Rupert Pupkin Speaks: BTSJunkie's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011 ""

Sunday, January 1, 2012

BTSJunkie's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011

Ringing in the new year with this list from my friend Brian Kelley aka BTSJunkie. He's a movie fanatic to set an example for all movie fanatics. Also a big fan of THE LAST ACTION HERO(as am I). He is currently a contributor to Austin Culture Map, Horrors Not Dead, & Daily Grindhouse. Feel free to check out his list from last year as well - right here.


A note about my list- I grew up in the '80s watching '80s movies. In the '90s, when movies more often than not sucked ass, I watched '80s movies. I still watch an '80s movie by default when I'm having a hard time deciding on a title to watch. All of this immersion in '80s cinema means I have huge gaps in my film knowledge. Had I no desire to be a well-rounded cinephile I would be more than happy to stick to '80s films on permanent basis. However, by way of movie watching projects I have been seeking to expand my cinematic horizons and in 2011 my '70s movies project could easily fill this list. For the first time ever I watched movies like THE GODFATHER, THE GODFATHER 2, NETWORK, CHINATOWN, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, NETWORK, THE CONVERSATION, 3 WOMEN, TAXI DRIVER, GREY GARDENS, and so many more. If I were to include ALL older movies I saw in 2011 my list would just be those 10. So, in order to keep this interesting, I've excluded all movies seen as part of my 1970s project. In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite older films seen for the first time in 2011.

1 - SHEITAN (2006)
Somehow overlooked by me (and apparently many others) during the great influx of French horror films in the mid-2000s, SHEITAN goes down as one of my favorites of that country's exports. Bart (Olivier Barthelemy) and some friends trek out to the country home a fellow disco-goer and meet the screwy gardener Joseph (Vincent Cassel) who may be into the whole Satan worshiping thing. An uncomfortably humorous homosexual undertone in the relationship between Bart and Joseph (undertones echoed by the adventures of Barthelemy and Cassel in one of my favorite 2011 films, OUR DAY WILL COME) keeps the audience off-balance so the horrors to come feel more than just a little like a punch to the face. SHEITAN is a truly unique dollop of horror (which is why I remain completely vague when describing it), a film with a vision that feels absolutely uncompromised, and deserving of far more viewers.

It's a testament to the power of decade's cinematic output that I'm still seeing masterpieces from the '80s for the first time. I had a chance to catch this film on the big screen in 35mm as part of the Alamo Drafthouse's Zzang!!! series. A remake (by the same writer/director) of a 1978 Israeli film called LEMON POPSICLE, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN is about the sexual misadventures of a group of teenage friends. While it contains the easily-relatable youth experiences of measuring each other's dicks in the locker room and gangbanging a Mexican woman who loves pizza, there's a decidedly mature undercurrent to the story of the character of Gary (played by Lawrence Monoson who would later go on to hold his own with the likes of Corey Feldman and Crispin Clover in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER). The soundtrack is one of the most consistently awesome of all '80s movies, the lessons are brutal, and the schmaltz is well and truly earned. It's the perfect teen sex dramedy.

A quick glance at the IMDB user reviews for this 1991 mind-raper reveals that 1 out of 5 people 'get it'. If you ask me, that's pretty damn good for a movie that is essentially 5 poorly filmed scenes- each composed of 3 or 4 shots repeated over and over again- drawn out to 90 minutes. Though hyperbole is a thing in which I frequently engage, there is none here. SCIENCE CRAZED is the story of the The Fiend- a science experiment gone wrong- that very, very slowly attacks people in an apartment building. Through the course of the film you'll see the same shot of him limping down a hallway approximately 4 dozen times, you'll hear the filmmakers (I think!) in the background egging on two 'actresses' that play slowly jazzercising victims, you'll witness a woman stretch out listing the names of 10 or so countries in which she suggests nerve gas testing be conducted (no shit!) to an infuriating and exhausting length. And unless you're a complete waste of a human, unworthy of your tiny carbon footprint (who whatever we're using to measure the worth of a man's soul these days) you'll love every f*cking second.

