Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Friday, August 28, 2015

Underrated '55 - Jerry Entract

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelongmovie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.
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1) “THE LADYKILLERS” (1955) directed by Alexander Mackendrick
STARS: Alec Guiness, Cecil Parker, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom
I don’t really know whether this film qualifies as ‘under-rated’ because I don’t know how well-known it is outside the UK. But if my listing it provokes a few readers out there to go and discover it, then job done!
The last great “classic” comedy from iconic Ealing Studios, this was a terrific black comedy heist movie. A group of crooks move into the boarding house of a meek little old lady while they plan a daring London heist. As the plot unfolds the crooks are gradually “wiped out” unwittingly by the old lady. The cast is classic and Alec Guiness in particular shows his total grasp of wonderful characterisation.
Laugh-out-loud hilarious and not to missed!!
Readily available on DVD as part of “The Ealing Collection”.


2) “LOST” (1955) directed by Guy Green
STARS: David Farrar, David Knight & Julia Arnall
A fast-moving suspense thriller from the Rank Organisation and filmed in glorious Eastman Colour. A well-heeled young couple’s baby is snatched from her pram in a London street. The hunt is on! A race against time for the police (headed by David Farrar) and the young parents as the film reaches its climax on Beachy Head atop the white cliffs of Dover.
Quite a classy film actually with good playing by the cast and some nice London location shooting.
Unfortunately the film is not available on DVD. Well worth looking-out for if it turns up on TV.


3) “FINGER MAN” (1955) directed by Harold D. Schuster
STARS: Frank Lovejoy, Forrest Tucker & Peggie Castle
The cast alone would sell this film to me. Two fine tough guys sandwiching the luminously beautiful Peggie Castle.
Lovejoy plays an ex-con who goes undercover for the feds to “finger” the crime czar (Tucker) who turned his sister into a drug addict. The film is tough and gritty ,especially for the time, and thoroughly recommended IF you can find a way of catching it. Sadly, like many great little movies put out by Allied Artists it is not available on DVD.


4) “THE FAR COUNTRY” (1955) directed by Anthony Mann
STARS: James Stewart, Corinne Calvet, Ruth Roman, Walter Brennan
OK – this western is “under-rated”? No Way, I hear you say!! Mann’s great series of classic westerns with Stewart are, of course, highly-rated. BUT I am making a personal point here. Of the films made this one is generally considered the least of them, it seems. I would heartily disagree (I rate it over “The Naked Spur” certainly) and think it deserves a place near the top of the list.
The story, like many of the best westerns of the time, is one of redemption set in the Klondike gold rush. Stewart’s character is pretty self-serving to start with until the shock of losing his best friend makes him see the light.
William H. Daniels Technicolor photography of the Athabasca Glacier in Canada is breathtaking and the film, for me certainly, one of my favourite westerns. Happily this one is readily available on DVD. No western fan should not know it intimately!


5) “SHOTGUN” (1955) directed by Lesley Selander
STARS: Sterling Hayden, Yvonne De Carlo & Zachary Scott
When it came to tough action westerns made the way they should be, Allied Artists delivered and the director, Lesley Selander was the maestro.
Sterling Hayden made a series of low-budget westerns in the 50s, this one being a higher budget than someand one of the best. The film is no classic but will entertain most hardened western fans. It is tough and violent and De Carlo’s character not treated with kid gloves exactly.
Another Allied Artists film not available on DVD on its own in the USA sadly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Underrated '55 - James David Patrick

James David Patrick is a writer with a lifelong habit of obsessive movie watching. His current project, #Bond_age_, the James Bond Social Media Project can be found at thejamesbondsocialmediaproject.com. Find him on twitter at @007hertzrumble.

Check out his Underrated '85, '75 and '65 lists too:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/03/underrated-james-david-patrick.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/05/underrated-75-james-david-patrick.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/07/underrated-james-david-patrick.html
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Due to my late summer travels, I haven't had time to compulsively compile, rewatch and overanalyze my choices for the Underrated films of 1955. I've had time to look at the list of films released in 1955 and pick the ones that most people just don't talk about. (Not that I often get together with folks and go "So, what's good from 1955?" Though I do think that would be a great way to arrest most bad conversations before they even begin.) This list has been selected according to the whimsy of my potentially faulty memory. I'm okay with that as long as you're okay with potentially checking out one or two of these movies and going "What the bloody hell was that moron thinking?" And that's my escape clause if you disagree with one or all of these picks. The following five features amount to an A-list director making a B-grade picture, a B-list actor directing a feature with A-grade aspirations, and three B-pictures made by B+/A- list actors. That about covers it. 

