Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 30 Movies in(less than) 30 Days: My Adventures with Warner Archive Instant Beta ""

Friday, March 1, 2013

30 Movies in(less than) 30 Days: My Adventures with Warner Archive Instant Beta

OK, technically I had less than 30 days to accomplish my task, but I was quite committed to get a proper sampling of what this new(and highly anticipated by me) streaming service might have in store. In my long running "Netflix Instant Gems" column I tried to target some more obscure catalog titles that used to crop up with more frequency on the site. The older films have declined there a bit now and so this WAC Instant service couldn't come at a better time. I cannot wait to see how this service does and hopefully the great many catalog/obscurities it has to offer in it's officially launched incarnation.
During beta trials, the WAC Instant site only ran through Roku(or online). One great thing about the service is that it offers many rarer titles and many in HD(1080p via the Roku). 
In terms of layout, the site in its beta form has many genres to choose from(Comedy, Drama, Film Noir, Mondo Cult..):
Films can also be broken down by decade:

They also have several groovy "showcase" sections(Guilty Pleasures, Forbidden Hollywood..):
 All these things made choosing films all the more tricky as there is just so much I wanted to watch. Somehow, I narrowed it down to the 30 films I wanted to try to watch before my trial with the site expired(some were repeats, some I was seeing for the 1st time). Here's what I was able to get to(in order):

1. BROTHER ORCHID(1940; Lloyd Bacon)
Has a Capra-esque feeling that I found quite affecting. Great cast too.  (watched in HD)

2. FREAKS(1932; Tod Browning)
A true classic that deserves as much or more notoriety than any Universal Horror film. (HD)

3. MIDNIGHT MARY(1933; William A. Wellman)
I love that Loretta Young is reading an issue of Cosmo during her trial at the beginning of this film. (HD)

4. THE BLACK SCORPION(1957; Edward Ludwig)
Perfectly enjoyable 50s Monster movie with some great Willis O'Brien special effects. Had been meaning to see it since Joe Dante covered it over at Trailers From Hell:

5. NORMAN...IS THAT YOU?(1976; George Schlatter)
Redd Foxx is great, but Dennis Dugan kinda steals this. Feels like a 'very special episode' of Sanford & Son.

6. RUN OF THE ARROW(1957; Samuel Fuller)
A Sam Fuller film I could've sworn I'd seen before, but I hadn't. Just had a tape of it off TCM that I'd never watched. Good to finally check it out.

7. GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE(1942; William Keighley)
Jack Benny stars in a precursor to THE MONEY PIT.

8. THE BIG CUBE(1969; Tito Davison)
"Does it swing?"
60stastic camp festival. Complete with psychedelic tunes, dopey dancing, wild clothes and drug trips. And Lana Turner? A nice double with BLUE SUNSHINE perhaps? 

9. 36 HOURS(1965; George Seaton)
Had no idea this was based on Roald Dahl.very clever WWII thriller. Could have been an influence on THE TRUMAN SHOW.

10. A FAN'S NOTES(1972; Eric Till) 
Very much rooted in the period in which it was made. Has a few interesting absurdist moments. I wish Jerry Orbach had been given a bunch more leading roles like this in the 1970s. Always liked him a lot.

11. BORN RECKLESS(1958; Howard W. Koch)
Mamie Van Doren doing her take on an Elvis movie. Gotta love the tagline:"She's every big-time rodeo prize rolled into one...pair of tight pants!".

12. IN THIS OUR LIFE(1942; John Huston)
As I expected, a melodrama helmed by John Huston is everything I hoped for. Great build. Bette Davis does her thing and she does it infuriatingly well. (HD)

13. BLACK LEGION(1937; Archie Mayo)
Yikes, Bogart in a Klan film. Disturbing cautionary tale. Michael Curtiz did some uncredited directing. (HD) 

14. MOON ZERO TWO(1970; Roy Ward Baker)
DANGER DIABOLIK on the moon?
Hopefully you're hooked by the animated credit sequence complete with a groovy(& catchy) theme song but if not, the moon base and costumes have a wonderfully futuristic by-way-of-the-1960s feel. I personally love that aesthetic. I also loved all the cheesy sci-fi lingo they came up with.
"..and don't take anything less than 12,000 moon dollars for it."
"...they won't touch you with a radar beam.."
Additionally, it's kind of a "Moon Western" which is very interesting. And star James Olson looks a bit like a young James Rebhorn and sounds a bit like Adam West. Cool Combo. 

15. LADY KILLER(1933; Roy Del Ruth)
Fast-talking Cagney is never not fun. 

16. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR(1975; Robert Clouse)
From the director of ENTER THE DRAGON, BLACK BELT JONES and one of my personal favorites, DEADLY EYES, comes this post-apocalyptic film that feels like its taking place in the same universe as THE OMEGA MAN, but maybe 5 years prior.(HD)

17. THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS(1947; Robert Florey)
Decent atmosphere, but it could have done with more Peter Lorre(as could all films in the known universe).