One of the saddest parts of exploitation cinema is its tendency to unveil singular talents upon the world and simultaneous begin and end their careers simply by association with (and usually in my eyes in spite of) the material which brought them to the public's attention in the first place. For every Linnea Quigley there is a John King III. Both are featured in PSYCHO FROM TEXAS. John King III is Wheeler, a man who wanders into a small town and soon, without looking for it, finds trouble by way of a job. He is hired to kidnap the local oil baron who he leaves in the care of his assistant. When the hostage escapes, the movie alternates between and epic foot chase and Wheeler taking care of other business with the locals, which includes sexually humiliating a local barmaid played by Quigley in her very first role. It's a sleazy Southern exploitation classic featuring a stunningly and frighteningly realistic psychotic performance from King. Oh, and just try to get the theme tune 'Yesterday Was a Long Time Ago' out of your head after watching this!

Everyone knows I love a good vengeance flick. This year I had the pleasure of meeting Argentinean filmmaker Adrian Garcia Bogliano (whose own revenge flick I'LL NEVER DIE ALONE would certainly make this list if it were a top 15!) and together we discussed our favorites. On his suggestion I tracked down this morally complex and truly unique piece of near-exploitation. Assumpta Serna is a successful defense lawyer whose latest clients to receive a 'not guilty' verdict decide to repay her by breaking into her home and robbing her. She and her family come home mid-burglary and Assumpta's husband is killed in the ensuing struggle. The problem is, the death was clearly accidental to anyone (and only those) that witnessed it. Pressured by those she respects to compromise her integrity by testifying that her husband's death was cold-blooded murder, Assumpta must weigh her moral and legal obligations against her desire for revenge. The only English friendly version I know to exist looks like it was shat out the end of a sewer rat, left to collect mold, and then set ablaze twice but the power of the social commentary combined with just a dash of exploitation comes through loudly and clearly.

6 - MURDER BY PHONE (1982)
Richard Chamberlain is Nat Bridger, an environmentalist who takes it upon himself to investigate a series of deaths that appear to have been caused by the victims' phones. Luckily for the audience, we are treated to the murder scenes and each gloriously staged death involves a phone call, blood pouring out of head holes, and a lightning bolt coming out of the phone, blasting people through glass, bookcases, and other assorted obstacles. While the central mystery narrative is a bit undercooked, the brain-baking sequences and a scathing and sarcastic interpersonal manner shared by almost all of the film's characters keeps the entire endeavor extraordinarily entertaining. Out of all the films I watched this year, the final scene of this one is my favorite capper of all.

7 - THE URGE TO KILL (1989)
When you have a movie with an exploding boob scene in which said exploding boob scene isn't the best moment in the movie, you know you have a winner. In what should be called BATHING: THE MOTION PICTURE (seriously, a healthy percentage of this film is devoted to tub and shower scenes), a swanky record producer prone to swinging brings home babes just busting to bathe and introduces them to his whim-fulfilling computer system S.E.X.Y. The electronic brains-of-the-house develops a jealousy issue, though, and begins killing girls in fun ways. Soon enough, record producer guy and his manager/girlfriend/f*cktoy (who knows, it's never made clear) are trapped in the apartment and the only escape is to fight back against the CPU and the physical representation of S.E.X.Y. (who looks more than just a little bit like Grace Jones in VAMP). This obscuro made in the UK but dubbed (badly, of course) into "American English" doesn't appear to have ever been released in any real form (the version I watched was a workprint with burnt in timecode) and therefore couldn't have possibly ever recouped its $38 budget. Is it even a finished movie? Who knows, it's never made clear.

