Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 (Part 1) ""

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 (Part 1)

I think I've been pretty vocal about this being my favorite series that I run here. Going into my third year with it, my excitement for these lists has not waned in the least. In fact, with the introduction of Letterboxd to the process, my favorites have gotten considerably easier to keep track of. It also serves the great purpose of helping me remember all of the amazing films I have yet to discover as they reveal themselves via my contributors' lists. As I've often said, one of the things I truly adore most about being a lover of cinema, is that it is a nearly infinite source of greatness. In no single person's lifetime can they possibly see everything worthwhile. That is both tragic and glorious at the same time.
Please note - my group of favorites got to be so long by year's end(watched about 475 films this year), that I've decided to split my list into two entries(plus I may to an 'Honorable Mention' list as well). Watch for those other posts in weeks to come.

Should you care to look back, here are my 2010:
and 2011 lists:

ABANDON SHIP(1957; Richard Sale)
Like THE LAST VOYAGE, another great sinking-ship film, this one jumps right into things. In this case, we find survivors of a recently sunken ship trying to find each other and their bearings among the floating wreckage (and bodies) the ocean liner has left behind. Eventually we settle in with a group on a remaining lifeboat and the tension begins. Tyrone Power is thrust into a commanding position early and has to make some tough decisions regarding how to deal with the overcrowded lifeboat and other drama. I've heard this film called "LIFEBOAT with balls" and that is a very apt description. For a film from 1957, it's pretty darned intense and really maintains that throughout. No DVD as of yet.

AUTHOR!AUTHOR!(1982; Arthur Hiller)
Despite Tuesday Weld's character being so reprehensible she almost put me off the whole movie, I have to admit that the entire thing really engaged way more than I expected. Kids are great, especially the criminally underrated Eric Gurry. 

BANNING(1967; Ron Winston)
Imagine if CADDYSHACK was a hard boiled soap opera. This movie is a little like that. One of the few entries I can think of in the 'Golf Noir' subgenre. 
Sadly this film only ever made it to VHS and is not looking at any sort of dvd release that I'm aware of. It can be found on Youtube in parts - Here, but unfortunately not in it's original Techniscope(2.35 : 1) aspect ratio. Hopefully Universal will dig this one out of their vaults and at least put out an MOD for us at some point.

THE BIG COUNTRY(1958; William Wyler)
When in doubt, always put your money on William Wyler. Another example of "why on EARTH hadn't I seen this?!". I might have been intimidated by the length? I have no idea, regardless it is a fantastic film and my 2nd favorite(see BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE below for #1) discovery of 2012. This epic story of one man getting in between two feuding families is so engaging and emotionally satisfying, it truly reminds you how great a movie can be. Can't recommend highly enough. Watch it on Blu-ray!

BLESSED EVENT(1932; Roy Del Ruth)
2013 will be the year I finally dig deep into Lee Tracy's filmography. He's gangbusters in this movie and makes a great impression. The film itself is a nice cocktail shaker full of HIS GIRL FRIDAY and SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS. Dick Powell is also good here as a goony crooner. Bonus: Allen Jenkins! A Warner Archive Staff favorite. Buy it Here.

BLUEBEARD'S EIGHTH WIFE(1938; Ernst Lubitsch)
A Lubitsch film written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder?! How I had missed this one is beyond me but it did not disappoint. My favorite discovery of 2012 bar none. Just as wonderful as you'd hope it would be. Claudette Colbert & Gary Cooper are just outstanding. Add to that David Niven and Edward Everett Horton! Such a delight!

2012 was really the year of Warren William for me. Saw a bunch of his films(many will show up in part 2 of my list). Great actor that has this charismatic quality of a Barrymore of some kind. Here he returns as Perry Mason in what may be my favorite entry in the series(Warner Archive put out a nice set). Allen Jenkins in a recurring role as 'Spudsy' gives the film a boost as does having the great Michael Curtiz as its director.
Part of the Perry Mason Mysteries Collection from Warner Archive.

My favorite of the Chan films that I've seen(a half dozen or so). This feels like a cross between Agatha Christie and Universal Horror. Also feels like something that John Carpenter might possibly have looked at before making THE THING. Great atmosphere on a low budget. Found it online - Here.

