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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Hal Horn

Veteran RPS contributor Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old').

Also read his previous Discoveries lists for Rupert Pupkin Speaks:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2011/01/hal-horns-25-films-seen-1st-in-2010.html
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2012/01/hal-horns-favorite-older-films-seen-1st.html
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/01/favorite-film-discoveries-of-2012-hal.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2013/12/favorite-film-discoveries-of-2013-hal.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/03/favorite-film-discoveries-of-2014-hal.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/01/film-discoveries-of-2015-hal-horn.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2017/01/film-discoveries-of-2016-hal-horn.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2018/03/film-discoveries-of-2017-hal-horn.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2019/02/film-discoveries-of-2018-hal-horn.html

On Twitter @halhorn86

WHAT A BLONDE! (1945)
Easily my favorite film discovery of the year, after Warner Archive so kindly made this classic available on DVD for the first time in 2019. Hands down the very best feature film Leon Errol ever starred in, and a great showcase for this unjustly unheralded comedian. With a plot that revolves around the rationing of meat, gas and other necessities, this WWII flick made for uncomfortably familiar viewing during the early lockdown period (when I watched it, last April). Wealthy lingerie tycoon Errol finds his status gets him no favors during wartime. Badly needing more gasoline coupons than he qualifies for, he enlists shady butler Richard Lane (a perfect foil for Leon and a wonderful performance) to get him extra carpoolers. Leon ends up with a houseful of showgirls led by Veda Ann Borg, a lot of explaining to do to wife Lydia Bilbrook, and a much needed business deal with stuffy Clarence Kolb that ends up on shaky ground. Wonderfully paced farce skillfully directed by longtime Errol collaborator Leslie Goodwins; Charles E. Roberts (writer of countless Errol shorts) wrote the clever screenplay with future Academy Award nominee Oscar Brodney (HARVEY). I can't recommend this sophisticated farce highly enough, and I owe writer Max Allan Collins a big thank you for recommending it to me after seeing my Errol series at The Horn Section. If you're a frequent buyer at Warner Archive, by all means check this one out.
https://amzn.to/3amcc9l

MONTANA BELLE (1952)
Jane Russell as Belle Starr, directed by Allan Dwan (SANDS OF IWO JIMA). Russell's Starr hooks up with the Dalton gang after Bob (Scott Brady) rescues her from a lynching. Predictably, Bob falls for her, and isn't the only one who does as she proves her skill with firearms and also proves to captivate men onstage--among them a banker scheming to trap the Daltons once and for all. Despite the title (Belle poses as a widow from the titular state) it is set in Oklahoma. RKO curio was filmed in 1948 but released four years later; in the interim, co-stars Forrest Tucker and Scott Brady had become bigger names. Despite Russell's presence it has been pretty hard to find, but TCM aired it last year.
https://amzn.to/2Qhf3JI

THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (1960)
Budd Boetticher directed Ray Danton as the legendary prohibition-era gangster. Typical rise from right hand man (Robert Lowery as Arnold Rothstein) to kingpin before the fall. Boetticher and Danton didn't get along, but the latter was well cast and this is one of the more underrated mafia films despite its legendary director. Speaking of, with Boetticher directing we get the always welcome bonus of Karen Steele as Legs' leading lady. There's also early roles for Warren Oates (as Legs' brother) and, in her film debut, Dyan Cannon (credited as Dianne). Very entertaining. Also with Elaine Stewart, Jesse White and Frank deKova. Danton solidified his underworld cred two years later with the titular role in THE GEORGE RAFT STORY, but never quite became a major star; he later found considerable success as a TV director.
https://amzn.to/3v4dGga

LADIES' DAY (1943)
The penultimate film for legendary Lupe Velez co-stars Eddie Albert as a loopy baseball pitcher clearly based on "Dizzy" Dean. Albert is easily distracted by the ladies, and the wives of his teammates have cause for concern once he falls for the lovely Latina. Interesting focus on the player's spouses, played by Iris Adrian (saucy as ever), Patsy Kelly and Joan Barclay. Despite this wrinkle, low-budget baseball flick is no classic, with very unconvincing game footage. Still, Lupe is as charming and watchable as ever. Dane Lussier collaborated with Charles E. Roberts on this one, and ubiquitous Leslie Goodwins (the MEXICAN SPITIRE series) directs Lupe yet again.