Il Bidoni (1955, dir. Federico Fellini) 
Fellini directed this "lesser" picture between La Strada and Nights of Cabiria. Two of the Italian master's greatest films and two of the most respected films ever made. So naturally the tepid sandwich meat between the two legendary slices of bread is going to feel like a disappointment. But ho! What's that? It's not tepid capicola after all? Let's have some straight talk. La Strada and Cabiria are great films, stunning tragicomedies of desperation and loneliness. Fellini manages to entertain while his characters endure spiritual and existential crises. (Not an easy balance.) Il Bidoni (The Swindle) places a chubby, unlikable petty crook (Broderick Crawford) in the pariah role at the center of the struggle, at the center of what boils down to an overly sentimental heist film. He steals from farmers and the church. He's no good, I tell you! The recognition of his empty life comes when he happens across his teenage daughter. The crook decides on a final swindle. He aims to dupe his cohorts, retire from crime and start anew. Fellini manages the trick of redeeming this goon by making his final targets even more despicable than the goon himself (a nice, if highly regular twist for a heist film). Fellini's brand of ironic humor enervates the final scenes, which culminate in memorable confrontation along a snowy mountain pass. I can't place Il Bidoni among my favorite few Fellinis, but even that shouldn't be considered damning. I've never seen a Fellini movie that wasn't worth watching. And despite the sentimental warts, I consider Il Bedoni as interesting (maybe even more interesting) than those inarguable classics casting their long shadows over this lesser Fellini. (Available on Blu-ray in R2 from Eureka: Masters of Cinema) 


The Naked Dawn (1955, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer) 
The first thing that'll strike you about The Naked Dawn is the score. Right from the Universal International logo, the guitar wants you to know that this is darn Western picture set in Mexico. If William Castle had directed The Naked Dawn it would have been filmed in Mariachi-Vision (each theater would have had a roving band of mariachis). Next you'll notice Arthur Kennedy as Santiago with died black hair and a greasy cheeseburger beard. This is initially a little bit of a curiosity for anyone that actually recognizes the longtime supporting actor. Until The Naked Dawn I only considered Arthur Kennedy to be capable background, not even necessarily memorable. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award five times, I'm pretty certain Arthur Kennedy's business cards read: Arthur Kennedy, Capable and there. It's around the 10-minute mark when I thought to myself that Arthur Kennedy really was a great actor. He just needed more to do. And in the Naked Dawn, Edgar G. Ulmer gives him plenty of screen time and plenty to do. Maybe he's miscast as a Mexican bandido robbing freight trains. Or maybe B-movie maverick Ulmer knew all Kennedy needed was some scenery to chew and a role meant for Fernando Lamas. The movie's not long on story. Santiago loses his partner in crime during a train-raid gone wrong then happens across the farm of young Manuel and Maria. Santiago the jolly, anarchical bandido upsets the status quo (as those smarmy, anarchical bandidos tend to do). Manuel becomes corrupted by what he sees as an easy path to prosperity, and Santiago falls in love with Maria. Talky bits and shifts in character ensue. The Naked Dawn distances itself from the typical 1950's Western by being dialogue-heavy and allegorical. It's a love triangle with a heap of moralism and a terrific, witty script from Julian Zimet (best known for writing Horror Express, not exactly a resplendent feather in his cap). The film is also notable for being underpopulated (only 7 actors) and a rare example of Edgar G. Ulmer in Technicolor. Fans of the traditional Western might balk at this one, but I found it to be a highly worthwhile genre-progressive oddity. (Available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShKd-ORg6SU


