Rupert Pupkin Speaks: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scott From Married With Clickers' Favorite Older Film Discoveries of 2011!

Scott and his wife Kat run the Married With Clickers podcast. They recently done a whole show dedicated to their favorite discoveries of 2011. That episode and the show in general are recommended listening. Enjoy!
(read Scott's list from 2010 too)

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10. The Hunting Party
Oliver Reed in a western? I know; it does not seem like a good idea, right? Well, it works beautifully. Gene Hackman plays an angry, angry man with some powerful rifles. His wife has been kidnapped (she doesn’t seem to mind) and he does not want simply to rescue her. He wants to mutilate the men that did it. Pathos filled and brutal, the movie verges on the nihilistic.


9. The Reader
Like Hugh Jackman, I had not seen The Reader. It serves as proof that Kate Winslet can really do no wrong. She’s a very complex character here –hard to root for, but very compelling. A beautiful piece of filmmaking about an ugly time.


8. Battle Royale
It didn’t quite live up to my ridiculously high expectations, but it is a fun and exciting movie with a brilliant concept. The pacing is brisk and the tone is a strange mixture of high tension and black comedy. It is not surprising that it has built up such a strong following. I’m looking forward to reading the book, which Santa delivered this year.


7. The Long Goodbye
I read the book and then immediately watched the movie. Wow, are they different! Somehow, the combination of Chandler and Altman actually works. It may take a viewer a while to get into the groove of the film, but once you’re there, it is a fun ride. Very strong turns by both Elliott Gould and Sterling Hayden.


6. Gentleman Prefer Blondes
On paper, this is definitely not my type of movie. It’s a good thing I’m open-minded, as this movie charmed the cynic right out of me. Both leads are great and Russell’s sharp wit is on full display. Hell, even the songs were pretty good. This movie is a blast. (Netflix Instant Link)


5. Hunger
This is a powerful and beautiful film. McQueen’s ability to tell this story in an objective fashion makes it even more haunting. He also makes incredible and daring decision in terms of camera movement. Sometimes it is sweeping, and other times it is dead still. The performances are strong throughout and the set design is absolutely brilliant, if at time revolting. I loved this film, but I am not sure that I will ever watch it again. (Netflix Instant Link)


4. The Woman in the Window
Yup, this is one from Film Noir 101 that I had never seen. God bless Turner Classic Movies and their relentless pursuit to get me up to speed on films from way back when. Edward G. Robinson is the classic (not-so-innocent) Innocent Man here as one night of flirting has got him into hot water. Fritz Lang sure knows how to manufacture suspense, and I writhed in my seat as the noose slowly tightened around Robinson’s neck. (Netflix Instant Link)


3. The Lives of Others
This movie is just so brilliant. The performances are absolutely amazing and the sense of claustrophobia and paranoia are palpable. I’m not at all surprised that it won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar that year as it is an amazing film, telling a big story through the study of intimate relationships.


2. The Lady From Shanghai
If there was ever such a thing as a good natured film noir this is it. From Orson Welles’ accent to the grand finale, this is (sometimes literally) an amusement park ride of a movie. It looks great today and has hardly dated at all. I will buy it the moment it gets a Blu Ray release.


1. Ride the High Country
I love westerns. I love Sam Peckinpah. I love Joel McCrea and I looooove Randolph Scott. All of that being said; I had never seen this movie. I picked up the DVD on the cheap, and it turned out to be a brilliant purchase. As a western, it sits at the very start of the evolution from traditional to revisionist, with a terrific blend of action and irony filled humor. Westerns often come down to the chemistry of the leads, and McCrea and Scott are absolutely fantastic. It moved immediately into my top 10 westerns of all-time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Doug Tilley's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011

Doug Tilley is staff writer for DailyGrindhouse.com and a connoisseur of both good and truly terrible cinema. Check out his 'No Budget Nightmares' reviews at DG as well as the NBN podcast he co-hosts.

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Favorite First Time Watches of 2011


1. Legendary Weapons of China (1982; d. Lau Kar-Leung)
I have no excuse for this one. Despite loving everyone involved, I had managed to totally ignore LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA until 2011. A decision I massively regretted after watching, as it quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite martial arts films. Not only is the choreography excellent - particularly in the scenes featuring the late Alexander Fu Sheng - but it's beautifully filmed and even the storyline - so often an after-thought in this era of kung-fu films - is engaging. Heck, I want to watch it again right now!


2. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937; Leo McCarey)
Orson Welles reportedly said MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW "would make a stone cry," and I can confirm that by the final scene I was an emotional mess. While never overtly depressing, there are certain scenes - Lucy speaking on the phone during her daughter's bridge game, especially - that mix comedy and drama in such a potent combination that it's absolutely devastating to watch. Director Leo McCarey has such a masterful control of tone that you never feel manipulated, and the performances are beyond reproach.


3. The Dragon Lives Again (1977; Kei Law)
And now for something completely different. "Bruce Lee" (played by the great Leung Siu-lung) fights off James Bond, Zatoichi, "Clint Eastwood" and a variety of other famous faces while battling his way out of hell. Tasteless, ridiculous, and bat-shit insane, it's also incredibly entertaining - and totally unpredictable.


4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943; Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
I suppose I can be excused for not being too enthusiastic about a film titled THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, though the fact that it was directed by the esteemed Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with cinematography by the legendary Jack Cardiff should have tipped me off that my dismissal was premature. The film proved to be not just a pleasant surprise, but an overwhelmingly beautiful, resonant and timeless achievement. There are sequences that simply left me breathless, particularly the celebrated duel sequence. "War starts at midnight!"


5. Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989; David Schwartz)
I love transitioning from COLONEL BLIMP to the no-budget wonders of LAS VEGAS BLOODBATH. There are few films that could combine extreme violence and hot oil wrestling, but director David Schwartz somehow manages to jam in enough bizarre decisions - along with a suitably unhinged performance from Ari Levin - to help you ignore the fact that it looks, sounds and IS absolutely awful. Why does this exist? And why is it so much fun to watch?


6. The Five Obstructions (De fem benspænd) (Lars von Trier; 2003)
Notable nut-job/merchant of sadness Lars von Trier tasks fellow filmmaker Jørgen Leth with remaking his 1967 experimental short film THE PERFECT HUMAN in five different ways, each time with a different obstacle chosen by Von Trier. I've always been fascinated by the way that restrictions can shape (and improve) art, so this documentary - while not always totally engaging - is consistently fascinating. Rumors that Von Trier is doing another set of restrictions with Martin Scorsese has me absolutely tickled.


7. Fletch (1985; Michael Ritchie)
I know. I'm embarrassed to admit it as well. Somehow despite being a child of the 80s I had managed to completely miss FLETCH during my formative years. Since then, perhaps I was mistaking it for one of Chevy Chase's more forgettable 80s comedies, or for a cult phenomenon that I just couldn't totally grasp - like CADDYSHACK. But I was so incredibly wrong. A wonderfully quirky adaptation of the Gregory Mcdonald featuring Chase at his most enjoyably smarmy. The late (great) Michael Ritchie was awfully inconsistent, but here he's firing on all cylinders and giving Chevy license to bring his own warped sensibility to the character. "Yeah, do you have the Beatles' White Album? Never mind, just get me a glass of hot fat. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia while you're out there. "


8. Memories of Murder (2003; Bong Joon-ho)
Sometimes there is simply no excuse. I'm one of the few who were sadly underwhelmed by Bong Joon-ho's international hit THE HOST, so I felt there was little hurry in checking out his back catalogue. A chance viewing of MEMORIES OF MURDER showed me how wrong I was, and I finally clued in on Joon-ho's particular brand of quirky humor and visual inventiveness. When writing about it originally I compared it to David Fincher's ZODIAC, but despite my love for that film I feel MoM is a fresher, more fascinating take on the serial killer genre.


9. The Friends of Eddy Coyle (1973; Peter Yates)
Look, I'm not proud of the gaps in my film knowledge. One I was particularly embarrassed in missing was Peter Yates' gritty, awesome crime film THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (based on the George V. Higgins novel). Let me just join the choir in singing the praises of this impeccably acted look at the Boston underworld. It's Robert fucking Mitchum, ok? We may have lost Yates in 2011, but with flicks as good as this he'll never be forgotten.


10. Suburban Sasquatch (2003; Dave Wescavage)
Sometimes a title just says it all. SUBURBAN SASQUATCH is a severely flawed, occasionally near-unwatchable film. The acting is terrible, and the effects are worse, while the sound.. well, it's probably best to not talk about it. But it's called SUBURBAN SASQUATCH, and it features plenty of scenes of a Sasquatch wandering around suburbia (before being hunted a mystical native american wielding magical arrows. Yes, that happens). If you enjoy watching a well-endowed bigfoot stomping around, ripping arms off and lifting police cars, you really can't beat it. For lovers of junk - like me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kimberly Lindbergs' Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011

Kimberly Lindbergs writes regularly for Turner Classic Movies(she's a Movie Morlock!) and her personal blog can be found at Cinebeats.com.


