Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jackson Stewart

Jackson Stewart is a writer/director living in Los Angeles. He created the web series 'The Cartridge Family' and wrote for the CW show Supernatural. He also did a short entitled 'Sex Boss' and recently finished a film called BEYOND THE GATES. BEYOND THE GATES was co-written by RPS friend and contributor Stephen Scarlata and the IMDB plot description has me wanting to see it:
"Two estranged brothers reunite at their missing father's video store to liquidate the property and sell off his assets. As they dig through the store, they find a VCR board game dubbed 'Beyond The Gates' that holds a connection to their father's disappearance and deadly consequences for anyone who plays it."

Jackson is on twitter @bossjacko.
Here's his discoveries list from last year:
Crime in the Streets (1956): Don Siegel's follow-up to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. A twentysomething John Cassavetes stars as Frankie, a troubled 'teen' struggling between furthering his life of crime or heading down the less certain straight and narrow path a social worker is trying to lead him down. Siegel's direction in this is fairly workmanlike, a step backward from his taut BODYSNATCHERS though still quite effective. He tends to mostly work in the mastershot in this movie and it packs a serious emotional punch at the end as Frankie must decide the course of his future over one fateful event.
Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973): This is notably the last movie the amazing Christopher Lee played Dracula. Peter Cushing continues delivering his top-notch work as Van Helsing (this time a descendant of the
original) and I believe this is the second 1970s era Dracula movie after DRACULA AD 1972. Lee only appears in three or four scenes as Dracula (clearly growing tired of the role), though none of that comes through in his work. Van Helsing and Dracula share one final showdown in a murky nighttime scene, filled with Lee's real blood as he fights his way through a thornbush and it's really quite fabulous.
See No Evil (1971): Definitely not the movie starring Kane from WWE. The adorable Mia Farrow plays a blind woman in this nail biting thriller; clearly made off the success of 'Wait Until Dark'. Richard Fleischer knocks it out of the park in a terrifying sequence featuring Farrow wandering through a remote, countryside mansion and being oblivious to the fact that everyone inside has been brutally murdered while the killer is still in the house.

The Ambulance (1990): Holy shit, this movie is incredible. I saw this on a whim at the Egyptian as part of a Larry Cohen retrospective doubled with 'Special Effects' and I'm quite glad I did. The movie centers
around a Marvel comic book artist played by the master Eric Roberts who becomes obsessed with a girl seemingly kidnapped by an ambulance in the middle of the city. The whole thing turns into a bit of a shaggy dog story but it's got some amazing stunt work from my hero Spiro Razatos and Cohen's writing is airtight as usual. This movie deserves a huge cult following.
Nightmares (1983): An intense 1980s horror anthology film initially intended for release as a TV movie but deemed too intense by wussy television executives and put out in all its R-rated glory for us cinefiles.
Each segment has its own strengths, though the opener 'Terror In Topanga' really ratchets up the tension. Interestingly, Joseph Sargent directed all four segments, which might explain why it doesn't
suffer from the usual unevenness most anthologies do.

Criterion Collection- THE GRADUATE on Blu-ray

THE GRADUATE (1967; Mike Nichols)

