Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Steve Q

Steve Q blogs about terrible movies at and can be found on Twitter at @Amy_Surplice.
He also recently did an Underrated Westerns list you should check out:

When people look for thrillers, they rarely venture into foreign films, so I thought I'd cover French thrillers. "Wages of Fear" is perhaps the most tense film I've ever seen, "Diabolique" is a masterpiece and "Rififi" and "Topkapi" are classic heist films. If you haven't seen these - do so now! Claude Chabbrol is often called "the French Hitchcock, and his films are worth seeing. Assuming you've already discovered these, here's five lesser-known French thrillers.

Panique (1946)
Based on a George Simenon novel, this has been filmed a number of times, often under the title "Mr. Hire." It's a complicated film noir, with an innocent but eccentric man being assumed guilty of murder. He does, however, accidentally possess a photograph showing the real killer and just might use it for blackmail.

Le Choix des Armes (1981)
Starring Yves Montand, Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieux, this film has a man dying after a prison break asking his partner to take him to a couple for help, but they all end up at crossed purposes while being hunted by the police.

Le Corbeau (1943)
This film was highly controversial when released, because it was a French film directed under Nazi supervision. Someone's sending out poison-pen letters to a town's local leaders, causing unease and menace, including a doctor accused of performing abortions and having affairs. Soon, no one trusts anyone.

Plein Soleil (1960)
This is the first filmed version of Highsmith's novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley," directed by Rene Clement. It was hard to find until Martin Scorsese extolled its virtues and I think it's better than the more famous version with Matt Damon.

Le Samourai (1967)
This could easily be seen as just an exercise in style (it's visually arresting), but it's an excellent crime film as well. A professional hitman gets seen and tries to provide himself with an alibi, driving him ever further into a corner. It'd make an interesting double-bill with Jim Jamusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - THE LONG GOODBYE and THIEVES LIKE US onBlu-ray

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973; Robert Altman)
I will say this right up front, THE LONG GOODBYE is one of my all-time favorite movies. We're talking top 5 for me. I find this interesting because I didn't necessarily love it the first time I saw it. I can't recall my exact reaction when the film finished, but it was not one of having been blown away. I'd hate to run into that earlier version of me in a bar by some mishap in the space time continuum someday and get into a discussion about it, because I'd probably end up punching myself. As it stands now, I find the movie to be nearly flawless. A remarkable, free-wheelin' adaptation of a hard boiled crime novel that is infused with such a glorious post modern-ish viewpoint that I can't help but adore it. You what else helps it? Elliott Gould. You wanna talk about an actor being in their heyday, let's talk about Gould in the 1970s (I still love him to this very day btw, but in the 70s he was a man on fire). Gould's performances during that period were perfectly suited to the time. He was able to capture a laid-back coolness that Steve McQueen never reached. And his coolness was never more cool than in THE LONG GOODBYE .I love him in CALIFORNIA SPLIT, BUSTING, LITTLE MURDERS, M.A.S.H. and others as well, but this was his pinnacle in my mind. Not only was Gould like Jeffery Lebowski for the 1970s (the man for his time and place), but he was also the man for Altman and his sensibilities as well. There's just something about Gould's voice, his mannerisms and his general physicality that make him wonderfully unique and a perfect fit for this role in particular.
Now I love Altman's films and his style. I've heard some folks that I respect aren't into him (*cough* Tarantino) and I just don't get it. I mean, yeah I get that Altman's films don't appeal to everyone, but it seems that most of the hardcore cinephiles I know can at least appreciate him if they don't outright adore his output. Anyway, we've all seen a lot of private eye films and in turn a lot of self-aware private eye films to boot. What THE LONG GOODBYE does it take that sort attitude of self-awareness and fold it in on itself with character, location and some undefinable sense of the time in which it was made. Speaking of location, Los Angeles has a long and torrid history with the movies and private eye movies in general. I do tire of hearing that inevitable phrase, "the city is really a character in the movie". I see what is trying to be touched upon but I feel that it's become a shortcut quip for press junkets and people don't really even think about what it means anymore. Los Angeles is most certainly a big part of THE LONG GOODBYE. It is not and I don't think it ever could be a New York movie. I think there are a lot of movies that could be set in a lot of different places and they'd still be as effective as they are with wherever they happen to be located. Altman's Los Angeles of the THE LONG GOODBYE is such a great fit. This has to do with a lot of things as Altman tends to create a kind of tapestry in his cinematic melting pot, but credit certainly needs be given to the great Vilmos Zsigmond. The great Hungarian-born cinematographer and Altman worked together previous to this on MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (which is a gorgeous-looking film) and he had just shot DELIVERANCE (and Altman's woefully underrated IMAGES, both in 1972) the year before rejoining Altman to do THE LONG GOODBYE. Zsigmond is no accidental part of a lot of great 70s cinema. His contributions to the works of Altman, De Palma and Steven Spielberg in the 1970s and 80s cannot and should not be left as a small footnote. The look he gave to each of the films he worked on during this period is specific and evocative. THE LONG GOODBYE is no exception. Zsigmond chose to 'flash' the to give it a Los Angeles a look more evocative of the 1950s in his mind and it works beautifully. Once I'm in the movie I don't think about it, but it effects the mood of things in such a way as to be more immersive for sure. Another thing that helps me get lost in the world of THE LONG GOODBYE is the music. John Williams' theme is weaved throughout the movie in a truly wonderful way. It starts off in a lovely, croonery style with Johnny Mercer singing the song with lyrics as the credits roll. That version of the theme is a stunning mood-setter without question. From there we begin to hear the theme in all manner of ways diegetically throughout the movie. It crops up in muzak form as Philip Marlowe shops for Courry Brand cat food at the supermarket. It can be heard in a bar as the piano player noodles about on the piano. It finds its way into the movie in all these different wonderful ways and I've always adored that approach. Sure it's not a novel idea to have your film's theme pop up again and again, but I love the way Altman does it here. Speaking of Altman, this film is full of a lot of his trademarks. His penchant overlapping dialogue (one of the more distinct things he does) is quite apparent and put to good use here. He also throws in a lot of actors in smaller roles that work well in that space (David Carradine, Mark Rydell and many others all slot right in). I hope the release of this Blu-ray will remind people just how good this movie is as I believe it to be one of the greatest of the 1970s. I used to love CHINATOWN more, but THE LONG GOODBYE has surpassed it for me.

