Reading about movies, you hear stories of some films shot in five days and other films shot over three years. Some of the poverty-row directors and B-movie makers cranked out as many movies as they could during a calendar year, while filmmakers like Charlie Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick waited years between projects (making each release a new "event"). Most filmmakers, I think, given the chance would probably release one film per year, keeping their toes in without burning out. But sometimes, whether it's a trick of the calendar, or some peculiar rhythms of timing, some of the greatest directors manage to release two films per year. And even less often, both of these films turn out great. The following is my not-exactly-extensive, but enthusiastic celebration of the one-two punch or the director's double-whammy.
1. Jacques Tourneur:I Walked with a Zombie and The Leopard Man (1943)
The world has frankly been a better place to live since Warner Home Video released the five-disc, nine-film DVD "Val Lewton Horror Collection" box set in 2005. I have often promised myself that, if ever en route to a desert island, it would be the first thing I'd grab (provided that said island came with its own entertainment system). Four directors worked on those nine great horror films (counting poor Gunther von Fritsch, a footnote in film history for being too slow, getting fired from The Curse of the Cat People, and thus launching Robert Wise's career). But Jacques Tourneur -- son of silent era filmmaker Maurice Tourneur -- is undoubtedly the most talented of the group. He started the cycle with the extraordinary Cat People in 1942, and followed it with this one-two punch in April and May of the following year. Sure, they're cheap, quickly-made B-movies, but few films have ever been made -- in any genre, for any price -- with so much textured atmosphere and such a resounding sense of dreamy dread.