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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jeremy Kirk's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011

Jeremy Kirk is a Film critic for , co-host of the Golden Briefcase podcast (found weekly on ), and also contributes to Film School Rejects. He has a groovy column over at FSR called Commentary Commentary which is worth reading for sure! Also, here is his favorite films of 2011 list, which is very solid.


While so many are putting together their best of the year lists - myself included - it’s always a joy to look back on the best films you’ve discovered. 2011 gave history a lot of fine examples of extraordinary film making, but we can’t ever forget those movies that took us so long to finally catch up to. So here is my list of the best older films I finally got around to viewing this past year.

Branded to Kill (1967)
These Japanese movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s always find a way of sneaking up on me and kicking me in the ass. Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill was by no means an exception. Jô Shishido and his amazing jowls star as the third best hitman in the world who aspires to be numero uno. Of course, a failed hit - stupid butterfly - sets the sights on him, and he must contend with the real No. 1. Like Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill is a wallop of a crime story, packing a stunning black and white punch with its Kazue Nagatsuka shot imagery and incredibly cool characters. Be sure to find this gem, and make sure you have a bowl of rice handy.

Hardcore (1979)
The first of two George C. Scott films on my list, Hardcore was released in 1979, and its subject matter and seediness creates the perfect atmosphere for the underworld of that time. Scott plays a man searching for his missing daughter. He soon discovers she has lost herself in a world of pornography and something even darker. Naturally, vengeance ensues. Hardcore is the perfect film for anyone who felt 8MM had an interesting idea but failed itself upon execution. Writer/director Paul Schrader nails the discomfort here and Scott gives a terrific performance as a father on the edge. The scene where Scott’s character learns what his daughter has become through watching one of the films she’s in is jaw-droppingly painful. It also served one of the funnier YouTube clips I saw this year.

The Hit (1984)
A gangster who has rats on his partners is taken from Spain to France by two hitmen, one young and brash, the other more experienced and level-headed, to answer for what he’s done. This premise sounds compelling enough, but now cast Terence Stamp as the former gangster, John Hurt as the older hitman, and a very young Tim Roth as the younger hitman. What you’ve got there is a film I can’t believe it’s taken 27 years for me to sit down and watch. The Hit is a great hidden gem loaded with amazing performances from everyone involved. The excitement doesn’t amp up that often, but just hearing the conversations these three men have, following the dialogue Stamp delivers as he works the two hitmen against one another, is exciting enough. Grade A storytelling from writer Peter Prince and director Stephen Frears.

The Hospital (1971)
The other George C. Scott film I saw in 2011, The Hospital stars Scott as a suicidal doctor who is beginning to lose faith in the medical industry. Things get even hairier when someone begins killing people in the hospital. A black comedy of the highest sorts, The Hospital was written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Arthur Hiller. Those are all fine points as to why you should see it - Chayefsky’s script has an energetic pace - but Scott is the real star here. Scott is no stranger to playing troubled and angered, but he dives into his role here with plenty of venom. His “We cure nothing” speech is one of those remarkable marragies between script and performance that fits in with the best of them. Now, 40 years later, the film is timely as it was upon its release.

Maniac (1980)
See the original before the Elijah Wood starring remake comes out. It’s taken me far too long, but I finally caught up with William Lustig’s gritty and gory original. Joe Spinell stars as New York City landlord who moonlights from time to time stalking and murdering women. But Lustig’s film is much more than a surface level story about a serial killer. The grit and grime you feel watching Maniac comes not only from watching the graphic imagery but also in knowing the killer’s crazed sense of reality is quickly cracking even further. Notably Gene Siskel walked out of the film 30 mintues in. Also some might recognize the shot of Tom Savini’s Disco Boy getting a face full of shotgun spread. Lustig serves the film up on a sick and twisted plate, and it falls right in line with some of the great serial killer stories put to film.

Santa Sangre (1989)
The perfect movie before you check out Alex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus, which you totally should do, Santa Sangre is just one more Alejandro Jodorowsky mind-trip full of spectacular imagery. The director himself stars as Fenix with his son, Adan, playing the character as a child. To even begin to synopsize this film would be both doing it a disservice and attempting to do the impossible. So many twists and turns play out in Jodorowsky’s screenplay full of love, murder, and circus elephants. Psychologically daunting - what else did you expect from Jodorowsky - Santa Sangre is one of those horror films that are so outside the box, they can’t even see the walls any longer.

