Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Jason Hyde ""

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Jason Hyde

Jason Hyde is a man whose tastes in cinema are quite trustworthy. He's been kind enough to do lists for me in the past including one for my Underrated Comedy series:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/03/favorite-underrated-comedies-jason-hyde.html
and also my Underrated Dramas:
http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2013/06/favorite-underrated-dramas-jason-hyde.html
Lots of good stuff on both those lists so check them out if you haven't and enjoy his discoveries from 2013.
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The Case of the Curious Bride (1935; Michael Curtiz)
Easily the best of the four Perry Mason movies with Warren William. This is also the point where the series started injecting comedy into the proceeding, a tendency that got a little out of control by Case of the Lucky Legs. The mix of comedy and mystery is just right here, thanks largely to the great Allen Jenkins. Directed by Michael Curtiz, so it moves like lightning. Also, keep an eye out for Errol Flynn in an early appearance as a murder victim.

Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939; Jacques Tourneur)
It's really a shame that MGM didn't make more of these. Walter Pidgeon's rising star put an early end to a really fun series. Why they didn't do what everybody else did and replace him with Tom Conway I'll never know. All three Nick Carters are great fun, but this one stands out because of a plane crash scene with quick, almost avant-garde, editing and a thrilling shootout between an airborne Carter and a shipload of spies. Donald Meek steals the show as Carter's beekeeper assistant, easily the most deranged of all comic mystery sidekicks. 

Massacre (1934; Alan Crosland)
Odd political Pre-Code with Richard Barthelmess as a showbiz Indian who returns to the reservation when his father dies only to uncover exploitation and corruption. So he decides to set things right, which involves roping Sidney Toler and dragging him behind his car. Toler had it coming, though. I will never look at Charlie Chan quite the same way after seeing him in this film.

The Gamma People (1956; John Gilling)
Very strange British sci-fi that mixes zany comedy with horror as two mismatched reporters uncover sinister Nazi experiments in a made-up Eastern European country. A real head-scratcher that should be more widely known than it is, if only because it's a 50s sci-fi starring Paul Douglas. There's also some nasty Village of the Damned-esque kids and lumbering halfwits. And one genuinely good scare moment amongst all the goofiness.

Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929; Reginald Barker)
My absolute favorite release of 2013 was easily the Warner Archive collection of three different versions (from 1929, 1935, and 1947) of Earl Derr Biggers' venerable mystery story. All three are entertaining, but if I had to pick one, I'll always go with the 1929 version with Richard Dix. I've always liked Dix's later work in stuff like The Whistler series and Ghost Ship, but never really got the appeal of his earlier leading man work until watching this film. He's great in this, making me think that he should have done more comedy during his peak years. Maybe he did, and I just haven't seen them yet, but he's really charming and funny in this film. This version also gains points for retaining the multiple twist endings that the two remakes omit for some reason.

The Living Skeleton (1968; Hiroshi Matsuno)
I've been wanting to catch this one since seeing a still of it in Denis Gifford's A Pictorial History of Horror Movies when I was a kid. It didn't disappoint, even if the scene illustrated in the still, of a skeleton attacking a woman on a boat, never actually happens in the film. It's still creepy, atmospheric stuff, and a possible influence on Carpenter's The Fog with it's vengeance from the sea and priest with a secret. 

The Dragon Murder Case (1934; H. Bruce Humberstone)
More Warren William, but this time playing S.S. Van Dine's gentleman sleuth Philo Vance, with able support from Eugene Pallette as dim-witted police inspector Heath. This time out, Vance is called in to investigate a mysterious disappearance in a natural pool, when a rich society type with lots of enemies dives in and promptly vanishes. Adding to the mystery is an Indian legend concerning a water monster who purported lives in the pool. The best Vance outing will always be Michael Curtiz's The Kennel Murder Case, but this runs a close second with its 30s horror film atmosphere and genuinely ingenious, if somewhat far-fetched, plot.

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