Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Dramas - Richard Winters ""

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Favorite Underrated Dramas - Richard Winters

Richard Winters runs Scopophilia, a blog covering neglected movies from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Highly recommended! 
He also did an underrated comedies list for me recently:
Find him on twitter here:

Save the Tiger (1973)
Although just about any movie fan is familiar with legendary actor Jack Lemmon few people know or have seen the film that he won the Academy Award for as best actor, which is this one. It is an interesting and penetrating look at two men whose business is losing money and they contemplate committing arson in order to collect the insurance money. The theme though is really about middle-age and dealing with all the broken dreams, compromises, and cynicism that comes along with it. Jack Gilford is great in support as Lemon’s business partner as both men reflect and long to go back to a more innocent age, but find life just won’t let them. The scene where Lemon has a sexual tryst with a young hippie chick that he picks up and finds that he is unable to connect with her in any intellectual way as well as coming to terms with the shock at just how out-of-touch he is with the younger generation is memorable.

Into Thin Air (1985)
From my perspective the best dramas are usually those based on actual events and this film is definitely on top. It is a made-for-TV movie that I saw over 30 years ago when it originally aired and it still makes a strong impact with me today. It is the story about a young man traveling from Canada to the States in order to attend college in Colorado. Along the way his van breaks down in a desolate region of Nebraska. This was before the advent of cellphones so he calls his family from a pay phone to tell them the situation and that some kindly strangers have agreed to take him to a nearby service station and then that is the last time anyone sees or hears of him. The police investigate it, but can find no leads and eventually the case becomes cold. His mother, which is brilliantly played by Ellen Burstyn, goes on a relentless crusade to find answers and hires a private investigator to look for clues. Initially he meets a lot of dead ends, but eventually he’s able to break the case open. The way he does this and finding out what actually happened to the kid is riveting, edge-of-your-seat stuff.

King of the Marvin Gardens (1972)
Ellen Burstyn also scores in this neglected drama playing a highly-strung woman who ends up going over-the-edge. This film is also unique in that it features Jack Nicholson in atypically restrained performance wearing glasses and acting almost like a nerd. Bruce Dern also stars as Nicholson’s scheming brother and with his unique acting style he makes any movie that he is in worth seeking out. The movie also features the pretty Julia Ann Robinson who tragically died in a house fire shortly after the film was made and never appeared in anything else. Yet it is Burstyn and her major meltdown at the end that leaves the strongest impact and one that stays with you long after it is over.

Straight Time (1978)
In Dustin Hoffman’s long and storied career this film seems to get lost in the shuffle, which is unfortunate because it is one of his best. It is about a parolee getting out of jail and trying to go straight and based on the novel by Edward Bunker who spent almost his whole life in and out of jail and wrote a novel about it while in prison. If anything this is a great testament to how hard it is for criminals to go straight and how easy it is to fall back to their criminal lifestyle because the system is pretty much stacked against them from the beginning. M. Emmet Walsh as Hoffman’s smothering parolee office who seems intent at catching Hoffman doing something wrong so he can be thrown back into the slammer is memorable particularly the scene where he gets stripped naked by Hoffman and handcuffed to a fence in complete view of a busy L.A. Freeway.

J.W. Coop (1971)
Many younger audiences know actor Cliff Robertson for his role as Ben Parker in the Spiderman movies but few may realize that he had a long and successful career well before he appeared in those movies and in 1968 even won the Academy Award for best actor. This film in which he also wrote and directed is a major tour-de-force and deals with a man released from prison after 8 years and trying to get back into the rodeo circuit, but finding that society and the business have changed drastically. Gritty, somber and moody this film really hits the target in all areas from beginning to end.

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