Shack Out On 101 (1955, dir. Edward Dein) 
Speaking of oddities, let's talk about Shack Out On 101. Cold War shenanigans beget the use of a roadside greaseball diner along the Pacific Coast Highway as a front for a Communist spy ring. This, in and of itself, makes for compelling cinema. And then Lee Marvin, playing a short order cook named Slob, walks out in a scuba suit. I don't doubt that this movie went largely unnoticed at the time of its release. Here's a gaggle of character actors making a movie with a director (Edward Dein) that doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. From our perspective, however, Shack becomes something else entirely. Lee Marvin playing goofy before he becomes a cinematic icon of the masculine ideal. The use of stereotypes as shorthand. The sarcastic war vet. The sexpot waitress. The reverence and fear of "science" played out through nuclear fears and paranoia. This is the B-noir version of Chris Farley's "van down by the river sketch." Shack Out on 101 feels like low-budget guerrilla filmmaking. Almost everything takes place in the "shack" and the characters ham and mug for the camera to varying degrees. Shack stands out among the litany of other noir B-pictures of the era because it feels like no other noir you've ever seen. If you put a harpoon to my head, I'd be forced to compare Shack to something like The Petrified Forest. Except campy and intentionally funny. You also won't be able to miss Seinfeld's Uncle Leo (Len Lesser) in a supporting turn. I found myself saying "HELLO" at the screen whenever he appeared. Audience participation encouraged. (Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films and on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p13ozSx1e0


Shotgun (1955, dir. Lesley Selander) 
Some time ago I went on a Sterling Hayden binge, plucking a few entries from YouTube based on an intricate system of checks and balances (whatever popped up when I searched for Sterling Hayden). I picked this one because of co-star Yvonne De Carlo (who I've always found to be a firecracker). A quick scrub of the movie revealed some nice Technicolor cinematography and a rousing, if especially Western-typical, score. Shotgun amply rewarded my stringent vetting process. (Many others did not. I can't recommend Timberjack, by the way.) Sterling Hayden doesn't need complexity of character or narrative twists. Sterling Hayden just needs time and space to be Sterling Hayden. Walking that line between grouchy and off-putting and charismatic badass. B-movie veteran director Selander understood this Tenant of Hayden perfectly. Vengeful gunslinger Ben Thompson murders Marshal Mark Fletcher. Hayden's deputy vows to track down his boss' murderer. Along the way he happens across damsel-in-distress De Carlo and a bounty hunter (Zachary Scott) who join his band of plucky do-gooders as they track the Thompson gang into the heart of Apache country. When things get grim, Hayden redoubles his intensity and determination. Classic Sterling Hayden. The prosaic title doesn't sell itself, sadly. Since "Shotgun" probably doesn't frost your cookie, consider the far more interesting Brazilian title: Escreveu seu nome a bala (He Wrote His Name with Bullets), which sounds more like a killer spaghetti Western directed by Antonio Margheriti. Selander himself is a bit of an anonymous legend, having worked in Hollywood for 40+ years and claiming 145 directorial credits (most of which are 50's-era Westerns). (Available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNG5RShC8Zk_


Pete Kelly's Blues (1955, dir. Jack Webb) 
Jack Webb directed and starred in this crime-drama about the perils of jazz, crazy dames and answering phone calls while drunk. Only in the 1920's would a gangster/racketeer type want to horn in on the hot jazz action of a seven-piece speakeasy band. Then the hothead drummer mouths off (you know how drummers are) to the wrong people and gets himself shot. It will come as no great shock that Webb plays the titular Pete Kelly with great rigidity. Edmund O'Brien and Lee Marvin (in a sixth-man kind of role) get far too little to do as the gangster angling for a slice of Pete's action and a former band mate. Janet Leigh (Ivy) and Jack Webb don't exactly radiate chemistry. Yet somehow the film comes together. Richard L. Breen's screenplay (Breen wrote the 1954 Dragnet movie also, obviously, starring Webb) and Webb's direction keep the pace moving at a lively clip, and though I'd be hard pressed to call this a by-the-book Noir because of the often bright WarnerColor cinematography and softer, melodramatic elements, the cadence and delivery of the dialogue often recalls the Noir genre. For example: Ivy: What are you doing? Pete: Making tea. Ivy: Could I have some? Pete: You won't like it. I'm using water. Ultimately, however, it's the music (played by Matty Matlock's Dixieland Jazz Band) and musicians that elevate Pete Kelly's Blues. Webb reportedly based the film on his own favorite Dixieland jazz band, Eddie Condon's Dixielanders (who had trouble with meddlesome gangsters). Ella Fitzgerald not only gets to sing a little ditty but act alongside Webb as well, delivering a few lines with an arguable measure of ability. Peggy Lee's Oscar-nominated performance as the hard-drinking lounge singer elevates the sluggish middle bits. If there's one reason to watch Pete Kelly's Blues it's the music. If there's a second reason, it's probably Peggy Lee. Her renditions of standards "Sugar" and "Somebody Loves Me" alone make it essential viewing for Jazz aficionados. I can't help but think that Webb just wasn't the right actor for the role of Pete Kelly, (Lee Marvin, anyone? He's in the movie, after all), but this was a labor of love for the actor. The results reflect that. The deadpan star takes Joe Friday back to the Roaring 20's and there's at least a modicum of novelty in watching Webb in a role meant for someone with a little more easygoing panache. Blink and you'll miss Harry Morgan, silent film comedian "Snub" Pollard, and Jayne Mansfield, in a star-making turn as a befuddled cigarette girl. (Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive and on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE4uoASL748)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Olive Films - THE SENDER and THE BABYSITTER on Blu-ray

