Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 (Part One) ""

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 (Part One)

I watched a record-breakingly large amount of films (for me) this year (about 650, which beats my prior record by 120 or so movies). As a result, and due in no small part to my obsessive use of Letterboxd, I was able to keep track of almost 150 films that I saw for the first time that I enjoyed throughout 2013. This will be the 1st of several lists I am posting as to not overwhelm folks with too much at once. These are some of my very favorite discoveries from this calendar year and I hope to turn at least a few of you onto a few of them. Enjoy! And if you like this list, feel free to have a peek at my lists from previous years:
2012: 2011: 2010:

HONDO (1953; John Farrow)
Great, quintessential Wayne. Right up there with RIO BRAVO, THE SEARCHERS and RED RIVER as far as I'm concerned. John Farrow makes em lean and mean. My favorite discovery of 2013. On Netflix. Watch it.

THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944; Jean Negulesco)
The MALTESE FALCON-y vibe is palpable here, & not just because of Lorre and Greenstreet. Outstanding epic noir tale with elements of RASHOMON (or CITIZEN KANE) in its storytelling. Was put onto this film by my friend Eric J. Lawrence, who put it on his Discoveries list last year:

RANCHO NOTORIOUS (1952; Fritz Lang)
This is a case of "why the hell didn't I watch this before 2013"? I read about this film many years ago in Danny Peary's Guide for the Film Fanatic and even had it on VHS for many a moon and never gave it a look. Ridiculous. This is a remarkably tense and well made western with great stuff from Marlene Dietrich, Mel Ferrer and especially Arthur Kennedy (who I usually find to be rather dull). Also features Jack Elam and George Reeves.

TOMORROW NEVER COMES (1978; Peter Collinson)
Great 70s police standoff movie with an excellent cast. Oliver Reed doing what he does best. The film reminded me of something along the lines of a reverse ACE IN THE HOLE. The cast alone should draw you in: Oliver Reed, Susan George, Donald Pleasance, Raymond Burr, Paul Koslo, John Ireland and Stephen McHattie.

DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939; George Marshall)
The second Marlene Dietrich film on my list. I've liked her before this, but these two westerns made me love her. James Stewart plays a sheriff who doesn't carry a gun in this interesting companion piece to THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALENCE.

SHOOT (1976; Harvey Hart)
Highly engaging slow-burn drama. A fascinating & surreal mediation on violence and paranoia. One of my favorite ice-cold Cliff Robertson performances. Ernest Borgnine & Henry Silva deliver the goods as well. Very glad Paul Corupe turned me onto this one with his list of 2012 Discoveries:

IN THIS OUR LIFE (1942; John Huston)
Excellent John Huston-helmed melodrama. Great build. Bette Davis does her thing and she does it infuriatingly well. Currently on Warner Archive Instant, which is where I caught it.
CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937; Victor Fleming)
Discovered this one thanks to Larry Karaszewski during Trailers From Hell's Spencer Tracy Week:
Clearly an influence on CABIN BOY. Great epic coming of age story. Spoiled rich kid makes good. I found Spencer Tracy's Portugese 'accent" initially distracting(reminded me of Chico Marx) but eventually he made it his own and really became the character. Just great acting. Lionel Barrymore and John Carradine ain't too slouchy neither. Plus the kid was really good and sounded a bit like Linus from the Peanuts gang so that helped too .

ANGUS (1995; Patrick Read Johnson)
A truly wonderful coming of age story. Can't believe I hadn't seen it until now. I remember the soundtrack (and especially fantastic Love Spit Love song that plays over the opening) getting lots of airplay on my local "alternative" radio station when it came out, but I never bothered with the film for some silly reason or another. What a gem!

