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Monday, July 25, 2016

Underrated '76 - Steve Q

Steve Q has reviewed more than 1000 bad films at and can be found on Twitter @Amy_Surplice.

See his Underrated '86 list here:
For this post, I've decided not to discuss the plot of any of the films I chose, but rather my history with them.
The Oily Maniac
The Shaw Brothers are almost synonymous with Hong Kong martial arts films. Like most people, I saw "Shaw Brothers" and expected fight scenes, not a monster movie reportedly based upon a Chinese legend and, like most people, I was at first disappointed, then overwhelmed with the enjoyable trash fest this film is. I watched it twice back-to-back, I enjoyed it so much.

The Great Texas Dynamite Chase
I wanted to marry Claudia Jennings in 1976. Yes, I was 14 and she was a former Playboy playmate living 1000 miles away, but I thought it was a possibility - and then she died three years later, after having made a bunch of terrific exploitation films, this one being my favorite (though "Gator Bait" is a close second). I researched her life after I found out she was born in my hometown. For the record, she had a type... and I wasn't it.

Queen Kong
Rula Lenska made an ad for Alberto VO5 in 1979, which led Johnny Carson to ask "Who's this 'celebrated actress' I've never heard of?" When his staff researched it, they found she had been in this film - now it only takes a few keystrokes; then you had to have sources in the industry - and he had a field day with it. He interviewed her and was actually quite nice to her. The film itself was only in theaters for two weeks because Dino DeLaurentiis, who had just re-made "King Kong" sued; it was the Holy Grail of hard to find films until it got a DVD release. I found a 35mm print and got a local theater's projectionist to give me a private screening (he fell asleep).

Chesty Anderson, U.S.N.
This was a film that Russ Meyer could have cast. Rosanne Katon, a Playboy Playmate, stars, with Dyanne "Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S." Thorne as a nurse. Uschi "Supervixens" Digard and Shari "Supervixens" Eubank also have roles. There is extremely little nudity involved, making it a curiosity. I first saw it on network television with my dad; it was awkward for both of us.

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man
Ruggero Deodato is known for his extremely violent and gory horror films and I'm not a fan, so I was not looking forward to seeing this. It's like Jim Thompson's "Pop 1280" mixed with "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish," but with the cynicism and violence cranked up to 11. It's the kind of film that Quentin Tarantino keeps trying to make. I saw it in a retrospective of Deodato's films done by a friend of mine. That friend hated my taste in film.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Twilight Time - THE GANG'S ALL HERE on Blu-ray

THE GANG'S ALL HERE (1943; Busby Berkeley)
"Don't be a square from Delaware, get hep to yourself."
Busby Berkeley is a name that is sadly lesser known to non-cinephile's despite his vast impact as a stylist that has carried into a lot of contemporary cinema today. Films as disparate as Spielberg's INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM the Coen Brothers' THE BIG LEBOWSKI and Disney's animated BEAUTY AND THE BEAST all pay loving tribute to Berkeley and his pinache for staging. The words "visionary" and "genius" are thrown about a lot and thus diluted a bit, but Busby Berkeley was certainly both. Though he apparently couldn't dance a step himself, he managed to choreograph and film some of the most delightful and surreal sequences in all of musical cinema. He was truly a master of "making the camera dance" as it were. It's been said that, as a director, Berkeley could be somewhat unsympathetic to his actors especially in terms of the demands he made of them (many many takes, complicated camera setups). That said and as much as I do feel for the actors, I must admit that what he brought to the screen in his films is still truly dazzling. As much as I think of more contemporary directors and more prolific movers of the camera, Berkeley was certainly no slouch in this department. Apparently, the man loved his crane shots and that is absolutely on display in THE GANG'S ALL HERE right out of the gate. The opening set piece is a glorious and dizzying thing of beauty that plays out in a giant soundstage that is meant to be an enormous nightclub with the capacity to put on outlandish and impossibly huge musical numbers for their relatively small crowds. THE GANG'S ALL HERE is something of a bittersweet movie in that it is kind of Berkeley's swan song interns of making a film with carte Blanche and full studio backing (Daryl Zanuck was a huge Berkeley supporter so he had his back). That said and especially with the addition of technicolor into the kaleidoscopic mix, it really does make for one of the most exuberant and wonderful musicals ever made. THE GANG'S ALL HERE is quite a singular film, even within Berkeley's remarkable filmography. He really pushes the bounds of the stylistic paradigm he established with his prior work and the result is something quite magnificent. Beyond the amazing "Busby Berkeley-isms" I also must not forget to mention the swell cast here that includes the likes of Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda (who does a couple of her most famous songs), Edward Everett Horton, Eugene Pallette and hugely popular bandleader Benny Goodman.
Twilight Time has put out a stunningly lovely Blu-ray here and this transfer alone may be enough to convince done skeptical classic film fans that they finally need to acquire a multi-region player. It is a choice display of what the Blu-ray format can do for even an older film like this one and the results are splendid. It's a must own for fans of classic musicals to be sure. A fantastic disc.