THE SENDER (1982; Roger Christian)
This is one of those little-known gems that makes you want to keep digging through the masses of old movies from years ago to keep trying to find more like it. It's a unique animal, but the best I could do to describe it would be to call it an X-Men origin story meets A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Maybe even a tiny bit of Stephen King mixed in there. THE DEAD ZONE comes to mind. THE SENDER is all about a man (Željko Ivanek) who attempts to drown himself and then ends up in the care of a state facility wherein he is taken under the wing of one of the doctors there (Kathryn Harrold). It takes a little time for her and the rest of the staff to figure this guy out. At first he's just seen as a suicidal amnesiac, but they slowly come rob realize that he is quite extraordinary (and rather scary). I like the movie a lot for the atmosphere that's created and this looming sense of dread that cloaks the whole thing. The movie also creates a constant questioning of reality that keeps the viewer uneasy throughout. Hopefully I'm not overselling it, but I truly think it is a remarkably effective horror thriller and one of the better efforts from thst year. Though I've have only been aware of for only the last 4-5 years, it's becer something of a favorite. I once read that Quentin Tarantino was quite fond of it as well. I believe he once called it his favorite horror film of 1982. Not only that, but there's a story about him creating an alternate cut of the movie with some footage from a version that was taped off of TV and that he would rent that version out at the video store where he used to work. Based on how much I like the available cut of this movie, I'd love to see that TV footage some day.
This movie fits nicely alongside things like FIRESTARTER, SCANNERS and THE FURY, even though it is much more quiet and reserved than those films. Kathryn Harrold is a highlight here and I am a devoted fan of hers. Look for her in MODERN ROMANCE and INTO THE NIGHT if you get the chance. THE SENDER also features actor Paul Freeman, who is best known as "Belloq" from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Just as an aside, I can't believe this film was made by the same guy that did BATTLEFIELD EARTH.


