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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - FINDERS KEEPERS, FUZZ and BIGGLES on Blu-ray

FINDERS KEEPERS (1984; Richard Lester)
Any movie that begins with a mustached Ed Lauter committing a heist whilst peppy 80s easy-listening tunes play has my immediate attention. Follow that with a scene of Michael O'Keefe being chased by an angry women's roller derby team through the streets of Oakland to the strains of The Beach Boys' "I Get Around" and I'm fully invested. Now I've been a Michael O'Keefe fan since CADDYSHACK, but I've always preferred him as more of a fast-talking, sarcastic wise guy than he was in that film. He can play charismatic, offbeat and hilarious along the lines of Chevy Chase if given the opportunity and I find that a director like Richard Lester can bring out the best in his comedic abilities. Now, Lester is a well-known filmmaker to cinephiles and Beatles fans - having most famously been the man behind the camera for A HARD DAY'S NIGHT as well as HELP! and 60s gems like THE KNACK....AND HOW TO GET IT, HOW I WON THE WAR and PETULIA. He's also well known for SUPERMAN II and III,  but FINDERS KEEPERS is one of his lesser-seen efforts. It's an enjoyable farce precipitated on a couple fellas (O'Keefe and Ed Lauter) trying to avoid the authorities while riding a train to New York City. It's kind of a goofy, Altman-esque farce with a coffin full of money at the center (the film was also known as CASH CASH). Along the way, we meet a cavalcade of oddballs like a trampy actress (Beverly D'Angelo), a near-scenile railroad conductor (David Wayne), an old-school con man (Louis Gossett Jr.), an imbecile deserter (a very young Jim Carrey) and a small-town mayor (Brian Dennehy). While not quite on the same level of crazed lunacy as something like IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (which I personally am not a huge fan of), it's still runs along those lines. It's also got a very enjoyable Buster Keaton-esque ending set piece that's pretty fantastic. As a throwback screwball comedy, it's quite delightful and I recommend checking it out. Plus the cover artwork comes from the original poster which featured the stylings of the great Mort Drucker (of Mad Magazine fame), which reminds me of my Jack Davis (one of my all-time favorites). Fun soundtrack too (with Supertramp and Don McLean among others).

Buy FINDERS KEEPERS on Blu-ray here:
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FUZZ (1972; Richard A. Colla)
What better name for a Burt Reynolds movie than FUZZ. the king of the 70s mustache 
Interestingly, some of the movie has S bit of the Robert Altman feel, even though he did not direct it. Some scenes play in wide shots where we can see many characters moving around a space while their dialogue overlaps and there is a general fly-on-the-wall approach combined with improvisational performances. What's neat is that it gives an opportunity for cinephiles to see an approximation of what it might have been like to see Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch in an Altman film from this period. While there's a good amount of humor in parts, there's also a healthy amount of drama and darkness mixed in which makes the movie an unusual mixture of tonal strands. It's in a similar ballpark to BUSTING, but not as good and without the great partner back and forth repartee that Elliott Gould and Robert Blake have in that film.  The excellent character actor-filled cast includes Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, and
Burt Remsen. The movie even has some semi-comedic scenes with Weston and Burt Reynolds disguised as nuns on a surveillance detail and later interrogating a suspect while still in costume. I always find it fascinating to see seventies films in which Jack Weston was given leading roles. He's an excellent character actor and the trend of giving his kind of performer more prominent roles was a trope from that decade that I have always loved. It's also a memorable choice that Yul Brynner is in the movie, but doesn't show up until more than an hour into it. It's also cool to see Raquel Welch play a cop. Plus, Burt Reynolds has a pretty cool fire stunt early in the movie that I have to give him props for doing himself.
Special Features:
The disc features a new audio commentary from director Richard A. Colla moderated by filmmaker Elijah Drenner. Colla speaks about how the film came about and happens to mention that he was unaware that Brian De Palma had been attached to this movie before he came on board - which is quite intriguing. As commentaries go, Drenner does a solid job moderating (as usual), but really has to prompt Colla a lot to keep him talking. Despite that, there's still a good amount of interesting tidbits to be found here.
Also included is the Trailers From Hell version of the movie's trailer with commentary from screenwriter Josh Olson (one of my favorite TFH commentators).
Buy FUZZ ON Blu-ray here:
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Jim Ferguson has a problem. He's trying to keep his company "Celebrity Dinners" afloat, but he keeps falling through a hole in time that takes him back to 1917. He's been selected for a special mission you see. He has to help his "time twin" James "Biggles" Biggelsworth, a British pilot, with stopping the Germans from using a special weapon during World War I. As you might expect, Ferguson takes a while to understand what's going on and get used to the whole time travel thing. It has a very SLAUGHTER HOUSE FIVE kind of vibe to it. Outside of the fun of the back and forth in time, this film also has Peter Cushing (in his final film role) and quite a bit of enjoyable low-flying stunt work (the kind that looks a little reckless and unsafe by today's standards). The movie seems to have developed something of a following since it came out on home video (particularly in The UK from what I've gathered). And though it doesn't quite reach the memorably quirky levels of certain cult films from this period, fans of time travel movies will absolutely appreciate it. It's from director John Hough who did other neat films like THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, WATCHER IN THE WOODS and DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY.

