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20 Awesome Obscure Movies

From Beyond The Grave (1974)

The Plot : British horror anthology comprising of four standalone tales linked by a central location.

Peter Cushing plays the propriotor of an antiques store which specialises in selling cursed objects.

The narrative splits when customers come into Cushing's shop, buy something, and we follow them out to discover what happens next.

To say more would spoil the surprises, but suffice to say, there's a twist in each tale.

Why So Obscure: Despite being a firm favourite of die-hard horror geeks, Amicus, the production company behind Grave and several other stand-out British horror flicks, doesn't have the brand recognition of Hammer.

As a result Amicus flicks aren't on the mainstream radar as much as their Hammer contemporaries.

Which is a massive shame.

From Beyond The Grave is just one of many great anthologies put out by Amicus - including Asylum , The House That Dripped Blood and Torture Garden , all of which deserve your attention.

How Awesome : Just take a look at the cast.

Peter Cushing, David Warner, Ian Bannen, Diana Dors, Lesley-Anne Down, Ian Carmichael, Ian Ogilvy, Margaret Leighton and, perhaps most fascinatingly of all, Donald Pleasence and his daughter Angela Pleasence.

Donald and Angela star in arguably the best section - An Act Of Kindness - which also features a brilliant turn fron Ian Bannen as a hen-pecked husband twitching with inner-rage.

With each of the stories as compelling as the last, Tales From The Crypt acolytes and Creepshow kids have a new favourite movie to hunt out.

Just be careful where you buy it from...

The Fallen Idol (1948)

The Plot: Phillipe, the young son of a foreign ambassador, finds his life thrown into turmoil when his beloved butler Baines is accused of murder.

Phillipe was the only witness to the apparent crime, but he's unsure of what he saw.

Why So Obscure: We have absolutely no idea.

It was directed by The Third Man helmer Carol Reed. Like The Third Man , it was scripted by Graham Greene. And it's just as accomplished as that classic.

In fact, Greene's gone on record to state he prefers it.

But, despite winning the Best British Picture award at the '48 BAFTAs Idol has, for some reason, been almost completely forgotten.

How Awesome: The Fallen Idol is every bit as absorbing, suspenseful and electrifying as the best of Hitchcock, with a startling central performance from child actor Bobby Henrey.

Henrey sadly only made one more film before giving up acting, eventually moving to the US to become an accountant.

But at least he gave cinema this performance - one that deserves to be remembered.

With a script peppered with the sort of dialogue that feels more like wisdom from the gods than film-words - "It's a great life if you don't weaken," "Some lies are a kindness," "We ought to be very careful, because we make one another." - The Fallen Idol is an absolute masterpiece, gripping from start to finish.

We can't recommend it highly enough.

It's on LoveFilm, so if you have an account, stick it on your list, you won't regret it.

Five Shaolin Masters (1974)

The Plot: When a Shaolin temple is burnt to the ground by Qing soldiers, five surviving Shaolin monks decide to unite their fellow patriots and take revenge.

Why So Obscure: One of the more low-budget Shaw Brothers flicks, this doesn't have quite the grandeur as some of their later releases.

But it doesn't stop it from being one of the very best.

How Awesome: From the opening credit sequence - showing our heroes demonstrating their martial arts prowess - to the bloody final fight, Five Shaolin Masters is the epitome of cool.

And it feels like an incredible fight sequence is thrown at you every five minutes between those two points.

Highlights include a torture room dust-up, a training sequence montage that'll take your breath away, and some of the coolest weapon scraps this side of Star Wars .

Not as well known as the films that followed it - Shaolin Temple and The 36 Chambers Of Shaolin , for example - Five Shaolin Masters is perhaps a better entry point for newcomers to the genre.

It's split narrative propels the story - and action - at a fast enough pace to maintain the interest of modern action junkies.

And its insanely impressive choreography will make those brought up on Bruce Willis want to click 'buy' on the entire Shaw Brothers back-catalogue.

Its influence is still felt today in movies and videogames ( Tekken fans especially will be taking notes) for good reason. It's awesome.

Mosquito On The 10th Floor (1983)

The Plot: A police box chief - which seems to be a position somewhere between desk sergeant and security guard - who has served his community for 20 years without promotion, goes off the rails.