Monday, April 19, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of April 20th, 2021

MEMORIES OF MURDER on Blu-ray (Criterion)
BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/2P2eQK0

THE FURIES on Blu-ray (Criterion)

DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY on Blu-ray (Mill Creek)


MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)


ANNIE GET YOUR GUN on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

CHARIOTS OF FIRE on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

TEST PATTERN on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Gavin Rye

Gavin drives kids to school on a bus, makes films and is the co-host of the mainly unheard podcast ‘Cool Kids Film Club’. Find him on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/jewbo23/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/coolkidsfilmclub

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)
My dad had been running on about The Rutles for years, so I’m shocked that it took me so long to get around to watching it. I don’t think I laughed as hard at a film all year. This mock-rock-umentry comes a whole 6 years before Spinal Tap and isn’t any less funny. Eric Idle is great as the presenter and the songs The Rutles sing, manage to sound really on point with The Beatles and yet don’t stoop to making fun of them. Mick Jagger is interviewed throughout the film and nails the tone really well. I’m still yet to see the sequel that was made 2002 but will remedy that soon.
https://amzn.to/3a1TN1d

Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo (1996)
Troma are often looked down upon, ebven more so in recent years, but dig deep into their catalog and there are some real gems to be found like The Nobodies (2018) and Frostbiter: Wrath of the Wendigo. The 90s doesn’t get quite the recognition for low budget regional horror that the 80s and 70s do (something I hope will be remedied when Bleeding Skull release their 90s book), but some great stuff came out of that forgotten decade and one of them is this crazy piece of work. The makers throw everything they can at the wall and a good amount of it sticks. We get a ton of rubbery, gooey goodness with various monsters popping up all over the place, and the finale has some extremely charming stop motion work.
https://amzn.to/3uQHblT

Christine (1987)
Almost nothing happens in this and I loved every minute of it. It’s just so damn British, which really isn’t often shown in films. The estates in this film look exactly like the estates around my town, even some 30 odd years later. We follow a group of young people who are all heroine addicts. The scenes with the kids shooting up heroine are done in such a nonchalant way that it neither glamourises it or makes it out to be some kind of living hell. The people doing drugs here don’t live in either penthouses or crack dens, just normal working class houses. It’s probably far closer to the reality of most drug addicts than any film has ever presented. There’s some great use of Alan Clarkes signature shots following characters as they just walk and chat about their mundane lives.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFw9vYDorkg

Blood Nasty (1989)
I like to dig into the really obscure when it comes to horror in the hope of finding the odd gem. It doesn’t often happen, but it’s always exciting when it does. Unreleased in any form in it’s birth nation of America, Blood Nasty is actually a really fun little movie about a mother, who is severely struggling with money, receives a large settlement from an airline after her son is killed in a crash. But then he turns back up at the new house with a pole straight through his torso. He’s also slipping in and out of another personality called Blade. It feels a little influenced by Deathdream, but with far less of the subtext.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SXYgY5n_34

The Kirlian Witness (1978)
The Kirlian Witness really should be silly. A plant is the only witness to what could be the murder of her sister, so Rilla takes on the plant and attempts to communicate with it to find the truth. Yet the film not only takes the concept completely serious, but you will too. I was drawn in by the absolutely superb poster art that looks like an old paper back book you’d find in a shop that you’d never heard of. I stayed for the dry and drab atmosphere and the strange vibe the film just radiates.
https://amzn.to/3mJAkI6

Freaky Farley (2007)
Matt Farley is probably best known as the guy that has written tens of thousands of songs that he uploads to Spotify and lives off the earnings of, but I had no idea he made films too. We follow the title character Farley as he goes from being a peeping tom, to him pursuing a love interest, to creatures in the woods and witches and ninjas and his dad attempting to find him a job. Somehow it all works out and you are left with a really one of a kind film. The fact it’s shot on 16mm helps it out too as despite some shaky camerawork, the actual look is really great.