Special Features:
This Twilight Time Blu-ray includes a nice commentary track from film critics Glenn Kenny and Farran Smith Nehme as well as Film Historian Ed Hulse. I enjoyed this track very much as it is clear that these three not only know their cinematic stuff (of course), but are very excited to be talking about it in regards to Berkeley and this film in particular. They have a great deal to comment on throughout from various aspects of the production, the actors in the cast (and their careers), historical and studio-related contexts, the difficulties of filming in technicolor, as well as innumerable scene-specific details. It is a Criterion-worthy track and an excellent supplement to this disc.
-Also included is "Busby Berkeley- A Journey With a Star" (20 mins). This short retrospective piece includes interviews duel conversations with USC film professor Rick Jewell and President of the Institute of the American Musical Miles Krueger. Both gentlemen have clearly steeped themselves in classic Hollywood history and are devout fans of Berkeley in general. A lot of neat things are touched on here from Berkeley's place in a studio system that could be both supportive and extremely restrictive to a creative mind such as his well as lots of things that he did as signatures that were part of this film as well as his others. A lively and passionate discussion of the man.

Additionaly, the other supplements include:
-Isolated Score Track (with some dialogue and effects)
-A 2nd Audio Commentary - with Film Historian Drew Casper
-Alice Faye’s Last Film: We Still Are!
-Deleted Scene: The $64 Question
-Original Theatrical Trailer

Here's a little 3 min clip of something called "Frame By Frame: Busby Berkeley" in which:
"University of Nebraska Film Studies professor Wheeler Winston Dixon takes a spin through the extravagant films of musical director Busby Berkeley."

THE GANG'S ALL HERE can be purchased on Blu-ray from Twilight Time here:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Warner Archive - TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT on Blu-ray