THE BABYSITTER (1995; Guy Ferland)
In the past few years, I've started revisiting a lot of films from the 1990s with a nostalgic eye and it's been oddly comforting. Not only am I far enough removed from that decade now for it to be its own distinct thing (like the 80s), but I've actually come to miss a lot of the actors that were popular during that time.  I'm ever fascinated (and saddened) by the way that Hollywood and the public at large cycles through actors and how their popularity wanes often for no reason at all. Just the mere idea that people and the media can be totally obsessed with a person in a really intense way for a decent amount of time and then completely forget about them has always been disheartening. 
The 1990s were a particularly potent time for me because I was working in video stores for the major part of that decade. This meant that all of the stars of that period were even more amplified for me because I was at least aware of pretty much every movie that they did. Alicia Silverstone was one of those "It Girl" actors of the time that I ended up getting a little sick of. It might have had something to do with the kinds of characters she played and her go-to smirky look that was a staple of her acting arsenal. There just seemed to be an arrogance of "yeah I'm the hottest gal around" that came through that kind of turned me off. This was of course amplified by my having to see her face on the many different movies she made during the 90s via all the VHS tapes that I often had to return to our rental shelves at the video store. So needless to say, I grew tired of her and never really gave her a fair shake as an actor. I wasn't even a fan of CLUELESS back then. But twenty years or so is a long time and the lens of retrospect can really make a difference in one's viewpoint. As I mentioned, the 90s are now a time I recall with a lot more fondness regardless of the actual quality of a lot of the movies that came out back then. The 90s has it tougher than the 80s though in that the 80s has a much more distinct flavor of music fashion and other general aesthetics that create a deeper cache of entertainment value, even in the bad movies. The 90s has it's own tunes and styles of course, but they are a bit more bland in my mind so what's left to stand out is the actors. 
Another thing that was quite popular in the 1990s was the thriller genre. This probably stemmed from the success of movies like BASIC INSTINCT in the early part of the decade and perhaps even FATAL ATTRACTION in the late 80s. Again, my awareness of 90s thrillers was most certainly magnified by the video store environment I was working in, because it certainly felt like we were getting new thrillers in constantly. I remember the movie FEAR (with Mark Wahlberg and Reese Witherspoon) was a really big renter for us for some reason. Another big thing that spawned off of that was the rise in popularity of "erotic thrillers". Shannon Tweed made many of these and I recall they were also quite popular renters at my video store. So THE  BABYSITTER falls into that category really. The movie plays out as a series of fantasies (usually involving Alicia Silverstone) had by the various characters. While it isn't the most original thing I have ever seen, I was absolutely drawn in and entertained by the cast and the movie's blurring of the lines between what was real and what wasn't. Silverstone was fine, but there was a lot more going on here. The oft-underused Nicky Katt played a great unstable assh*le and Jeremy London (MALLRATS) an interesting straight ahead boyfriend type who finds himself in a messed up situation. Katt has always been able to get right to the core of a certain kind of scary dickhead that really hits close to home for me. There were a few guys in my high school class that harassed me from time to time and Katt seems to have been channeling  their essence in this movie and DAZED AND CONFUSED. Katt is a great actor though and I have the utmost respect for him. I wish he was used more. His appearances in movies have dropped off a bit in the last 5 years and that is quite unfortunate. Also not to be underrated is the late, great J.T. Walsh who also plays a pivotal role in the movie.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rupert's New Release Roundup - August 25th, 2015


THE LAST DRAGON Blu-ray (Sony)
http://amzn.to/1NKeiMo



EASY MONEY/MEN AT WORK Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
http://amzn.to/1JvUpel


THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1E8vLOG


STUDENT BODIES Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1NKeAmE

THE SENDER Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1JvTg6H


THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
http://amzn.to/1JvV4wm


THE BABYSITTER Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1NKeQlB


METAMORPHOSIS/BEYOND DARKNESS Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
http://amzn.to/1WJGHZ1


THE REVENGERS Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
http://amzn.to/1NqOtnM


THE REIVERS Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
http://amzn.to/1NqPk7P


THE SINGING DETECTIVE Blu-ray (Olive Films)
http://amzn.to/1PDFttK

LEGACY OF SATAN/BLOOD Blu-ray (Code Red)
http://www1.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/29693/LEGACY-OF-SATAN-BLOOD-1974-LIMITED-EDTION-STRICT-LIMIT-OF-3-COPIES-PER-CUSTOMER/


THE SICILIAN CONNECTION Blu-ray (Code Red)
http://www1.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/29692/THE-SICILIAN-CONNECTION-1973-LIMITED-EDITION-STRICT-LIMIT-OF-3-COPIES-PER-CUSTOMER/

Monday, August 24, 2015

Twilight Time - SUMMER LOVERS on Blu-ray

SUMMER LOVERS (1982; Randal Kleiser)
SUMMER LOVERS is a film that has an interesting duality about it. On one hand, it is simply a sex dramedy with two attractive women, one guy and a nearly wall-to-wall rockin' 80s soundtrack. On the other hand, it does attempt to illustrate a less common (especially in films) relationship dynamic whilst attempting to ground it in some sort of reality. We are more accustomed to seeing two guys going after the same girl than the reverse. SUMMER LOVERS is undeniably a male fantasy movie, but respect can be afforded it based on most notably the performances of the two female leads (Daryl Hannah and Valerie Quennessen). Peter Gallagher is not bad here either, though I think the ladies are better. Both are delightful actresses and stunningly lovely to boot. SUMMER LOVERS has developed a cult following over the years based on the cast and the soundtrack as well as its very R-rated approach to nudity (which is quite rampant in the movie). I think a lot of young boys caught this film on cable at some point in the 1980s and were immediately captivated by it.