1. DANGER ROUTE (1967; d. Seth Holt)
From an earlier review I wrote: "Nothing is exactly as it seems in this interesting spy drama. Characters continually hide behind false identities and we’re never really sure what their motives are. The spies in DANGER ROUTE don’t carry fancy gadgets and the film’s star never shoots a gun. Richard Johnson’s character is forced to use his wit, cunning and charm to get in and out of tight situations and he disposes of his victims with his bare hands and martial art skills. Johnson’s intimate way of murdering his enemies leads to a disturbing final act of violence at the end of the movie when he’s forced to kill a double agent that's betrayed him."


2. DEAD RINGER (1964; d. Paul Henreid)
Bette Davis gives a tour-de-force performance here in a duel role as twin sisters Edith "Edie" Phillips & Margaret "Maggie" DeLorca. After murdering her sister and stealing her identity, Edie must convince the world that she's really Maggie but that's not going to be easy. She's got Maggie's faithful friends, servants and a sleazy lover (Peter Lawford) to contend with as well as a nosy detective (Karl Malden) hot on her trail. And then there's the dog. A big unpredictable Great Dane with a nasty temper that's hard to control. You just know he's going to be trouble!


3. EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962; d. Blake Edwards)
This creepy noir isn't just one of the director's best films. It's also one of the best films shot in San Francisco and if you want to see the city by the bay at its finest, give EXPERIMENT IN TERROR a look. The movie begins with lovely Lee Remick getting attacked in her car garage by a strange man who threatens to kill her and her sister if she doesn't help him rob a bank. She agrees but contacts the FBI for help. The suspense plays out in unexpected ways and ends with a spectacular scene shot at a Giants baseball game in Candlestick Park.


4. FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG (1955; d. Arthur Lubin)
Murder, madness, greed and obsessive love are played out in the dark alleyways and foggy streets of Victorian London. Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger play two unlikable characters in this unusual suspense drama that left me shaking my head at the end and shouting out loud, "What an ending!" The actors were married in real life and you can sense a genuine emotional bond between them on screen but the film seems eager to manipulate their personal feelings for one another in the most unexpected and eerie way. This is a romance film for people who hate romances.


5. THE IRON ROSE (1973; d. Jean Rollin)
I've had a mixed relationship with the few Jean Rollin's films I've seen over the years but I absolutely loved THE IRON ROSE. This macabre tale of two lost souls trapped in an old cemetery and caught up in a doomed romance plays out like a surrealist poem. Françoise Pascal is particularly charming as the enchanting "girl." Although Rollin is often remembered for his explorations of vampirism, THE IRON ROSE contains no fangs but it sure has a memorable bite.


6. ISABEL (1968; d. Paul Almond)
From an earlier review I wrote: "ISABEL begins with a train journey across a snow-covered landscape. We watch as the film’s star, Geneviève Bujold, sits awkwardly in her seat and squirms uncomfortably in front of the camera’s unrelenting eye. She is biding her time by shuffling through a small stack of books and papers in an effort to fend off unpleasant thoughts and feelings. You see, Isabel is a woman haunted by ghosts. These ghosts have hidden themselves deep within the recesses of her troubled mind but when she’s asked to return to her family’s ancestral home following her mother’s death, Isabel is forced to confront the phantoms that posses her.”


7. LISTEN, LET'S MAKE LOVE (1967; d. Vittorio Caprioli)
From an earlier review I wrote: "The film details Lallo’s (Pierre Clémenti) amorous adventures as he romances his way through Milan’s wealthy jet set. Women and men are equally charmed by his dark good looks and Lallo obviously enjoys the various worldly pleasures that he experiences during his meteoric rise to notoriety. Whether you become as enchanted with this provocative European sex romp as I did depends on one thing, your response to the presence of Pierre Clémenti. The film relies on Clémenti’s unconventional beauty and androgynous sex appeal to carry it through to its weighty conclusion." P.S. Batman makes an appearance!


8. THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT (1970: d. Stuart Hagmann)
This creative 1970 political drama is particularly poignant today and makes great use of popular music from the period. From an earlier review I wrote: "The film disregards linear storytelling methods and uses rapid edits to interweave the ensuing drama with news footage of important political figures of the time such as President Richard Nixon playing the piano and Black Panther leader H. Rap Brown giving his memorable 'violence is as American as cherry pie' speech. The film also includes references to the Paris Commune and the posters of Che Guevara that cover the campus walls continually come into focus."


9. THE UNKNOWN (1927; d. Tod Browning)
This silent film starring Lon Chaney and a very young Joan Crawford was Browning's first attempt at a circus themed horror movie. He would later go on to make FREAKS (1932) but you can see the early spark for that classic film here. Chaney gives one of his most moving and powerful performances as an armless knife thrower deeply in love with Crawford and like a lot of the films on my list, the ending is one you'll never forget.


10. UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO (1971; d. John Mackenzie)
From an earlier review I wrote: "It’s tempting to compare UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO with Lindsay Anderson’s IF…. (1968) but besides their public school settings and clear desire to question the effectiveness of the British education system, these films have little in common and their approach, as well as their concerns, are very different. UNMAN, WITTERING AND ZIGO is more of a mystery or an unpredictable thriller that has its roots in classic British horror fiction."


11. VOICES (1973; d. Kevin Billington)
From an earlier review I wrote: "VOICES explores the life of a young couple (David Hemmings & Gayle Hunnicutt) whose idyllic existence is turned upside down when their young son accidentally drowns. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that the mother, Claire Williams, was deeply traumatized by the loss of her child and after numerous suicide attempts she was finally hospitalized. Her husband Robert has been trying to cope with the stress but it’s apparent that the situation has become increasingly difficult for them both. After Claire is released from the hospital the couple plans a trip to the country where they can relax but things begin to disintegrate quickly." Largely forgotten but highly influential supernatural horror film that was the basis of Alejandro Amenábar's THE OTHERS (2001).

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eric J. Lawrence's Favorite Older Films Seen 1st in 2011

Eric J. Lawrence is the Music Librarian over at KCRW(a wonderful radio station) and I have been a fan of his radio show there for about 10 years. It is truly my favorite radio program out there. Quite an eclectic mix of new and old songs, it's described on KCRW's site as thus:
"A musical line-up of criminally overlooked tunes, hidden gems, guilty pleasures and standout selections from the latest releases... from Jacques Brel to Mott the Hoople to Gary Numan to the Fall, and everything in between. Like playing poker with dogs -- only better."
I can't really recommend the show higher than a decade of listenership can I? Check it out!
http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/dn

On top of being an man of stellar and vast tastes in music, he is also a cinephile to a similar degree. Check out his excellent list below!

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I'm not anywhere near being the voracious and esoteric cinema consumer that everyone else cited here on this most-excellent blog is. But I see a fair amount of films (which often inspire some of the music selections on my radio show) and as Mr. Pupkin kindly asked for my input, I'm honored to contribute.



The Magician (Ingmar Bergman, 1958)
For some reason I had missed watching this particular Bergman film, which seems unfathomable to me, as it comes smack in the middle of his most fertile period and features four of my favorite of Bergman's stock actors (Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Bjornstrand and Bibi Andersson), as well as a storyline that involves supposed supernatural goings-on. Perhaps it was von Sydow's Abraham Lincoln-esque outfit that threw me off during an aborted initial viewing years ago. But having recently discovered that the film was loosely based on a cool little play by one of my favorite authors (Magic by G.K. Chesterton, and very loosely based, as it turns out), I finally sat down with it. And I'm glad I did, as it revived my appreciation for Bergman's ability to cram some weirdly funny stuff in what are often misinterpreted as "heavy" or "ponderous" morality plays.


Torture Garden (Freddie Francis, 1967)
An early example of Hammer's bastard stepchild Amicus' portmanteau films, directed by British horror vet (and Academy Award-winning cinematographer) Freddie Francis. I remember seeing these on TV as a kid and being even more creeped out by them than the more overtly Gothic Hammer films of the time or even Corman's Poe cycle. The contemporary settings made them feel closer to home, as did the presence of non-Brits like Jack Palance and Burgess Meredith. This one mashes together four stories by Robert Bloch (of Psycho fame) in a screenplay written by the man himself. I can't exactly recall if I saw all of this on TV back in the day, but I sure won't forget it now, particularly Meredith's philosophy-spitting demonic carnival huckster. And as I went as Edgar Allan Poe for Halloween this year, I took extra pleasure in Palance's performance as a rabid collector of all things Poe.