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944; Howard Hawks)
"You know how to whistle don't you Steve..."
There are movie watching experiences and then there are TRANSFORMATIVE movie watching experiences. These are the kind that forever shift your viewpoint a bit. In the case of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, it came along at just the right moment in my budding cinephile period. I took a college film course, one of my first and it completely changed my life. That was where I was introduced to Howard Hawks and John Wayne. It was in that class, that things started to click into place for me in terms of what I wanted to focus on. I was already into classic films and so forth because of Danny Peary's Cult Movies books, so I had run across masterpieces like DOUBLE INDEMNITY and SUNSET BOULEVARD and they had impacted me greatly. I actually got to the point where I would see these films and then I'd buy them on VHS (yes, this was a long time ago) and then bring them home during my winter breaks to show my family. It became a regular thing that I would sit the family down and make them watch classic films and they actually tended to go over pretty well. TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was one of those movies. After I saw it in class, I became obsessed with it. How could you not be drawn in by the chemistry between Bogie and Bacall? I hadn't seen very much Bacall at that time, but she captivated me immediately (as she has for so many folks over the years). She was this different kind of woman for a classic movie - much more individualistic and not just a stock character meant for the inevitable romantic subplot. She had a fire and a vibrance that made her impossible to take your eyes off of. Those eyes and that voice were simply mesmerizing as well. She truly gave me a sense of what it was to be a movie star. She just had that special something that made her stand out and whenever she was on screen, she literally pulled your eyes towards her. She had a presence that was like few other actresses I'd seen. She was part of the reason that my passion for classic films grew and grew when I was in college. I was convinced that if there were actors like her that were totally and utterly compelling to watch, I must seek out more of them. I really think that's all it takes to get someone addicted to classic cinema. You just need those one or two actors to draw you in and then you watch more movies and you come to know other actors from the period and suddenly you're hooked. It's really not much different than keeping up with all the "hot" actors of today, but you can do it at your own pace and you don't have any publicity machines shoving people down your throat so you can take your time find the folks that you really appreciate. The amazing thing about Bacall in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is that it was Bacall's first film and she's only nineteen years old! It's a fascinating thing to see Bogart falling for her as you watch the movie. She is really a special lady.
Now TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT came out a few years after CASABLANCA and thus it's hard not to draw some comparisons between the two films. And while Ingrid Bergman is one of the loveliest and most talented actresses of the time, she just doesn't have the same smoldering sensuality that Bacall has. Bacall almost makes Bergman feel stuffy by comparison and that's really saying something. Beyond the remarkable leading ladies that Bogart played opposite in both films, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT and CASABLANCA also have some plot similarities. The "I stick my neck out for nobody"attitude that Bogart personified as Rick Blane carries right over to his turn as Harry Morgan. Bogart is also dealing with the Free French and helping out one of their leaders as he did in CASABLANCA. Also, both movies have a piano playing sidekick (Hoagy Carmichael in the case of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT). The two films make great companion pieces to each other, but it seems to me that TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT gets much less love these days. Case in point, it is only now getting a Blu-ray release now in 2016 whereas CASABLANCA got the HD treatment years ago. Granted, it's a lovely looking Blu-ray and I am more than grateful that it has finally come out, but it seems like a movie that should have hit Blu-ray a while ago. That said, I hope (as I always do) that more folks will be drawn to the movie now that it is available this way. It is a true classic and worthy of the Cadillac treatment. This Blu-ray looks great and is an essential for any fan of great cinema.

Special Features:
-BACALL TO MY ARMS (1946) (Vintage Merrie Melodies Short w/ animated versions of Bacall and Bogie).
-"A Love Story: The Story of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT".
-Lux Radio Broadcast of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT starring Bogart and Bacall.
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

Friday, July 22, 2016


Vinegar Syndrome continues their stellar run of blaxploitation releases with this rare cult item. I remember this was a regular renter on VHS back at my old video store and I always meant to see it and never did. I lost track of it once DVD took over and as far as I know, it never really got a decent DVD release so this is sort of it's debut on any (non-bootlegged) format outside of VHS.
From the very beginning, this movie lets you know that the Candy Tangerine Man is one cool dude. He's a pimp and he's somewhere between SHAFT, SUPERFLY and TROUBLE MAN (obviously on a lower budget). I mean, check out this smooth opening theme song that sets the stage:

That's some cool funky stuff right? Well it's just bad enough to express the coolness/badassness of The Candy Tangerine Man (known as "The Baron" in the movie). Sidenote - I really really miss these character/tone setup songs that used to run with movies like this. They don't do them anymore (they'd probably play cheesy now, but I don't care) and that makes me sad. Anyway, The Baron is a mean mother himself, but he also has a mean machine as his automobile. It's a total pimpy classic kinda car, but there's a catch. He's tricked it out with hidden machine guns near both of the headlights so he can tear up anybody that tries to ambush him drive-by style. It's quite neat when he unleashes these bad boys on his unsuspecting foes (and he is forced to do so when he starts a war with a local mobster). The Baron is something of a dark  pimp superhero and he even leads a double life and has a secret identity too. This is a new wrinkle for a movie like this and it makes it more memorable than your average flesh-peddler blaxploitation actioner. 
This film was directed by Matt Cimber and Vinegar Syndrome has also included his film LADY COCOA as an extra added bonus, which is pretty cool. It's another blaxploitation flick about a jailbird girl who is out to take down her gangster ex-boyfriend.

Special Features
• Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm archival prints - (Transfer is a little rough to start, but it gets better)
• Director’s video introduction for The Candy Tangerine Man
• Commentary track for LADY COCOA with Director Matt Cimber and Director’s Assistant / Actor John Goff
• Reversible cover for LADY COCOA
• English SDH Subtitles
You can buy THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN on Blu-ray here:

PETEY WHEATSTRAW (1977; Cliff Roquemore)
Rudy Ray Moore is back! After the success of his two DOLEMITE films (which Vinegar Syndrome also put out on Blu-ray), It makes sense that Rudy would make another film and this one is just as nutty as his other efforts. This time he plays the titular Wheatstraw, who we seen born in the first scene as a young child (as opposed to a baby) and who attacks his doctor right out of the gate. While still a teenager, Wheatstraw meets a hobo mentor (known as "Bantu") who teaches him the ways of kung fu and to take no sh*it from anybody. Of course Rudy had to work kung fu into this film too and in that way it's kinda DOLEMITE-y. Wheatstraw grows up to be a successful nightclub comedian (like Rudy Ray himself). He's so successful that he draws the ire of some competing comedians. Said comedians decide they have to take Petey down and when they do so, he is mortally wounded and runs into a Mr. Lou Cipher (aka The Devil himself). So when the Devil offers Petey a deal to save his life and come back, Petey takes it and then he's off to get revenge (using the Devil's magical "Pimp Cane" to get it). The whole movie affords Rudy Ray many opportunities to spout his spoken word comedy/poetry and also beat lots of dudes up with his martial arts skills. If you're a Rudy Ray fan, you really don't need much more than that from one of his films. If you dig the DOLEMITE films, you'll dig this movie too which is basically a DOLEMITE film with a "deal with the devil" supernatural twist. Rudy Ray is just as outlandish and ludicrous as Wheatstraw as you'd expect him to be the he entertains as only Rudy Ray can. 

As with THE CANDY TANGERINE MAN, PETEY WHEATSTRAW features a groovy theme song for our "hero". Check it out in this trailer for the film:

Special Features:
• Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negative
• “I, Dolemite Part III” making-of documentary (the other two parts can be found on VS's Blu-rays of DOLEMITE and THE HUMAN TORNADO respectively)
• Commentary track with Rudy Ray Moore’s biographer, Mark Jason Murray, co-star Jimmy Lynch & director Cliff Roquemore.
• “Shooting Locations Revisited” featurette with Rudy Ray Moore
• Soundtrack • Promotional still gallery
• DISCO GODFATHER – theatrical trailer
• THE HUMAN TORNADO – theatrical trailer
• DOLEMITE – theatrical trailer
• Reversible cover artwork by Jay Shaw
• English SDH Subtitles

You can buy PETE WHEATSTRAW on Blu-ray here:

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - WHERE'S POPPA on Blu-ray

WHERE'S POPPA (1970; Carl Reiner)
What makes a cult movie a cult movie? I've asked myself this question for years and I've slowly been able to come up with some criteria that can come into play when talking about these films with fervent fan bases. It's a strange alchemy though and I do believe that it's difficult to make a cult movie from the outset. One thing a cult movie needs is to slowly grow an audience over time. Cult movies were often not hugely successful upon their initial release, but though things like revival screenings, cable and home video, they can build a loyal following. Cult films are often a bit offbeat too. They strike a chord with a group of movie watchers who don't necessarily go in for lowest common denominator stuff. This is not to say that cult films can't be low brow - quite the contrary, but they often deal with some more taboo subject matters and can sometimes cross boundaries into less than mainstream territory. 
I first discovered WHERE'S POPPA? (as I did with many many films) via Danny Peary and his Cult Movies books. Before reading those books, I was always a bit confused when I'd come across "cult movie" sections at video stores. Peary helped me understand what films had passionate supporters and maybe a little bit about why. WHERE'S POPPA? used to show up a lot in those video store cult sections and after seeing it, I was able to comprehend how it might have stood out from the pack as a bit different than many of the other films that came out around 1970. Case in point, the opening of the movie. We see George Segal getting out of bed, getting a shower and getting dressed. We've seen this kind of "morning routine" business many times before and since, but this movie throws in a twist. Once Segal is just about dressed, we see him rummaging through a box which appears to have furry hands and eventually he pulls out a gorilla mask. Cut to Segal, fully attired in the costume, sneaking down the hallway of his apartment and quietly opening a door. Inside he begins to go completely nutzoid, acting like a real ape and thrashing the room a bit. We quickly realize he's attempting to frighten the old woman (Ruth Gordon) whose room he's in and he ends his tantrum by jumping up and down on her bed. The old woman is his senile mother and his intentions are to scare her to death as to get her out of the picture and stop dealing with her. All that comes out a little later, but the point is, not a lot of big films from this period begin in quite this way. Its the kind of thing that immediately gets your attention and makes you want to see where on earth this outlandish tale could be headed. The closest thing I can think to compare it to would perhaps be some of Woody Allen's films from a few years after. Stuff like BANANAS maybe, especially when it borders on the surreal (both movies have goofy daydream sequences which are entertaining). There's even an odd reference to Cornel Wilde and THE NAKED PREY. WHERE'S POPPA Director Carl Reiner is no slouch in terms of comedy. This was basically his third feature film and his prior efforts were more bittersweet dramas then comedies. In fact, his prior film - THE COMIC - is much more tragic than funny. WHERE'S POPPA? is kind of the beginning for Reiner's truly classic comedies and he would go on to make THE JERK and DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID not too long after this. 
One other thing that helps a cult movie get traction is its cast. The aforementioned Segal and Ruth Gordon are a great start, but WHERE'S POPPA? also has folks like Ron Leibman (who is just generally underrated), Trish Van Devere, Vincent Gardenia, Paul Sorvino, Garrett Morris, and Rob Reiner as well. It's a veritable parade of comic talent. Each of them has a memorable scene and it just keeps things clipping right along. Ruth Gordon is especially given some extra room to be crazy, which is quite excellent. WHERE'S POPPA? comes from a much more freewheeling and wacky time for Hollywood filmmaking in general. A time when risque material (containing comedic allusions to matricide, rape and incest for example) could be adapted for the screen and audiences were more open to sort of dark and challenging material. There's a huge lack of political correctness here and it's kind of refreshing in this weird way. The film is a very black comedy and certainly wouldn't play as well for present day audiences, but that's just fine. There are at least a couple scenes and moments that will most likely make you say, "Wait...what?" and one of them involves a rape in central park. It is a truly odd film and one that you won't soon forget after seeing it.
WHERE'S POPPA? can be purchased on Blu-ray here:

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Underrated '76 - Troy Anderson

Troy Anderson is a veteran movie reviewer who has been doing his thing online for many years. Currently, his reviews can be found at
He's @AVCentral on Twitter.
MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976; Peter Yates)
Mother, Jugs & Speed is one of my favorite comedies ever made. Only in the mid-1970s could a film about rival ambulance companies undermining the safety of Los Angeles to one up each other. Hell, the lead characters are a receptionist, a rude African American and a former Sheriff’s Department Detective that got busted selling cocaine to kids. This film has it all; Fat people getting stuck in buildings, Dick Butkus and Larry Hagman practically raping an unconscious college student. I’ve said it before, but no one could touch 20th Century Fox in the 1970s.