Special Features:
--"Rip Van Marlowe" – An interview with director Robert Altman and star Elliott Gould
--"Vilmos Zsigmond Flashes THE LONG GOODBYE" in this 14 minute interview, the veteran cinematographer talks about his working relationship with Altman, and their specific process on THE LONG GOODBYE. He touches on their decision to flash the film 50% to give it a certain look, Altman's affinity for the zoom lens and other technical details of the production.

Bonus: Elliott Gould discusses THE LONG GOODBYE:

THIEVES LIKE US (1974; Robert Altman)
Robert Altman followed THE LONG GOODBYE with this adaptation of Edward Anderson's novel Thieves Like Us. Though Altman's film of THIEVES LIKE us is based on the same material as Nicholas Ray's THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, it is intriguing to me how different the two films are. Of course there is a gap of almost thirty years in between them so there's a natural shift in how movies look and feel, but there's more than that. Altman has truly made the material his own, for better or for worse. It shows a lot of his trademark filmmaking techniques which certainly gives a feeling much more laid back than the 1948 film.then you've got the boy and girl played by Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall. A more Altman couple than that is hard to find as I personally associate these two actors strongly with his movies. I happen to prefer Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger, but Keith and Shelley are a nice pair too. THIEVES also features several other Altman regulars like John Shuck and Bert Remsen as well as Louise Fletcher and Tom Skerritt. The script by Calder Willingham (THE GRADUATE) and Joan Tewksbury (NASHVILLE) is interesting and low key. For me, it's an oft overlooked film in Altman's quite robust filmography. Quite worth discovering.
Special Features:
This disc features the commentary track from the old MGM dvd with Altman himself. It's a solid track and a nice one to hear especially now that Altman is no longer with us. It's a screen specific thing and within it he talks about various aspects of the production. He talks about his DP Jean Boffety, and the actors (how he first met Shelley Duvall and his initial impressions of her). He also goes into detail about his decisions with regards to how to show period and tell this story in particular. It's a loose commentary, but just the kind of thing you'd expect from a guy who made films as Altman did.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Some roles were just made to be played be certain actors and the character of Dr. Gillespie is just such a match for Lionel Barrymore. I was given a wonderfully healthy does of Barrymore as Gillespie via Warner Archives excellent DR. KILDARE Movie Collection set from earlier this year. Now WAC is back with more Gillespie solo stuff and it's just as fun. Much like serialized television, these films play as lovely installments of what is basically the Gillespie spinoff show with this new six-film set:

CALLING DR. GILLESPIE (1942; Harold S. Bucquet)
This film is something of a thriller and interestingly done. An unstable man fixates on Gillespie after he's been examined to be a possible "mental case". His fiance (played by Donna Reed) is extremely concerned and becomes a target as well. The last act is taught and well done and features an exhilarating rating finale within Blair General itself! Featuring a young and lovely Donna Reed. 
Just a heads up - there's some implied dog trauma near the beginning of this one. Be warned!

DR. GILLESPIE'S NEW ASSISTANT (1942; Willis Goldbeck)
Amnesia is the key word in this installment as Gillespie and his three potential new assistants (Van Johnson, Keye Luke & Richard Quine) try their darndest to solve the mystery of a newlywed gal's sudden loss of memory. The big question though is who will Gillespie choose as his new assistant?

DR. GILLESPIE'S CRIMINAL CASE (1943; Willis Goldbeck)
Van Johnson and Keye Luke return in this straight follow-up to CALLING DR. GILLESPIE. Donna Reed is back again asking Gillespie's advice on moving on from her psycho ex-fiance from that film. Gillespie recommends to the courts that that man be committed but they don't see eye to eye (and this leads to trouble). The film also has Margaret O'Brien in a small role.

THREE MEN IN WHITE (1944; Willis Goldbeck)
This one could kinda be called "ALSO GILLESPIE'S NEW ASSISTANT" as he is forced to choose between Van Johnson and Keye Luke here. Both are given a specific assignment and must decide their own fate at Blair General. Watch for Ava Gardner!

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (1945; Willis Goldbeck)
Still more Van Johnson (who is pursued by ladies), plus a nightclub singer and anorexia (neuro-psychological self-starvation) this round. Also - more Keye Luke and an extra wonderful dose of Keenan Wynn!

DARK DELUSION (1947; Willis Goldbeck)
This the final film in the Dr. Kildare series, features Gillespie sending a new Doctor (James Craig) to a small town to help a young girl with her psychological issues.

Pickup this collection from Warner Archive here:

Sunday, November 23, 2014


WHITE LIGHTNING (1973; Joseph Sargent)
"You two are more fun than going to an all-night dentist."
-Gator McKlusky
Burt Reynolds became known in the 1970s for playing a certain kind of loveable scamp and it kind of all started with Gator McKlusky. First off, Gator McKlusky is one of the great character names in the history of cinema and I mean ever. I love that name and Reynolds brings him to life in a way that brings so much of what you might expect a guy with that name to be like. WHITE LIGHTNING belongs to that rarified genre of what Quentin Tarantino calls "Good 'ol boy car-chase movies" and it's darned fun genre unto itself for sure. Tarantino ran WHITE LIGHTNING as part of one of his "QT Fests" way back in 1997 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas. He even used a track from Charles Bernstein's score for the film in his own movie INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (which is a great piece of music by the way). When you watch WHITE LIGHTNING, you can kind of see why QT is such a fan of it. There is this infectious spirit that I feel like only Burt Reynolds at that time could bring to Gator and his antics that is absolutely inimitable. On top of that, the film is filled with that special 1970s brand of out-of-their-mind of stuntwork that is still truly spectacular to this day. It certainly falls under the category of "they don't make em like that anymore".

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 1" (10 mins) - this is a neat new retrospective interview with the man Burt Reynolds himself. He looks back on WHITE LIGHTNING here with fondness and how it was the beginning for him of playing a lot of "that kind of rascal". Reynolds touches on his memories of a bunch of folks from the production including writer William Norton, director Joseph Sargent (and how Spielberg almost made the movie before him), stunt man Hal Needham (and tells a neat story of one specific stunt from the film), actor Ned Beatty, actress Jennifer Billingsley, Bo Hopkins, Diane Ladd, R.G. Armstrong and more. They really pack a lot into this 10 minutes and it's a pleasure to watch Reynolds reminisce. This interview is continued on the Kino Lorber GATOR Blu-ray.

