Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Rob Hunter's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011! ""

Friday, January 20, 2012

Rob Hunter's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011!

Rob Hunter is Associate Editor and a writer for Film School Rejects. His columns 'This Week In DVD', 'Foreign Objects' & 'The MOD Quad' should be added to your regular online reading list ASAP.


Citizen Kane (1941) - I'm presenting these chronologically, but it's fitting that I lead off with the most damning movie from my list of shame. Orson Welles' classic riff on Randolph Hearst starts and ends with the death of famed newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, and in between we're witness to the man's rise and fall, his accomplishments and regrets, and the meaning behind his final words. Beyond the engaging narrative the film is a mix of technological and structural cinematic achievements that continues to impress seventy years later. Welles' career high point remains his voice work as Robin Masters on MAGNUM PI, but CITIZEN KANE has to come in a close second.

Burn Witch Burn (1962) - This is a fantastic supernaturally-tinged drama about a college professor who values rationality and science but then has it all challenged when he discovers his wife is a practicing witch. He scoffs at her, as British folk are prone to do, but he soon finds his own beliefs challenged when she tells him it's necessary for his own protection. The script from genre powerhouses Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson is a thing of beauty as it creates real suspense and terror while remaining firmly in the real world. Much like BEWITCHED.

The Naked Prey (1966) - I know what you're thinking. A movie about a naked white guy chased through the bush by some angry blacks? It's about time! The title and premise sound like the makings of an exploitation flick, but director and star Cornel Wilde is actually more interested in telling a tale of survival set against a backdrop of racism and honor. It's a rare film in that there are long stretches with no dialogue where the story is told simply through action, visuals and expressions. The majority of the film is one long extended chase scene, but one early highlight sees the tribesmen dole out various punishments to the great white hunters (and their local lackeys) in some creatively gruesome ways.

Act of Vengeance (1974) - The Australian title for this exploitation gem is RAPE SQUAD which should probably give you a good idea of what to expect . A group of women bond over brunch and rape when they discover they were all assaulted by the same hockey goalie in a jumpsuit. They band together to catch the sicko but screw things up even worse as women are prone to do. I'm kidding of course, but damn are these ladies stupid. Jack the rapist starts off pretty damn creepy but eventually becomes a walking, talking and raping joke thanks to his constant narration of events. Rape is never funny (except in my second to last pick below), but this guy makes one hell of an effort.

Obsession (1976) - Brian De Palma has a few good films to his credit, but for the most part I think he's more miss than hit. This mid-70s thriller of his never seemed to make it onto my radar, but I finally watched it this year and it quickly became one of my favorites of his films. Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold are solid, and John Lithgow is fantastic as usual, but the movie's real draw is its brilliant dream-like structure and appearance. It twists and turns a few times cycling through themes of loss, paranoia and yes, obsession, and never fails to stimulate the senses. Easily one of De Palma's top five efforts.

Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976) - The joy of going into a movie with low expectations is that you'll often come away pleasantly surprised, and this cheerleader sex comedy is a perfect example. A multi-racial cheer squad finds their school's liberal policies under attack by conservative board members and decide to fight back. Or something. Sex, drugs and violence ensue including a raid on a nearby school for drugs and cash, a bubble-filled sex romp and David Hasselhoff's clearly visible fleshy member. I probably should have led with that last tidbit.

Who Can Kill a Child (1976) - One year before Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" saw print in Penthouse magazine this Spanish flick posited a tale of a small town overrun by murderous children. A couple arrives for what should have been a peaceful vacation but instead discover that the little ones have offed the adults in bloody fashion and plan on doing the same to them. The premise, as evident in the title, is that it's difficult to fight back against children because they're, well, children, and the film builds that concern nicely until the couple finally says 'fuck it!' and starts running over the little shits. I prefer 2008's THE CHILDREN because it's a lot smarter, but this is still a great and fun flick.

Island of Death (1977) - Like the movie above this one begins with a couple arriving on a small island that soon becomes a blood bath, but the difference here is that the couple are the ones to blame. The other difference is that this is a terrible movie. And yet... I love it so goddamn much. The dialogue is ridiculously hilarious, and that's in addition to the laughs you'll get from the goat molestation, hippie rapists, gleefully violent murders and other non-politically correct perversions. The golden shower scene with the old naked lady is a special kind of treat as well.

Pieces (1982) - Everything I had heard about this movie led me to believe it was nothing but a cheap and violent slasher so I never sought it out for viewing. Having finally seen it I'm wondering why no one bothered to tell me it was so damn funny too. Between Christopher George's useless cop and Paul Smith's Bluto-sized red herring the movie is filled with subtle and not so subtle gags, lines and moments. All that plus boobs, blood and body parts! It's definitely smarter than it lets on at first glance.

Erik the Viking (1989) - If you're like me you've never laughed at a rape scene before, but now thanks to Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) you can check that off your bucket list. He wrote and directed this comedic spoof on viking films, and while it seems exist in the shadows of Terry Gilliam it deserves a spot of its own thanks to some seriously funny dialogue and performances. It stars Tim Robbins before he turned all serious and liberal alongside a supporting cast that includes John Cleese, Mickey Rooney and Jones himself. Some have dismissed it as Terry Gilliam-lite, but it holds its own. Plus, you know, the world's funniest rape scene.

Frankenhooker (1990) - Would you believe this is a touching tale of lost love, heart break and hope? No? How about body parts, madness and exploding prostitutes... yeah, that's better. Frank Henenlotter's most entertaining movie sees a young man mourning his girlfriend's death via lawnmower by setting out to rebuild her using hooker limbs, boobs, and butt cheeks. The science is sound, obviously, but that doesn't stop his plan from going to hell the minute the newly resurrected woman opens her eyes and asks "Wanna date?" This is worth seeking out for the super-crack party scene alone.


Scott W. Black said...

"Welles' career high point remains his voice work as Robin Masters on MAGNUM PI, but CITIZEN KANE has to come in a close second."

Sarcasm doesn't work in print....That was sarcasm, right?

Ned Merrill said..., man. It goes without saying, but you must also familiarize yourself with MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, if you haven't already done so. Even in a compromised state, it is a sophomore film non pareil.

Also finally saw OBSESSION this year, first via DVD and then 35mm. Somehow after seeing just about every other De Palma from that era years ago, I kept missing this one. One of my new favorites in 2011 as well. WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? was new for me in '11, too. Hard to think of a film I've seen recently with more tension.

Caught up with NAKED PREY a few years ago via the Criterion disc...a great lean, story well-executed by actor-turned-auteur Cornel Wilde.