Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Ghetto Tim ""

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - Ghetto Tim

I've run in circles with Ghetto Tim for several years. First recall hearing his excellent emails to the Gentlemen's Guide to Cinema and could tell right off he was a kindred spirit. I was reminded of his very outstanding taste in cinema during this very recent Film Discoveries episode of the Silva and Gold podcast(http://silvaandgold.com/archives/493). Had to get him into the series.
You can read him here:
http://cinemasatori.wordpress.com/

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Tim’s first watches of 2012


1. Wiseblood –Dir. John Huston (1979).
You can’t go wrong with John Huston. Like cold beer in August.
This one was sitting on my shelf for quite some time, waiting for the right Sunday afternoon. I thought I had hit all the high points in Huston’s cannon of films, but once again, the old maverick proved me well wrong.
Based on a novel by Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor, Wiseblood tells the tale of a young war vet wickedly played by Brad Dourif, who decides to become a flim flam man in the guise of a young preacher. While many just know Dourif for his later role as the voice of Chucky, and scattered cult films, he proves in this film that he is a criminally under rated actor. He lays it down in Wiseblood just as well as he did playing Billy Bibbit in, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’. The film is also packed with some of the best character actors of the seventies including Harry Dean Stanton, Ned Beatty, William Hickey, and John Huston himself playing the wise old Grandfather. Wiseblood reminds me in many regards of the documentary, ‘Marjoe’, about real life boy preacher Marjoe Gortner. If you’re into checking out a tongue in cheek yarn about a ‘Pastor of Muppets’, and his immaculate deception, definitely check this out.


2. Aloha Bobby and Rose –Dir Floyd Mutrux (1975)
Aloha Bobby and Rose is a film that’s hard to find, today, but one that should be readily available. It’s a total black lit time capsule of mid 70’s California, and muscle car cruise culture. This was the time of American steel, cheap weed and thunderbird, and the appropriate soundtrack blasting out of a two channel 8 track stereo.
Paul Lemat almost returns to his role as John Milner, king of the road from American Grafitti. This time, he plays Bobby, a hard charger, cruising the streets of LA at night in his stocked 68 Camero. Soon he meets single mom Rose, and before it even begins, you know that it’s doomed to failure. Regardless of outcome, you still follow the two young lovers through their night time neon Rome, as they become accidental fugitives, and try to stay one step ahead of the law. Sure, today the film is dated as hell, but that’s the biggest part of its charm. Where a film like, ‘Dazed And Confused’ tried to recreate the vibe of the era and did so quite well, ‘Aloha Bobby and Rose’ is truly a product of its time, and a totally cool film worth searching out. I feel old as a dinosaur fart, but I vividly remember seeing the T.v. spots of the film when it was released in 1975, and it ran as a, ‘movie of the week’, on a regular basis in the late 70’s.


3. The Comic - Dir. Carl Reiner (1969)
This is an absolute must see for anyone with a solid love and appreciation of the greats of the silent era, that being, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd. Carl Reiner had already worked with lead actor Dick Van Dyke on television with, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, but with, ‘The Comic’, Reiner presents something that goes beyond the realm of mere comedy. While Reiner was known primarily for his comedic work with partner Mel Brooks, he proved that he was just as adept at capturing the dramatic. Dick Van Dyke plays Billy Bright as a silent clown of stage and screen who is an amalgamation of Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd. The film begins at the end of his existence, and shows a man who built a career on laughter only to live a life of misery. Everyone sees the clown when he’s happy, and laughs, but no one sees him when he cries. The film is bitter sweet, and depressing at times, but it wipes away the greasepaint and shows the reality of a man unable to shake the ghosts of his past, and hides behind his happy exterior. While I remember Dick Van Dike mainly for his role in, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, this is without a doubt his best performance bar none.