Cairo Station (Youssef Chahine, 1958)
Directed by one of Egypt's most decorated filmmakers, this was Chahine's break-through film, a psycho-sexual thriller set amongst the various classes of peddlers at the titular transportation hub. Hard to come by, I resorted to watching this chopped up in 10-minute increments on YouTube, which was not optimal. But in lieu of the real-life drama of the Arab Spring protests that eventually ousted Hosni Mubarak as the President of Egypt last year, it somehow seems appropriate.


Hud (Martin Ritt, 1963)
At the time of his death in 2008, I realized I hadn't seen that many Paul Newman films. I had seen The Hustler years before, but other than The Hudsucker Proxy (and honestly the only scene I remember from that movie was the one with the kid & the hula hoop) and The Long, Hot Summer (in the middle of a William Faulkner jag), I felt I hadn't had enough exposure to someone considered such an acting legend. So I watched The Sting, which was cool, then Harper, which was only OK, then promptly stopped worrying about it. Fast forward a few years and Hud comes up in a discussion about Westerns set in the 20th century. So I checked it out and thoroughly dug it. Newman succeeds in playing such a charismatic a-hole in a way that I could never buy with, say, Marlon Brando (too a-holic) or Jack Nicholson (too charming & never enough of an a-hole). And Melvyn Douglas was also a treat, especially after having recently re-watched him in 1930s wisecracking matinee idol mode in The Old Dark House. Hudtastic!


The Eclipse (Conor McPherson, 2009)
Not to be confused with the 1962 Antonioni film, this is very talky ghost story whose title might, ambiguously enough, actually be a nod to the 1962 Antonioni film. But that ambiguity is part of the point and I appreciate it for that. McPherson is best known as a playwright, specifically as one who can pull off that most rare of tricks - writing plays about ghosts and other spooky things. He generally does it without scare tactics (for example, his best one, The Weir, is a terrific play about telling ghost stories without any actually showing up on stage). He ultimately may not be as good as a film director, where it is probably impossible not to be seduced to use the magic of film to depict ghosts onscreen, as he does here (or does he?) But I know if I saw a ghost, I'd probably talk about it endlessly too, which just seems a natural and real thing to do, so I'm not going to worry about such a film being talky. Recommended for those who consider Jack Clayton's 1961 The Innocents the best kind of horror film.


El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)
One of those cult films I'd never managed to stay up until midnight for. Finally caught on DVD this past year and enjoyed for it audacity. Makes for an interesting nutty Western double feature with Marlon Brando's sole directing job, One-Eyed Jacks (also seen for the first time in 2011).


Comanche Station (Budd Boetticher, 1960)
I've been savoring Westerns recently and am thoroughly convinced Boetticher's Ranown Cycle is about as good as it gets. Pretty basic (and borderline repetitive) in their production, they manage a complexity of character, script and motivation that suits Randolph Scott to a tee (a tall one at that!) In a way like the viewer, Scott knows that he'll triumph in the end, but what he knows that we don't is that it will be a hollow victory (his wife will still be as dead as she was when the film begins, for example). The beauty is he doesn't give a rat's ass, because it's still the right thing to do. Ultimately it is the actors who play the bad guys who know they're just playing Scott's game who get the juiciest roles in the Ranown films - Lee Marvin in Seven Men from Now, Richard Boone in The Tall T, etc. But I've always had a soft spot for Claude Akins, (Sheriff Lobo!) who gamely goes up against Scott in Comanche Station, the last of the cycle, and for that I give it special recognition.


He Who Gets Slapped (Victor Sjostrom, 1924)
I picked this up as part of Warner Bros. excellent Archive Collection, which has a number of key Lon Chaney silent films on offer. Chockfull of reasons to watch - Chaney hamming it up, fellow silent legends Norma Shearer and John Gilbert doing their thing, solid direction from Mr. Wild Strawberry himself, a crazily melodramatic story from kooky Russian Symbolist Leonid Andreyev (author of "Lazarus," a proto-zombie short story worth tracking down, living dead fans!), death by lion mauling (by MGM's very Leo the Lion no less!), and a freakin' clown whose whole shtick is to get slapped by hundreds of people! You really cannot go wrong (unless you actually really like clowns, but have a paralyzing fear of lions).


