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Friday, February 15, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Paul Farrell

Paul Farrell loves everything and anything genre cinema— and he has the late-night tweets to prove it. He is a co-host on the Dead Ringers Podcast and has contributed to their website, HorrorHound Magazine, The ScreamCast and the Splathouse podcast. He also writes a bi-weekly column for called ‘Written in Blood’, providing script-to-screen analysis for famous practical effects sequences in genre cinema. Follow along with his horror movie Twitter ramblings @paulisgreat2000.

10) The Golden Bat (1966)
One of the things I love about online film culture is that it offers a great many avenues toward movies that I couldn’t possibly discover on my own. Enter writer/podcaster Jason “Jinx” Jenkins and 1966’s The Golden Bat.

A Japanese superhero story regarding a 10,000 year old skeleton-like figure with a golden skull-shaped head, the titular character flies around wielding a magical staff and cackling uproariously. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The movie is infectiously oddball, engrossing in the strange, unpredictable way the narrative continuously throws out impossible to nail down conceits. It has everything from men in felt monster suits to death rays to a lovable child sidekick and, frankly, I can’t recommend this idiosyncratic wonderment enough.

9) The Last Detail (1973)
Elric Kane and Brian Saur’s Pure Cinema Podcast has been a fountain of discovery for me since the moment it first began to air. Many on this list derive from their fantastic recommendations and The Last Detail was one of my favorites.

Hal Ashby’s movies always tend to be so distinctly… human. This one offers Jack Nicholson in one of his more bombastic yet vulnerable performances as he and a cohort escort a man to prison on the government’s dime. The film is an affectionate one, almost in spite of the protagonist’s forceful, masculine posturing, exploring the meaning of justice as it relates to one’s time on this earth.

A lovable buddy comedy mixed with a sobering shot of crushing reality, this is a film that will always stay with me.
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8) Of Unknown Origin (1983)
I’m a sucker for “Animal Attack” movies. I’m the one who used to pick up those DTV “MANEATER SERIES” movies in the mid-2000s (and, yes, I own a copy of Yeti). So, when I finally saw Scream Factory’s blu-ray release of George P. Cosmatos’ giant killer rat movie, my initial reaction was that it was tailor made for me.

Peter Weller is perfect as a mild-mannered company man, driven mad by the entity he can neither defeat nor understand. By employing the beast as a metaphor for the everyday grind which the protagonist will ultimately succumb to, the skillfully executed scares provide an even grander meaning to the words “rat race”.

Still, the allegorical nature of the events in the film do nothing but amplify the blunt force of the tension, creating an edge-of-your-seat experience that is unforgettable.
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7) The Brides of Dracula (1960)
Being somewhat of a newcomer to the Hammer Horror archive, when I first learned that the sequel to Christopher Lee’s initial Dracula outing did not include Christopher Lee, I was, admittedly, skeptical. Oh how wrong I was…

Constructed with thick fog and a creeping atmospheric sense of beneath-the-surface tension brought about by everything from the gothic set design to the reserved way in which the townspeople interact, the film offers an inventive way to continue the legacy of Dracula without the need of the title character.

It also helps that Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing is as note perfect as a performance gets.
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6) Peeping Tom (1960)
I love movies about people who love movies. Whether that love manifests positively or negatively, I find it such an interesting subject worth exploring.

Peeping Tom ventures into that intimacy which exists between life and the projected image, attempting to draw lines between what is observed and what is real. Sexuality and social expectations permeate society’s rules regarding what is and is not allowed to be seen, bleeding into the protagonist’s own repressions and deep-seated desires to have his true self be seen.

A perfectly haunting descent into voyeurism.
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5) Night Moves (1975)
Another discovery by way of the Cinema Purists, Gene Hackman’s performance coupled with the intricate nature of the character’s self-realizing narrative made this one of the stand out movies of the year for me.

A movie about a private detective with a true passion for his calling, ironically as confounded by life’s emotional capacities as he is clear regarding his fellow man’s. The protagonist is so lost that he must take solace in retrieving others in similar positions; the film is beautiful, honest and heartbreaking.
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4) Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
The trend of thanking Elric and Brian for their recommendations continues here with Peter Weir’s masterful film.

Regarding an all girl’s school in Australia and a fateful trip to the titular Hanging Rock, this movie is as much about our desire to understand the unfathomable as it is about our fascination with that lack of understanding. Beneath the surface of what is seen is the repressed truth we all conceal, hidden but apparent.