4. Freaks In Love –Dir Skizz Cyzyk, David Koslowski (2011)
I’m always a sucker for music documentaries, and it’s an added plus when it’s dealing with music you really love. Alice Donut is New York based band that’s been around for over 25 years playing their own brand of distorted pop punk that’s more infectious than a box of dirty needles. The documentary shows the origins of Alice Donut, originally named Alice Donut Liver Henry Moore (A piss take on the Scorsese film), and their various incarnations with band members. What you take away most from the documentary is the feeling of joy and family as a group of six friends travel and play together across the globe, while gaining marginal success. Alice Donut never persevered with the goal of label success, but gained notoriety and respect on their own terms, and through their skewed sensibility towards their art. The fact that they are still recording and performing today is both a true testament to their friendship, and most importantly their amazing music. For those who enjoy their music with a slice of weird, I highly encourage you to seek out the recordings of Alice Donut, and the documentary.


5. Born For Hell/Naked Massacre –Dir Denis Heroux (1976)
Everybody’s got a bone to pick with one genre or another. In terms of the, ‘true crime’ genre, it seems to me that there’s more than enough shitty ‘crime cash ins’ passed off as pseudo intellectual bio-pics.
Once in awhile, the rare occasion arises when a film actually manages to get it right, such as Angst, and Badlands, and Born For Hell is no exception. The film is basically a nod to the Richard Speck, an American longshoreman who raped and stabbed to death eight student nurses in Chicago in the summer of 1966. What is interesting about, ‘Born For Hell’, is that it is based in Northern Ireland, as opposed to Chicago. Mathieu Carriere plays Cain Adamson, a Vietnam vet on his way back to America. While waiting for a ship to take him home, Cain stumbles into a pub, and soon hears of a nearby home for student nurses. The film is a slow burn but soon turns up the heat, and twists the tension like a barbed wire garrote. Although Born For Hell doesn’t explicitly show the outcomes of the crimes such as something like, ‘Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer’, or ‘Peeping Tom’ it still packs a disturbing punch in its sleazy presentation. The film has an international flair as director Heroux is French Canadian, and the majority of the women playing the nurses were made up of French and Italian exploitation actresses, who were dubbed over into English. At times the film almost feels like an Italian Giallo, only shot in Ireland. Unfortunately the DVD cover art, and the alternate title, ‘Naked Massacre’ both stand to present the film, as nothing more than a hackneyed slasher, but such is not the case. ‘Born For Hell’ falls into the same category as Last House On The Left, in the sense that it is a mean spirited film that should be seen, but is something that’s not going to be appreciated by all.


6. The Travelling Executioner –Dir. Jack Smight (1970)
Stacey Keach plays Jonas Candide, a man with a peculiar profession. In a wagon drawn coach Keach travels from town to town in turn of century America doing his best to ensure that condemned criminals meet their maker.
The character of Jonas Candide is a complete paradox, as Keach plays him as a likeable, electrician of death’. He calms and lulls those destined to die, promising an afterlife of ‘fields of ambrosia’, before he pulls the switch, cooking them from the inside out like a ballpark frank. Keach wears the role like a well pressed suit, and skillfully plays the role of an executioner with a heart of gold, who delivers the 10,000 volt kiss of death. Not only is it his duty to see that people die, he also sees that they die with dignity. Despite having no qualms about his responsibility, Candide meets his match when he’s faced with the job of executing the pretty young Gundred Herzallerliebst, who uses her ‘feminine charms’ to keep her imminent demise at bay. Stellar character actor Bud Cort also rounds out the cast as a young and inexperienced undertaker, who develops a skewed friendship with Keach. While the film comes across as a dark comedy, and often has a feel of something written by Twain, it is also a subtle statement on death, and the death penalty. Director Smight was mainly known for his features of the 60’s and 70’s including, The Illustrated man a year prior, and Midway, Airport 1975, and Midway. It’s a crime in itself that Keach wasn’t given more lead roles, as films like, Fat City, and Ninth Configuration were a testament to his skill as one of most solid actors in American film in the 70’s and 80’s


