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The best of the buddy films

The best of the buddy films — ”Rope,” ”Dead Ringers,” and ”A Boy and His Dog” are some of the movies reviewed

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Thelma & Louise is getting a lot of mileage for having put a new twist on the tired old genre of the buddy flick. But while director Ridley Scott’s new feature may be the first major feminist female-buddy road picture, some other equally groundbreaking buddy films are hidden on the video-store shelves.

Rope (1948)
Alfred Hitchcock’s meditation on real-life killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, filmed in uninterrupted 10-minute takes, is remembered today as a quintessential gimmick picture. But it’s also the most wonderfully perverse jape of the director’s career. It’s the story of two effete intellectuals (Farley Granger and John Dall) who murder a college chum and then throw a dinner party with the corpse hidden in their living room. Director Richard Fleischer handled the same situation in the celebrated Compulsion (1959), but Hitchcock’s elegantly twisted version, stagy as it is, remains superior. B+

In Cold Blood (1967)
Two young sociopaths (Robert Blake and Scott Wilson) drift across the country and eventually slaughter a Kansas farm family in this cross between Psycho and Of Mice and Men. Writer-director Richard Brooks does a superb job of adapting Truman Capote’s multileveled book and coaxes sensational performances from his stars; Blake, in particular, is so good he’ll make you forgive every episode of Baretta you ever suffered through. Not for the squeamish. A

A Boy and His Dog (1975)
Baby-faced, pre-Miami Vice Don Johnson wanders around a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of food and sex, aided by his brilliant best friend: a dog with Benji’s looks and the telepathic voice of a snooty maitre d’. Former cowboy actor L.Q. Jones directed and scripted this mordant sci-fi comedy from a novella by Harlan Ellison; the satire gets a trifle woozy in the picture’s last third, but the film is redeemed by one of the great bad-taste endings of recent cinema. A-

Dead Ringers (1988)
Twin gynecologists (Jeremy Irons, in a performance that should have garnered two Best Actor Oscars but didn’t even win a nomination) share their patients, their apartment, and each other’s girlfriends — until Genevieve Bujold shows up and severs their psychic umbilical cord. The result: a slow, inexorable descent into madness, drugs, and death, staged by director David Cronenberg as an astonishing combination of visual elegance, pathos, wit, and horror. One of the most underappreciated films of the ’80s. A+

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
Writer-director Bruce Robinson’s first feature, Withnail and I, was a hilariously twisted buddy film about two goofballs watching the ’60s wind down. This more recent effort is equally funny and even more twisted — the story of a burned-out advertising exec with a talking boil on his neck (”I may be a chancre, but my word is my bond”). Robinson takes on a few too many satirical targets, but star Richard E. Grant gives a great over-the-top performance. It’s hard to dislike a film where a giant zit gets all the best lines. B+