Films like Heaven's Gate, Peeping Tom, and Blade Runner were poorly received upon release, but upon re-evaluation years later were considered cinematic treasures. In hindsight, one can't imagine a film like Citizen Kane being considered to be anything but a brilliant work by a pioneering filmmaker, but in its time it, as well as countless other films before it and after, garnered poor reviews. This happens all the time, which leads one to wonder how many heavily panned films of today are actually masterpieces in waiting. This issue is discussed in length by Andrew Saladino of The Royal Ocean Film Society in this interesting video essay.
This is an incredibly intriguing filmmaking topic to discuss, because it touches on so many complex and nuanced issues in cinema, namely the timing and location of a film's release. As is the story for many of these late blooming masterpieces, a filmmaker's vision for and execution of a film can sometimes come too early for the tastes of audiences and critics.
Such is the case for Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, which was essentially the British version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Released a mere two months before Hitchcock's seminal horror film, Peeping Tom received hyperbolic criticism upon release and resulted in the destruction of Powell's career. However, the film later gained a cult following and even caught the attention of Martin Scorsese in 1970 when he watched the film for the first time on a friend's 35mm color print. Eight years later, Scorsese worked with Corinth Films to re-release the film to a wider audience and now the film is considered to be one of the greatest British horror films of all time.
'Peeping Tom' (1960)But what about today? How many "bad" films are currently wasting away in the discarded annals of cinematic history until they eventually get their well-deserved recognition for being masterpieces? I mean, we can't be so arrogant to think that we're the generation getting it right every time, that all of today's films are properly evaluated and receive their appropriate fate.
So, which films are today's steaming pile and tomorrow's shining light? Which films are languishing on the wrong side of the Tomato-meter waiting for re-evaluation? Which late bloomers are we going to be writing about twenty years from now?
Source: The Royal Ocean Film Society