7. The Most Dangerous Game Dir. Ernest B. Schoedsack(1932)
A year before she would gain immortal fame with her role as, ‘Ann Darrow’, in King Kong Fay Wray starred in, this underrated gem that has been generally eclipsed by the shadow of the giant ape. The one thing that you need to know about this film is that it’s the grand daddy of the, ‘Human Hunt’ subgenre of films. “Deliverance”, “Battle Royale”, “Hard Target”, “The Running Man”. None of these films would have come to be if it wasn’t for original hunt. Originally written by Richard Connell as a short story, the film tells the tale of a group of shipwreck survivors, including Wray, who find themselves on a remote island, as the guest of the curious count Zaroff. Soon the guests become sport for the insane count as they are released into the jungle, destined to be savagely tracked down and snuffed out by their sadistic host. For a film that is so dated you would not expect it to have teeth, but think again. Even today the film holds its own in hooking you into the story like a misplaced foot in a bear trap, creating a true sense of tension and dread. A large part of the manic fear comes from Leslie Banks as the mad master huntsman Count Zaroff. Banks plays the role like a stalking animal toying with its prey, and waiting for the final moment of vulnerability before it strikes. What’s interesting to note is that the jungle sets used in the film were also used a year later during the filming of ‘King Kong’. The film is now public domain can be found easily enough. Embarrassingly enough, the film sat on my shelf, collecting dust for several years before I found enough common sense to give it whirl. Little do we know sometimes about the treasures we already hold.



8. The Man Who Fell To Earth –Dir.Nicholas Roeg (1976)
There’s really no excuse that I shouldn’t have seen sooner, as I’m a big mark for Nick Roeg, in particular his films, ‘Performance’, and ‘Don’t Look Now’.
For many directors in particular, you have to be in a certain mindset to sit down and absorb their work, and Nicholas Roeg is no exception. While there have been several cuts of, ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ that were less than spectacular, Criterion finally took the step to restore the film to the status it deserves. Most know, ”The Man Who Fell To Earth” primarily as David Bowie’s debut role as the titular, extraterrestrial, but the film benefits from more than just the, ‘space oddity’. It’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Anthony Richmond, and holds a lot of visual similarities to Kubrick’s, ‘2001’, in maintaining it’s cold antiseptic atmosphere.
While the story of Bowie’s appearance on Earth, and his attempts to save his own world are clearly apparent, Roeg doesn’t insult the viewers by holding them by the hand. Many have complained about the film’s obscure approach, and or lack of plot, but it’s speaks more about Roeg’s own artistic approach then anything. Sure the film is abstract at times, and often focuses more on the visual aesthetic, but for those who are patient with film, and appreciate the work of Nicholas Roeg, this is another must see.

 
9. Diabolik– Dir.Mario Bava (1968)
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of the greatness of Diabolik, let me explain my feelings regarding Mario Bava. As rabid cinephiles we pour through it all, sifting the shit from the shinola, coming to terms with the films and filmmakers who really reach out and grab us by the gatcha. For me, Mario Bava holds a special place in my film tin that some call a heart. Sure Bava’s influence and films have long been acknowledged and loved by many, but I tend to look at Bava’s cannon of films like a fine Scotch. These films were meant to be savored, and pored over in suitable time. Sure, you could tear through the majority of Bava’s filmography over a weekend, but it wouldn’t have the same effect. I have owned, ‘Diabolik’, for many years, and held off on watching it, until I had slowly processed the rest of Mario’s work. I knew I was going to love this before I even laid eyes on it, but wanted to save it like a vintage bottle to be enjoyed at the right moment.
The film in itself is gorgeous, and a true comic book come to life, not only in the presentation of the Diabolik character, but in the flawless cinematography that looks like it leapt right from the pages. Genre mainstay John Phillip Law plays the notorious criminal mastermind cold, and calculating, always one step ahead of the law, and the mob. No matter what actions inspector Ginko, and the evil mob boss Ralph Valmont, (Aldofo Celi-Thunderball’s ‘Emilio Largo’)try to take, they can do little to stop the nefarious plans of Diabolik. The ‘camp’ dial is cranked to 11 on this one, and the film falls closer to the James Coburn, ‘Flint’ films, and Dino Martin’s, ‘Matt Helm’ series. A lot of the current string of genre directors definitely need to view this to see how a comic book adaptation should be done. One can only wonder what Bava could have done if he had directed any of the early Bond films. Nah, people wouldn’t have appreciated it, nor would they have deserved it.