The Laughing Policeman (Stuart Rosenberg, 1973)
An excellent example of that quintessentially 70s style of crime movie (Dirty Harry, The Driver, Prime Cut, Night Moves, etc) that is tangled, grimy and depressing. In a way, it feels like a precursor to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - it is also based on an acclaimed Swedish detective novel - but it's the amazingly eclectic cast that stands out. Walter Matthau takes the lead as the veteran detective, with Bruce Dern and Louis Gossett, Jr. backing him up, Anthony Zerbe riding his ass as his superior, and Cathy Lee Crosby and Joanna Cassidy providing the eye candy. Matthau plays it pretty straight throughout, although his reactions during the car chase are priceless. There is a metric ton of mustaches in this movie too. It also features one of my favorite lines in all of cinema, as Gossett (who I wish took on more cop roles) tells a punk scrambling for his weapon, "Whatever you're reaching for better be a sandwich, because you're gonna have to eat it!" Suck it, John Shaft!


Dark Star/Starman (John Carpenter, 1974/1984)
These are pretty radically different films, despite their science-fiction scenarios, the word "star" in their names, and of course, the man who directed them. But one element that made both of these two films stand out for me in the mini Carpenter festival I had for myself last year was the believability of the characters. Unlike Escape from New York or even The Thing, which rely on their over-the-top, macho action, these two films feature "real" people. I can totally imagine 20-year-old slackers stuck in a boring and repetitive job in space, as they are in Dark Star, acting and speaking like Doolittle and Pinback do. And Jeff Bridges does an amazing job in Starman at portraying someone (or more accurately, something) who is utterly unfamiliar with his own body - despite the craziness of the situation, it plays absolutely "real." Dark Star is also graced with one of the most wonderfully inappropriate theme songs in all of moviedom, "Benson, Arizona."


Jackass 3D (Jeff Tremaine, 2010)
I have yet to see a new-era 3D movie in the theatre (nor on a 3D TV for that matter). I frankly have no desire. If I wanna see 3D, I'll go outside and look around. Flashy visual tomfoolery will not disguise a thin, underbaked story, as seems most Hollywood-produced 3D films have. An interesting exception: Jackass 3D! Doesn't promise any story at all! I watched this on regular old SD 2D and still enjoyed it. I'll be the first one to admit that the whole premise behind Jackass is an acquired taste (if taste is the right word), so let me just say the only part that really matters is the super slo-mo opening of the film, which is a riot of colorful catastrophe. And I bet it actually looks pretty cool in 3D.




Bonus TV stuff

Some of the best older video I watched this past year were collections of live TV broadcasts from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The Studio One Anthology DVD collection has some pretty juicy stuff, including a 1950 one-hour version of "Wuthering Heights" starring a pretty green Charlton Heston as a scenery-chewing (what little there was - this was live television, so settings were kept pretty bare-bones) Heathcliff. The set also includes the original Westinghouse in-house advertising, hosted by the genial Betty Furness, giving a further fascinating insight to the times of the original broadcasts. Criterion released "The Golden Age of Television" collection, which features some of the most legendary live teleplays, including Rod Serling's killer pre-Twilight Zone triumvirate of "Patterns," "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and "The Comedian," the latter directed by John Frankenheimer and starring an immensely grotesque Mickey Rooney (who Frankenheimer says in the bonus interview material was the most talented actor he ever worked with!) And the end of the year brought a DVD release of the Rolling Stones' six appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. But what makes this release particularly noteworthy is that the entire shows of each of their appearances are included, so you get to see crazy things like the Kim Sisters, a Korean sister act, playing bagpiles; Laurence Harvey reciting "The Charge of the Light Brigade"; and Peg Leg Bates, a tap dancer with a wooden stump for a leg. And that's all in just one of the shows! Plus two songs from the Stones! Now THAT'S entertainment!!!

ERIC J. LAWRENCE


Friday, January 27, 2012

Paul Corupe(Of Canuxploitation)'s Favorite Older Films seen 1st in 2011

Paul Corupe writes about movies for RUE MORGUE magazine, Fantasia Festival's official webzine SPECTACULAR OPTICAL and my own site, CANUXPLOITATION. From the CANUXPLOITATION site:
"Since 1999, Canuxploitation.com has been exploring and documenting the murky world of Canadian "exploitation" cinema. With an emphasis on the past, our dedicated review team digs into dusty VHS deletion bins, combs through dollar store DVD racks and braves the wasteland of late night TV to investigate and reclaim Canada's once forgotten B-movie tradition with style and humour. "

Paul is a cool fella with great and varied taste in films! Read on!