Special Features:
-Interview with Star Neil Dickson.
-Interview with Star Alex Hyde-White.

Buy BIGGLES ON Blu-ray here:
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Justin LaLiberty

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in Critical Film Studies and Film Preservation in Archiving. He is currently responsible for programming at Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em. He is a regular contributor to Paracinema and can usually be found in whichever NYC art-house is showing the most sordid content on a given day.

Here's his Discoveries list from 2015:

BLASTFIGHTER (Lamberto Bava)
A ultra mean, 80s Lamberto Bava riff on FIRST BLOOD and DEATH HUNT with a lead named Tiger who totes a high tech 12 gauge filled with explosive rounds is exactly what I expect from a movie titled BLASTFIGHTER and it doesn’t disappoint. Moral of the story, don’t kill an ex-cop’s baby deer. Italian rednecks, be warned.
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CHOOSE ME (Alan Rudolph)
I have a confession to make: I discovered the work of Alan Randolph this year in general and it all changed me. But mostly CHOOSE ME. I love it when my 80s cinema is drenched in neon and when ensemble character dramas aren’t afraid to get provocative. It’s the amalgam of CARNAL KNOWLEDGE and PUMP UP THE VOLUME that I never knew I wanted. The other Randolph film that I saw this year that is likely to become indispensible for me in the years to come: WELCOME TO L.A.
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Fairly certain that BUFFALO ’66 is a remake of this. I had long been a fan of Friedel’s AXE but had never caught this until Severin’s fantastic double feature blu-ray release came out. And it’s safe to say that this is the superior of the two films. A strangely serene exploitation film that toes the line between the cheap (but artsy) thrills of Doris Wishman and something more refined, yet decidedly American. This would pair nicely alongside the gruff yet quiet work of Monte Hellman or even BADLANDS era Terrance Malick. The road movie at its most depraved/sad/transcendent.
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HELLBENT (Richard Casey)
A huge thank you to Vinegar Syndrome for introducing me to the films of Richard Casey this year, between this and HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY 5. Both are insane, potent representations of low-budget regional filmmaking but HELLBENT is cinematic drug that I just keep wantingto go back to. It’s like if Nick Zedd made a Tony Scott movie. All manner of excess, an energy that never wanes and characters that I would never want to meet but I wish I could spend more time with from the distance of my couch. This is the type of cinema that I wished to discover at the local video store when I was a teenager.
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I KNEW HER WELL (Antonio Pietrangeli)
One of the more pleasant surprises of 2016 for me was this offbeat, pop music infused 60s Italian gem with an impressively downbeat ending and near constant barrage of beautiful things to look at. The splendor of 60s Italian cinema infused with the energy of the French New Wave. And the restoration from Janus is wonderful.
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KUNG FU MASTER (Agnes Varda)
Cinelicious Pics (who are quickly becoming one of my favorite small distributors) delivered a double dose of Varda with this and JANE B. PAR AGNES V, which really work best as a double bill but this one is too much fun to not highlight. Dealing both with AIDs and the space of the arcade, KUNG FU MASTER is a singular piece of 80s French cinema that deals with puberty, crisis and a cultural escape in a way that we seldom saw then or now. And Varda deals with the subject matter deftly, without judgment and in a way that can often be regarded as sweet. Why didn’t every arcade hand out condoms?
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LIVE WIRE (Christian Duguay)