 
10. Sonny Boy – Dir. Robert Martin Carroll (1989)
One of the absolute joys of being a film fanatic is not only poring over the films you haven’t seen, but getting to bear witness to cinematic anomalies that should have never been put to film to begin with. I had first of, “Sonny Boy”, through the pages of Psychotronic Video magazine, in the early Nineties, but knew I had little chance of finding an uncut print. It showed up now and then in the bootleg circuit, but I was focused more on the Italian spaghetti splatter at the time, and it left my mind. Years later through conversation with old friends about films that had no business being made, “Sonny Boy” was brought up once again. This time, I had to rectify the situation, and sit down to watch this notorious little nugget. There have been times that people have asked me to explain what, ‘exploitation’ cinema entails, and I have copped a famous quote that, “I can’t really explain it, but I know it when I see it.”. In my honest opinion few films have come as close to defining the true nature of, “exploitation cinema”, as, “Sonny Boy” has. You’ve got David Carradine hamming it up in full drag playing tranny wife to Paul ‘Bluto’ Smith. Both play mom and pop to a gang of killers and repulsive miscreants. Brad Dourif plays low life scumbag, “weasel”, and mows through scenery like a meth fuelled lawn tractor. Everything in this film oozes sleaze like the bottom of a barrel of rotten fish, but you can’t help but watch it all unfold. Depressed over her inability to bear a child, “Pearl” (Carradine), and “Slue” (Smith), kidnap a young boy, and cut out his tongue on his birthday, and force him to become their feral surrogate son. As time passes, ‘Sonny Boy’ lives in a cage, and is fed whatever, and whoever is within his reach. Soon the criminal family train Sonny Boy to commit horrendous acts to earn his keep for the twisted clan. This is the one for all you jaded types out there who have been down the pike, and think you’ve seen it all.
If you think David Carradine was merely twisted (No pun intended) due to his untimely demise in a hotel room in Bangkok, then, “Sonny Boy” will flip your wig.

Honorable Mentions:
Dr Mabuse – Fritz Lang
Spike Of Bensonhurst – Paul Morrisey
Donna Flor and her two husbands – Bruno Baretto
Little Fauss and Big Halsey – Sidney J.Furie
Major Dundee – Sam Peckinpah

3 comments:

Ned Merrill said...

"Houston, we have a problem." Or, are you referencing the misspelling of Huston's first name (as "Jhon") in WISE BLOOD'S opening titles?

MOST DANGEROUS GAME is essential, I agree. Need to pick up that Blu-ray from Flicker Alley.

Watched ALOHA BOBBY AND ROSE a few years back. Big fan of some of Mutrux' other work, but beyond the presence of Tim McIntire (who really livens things up), the tunes, and all the great footage of '70s LA (all those rock billboards!), this one disappointed me.

You've certainly interested me in THE COMIC.

Big fan of Stacy Keach and I also greatly enjoyed being able to see THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER this year via the Warner Archive disc.

Emily said...

I watched Naked Massacre through a Mill Creek pack a few years ago and was also pleasantly surprised, especially since I had heard absolutely nothing about it. I should revisit that one.

Ned Merrill said...

Re: MOST DANGEROUS GAME and KING KONG. In fact the films were made concurrently, with stars Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong moving back and forth between both productions on a daily basis.