Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Mondo Dan ""

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Mondo Dan

Dan is the co-host of Mondo Movie, the universe's longest-running cult movie podcast. His cinematic tastes veer towards the dark, the strange and obscure - loves the classics, '80s American indie flicks, East Asian cinema and the rare occasion that Hollywood gets it right, but horror, trash, sleaze and exploitation are his true movie love. Or to put it another way: there’s no film that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of an exploding head or kung fu zombie.

Sugar Hill (1974)
Surely the finest zombie voodoo revenge thriller made in 1974, Sugar Hill was the sole directing credit for Police Academy producer Paul Maslansky. A sassy stylish lead turn from Marki Bey, some weirdly creepy slave zombies and an amazing performance from wide-eyed, juju talking' Don Pedro Colley makes this an under-seen Blaxploitation gem.

Spring in a Small Town (1948)
Often cited as one of the finest Chinese films ever made, Spring In A Small Town is a quietly devastating tale of duty, sacrifice and unrequited love. It's also a prime example of the sort of poignant, socially realistic drama that would all but disappear after the Chinese revolution the following year.

Dead Heat (1988)
One-of-a-king buddy cop horror comedy, Dead Heat is funny, strange, smart and knowing. Better than 98% of all other films released in 1988 - it's the sort of movie you want to watch again the minute it finishes.

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Despite having seen Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk and knowing the story of the charismatic gay rights activist pretty well, this documentary proved to be one of the finest I’d ever seen. The mix of interviews with those know knew, loved and worked with Harvey Milk and fascinating archival footage creates a gripping, inspiring and ultimately very moving (though never sentimental) film.

Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
Akria Kurosawa's debut - cinematically an incredibly assured debut that points to the many great things ahead. The only version that still exists was truncated by Japanese censors, but is still a must-see for fans of the great master.

Torso (1973)
Top-notch giallo from Sergio Martino, who tended to deliver the goods no matter which genre he dabbled in. Plenty of groovy sex and violence, plus a stand-out sustained suspense sequence during the climax as Suzy Kendall is stalked round a holiday house by the mysterious killer.

Wedlock (1991)
Fun, silly, vaguely-futuristic prison escape romp with a neat gimmick (exploding neck braces). Danny Trejo pops up as a tough inmate (what else?), Stephen Tobolowsky chews the scenery as a camp prison warden, Mimi Rogers runs around in skin-tight pants and Rutger Hauer wears the most hideously gaudy poncho ever committed to film. What's not to enjoy?

The Glass Key (1942)
A lesser noir perhaps, but an undeniably good one. There’s great chemistry between Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, plus a surprisingly dark edge, especially the scenes in which Ladd is kept prisoner and pounded to putty by crooks.

Absurd (1981)
Italian shlockmeister Joe D'Amato/Aristide Massaccesi's follow-up to the infamous Antropophagus sees George Eastman return as lumbering, bloodthirsty Greek maniac Mikos, committing all sorts of bloody mayhem. Utter trash, but unlike the tedious original Massaccesi keeps the pace moving and throws a gallon of cheesy gore at the happy viewer.

Spring River Flows East (1947)
An epic two-part Chinese melodrama made soon after the end of the war that combines biting social commentary and moving human drama. Three hours long and spanning 15 years, it is a pessimistic, sometimes harrowing depiction of the tough economic times that Chinese people faced in the post-war years, but this masterfully paced classic remains compulsive viewing.

Fear City (1984)
I’m a big Abel Ferrara fan, but this was one I’d not caught up with until now. Certainly not one of the director’s best, but the sleazy/cheesy 80s NYC vibe of this trashy horror/ thriller remains consistently entertaining. The surprisingly starry cast elevate the material too.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Last but certainly not least, the most notable classic I saw for the first time in 2012. A brilliant, unique melding of melodrama, film noir, satire and even horror that blends cinematic fact and fiction decades before the likes of The Player.

1 comment:

Ned Merrill said...

P.O.S. blogger wiped out my comment the first time...

My brother and I watched WEDLOCK (or, DEADLOCK as it was known then) all the time when it premiered on HBO in '91. I believe it may have gone direct-to-HBO here in the States, as I recall it being promoted as a big HBO premiere. The opening scene which has Hauer being deceived by his partners James Remar and Joan Chen is VERY reminiscent of Lee Marvin being left for dead in POINT BLANK by John Vernon and Sharon Acker.

As for FEAR CITY, I, too, finally saw this via the new Blu-ray and, much as I adore "dirty old New York" movies, I was left disappointed in this, very much Ferrara-lite, film. It feels like Ferrara was neutered by the money people / studio and, perhaps, some of the "name cast." Wherever this film treads--police work, mob operations, sex workers and their business--none of it is very convincing. The authentic, from the gut and seemingly unforced, organic scuzziness of Ferrara's best work is missing here, here it's trumped up and sensationalized in a way that rings false.