As Catholic Media Review made note of, the Year of the Priest kicks in on June 19 and to help celebrate it the National Catholic Register has offered up some suggestions for movies to watch which contain positive portrayals of our collared clerics. Here’s the top ten good priest movies according to NCR:
1. The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
2. The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
3. The Mission (1986), mature audiences
4. Going My Way (1944)
5. The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
6. On the Waterfront (1954)
7. I Confess (1953)
8. Boys Town (1938)
9. Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999), mature audiences
10. The Exorcist (1973) mature audiences
Now that’s a pretty strong list and it contains some all time classics, priests or no priests. But, you know, as good as that list is, we think it could stand to have a few more movies added to it. The American Catholic has already made his suggestions, but here at The B-Movie Catechism, we were thinking more specifically that it could use some of OUR KIND of movies added to it. This is actually harder than you might think. Bad or fallen priests are a dime a dozen in B-Movies and the few good ones you run across usually only get a scene or two, like say Father McFerrin in Teenage Exorcist. But we’ve come up with a handful of low budget celluloid clergymen we think make the grade.
1. FATHER MCGRUDER from BRAINDEAD aka DEAD-ALIVE (1992): Okay, so like in Teenage Exorcist, the good Father McGruder really only has a bit part in this early Peter Jackson gore-comedy, and he does become something of a cad once he joins the legion of the undead. But watch the film (if you have a strong stomach) and you’ll agree McGruder had to be on the list if for nothing else than the scene where he transforms from pastor to pugilist, raining a storm of priest-fu on the zombie hordes as he yells out his battle cry, “I kick ass for The Lord!” (Come on, you have to know at least one priest who would want that on a T-shirt for his birthday.)
2. FATHER SANDOR from DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966): There’s no way you can convince me that Father Dwight Longenecker didn’t see this film at a young impressionable age. I can just picture little Dwight looking up at the big screen as the English sounding take-no-prisoners priest barrels through villages and mountainsides with a rifle strapped to his back and thinking to himself, “You know, I think I could that for the rest of my life.” Father Sandor is the alpha male when it comes to priests in movies. He’s the only one I can think of who ever took out Dracula with a gun?
3. REV. MIKE HILL from THE NORTH AVENUE IRREGULARS (1979): Okay, this one’s a cheat as the reverend is actually Presbyterian, but what the heck, he spends most of the movie in a collar. Loosely based on a true story, this comedy tells the story of how the new pastor in town assembles a group of ladies from his church to take on the local mob and their numbers racket. It’s old school Disney goofiness from back in the day when they could actually make a live action movie without loading it with pre-manufactured pop idols designed to suck every dime out of the pockets of 13 year olds. Plus you get to roll your eyes knowingly as the preacher struggles to reinvigorate his congregation with some decidedly “Spirit of Vatican II” style techniques.
4. FATHER MICHAEL from THE UNHOLY (1988): The American Catholic already mentioned Chariots of Fire’s Ben Cross’ turn as a priest in The Assisi Underground (1985), but Ben returned to put on the cassock again in this lesser known (for good reasons) late 80s horror outing. After miraculously surviving a fall from a skyscraper, Father Michael is sent to New Orleans to battle a demon who targets priests for temptation and murder. The flick is mediocre and the tempting more often than not involves disrobed women (so stay away if that’s a problem for your chastity), but it’s still nice to watch a film where, for once, the priest actually makes it to the finale with his vows intact and is portrayed as a hero for doing so.
Anyway, that should give you a good start if you’re in the mood for something cheesy but would still like to see some charitable portrayals of priests. If you think of some we missed, be sure to let us know. Happy viewing.