From a stoned Toni Basil shooting Bruce Davison in the face to a pregnant woman bleeding to death in an ambulance, this movie has something for everyone. Did I mention it was a comedy? Well, while all of this is happening, we have the laughs come in rampant drug use, Hagman’s never-ending boner and sexual harassment claims. But, it’s funny. I know that’s enough to make the Tumblr crowd start screaming “Problematic” like a nation of Lemongrab clones.

What makes this film so underrated is that it was last truly mature and great role that Cosby mastered before diving into the world of Cliff Huxtable. On top of that, there’s a part of me that wishes we got to see a world where Larry Hagman and Harvey Keitel became comedy superstars.

GATOR (1976; Burt Reynolds)
Gator is Reynolds’ follow-up to White Lightning. Honestly, it’s one of the rare cases where the sequel trounces the original. The film opens on Gator getting out of prison after the events of the first movie. Mike Douglas playing The Governor of Georgia (wrap your head around that) cuts a deal for Gator to bring down his best friend Bama McCall. McCall (played by Jerry Reed) has been running a protection racket between Florida and Georgia, but the Feds want it busted up. This leads to enough high speed boat chases to make Sterling Archer cream his jeans.

Lauren Hutton shows up as the gap-toothed love interest, but this isn’t about her. What makes this film so insane is that Reynolds lifted the Blaxploitation formula of AIP and others to make a similar movie about white rednecks. While not quite true Hicksploitation, the film is a celebration of the Gulf Coast mentality. Reynolds being a Florida native uses every inch of the landscape to paint a portrait of a Good Ol’ Boy doing what it takes to make things right. Plus, that poster is amazing. If I were younger, I’d want that spray painted across the hood of a Trans Am.

ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976; Susan Winslow)
All This and World War II is another FOX cult film of the era that bombed. Mixing footage of World War II with 1940s FOX isn’t a new concept, as Phillipe Mora has done something similar with WB film clips. It’s just that it’s such an odd film that grows even odder to the lack of a home video release. I only discovered the film after being handed a DVD-R by a reader back in 2010. Needless to say, musical rights clearance will probably keep this film from ever hitting video.

The soundtrack is the film’s strength, as it boasts Beatles hits covered by everyone from Tina Turner to Leo Sayer to Elton John and even Frankie Valli. What makes this film different than the later release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club is the lack of a need for a forced story. The covers play better without the need for disco influence. The film is an oddity that plays like a documentary meant for stoners. I’d love it if Criterion or Shout would at least attempt to bring this to a new audience.

DIXIE DYNAMITE (1976; Lee Frost)
Dixie Dynamite is one of the first major releases from genre mainstay Dimension. Warren Oates leads a cast of outlaws trying to fight a corrupt Sheriff over moonshining. Jane Anne Johnstone and Kathy McHaley play the two outlaw daughters trying to avenge their father’s murder. The problem is that the girls only know about moonshining. Enter Warren Oates to teach the little ladies about how to drink and drive motorcycles.

Many of the car crashes and inspired wrecks from Death Proof would be lifted directly from the film. Honestly, there’s no better Grindhouse film to honor. Somewhere between the Duane Eddy power chords, Warren Oates seemingly driving drunk for real and Christopher George playing one of the best corrupt Southern sheriffs…it all just comes together. Those with a keen eye might be able to spot Steve McQueen as the lead motorcycle stunt driver. McQueen picked up the job after being out of work for a bit.