I find it especially interesting that this film was made by Randal Kleiser, the director most fondly remembered for GREASE. GREASE, to me, is one of the most wholesome romantic films out there and SUMMER LOVERS is quite a bit more risqué. First off, there's a ton of nudity from both genders and they you have the tricky sexual dynamic between the three leads. I mean, imagine if GREASE 2 instead featured Danny and Sandy running off to an island together to experiment with their sexuality ... And deciding to bring Rizzo along. It just wouldn't go over well with fans of the original I don't think. So Kleiser definitely moved out of the GREASE comfort zone, but he had done that even before SUMMER LOVERS he made THE BLUE LAGOON. See a pattern developing here? Males and females on exotic islands, working through sexual scenarios. It was definitely a thing for Kleiser back then. He brings a lot from BLUE LAGOON to SUMMER LOVERS, but he advances some of the ideas. I like to think of SUMMER LOVERS as BLUE LAGOON: THE COLLEGE YEARS. It is a coming of age story like LAGOON in some ways, but one taking place later in life and with a couple (Hannah and Gallagher) that's been together for five years. SUMMER LOVERS obviously comes from a much more civilized place than LAGOON, but both films are gorgeous travelogues unto themselves. I must give Kleiser credit in that he has a great eye for exotic locations. The villas, beaches and caves of the Greek (& other ) islands that he has chosen are remarkably captivating and give the whole movie an air of fantasy. I mean the whole movie is already male-wish fulfillment as far as the story goes, but the setting elevates it above that. I will say this, it is an interesting movie to watch with your wife. Mine was not a fan and I completely understand that point of view. I have problems with it myself, especially with the Peter Gallagher character and his rather sleazy ways approach to the whole relationship with the Valerie Quennessen character. I do have a fondness for the movie though I must admit. The locales and the soundtrack are enough to keep my interest. I should briefly mention that the soundtrack starts with a Michael Sembello title track (composed for the movie) and is followed by songs from Elton John, Depeche Mode, Prince, Tina Turner, The Pointer Sisters and Chicago among others. It's a lively mix of popular music from the time and it really helps propel the movie along in a great way. The great Basil Poledouris did the score and that helps the film too.

The transfer here looks good and the film is finally being presented in widescreen for the first time (the old DVD was cropped). It is always nice to see a movie restored to its original aspect ratio. Especially a film like this with so much beauty on display.

Special Features:
-An newly recorded audio commentary with director Randal Kleiser has been included here. It's a solid track and it consists of Kleiser recalling anectdotes, locations and bits of trivia. He's clearly reading from some prepared notes, but that's not too distracting and the track covers a lot overall. Kleiser seems to have a good amount of affection for this movie and it comes through.
-The Making Of SUMMER LOVERS - this vintage press featurette runs about 12 mins or so and includes feature footage, behind the scenes and interviews with cast and crew.
-"Basil Poledouros - His Life and Music" - This is a very cool inclusion from Twilight Time. It is a 48-minute documentary on the composer Poledouris done by Film Score Monthly. Lots of time is spent one on one with the man himself and he has lots of stories of his process and so forth.
-Screen Tests - This 15 minute segment includes video screen tests from Hart Bochner, Patrick Swayze, and Valerie Quennessen.

Below is the International Trailer for the movie which would be a Red Band trailer by today's standards:

SUMMER LOVERS can be purchased on Blu-ray from Twilight Time's recently launched website:
http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/summer-lovers/

Friday, August 21, 2015

Underrated '55 - Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a writer, editor and trash cinema enthusiast living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His Letterboxd account is a document of a life poorly spent. You can find his writing all over the place, and especially at atalentforidleness.blogspot.com,irabrooker.com and @irabrooker.
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Yellowneck (1955; R. John Hugh)
Six deserters from the Confederate army stumble through the Florida Everglades in hopes of making their way to Cuba. Plotwise, that’s about all there is to this movie, and that’s a good part of why I like it. It’s strikingly bleak for its era, with little to no attempt made to lionize the no-good losers at the heart of its story. There are no big names in the cast, which gives us a chance to watch a bunch of undervalued character actors relish a rare turn in the spotlight. If this story had been filmed 15 or 20 years later it would’ve been a nihilistic, hyper-violent Euro-Western (it does bear a resemblance to my much-loved Cutthroats Nine). As it stands, it’s a grimy little chronicle of drunks, thieves, killers and cowards going up against Seminoles, crocodiles, sinkholes and other sundry perils, with the best possible end result being an even more dangerous raft journey over open ocean. That’s some grim going for 1955, or any era.