8 - SUDDEN FURY (1975)
Opportunistic businessman Fred learns his wife Laura is cheating on him. On a weekend retreat, an argument between the pair leads to a spectacular crash which badly injures Laura. Fred being Fred, he grabs opportunity by the balls and leaves Laura for dead. This foolproof plan is fooled by Al who stumbles upon the wreck, figures out whatís happened and, making him look guilty of murder, gets himself covered in Laura's blood. Now he must track down Fred who is busy trying to make his way out of the mess he's caused so he can collect a big, fat insurance check. It's a low-budget, highly effective cat-and-mouse piece of Canadian exploitation full of a few shocking surprises. That is, if you can find it. Some dummy somewhere screwed something up and it looks like this never received a North American video release. You'll need to track down the Greek VHS (released by Plus Video Home Entertainment which hilariously stole Paul Young's "Everytime You Go Away" for its stinger tune) to experience this rare Canadian export.

9 - DUDES (1987)
This sometimes-goofy, sometimes-poignant and totally entertaining fish-out-of-water story was nowhere near my radar until Zack Carlson's book "Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film" filled my every waking moment with an endless list of must-sees. Turns our everyone has been reading that book (as they should be) because it greatly influenced most of the selections at a movie marathon I attended shortly after its release. That's where I first saw DUDES. The fish here are punks (played, naturally, by Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck, and Flea) and the water they are out of is New York City. The trio is bound for sunny California when they run afoul of rednecks in the desert which results in the reduction of their ranks down to duo. The remaining buddies have a spiritual awakening, channeling ancient desert souls (cowboys and Indians, of course) and take their revenge. From Penelope Spheeris, director of THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION and SUBURBIA, comes the best damn punk Western I saw in all of 2011. Also, ever.

10 - POP SKULL (2007)
I almost left this off the list out of fear of my inability to do it any sort of justice with words. That would be doing the film a disservice, though, and would completely ignore how deeply affecting the experience of watching POP SKULL is. Ostensibly about a dude named Daniel whose decline into habitual pill abuse (along with violent visions of ghosts and/or demons that may or may not be real) is exacerbated by a breakup with his girlfriend, Adam Wingardís anti-indie horror film is more a creative exercise in visualizing the personality-disjointing nature of addiction. That the film was shot for $3,000 proves once again that directors with true visions will find way to put those visions on screen regardless of budgetary constraints. It's not an easy film to watch- extended scenes of colored pulsating lights are peppered throughout an already scattershot narrative and visual palette- but that's pretty much the point. POP SKULL is a great starting point when looking at the progression of one of the most exciting new directorial voices working today (I have not yet seen Wingard's first feature HOME SICK) as it establishes visual tricks and stylizations tied directly to the narrative that pop up in his other features like A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and the upcoming (and stunningly awesome!) YOU'RE NEXT.


Scott W. Black said...

No offense, but there was nothing wrong with movie in the 1990s. In fact, the mid-to-late 90s were a great time for cinema.

btsjunkie said...

No offense taken. I don't care for a large majority of '90s films, though. Yes, there are plenty of good movies that came out of the decade but for my money it was the weakest overall.

Iren said...

I have been a big fan of Dudes since seeing it in the 80s... and am glad to see that others are finding it... I just hope that it get's a DVD or better yet a Bluray (there is some great landscapes in the film that beg for a bluray) and finds an audience

Ned Merrill said...

I need to see this MURDER BY did I miss that gorgeous Warner clamshell box artwork all those years it was undoubtedly sitting on video store shelves waiting for me to rent it?! Butler and Shryack have many writing credits between them including one of my personal favorites, THE GAUNTLET, and Rupe's beloved THE CAR.

Rupert Pupkin said...

IREN- I would love a blu of DUDES myself.

NED-I really had a lot of fun with MURDER BY PHONE too. Spoiler - it will be on my list as well.

InkieCat said...

OH Fun movies here! I need to see most of these films as I've never seen them before.

Aaron said...

Great list. I'm a big fan of SHEITAN as well.