THE MISSOURI BREAKS (1976; Arthur Penn)
The Missouri Breaks is everything that a Revisionist Western can be in the right hands. Nicholson plays a rustler who just wants to screw over a local land baron that acts as the law of the land. Eventually the land baron gets tired of not picking off Nicholson, so he hires regulator Marlon Brando to hunt down Nicholson and his gang. Brando was at peak weirdness in this film. Dressing like a dandy with an Irish brogue, Brando hunts down each of Nicholson’s gang in an almost Punisher style way. One of the best death scenes caught on film is Brando dragging Randy Quaid by his throat through the raging Missouri River. Quaid fights and fights, but Brando keeps playing with the dying man.

The rest of Nicholson’s men die by sniping and Brando cross dressing to kill Nicholson’s best friend. Watching Nicholson break down near the end of the movie, so that he can brutally slaughter Brando is amazing. It’s just that the film carries on too long to feature Nicholson wiping out the initial land baron. So much of the film’s momentum ends when Brando dies and I think that’s what cost the film upon its initial release. Arthur Penn is an incredible director, but I’d have to argue that this was his best film. Yeah, even better than Bonnie & Clyde.

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME (1976; Peter Clifton/Joe Massot)
The Song Remains the Same is the greatest concert film ever made. This is coming from a lifelong “Stop Making Sense” fan. The documentary runs nearly 2 ½ hours of concert and interview footage, but even that can’t work for a film about Led Zeppelin. That’s where we get the fantasy sequences that simply ruin any natural flow in the film. The band’s manager is a gangster, John Paul Jones reads to his kids, John Bonham drag races and Robert Plant seemingly enacts the Wonderboy video 30 years before it happened.

This was the last gasp of the grandiose rock musical. There were later attempts to recapture this magic, but MTV killed the demand for this sort of affair. Film fans and Zeppelin die-hards will know that the film is a lie. The concert footage was shot at multiple venues, Pittsburgh doubled for NYC in many shots and the entire film was re-recorded on a stage in Shepperton. When you’re a teenager, this is the kind of film that blows your socks off. Now, I just wonder how many monster bong hits this took to happen. Still, it’s a moment in time that can never be recaptured and goes ignored by newer Classic Rock fans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Underrated '76 - Daniel Budnik

Daniel R. Budnik’s writing can be found at Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things. He is part of three podcasts: Podcastmania – a free-for-all horror good time, The Made For TV Mayhem Show, which he co-hosts with Amanda Reyes and his own show, Eventually Supertrain: The Short-Lived TV Show Podcast. He is co-author of Bleeding Skull: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.
Check out his Underrated '86 list as well:
Bloodsucking Freaks – An extremely sleazy film about a mad magician who tortures women (usually naked) on stage. He alsokeeps lots of naked women at his house for various purposes, including tables and dartboards. He has a dwarf helper who has some wry sexual peccadillos of his own. Sardu, the magician, is also involved in the white slavery trade. Just reading about the film makes it sound absolutely repugnant. But, at some point during the scene when a doctor sucks a woman’s brains out through a straw, we leave dark sleaze behind and end up situated on a high camp playing field. My parents let me rent this moviewhen I was 13 back in 1986. We got it from a video store that provided a big dot matrix printer list of all their movies. And, on one line, it said “Bloodsucking Freaks (X).” I said “I want this one.” My parents rented it without a pause. I was unable to close my eyes as I watched the film. Now, I’m not specifically saying only 13-year-olds should watch this. But, maybe I am. No…  I don’t think so. Joel M. Reed’s Blood Bath anthology is a more straightforward entertaining film. But, Bloodsucking Freaks is screwball Grand Guignol that every horror fan should see once drunk and then once sober. Just so you can prove to your drunk self that it wasn’t a hazy booze-fueled dream. 