GATOR (1976; Burt Reynolds)
One good Gator turn deserves another and Burt himself sat in the director's chair on this one. Gator is back, outta prison and roped into a federal sting operation to catch a dirty politician. This film benefits greatly from a couple new additions: Burt's mustache, Jerry Reed and the lovely Lauren Hutton. Gator had been sans-stache in WHITE LIGHTNING, but Reynolds corrects that here. Hutton had done THE GAMBLER with James Caan in 1974 and followed it with this. Jerry Reed and Burt had done W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCE KINGS and then GATOR and would go on in 1977 to hit it really big with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. They've always had great chemistry and this film is no exception.

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 2"(11 mins)

In this continuation of the interview from WHITE LIGHTNING, Reynolds talks about the why he wanted to direct GATOR (his debut feature), the challenges he faced therein, and shooting in Georgia as a location. Apparently the success of GATOR would be the thing that kept Reynolds acting. He also discusses Lauren Hutton, her behavior on set and Jerry Reed's first role as a bad guy. Burt also has more praise for Hal Needham here and his pride in the stuntwork in the films he directed. Actors Dudely Remus and Patrick Moody also have some brief recollections here about their memories of the movie.

SAM WHISKEY(1969; Arnold Laven)
From Kino's site:
"When it comes to trouble, make his a double! Welcome to America's Wild - and very wacky - West! Burt Reynolds (Gator), Clint Walker (More Dead Than Alive), Ossie Davis (The Scalphunters) and Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo) star in this tongue-in-cheek tale of love, lust and larceny that's brimming with real charm and sharp wit. Thanks to ingenious plot twists, hilarious blunders and delightful chemistry, Sam Whiskey is a comely caper full of mischief and mayhem that is altogether intoxicating. Even crooks have standards - and keeping the loot is usually one of them. But when cowboy con artist Sam (Reynolds) falls head over spurs for a sexy widow (Dickinson), he finds himself compromising a lot more than his principles. After she seduces him into helping her break into the US Mint - to return a fortune in stolen gold - Sam begins to suspect that honesty might have some very ample rewards. Wonderfully directed by western specialist Arnold Laven (Rough Night in Jericho) with a great script by William W. Norton (White Lightning, Gator)."This comedy western sees Burt joining an unlikely team of Angie Dickinson, Clint Walker and Ossie Davis on a mission to retrieve a bunch of gold bars from the bottom of a river. That's not all though, they have to sneak the bars back into the Denver mint as well. So you've got one part adventure, one part heist movie and it's a fun time. Burt is well suited to the Whiskey character and I feel in general that I wish he had made more westerns. Apparently the film originally featured a full "upper torso" frontal shot of Angie Dickinson, but this was later cut to save the film from the newly created "R" rating.
Special Features:
"Lookin' Back with O.W. Bandy" (9 mins) - This new interview with Clint Walker has him talking about his character in the film and his inventor-ly nature (which Walker himself apparently also shares), and his recollections of working with Burt Reynolds, Ossie Davis, Angie Dickinson and director Arnold Laven. While Walker is not nearly as lively an interview as Burt Reynolds, he is still an affable old fella and a veteran actor that you can feel the gravitas of even when he's sitting there in a recliner telling stories.

MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1969; Robert Sparr)
This Clint Walker film vehicle was one of only a few western films (not TV shows) that he made during this period. He plays a famous killer released from prison and trying to go straight only to find life on the outside quite difficult for a notorious murderer like himself. He finds some solace in a traveling carnival runner (Vincent Price) and a lovely young gal (Anna Francis), but it's still hard out there for a legend. One of those westerns that has a memorable ending and reminds us that the west was a place that built myth and reputations and created an environment in which many sought to capitalize on them. Vincent Price is good here and like Burt Reynolds, should have made more westerns. He is very much a "man out of time" and it allowed him to play period in a really wonderful and believable way.