18. MARKED WOMAN(1937; Lloyd Bacon)
Young Bette Davis is quite lovely. Always pleases me to see Allen Jenkins pop up in anything.

19. DIE LAUGHING(1980; Jeff Werner)
Robby Benson in 2nd tier Hitchcock meets screwball territory. Linda Grovenor is pretty adorable here(even with her Kristy McNichol "LITTLE DARLINGS hair") and I wish she'd made a lot more films. This had some dopey moments, but overall it charmed me. Can't believe I'd never seen it before. Supporting cast includes Charles Durning, Bud Cort, Peter Coyote, Charles Fleischer & Elsa Lanchester.

20. DOCTOR X(1932; Michael Curtiz)
Lee Tracy & Fay Wray give this one a boost, as do the last 10 mins.

21. PLANET EARTH(1974; Marc Daniels) 
Sequel to GENESIS II. You can feel the mind of Rodenberry at work here. Star Trek meets Planet of the Apes(with women the dominant leaders instead of apes). John Saxon is fun as the Captain Kirk type and Ted Cassidy's blonde Apache Chief wig is pretty spectacular.

22. THE DOBERMAN GANG(1972; Byron Chudnow)
Silly dog training/heist movie. No one will be seated during the thrilling 'pickup from the airport' scene. Seriously though, there was a run of films with dobermans in them made in the 70s and they all fascinate me. Must have to do with seeing the "Lads" on Magnum P.I. at an early age.

23. IT'S A GREAT FEELING(1949; David Butler)
Jack Carson is a pretty good sport in this one(playing himself & playing up his hammy persona). The cameos are all pretty great. Sydney Greenstreet's made me laugh the most though. (HD)

24. PRIVATE PARTS(1972; Paul Bartel)
Weird, sleazy, atmospheric 'horror hotel' story from Paul Bartel(who I am a big fan of)with more than a little bit of PSCYHO in it. Deserving of cult status. The lead girl(Ayn Ruymen) reminds me a little of a cross between Jessica Harper and Karen Allen, maybe a bit of Christina Ricci. Cute anyway, and I'd love to have seen her in more prominent film roles(she did a lot of TV work in the 70s). (HD)

25. TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY(1943; Wilhelm Thiele)
I wonder of Spielberg watched this before making TEMPLE OF DOOM. Peter Jackson too actually. The ending has some Skull Island moments.

26.  THE DEVIL-DOLL(1936; Tod Browning)
Part Twilight Zone predecessor, part "I'll-never-forgive-my-estranged-father drama". Barrymore spends a lot of this film dressed as an old woman, reminding me very much geriatric of Mrs. Doubtfire. Also, Lewis Teague must have watched this in pre-production on CAT'S EYE.

27. THE MAYOR OF HELL(1933; Archie Mayo)
Interesting companion piece to the superior WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD(also on WAC Instant) or perhaps BAD BOYS(1983). Cagney doesn't show up until 25 mins in.

28. STORM WARNING(1951; Stuart Heisler)
Liked this much better than THE BLACK LEGION. Very intense, well made thriller. Pretty terrifying.

29. IT!(1967; Herbert J. Leder)
A Roddy McDowall movie from the writer of FIEND WITHOUT A FACE? Say no more.

30. TARZAN TRIUMPHS(1943; William Thiele)
"Now, Tarzan make War!"
Tarzan vs Nazis and some of these Nazis speak with the cadence of Beldar Conehead.

31. FREEBIE & THE BEAN(1974; Richard Rush)(Bonus Rewatch) 
My third viewing I think. Amazing film. Beyond ahead of it's time. One of the great politically incorrect, screwball buddy cop films of all-time. Inspired lunacy. Glorious.


Ed South said...

My question, and I tried to look it up but didn't see's the selection of Hanna-Barbera material? The VOD service has plenty of titles to choose from, but I didn't really see any HB in my limited poking around their site.

Rupert Pupkin said...

There wasn't much if anything as far as HB stuff goes. Hopefully when the site actually launches they'll rotate in some of that stuff.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

A bunch of really great movies!

I've been wanting to see Die Laughing again ever since I watched it as a kid.

Brother Orchid and Freebie and the Bean are ones I've been wanting to see for a long time.

Dr. Freex said...

You certainly made the most of the beta! I'm really looking forward to seeing what the expanded lineup on the service launch will hold.

Danny said...

I enjoyed what I used of the service, and am looking forward to seeing what they add next. I wish their default player settings was a bit bigger though.