1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

The Studio Exec might have a heart made of adamantium but occasionally a heartwarming story comes his way that warms the cockles. Welshman Mark Allcock and his family emigrated to New Zealand and decided to work their way through a 1001 Movies you must See Before You Die book. And just before Christmas, they completed their epic odyssey. In an EXCLUSIVE interview, we quizzed Mr Allcock about his impressive feat. 

You recently completed watching every movie in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Diebook. Why embark on such a hare-brained scheme?

I’ve always loved watching movies ever since I was a kid. I have several film books and bought the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book in April 2009. This is a really good reference book for all types of films.  It was around 2009 when I decided to start watching as many films as possible from the book and then it became an obsession as the number of films finally started to get lower and lower. Living in New Zealand also helps as the TV over here is not very good.

How long did it take?

I started in April 2009 and watched the final film on 15/12/13. It took around 4 years and 8 months. I had probably seen around 150 titles in the book when I started back in April 2009.

How easy/difficult was it to acquire some of the movies listed. Which one(s) did you have the most trouble with?

It was difficult to acquire the movies listed but it all seemed to come together near the end. I was down to the last five movies which you could not rent anywhere so I got a friend to download some of them and add subtitles. I also bought a couple off Amazon. Many of the films could be watched on the internet, i.e YouTube. There is also a great independent DVD store in Hamilton which has lots of art house, independent and classic movies. The owner of the store was also working through the book so we helped each other near the end. The films I had difficulty with were No Fear No Die, The Wheel, and Turkish Delight.

Now that you’ve sucked up all of the movie knowledge known to mankind. Which Actors/Actresses gave the stand out performances in those 1001?

It’s so difficult to pick best films and performances as there are so many. These are some of my favourites. The actors which gave the stand out performances were Marlon Brando/On the Waterfront, Robert De Niro/Raging Bull, Jack Nicholson/One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Charlie Chaplin/The Gold Rush and Raimu/The Bakers Wife. As for the actresses; Sharon Stone in Casino, Vivian Leigh in A Street Car Named Desire, Giulietta Masina in Nights of Cabiria, Rene Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc and Emily Watsonin Breaking the Waves.

Who, in your opinion are the best directors?

Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Kenji Mizoguchi, Frederico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, John Ford, Orson Welles, Jean Renoir and Ingmar Bergman. These are in no particular order.

What are the best movies overall?

There are so many great movies it’s so hard to say. The book has introduced me to many films which I may not have watched otherwise. The films which standout for me are Sunrise, The  Gold Rush, Seven Samurai, Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, Madame de, Once Upon a Time in the West, Jaws, Paths of Glory, Come and See, Casablanca, Ordet, The Housemaid, Godfather, Vertigo, Goodfellas and The Lives of Others.

Any list contains the odd overrated stinker. What were the major disappointments?

There were several movies I had to just sit through and endure just to tick another one off the list. Andy Warhol‘s Vinyl comes to mind along with experimental films such as Blonde Cobra and Flaming Creatures. Other films include The Nutty Professor and Artists and Models (not a fan of Jerry Lewis), along with El Topo and Pink Flamingos.

What are the main things you’ve learnt from this experience?

It’s been an excellent reference book with a wide variety of films to watch. I have learnt that silent films are amazing, the 40s and 50s are crammed full of excellent movies. The 50s is my favorite decade for movies. The directors I mentioned earlier are the real stars of the movie industry. Always have time for world cinema and old movies (black and white). So many people I come across don’t watch old movies or subtitled films (including film students) yet they don’t realize what they are missing out on due to having such a narrow focus or the patience to try something other than mainstream.

You must have felt a sense of victory but at the same time, a little sadness when you finally watched the last film?

There is an air of sadness but overall, I am pleased I have now finished the book. It’s been a marathon but worthwhile.

So you must have a lot of extra time to kill now. What are you going to do it?

Finish off watching the BFI TOP 100. I have three to go. Watch films from other critic’s lists. There are around 10 films in the other editions of the 1001 films books I need to watch. 

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