GOING HOME(1972; Herbert B. Leonard)
Robert Mitchum is probably my favorite actor of all time. He had a long and varied career and it's always outstanding to find another gem from him. This particular film was very difficult to see until just this year when it aired on TCM and soon after, hit dvd via our friends over at Warner Archive. It's not the easiest watch as it deals with an estranged son(Jan-Michael Vincent) reuniting with his father(Mitchum) after he's spent 15 years in jail (he killed his mother when he was very young). Tough stuff, but compelling. This one stuck with me for days after. 
(You can buy it at Warner Archive - Here)

 GOOD-BYE, MY LADY(1956; William A. Wellman)
Touching story of a boy and his dog. Brandon de Wilde is excellent as are Walter Brennan, Sidney Poitier and Phil Harris(most known for his Disney voice-acting). I owe the guys at the Warner Archive podcast for turning me onto this one.   
(Warner Archive - Here)

HELLO, SISTER(1933; Erich von Stroheim, Raoul Walsh..)
Sometimes the best stories are the simple ones. This is in league with films like SAILOR'S LUCK(one of my favorites from last year). Has a checkered history and was apparently chopped up pretty good, but what remains is nonetheless memorable for me.

I LIKE KILLING FLIES(2004; Matt Mahurin)
One of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time. Strangely philosophical. On Netflix.

I WALK THE LINE(1970; John Frankenheimer)
Easily one of my favorite Gregory Peck performances. Underseen effort from Frakenheimer with a soundtrack full of Johnny Cash songs.

 IT HAPPENED ON 5th AVENUE(1947; Roy Del Ruth) 
Discovered this film via Alonso Duralde's podcast Linoleum Knife(which I love) and his superb book - Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas. An absolutely wonderful film. Should be a better-known Holiday classic. Interesting companion piece to SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and MY MAN GODFREY as well.

 THE LAST OF SHEILA(1973; Herbert Ross)
Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim penned this fantastic whodunnit with a ridiculous cast. Another highlight from a great year of film discoveries.

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN(1973; Stuart Rosenberg)
Solid 70s procedural/mystery. Impeccable cast. Was reminded I needed to watch it because of Eric J. Lawrence's discoveries list from last year:

THE LOVE GOD?(1969; Nat Hiken)
Probably Knotts' best. Feels like a Tashlin film. It's THE MACK meets NETWORK(or A FACE IN THE CROWD), but a comedy. With Don Knotts. The bird calling bits are priceless.

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON(1957; Billy Wilder)
Being a longtime Wilder fan, it's quite shameful it took me so long to see this. I had heard Cameron Crowe speak highly of it in the past too. It certainly has that awe-inspiring feel of a Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond collaboration. 

LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY(1991; Josh Becker)
Dark and quirky romance from director Josh Becker(THOU SHALT NOT KILL EXCEPT..)starring Ted Raimi and the lovely Deborah Foreman. A cult favorite, but one that would reach a larger cult if it were available on dvd.

MILLION DOLLAR LEGS(1932; Edward F. Cline)
Inspired lunacy from W.C. Fields and the director of THE BANK DICK. Something along the lines of DUCK SOUP meets HELLZAPOPPIN. Recently arrived on dvd via this Universal Rarities of the 1930s set:

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE(1986; Gil Bettman)
Quite an experience this movie. Whole lotta WTF and other goodness. Had only seen half of it previously and was lucky enough to see a very rare 35mm print of it with a crowd at a Heavy Hitter Midnite's show which was a total blast. The absolutely ideal way to see it.

THE ONE AND ONLY(1978; Carl Reiner)
A wonderful surprise. Henry Winkler is so committed, and Kim Darby so charming, this movie just won me over.

PERFECT(1985; James Bridges)
Thought I'd seen this all the way through, but in watching it realized I may not have. I rather enjoyed the heck out of it, but then I am inclined to do so. After all it is the intersection of HALLOWEEN, BLOW OUT and aerobicise-sploitation. All things I enjoy. 

REMEMBER LAST NIGHT?(1935; James Whale)
Enjoyable, breezy murder-mystery-comedy from the director of FRANKENSTEIN & BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Kim Morgan's list from last year had this on it: 

SATAN MET A LADY(1936; William Dieterle)
Interesting screwball comedy take on THE MALTESE FALCON. Not recommended for all, but Warren William fans will enjoy.  

THE SCARLET CLAW(1944; Roy William Neil)
This was my first Rathbone/Bruce HOLMES film. Always meant to get to these. Has me quite inspired to see more of them. Feels right at home amongst the Classic Universal Horror output and deserves more recognition.