There a few very special films out there that make use of a single artist as the driving force on their soundtracks. Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE immediately comes to mind with it's excellent application of Cat Stevens throughout its running time. There's a certain organic cohesiveness that comes from this kind of uniformity of music and voices that really pulls everything together in a lovely way. I have a similar feeling about music in film trailers. By this I am speaking of when a single song is used throughout the trailer (as opposed to cutting between lots of different pieces of music). It really allows the viewer a more immersive experience. The same goes for using a single artist in a film. Once you have entered the world of THE GRADUATE, the Simon and Garfunkel music helps maintain that universe. From the beginning shot of Benjamin Braddock moving through in LAX whilst Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" plays, we immediately get a sense of the tone of the film. There is melancholy to the music, but even amidst that, Mike Nichols continues to keep the sounds of the airport and the voice from the loudspeakers there going throughout the song. He could have dropped all the sound out except for the song, but he doesn't. It's a very specific and interesting choice and Nichols makes masterful use of sound throughout the film. The music often carries between disparate scenes, marrying them together in the same dreamscape of a cinematic space. THE GRADUATE was also one of the earliest movies that showed me the importance and effectiveness of elegant transitions from one scene to the next. Film is of course a visual medium, so it only makes sense that one of the great things you can do with it is to make interesting jumps from one scene to another. I always find it the sign of a classy filmmaker when I see the time and effort put into nice transitions. I was just watching Steven Spielberg's most recent effort BRIDGE OF SPIES the other day and I was certainly aware of the way he moved from one scene to the next. THE GRADUATE is, as I said, ground zero for this kind of thing for me and I always come back to is as it contains so many nice examples of what a filmmaker can do in terms of this kind of thing. Nichols is in excellent form though as a director throughout THE GRADUATE and he exemplifies so many neat and stylish choices with his camera placement (and general use of a widescreen frame), editing, and music. It's really a movie that all film students should certainly be shown as a potential point of inspiration when they are thinking of directing a movie. 

Vanity Fair ran a fascinating piece on the making of THE GRADUATE back in 2008. I highly recommend reading it:
Disc Features:
-New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Optional 5.1 surround remix, approved by director Mike Nichols, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray.

-Audio commentary from 2007 featuring Nichols in conversation with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh.
-Audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber.
-New interview with actor Dustin Hoffman.
-New conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and screenwriter Buck Henry.
-New interview with film writer and historian Bobbie O’Steen about editor Sam O’Steen’s work on The Graduate.
-Students of “The Graduate,” a short documentary from 2007 on the film’s influence.
-“The Graduate” at 25", a 1992 featurette on the making of the film.
-Interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s Today show.
-Excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on The Dick Cavett Show.
-Screen tests
-PLUS: An essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in a publicity still for THE GRADUATE.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Mike "McBeardo" McPadden

Mike "McBeardo" McPadden is the author of HEAVY METAL MOVIES (Bazillion Points, 2014), and the upcoming GOING ALL THE WAY: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TEEN SEX COMEDY MOVIES OF THE VHS ERA. From Castle McBeardo in Chicago, he writes about movies and/or music for a sparkling array of online outposts, including VH1, Vice, Death + Taxes, and The Kind.
On Twitter he's @McBeardo.
On the Air With Captain Midnight (1979)
A fun youth-power romp from fairly fascinating husband-and-wife schlock filmmakers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian (Gator Bait, Rocktober Blood), On the Air Live With Captain Midnight was unofficially and without acknowledgment remade in 1990 with Christian Slater as Pump Up the Volume.
Tracy Sebastian, son of directors Bev and Ferd, stars as Ziggy, a high schooler who works part time at local radio station to make payments on his sweet van. While futzing with the van’s CB radio, Ziggy’s chubby nerdlinger pal Gargen (Barry Greenberg) accidentally takes over an FM broadcast signal.

Ziggy immediately grabs the mouthpiece and launches into a rock-jock rap, introducing himself as “Captain Midnight.” An underground broadcast star is born.

From there, everybody wants the Cap—girls at school, cool dudes on campus, angry corporate radio baddies, and secret agents dispatched by the FCC.
Technically, Pump Up the Volume may be the “better” movie, but in terms of capturing and conveying the movie’s subject—a teenager turned pirate radio star—the Captain takes the high seas all the way.
Hot Times (1973)
Is this a movie? Is it a mugging crossed with a flashing? Is it a car crash in a public toilet? Is it… (gulp) art? Whatever one’s own final deduction, Hot Times aka A Hard Day for Archie lays itself out succinctly via one of cinema’s most endearingly blunt-skulled taglines: “It’s like American Graffiti… but with SEX!”

Hot Times gloms up, bends over, and spews out Archie Comics’ familiar Riverdale ensemble (Jughead gets called Mughead, etc.) into a softcore brain-boggler perhaps beyond anything I’ve witnessed that can be verified as being publicly exhibited to paying customers.