Where has this been all of my life? This trashy Pierce Brosnan vehicle (only a couple years prior to GOLDENEYE) comes from the director of SCANNERS II and features exploding bodies, rough sex and a robot which may very well be the robot from ROCKY IV. I want to go back in time and watch this when I was 10.
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I often overlooked this for some reason, but every piece of it is fantastic. I mean, how could a Bob Clark directed buddy movie featuring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton, from the writer of FIELD OF DREAMS (and Stallone) and featuring the two leads singing, be anything short of great? And Stallone sings “Tutti Frutti” with aid of a dying organ. It’s beautiful.
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RIVER OF GRASS (Kelly Reichardt)
A crowd funded restoration of Reichardt’s first feature was released by Oscilloscope this year and the results are fantastic. A sort of lo-fi MIAMI BLUES featuring Lisa Bowman and Larry Fessenden as two bumbling souls on the lam, defying genre conventions and constantly managing to surprise. Gorgeous use of 16mm and the 1.33 frame.
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SYMPTOMS (Jose Ramon Larraz)
I had actually never heard of SYMPTOMS until Mondo Macabro announced their release earlier this year. This is wonderfully dreadful, 70s hysteria cinema with a couple of shocking moments that are still unnerving for me months later. These movies always have so much rain.
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Honorable Mentions:
DEAD PIGEON ON BEETHOVEN STREET (Sam Fuller) – Fuller’s batshit noir farce is finally available in its complete version. A cause for celebration.
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THE DRAGON LIVES AGAIN (Law Kei) – A Brucesploitation film that features Popeye, Dracula, Emmanuelle, The Man with No Name, Zatoichi and other inanity. The new transfer from AGFA is beautiful.
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LINK (Richard Franklin) – A Cannon production featuring a murderous monkey butler from the director of CLOAK AND DAGGER. Apeshit.
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PRIVATE PROPERTY (Leslie Stevens) – Ultra lean, tough genre find from Cinelicous starring Warren Oates. “Wife noise”.
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QUIET COOL (Clay Boris) – A better use of “California Dreamin’” than CHUNGKING EXPRESS.
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SONNY BOY (Robert Martin Carroll) – Like if UNLEASHED was co-directed by Andy Milligan and Tobe Hooper. Exploding bodies and David Carradine in drag.
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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Larry Karaszewski

The past four years, I have had the honor of being able to post a Film Discoveries list from Larry Karaszewski. Karaszewski is one of my favorite screenwriters and a true cinephile's cinephile. He and Scott Alexander have collaborated on many memorable screenplays including one of my personal favorites, Tim Burton's movie ED WOOD. Larry and Scott recently wrote the script for Burton's film BIG EYES as well which I highly recommend if you haven't had the chance to see it yet. Larry and Scott' recently worked the FX series AMERICAN CRIME STORY: THE PEOPLE VS. O.J. SIMPSON, which is now available digitally and on Blu-ray. Recommended!
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Also, always check out Larry's commentaries over at Trailers From Hell:

Please enjoy Larry's List from 2016 below - I always find things that I need to see based on what he's unearthed!

Joanna (1968; Michael Sarne)

A House Divided (1931; William Wyler)

Il Sorpasso (1962; Dino Rissi)

There's Always Tomorrow (1956; Douglas Sirk)

M (Remake) (1951; Joseph Losey)

Wake in Fright (1971; Ted Kotcheff)

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978; Chia-Liang Liu)

Diabolique (1955; Henri-Georges Clouzot)

Winning (1969; James Goldstone)

Shanks (1974; William Castle)

Eyes Without a Face (1960; Georges Franju)