Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - KC from the Classics Movie Blog ""

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - KC from the Classics Movie Blog

Kendahl "KC" Cruver writes the blog Classic Movies ( has also written for Films of the Golden Age, Classic Images, Images Journal and Senses of Cinema. You can follow her at @classicmovieblg.

Downstairs (1932; Monta Bell)
I laugh every time I think of how 1930s audiences must have reacted to John Gilbert as a belching, psychopathic chauffeur. It is almost as if the great silent screen lover intentionally put his career in the crosshairs, which is heartbreaking because he had such high hopes for the project, which came from his own story. He makes married housemaid Virginia Bruce (soon to be Mrs. John Gilbert in reality) cross-eyed with lust and destroys an elegant household with his mischief. If you think he pays for it, you don't know pre-codes.

Lonesome (1928Paul Fejös)
A surprisingly suspenseful romance. It captures the desperate loneliness of being a twenty-something trying to find someone to love in a big city so well that it feels timeless, despite being very much of its time.

The Merry Widow (1925; Erich von Stroheim)
Did Erich von Stroheim's lurid aristocratic societies ever exist beyond his imagination? He was known for insisting on fidelity to realistic detail, right down to providing fancy underwear for the extras, and yet so many of his movies seem to float around in a delirious dream world. Woozy, flighty Mae Murray is the perfect woman to embody his vision and John Gilbert knew how to properly dip a lady while wearing a sword. Foot fetishes, thwarted romance  and fancy sets; whatever else could you need?

Hour of the Wolf (1968; Ingmar Bergman)
An artist moves to a remote island with his pregnant wife, where he gradually goes insane. There are artfully executed moments of intense violence and menace, horror Ingmar Bergman style, but the most frightening moments are when von Sydow talks quietly with his wife in the middle of the night and her fear increases as she realizes she has lost him to madness, and that she is in danger.

Blazing Magnum/ Shadows in an Empty Room (1976Alberto De Martino)
Though I think I may have seen this for the first time in 2012, I watched it almost continuously for months, so I'm going to say itstill sort of qualifies. It's such a bizarre flick. It never settles on a genrejumping from giallo-light, to action, to detective story. This movie doesn't care what you think, it's too busy being crazy. Stuart Whitman is a bushy-eyebrowed, hot temperedpolice captain who probably smells like old coffee and cigarettesbut he's so sure of himself that he's oddly appealing. His psychotically mischievous college student sister (who looks young enough to be his daughter) is poisoned to death and he will do anything, especially things way out of proportion to the task at hand, to find out why. The amazing soundtrack is unlike anything I've ever heard: sort of laidback cool, sometimes a bit deliriousBlazing Magnum is probably most famous for a lengthy car chase in which Whitman destroys everything to get a few shreds of information; I've watched it so many times thatnow I barely remember the one from BullittYou can catch this on YouTube (
, and from what I hear, the pictures is about as good quality as any Region 1 DVD you can get for now.

Phase IV (1974; Saul Bass)
The only feature-length film directed by graphic designer and credit sequence king Saul Bass. Ants take over the world and a pair of scientists in an isolated lab try to figure out their motives and save humankind. I saw this at SIFF 2013(, where we were told to sit tight to see the so-called lost ending after watching the theatrically-released version. While I would have enjoyed this eccentric, low-key sci-fi flick on its own, it makes my list because of that jaw-droppingly bizarre alternate ending. It is about as Bass-ish as you can get, stylish, mysterious, creepy as hell and still on my mind months later.

Caliber 9 (1972; Fernando Di Leo)
A crime movie starring the type of guy who usually plays the heavy. Nobody gives him any credit, which sort of works in his favor when a package of mob cash disappears. It's an odd movie, both glamorous and defiantly scummy. It refuses to glorify the criminals, painting them as the anti-social creeps they are, but Barbara Bouchet is gorgeous as a free-living go-go dancer and the score, which has a sort of Ennio Morricone feel, is so excitingly addictive that it gives the violent squalor bit of gloss.

Cutter's Way (1981Ivan Passer)
I've been avoiding seeing this for years, despite the raves. It sounded like such a bummer. Turns out it is, but I found myself almost savoring its sadness. Movies so rarely take the time to get to know their characters like this one. It makes the things that happen to them feel almost personal.

Other favorite firsts: History is Made at NightDie Laughing,Private Parts, Whore's Glory (painful to watch, but effective), The Miami Connection, Rolling Thunder, The Landlord, PrivilegeDay of the Locust.

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