The end result jarringly mashes up ’50s nostalgia with early ’70s hippie-dipisms, and echoes Mad magazine’s “Starchie” parody along with the Firesign Theater’s “Porgie Tirebiter” mind-warp as filtered though rotten, shot-in-the-dead-of-NYC-winter hard-R/single-X abominations on the order of Deep Throat II.
American Drive-In (1985)
Not to be confused with Rod Amateu’s Drive-In (1976)—aside from two-thirds of the title, the basic set-up, and that audiences who caught each film in an outdoor theater must have repeatedly said, “Can you believe we’re watching a Drive-In movie at the drive-in movie?”—Krishna Shah’s American Drive-In is an ’80s teen sex comedy flabbergaster highly worthy of rediscovery (imagine if we could screen it at a drive-in).

Drawn by the big-outside-screen attraction of the heavy metal horror opus Hard Rock Zombies (also directed by Shah), a tapestry of genre archetypes converges at the City Limits Drive-In. There are horny high schoolers attempting back seat orgiastics, a city boy and a country gal on a first date, a family of fatsos, flaming homosexuals, two daffy old ladies, a buttoned-up local politician, a bumbling biker gang, and a dwarf.

It’s all raunch and romping (highlighted by the declaration “You pooed on me and I liked it!”) until, halfway through, American Drive-Inwhiplashes into an entirely different film category. Suffice to say, the bikers stop bumbling and, without divulging too much away, they set up a frowning denouement not entirely unrelated to I Spit on Your Grave.
Wimps (1986)
In circles where theatrical-era hardcore porn directors warrant analysis, NYC pioneer Chuck Vincent routinely gets due praise for blue-screen keepers such as Jack n’ Jill (1979), Roommates (1981), and In Love (1983).

Less fawned over—but, to me, even more deserving of love—are Chuck’s R-rated efforts, in particular his teen sex comedies, Summer Camp (1979), Hot T-Shirts (1981), Hollywood Hot Tubs (1984), Preppies (1984), and Student Affairs(1987).

Wimps exudes the Chuck’s ace way with humor, but the movie seems to have a pace of its own, outside his usual technique. The Cyrano-inspired saga dork-hero’s journey of jock-trodden frat pledge Francis (Louis Bonnano) plays like a feature-length montage. Vincent sets up a gag, it happens, and mid-impact, the next one is halfway through. What a weird approach. Weirder still, it works.

He was no wimp, that Chuck Vincent.
Young Gangs of Wildwood High aka Team-Mates (1978)
After a post-drive-in drop into utter obscurity, 1978’s sub-amateur, psychotically slipshod Team-Mates made its way back to theaters in 1983 as Young Gangs of Wildwood High. The latter is the title I saw the film promoted as, in grungy newspaper ads bearing someone’s hand-scrawled, insanely idiotic word bubbles above smudged shots of the cast.

Being 14 and broke at the time, I missed Young Gangs on the big screen. Then, Young Gangs being some kind of anti-cinema experiment, the home video industry further denied me the ecstasy of witnessing this I.Q.-annihilating abortion for more than 30 years.

When Young Gangs and I finally caught up in 2015, I loved it. Perhaps the affection gushed from all those decades of delayed gratification, or perhaps it’s simply due to Young Gangs’ saga of a high school football team’s first female member barfing up such home-movie-gone-wrong dynamics in such gloriously no-human-should-be-watching-this fashion.

It is possible that the cast stammers flubs more lines of dialogue than they actually get right. My favorite touch of all is that a bookshelf in the back of a classroom is actually just wallpaper with images of books on it!

James Spader and Estelle Getty completists will further be interested in witnessing their idols’ motion picture debuts as good-time dude Jimmy and a priggish history instructor simply billed as “Teacher,” respectively. The pair would reunite in Mannequin (1987). You think they reminisced about good ol’ Wildwood High? I hope so.