Monday, April 12, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of April 13th, 2021

THE WILD LIFE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/3t0XawX

NORTH SHORE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

SPACEBALLS 4K Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

THE PRODUCERS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

DYNASTY on 3D Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

HERCULES AND THE CAPTIVE WOMEN on Blu-ray (Film Detective)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS IN OUTER SPACE on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT on Blu-ray (Criterion)

SEPTEMBER 30TH, 1955 on Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

HOUSE OF CRUEL DOLLS on Blu-ray (Full Moon)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Sean Whiteman

Sean Whiteman is a writer/filmmaker living in Portland, Oregon. His most recent shot-on-VHS short, BRAMBLE ON, played the Portland International Film Festival and the Portland Underground Film Festival. During non-pandemic times he works at Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre.

Patreon: patreon.com/whitemanbrothers
Instagram: @VHS_Basement_Tapes
Twitter and Letterboxd: @seanwhiteman

Sean’s other lists:
Underrated ‘86
Underrated ‘87
Underrated ‘88
Underrated ‘89
Discoveries of 2016
Discoveries of 2017
Discoveries of 2018

CELIA: CHILD OF TERROR (Dir: Ann Turner)
“So, the little old man took off Toby’s head to stop him from barking. Then little dog Toby could not bark anymore.”

Don’t get between a young girl and her rabbit! This exists in THE REFLECTING SKIN / PAPERHOUSE realm of imagination-gone-wild movies where a child’s fears/anxieties/dreams start to venture outside of the cranium and into the realm of glorious visual technihorror. It’s a slow burn movie that sets the whole fucking house on fire by the end. I didn’t realize Australians were so afraid of rabbits and communism in the 1950’s.

STREET OF NO RETURN (Dir: Samuel Fuller)
“I’m just gonna change your voice a little.”

Really surprised this one doesn’t have a more vocal following. It’s a demented hail mary hallelluyah heave of ideas and yet somehow it connects for another Samuel Fuller touchdown. Full disclaimer: I’m the only person I’ve ever talked to who feels this way though. It has the gnarly twisted “wouldn’t it be wild if…” energy of classic Fuller, only it’s coming at the tail end of the 80’s when people had definitely taken a minute or two away from employing his specific type of rigorous cinematic strangeness. What you may call sloppy or unfinished I would call fuck yeah and holy shit. Fuller had so much fire in his belly until the very end. Keith Carradine's disgraced former singer turned noir-hobo drinks from two shattered booze bottles, each time not minding the glass that goes down with the booze. Bill Duke's eyes burn down any scene he's in. This movie rips (throat).
https://amzn.to/3dMlsEH


DELTA FOX / AMERICAN ANGELS: BAPTISM OF BLOOD (Dirs: Ferd & Bev Sebastian)
“The press is gonna soak this up like a buffalo shitting golden nickels.”

Doing more Ferd and Bev Sebastian (GATOR BAIT) independent study and finally came across these two sparklers. DELTA FOX is primarily delightful in that you get to see Richard Lynch drive the hero-car rather than the villain-mobile for once and Craig R. Baxley (director of ACTION JACKSON and STONE COLD) was on stunt duties. His flair shines through in a couple that-looks-more-reckless-than-it-should moments.
https://amzn.to/3sXMzmE

AMERICAN ANGELS is a sweaty slice of wrestlesploitation that has an athletic pulse and an active (if not always accurate) funny bone. The opening scene is more than worth the watch. It is an operatic slow mo spectacle of wrestle-boobs and wrestle-butts and it made my mind drift to similar visual precision in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
https://amzn.to/39QUJ8B 

STAR CRYSTAL (Dir: Lance Lindsay)
“We’re the first guys to play football on Mars...ever.”

If a film has a musical score that taps into your nervous system in any way the potential clunk of a somewhat cheap production all of a sudden feels like it shimmers with homemade charm and the wooden and chaotic acting styles might end up feeling surprising and strong as oak. Such is the case with STAR CRYSTAL.

