Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Comedies - Robert Lindsey(Retro Hound) ""

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Favorite Underrated Comedies - Robert Lindsey(Retro Hound)

Robert runs the wonderful Retro Hound site(, which gets a high recommend from me. Here's how he describes  it:
"Retro Hound is a place for collectors (especially me) to share vintage memorabilia that they have collected. I collect soda pop bottles; record albums (LPs and 45s, not really 78s); trading cards; magazines (especially hot rod magazines); interesting lithographic art from postcards or game boxes; that sort of thing.  I'll do some reviews of classic movies as well."

Robert has a regular "New on Netflix Streaming" feature at Retro Hound that is always a fantastic resource for finding out which interesting older films are now available there:
Also, he's very active on Letterboxd, so follow him there!

I’m a bit embarrassed at how “recent” this list is. My problem with choosing films from my favorite era, the 1930s and 1940s, is that I can’t tell which ones are underrated. They are all under-seen, but for fans of those types of films, which ones would be underrated? Is The Shop Around the Corner or To Be or Not To Be or Vivacious Lady underrated? I honestly have a mental block, so these are all from the 1970s-1990s. None are from directors that I follow either.  

Peeper (1976, Peter Hyams) Michael Caine plays a Dashell Hammett/Raymond Chandler type private eye (aka “peeper”) in L.A. of the 1940s. Yes, he’s a British private eye in L.A. in the 1940s. What really makes this movie is Caine’s dry wit voice-over. And Natalie Wood looks spectacular. Oh yeah, Timothy Carey is in it. He should get his own box-set, this guy is really something to watch on screen. Anyway, Natalie Wood looks spectacular. And Michael Caine is hilarious. This beats the heck out of The Cheap Detective in my opinion. 

Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981, Peter Medak) Like any other spoof, this is a lot funnier if you’re familiar with the other versions of Zorro, but, it will stand on its own. George Hamilton, he of the cheesiest grin ever, takes the dual role of twin brothers fulfilling their father’s mission “to defend the defenseless, to befriend the friendless, and to defeat…the defeatless ...” Which brings me to another point, this is a very quotable movie. I could probably quote about the whole thing to you right now, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Stereotypes abound though: lusty Latins, gay preening, frustrated wives, but they hit all the notes right and none produces a groan. Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro, and Ron Leibman keep the jokes flying. Every bit as good as Young Frankenstein, but not as Mel Brooks-y.  

Radioland Murders (1994, Mel Smith) An all-star cast of character actors you’ll recognize includes Brian Benben, Mary Stuart Masterson, Ned Beatty, Brion James, Michael Lerner, Michael McKean, Jeffrey Tambor, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christopher Lloyd, and Corbin Bernsen. The entire movie takes place in one night at a 1940s radio station during a live broadcast. Benben’s character keeps finding himself in the wrong place while several people are being killed. It’s hilarious. Director Mel Smith played The Albino in The Princess Bride and only directed 5 movies. That’s too bad, because if the others are as sharp as this throwback to the screwball comedies of yesteryear, then we’re missing out on some great stuff.  

Her Alibi (1989, Bruce Beresford) Tom Selleck plays the author of detective novels and the movie uses hard-boiled voice-over (there must be something about hard-boiled voice-over that I love) as he tries to use his experiences to break his writer’s block. Paulina Porizkova, looking smoking hot, asks him to give her an alibi for the time of a murder, which he does, assuming she’s innocent. Later he begins to question his original assumption as he has several dangerous close-calls. Was she guilty and is she now trying to kill him? Beresford is a very accomplished director, but I don’t know if he did any other comedy. His next movie was Driving Miss Daisy! He also directed Tender Mercies, Black Robe, and Breaker Morant .  

Crossing Delancey (1988, Joan Micklin Silver) Do you hate rom-com clich├ęs? Then this is the romantic movie for you. Amy Irving is Isabelle, a young, intellectual, independent Jewish woman in Manhattan who visits her “bubbie” or grandmother quite often. Isabelle becomes outraged however when she finds her bubbie has hired a matchmaker (Sylvia Miles) to find her a husband. The fabulous Peter Riegert is the one Isabelle is matched with. Too bad he’s just a working-class guy running a pickle shop. She’s attracted to a pompous intellectual writer. What a beautifully built story all-around. Whether you love romantic comedies or hate them, you’ll love Crossing Delancey. This is an excellent little film that doesn’t have anywhere near the exposure it should have.


SteveQ said...

I've always loved Crossing Delancey, but treat it like a guilty pleasure, as few others seem to enjoy it as I do. A good companion piece is 84 Charing Cross Road, which somehow manages to make reading cinematic.

bud said...

Been thinking about some to add to the list...what about"Movie, Movie"? Or gasp a movie no one liked but me .."Oscar?"

Ned Merrill said...

Selleck did the detective-style v.o. very well for years on MAGNUM, of course, so using said device on HER ALIBI makes sense.

John Gholson said...

I wish I would've put ZORRO THE GAY BLADE on my list. Damn.

Robert M. Lindsey said...

Thanks for the opportunity to do this, Brian! And thanks to everyone who reads it. Be sure to check these movies out!

@SteveQ, I've not seen 84 Charing Cross Road, I'll check it out. Since I'm a librarian, any movie about reading sound good!

@bud, I've heard some good about Oscar and I've got it in my queue.

@Ned, I don't remember VO on Magnum, but that was on during the years I didn't have a TV and I've probably only seen no more than 5 episodes. My wife has been introducing me to a lot shows from that era, we should get around to that one soon.

@John, Nanny-nanny-boo-boo!

Ned Merrill said...

Every Magnum episode I can recall has Selleck v.o., which is fully intended as a send-up / tribute to the "private eye" tradition. If you revisit the show, I hope you enjoy.

Unknown said...

Never heard of PEEPER but it sounds intriguing. Also noticed that the great W.D. Richter wrote the screenplay.