Women’s Prison (1955; Lewis Seiler)
1955 seems to have been something of a watershed for women-in-prison flicks, but they weren’t yet the glorious cesspools of sleaze generally associated with the genre. Movies like this one and its lower-budget analogue Betrayed Women are largely sober and titillation-free, which isn’t to say they’re dry or dull. Quite to the contrary,Women’s Prison vacillates nicely between light-hearted and harrowing, with slick production and energetic pacing that keeps it clipping right along. If you’ve ever seen a women’s prison movie, you’ve already met the fragile new inmate on the verge of cracking, the brassy hard-timer with a heart of gold, the noble male doctor who’s fed up with the system, and of course the sadistic warden. Those roles were already cliches in ‘55, but a solid cast makes the most of them, particularly a hugely appealing Jan Sterling as the inmates’ de facto den mother and a blistering Ida Lupino as the icy-cruel overseer who’s clearly heading for her comeuppance. Even when you know a tune by heart, it’s fun to hear it played by an old master.

Shack Out on 101 (1955; Edward Dein)
Lee Marvin plays a brutish short-order cook named Slob. That really ought to be all the info you need to make this a must-see, but Edward Dein’s low-key thriller has even more to recommend it than that. Set in an off-season beachside diner run by a machismo-dripping Keenan Wynn, it’s a slow-burning story of love and longing and nuclear espionage. While it’s not the most action-packed entry in the Cold War canon - save for a couple of exterior shots, this could just as well be a filmed play - it’s smartly written, expertly cast and imbued with a melancholy that sets it apart from its higher-octane counterparts. Along with Marvin and Wynn, you get Whit Bissell as a PTSD-stricken watch salesman, Len Lesser as a shady fishmonger and Terry Moore as an aspirational waitress universally known as “The Tomato.”Of course, this being a low-budget 1955 crime movie, you also get Frank Lovejoy, but the rest of the cast radiates enough coolness to balance that out.

Creature with the Atom Brain (1955; Edward L. Cahn)
If I was to pick the most 1955 movie of 1955, it would probably be this loveable bit of sci-fi/horror hokum. A vengeful mobster recruits a reluctant ex-Nazi scientist to reanimate corpses via atomic radiation and build an army of remote-controlled zombie hitmen who can wreak anonymous vengeance on his enemies. Considering that premise, the film takes its science surprisingly seriously and never quite slides into the goofiness that so plainly beckons throughout. America was clearly in a pretty weird headspace in those early Cold War days, and thank heavens for that.

The Looters (1955; Abner Biberman)
I’m not sure if there’s such a thing as backwoods noir, but if it exists, it looks something like this. A charter plane of the damned crashes on a remote mountain. Handsome hermit Rory Calhoun and his drifter buddy Ray Danton track down the survivors, including a self-hating pin-up model, a chipper Navy retiree and a disagreeable banker. When a big bag of cash turns up amongst the wreckage, it doesn’t take long for the inevitable treachery and infighting to surface. While the plot is predictable and the acting is pretty ordinary, the harsh outdoor setting and acid-dripping dialogue push this into darker territory than any number of similar films. Everybody here is deeply damaged and there aren’t many heroes to be found, but there is a sweaty fat guy nervously fingering a rifle. That counts for a lot in my book.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shout Factory - EASY MONEY & MEN AT WORK on Blu-ray