Why So Obscure: This one's so bleak that you almost want to burst into tears when our lead cracks his first brief smile.

Unfortunately, he does so shortly before he becomes addicted to rough sex, gambling and - seriously - computer games.

After that it becomes a lot harder to sympathise.

To be honest, Mosquito was probably never meant for the mainstream. This ponderous tale starts out depressing, and goes downhill from there. We love it.

How Awesome: Coming almost ten years before Bad Lieutenant , this is essentially the same story.

Seriously, they're so close we're surprised it isn't called Bad Box Chief .

Only, this one has a Blade Runner soundtrack, occasional glimpses at the '80s version of Harajuku subcultures (which seemed to mainly consist of rockabilly quiffs and '50s dresses in those days) and a central character so miserable he makes Travis Bickle look like Poppy from Happy-Go-Lucky .

The first act reflects real life so accurately, it almost feels like a documentary. Then, when things start to take a turn for the worst, you'll struggle to believe that this is a true story.

But true story it is.

Iconic singer Uchida Yuya (he's essentially Japan's John Lennon) read about the events depicted, co-wrote the screenplay and decided to star.

We're not sure what it was about one of the most unflattering roles in cinema history that appealed to Yuya, but we're glad something did.

If you prefer your double-life anti-heroes to be a bit more frivolous, pick up The Resurrection Of The Golden Wolf (1979) instead.

Everyone else, Mosquito won't exactly make you happy, but, as a character study, there are few better.

Cast A Deadly Spell (1991)

The Plot: In an alternate '40s LA where pretty much everyone practises magic, Private Investigator Philip Lovecraft is tasked with finding a missing book - the Necronomicon - whilst trying to avoid being double (and triple) crossed by wizards and weirdos.

Why So Obscure: This HBO TV movie was never cinematically released, despite the pedigree of its cast - Fred Ward, David Warner, Julianne Moore and Clancy Brown - and its director, Martin Campbell.

You can find it in your local video shop, though. They still exist, don't they?

How Awesome: Essentially Who Framed Roger Rabbit with magic instead of 'toons and Julianne Moore instead of Jessica Rabbit, Cast A Deadly Spell is non-stop fun.

It'll especially appeal to HP Lovecraft geeks, as it's packed full of references to HP's library.

Some nods are a bit on the nose - our hero's name - but most are more subtle (a central nightclub is called The Dunwich Rooms, for example).

But you don't have to be a bookworm to enjoy this Spell .

Most film fans will get a kick out of a flick that features zombie builders, a voodoo priestess landlady, and hitmen who use demons instead of guns.

And with Tremors ' Fred Ward's miraculous chemistry with a sultry Julianne Moore steaming up the screen, there's something here for all the family.

The Perfume Of The Lady In Black (1974)

The Plot: A young woman is plagued by visions from her past.

Why So Obscure: When film fans are asked about '70s Italian horror directors, most will name the legends - Argento, Bava and Fulci.

But the first name on their lips should be Francesco Barilli. Barilli only made one out-and-out horror film. But what a film it is.

How Awesome: Imagine if David Lynch and Dario Argento clubbed together to raise Alfred Hitchcock from the dead to direct a JG Ballard script, only to leave Lucio Fulci in charge of the final five minutes, and you'll be close to picturing the genius of Perfume .

We really don't want to say too much more about it, as it's the sort of film you should go into with as little pre-knowledge as possible.

But what we will say is it's beautifully shot, powerfully edited, and the music will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Readily available on R2 DVD, if you only buy one title from this list, make it Perfume .

The Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman (1969)

The Plot: When warlords invade Fang Gang's territory, the one-armed swordsman is forced to come out of retirement to help an army of students save their masters, after the students are ordered to cut off their own sword arms or face death.

Why So Obscure: We take it as a personal affront that more people have seen Attack Of The Clones than this magnificent sequel.

Both contain swordsfights and limbs being lopped off after all.

Though, to be fair, George Lucas had a slightly bigger marketing budget than Chang Cheh.

How Awesome: Where to begin?

This is the sort of sequel that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Empire Strikes Back , Evil Dead 2 and Godfather Part II .

Essentially a stand-alone story - the events of the first film are summed up in a sentence of dialogue - our now established hero Fang is pitted against against eight insanely brutal villains, each with their own cool weapon / nickname.

