After a dearth of new releases worth discussing in the few months since Barbenheimer, it’s been refreshing to see the response to Martin Scorsese’s epic Killers of the Flower Moon as it enters a wide release. While we’ll have our own extensive discussion coming soon on The Film Stage Show, the director himself has now provided some welcome homework as he’s highlighted six key films to watch that influenced the making of his David Grann adaptation.
Courtesy of TCM and Letterboxd, the director has joined the latter platform and provided nearly 60 companion films that he studied in preparation for making all of his features. While that entire list is well worth checking out, particularly the accompanying notes the director has provided (in which you’ll learn the Jacques Tourner noir he showed Leonardo DiCaprio to prepare for Shutter Island, the experimental dance films that influenced his concert movies, the movie that forced him to be a director, and much, much more), we’re keying in on the influences for Killers of the Flower Moon. Find the list below, including where to watch each film, as well as Scorsese’s full commentary. (In the video interview below, he also adds a bonus pick: George Stevens’ Giant.)
The Last of the Line (Thomas H. Ince, Jay Hunt) – watch below
The Lady of the Dugout (W.S. Van Dyke) – watch at Internet Archive
Blood on the Moon (Robert Wise) – streaming on TCM through Nov. 18
Wild River (Elia Kazan) – streaming on TCM through Oct. 31
Each one of these pictures was so important to me as I was preparing Killers of the Flower Moon: The Heiress for the relationship between Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift, which was a reference point for Leo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and myself; Last of the Line, which I saw for the first time when I was young, for the presence of real Lakota Natives in many key roles, and for the unusual point of view, which truly expresses the tragedy of Native experience; Lady of the Dug-Out for its authentic portrait of outlaw life, the reality of the settings; Blood on the Moon, a noir Western, for the friendship between Robert Mitchum and Robert Preston, which goes wrong in a way that was close to Leo and Bob De Niro in Killers, and also for the way the actors look in the frame, and the clumsy, grungy, seemingly unchoreographed fight in a low-ceilinged dark cantina, which has always stayed in my mind; Red River because it gave me another angle on the relationship between Leo and Bob; Wild River for the extraordinary look of the picture, and for the key moment where Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick are kissing passionately in the car with the reflection of the tree on the windshield.
How do you film the American past—in this case, the world of Old New York? In our story, as in Wyler’s classic, all that wealth, all those fine possessions and exquisite manners, become a prison house. The characters are trapped in all that material wealth. In that sense, Visconti’s masterpiece was a direct inspiration.
But we also looked to The Heiress, the absolute emotional brutality of the picture. For the Ralph Richardson character of the father, it doesn’t really matter at all who is in love with whom, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the society. It’s more about keeping the society and the bloodline clean, not to have interlopers like Morris, played by Montgomery Clift, come in and try to marry his daughter Catherine, played by Olivia de Havilland.
Also, watch Scorsese’s recent TCM intro and outro for The Heiress here.