Rupert Pupkin Speaks: VHS Gems Guest Post: Spenser Hoyt ""

Monday, October 15, 2012

VHS Gems Guest Post: Spenser Hoyt

Spenser Hoyt checking in with some video tape favorites. I work at world famous Scarecrow Video, I am a regular contributor to the Seattle Office of Film and Music, City Arts Magazine and reviewed some stuff for The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide and Destroy All Movies!!! I have watched lots of movies in lots of formats (VHS, beta, laser disc, video disc, DVD, BluRay, Imax, 70mm, 35mm, 16mm, 8mm and the beloved Super 8) and, lately, have been collaborating on a series of VHS sourced compilations that have been shown at The Grand Illusion Cinema. I am @hoytoid on twitter.

The Big Crimewave (1984)
This already showed up on Paul Corupe’s list and I’ll second the vote. Mr. Corupe’s capsule is excellent so read that. Scarecrow Video has regularly hassled the Criterion DVD Company to release Crime Wave, or The Big Crimewave, with some of director John Paizs’ excellent short films. If they don’t do it, I still have my tape. I once tracked down a 16mm print from The National Film Board of Canada and we showed it at The Grand Illusion Cinema. The screening inspired a short-lived catch phrase amongst some friends where we’d declare “And From the North!” during conversational lulls.

The Devil at Your Heels (1981)
Speaking of The National Film Board of Canada, they produced this super-duper documentary about Ken Carter, the self-proclaimed world’s greatest stuntman. The film documents Ken’s ill-fated plans to jump a rocket car from Canada to the United States across the Saint Lawrence River. Evel Knievel shows up to tell him it’s a bad idea but our hero perceivers against countless odds. I’m pretty sure this film directly inspired the Kenny Powers character in the HBO series Eastbound and Down. The Devil at Your Heels is funny, sad, and totally engrossing. It has pretty much everything you’d want from a movie, plus it is all true and there is no pointless romantic sub-plot.

 Get Crazy (1983)
That bastard Rupert Pupkin beat me to this one, but it should probably be on everybody’s list. Not only is it a truly crazy film it also serves as a love letter to the Fillmore East and West era of rock shows, a tribute to the pre-“just say no” era of drug consumption (thanks to Electric Larry) and remains one of the few (if only) good movies about New Years Eve.

 Black Lizard (1968)
Kenji Fukasaku is probably best known for Battle Royale and his excellent series of gangster films but Black Lizard proves this remarkable director’s versatility. It is the most amazing psychedelic wacko crime caper tragic-comedy in the history of everything. There is stunning art direction, Fukasaku’s typically visceral cinematography, a far out soundtrack and a bizarre love story at the center of the film.

 Darktown Strutters (1975)
This oddball collaboration between veteran director William Witney (who was 60 years at the time) and George Armitage (who’d cut his teeth on Roger Corman Nurse movies and later went on to direct things like Miami Blues and Grosse Pointe Blank) is a forgotten classic of the blaxploitation era. Darktown Strutters is actually more of a parody of the genre that incorporates all sorts of social commentary and marked satire along with some outrageous threads and groovy seventies soul. It’s the story of an all woman biker gang led by Trina (The Muthers) Parks. Someone else said it first but, in many ways, Darktown Strutters is like a live action Ralph Bakshi movie crossed with Sid and Marty Krofft at their weirdest.

 Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957)
Along with It Conquered the World, I Was A Teenage Werewolf and The Amazing Colossal Man, Invasion of the Saucer Men is one of those classic 50’s AIP jams that are only available on vintage videotape. I am quite fond of all of those movies but have a special place for Invasion of the Saucer Men. It’s actually way ahead of its time as it is a parody of space invader movies. Plus the evil aliens inject their victims with alcohol. I’d like to run into one of those guys right now!

Finger Man (1955)
The film noir genre has tons of movies that are only available on VHS. Finger Man may not be the most essential of the bunch but this gritty little potboiler has stuck with me over the years. I’m not a big Frank Lovejoy fan but he does his best as a criminal who is coerced to go undercover and bust a heroin dealer. It’s the film’s supporting cast that makes this number stand out. Forrest Tucker is alternately weird, scary, and funny (sometimes all at once) as Dutch Becker, drug kingpin. A doomed Peggie Castle gives a sad performance as a faded beauty that helps our hero gain acceptance into Becker’s inner circle. And it is Tim Carey who steals the show as Becker’s strange, sweaty, twitchy, violent and misogynistic henchman.

 The World’s Greatest Sinner (1962)
Speaking of Timothy Carey, have you ever seen this movie? It’s just about the weirdest thing ever and is pretty much what you would expect from Mr. Carey who wrote, directed and starred in this low-budget wonder about a bored insurance salesman who changes his name to God (but retains his last name so his new moniker is God Hilliard), becomes a rock star/public speaker, makes a deal with the devil and then runs for political office. The best parts are his musical performances where he strums a one-stringed guitar, shakes his body and frantically shouts, “Please! Please! Please! Take My Heart!” and then crowd surfs.

Split (1989)
Released on the AIP home video label this is a very unique, extremely low-budget, odd-ball, intellectual science fiction film. The Dick-ish (as in Philip K.) plot deals with a seemingly schizophrenic man who realizes society is actually controlled by a sinister agency with special computers. Now that I think about it, the plot is kinda Matrix-ish too. There are probably too many ideas packed into Split and the primitive technology and amateur acting may be a turn off for some. But not me!

The Uninvited (1944)
Do you like good old fashioned haunted house movies? Then you’ve probably already seen The Uninvited. If you haven’t, it’s one of the best. The plot is typical (a haunted seaside mansion), the scares are subtle (but genuine), the acting is top-notch, the characters are offbeat and the cinematography is outstanding.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

So glad to see some '40s-'50s movies on here! They are sorely overlooked in these posts.

KC said...

Thank you for including Black Lizard! That flick is at the top of my VHS-only list. It's one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen and I wish there were more like it.

Hal said...

Thanks for including FINGER MAN, one of the Tuck films that I need to add to my blog later on. In addition to Peggie Castile, Evelyn Eaton is on hand. She died way too young less than a decade later. And I agree, Timothy Carey gave this one his all.

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is another favorite of mine; truly has to be seen to be believed.