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Caught Plastered (1931)
TCM's Canadian schedule often differs slightly from the U.S. broadcast, and last January during a special day of stateside programming they offered up about 18 Wheeler and Woolsey comedies back to back. Having already enjoyed the pair's film MUMMY'S BOYS, I watched 'em all and CAUGHT PLASTERED really stood out--I'd easily stack it against W.C. Fields' films or even some of the Marx Brothers' works. One of the unjustly forgotten comedy teams of the '30s, the naively sweet Bert Wheeler and his overbearing shyster partner Robert Woolsey wore their vaudeville roots on their sleeves, but their puns and witty wisecracks could be almost as good as Groucho and Chico in their prime. In this RKO film, they help a widow turn around a bankrupt drug store by opening a hugely successful new lunch counter, unaware that the soda syrup they've been buying is spiked and they're actually running a speakeasy. It's the strongest plot of the bunch and the drug store locale allows lots of room for loose and funny bits before the picture falls in for a typically anarchic ending. My favourite line? "These moth balls are no good at all--I haven't been able to hit one moth yet!"


Loving and Laughing (1971)
In the late 1960s, Montreal producer Cinepix specialized in French-language softcore films that mixed comedy, nudity and nationalism in equal measures, a mini-genre boom later dubbed "maple syrup porn". But when the company tried to expand these films to an English audience, they were met with indifference. That's too bad, because the films are often fun and playfully sexy. In this one, a rich kid decides to spend the summer in a French-Canadian hippie commune while his barefooted counterpart heads to Vermont to tutor some lonely young women. These films were usually breezy and forgettable, but Cinepix was firing on all cylinders here--the cast is more than game, the soundtrack is chock full of great '70s rock and there's full-frontal nudity from both sexes (including an eye-raising sex scene with local starlet Celine Lomez). Even the jokes are quite funny, such as a spot-on Morricone soundtrack parody when the hippies arrive in town to grab supplies under the mistrusting eye of the local police. A rarity on VHS, I programmed a 35mm print of this as part of a series of supplemental screenings for a cult film class at the University of Toronto. The theater wasn't exactly full, but those who did show up really enjoyed it--including me!


The Odessa File (1974)
In any other year this probably wouldn't have made my list, but here we are. Jon Voight goes undercover as a former SS officer and hunts Nazi survivors in this tense and often beautifully shot '70s thriller. It's a little on the methodical side, but buoyed by great performances by Voight (probably his last really good one) and Maximilian Schell, plus there's a tense climax that brings in a nice twist to make it all worthwhile. The realistic concentration camp sequence and scenes of old party Nazi loyalty, such as the German beer hall meeting, still arouse disgust and bring home just what Voight's investigative reporter character is trying to accomplish. Those that criticize the film's curious musical score--Perry Como's accordion-laced "Christmas Dream" is the theme--should pay closer attention to its dark lyrics.


80 Blocks from Tiffany's (1979)
This engaging documentary on New York City street gangs is almost like watching THE WARRIORS come to real life and is required viewing for all fans of early '80s hip hop films (I'm talking WILD STYLE and STYLE WARS here, not BREAKIN'). The focus is on candid interviews with gang members of the Savage Nomads and the Savage Skulls, but director Gary Weis, also a filmmaker for Saturday Night Live at the time, talks to cops, local old timers and social workers to provide a bigger picture of the desolate, almost post-apocalyptic looking South Bronx neighbourhood they share. Tales of robberies and dangerous weapons are troubling, though a recreated scene of kids using a pair of busted crutches to steal from a delivery truck is almost hilariously in its ingenuity. Some of the most memorable moments come when the gangs start asking Weis about his life and seemingly can't even fathom anything outside of their own immediate experiences, which are almost completely defined by poverty and violence.


Wise Blood (1979)
Based on Flannery O'Connor's novel, John Huston's late-career masterpiece is a cynical Southern Gothic deconstruction of organized religion, as Brad Dourif plays a Godless war vet who starts the Church of Truth without Christ, a belief system where "the blind don't see and the lame don't walk and what's dead stays that way." In a Southern Georgia crawling with con artists, mentally damaged adults and corrupt cops, the intensity of O'Connor's written word shines through, keeping WISE BLOOD an engagingly human tragedy about a man who mistakenly builds himself into a prophet almost entirely against his will. Dourif and his love interest Amy Wright are riveting and there are nice supporting turns by Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty. Hard to believe that Huston went from this to the Canadian co-production PHOBIA (1980), a truly terrible psychotherapy thriller.