Special Features:
"The Infamous Killer Cain" - an interview with Clint Walker (10 mins) - Walker talks about a memorable lunch he had with Jack Warner, his fondness for Vincent Price and how he very much liked working with him in MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE,  working with Anne Francis, some changes that started to happen to westerns around that time that troubled him and brought about a general disenchantment with Hollywood. You get a sense of  the classy actor and person that Walker was in this chat. 

VIVA MARIA (1965; Louis Malle)
If you're like me, there's a chance you hadn't heard much about this movie prior to this new Blu-ray release. How something like this slipped under my radar I have no clue, but with it starring Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and George Hamilton and being directed by Louis Malle there's a whole lot of immediate appeal there. 
The film features a pretty cool opening sequence which sets up the Bardot character nicely and ends with her riding a train like a tramp and looking like Veronica Lake in disguise from SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (whether this is a direct nod I don't know, but I like it). Soon she meets Jeanne Moreau's character and they eventually hit it off. Moreau has always reminded me of the prototypical French film female in that she carries the most bored look on her face most of the time. Her mouth is almost naturally shaped to look as though it's turned downward into a frown when it is at rest. I have a natural inclination against women with faces like this so each time I see her in a film again I have to fight that urge and warm up to her. Regardless of my personal feelings, the two ladies are of course quite iconic and very good together here. It's a fun adventure film overall and one I'd recommend discovering. It reminds me ever so slightly of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE FABULOUS STAINS, in terms of the way these two ladies gain popularity and become revolutionaries.
There were French and English Dubbed versions released. The Blu-ray features the French version.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Andrew Wickliffe

Andrew Wickliffe has been blogging about film and comic books for almost ten years.
1. The Woman in White (1948)
I always have a hard time describing The Woman in White. It's a costume drama period piece, set in the mid-1800s, with Syndey Greenstreet terrorizing, but there's also a lot of difficult romance.
Greenstreet's always good as a terrorizing villain, but Woman in White also has a fantastic, three part damsel in distress situation (Eleanor Parker--in two roles--and Alexis Smith). The supporting cast is
strong, the main cast is sturdy enough, and the element of danger is constant. It's a surprisingly effective late forties entry from Warner.

2. The Seventh Victim (1943)
My favorite of the Val Lewton-produced RKO thrillers; it's masterful stuff from director Mark Robson with an especially strong script from DeWitt Bodeen and Charles O'Neal. Dealing with issues like urban apathy and discontent, The Seventh Victim alternates between lulling the viewer into some sense of grounding and complete confusion. It's a wonderful film, with a great performance from Kim Hunter in her debut.

3. Delusion (1991)
Businessman Jim Metzler runs into mob flunky (and moron) Kyle Secor and his seductive girlfriend (Jennifer Rubin) after ripping off his company. There's constant danger--Secor isn't just dumb, he's psychotic--director Carl Colpaert and co-writer Kurt Voss keep all the characters on edge. No one's innocent, but it's unclear how guilty anyone is either.

4. The Lookout (2007)
Scott Frank's neo-noir has a big gimmick--Joseph Gordon-Levitt's protagonist has brain damage and can't retain short term memories. He gets involved in a heist and has to work his way out of it. The film's equal parts thriller and character study, with a great performance from Gordon-Levitt and an outstanding script from Frank. Terrifying performance from Matthew Goode as the bad guy too.

5. Bound (1996)
The Wachowskis' first movie--a neo-noir with Gina Gershon as the hero and Jennifer Tilly as the dumb (or not dumb) moll she falls for. The film embraces the gender politics of the changes, using that friction to create a very slick thriller. It's a great looking film already, but the depth comes from the Wachowskis' ambitions with Gershon as the decidedly female noir protagonist.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Shirt-Tacular - SNAPPY KID