New Release Roundup - February 9th, 2016

CRIMSON PEAK on Blu-ray (Universal)

GRANDMA on Blu-ray (Sony)

A MIGHTY WIND on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN on Blu-ray (Mondo Macabro)

SHEBA, BABY on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

THE SOUTHERNER on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

THE PASSAGE on Blu-ray (Kino/Scorpion Releasing)

THE EMIGRANTS/ THE NEW LAND on Blu-ray (Criterion)

99 HOMES on Blu-ray (Best Buy Exclusive) (Broad Green Pictures)

FREAKS OF NATURE on Blu-ray (Sony)

SPECTRE on Blu-ray (Fox)

NUTBAG on DVD (Massacre Video)

BACK FROM HELL on DVD (Massacre Video)

THESE THREE on DVD (Warner Archive)

MY FOOLISH HEART on DVD (Warner Archive)


THE REAL GLORY on DVD (Warner Archive)

EDGE OF DOOM on DVD (Warner Archive)

Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber - THE PASSAGE on Blu-ray

THE PASSAGE (1979; J. Lee Thompson)
I think it was from Quentin Tarantino that the "Guys On a Mission" movie was first categorized for me. I had seen a bunch of the films and almost always enjoyed them, but had never tied them altogether for some silly reason. There are so many good films in this little niche genre, but Tarantino first spike if it in reference to WHERE EAGLES DARE (which is still one of my favorites). As many as there are, at this point I think I've seen most of the good ones. THE PASSAGE was one I had overlooked, despite a stellar cast (Anthony Quinn, Malcolm McDowell, James Mason, Kay Lenz AND Chrsitopher Lee) and it being helmed by veteran director J. Lee Thompson (who also did the Guys on a Mission Classic THE GUNS OF NAVARONE among many others). The basics of this story are that Quinn has been hired to help a family escape the Germans and get through the   Pyrenees.
First off, Malcolm McDowell steals the show with his gleefully sadistic performance as one of the more evil Nazis villains in cinema. He has that way of being charming and smirky right up to the point of torture that is both engaging and infuriating. Not that he's lost a step these days, but the 1970s was his decade and he devours this role with enthusiasm. Almost makes you forget about his accent. Secondly, Anthony Quinn is kind of a badass in this flick. He was about sixty-four at the time and he kills the crap out of a bunch of folks in this crazy frenzied way. You see, he understands the level of danger they he and the family he is trying to get across the mountains are in, so he knows they can't mess around. He's like a geriatric terminator in this movie. In fact, he and Malcolm McDowell are like duelling terminators in this film. Neither one will stop until they achieve their objective. McDowell really keeps coming through any difficulties or obstacles. It does make for some nice tension and a solid climax. The last twenty minutes or so are rife with tension and bursts of action. This is a neat little WWII movie that is worth tracking down, especially if you are a fan of the cast.

Special Features:
-"Go For It - Malcolm McDowell on THE PASSAGE" (30 mins) this is the main supplement and it's a good one. This is a very enjoyable interview with McDowell. He talks about there being little work for him London and how he was offered the part and took it because of the cast. He admits to being a great fan of James Mason. He also talks about working with director J. Lee Thompson and how he wanted to play the entirety of the Third Reich in a single character. Both Thompson and Anthony Quinn (who McDowell also speaks about working with) encouraged him and supported his choice to go so big with the character.
It's interesting that he also speaks of being inspired by comedians for both this character and his character in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. This is really a delightful little conversation and it only made me a bigger fan. You just want to have dinner with him or something after you see it.
-"Three Months in France - Paul Clemens on THE PASSAGE" (34 mins) similarly to Malcolm McDowell, actor Paul Clemens goes through his experiences working on the film and with the rest of the cast.
-An Alternate Ending (6 mins) is included as well. It's an interesting, somewhat artist take on the ending used in the feature. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Joseph A. Ziemba

Joseph A. Ziemba is an art director and film programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. He is also the creator of, the co-creator of BLEEDING SKULL! VIDEO (, and the co-author and designer of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s TRASH-HORROR ODYSSEY (Headpress, 2013). Joe has also made music as a member of the bands Wolfie, The Like Young, Beaujolais, and Taken By Savages.

