Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - David Arrate ""

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - David Arrate

This discoveries list comes from David Arrate. Look for him out on twitter and also check out his site:

His 2012 Discoveries can be found here:

WALK LIKE A DRAGON (1960; James Clavell)
This is the epitome of an underrated western. I find it peculiar that such a significant contribution to the genre, which contains intelligent social content regarding bigotry, as well as excellent writing (by Shogun author/film director James Clavell), goes unmentioned by film historians and classic movie fans. It also features some marvelous performances, especially by Jack Lord, James Shigeta and Mel Tormé. I'm very grateful to fellow western genre enthusiast, author Edward M. Erdelac for having recommended me this one. A link to his review on Amazon, along with some screenshots and additional comments of my own, can be found on my Tumblr blog.

SHANKS (1974; William Castle)
While I very much care for William Castle's 1950 drama IT'S A SMALL WORLD, which I also saw for the first time in 2013, SHANKS is the only film of his that I truly love; due in no small part to the major contributions made by his collaborators, mime artist Marcel Marceau and film composer Alex North. This 20th century fairy tale about a puppeteer who learns how to reanimate the dead may appeal more to an audience with an appreciation of surrealism and art house filmsmixed with the charming vibe of a 1970s TV moviethan those expecting a typical Castle horror film. I've written extensively on my blog about SHANKS and have posted three tracks from North's score, along with three similar, rejected compositions he originally arranged for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

THE CURSE OF HER FLESH (1968; Michael Findlay)
Writer/artist Heather Drain reviewed one of my favorite discoveries of 2012 (WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR?) and I regularly follow her recommendations, which tend to shed light on remarkable and yet undervalued or overlooked films. So when she listed and wrote passionately about a filmmaker I was unfamiliar with among other personally influential artists, I eventually ordered Michael Findlay’s “Flesh Trilogy” and soon became obsessed with his work.
What I love most about distinctly unique and fantastic combination of eroticism and violence (which is what I like about Jesús Franco’s work); the sensationalism and thrills found in pulp, genre fiction and comic book stories; and a charming,bearlike actor/director presence (like Orson Welles) who can elevate the experience by appearing in front of the camera; I find it all in Michael Findlay’s best films.
And while THE ULTIMATE DEGENERATE—my second favorite of his—may serve as an excellent introduction to his filmography, I wouldn’t trade the order in which I saw them; beginning with his “Flesh Trilogy”, which I actually saw in reverse (starting with THE KISS OF HER FLESH)KISS is the one that got me hooked, but THE CURSE OF HER FLESH is my favorite film by Michael Findlay and arguably his finest.The final fight scene on the back of a moving flatbed truck is pure cinematic bliss. From start to finish, this film in particular should especially be of interest to fans of cult, exploitation, grindhouse and/or independent filmmaking. Also recommended: JANIE, A THOUSAND PLEASURESand TAKE ME NAKED.

In late March, an inquiry by Mike Everleth of the Underground Film Journal, regarding the borrowing of Bernard Herrmann's THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD score for this vaguely familiar-sounding independent short film, included a trailer by Other Cinema DVD that left me enticed by its sets, costumes, sense of humor and use of colors. Boy, did this film deliver! I watched several great short films throughout 2013 following THE FLESHAPOIDS, including others made by both Mike and his brother George. But this one remained the most outstanding, enjoyable and memorable. And I highly recommend the 2009 documentary IT CAME FROM KUCHAR. 

NIGHTDREAMS (1981; Francis Delia)
Having a great deal of respect for other writers with eclectic tastes in film, music and art, I purchased my first adult film on Blu-ray and/or DVD this year (THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN) due mostly to Jeremy Richey's (of Moon In The Gutter) praise of Jamie Gillis' performance, along with his separate review. (It was also partly due to memories of a once dear elderly friend who also loved cinema, and had only recommended this adult film to me.) I'd seen a few adult feature films in previous years, but this was the first title I watched as a cinephile. And I not only enjoyed Radley Metzger's movie, but it gave me a new appreciation for the genre and left me wanting to educate myself. And the first director I turned my attention to was Stephen Sayadian (a.k.a. Rinse Dream), another favorite of Heather Drain's.
Besides a long-standing interest in a non-adult film of his (1989's DR. CALIGARI, which I finally saw this year), CAFÉ FLESH (1982) was a Laserdisc that had faced my work area for months while I was employed with a music distributor during the late '90s; the only other item that shared the same shelf was Naked City's "Torture Garden" on vinyl—I didn't know who future-favorite composer John Zorn was at the time (both vinyl and Laserdisc covers are fairly difficult to forget). Thinking it best to watch Sayadian's films in the order in which they were released, I viewed NIGHTDREAMS before the other two and I was blown away by his style, the phenomenal nightmarish atmosphere and intense sound design. I had hoped to find something of this caliber during my exploration, but I did not expect to find one so soon. I may never be able to listen to "Ring of Fire" again without thinking of both this film and the campfire scene which Wall of Voodoo's cover accompanies—and I'm not complaining. CAFÉ FLESH is Sayadian's finest work as both a writer and filmmaker (and NIGHTDREAMS actor Andy Nichols is outstanding in it), but NIGHTDREAMS has such a unique use of eroticism with that extra dimension of surrealism that I especially love seeing in my favorite kind of cinema. Two other surreal adult favorites I watched this year, and which I recommend without reservation, were THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (1976) and BACCHANALE (1970).