IT'S LOVE I'M AFTER (1937; Archie Mayo)
Delightful Screwball comedy about two on-again/off-again stage actors(Leslie Howard and Bette Davis) and a young fan(Olivia de Havilland) that comes between them. Howard is brilliant(& hilarious) in this. His hammy actor character reminded me a bit of Richard E. Grant's Withnail in some ways. Even his character's name 'Basil Underwood' is perfect. One of the great fictional actor character names ever(second only to Mark Cardigan, Vincent Price's character in HIS KIND OF WOMAN). Howard and his dresser Digges(played by masterful comic character actor Eric Blore) are stupendous together. Blore almost steals the movie entirely, this is great showcase for him. One particular 'bird call' scene made me laugh out loud. And as if the film wasn't adorable enough with the youthful Olivia De Havilland, there's also an obnoxious Bonita Granville(Nancy Drew herself) here as well!
This film would make a nice double with Hawk's TWENTIETH CENTURY. It'd also be at home on a bill with MY MAN GODFREY.

THE NUISANCE (1933; Jack Conway)
Lee Tracy doing what he does best as a fast-talking shyster lawyer. This one snuck up on me a bit. It has a neat ending and ended up being among my favorite Lee Tracy films I've seen (though not as good as BLESSED EVENT which was on my discoveries list last year).

PRIVATE PARTS (1972; Paul Bartel)  
This weird, sleazy, atmospheric little 'horror hotel' story has more than a little bit of PSCYHO in it and is probably my favorite Paul Bartel film. A very assured debut. Deserving of cult status. 

LOVE ON A BET (1936; Leigh Jason)
This movie is a working class SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS-esque screwball road trip comedy with charm to spare that I discovered via Warner Archive's DVD release and through their podcast (I had never heard of it previous to that).

ALIAS THE DOCTOR (1932; Michael Curtiz)
Wonderfully Sirk-ian melodrama. Barthelmess is just one of those ridiculously compelling actors and I must credit Warner Archive again for putting me onto him with the plethora of his films that they've put out. This was an unofficial part of their "Forbidden Hollywood" Collection.

ICE CASTLES (1978; Donald Wrye)
I am a total sap for this one. Thought I'd already seen it, as I am a big fan of Robbie Benson and his films, but somehow it slipped by me all these years. I must have been too busy watching XANADU for the umpteenth time (opted for roller disco and Oliva Newtwon-John rather than ice skating and the equally lovely Lynn-Holly Johnson). This one is also very melodramatic, but man I just fell under its spell and was completely enraptured. 

HARD TIMES (1975; Walter Hill)
I know it's blasphemous to say, but I think Walter Hill's debut film about bare knuckle boxing is better than a certain other debut film about regular boxing that came out to great accolades in 1976. I know they are very different films, but I was completely 'knocked out' by Bronson and Coburn in this one (pun most certainly intended). The Twilight Time Blu-ray looks great.

JUBAL (1956; Delmer Daves)
This is easily one of Delmer Daves' best films. It has an outstanding cast and a perfect use of Rod Steiger as a heavy. This one had a remarkable cumulative effect on me as I was not as interested when it began, but by then end I was on the edge of my seat and nearly shouting at my TV.

OPEN SEASON (1974; Peter Collinson)
1970s take on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, with a dash of STRAW DOGS. Peter Fonda, Richard Lynch and John Phillip Law are great together. The second Collinson film to make my list.

CAGED (1950; John Cromwell)
Jet-black ladies' prison Noir. Bleak stuff, but potent.

WILD ROVERS (1971; Blake Edwards)
My favorite Blake Edwards film for sure. If I didn't know it, I'd never have been able to tell it was his.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

You hadn't seen Hondo? It's one of Wayne's best.

I'm going to have Mask of Dimitrios on my list this year too. I too decided to seek it out after reading about it on your blog last year.

Vintage Cameo said...

Love this list--looks like I've got some homework! Good thing I just got Warner Archive instant...

Laura said...

A very enjoyable list. Like you I discovered and enjoyed LOVE ON A BET this year.

Best wishes,
Laura (working hard on my own list!)