Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013: Hal Horn ""

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013: Hal Horn

Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old'). I HIGHLY recommend you read him regularly! In fact, read his recent coverage of the lost 80s BMX classic RAD right away!

Also read his previous Discoveries lists for Rupert Pupkin Speaks:

TOGETHER BROTHERS beat CORNBREAD, EARL AND ME to the punch by a year in having African-American teenagers trying to solve the murder of a respected member of the community (THE WHITE SHADOW’s Ed Bernard).  Lacking the star power of the later film (the cast is mostly no-names save for Bernard and Lincoln Kilpatrick), TOGETHER BROTHERS more than makes up for it with Galveston locations and several other twists on your expectations.  Police brutality, racial divisions, and the many forms of bigotry in the ghetto are just some of the themes explored in TOGETHER BROTHERS, which was curiously never even released on VHS, much less DVD.  Driven by Galveston native Barry White’s soundtrack and solidly directed by William A. Graham (WHERE THE LILLIES BLOOM), TOGETHER BROTHERS is well worth watching for.  It airs occasionally on Fox Movie Channel.

Best known as Chicago’s producer (through CHICAGO XI, that is), James William Guercio was the director of this oddity starring Robert Blake as an ambitious motorcycle cop on stuck on a desert beat.  “You can’t judge a book by its cover” would be the underlying theme through all we see here, from Mitchell Ryan (playing a seemingly the most self-assured of cops) to those supposedly peaceful hippies.  Forty years have passed without Guercio helming another film, so it appears this will be his only directorial effort (one he reportedly took a salary of $1 for).  He had the good sense to hire ace cinematographer Conrad Hall, who is this film’s MVP along with Blake.  The latter gives a performance that ranks just below his work in IN COLD BLOOD and BLOOD FEUD, perfectly conveying the character’s compassion as well as his inferiority complex.  As might be expected, Guercio provides a powerhouse soundtrack, with “Tell Me” featuring a soulful vocal from Chicago’s late, great guitarist Terry Kath.  Kath, Peter Cetera and Lee Loughnane are among the members of Chicago to have cameos.  

Two of Errol Flynn’s latter-day projects found their way to me for the first time this year.  ROCKY MOUNTAIN was the last of his eight westerns, and THE WARRIORS (a.k.a. DARK AVENGER) was the last of his countless swashbucklers.

You’ll have to accept the very Australian Flynn as a southern plantation owner, and the idea that the Confederate Army of early 1865 would have found it a viable option to send a regimen of eight 2,000 miles west to California in an attempt to make the union fight on another front.  Assuming you can, you’ll find ROCKY MOUNTAIN to be a tense, fatalistic character study with a great cast, including Sheb Wooley and Slim Pickens (when he really did fit his nickname) in their respective debuts.  Flynn met future third wife Patrice Wymore on the set; ROCKY MOUNTAIN would be the only time they worked together.  William Keighley’s film hasn’t a single interior shot(!) and defies expectations more often than not.  A true sleeper from Errol Flynn’s final years at Warners.

THE WARRIORS is the lesser of the two, but you can’t fault this cast: Peter Finch, Christopher Lee, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Hordern and Joanne Dru.  Sadly, Flynn was no longer the athlete he’d been, and wasn’t even up to any of his own fencing by this time.  Finch’s forceful performance and capable direction by Henry Levin are the primary assets, and THE WARRIORS is a decent enough way to the quintessential screen swordsman to bow out.

Probably my favorite older film discovery during 2013.  I was previously unaware of this collaboration between Edward G. Robinson and director Mervin LeRoy that arrived ten years after LITTLE CAESAR.   Robinson isn’t a gangster this time though; he’s the worldly opposition to New York’s mafia kingpin, Edward Arnold.   Doesn’t start out that way, though; at the outset he has Arnold’s backing as a “silent partner” in his daily tabloid, The New York Mercury.  Arnold’s crimes can’t stay outside the boundaries of Robinson’s hard-hitting reporting forever, and it is clear that the two are on a collision course.  Returning soldier Robinson is no neophyte, and won’t fall for crooked poker games or ambushes by Arnold’s henchman, so a violent conclusion appears inevitable.  It would have been better as a Pre-Code, but UNHOLY PARTNERS is still a pleasant discovery for fans of actor and director.

MAKING IT (1971)
Kristoffer Tabori (the son of legendary director Don Siegel) stars in this counterculture artifact as a high school schemer who juggles affairs with teacher’s wife Marlyn Mason and quintessential dumb blonde classmate Sherry Miles.   When we find out about Tabori’s home life (his divorced mother is dating a stable, boring and very married man) we understand why he isn’t sold on monogamy.  There’s a fresh-faced novice underneath the swagger, and MAKING IT doesn’t spare Tabori a comeuppance, or the audience a logical conclusion.  In some very unusual casting, siblings Joyce and Dick Van Patten respectively portray Tabori’s mother and her married significant other!  Bob Balaban and Lawrence Pressman have interesting roles as Tabori’s dismissive best bud and a sarcastic but compassionate instructor. 

If UNHOLY PARTNERS wasn’t my favorite discovery this year, this was.  Never released on home video but well worth DVR’ing the next time it pops up on Fox Movie Channel.  

THE BREED (2006) 
There’s more than a little of 1977’s THE PACK in this straight-to-video release from 2006, but don’t let the lack of a theatrical release keep you away.   You have the same remote island location, the same pack of starving, rabid dogs and the same lack of contact with the rest of civilization for our protagonists.  This time, though, the dogs are genetically enhanced by some questionable experiments, giving them the ability to reason!  Michelle Rodriguez, Oliver Hudson and Taryn Manning star in this debut effort from Wes Craven protégé Nick Mastandrea.

Okay, this isn’t a good film by any stretch of the imagination.  Lead actress Joy Bang and love interest Roger Garrett would go unnoticed in a petrified forest, and director Andrew Meyer’s script lacks coherence.  As one of the few Philippines’ projects of the era not to feature Pam Grier, NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN was little seen for years until Epix and Netflix Instant added it in 2013.  However, if you’re a fan of beautiful Marlene Clark (I am, sue me), NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN will hold your interest.  Yes, she’s half-woman, half-snake.  She’s even sexy when shedding skin, and she’s shedding clothes even when she isn’t.  It’s a pretty fun camp classic, but be warned: you’ll only watch it a second time if you like Marlene.

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