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

Friday, February 28, 2014

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 (Part Three)

The saga continues! Here is my third post about my favorite Film Discoveries of 2013. I may have another list in me as there was quite an enormous pool of discoveries to draw from...
(And if you haven't checked out parts 1 and 2 of my list, here they are:

THE TALL TARGET (1951; Anthony Mann)
Surprisingly effective paranoid thriller directed by the great Anthony Mann. Reminiscent of 70s Pakula, though it obviously precedes those films by almost 2 decades. This films deals with an extremely tense train ride wherein a Dick Powell stumbles on a possible plot to assassinate president Lincoln.

MAN HUNT (1941; Fritz Lang)
What begins as a lark of an attempt to assassinate Hitler turns into a sadistic vendetta between two men. I really like Dean Treadway's take on it being a "middle brother to serial shorts and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK". It definitely feels like Spielberg and Lucas knew this movie.

MAROONED (1969; John Sturges)
It was neat to see this film after GRAVITY, not because they are so much alike but because it was neat to see a somewhat similar film from about 45 years prior. Gene Hackman, James Franciscus and Richard Crenna play astronauts stuck in a malfunctioning space capsule waiting to be rescued as their air is running out. The pace of MAROONED will seem glacially slow to GRAVITY fans but I thought it was a nice slow burn drama.

BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948; Robert Wise)
Great little slightly noir-ish western directed by Robert Wise (one of his better films) has a great cast including Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston, Walter Brennan and Charles McGraw. Scorsese is a fan and I believe he mentions it in his Personal Journey Through American Movies. This one needs a proper dvd stateside release.

BOMBSHELL (1933; Victor Fleming)
One of THE classic Lee Tracy performances and a good one from Jean Harlow as well. I still prefer BLESSED EVENT and THE NUISANCE, but this is darn good Tracy.

GRANDMA'S BOY (1922; Fred C. Newmeyer)
Can't hold up against SAFETY LAST, but this is a wonderful little romp of a comedy where a dorky coward overcomes his fears with the help of a magic charm. Good stuff.

MAYDAY AT 40,000 FEET (1976; Robert Butler)
Unsung, but enjoyable & well-made disaster TV-movie with a great cast. I'm a sucker for this kind of film and goes very well with the AIRPORT movies and the Irwin Allen stuff of the period. Caught up with it on Warner Archive Instant.

BADGE 373 (1973; Howard W. Koch)
Robert Duvall plays a suspended NYC cop on the hunt for his partner's killer in this gritty thriller. Fun to see Duvall in this kind of a leading role, which he never got enough of. He's well suited to it.

FIND THE BLACKMAILER (1943; D. Ross Lederman)
Zippy little Raymond Chandler Jr. type B-movie. Great with the hard boiled dialogue. Some of my favorite examples:
"Oh go on, beat it before I throw a moth in your muffler."
"Oh stand aside junior before I cloud up and rain all over you."

Can be found in the excellent Horror/Mystery Double Features set from Warner Archive. 

NOISES OFF (1992; Peter Bogdanovich)
A madcap screwball farce about a traveling theater group with a whole lot more drama going on behind the scenes than on stage. Filled with many hilarious moments. Bogdanovich loves this kind of movie and it shows. Superb cast.

BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961; Jack Arnold)
I think my initial introduction to Bob Hope was via his humorous cameo in SPIES LIKE US("Doctor. Doctor. Glad I'm not sick"). I never really paid him much attention at the time. It wasn't until years later when I would hear Woody Allen speak of him in reverent tones about just how big an influence he was. Allen cited Hope's performances in MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE and THE GREAT LOVER as particular impactful and informative in terms of him developing his own comic persona. When I finally watched those films, I could absolutely see the through line.In BACHELOR IN PARADISE, Hope plays a jet-setting author who writes books like 'How The Swedes Live' and 'How The French Live'. After a snafu with his business manager, he is put into a state of "instant poverty" and forced to write a new book called 'How The Americans Live'. His place of research: a family-focused tract development called Paradise Village in the San Fernando Valley. This sort of 1960s suburban milieu is one I very much enjoy, so this film is disarmingly pleasant and funny enough. Henry Mancini adds a layer of lovely tonal ambience with his musical stylings. From the director of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
THE DEVIL IS A SISSY (1936; W.S. Van Dyke)
This was the 2nd Freddie Bartholomew movie I caught up with in 2013 and though it's not as good as CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (which was on a previous list), it's a great vehicle for Bartholomew doing what he does. He plays the 'entitled rich kid' pretty well in both films. In this one he tries to gain favor with some less-than-reputable classmates (the streetwise Andy Rooney and Jackie Cooper) and they run afoul of the law a bit. Charming film though and all three boys are outstanding. I love Rooney in roles like this. He's perfect.

