Older Movies Streaming

(Welcome to Hidden Streams, a column focused on the best older movies available to stream on your favorite services, including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and more.)

In this edition of Hidden Streams, you’ll find plenty of golden (and not-so-golden) oldies to check out or revisit, including enough giallo films to throw your own mini-marathon, a few iconic Hollywood starlets, and more – and nothing that was released after 1985.

Black Belly of the Tarantula

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1972
Director: Paolo Cavara
Cast: Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, and Barbara Bouchet

Shot on location in Rome, Paolo Cavara’s thriller concerns a mysterious masked killer who is murdering women involved with a blackmail conspiracy. His method of choice mimics the way black wasps kill tarantulas – by paralyzing and then cutting them open. Though lesser-known than its brethren, Black Belly of the Tarantula was just one of the many, many, many giallo films released in the wake of Dario Argento’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

For fans of: Maniac (either version), In Fabric, and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

A Blade in the Dark

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1983
Director: Lamberto Bava
Cast: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, and Michele Soavi

Prior to directing his own films, Lamberto Bava worked as an assistant director to Italian filmmakers like Dario Argento on Inferno and Tenebrae and Ruggero Deodato on Cannibal Holocaust. Bava’s sophomore feature, A Blade in the Dark, is a wildly violent giallo about a composer who goes to work on a score in a secluded villa, only to find that the various tenants are being murdered. It was originally meant to be a made-for-TV movie, but the censors found it too bloody for the small screen.

For fans of: Berberian Sound Studio, Black Belly of the Tarantula (make it a double feature!), and Dario Argento.

The Case of the Bloody Iris

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1972
Director: Giuliano Carnimeo
Cast: Edwige Fenech and George Hilton

Starring the stunning Edwige Fenech, The Case of the Bloody Iris follows a young model who is targeted by a mysterious serial killer. Are you sensing a theme in this week’s first three picks yet? Maybe it’s time to spend a weekend getting to know giallo films – like this one, which has an even more amazing Italian title: Why Are Those Strange Drops of Blood on Jennifer’s Body?

For fans of: Dressed to Kill, The Neon Demon, and What Have You Done to Solange?

The Barefoot Contessa

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime

Release date: 1954
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, and Edmond O’Brien

A washed-up movie director (Bogart) who’s begrudgingly agreed to make a film for a wealthy bozo finds his next leading lady (Gardner) dancing in a Madrid nightclub. Though reluctant and stubborn (with a habit of going barefoot), she agrees to give acting a try and becomes an overnight super-star.

For fans of: The Notebook, You Must Remember This, and A Star Is Born.

Madhouse

Now Streaming on Shudder

Release date: 1981
Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Cast: Trish Everly, Dennis Robertson, and Allison Biggers

Not to be confused with the 1974 Vincent Price film of the same name, Madhouse is set in Georgia and follows a school teacher who’s being stalked by her psychotic twin sister. Also known as There Was a Little Girl and And When She Was Bad, this slasher flick with giallo influences features a score by prolific composer Riz Ortolani, who also provided the memorable score for Cannibal Holocaust.

For fans of: Sisters, Dead Ringers, and Italian horror.

Don’t Torture a Duckling

Now Streaming on Shudder

Release date: 1972
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Tomas Milian, and Barbara Bouchet

At this point, you could easily have a giallo marathon – I promise this wasn’t intentional, but clearly I was in a mood this week. Originally released under an Italian title that translates to Don’t Torture Donald Duck, this 1972 film is the first of director Lucio Fulci’s works to incorporate extremely gory practical effects. If you only know Fulci from his subsequent films like Zombi 2 and City of the Living Dead, you might be surprised to know there was a time when he didn’t make movies that were gory and gnarly as hell. As with Madhouse, this one also features a score by Riz Ortolani.

For fans of: Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Deep Red, and The Beyond.

Woman Times Seven

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release date: 1967
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, and Michael Caine

This comedic anthology film stars Shirley MacLaine as seven different women in seven short episodes, all of which have something to do with adultery or sex in some way. Director Vittorio De Sica has a cameo in the first episode, in which MacLaine plays a widow whose family doctor hits on her during her husband’s funeral.

For fans of: The Ten, Four Rooms, and The Apartment.

Flower Drum Song

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release date: 1961
Director: Henry Koster
Cast: Nancy Kwan, James Shigeta, and Benson Fong

Henry Koster’s adaptation of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical (itself an adaptation of Chin Yang Lee’s 1957 novel) was the first major Hollywood film about Asian-Americans to feature a mostly Asian cast. This would unfortunately not happen again until The Joy Luck Club was released in 1993.

For fans of: Crazy Rich Asians, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Ashes and Diamonds

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Release date: 1958
Director: Andrzej Wajda
Cast: Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, and Waclaw Zastrzezynski

From the country that gave us the most stunning film posters in the world comes this adaptation of the 1948 novel by Jerzy Andrzejewski. The third part of Wajda’s war films trilogy takes place at the end of World War II, as Polish resistance fighters and Russian forces turn on one another to battle for control over Communist Poland. As Alissa Wilkinson writes for Vox, Ashes and Diamonds shows how Wajda influenced some of the greatest modern filmmakers – like Coppola and Scorsese.

For fans of: Son of Saul, In Bruges, and A Generation.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Now Streaming on Hulu

Release date: 1953
Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, and Charles Coburn.

Monroe and Russell play Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Straw, respectively – a pair of showgirls who go to Paris and juggle multiple admirers while avoiding a private detective hired by Lorelei’s fiance, who suspects his son is marrying a gold-digger. Howard Hawks’ classic comedy musical – and Monroe’s iconic performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” in particular – inspired numerous artists and films in the decades since, including Moulin Rouge! and Madonna.

For fans of: Flower Drum Song (double feature alert!), Marilyn Monroe, and Moulin Rouge!

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