Rupert Pupkin Speaks: John Gholson's Favorite Vintage Films seen 1st in 2011 ""

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

John Gholson's Favorite Vintage Films seen 1st in 2011

Mr. John Gholson is a writer for and the Director of Creative Development for Rocksauce Studios.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to mark anything made before 1990 as “vintage.” That’s 22 years, so even if it doesn’t feel like forever ago to some of us older folks, we should remind ourselves that, is.

10. ANGEL HEART (1987)
I can’t help but wonder if ANGEL HEART would’ve impacted me more if I hadn’t picked up on some of the more obvious twists in the film. That said, what Alan Parker has done here is create a timeless piece of sweaty “voodoo noir,” impeccably photographed by Michael Seresin (HARRY POTTER & THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN). It’s also a great thing to spring on friends who forgot what Mickey Rourke used to look (and sound) like before he surgically altered himself into a gravel-voiced Easter Island head.

9. VALMONT (1989)
I love Milos Forman, but hadn’t taken the time to watch VALMONT, due to my general aversion to period pictures set in France. Thankfully, I also got Annette Bening as a wholly unforgettable villain and an uncomfortably young Fairuza Balk getting talked into doing naughty things by a dastardly Colin Firth (according to IMDb, Balk would’ve been 14 when they shot this; Firth was 28). No, I still haven’t seen DANGEROUS LIASONS, but does it matter? VALMONT stands on its own.

THE UNHOLY THREE became the movie that I passed around the most during 2011. It’s the elder Lon Chaney’s first and only talkie, which makes it historically worthwhile, but more than that -- it’s also the *first heist movie to use the “adult poses as a baby” plot, re-used by the Wayan Brothers and in countless cartoons. One of those great “I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing” films, I was giddy anytime Harry Earles was onscreen pretending to be a baby. This one is available through the Warner Archives and is worth every penny.

*First being relative. The film is a sound remake of a 1925 silent film of the same name, also starring Chaney and Earles.

And just when I think I’d seen my favorite Hammer films, along comes CAPTAIN KRONOS to screw it all up. It’s fast-paced, exciting, and funny, with sharply drawn characters, and a crackerjack mystery that drives the plot along. I showed this one in the middle of an all-day horror movie marathon, and it was a nice cinematic cup of coffee that brought everybody’s energy levels back up. If you think you’re tired of vampires, this might be the perfect tonic. I’m sorry I didn’t see this one sooner, but I know I’ll watch it again later this year.

This film was my introduction to Jean Rollin, a French director who mostly specializes in dream-state lesbian vampire films. I was shocked (and still am a little shocked) at how much I actually like his movies. They’re a little cheesy and a little nutty, but they have a quality about them that feels deeply personal, as if the very images Rollin commits to film are the things that haunt him the most. LIVING DEAD GIRL is, on the one hand, a gory Eurotrash exploitation film, but on the other, an insightful, artistic examination of co-dependent relationships. It’s a good entry point for his work, and I can’t wait to dig into more from him.

Corman’s Poe films are, to me, the highlight of his directing career, and I savor each one like a fine meal. TALES OF TERROR is a great anthology with a tone that marks it as a direct ancestor to George Romero’s CREEPSHOW. Horror comedies of the time usually went light on the horror aspects, but TALES OF TERROR goes for broke, successfully blending shock and wit. It’s a great primer for Vincent Price’s appeal as well, with the actor playing three distinct, memorable roles.

4. RIVER’S EDGE (1986)
Despite not being a horror film, this movie creeped me out on a lot of levels. It has a thick, sleazy, proto-Larry Clark vibe that permeates every frame. While most walk away from RIVER’S EDGE with spastic Crispin Glover on the brain, I couldn’t shake the character played by Daniel Roebuck. He feels like the kind of killer who really exists; the kind you rarely see in movies -- with no comprehension concerning the depravity of their own actions. Absolutely chilling.

A feel-bad downward spiral of a noir, NIGHT AND THE CITY tells the story of a wrestling promoter (Richard Widmark) who bites off more than he can chew. I programmed this one, sight unseen, close to the tail end of an all-day wrestling movie marathon, and it played like gangbusters. There’s a particularly brutal fight scene in here (even for a “wrestling movie”) that stands out in my mind. NIGHT AND THE CITY is another one I should re-visit as soon as possible.

Corman’s finest film, hands down. His use of color and his ability to pull out Vincent Price’s most perverted, despicable performance belie his reputation as a cheap, exploitative hack. This is a master at work (a master on a budget), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Corman film that comes close to what he achieves here. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH should be regarded amongst the best horror films of all time -- it’s that good.

This movie was really different than what I expected. I think I expected more of a rags-to-riches-to-rags-again story of teen girls becoming overnight pop-punk sensations, but STAINS has a satirical bite that caught me completely off guard. At the time I called it “NETWORK for disaffected teenage girls,” and while I was being a little jokey, the truth is I’m not a teenage girl (and never have been) and it worked just fine for me. More than fin


MrJeffery said...

some cool movies here, specifically 'river's edge' and 'angel heart.'

Marc Edward Heuck said...

Pleased to see STAINS as the #1 find of the year. Almost everyone I recommend that movie to ends up really loving it. Thanks for keeping it going.