Tourist Trap (1979)
As someone who grew up on slasher movies, I coudn’t believe I had not even heard of let alone seen Tourist Trap. A group of teens find danger when their car breaks down near an isolated gas station and wax museum. Of course, a killer resides there, but instead of swinging machetes or stabbing with butcher knives, the killer here uses his mind to control the waxed over, robotic dummies. That’s stylish enough, but writer/director David Schmoeller, who would go on to direct Crawlspace and Puppet Master, injects enough atmosphere and mood into his film to separate it from the blase, run-of-the-mill slashers of the ‘80s. Tourist Trap is for anyone who loves the sub-genre but wants something much more creative. Oh, and it has Chuck Connors. Maybe I should have led with that.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
There’s Easy Rider, and then there’s Two Lane Blacktop. A film that I had heard of but had never seen until this year, I had no idea how culturally relevant of a film Two Lane Blacktop was. In fact, it’s a film that deserves the recognition Easy Rider got for what it had to say about America and the people living in it during the rebellious years. Monte Hellman moves the film with a snail’s pace, but it’s all the more time and space to become enveloped in the culture and characters, the lead of which is a young James Taylor in his only feature film role. Two Lane Blacktop is the kind of film that deserves to be called a hidden gem, as it sits out there waiting for movie lovers to come in and experience it. I’m telling you to do just that, and be sure to see the Criterion Collection DVD for the finest quality.

Vigilante (1983)
If you just watched Jackie Brown for the first time, and you’re wanting to delve into the career of Mr. Robert Forster, Vigilante is a damn fine place to start. Another film by William Lustig I caught up with this past year, Vigilante stars Forster as a New York City factory worker whose family is viciously attacked by gang members. As luck would have it, the man’s co-workers at the factory have formed a vigilante group to take care of the scum of the city. Ripe with Lustig’s brand of grit, Vigilante is perfect for fans of the Death Wish series or Rolling Thunder. In fact, Vigilante surpasses both of those films in terms of the naturalistic nature of its violence. Fred Williamson co-stars, and both he and Forster solidify why they were such powerful forces in their starring films of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

White Dog (1982)
Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, White Dog tells the adorable little tale of a precious white German Shepherd who just so happens to have been trained to viciously attack black people. Snark aside, this film is incredibly powerful. Kristy McNichol plays a woman who finds the dog and works to drive the embedded racism out of it. Highly impactful and viciously blunt, Fuller’s film packs a hard bite with its message. That the message lies within what is essentially a b-movie is one of the main reasons why it hasn’t been widely heard. White Dog is one of the rare breeds of film where the underlying message juts to a finer point than the surface-level story at hand, but both roll together from the beginning to its pessimistic end.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I love Two Lane Blacktop with the mighty Warren Oates. I just watched and reviewed a bunch of Japanese movies this year also, and my favorite was A Colt is My Passport. Haven't seen Branded to Kill yet, but it's on my list.

Ned Merrill said...

"T U R N I T O F F ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !"

Ah, HARDCORE. Can't get enough George C., Season Hubley, Peter Boyle, and that funky disco Jack Nitzsche score. If you watch the film on VHS, which I used to for many years, Hubley's white panties magically appear about halfway into her daring nude scene. The panties are, of course, matted out of 35mm prints and the widescreen DVD.

Have seen most of these previously, and WHITE DOG and TWO-LANE count as 2 of my all-time favorites. Enough that Oates and his GTO are permanently etched into my flesh in full color.

Love MANIAC, but ROLLING THUNDER still trumps VIGILANTE in my book. Forster's most significant film is still MEDIUM COOL, followed by JACKIE BROWN.

JoeyBanks said...

Pupkin - These lists are a goddamn awesome idea.

Every day, you make my Netflix queue grow bigger.
This isn't a veiled sexual comment, I'm simply trying to thank you. With that in mind, if the term "my netflix queue" takes off as new slang for a boner, I would like a little credit.

Mr. Kirk's got great taste. Absolutely love "Hardcore", "The Hit" and "The Hospital"… in fact I love any movie beginning with "H."

Oh… except for those totally shit Harry Potter movies.

MrJeffery said...

'the hit' looks cool. i love 'tourist trap.' such a gem.