THE UNFINISHED DANCE (1947; Henry Koster)
To call this film "THE RED SHOES Jr." or something along those lines is a bit reductive certainly, but it sort of captures how I feel about it. Dance/ballerina films aren't particularly my bag, but both this one and THE RED SHOES (obviously) are pretty great (and have lovely color palettes). This one has a touching performance by Margaret O'Brien at the center.

THE DRAGON MURDER CASE (1934; H. Bruce Humberstone)
Warren William was a big hit with me in 2012 when I dove heard first into his filmography and watched 4-5 of his movies. This is one I meant to get to then, but wasn't able to. I liked William quite a bit as Perry Mason, and he's no slouch here either as Philo Vance. He's no William Powell, but then who is. Nonetheless, this is a neat little mystery film and probably my second favorite after the obvious KENNEL MURDER CASE(which I love). Eugene Pallette reprises his role of Detective Heath from KENNEL and he's a welcome bit of character as usual. The mystery itself concerns the disappearance of a man into a deep pool/pond and a supposed monster that lives therein.

HOLD 'EM JAIL (1932; Norman Taurog)
Kind of like HORSE FEATHERS meets THE LONGEST YARD, which is a fun combination. This one reminds me the most of a Marx Bros. film out of all the Wheeler and Woolsey films I've seen.

THE MOON'S OUR HOME (1936; William A. Seiter)
I learned that this film was a favorite of programmer Jerry Harvey's via the Z Channel doc, so I had to see it. Nice complimentary film to SHOP AROUND THE CORNER and THE LADY EVE.

DON'T BET ON BLONDES (1935; Robert Florey)
Former big-time gambler turned outlandish insurance man Warren William agrees to insure Guy Kibbee's daughter (the lovely Claire Dodd) against marriage. Hijinks ensue. Enjoyable screwball fair with William playing his typical dashing self. 

TWO ON A GUILLOTINE (1965; William Conrad)
Wonderful slow-burn haunted house story by way of a love story. Surprised how much this one hooked me by the end. I have a certain affinity for Dean Jones because of his Disney roles and Connie Stevens is pretty adorable here so it's a good ride. Directed by William 'Cannon' Conrad. Plus - Caesar Romero!

TWICE UPON A TIME (1983; John Korty/Charles Swenson)
Truly strange and fascinating animated concoction. FANTASTIC PLANET meets YELLOW SUBMARINE-ish. Almost certainly an influence on Pixar for MONSTERS INC.
Coverage of the film on AICN's "The Vulcan Vault" here: 

NANCY DREW: REPORTER (1939; William Clemens)
A worthy follow-up to NANCY DREW: DETECTIVE which I liked very much and first discovered in 2012. I could see myself having had a crush on Bonita Granville (who was 16 at the time of this movie) had I been a teenager in the late 1930s. There's just something ridiculously adorable about her and her mystery-solving ways that entrances me. Some might find her annoying but it's a similar thing to the way I felt about Patty Duke in high school when I was regularly watching reruns of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW on Nick at Nite. 

NATURAL ENEMIES (1979; Jeff Kanew)
This is some bleak shit, but quite haunting. Powerhouse performance from Holbrook. Hard to believe this is from the director of REVENGE OF THE NERDS and GOTCHA! Don't get me wrong, I love those films, but this is something a bit different. Not on dvd (only ever issued on VHS as far as I know) but can be seen via YouTube.

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