It should be no secret that I am a big big fan of pop culture mashups. My favorite kinds of mashups are of course those involving films and television shows. For this reason, I cannot stop buying t-shirts. I mean, if you think of the economy of the fandom at play here it makes complete sense. I can wear a shirt that represents my love for not one, but at least two things at once! And there's always the sort of "secret handshake" aspect of those who not only notice the shirt you happen to be wearing, but also get the movies or TV shows being referenced therein. I have this theory about people and it basically has to do with how much inside their own heads they are. It's a difficult thing to quantify, but I've always found that silly referential t-shirts can function as a kind of litmus test for how people are in their everyday life. It's really quite simple - if they notice the shirt (even if they don't know what it's referring to) then they may be not totally self-obsessed. I realize how stupid and simplistic this test sounds, but I've found more times than not that people I end up connecting with on a personal level are those who end up "passing" this test. This is not to say that if someone doesn't notice my shirt(s) then they are some narcissistic jerk, because that is CLEARLY not the case 100% of the time. Sometimes when you first meet someone, they might be distracted or be having an off day, and of course that kind of thing happens. And I should be clear that I've never outright written anyone off based on this kind of interaction, but I've always found it a fun thing to keep track of. On top of being a quick character read on folks, these shirts can also be an obvious conversation starter based on mutual admiration for the same stuff. Being that I can be rather conversationally awkward with people I don't know that well, it's always nice to start from a common place of interest. So needless to say, I am always on the lookout for new companies online that are putting out interesting shirts. Snappy Kid is one of those companies. From their "about us" page, there's this:
"We’re two Dads living in Toronto, Canada with young families all under five. And boy, they grow out of clothes fast! We thought it would be fun to produce cool and unique tees and onesies that capture how cool and unique our kids really are.
So we came up with Snappy Kid, a place where you can find a cool, nerdy, pop culture designs for cool kids. Each of our tees and onesies showcase art from top artists from around the world, from California to the UK to the Philippines. Plus, we've added sizes for grown ups and premium options. Artists keep full rights to their designs and may choose to make the piece available elsewhere."

Cool right? How could I not be drawn to a site that has come about like this. Being a father of a five year old myself, and always wanting to dress her in some clothing that refers to something "cool" in my mind, it's a perfect fit. Of course, I don't always come to a new shirt site with my kids in mind, and often I'm hooked by a certain design that makes me laugh or just revel in the cleverness. In this case, it was this GREMLINS-based shirt that got me:
"Mogwai Beach"
Personally, I'm a sucker for most things related to Joe Dante films as he's one of my favorite directors ever, but this design got me on a couple other levels. Wether it was intended or not, it also reminded me of the animation style that the great "Savage Steve" Holland used in both BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER. So much stuff I love in one design.
"The Big Race"
Here's another example of a shirt they had that was right in my wheelhouse. Let's break it down shall we? It's got Looney Tunes (the Roadrunner and Speedy Gonzalez), Pixar (Dash from THE INCREDIBLES), video games (Sonic the Hedgehog) and DC Comics (The Flash). How can this not make you smile. It immediately begs the question, "Who would win this race?" (to which the answer may seem obvious but is still fun to theorize about it).

"Bounty Hunting Time"
Last example. I am a dude who digs Adventure Time and Star Wars (as I'm sure a lot of people do). The thing I like about this though is that they went with Dengar as one of the Finn character. Not to geek on Star Wars too much, but I've always felt Dengar didn't get his due representation in the Star Wars films. Seems like a memorable fella. So props to the Snappy Kids folks for using him.

So those are just a slice of the unique tees they have over at Snappy Kid. They have a nice selection overall and have many of their shirts broken down into convenient geek-friendly categories like Star Wars, Doctor Who, Lego, Adventure Time and so forth:
If you're on the hunt for a new place to buy fun clothing for yourself or cool kids tees, you may want to mosey on over to Snappy Kid and give them a try! Find them here:
Social Media-wise:

Below find more cool and groovy designs from them that I also think are pretty cool:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - John D'Amico

John D'Amico is a New York City based filmmaker and theorist who
writes for and On Twitter @jodamico1.

He did a list of underrated Action/adventure  films and westerns for my previous series which you should have a peek at:

Premonitions of John Carpenter in this portrait of paranoia on a polar research station, it leans a little too heavily on the presumption of tension that's not really there, but solid dialogue and great performances by Culp and Eli Wallach sell it. Smart economical filmmaking typical of the best ‘70s TV movies, which are a good vein to mine if you’re interested in under-the-radar thrillers. Their budget-imposed unity of space and time lends itself readily to the genre.