SCREAM FOR HELP(1984; Michael Winner)
Another winner from Winner. This one is pretty nuts. Would never be made today. Often cheesy, yet exciting and suspenseful. VHS only at the moment, but I'm hoping for a Warner Archive release on dvd soon. They currently control the Lorimar catalog.

STRAWBERRY BLONDE(1941; Raoul Walsh)
Sublime comedy romance from the writer's of CASABLANCA. Another Walsh Classic. Cagney. De Havilland. Hayworth. Do it.
(also available from Warner Archive - Here)

I typically have a little trouble with lat 60s era counterculture films, but this one has a Bruce Davison, Kim Darby, Bud Cort and Bob Balaban AND an outstanding soundtrack. It's the soundtrack that kept this film out of circulation for a long time. Thankfully Warner Archive finally made it available on dvd. This film topped Justin Bozung's discoveries list last year, which certainly influenced my wanting to see it.

TARZAN AND HIS MATE(1934; Cedric Gibbons)
Boy, Maureen O'Sullivan just cannot stay out of peril in this one, but Weismuller is there in a jiffy every time. Excellent 30s adventure film. Interesting to think that the first TARZAN film had been a cultural phenomenon on the scale of LORD OF THE RINGS or THE MATRIX at the time it was made. This film delivers on the promise of the first and then some making it one of those sequels that trumps it's predecessor. The film was way more intense and violent that I had expected, especially the ending(which is spectacular). I said "Holy Shit!" aloud to myself several times.

Walsh's comedy SAILOR'S LUCK ranked very high among my discoveries of last year. He's a great director I must admit I have underrated. His epic tale of the life of General Custer(played with much aplomb by Errol Flynn) truly lives up to the cult film status I had read about years ago. Ranks among my favorite Errol Flynn performances(nearly toppling Robin Hood). Olivia De Havilland is at her always excellent here too.

I think I remember first reading about this one in Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic(my favorite book of all-time). I'd even tivo'd it a few years back, but the ending got cut off so I couldn't watch it. Seeing it on Zack Carlson's discoveries list from last year set me on a quest to finally see it though. Just a wonderful, thought provoking piece of cinema. Seek it out.

ULZANA'S RAID(1972; Robert Aldrich)
Aldrich is certainly a man's man kind of director. You've got great macho stuff like EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, VERA CRUZ, THE LONGEST YARD and of course THE DIRTY DOZEN. He certainly has more range than that though(see AUTUMN LEAVES, THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE or THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE for example). He's a director whose filmography I very much enjoy. For that reason alone I should have been all over this. Lancaster kills it in this one and Bruce Davison is no slouch. Loved the ending. Ranks as probalby my 3rd favorite discovery of 2012 and among the Aldrich films that i like the most. 

UNION DEPOT(1932; Alfred E. Green) 
This one was an outstanding recommendation from my friend Cliff Aliperti. One of the earliest "intertwined lives" movies I know. Takes place at during one night at a metropolitan train station.
(Warner Archive - Here) 

VIVACIOUS LADY(1938; George Stevens)
Another director one can rely on is George Stevens. I expect to find a few more unheralded classics like this in his fimlography before I've finished exploring it. An assistant biology professor(Jimmy Stewart) falls for a big city night club singer(Ginger Rogers), but when he attempts to introduce her to his conservative father things go awry. Ginger does her best to make a good impression, but fails quite comically. Charming screwball comedy(and another of my top favorites from 2012). Needs a dvd!!
(But is viewable on Youtube - Here

WAGON MASTER(1950; John Ford)    
 I recall taking note when I saw this film listed among DVD Savant's Favorites of 2009, but didn't get around to watching it until late this year. Shot right to the top of the pile for me as far as John Ford films go. Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., & Ward Bond really shine. Interesting companion piece to STAGECOACH.

YOU'RE NEVER TOO YOUNG(1955; Norman Taurog)
One of my favorite Martin & Lewis films. A nice double with Wilder's THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR. 


Ivan said...

Wow! That's a list! (And thanks for including "The Love God?", one of my faves--gotta love James Gregory's right-wing ACLU lawyer!)

Will Errickson said...

THE LAST OF SHEILA is one of my fave movie discoveries of the last few years! Pure entertainment... and Raquel Welch is scorching hot in it too.

Hal said...

Such great stuff. I still have THE LOVE GOD? on VHS and keep meaning to revisit it. Nat Hiken may be my favorite writer of all time. At least my favorite TV writer, hands down (BILKO, CAR 54).

If there's another Dogathon, GOODBYE MY LADY will likely be my choice to write about.