The music drifts between synthy Carpenter knock-off moods and late-night jazzy-sexy Skinemax flavors (with just a dash of some pretty blatant PSYCHO-inspired musical theft). It helps to watch this one with a friend as its unfinished and abrasive quality vacillates between intentional and unintentional humor in a way that is more appreciated within jovial chuckle chambers. I would love to see this movie (or any fucking movie, at this point) with an audience to fully appreciate the reactionary joy of these performances and the charming homespun visual FX. There’s also a real tender resolution that U-turns toward schmaltzy E.T. territory after living in the hostile ALIEN zone for most of the runtime.
https://amzn.to/39OonM0

LISA (Dir: Gary Sherman)
“No, you call him.”
“No way, Lisa. C’mon, I mean, you sound just like your mom. I sound like a kid.”

I love this mischievous teen versus pre-Bateman AMERICAN PSYCHO-type killer movie. As I continue my march through Gary Sherman’s filmography I am continually impressed with the range of tensions he manages to manipulate. He was a magician with his visual effects trickery on POLTERGEIST III and he made his scariest movie of all while working outside the horror genre with VICE SQUAD (Ramrod would give Pinhead shivers). With LISA he manages to make a YA thriller that feels Hitchcocky and assured with its terror elements.

I grew up with Staci Keanan’s work in sitcoms (MY TWO DADS and STEP BY STEP) and I was very impressed with how she managed to handle childhood danger-trouble sexy-flirting, the familial warmth with her mom, the friendship comradery and the scream queen physicality the role ends up requiring by the end. It made me wish there were more movies where she got to play the title. After being somewhat deadened to the routine mechanisms of these sort of cat-and-mouse thrillers I was impressed with how worried I was during the finale as it was making me squirm with tension-glee.
https://amzn.to/3fQ1ifJ

ALIEN WARRIOR (Dir: Ed Hunt)
“Can I take you some place?”
“Yes. Can you take me to great evil?”

A naked beefcake alien arrives on earth for a Peace Corps-like mission he is sent on from his robes-n-beards utopian planet and, like some kind of anti-terminator, he immediately befriends a homeless man who would’ve been a punch-line wino in a less sensitive film. And this is a sensitive film. The alien “warrior” is named Buddy and he is definitely more of a space-Jesus than a space-devil. It’s the type of movie where the would-be mugger/rapist character from the opening alley-fight-to-prove-toughness scene becomes a redemption arc rather than a casualty of their own poor decisions. The same alley thug character has a therapeutic breakthrough within a minute of sitting down with Buddy and bawls his eyes out about his teachers and parents ridiculing him from birth, leading to an emotional aggression that has snowballed into his current state of villainy. Buddy ends up helping this would-be criminal learn how to read by the time the end credits rolled -- VIOLENT THERAPY or EAGLE SCOUT ALIEN would be good A.K.A.s for this title.

For 1986, an era when every mugger usually got DEATH WISH’d to death rather than given a shot at a second chance, this felt ahead of the curve even if the tone of the movie ends up feeling preachy (and, truthfully, kind of lame) as a result of this do-good propensity. It’s a gnarly kind of lame though, like an afternoon special airing after midnight to accommodate the nudity and violence that offers Buddy sin to react against within the narrative.

It’s from Ed hunt who also directed the rad killer-kid opus BLOODY BIRTHDAY and the truly excellent THE BRAIN.

REVENGE OF THE STEPFORD WIVES (Dir: Robert Fuest)
“I like living in a motel. Maid comes in, cleans up, I get to make a fresh mess everyday.”

I watched both STEPFORD WIVES movies for the first time and this is the one that made my year’s list. The first entry earned its reputation as a grim satire of American aspirations while showcasing a female friendship between the two leading women that sparkled with charismatic chemistry (Katharine Ross and Paula Prentiss).