Another movie of the week! A couple stops at a roadside diner, the husband walks into the men’s room and never comes out. It’s a solid foundation of rural paranoia (the setting is a lot like Duel) elevated by a smart script by the always reliable Richard Matheson and strong performances by Cloris Leachman and Ned Beatty. Like The Incident and A Cold Night’s Death, much of its power comes from its refusal to take its characters out of an ugly and cramped location.

H-8… (1958)
Croatian cinema’s masterpiece, a true story about a reckless driver who causes a fatal car crash between a bus and a truck one rainy night. After a breakneck prologue brings us to speed on the situation, we spend the balance of the film cutting between both vehicles eavesdropping on the lives of the passengers. The camera wrings every inch out of the cramped setting, constantly moving back and forth, side to side, popping in and out of conversations like an other passenger. Hitchcockian in its exploration of tight spaces, de Sica-esque in its study of regular people trying to survive. This one is just waiting for a Criterion or Masters of Cinema to scoop it up and bring it to a wider audience.

I'm the weirdo who prefers Enzo Castellari to Leone, and this one is as good an explanation as any. It’s an essay in tension from absurdity, with mobile bouncing cameraowrk going from fete to docks to golf course to back alley. It's got a dark heart with some tough violence but it's buoyed by a proto-Tarantino sense of quirky humor. James Whitmore is fun here, a million miles from Them! and Shawshank.

André Antoine is the forgotten poet of early cinema, this story of diamond smugglers on the canals of France marries the earthiness of poetic realism with the dark compositions and aggressive editing of the Russian school. Really impressive filmmaking, ahead of its time.

Pelham One Two Three is, with good reason, THE subway movie, but this ultragrim black and white thriller gives it a run for its money. We follow two young crooks (including a pre-Badlands Martin Sheen) as they block the doors of a subway car and pass a night by harassing, abusing, and finally assaulting the trapped passengers. Some of the beatnik posturing hasn't aged well but beneath the veneer there's a powerful and relatable relentlessness, anchored by a fine cast and strong sense of place.

In 1984, sixteen years before Memento, director James Bridges, who cut his teeth on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, had a crazy idea for a somber crime thriller which played out in reverse order. Test screenings were a DISASTER. Popcorn-era ‘80s cinema wasn’t ready to embrace something so challenging and emotionally fraught. The studio hauled it in for re-editing, hammering it into chronological order. It’s a big blow to the world of film, but lucky for us, even in this compromised form, Bridge’s Antonioni-esque travelogue of loneliness of one of the few truly great neo-noir films, brought to greatness by elegant washed-out cinematography and and absolutely stunning performances by Debra Winger and Paul Winfield. I’d give anything to see the original cut, but the version we have is still a must-see.

One of the only crime movies to match the sadness and poetic inconsequentiality of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, the underused (and Pulitzer Prize winning!) Jason Miller shines as a bum criminal in a rapidly souring deal. I'm working on a crime film now, and this is a major touchstone for me.

Haunted, bizarre film noir which gets impressive milage by merely moving its hard-boiled detective story to Mexico. It tackles head-on the post-war malaise that the rest of the genre only pokes around at. The straightman detective gets a couple local sidekicks, who elevate the film with their folksiness in a fun and uncondescending way. Beautiful black-and-white camerawork and a smart script by Ben Hecht, who also penned the classic Notorious, Strangers on a Train, and The Thing from Another World.

New York underground filmmaker Amos Poe’s best movie by a country mile (though Alphabet City is worth a look), it’s a shambolic trip through seedy 1980s New York, following a sax-playing murderer. It’s got a seediness comparable to Abel Ferrara’s New York stuff, but with a hard-to-define surrealism keeping it interesting - the killer is played interchangeably by two different actors! The best scene belongs to Susan Tyrrell, who powerfully portrays a junkie in the throes of addiction. One of a kind.

Nail-biter about a failed assassination attempt on Abe Lincoln is as tense as its premise is counter-intuitive. There’s a strong historical sense here, the powder-keg feeling of America’s most troubled era is fully realized by a surprisingly great ensemble (Ruby Dee! Adolphe Menjou!) and the typically tight direction of director Anthony Mann, best known for his noir and western work - both skills come in handy here!
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