Bleeding Skull on Twitter:
Bleeding Skull on Instagram:
BAD MAGIC (1997)
There are regular movies. And then there is BAD MAGIC. Produced by underground superheroes Mark and John Polonia (SPLATTER FARM, FEEDERS), this D.I.Y. dream-blast breaks new ground in side-stepping reality. Amos is shot in cold blood by a gang called The Red Claws, who look like team members of the paint department at Home Depot. Amos’s brother, Renny, summons a demon named Blahkeeblahkay to enact his gore-soaked revenge. Death by voodoo doll! Death by the undead! And in a cinematic first, death by toilet paper!! With its unexpected tone shifts, collage-like structure, and Amiga computer special effects, BAD MAGIC is a special kind of cinematic discovery that only occurs once or twice every five-thousand years. It’s also the only movie in history with a credit that reads, “Voodoo Consultant by Dr. Ishmeial Atuki.”

Bill and Coo are in love. They lead simple -- but full -- lives. When the emergence of a psychotic serial killer named The Black Menace threatens the couple's love, town, and very existence, they take the law into their own hands. One part Preston Sturges, one part Charlie Chaplin, and two parts Alfred Hitchcock, BILL AND COO is a minimalist screwball comedy-thriller that does everything right. That's probably why it won an honorary Academy Award for its "novel and entertaining use of the medium of motion pictures." By the way, this movie stars birds instead of humans. And the last scene made me tear up.

EFFECTS (1980)
You've seen a lot of horror movies. But you've never seen anything like EFFECTS. Cobbled together with loose change by George Romero’s friends, this is a mesmerizing D.I.Y. frightmare that no one talks about, but everyone should. A group of coked-up filmmakers -- including Tom Savini and Joe "DAY OF THE DEAD" Pilato -- gather in Pittsburgh to make a slasher called DUPED: THE SNUFF MOVIE. As filming begins and “accidents” happen, it’s clear that something isn’t right. And no one can be trusted. Landing somewhere between Michael and Roberta Findlay’s SNUFF and a student film by John Carpenter, EFFECTS is a meta-enhanced takedown on the philosophy of horror that doubles as a sleazy and terrifying movie on its own.

Where do we go from here?

This movie is the reason why Lionel Rogosin made ON THE BOWERY. It’s every bit as compelling, heart-wrenching, and beautiful as BOWERY, but on a smaller scale. The camera follows Donald, a down-his-luck and emotionally unstable kid from Harlem who finds a semi-home at the Wiltwyck School for Boys at Esopus, New York. And that’s all there is to it. But the minimalist approach is necessary to make room for the emotional heft that comes with it. I never thought another cinéma vérité movie would affect me as much as SEVENTEEN, WANDA, and DEMON LOVER DIARY -- but this one did it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Scott From Married With Clickers

Scott and his wife Kat run the Married With Clickers podcast. It's a great show and you should listen. They basically watch movies together and then talk about them on the show. They have themed months and whatnot and always seem to choose interesting films to watch. This is Scott's 6th (!) year doing a discoveries list - see his old ones:
Here 's his list of his top 10 discoveries of 2010:

Also, check out the episode of the podcast where they talk about the below Discoveries:
1. Les Diaboliques (1955)
I had circled around this one for years, trying to stay in the dark about the plot as much as possible. I wanted to see a nice print and the Criterion Blu Ray certainly provided that. What a ride! It is beautifully shot, features wonderful performances and oozes atmosphere. If Wages of Fear was not enough evidence; this one proves M. Clouzot knows how to manufacture suspense.
2. F is for Fake (1973)
I caught this on TCM one day (beautiful print, btw) not really knowing what I would be getting from Orson Welles. What I got what a strange mixture of documentary, sleight of hand and perhaps even fantasy. Welles proves that, if nothing else, he is a master showman. It is a wild, engaging and entertaining ride.
3. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
I know that everyone else saw this a few years ago but, for me, horror-comedy is typically more miss than hit. As a result, I waited a long time to see this. Too long. My wife and I had so much fun with this one. While the splatstick certainly results in many laughs, the key to this movie is its heart and the good-natured, caring bromance between Tucker and Dale.
4. Scream of Fear (aka Taste of Fear) (1961)
A wonderful 1961 psychological thriller from Hammer than is criminally underseen (I was obviously in that category until very recently). It is well paced and features a moody, claustrophobic setting that brings to mind Rebecca or My Name is Julia Ross. It was the only film I watched twice in 2015 and would make for a great double bill with my #1 choice.
5. Titanic (1943)
A minor historical footnote in terms of both Nazi propaganda and James Cameron's favourite ship, this 1943 film is well worth tracking down. At 85 minutes, it does not waste any time in setting the scene and does a valiant job at mixing melodrama, nautical mayhem, Anglophobia and criticism of capitalist societies. The effects are quite good (some were used for A Night to Remember) and the backstory is remarkable, including the likely murder of the director by Joseph Goebbels' goons.
6. College (1927)
2015 was the year we started introducing silent films to our children. In fact, I was introducing many of them to myself, too. To an extent, I'm happy that I waited so long to fall in love with Buster Keaton because I can better appreciate all of the art and athleticism that went into his work. This tale of a young man's adventures at a California university is a riot with his anti-athletics snobbery coming back to haunt him. Aside from a cringe inducing black-face sequence, the film is flawless, climaxing in an amazing cinematic decathlon of sorts.
7. Bad Girl Island (aka Sirens of Eleuthra) (2007)
Every year I watch plenty of truly great films for the first time. I also watch a decent amount of trash. Sometimes the trash puts too big a smile on my face to ignore when contemplating a top 10list. As far as I can tell, my wife and I are the only two people on the planet who like this movie. What's not to love? It's a giant slice of cheese, sweating in the Bahamian sun. It stars Annalynne McCord (a favourite in our household), Antonio Sabato Jr. and James Brolin. That hammy trio gets involved in a plot filled with mermaids, voodoo and Haitian refugees. When you mix all of those ingredients in a 'film within a film' framework, you've got a very fun film. But it's terrible, too.
8. The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Disaster movies are pretty big in our household, but I'd never seen this British gem. Val Guest's film about the impact of weapons testing on the Earth's orbit is quite serious in tone, as we see the impending doom through the eyes of a journalist. Production values are good and there are strong performances throughout but the key to everything is the atmosphere established by Guest and cinematographer Harry Waxman. The screen is saturated with an orange hue, giving a sense of both heat and despair. The film also gets extra points for helping me discover the music (and awesome late 70s video) of song 'The Day the Earth Caught Fire' by the band City Boy.
9. Crossfire (1947)
A tense and taut RKO film noir directed with great style by Edward Dmytryk and starring a trio of Roberts (Young, Mitchum and Ryan). Set in post-WW2 Washington, D.C., the plot revolves around a brutal hate crime and the investigation closing in on the wrong man. The strength of Dmytryk'sdirection (and John Paxton's screenplay) is that the viewer is on the edge of their seat, even though it is pretty apparent whodunit. The suspense lays in the setting of the trap and the danger posed by the highly volatile villain. All the performances are strong and the small, supporting roles are great fun. This is a great and honorable noir that loses a few points due to somepreachiness in the final act.
10. Full Eclipse (1993)
Mario Van Peebles meets the original Wolf Cops! I stumbled upon this film after Googling for some suggestions of werewolf films to watch for our podcast. This is pure early 90s cheese blending 80s buddy cop clichés, a late night erotic thriller aesthetic and lycanthropy. It is ridiculous from start to finish, with gonzo action mixed in groan inducing one-liners and aggressive sex scenes. I think this is an early 90s gem with cult classic written all over it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...