Is there a comic book junkie in your life who has burned out on those caped, spandex-clad protectors of justice? Or perhaps more importantly, is there someone in your life who would enjoy a comic book film for Christmas, but you just can't bear the thought of sitting through another atrocity like Daredevil or Elektra with him or her? Don't panic --comics aren't just about super heroes, and the same can be said about comic book movies. For your Christmas shopping convenience, here are seven non-super hero comic book films that I highly recommend:
Tales From the Crypt (1972)
If you're only familiar with the HBO series or its movie spin-offs, this British flick from Hammer Films veteran Freddie Francis represents a very different take on the classic E.C. horror comics from the 1950s. Even though some of the stories adapted for this film were later recycled by HBO, Francis's film largely eschews the tongue-in-cheek approach of the series and the original comics. During a tour of some catacombs, five people wander off and encounter the Crypt Keeper played by Ralph Richardson, who looks nothing like his animatronic counterpart from the series. The Keeper encourages each of the lost travelers to recount a dark, horrific tale about him or herself. Amicus Films, who produced Tales From the Crypt, made many anthology style horror films around this time, but Crypt was the best of the bunch. A sequel called The Vault of Horror followed in 1973.
American Splendor (2003)
This film is based on the autobiographical comics written by the often curmudgeonly Harvey Pekar, a file clerk from Cleveland. The stories in the comics are often not even stories by the strictest definition, but interesting slices of Pekar's life, or his observations on mundane but very real topics. As the film's tagline puts it, "ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." The film succeeds magnificently in doing what I thought to be impossible: translating the comics into a cohesive narrative. Paul Giamatti is amazing as Pekar, with the real Pekar also playing himself in the film outside the film (which will make sense if you see it). The movie was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.