EASY MONEY (1983; James Signorelli)
One thing I miss about movies these days is title sequences. Okay, that's not totally fair, movies still certainly have title sequences now again, but I guess I'm reminded of how sublime a simple credit sequence can be. Case in point, EASY MONEY. The credits roll over a long take of (presumably) Rodney Dangerfield's hands fumbling through old papers and proof sheets on his desk whilst Billy Joel's "Easy Money" plays. Of course this isn't the very beginning of the movie. That scene features Dangerfield playing with a puppet for some kids and having several joints drop out of it. As raunchy as movies still are today, there's just something delightfully 1980s about this whole beginning to the movie. I mean 80s in that absolutely R-rated, but was something you caught on an HBO free weekend and felt funny while watching it kinda way. At least that's how I thought I remembered it. The whole movie is about bad behavior and Dangerfield's character embodies a lot of bad habits. It's a fun premise though, the idea he can inherit a bunch of dough if he can clean up his act. In rewatching it, I realized that my perspective as a kid may have been a bit skewed. The drug references and one scene of nudity aside, this is really a pretty sweet-hearted film. There's not all that much swearing even. Rodney Dangerfield's character has bad habits like I said, but he decides to take on the challenge of trying to reform himself in the time span of one year in order to inherit the money from his dead mother-in-law. He does it mostly for his family though. He's not money crazy in the way that I remembered at all. And the movie's overall message is one of some positivity. It is a good idea to drink less, smoke less and eat healthy. The movie even made me want to go for a run! Anyway, it's interestingly paced and plotted in that the money story doesn't even kick in until about 40 minutes in (I recalled it coming in earlier) and there's also a sublot with Dangerfield's daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that I completely forgot about. She gets married early on in the film (to the late great character actor Talyor Negron), but things turn south and her new husband and he spends a portion of the movie trying to reconcile with here. If this movie was ever remade, I feel like they would rush to the "getting the money" plot right away and not allow the time to just hang out with the characters. Dangerfield is great here and he and Joe Pesci make an excellent duo. Pesci was still early on in his career, but he handles himself perfectly and is quite funny. While there are definitely a few taboo things with the drugs and such touched on in the film, it is overall a pretty gentle comedy especially by today's standards. This along with BACK TO SCHOOL and CADDYSHACK certainly exemplify the best of Rodney Dangerfield cinema.

MEN AT WORK (1990; EMILIO ESTEVEZ)
"There are several sacred things in this world and one of them happens to be another man's fries. Now you remember that and you'll live a long and healthy life".

MEN AT WORK is one of those gems that many of us discovered back in the glory days of VHS and video stores. We may have been drawn in when we saw brothers Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen in a movie together. Maybe we thought it had something to do with the Australian rock band, who knows. Regardless, we gave it a look and it became something of a favorite. We began to "golf clap" at each other and throw out many of the film's other highly quotable lines  to anyone that might know them. I know it was a movie that was a big deal to me and my video store coworkers back in the mid 1990s (not to date myself too much). There's just something about a movie that centers around two garbage men who are mostly just into having a good time in their jobs and their lives that really appealed to us. These guys were having conversations along the lines of the conversations we were having at work. They were giving each other a hard time like we did and whatnot. So this could just have been a dead-end job hangout movie and it would have been fun, but writer (and director) Emilio Estevez decided to go all CHINATOWN with the thing which was unexpected to say the least, but a welcome oddball shift nonethless. The underhanded dealings that the guys get caught up in has to do with toxic waste dumping, which adds a layer of an environmental message there too I guess. So MEN AT WORK ends up being a kind of screwball-hangout-conspiracy-adventure-comedy and that is a rare genre combination. Things get more and more ridiculous as the movie progresses, but it always stays funny. Keith David gets involved as a PTSD'd out Vietnam vet plus they even rope in a pizza delivery boy played by cult actor Dean Cameron and Cameron Dye (VALLEY GIRL) as well who plays a fellow garbage man. There's even a little bit of Hitchcock thrown in here in that part of the setup for the story comes from Charlie Sheen's character's fondness for spying on his neighbors in the apartment building across the way. 
MEN AT WORK is still quite endearing to me and it continues to make me laugh every time I watch it. I suggest getting a group of friends together to see it so you can start quoting it randomly amongst yourselves as soon as possible.


Here's a fun vintage TV interview with Emilio Estevez from 1990 when he was on the Arsenio Hall show (he mentions both YOUNG GUNS II and MEN AT WORK):

Despite cramming two movies onto one Blu-ray disc, these transfers looked fine to me. No special features are included unfortunately.
This disc can be purchased here:
http://amzn.to/1TJjHVI
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