Alcohol and movie theaters haven’t mixed since the demise of the grind house and drive-in, so thank Dionysus for DVD. Nothing beats getting a load on while watching a film in the comfort of your own living room, and inebriation-themed movies complement the occasion like an olive in a tumbler of gin—er, a martini.
Ray Milland was the sot of choice for postwar cautionary booze movies, playing a sad rummy in both Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945) and Fletcher Markle’s Night Into Morning (1951), and—setting a recovery-minded trend for drunkard flicks to come—a dried-out AA booster in George Stevens’ 1952 Something to Live For. (Regrettably, the latter two movies are as yet unavailable on disc.) In the ’60s, Blake Edwards’ harrowing Days of Wine and Roses—featuring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as fun-loving husband-and-wife wet brains—served as a last sloppy hurrah before drug-culture films put a cork in the bottle; but the genre made a spirited comeback with entries like Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict (1982), in which Paul Newman played a sloshed, ambulance-chasing lawyer. It reached its disorienting pinnacle with Mike Figgis’ bleak, indelible Leaving Las Vegas (1995) starring Nicolas Cage—who, it must be said, is no Ray Milland.
But drinking’s supposed to be fun, right? John Huston’s 1984 adaptation of notorious dipso Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano captured some of the life-sucking giddiness of alcoholic overindulgence, but Southland writer and juicer extraordinaire Charles Bukowski is the cinema’s patron saint of boozy kicks. No less than three films—Italian Marco Ferreri’s Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981), Frenchman Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly (1987) and Norwegian Bent Hamer’s Factotum (2005)—cover the same stuporous, hyperbolized period of Bukowski’s lush life. As with high-class hooch, Europeans can’t get seem to get enough of the guy.