BANNING sounds like one I really need to see!

Finally, MILLION DOLLAR LEGS' arrival on DVD is great news. The same year that DIPLOMANIACS finally made it, too.

Ned Merrill said...

Nice to see a lot of love for Warren William, Lee Tracy, Raoul Walsh, James Whale, amongst others. Got to see most of the rare Whale, William, and Tracy pictures a couple years back in revival form...from Whale, look for: BY CANDLELIGHT, THE KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR, and ONE MORE RIVER.


There's a glorious new print of William's THE MATCH KING, which should come your way, if it hasn't already.

I'm also a fan of I WALK THE LINE and I just caught up with another Peck film from the era: THE STALKING MOON.

BIG COUNTRY shows up on a television in JACK REACHER.

Rupert Pupkin said...

IVAN- THE LOVE GOD? is really the perfect Knotts film.

WILL-yeah LAST OF SHEILA was one I saw earlier in the year but it was so god it stuck with me all year.

HAL-I need to look into more Nat Hiken. Glad you were a GOODBYE MY LADY fan as well. So wonderful.

And you do need to see BANNING, check it out on YouTube!

Neddy-I am adding all your recs to my Letterboxd watchlist, thanks! I know you were the 1st to mention Lee Tracy to me, glad to finally be digging into his stuff. Good dude. MATCH KING is on my list and I have a DVD of THE STALKING MOON on my shelf for years now. Putting it on my stack of to watch fodder presently.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

The Big Country is great. Regarding the fight scene with Peck and Heston, I wish current Hollywood would watch this and make more fight scenes like it. Just two men beating the crap out of each other and you can see what is going on. I walked in on a scene with Dana Andrews and Robert Ryan doing the same thing (don't know what movie it was) and I was surprised at how brutal it felt. Much more than the quick-edit can't-see-what's-going-on style that they use now.

I hate that so many aren't available on Netflix as that's really my only source for old movies. I do get some through interlibrary-loan and that works well for VHS sometimes.

I love that you have so many classics when most of your guest posts seem to focus on 60s-80s b-movies.

I used a spreadsheet this year to keep track, is there an advantage to letterboxd?

Look for my list today or tomorrow.

Martijn said...

Just a quick question. Does The Scarlet Claw play in the swamp? Cause it looks like a film I'm searching for a long time. I saw it when I was young and I only remember some sort of claw, the swamp setting (swamp gasses?) and that it was very exciting!

Shiftless said...

One year, I'll have to make a list of great films I've heard about just from you. This year it would definitely have included Abandoned Ship! and Scream for Help. I love Lifeboat, but Abandoned Ship! was much more gripping, dark and real. Scream for Help was indeed nuts and a one of a kind hybrid of the coming-of-age and thriller genres that was so inappropriately sleazy, I laughed out loud on several occasions. So glad you liked The Last of Sheila and The Laughing Policeman which were seminole films for me growing up that I was lucky enough to see upon their release. So many other good films that I haven't seen on the list and it's only part 1! Thanks for spreading the word on everyone's discoveries, but especially yours which are top quality as always!

Rupert Pupkin said...

Robert-the spreadsheet is a good idea for keeping track for sure, I guess I just like the look and layout of letterboxd. It's easy to share with people and see what others are watching, which turned me onto several new films.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Martin, there is some swampy stuff in SCARLET CLAW, not relating to swamp gasses though I don't think. Worth a look even If its not the film you seek.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Shifty- thanks very much, glad I can turn you into a few films as you've done for me! Hope you like parts 2 and 3 as well!

SteveQ said...

A Thousand Clowns was always one of my favorites (I'm a big Robards fan. Ballad of Cable Hogue is his best), but rewatching it recently, I was a bit disappointed. My tastes have changed over 30 years.

Thomas Duke said...

Tons of great stuff. Bluebeard is hilarious, and Scream For Help made my list. I'll look for Abandon Ship the next time it plays on TCM (if it does), and I'll have to check out Author! Author!

Robert M. Lindsey said...

OK, now I'm in letterboxd, it took awhile to get an invite. I'm following you now. Username is RetroHound.

Stephen Langlois said...

Wait, are you saying Caddyshack isn't a hard boiled soap opera? Maybe I misunderstood the point of the movie. Joking aside, great list. I definitely need to check some of these out, including Banning. On a side note, I used to own the Perfect soundtrack on vinyl, which includes the immortal Lou Reed classic "Hot Hips." Reed really plumbed the depths of his soul on that one.