The made-for-TV sequel with Sharon Gless, Julie Kavner and Don Johnson feels very much a sequel in tone, even if some of the literal character mechanics have been changed. The friendship between Gless and Kavner is hilarious, feels lived-in, and, like the first film, it provides the central pull of the drama. They are beautiful and wonderful to one another and their resolutions are much less fraught than a lot of what happens in the first film which makes it easier to sit with afterward.

The scene where Kavner has a few drinks (against the creepy Stepford doctor’s advice) is worth the price of admission alone. It deserves acclaim far and wide and a lifetime achievement award (or two). One of the most riveting scenes of the year.

A VERY BRADY SEQUEL (Dir: Arlene Sanford)
“Kids are like little people, only younger.”

This was one of those I-thought-I-saw-it-but-turns-out-I-didn’t surprises. It must’ve got muddled with the first one. I like them both a great deal but this one stands out by leaning into the strangeness the first one established (at one point Alice walks into the fridge, only to emerge the next morning). I wasn’t surprised to see Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan worked on the script as they spun similar batty charm into CAN’T HARDLY WAIT and JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS. Credit to the cast and director Arlene Sanford for operating together so well on the same odd (and narrow) comedic frequency.
https://amzn.to/31VlLHK

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (Dirs: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
“One is starved for Technicolor up there.”

I fear history books will look back at this era in cinema (if there still are history books) as the great age of cheapening. The ideas and voices being represented are evolving very in an interesting way but the technical craft feels flooded and flattened by the artifice of streaming service presentation and the retrograde motion of CGI artistry’s curve. I’m optimistic we have amazing feats to be seen still but the spectacle of cinema is feeling more muted to me at the moment.

Watching a movie like A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH is embarrassing to our current generation. No one is making anything this marvelous and it almost seems as if they’ve stopped trying to go this big with their beauty. The canvases seem smaller these days. I sound cynical but this movie makes me feel like being whimsical is still a possibility. The precision and spirit represented made me melt into an appreciative puddle of audience. The matte work is gorgeous, the use of B&W and color is brilliant, and the script feels timeless and contemporary. The performances are the lynchpin, holding together the whole with a style and grace that seems otherworldly. The combined effect made me feel like I got a whiff of a gourmet meal after eating MATRIX-style dystopia gruel for far too long. This movie is seventy-four years old and would outperform any contemporary piece in a cinematic decathlon. It’s the complete package.
https://amzn.to/3uzUIOf

THE SEVENTH CURSE (Ngai Choi Lam)
“I’m not afraid of witchcraft. I believe in science.”

Here I was having myself a hissy-fit about the state of cinema in my previous write-up, bemoaning how too few filmmakers are trying to flex like Powell & Pressburger’s routinely did more than half a century ago, and then I go and remember this sawed-off shotgun blast of brute force imagination. I watched it in the middle of my October bender, just hoping to see Chow Yun Fat wink his way through some supernatural action but I quickly realized it was directed with the verve and audacity of someone special. Turns out I was watching another film from Ngai Choi Lam, the director of RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RIKI -- which is a landmark film in the gleeful-excess region of the cinematic landscape.

This feels like a movie someone broke their idea piggy bank for, scraping every wild notion they’ve had off the floor and into the storyboards (the titular seventh curse is REALLY cool, don’t want to spoil the details). There’s also a scene where something resembling a xenomorph battles something resembling Aylmer from BRAIN DAMAGE. I’m glad I was watching this by myself because my smile during this scene was really goofy. I can’t wait to rewatch because every sequence shined bright enough to burn-off the previous one from my memory. The whole movie lived in the moment and I can’t wait to discover it again.

Monday, April 5, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of April 6th, 2021

THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN: The Complete Series on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/39CrTsH

CAROLE LOMBARD COLLECTION II on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

WESTERN CLASSICS II on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

BLASTFIGHTER on Blu-ray (Code Red)

SLEEPLESS on Blu-ray (Scorpion)

DEATH HAS BLUE EYES on Blu-ray (Arrow)

LITTLE MISS MARKER on Blu-ray (Universal)

HOW HIGH on Blu-ray (Universal)

BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)