From Thousand Hands Lady's multiple knives to Poisonous Dragon's doesn't-play-fair sword (it's also a gun!) to Spinning Wheel's Captain America style shield (with a sharp twist), the viewer is constantly bombarded with cool characters and concepts - and, like Fang, we're forced to keep up.

Managing to be both a gleeful celebration of the art of the swordfight and a serious exploration of the consquences of war, Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman is a glorious film.

If you have Attack Of The Clones in your collection, you owe it to yourself to bring balance to the force by buying this one on DVD.

The American Dreamer (1971)

The Plot: Documentary covering Dennis Hooper's attempt to follow Easy Rider with The Last Movie .

Why So Obscure: One of the rawest star documentaries ever made, we're not surprised this one has slipped between the cracks. It's mental.

How Awesome : If you knew absolutely nothing about Dennis Hopper going into this documentary, you'd come out the other end absolutely certain you'd seen a deconstruction of a charismatic cult leader.

Hopper takes trips to the desert to shoot guns. He takes baths with groupies. He conducts LSD-fuelled speeches in bedrooms filled with half-naked women. He announces 'I think I'm a lesbian.' to feminist journalists. He drives out into the middle of surburbia, strips naked and walks the streets.

What he doesn't really do, however, is make a movie.

But that's not really the point of The American Dreamer . Made in the days before DVD extras, this is more making-out than making-of.

And Hopper's rambling ruminations on love, life and - most frequently - his own legend, are fascinating to behold, particularly now that he's left us.

As much an exercise in myth-making as it is myth-exploring, The American Dreamer is as important a part of Hopper's legacy as Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet .

The Flight Of Dragons (1982)

The Plot: When the realm of magic is threatened by the realm of logic, a great wizard summons an intellectual from the world of man, to try and unite spells and science.

But it’s far more exciting than that sounds – with powerful dragons, mystical knights, grotesque monsters and demonic warlocks all joining the battle for supremacy.

Basically, it’s what would happen if you Sellotaped some pages from The New Scientist into The Lord Of The Rings .

Why So Obscure
: In this epic battle between magic and science, religion doesn't get a look in.

So perhaps all the gods (Jesus, Zeus, the other lot) clubbed together to conspire against Dragons ever being released on DVD in the UK.

It's literally the only explanation that makes sense.

How Awesome: Flight was released direct to VHS in 1982, but it gained such a following that it was unleashed cinematically in 1986.

And rightly so - there's something really special about Flight Of Dragons .

The voice-acting manages to be both boomingly epic at times, and so naturalistic at others that line delivery alone will bring you to the brink of tears.

Featuring James Earl Jones as the - imagine this - villain, and John Ritter as a Harry-Potter-with-a-chemistry-degree hero, the cast is peppered with pedigree.

And the - comparatively - complex plot is constantly commanding, with our likeable leads facing high stakes and great tragedy on their journey to an extremely satisfying climax.

There is a R1 DVD (we had to wait until 2009 for that one) so if you've got a multi-region player and (especially) if you've got a young family, these Dragons deserve to be rescued from extinction.

Static (1986)

The Plot: A young inventor believes he's created a television set which allows people to view heaven.

Why So Obscure: Despite the fact Mark Romanek went on to have an acclaimed career as a music video director (before returning to cinema with One Hour Photo and, most recently, Never Let Me Go ), this, his debut feature, has been left to languish on VHS.

How Awesome: A cult classic on the '80s new wave scene, Static 's achingly hip soundtrack and profoundly surreal imagery are so well mixed that it's no wonder it directly led to Romanek giving up the megaphone for MTV.

Static reflects his genius eye for the weird and wonderful that made his music video oeuvre so memorable, more so than any of his other films.

But despite the cool songs, weird visuals, and a cast of characters the Coens would dismiss as too odd - including a survivalist who preaches the bible to convert people, so they'll accept the inevitable when the apocalypse comes, leaving more supplies for him - Static never falls victim to style over substance.

This flick has heart - thanks mainly to our leads, Keith Gordon and Amanda Plummer.

Their central relationship is a key to Static 's success - making a third-act shock all the more devastating when it comes out of nowhere to completely change the dynamic of the film.

Extremely hard to track down, but definitely worth the search.

We've given you our obscure recommendations - what about you? Do you have any titles we should be seeking out? Tell us below!