Kirk Douglas has and always will be one of my favorites. A fiery on-screen presence, he always seemed to simmer with intensity, just waiting for a chance to erupt. Impeccable comic timing, a physical presence and a dramatic actor, he was a guy's guy kind of star. Click on the movie titles for links to the full reviews.
The Vikings (1958): Definitely a qualifier of 'they don't make them like this anymore.' A big popcorn epic with a fun story, great cast, one of the most whistle-worthy themes ever, and action and adventure galore. Douglas is Einar, son of a Viking chief (Ernest Borgnine), trying to figure a way to attack their English rivals. Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and James Donald co-star, one of the great epics in an era when there was a lot of them.
Town Without Pity (1961): A courtroom drama set in post-WWII Germany, Douglas playing the defense lawyer for four American GIs accused of raping a German teenage girl. Appropriately dark and unsettling, it is one of Douglas' most underrated parts as an actor. Human and real without some of his usual theatrics.
The Hook (1963): A wrongly forgotten war classic about the 'forgotten war,' the Korean War. Douglas, Robert Walker Jr and Nick Adams play three American GIs ordered to kill a North Korean prisoner as the end of the war approaches. The ending isn't as harsh as it could have been, but this is a forgotten gem that deserves so much more recognition.
The Big Trees (1952): Not to scare you away from reading the review, but this is a movie with people fighting about rights to trees. Even Kirk Douglas can't save this one, and he's trying in one of his almost-villain roles. Moral of the story? Trees aren't as exciting as you'd think. Go figure.
The Big Sky (1952): A rare find, a film that's significantly better than its source novel. An exploration and development of the American west story with Douglas, Dewey Martin, Arthur Hunnicutt exploring all the untamed west has to offer in the 1840s. Beautiful movie, great story, well worth checking out.
I Walk Alone (1948): An early Douglas movie, one where he gets to play a villain in this solid film noir. If you're a fan of his and have only seen his later more heroic parts, it's definitely worth watching for that aspect alone. He teams with fellow rising star Burt Lancaster in a noir that has its share of twists and turns.
The Heroes of Telemark (1965): A pretty standard men on a mission story but with a couple noteworthy mentions. From director Anthony Mann, it's based on the true story of Norwegian resistance trying to slow the German effort in WWII to build an atomic bomb, and it teams Douglas with the equally intense, fiery Richard Harris. That's a win-win in my book.
Along the Great Divide (1951): Douglas always seemed at home in the western, and this was his first venture into the genre. He leads a strong cast -- Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, John Agar -- in this Raoul Walsh-directed western that avoids many of the trappings of the typically white-washed, "clean" westerns of the 1950s.
The Indian Fighter (1955): Pretty bland, even blase western from Douglas and director Andre de Toth. Instead of focusing on a more interesting wagon train story, it focuses on Douglas romancing Elsa Martinelli, playing an Indian woman. Potential but not much else. Great use of location shooting.
The Brotherhood (1968): Fan of the classic 1972 film The Godfather? Yeah, you should probably watch this one. Nowhere near as well done, but it's eerie how much of this film was reused four years in the much better remembered classic. Douglas plays an Italian(?) mobster who's dealing with some dissension in the ranks, his brother (Alex Cord), deciding who to side with.
The Final Countdown (1980): A premise worthy of a Twilight Zone classic. A modern U.S. carrier sails into a time portal during a horrific storm, coming out on the other side and realizing it's December 6, 1941 just hours before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. What to do? Change history or change nothing? Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning in this what if science fiction that falls short in the end.
Missing some obvious Douglas classics -- Spartacus, Ace in the Hole, Lonely Are the Brave among others -- so keep checking for some updates down the road.