her opportunities she scarcely imagined. The film wisely broadens our view of Phiona so that we can understand her not only as a chess master but as a girl on the cusp of adulthood. Over the course of the story, she's not only trying to figure out the game but life as well. She's relatable and empathetic as a result, and the film is a joy.

2. The Queen (2006)

Hey, here's a "Queen" movie that's actually about Queen Elizabeth. Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her complex, pitch-perfect portrayal of the monarch in this chronicle of the aftermath of the tragic death of Princess Diana. Amidst the private grieving of the royal family, the queen, as ever aware of the important role she must play in the healing of the nation, must figure out how best to meet the needs of the British people. Few movies give their characters time to think and reflect, but that's a large part of what The Queen is about.

1. The African Queen (1951)

The African Queen is one of the greatest adventure films and an iconic pairing of two of the screen's greatest actors, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The pair find themselves at odds with the African wilderness as they travel upriver, but the treachery of the landscape only accounts for half of the what the characters must endure. The other half is each other: he's a cranky drunk, and she's an austere missionary. Pitching superficially opposite caricatures against each other is the time-honored formula of the buddy movie, but The African Queen has higher aspirations and turns both of them into real, breathing, complicated people. Their verbal sparring is a delight, albeit one tempered by the tense horror of the hostile land.

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