Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Peter A. Martin ""

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Peter A. Martin

Peter is currently the managing editor of Twitch Film. He began contributing to the site in 2005 and has never stopped, save for occasional periods when he has been "away." He is also a contributing writer for and other fine print and online publications. He is a member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society.

BURNT OFFERINGS (1976; d. Dan Curtis)
The shimmering natural world encases an old gothic mansion in sunlight and menace, though summer renters Oliver Reed and Karen Black are (initially) blind to it. Reed modulates his performance with great care, giving ballast to a tale that might otherwise float into the ether. With the awesome Bette Davis in support.

CRACK IN THE WORLD (1965; d. Andrew Marton)
As a prototypically arrogant and ambitious scientist -- who’s dying! -- Dana Andrews powers this edgy slice of mid-60s disaster porn. Despite a moralistic resolution, the amplified drama remains compelling, and I’m a sucker for earth-shaking movies with plenty of lava.

THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977; d. Richard Loncraine)
The traumatized Mia Farrow attempts to make a new start in life after the death of her daughter, but her soon-to-be-ex husband lingers around uncomfortably, and then there are those unexplained things that go bump in the night. Farrow is appropriately tense, and the film’s rhythm is deliciously off-beat.

KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952; d. Phil Karlson)
A clever bank heist is pinned on ex-con John Payne, who then sets out to find the men responsible. The highly-charged drama is filled with surprises and performed capably by a cast with no interest in star turns; it’s all character actors at the top of their form, served up by a director who knows what he’s doing.

THE MAFU CAGE (1978; d. Karen Arthur)
Older sister Ellen (Lee Grant) keeps a watchful eye on her younger sister Cissy (Carol Kane). Cissy doesn't seem quite "normal," while Ellen is plagued by conflicting, stomach-twisting emotions of guilt and resentment. The simmering tension slowly heats up throughout the course of the movie, especially when Ellen's co-worker David (James Olson) enters the picture as a romantic interest, eventually building to a conclusion that, in retrospect, may have been inevitable, but is no less disturbing.

THE OYSTER PRINCESS (1919; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
I was happy to see this silent classic at SXSW this year, where Austin group Bee Vs. Moth debuted their awesome original musical score and provided terrific, live accompaniment. The film is a very funny, visually inventive story about a very picky heiress, her potential suitor(s), and her very bored father, a wealthy business tycoon.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987; d. John Carpenter)
Lively, inventive, and, yes, a bit silly on the face of it, this “demon in a church” piece belies its premise to become unaccountably creepy and altogether entertaining, led by the ever-reliable Donald Pleasance and a very game cast.

RED PLANET MARS (1952; d. Harry Horner)
Commie-bashing movies were rarely as straightforward and on the nose as this entry starring Peter Graves as a scientist who passes along word from Mars that the Earth can be saved, if only everyone would worship God and, you know, be nice to each other. On the one hand, it’s a very bad movie. On the other hand: it’s so badly manipulative that it inspires admiration.

SCARLET STREET (1945; d. Fritz Lang)
Outstandingly directed by Fritz Lang, based on a fine script by Dudley Nichols, and featuring superb cinematography by Milton Krasner, this romantic triangle is boosted by Edward G. Robinson’s portrayal of a lonely man who is understandably entranced by Joan Bennett and conned by Dan Duryea. Tough, but heartbreaking, love story with noir overtones.

SCORPIO (1973; d. Michael Winner)
Spy games during the Cold War are enlivened by the presence of Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, and Paul Scofield, whose performances are pleasantly outsized compared to the somewhat routine drama. An amazing action sequence, mostly on foot, about halfway through kicks things up a notch, and director Winner keeps all the plates spinning.

THE STEEL TRAP (1952; d. Andrew Stone)
An unheralded gem of a movie, written and directed by Andrew Stone, that intricately details a “perfect crime” committed by bank officer Joseph Cotten, who then has a change of heart because of his beloved (and entirely moral) wife Teresa Wright, and must then undo his crime and somehow escape detection, all as the clock ticks down without mercy.

THINNER (1996; d. Tom Holland)
Furiously direct and marvelously focused, Stephen King’s morality fable is brought to the screen by the great Tom Holland, who nimbly and relentlessly drives the narrative to its logical conclusion, thanks in great part to the maniacal lead performance by Robert John Burke, who is unlikable yet charming. Losing weight has never been this deadly.

WAKE IN FRIGHT (1971; d. Ted Kotcheff)
A stranger is stranded in a rural mining town, where his more refined sensibilities are gradually sawn asunder by the roughhouse antics of the community. This is a psychological drama that exerts pressure that is extremely subtle, beneath the more boisterous actions of some very outgoing, outlandish characters. With Donald Pleasance and Jack Thompson in key supporting roles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more on RED PLANET MARS. The film is so insanely over the top as anti-commie propaganda that the fact that it is also a Sci-fi film is totally secondary. Worthwhile for fans of offbeat Sci-fi as well as admirers of 50s paranoia.