What does it all mean? Well, in my estimation, if we hide well enough, we’ll simply disappear.
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3) Diabolique (1955)
Sadly, as a collector, many Criterion blu-rays sit atop my shelves unopened and waiting to be watched. Every year I attempt to make a dent in them and every year those I manage to get to are amongst my favorite discoveries. In 2018, that honor went to Diabolique.

The impact of this film on the horror genre is immeasurable. Progressive in its ideologies and effortless in its ability to mount a squeezing web of dread, the film explores the dichotomy which exists between obligation and desire, studying the effects of the selfish and corrupt on the sordid and broken.

Containing one of the most frightening scenes ever put to celluloid, this is an essential film.
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2) Night of the Demon (1957)
Once again, I attribute this discovery to Pure Cinema, with the help of a gorgeous blu-ray release from Indicator.

A movie that essentially plays as a more careful, 50’s iteration of 2009’s Drag me to Hell, the movie offers thrilling visuals which kick off from frame one, exploring doubt in the face of faith and truth in the wake of fable. Fascinating and unsettling, the events onscreen will grip until its final, shocking moments and remain in your mind for long after.

One of the genre’s great outings— and the demon’s pretty cool too.
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1) Miracle Mile (1988)
My favorite discovery of 2018 came from, you guessed it, Pure Cinema Podcast.

Comedy. Horror. Romance. Disaster. Mystery. Drama. Satire. Action. Science Fiction. There isn’t a genre Miracle Mile doesn’t occupy for a least a scene or two during its runtime, flying through the gamut of emotions and tropes which comprise the 80’s cinematic experience. It subverts, reinvents, pays homage and yet complies, brilliantly creating an experience that’s familiar, comforting, challenging and, ultimately, like no other.

In the words of the two who inspired me to watch this and, indeed, so many others over the course of the past year:

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has been a film junkie since the yesteryears of VHS and Laserdisc, also a hardcore advocate of physical media. @bsmith8168 is dedicated to seeking out any under seen and underrated film from around the globe. In his spare time he helps out the good people at AGFA to help in the preservation and distribution of many of oft talked of titles that many thought lost in the malaise of the grindhouse era.
Check out his list from Last year:

Serpent’s Lair (1995)
This was a random pick during my annual personal horror marathon during the month of October, but wow so much more than I expected. Jeff Fahey has never been given his due to really shine as a lead, he has plenty of films under his belt. However Serpent’s Lair you get more Fahey than you ever dreamed. The film starts off with a scene of an anguished man offing himself over some sort of evil being that is some how controlling him. Then Fahey and his wife decide to move into the same flat that is marked down due to the fact there is a room full of stuff left from the previous tenant and writing all over the walls in the room he killed himself. Upon moving in a random cat decides that it is also planning on living there as well and a stunning woman also shows up claiming to be the deceased’s sister. The woman’s name is Lilith and has some sort of power over Fahey, before he can even blink he is completely taken by this woman while his wife is in the hospital due to a freak accident involving the cat. The film seems pretty basic with a run of the mill possession theme and Lilith being some sort of Succubus, but the scenes of Fahey and Lilith rival the steamiest things you’d run across on late night Cinemax. The rest of the film is highly stylized and looks great and makes all of the components of this film come together. With a 3.7 currently on IMDb, it’s sort of shocking. The film was released on a brand new Blu-ray this year from Code Red and looks great and ready for re-evaluation.
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Day of the Beast (1995)
When I was young I used to discover a director and become completely obsessed and would rush to the video stores in my area and try to track down their entire filmography. Luckily I found out about Alex de la Igelsia quite a bit later. As always Igelsia’s films always take me by surprise and Day of the Beast is a gem that still doesn’t have a release past VHS in America. The story is about three individuals that all have nothing in common, a priest that must sin as much as possible to conjure up Satan, a heavy metal enthusiast that is also a hardcore druggie, and a television psychic. The interactions among the three is what makes the film work so well, it’s the classic squad building exercise of epic world saving proportions. Iglesia never misses a beat the film is loud, out of control, violent, with a pitch black sense of humor, but still masterfully made.
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Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore (1996)
During Fantastic Fest this year I changed one of my time slots at the last minute for a repertory screening of Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore. It was being put on by AGFA and they were debuting their brand new transfer of the film. This was the best decision I made during the festival. MJNAVA was my favorite film that I saw there this year and I can’t wait for a potential BluRay release from AGFA next year. The film is about a high school aged girl that works in a run down old theatre, where she meets boys and befriends her coworkers. The focus of this coming of age film not like any other films from this era, there is a certain amount of realism that you don’t get out of the others that this film does wonderfully with. Sarah Jacobson has a unique and raw vision that seems to be completely uncompromising to anything else that makes this a masterpiece.
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Scalpel (1977)
Whew Scalpel is like a strange Southern deep fried version of Eyes Without a Face with a heaping dose of incest that makes for a unsettling although unforgettable film. Robert Lansing plays the surgeon father that was passed over on a will that made his missing daughter the sole beneficiary. So as any crazed surgeon would do he decides to adopt a recently brutalized stripper on the recreate her into an exact image of his daughter. Once the operation is complete the creepiness begins. Lansing becomes intimate with the girl almost immediately and the two get the money and everyone is left wondering WTF is going on. That’s when the real daughter shows up and things rapidly go downhill for Lansing. The look and the feel of the film are what really pushes this one into a different echelon of filmdom. The film has a certain yellow hue that not only makes it feel older, but makes everything look dirtier than it is. The stripper beat down scene also adds a certain amount of danger to the film that seems to be around every corner.
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Uptight (1968)
In 1968 who would of thought that Jules Dassin would make a remake of The Informer with an all black cast set to the civil rights movement and randomly at the same time also form a blueprint for what would become blaxploitation. This was a random find for me on the once amazing FilmStruck RIP, and was totally floored by it. The tension is always high, the cast is amazing, and the topper is having Booker T and The MGs do the complete score. Brilliant! Since the end of FilmStruck has happened I’ve already bought the Olive BluRay.
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The Wayward Bus (1957)
Awhile back during one of the many Screen Archives Twilight Time sales I picked up a copy of The Wayward Bus. I purchased it as being a fan of Mansfield and Steinbeck I thought that this was a decent blind buy. Wow, I was shocked at how right I was. The film is about a bus driver that is unhappily married to a woman that owns a rest stop that doubles as his station, but is a drunk. There is an incoming storm on the horizon, a station full of passengers, and after a martial dispute the driver leaves with his bus. The bus has quite a series of unfortunate events on its way to Mexico and the lives of the passengers unravel at the same rate the bus does due to the storm and the rough terrain. There is one sequence that is eerily reminiscent of one from The Wages of Fear that will keep you on the edge of your seat in this action drama film that has a Lifeboat type feel that works well for it.
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Righting Wrongs (1986)
I watched this film in January this year and as soon as the credits started to roll I knew it was meant to be on this list. A young prosecutor witnesses the assassination of his mentor and goes berserk and kills all three assassins in a balls to the walls car chase. This all happens in the first five minutes. The film is set at warp speed, characters are introduced as fast as they are bumped off and the action seems to never end. Feels kind of like the film The Raid, only this has an amazing story that is pretty intricate through multiple characters and a lead that enters Charles Bronson like revenge and retribution territory.
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Prey (1977)
Strange is a low end way to describe Prey. Prey is about some strange alien beast that takes the form of a young human man, but when enraged he turns into this weird looking dog faced human with fangs and goes around murdering and eating anything or one in sight. The alien happens to run into a lesbian couple that takes him on to stay with them since he seems to be lost. Once he is in the company of the ladies things start to get awkward between the couple when the younger girl seems to haven kind of fallen for the alien. Tempers flair and the alien becomes enraged! This was put out this year in an exceptional BluRay release from Vinegar Syndrome that knows what’s up when it comes to weird.
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Into the Night (1985)
I’m pretty sure heard about this film on an episode of Pure Cinema Podcast, and it was described as a type of After Hours film and I knew instantly that I had to acquire this. I picked up the Shout Select BluRay and it was game on. Directed by John Landis and starring Jeff Goldblum as an insomniac that decides to randomly come home early one day and discovers that his wife is cheating on him. Instead of confronting the situation he just leaves and heads to the airport to take a night flight to Las Vegas to party his troubles away. Instead he decides against it, but before he leaves the airport he meets a woman in trouble played by Michelle Pfeiffer. As any man would be Goldblum is taken aback by the sight of Pfeiffer and is thrust into a strange world of jewel thieves, middle eastern thugs, and Pfeiffer’s personal life. Into the Night is like a LA cousin to the NY After Hours and is lots and lots of fun that has possibly David Bowie’s greatest performance. I watched this film back to back to back, upon my initial viewing.
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Mad Foxes (1981)
Now for my most bonkers pick of this entire list is a little Spanish film titled Mad Foxes. One of the most insane films out there. Kind of a rip-off of Mad Max, but instead of a young eager cop the protagonist is a middle aged douche bag that retaliates against a Nazi biker gang that insults him at a traffic light. He then runs down the bikers which results in one of their deaths, which is revenged when the bikers track our hero to a night club where they beat him up and rape his girlfriend, which results in the hero getting his kickboxing buddies to attack the gang and the biker leader gets his penis chopped off and shoved down his throat. This is just the first twenty minutes and things even get more out of control. The film is like the ultimate of Eurotrash and drops the bar of taste through the basement, which is a good thing if you are into exploitation films. The ending is quite possibly the best way to end this. Lastly the band Korkus that performs the opening and ending song matches the film perfectly. There is a random BluRay release of this film that looks really good and is definitely worth be sought out!
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - 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:

On Twitter @halhorn86

RKO wisely allowed legendary Leon Errol to carry a couple of feature films per year in addition to his usual workload of six two-reelers per year throughout the 1940's. Directed as usual by Les Goodwins, Leon again gives us a wild hour of impersonations and flim-flams. There's a great supporting role for Walter Catlett (POP ALWAYS PAYS) as an eccentric southern Colonel and the sadly neglected comedy team of Ben Carter and Mantan Moreland. In the film's highlight, Carter and Moreland present their "incomplete sentences" routine, seamlessly integrating Errol in the home stretch. Well worth watching TCM's schedule to see if they'll repeat it sometime in 2019. Also with Jason Robards, Sr., Florence Lake and Emory Parnell as the sheriff who keeps finding himself in the river after every arrest attempt.

One of the few Forrest Tucker films I hadn't seen yet, a late late show perennial in the 1960's that has virtually disappeared since. Until someone was kind enough to upload a superb print on YouTube---which promptly disappeared in less than a week due to the old "suspended due to multiple copyright infringements" account of the uploader. Too bad---I hope it reappears. Lensed in England by Herbert Wilcox and co-starring Margaret Lockwood and Wendell Corey (THE WILD BLUE YONDER), LAUGHING ANNE tells the tale of titular Lockwood, a beautiful Parisian nightclub singer with an infectious laugh. She's in love with seafaring Corey, but he's married. For that and other reasons she stays with prizefighter Tucker, an embittered man who truly could have been a contender, but ran afoul of underworld figures when he refused to throw a match. Circumstances bring the trio together half a decade later, with Tuck more bitter than ever and Lockwood showing the strain of the intervening years. It's much better than TROUBLE IN THE GLEN, the other 1954 Lockwood-Tucker teaming from Wilcox. From the short story and two-act play by Joseph Conrad, who is played in the prologue by Robert Harris. With Daphne Anderson and comic relief by Ronald Shiner. Needs rediscovery.

A most eclectic cast in this curio: Larry Storch, Brett Somers, Janet Margolin, Alice Pearce and Marlon's sister Jocelyn Brando are just a few who are supporting leads Ann-Margret and Michael Parks in this William Inge script directed by Harvey Hart (SHOOT). Parks (DEATH WISH V) returns home after a three year Navy hitch to discover a much different world than the one he'd left. The biggest difference is a gutpunch: former sweetheart Ann-Margret has married a much older man in his absence. Parks is disillusioned by jobs old and new and longs to make something of himself. His ex is unhappy in her marriage and making advances on him, hindering a potential new romance with Margolin. Parks really does seem to be the "next James Dean" at times here; while he never became a major star, the future Tarantino favorite was undeniably talented. TCM dusted this one off last year; hopefully they'll repeat it. Soapish and often slight, but interesting. Also with Kim Darby (TRUE GRIT). Songs by Dobie Gray ("Drift Away").

Lovable Lupe Velez gets a true vehicle for her considerable comedic talents, drawing on her pre-film experience as a teenage vedette and also getting the dual role, as responsible hard-working Consuela and the titular stage sensation. Directed by Charles Barton, but scripted by two writers with a background in more serious fare, HONOLULU LU is somewhat lacking in strong lines, putting all the mirth on Lupe's shoulders. She succeeds admirably. It's worth watching for her impressions of Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn and Adolf Hitler(!!) alone, but Lupe is great throughout. An absolute must is you're a fan of this unheralded great who was only 36 when she passed away three years later. Released two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Look for Forrest Tucker, Lloyd Bridges and eighteen year old Adele Mara in supporting roles.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Just The Discs - Episode 93 - VALLEY GIRL Valentines!

This week on the show, we have something of a Valentine's Day special - Brian's wife Lisa is back on the show with him to talk about VALLEY GIRL and the recent Shout Factory disc as well as some of her favorite films that are currently available on Blu-ray (and a few that aren't)!

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Some of the Discs Covered in this episode:

VALLEY GIRL (Shout Factory)
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MYSTERIOUS SKIN (Strand Releasing)
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MEMENTO (Samuel Goldwyn)
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