Instant Classics: May

Here are the movies coming to and expiring from Netflix Watch Instantly in May.

New This Month

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) May 1
In the wake of a violent rape at the hands of her father’s assistant (Fritz Rasp), young Thymiane Henning (Louise Brooks) is left pregnant and emotionally drained. But when she refuses to marry her attacker, she’s sent away to a woman’s reformatory. With an unfair act deciding her fate, is respectability still within her reach — or is she destined to live on the fringe? German filmmaker G.W. Pabst directs this black-and-white silent classic.

The Invisible Man (1933) May 1
Scientist Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) terrorizes the British village of Ipping in this classic horror film. After a drug experiment gone awry, Griffin becomes invisible and must hide out in the local inn, his face completely bandaged. By the time Griffin confides in friends Dr. Kemp (William Harrigan) and Flora (Gloria Stuart), it’s too late — the drug has turned him into a homicidal maniac who must be hunted down.

Heaven Can Wait (1943) May 1
In this restored digital transfer of Ernst Lubitsch’s witty classic, newly deceased playboy Henry Van Cleve (Don Ameche) tries to convince Satan he’s got what it takes to be a citizen of hell. Unsatisfied that Van Cleve’s sins are hell-worthy, the devil listens as the dead man recounts his womanizing ways and the many heartbreaks he’s caused his loving wife (Gene Tierney). Extras include a biography of screenplay writer Samson Raphaelson.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) May 1
Two American showgirls in the mood for love board a luxury liner to Paris. Engaged to be married, fair-haired Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) is unknowingly tracked by a private investigator who was hired by her future father-in-law. But the detective only has eyes for her brunette friend, Dorothy (Jane Russell). Based on the Broadway musical starring Carol Channing, the film features the memorable tune “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) May 1
This great fantasy movie for the whole family stars James Mason as the leader of an expedition to the center of the earth that includes Pat Boone (who even sings!) and even a prescient goose named Gertrude. Fraught with peril from careening boulders, falling stalactites and weird dinosaurs, the movie is beautifully photographed and boasts a top-flight musical score from Bernard Herrmann (Psycho). Based on the Jules Verne novel.

Harold and Maude (1971) May 1
Death-obsessed teen Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is being hassled by his domineering mother (Vivian Pickles) to play the dating game, but he’d much rather attend funerals, which is where he meets the feisty Maude (Ruth Gordon), a geriatric widow who’s high on life. The seemingly mismatched pair forms a bond that turns into a highly unconventional — but ultimately satisfying – romance in this comical cult favorite from director Hal Ashby.

Double Indemnity (1944) May 6
Smitten insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) plots the perfect murder with femme fatale client Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck): staging her husband’s “accidental” death to collect double indemnity on his life insurance and absconding with the loot. But before their scheme can pay off, the lethal duo must first get past a crafty claims investigator (Edward G. Robinson) who senses something isn’t kosher.

Go West (1925) May 15
In this classic silent film, a downtrodden chap known as “Friendless” (Buster Keaton), having no luck in the big city, heads west, determined to succeed. His odyssey takes him to a ranch, where he builds a relationship with a neglected cow dubbed Brown Eyes. But he soon learns she’s on the way to a Los Angeles slaughterhouse. The sidesplitting climax finds Friendless — clad in a devil costume — trying to prevent a stampede through the city.

Faust (1926) May 15
German director F.W. Murnau cast the inimitable Emil Jannings as Mephisto, to whom the aging Faust sells his soul for renewed youth, wealth and power. Channeling Goethe, Murnau creates a phantasmagoric vision of the struggle between good and evil. In one of the most famous sequences in film history, we see Mephisto born as a primordial creature from the heavens and sent to the netherworld. This was Murnau’s last German film before moving to Hollywood.

The Blue Angel (1930) May 15
This finely crafted drama of despair from legendary filmmaker Josef von Sternberg follows brusque professor Rath (Emil Jannings), who’s determined to stop his pupils’ visits to hear speakeasy singer Lola (Marlene Dietrich). An obsession for the siren blossoms, and Rath’s life spirals out of control. It’s a classic story of the power of lust, love turned sour and the humiliation of one man forced to confront his deepest weakness.