POSSESSION (1981; Andrzej Zulawski)
Zulawski's L'IMPORTANT C'EST D'AIMER, starring Fabio Testi, Romy Schneider and Klaus Kinski, is one of my all time favorite dramas. So I'd grown impatient with Mondo Vision's definitive release of POSSESSION in the U.S., especially when I read a couple of new reviews and then saw Max Landis comment on it for Trailers From Hell. Fortunately some good soul posted an excellent copy of it on YouTube around this same time and I was enthralled with what I saw. From the familiar and powerful directorial style, the phenomenal performances by Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani, and the balance between painful and ugly relationship-themed drama and horror—POSSESSION deserves the highest praise, as its superior quality of craftsmanship should be cited as often as others of such excellence, like ROSEMARY'S BABY, to illustrate what genre films can be capable of.

I'd been familiar with the terribly misleading Troma poster art for BLOODSUCKING FREAKS since I was a kid; in fact, I remember initially seeing it in either my first or second Movies Unlimited catalog in the 1980s. And I was always mildly curious about it, but I never saw an actual image from the film or even a trailer until Mike Murphy (of BBandBC) posted a banner on Twitter for his podcast's then-upcoming month long focus on little people in film. While I recognized characters from THE SINFUL DWARF, THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN and EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL on Mike's banner, I had to ask him to identify the other film he was covering, which was represented by an image of adult film actor Luis De Jesus in BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. (Although I didn't remember him then, I'd actually seen De Jesus years ago in 1986's PLAY ME AGAIN VANESSA.) I must confess, upon the realization of there being a dwarf actor in a major role in the film, nothing else was of more immediate interest to me at that moment. And what a blast I had watching Reed's film! I had been advised about the disturbing content, as well as how sleazy it was, but I simply found it to be a brilliantly written black comedy. Had the female cast featured stronger performances, or simply good actresses, I would indeed have found the extreme torture scenes unsettling. But fortunately this was not case, and I found their weak performances contributing favorably toward Reed's intentional humor. It's very sad that Seamus O'Brien's life was cut short, following the release of the film. We are fortunate however that he at least had one opportunity to star in a leading role. I doubt I'll ever forget him as Sardu, alongside De Jesus as Ralphus.Also recommended by Joel M. Reed: CAREER BED.

THE TELEPHONE BOOK (1971; Nelson Lyon)
In late April, I was becoming very curious about the young boutique DVD label providing obscure and/or previously unavailable exploitation titles: Vinegar Syndrome. While they initially grabbed my attention with THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS, no other trailer caught my eye like THE TELEPHONE BOOK; its striking poster was also vaguely familiar to me, which added to the allure. I can't thank Vinegar Syndrome enough for having made this visually striking and comically brilliant gem available (along with DEATH FORCE and Wakefield Poole’s BIBLE!). I laughed so much while watching THE TELEPHONE BOOK that I was still coughing, giggling and even quoting it the following morning. "I suppose you think I’m some kind of degenerate." A beautiful and refreshingly unique work of sexuality, freedom, playfulness and wildness that this fan of Vera Chytilová’s similarly creative DAISIES was ecstatic to find.

THE IMAGE (1975; Radley Metzger)
During the time I was unemployed, I sold off a large portion of my DVD collection. Luckily since then, I've been able to repurchase some of those I most cared for before their having gone out of print and becoming too expensive; except for a few. One of these which I regret selling was my introduction to filmmaker Radley Metzger, a 2001 documentary and compilation of softcore erotica from the Audubon Films Library titled GIRLS WHO LIKED GIRLS. It was a refreshingly mature presentation that prompted me to seek out my first Metzger film, THE LICKERISH QUARTET (1970). As much as I enjoyed it—although the then-available print looked pretty awful—I didn't follow up on his filmography until I finally purchased THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN this year. Now, so far I've only seen three of his films; and I plan on watching CAMILLE 2000 (1969) next, as well as revisit THE LICKERISH QUARTET. But the one I wanted to see most throughout the years I finally rented on DVD and then purchased on Blu-rayafter viewing MISTY BEETHOVEN. And it raised my interest in Metzger the filmmaker all the more.
Though I had seen sadomasochism portrayed fairly well and sometimes realistically in other films before, I never found the act to be as erotic as I did in THE IMAGE. This is due to a handsomely directed, admirably bold and mesmerizing scenario strongly supported by its two female performers: Marilyn Roberts (as the master, Claire) and the unforgettable Mary Mendum (as the slave, Anne). Unlike some other viewers, I rather enjoyed the casting of lead male actor Carl Parker too, who was all the more interesting, likeable and somewhat amusing to me due to the voice of the actor dubbing him and narrating the story—the original Speed Racer himself, Peter Fernandez.

CRIME WAVE (1985; John Paizs)
Along with Stephen Sayadian's DR. CALIGARI, images and reviews posted online for CRIME WAVE had me yearning to see the film for the past couple of years. And while I am a bit weary of stories about writers, this Canadian masterpiece is among the best, most creative and visually inspiring I’ve ever seen; it also features one of the creepiest portrayals of Christ ever. Thank goodness for like minded online friends. John Paizs’ film deserves to be made publicly accessible, as it simply requires attention and preservation. For images and more information, click here.
Also memorable and worth mentioning:
THE AMPHIBIAN MAN (1962; Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky)
LIPS OF BLOOD (1975; Jean Rollin)
PLAYING WITH FIRE (1975; Alain Robbe-Grillet)
SPIDER BABY (1968; Jack Hill)
STREET MOBSTER (1972; Kinji Fukasaku)

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

Findlay, Kuchar and Jack Hill - you can curate my film festival any time!