Gemini Man – Yes, this is the TV movie that spawned the very short-lived show about Sam Casey, invisible INTERSECT agent, that MST3K went after in their very funny “Riding With Death” episode. “Riding” is a sloppily edited combination of the first hour-long episode of Gemini Man and an unaired episode. The show, itself, is really quite good. I reviewed it, episode by episode, over on my Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things blog. (The French put out a DVD set with this movie and all 11 episodes, including the 6 that didn’t air.) You can hop over there to get the full skinny. I wanted to state here that the Gemini Man TV movie is an excellent example of 1970s action/ adventure TV. It’s written and created by Leslie Stevens, the man behind The Outer Limits. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s nicely paced. And, it mingles the origin story of Sam becoming invisible with the intrigue (involving jerks trying to kill a businessman) of the episode. Unlike other TV movies (like The Man From Atlantis), which separate the origin story from the main plot making for less compelling viewing. Popcorn and a beverage of your choice will make it a very nice afternoon with my man, Invisible Sam.

Ma-Ma – I sometimes go searching for weird kids’ films. I found this one on YouTube a few weeks ago. It’s a Romanian (I think) film based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tale of “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids.” I watched it in either Romanian or Russian so I didn’t always catch what was happening but I do know the fairy tale. The movie is a lot of dancers from Moscow half-dressed as animals in fun locations moving all over the place and singing a lot of very catchy songs. The whole thing borders on fever dream, especially the Wolf who reminded me of Detective Lassiter from Psych gone deep undercover. Look, I love odd kids’ movies. I don’t know that this one is actually odd. It could just be a cultural thing. But, to this dumb American, it looks like a bunch of goofballs having a great time rocking out while dressed as animals. I’m in. Alternate Title: Rock’n’Roll Wolf.

The Redeemer – I will always recommend The Redeemer as great example of 1970s American horror in that free-for-all space before the slashers took over. The Redeemer AKA the Son of Satan is sent to reclaim six souls that have gone “wrong.” The sinners are assembled at a fake class reunion and evil abounds! From the wonderful school location to the rather good acting to the odd structure, The Redeemer is a hoot that surprises throughout. The film contains one of my favorite sequences: that weird bit where the camera is travelling down a backroad intercut with the killer making a mold of a face as thicsynths play. (I’ve had a nightmare exactly like that.) It also has a great structure: 15 minutes introducing the premise and the characters, 50 minutes of proto-slasher and 10/15 minutes of conclusion, which doesn’t fully make sense and is very odd. I own this as Class Reunion Massacre on VHS and I have the Code Red DVD and Blu-Ray. I await the next format so I can purchase it again. Can someone program this movie to play on my eyeglasses?

The Wackiest Wagon Train In The West – Gilligan’s Islandon a covered wagon in the Old West! The Schwartz brothers strike again! A group of people become separated from their wagon train (or something like that). The group consists of Forrest Tucker as the Skipper stand-in. The original Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo from Petticoat Junction as the Mary Ann and Ginger stand-ins. There’s a snooty rich couple. There’s another guy who (I guess) is The Professor. (I kept forgetting he was there.) And, then there’s Dusty, played by Bob Denver. He’s a clumsy but lovable goofball. (The optimum form of goofball.) This movie is four episodes of the short-lived syndicated TV series Dusty’s Trail edited together, minus its laugh track. I came across this while researching short-lived TV shows for my Eventually Supertrain podcast. Elroy Schwartz (my favorite Schwartz) was involved. So, I watched it. And, it is incredibly unfunny. Almost hypnotizingly so. Bad gags delivered without laugh tracks proliferate. After a time, I could hear the laugh track in my mind, which may have kept me sane somehow. Episode is edited into episode sometimes blurring the line between where one ends and the other begins. There is a sequence where Bob and Forrest dress up as women that seemed like an excerpt from some transdimensional horror film. My mind is unable to absorb it all. The simple concept of taking four average episodes of a failed sitcom so out of context and releasing it as a theatrical film fascinates me. Is it funny? No. Is it worth a viewing for those curious to see something a bit odd? Definitely.
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