Expiring This Month

The Return of Frank James (1940) May 16
Director Fritz Lang made his first foray into color with this gritty Western starring Henry Fonda as Frank James, who sets out to avenge the killing of his brother, Jesse. Accompanied by young sidekick Clem (portrayed by child star Jackie Cooper), Frank sacrifices his life of anonymity to hunt down Bob Ford (John Carradine), the backstabbing coward who murdered Jesse in exchange for a pardon. Gene Tierney makes her film bow as a nosy reporter.

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) May 26
Banished from Bagdad by evil wizard Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), blind Prince Ahmad (John Justin) teams with plucky boy-thief Abu (Sabu, in his signature role) to return to the royal palace, reclaim the throne and win the hand of a lovely princess (June Duprez). Also starring Rex Ingram as the wily genie, this rousing adventure classic — which chalked up three Oscars — remains one of cinema’s finest fantasies.

Children of Paradise (1945) May 26
Often considered the classic epic of French film, Children of Paradise is the tragic tale of vastly different men who all fall for the same woman (played by Arletty). This romantic saga takes place amid a theatrical community in 19th-century Paris, set against a backdrop of intrigue, duels and murder that allegorizes occupied France. Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur and María Casares co-star in this Oscar-nominated film for Best Original Screenplay.

Beauty and the Beast (1946) May 26
Lost in the woods, a hapless merchant is captured and held prisoner in the castle of a beastlike man (Jean Marais), who vows to kill the merchant unless he’s replaced by one of his daughters. The lovely Belle (Josette Day) gives herself up to save her father. But before long, she finds the beauty hiding inside her grotesque captor in this lyrical masterpiece, the most celebrated film of the French director and poet Jean Cocteau.

La Strada (1954) May 26
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese introduces this restored special edition of Italian auteur Federico Fellini’s powerful rumination on love and hate, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1956. The story follows the plight of gentle Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), who’s sold by her mother to a bullying circus performer (Anthony Quinn), only to have a clown (Richard Basehart) win her heart and ignite a doomed love triangle.

Mon Oncle (1958) May 26
Jacques Tati plays Monsieur Hulot, a self-absorbed chucklehead wrestling with neoteric gadgetry — and losing — in this satirical masterpiece that makes sport of mechanization, class distinctions and modernity. While visiting his sister’s surreal, ultra-trendy home, Hulot finds himself incessantly at odds with newfangled contraptions that get the better of him. The tongue-in-cheek French comedy garnered a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Black Orpheus (1959) May 26
This superb retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice Greek legend is set against Rio de Janeiro’s madness during Carnival. Orpheus (Breno Mello), a trolley car conductor, is engaged to Mira (Lourdes De Oliveira) but in love with Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn). A vengeful Mira and Eurydice’s ex-lover, costumed as Death, pursue Orpheus and his new paramour through the feverish Carnival night. Black Orpheus earned an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Eyes Without a Face (1959) May 26
A plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) becomes obsessed with making things right after his daughter Christiane’s (Edith Scob) face is terribly disfigured in a car accident that he caused. Overcome with guilt, Dr. Genessier and his vicious nurse, Louise (Alida Valli), concoct a plan to give Christiane her face back by kidnapping young girls and removing their faces … and then grafting them onto Christiane’s.

Lord of the Flies (1963) May 26
Based on William Golding’s famous novel, Peter Brooks’s daring 1963 film follows schoolboys stranded on an island after a plane crash. Two factions quickly form between the boys — one being more civilized, concentrating on finding shelter and food, and the other more savage, hunting wild pigs and having fun. Tension builds between the factions’ leaders, Ralph and Jack, leading to a battle for control of their own micro-civilization.

Desk Set (1957) May 30
Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is a reference librarian whose tepid long-term relationship with television executive Mike Cutler (Gig Young) is fizzling. Enter Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy), a no-nonsense computer genius who’s created a new product named Miss Emmy to automate the work of Bunny and her co-workers. The two butt heads in the beginning, but soon their disdain for one another turns to romantic sparks.

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