A potted history of the high-concept film
1 ARRIVAL OF A TRAIN AT LA CIOTAT STATION (1895)
The pitch: All right, Marcel. You have a station. You have a train. The train comes into the station. Sound’s mundane, yes? But here’s the thing. It all happens on a big white sheet hanging in a darkened room. It will catch on. I swear.
2 FREAKS (1932)
The pitch: There’s this bunch of carnival freaks, one of whom inherits a bunch of money and gets seduced by the avaricious trapeze artist. Then they . . . Okay, forget that bit. It’s about freaks.
3 I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
The pitch: Look, I know zombies are a hard sell. It’s not as if they’re ever going to become the stuff of comic books, hit movies, pastiches of Victorian novels and series on – what’s that new-fangled thing called? – television. But it’s about a beautiful woman who walks out with a comatose ghoul. They’ll love it.
4 ROPE (1948)
The pitch: Okay, listen carefully. It’s about two guys who kill their pal and then have a bunch of people round for cocktails. But that’s not the hook. It’s all filmed in one continuous take. The gimmick is going on behind the camera. Sure, the audience will give a damn. They’re not morons. Are they?
5 HARVEY (1950)
The pitch: So, it’s about a drunk whose best friend is an imaginary rabbit. Good, isn’t it? Yeah, so it’s making fun of a serious symptom of substance abuse. Lighten up. This is 1950. Nobody cares about that stuff yet. 6 THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)
The pitch: What’s the only thing more exciting than lot’s of stuff happening? Nothing happening, that’s what. This alien arrives and – to teach us a lesson – makes all sources of power grind to a halt. They’ll call it a classic in 50 years.
7 JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER (1966)
The pitch: What are the two biggest genres at the drive-ins? Westerns and horror flicks. So, let’s get a gunslinger on screen with a sexy relative of Dr Frankenstein. There’s more. We put the film on a double bill with Billy the Kid vs Dracula.