Kill Squad (1982)
Every well-travelled movie fan knows that there's trash movies and then there's unbelievably great trash movies. I watched far more trash than "good" films this year, including MR. NO LEGS, HOLLYWOOD COP and THE INTRUDER (and any could have been in this slot), but this was probably my favourite, in which handicapped businessman Joseph Lawrence assembles a crack force of ex-Vietnam vets to take out a rival. The distinctly low-rent atmosphere, silly title and atrocious kung fu skills are easy to laugh off when a film is this much fun, kind of a comic book fantasy take on THE DIRTY DOZEN featuring never-ending fights, funky beats and a left-field plot twist involving a mysterious sniper targetting the squad. "Joesph needs you"... to watch this movie!


The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
Yes, I know I'm required to hate musicals--they're phony, contrived and generally lacking in the serious approach required for "important" cinema. And yet you occasionally run into a garishly coloured rock 'n' roll confection like THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT, and all that's forgotten like last week's hit single. Former animator Frank Tashlin directs this sugar-coated ode to the new musical fad peaking across the nation with a cartoonish bombast that perfectly suits the material. The story's an old one--ex-gangster meets girl, hires agent to make her famous despite her lack of talent, and loses it when he discovers the two have fallen for each other. But, as the gangster's moll, star Jayne Mansfield is at her most buxotic (to borrow a phrase) and the film finds ways to organically incorporate its musical numbers, as a rash of nightclub visits lead to performances by the likes of the Platters, Abbey Lincoln, Eddie Cochran and Little Richard, among others. It's surprisingly subversive too--under all the gloss is a canny critique of the music biz, where a behind-the-scenes cast of gangsters and criminals craft pop culture image campaigns as opposed to real musical quality.


Wake in Fright (1971)
In a word, harrowing. Probably one of the scariest films you've ever seen that doesn't really qualify as horror, this Australian-shot classic is an oppressive tale of a traveling teacher who gets stuck in a dingy and depressing mining town when he drunkenly gambles away his paycheck. I caught this at the Fantasia Film Festival with Canadian director Ted Kotcheff in person and was amazed at how deeply this effort sticks with you. Gary Bond's luckless teacher is drawn into a intensely vulgar culture of binge drinking and brutal masculinity that culminates in a (purposely) unsettling kangaroo hunt, his life turned into an unending nightmare from which he cannot--and sometimes does not want to--escape. Donald Pleasance has never been better as the alcoholic doctor that either befriends Bond or won't leave him alone until he's insane. So dark and gritty you'll be picking outback sand out of your teeth for days.


The Hidden Hand (1942)
I'm a sucker for old dark house movies, the older, darker, spookier and sillier the better. That's why Warner Archives' "Horror/Mystery Double Features" MOD DVD release was one of the best DVD purchases I made last year, and though I had already seen the set's centrepiece, SH! THE OCTOPUS, I was also taken with this fast-paced programmer in which the mad matriarch of a rich family fakes her own death to watch her relatives fight over her money. I usually judge old dark house films by the number of genre stereotypes they employ, including secret passages, will readings, sliding panels and escaped mental patients, and this one gets full marks. The almost always excellent Willie Best provides the comic relief, but the film's so much fun that his inclusion almost seems like an afterthought.


The Island (1980)
Michael Ritchie is one of my favourite directors and even though this modern-day pirate adventure, based on a novel by Peter Benchley, isn't his finest hour, it's much better than it's reputation suggests. These aren't Johnny-Depp-in-a-costume-shop pirates, but a more dangerous breed of thief with a corrupted culture and language that run raids on unlucky ships in the area. Michael Caine plays a reported investigating disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle kidnapped by the clan, who then try to brainwash his son into joining their ranks. The plot, adapted by Benchley himself, is messy but the film itself endlessly ambitious, with surprisingly gory attacks, breathtaking Caribbean locations and intense performances. There's may be a lot of production values in this one--plane explosions, pirate weddings and naval fleets springing into action, but Ritchie's hard cynicism beats underneath, keeping the action well grounded.



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