Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Marty McKee ""

Friday, March 7, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Marty McKee

Marty has cinema love pumping through his veins and he's seen more than a ton of movies in his life. He writes about movies at Marty's Marquee (film reviews):
and Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot (blog):


These excellent Hammer thrillers are on Sony’s must-have ICONS OF SUSPENSE Hammer box set, which also contains the also-excellent THESE ARE THE DAMNED and THE SNORKEL, as well as the entertaining STOP ME BEFORE I KILL (the weakest of the set) and MANIAC.

CASH ON DEMAND is a taut cat-and-mouse two-hander told mostly in real time within a small branch bank. Peter Cushing is a strict, petty, unfeeling bank manager whose defenses break down in the face of Andre Morell, who has taken Cushing’s family hostage in exchange for a 90,000-pound ransom from the bank’s vault. Enormously suspenseful and entertaining with two fantastic lead performances and economical direction by Quentin Lawrence.

NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER is an unusual Hammer film, in that it’s a mature issues-oriented drama with thriller overtones. Nobody was making films about child molestation in 1959, but Hammer and director Cyril Frankel did. Set in Canada, where the nine-year-old daughter of the new small-town school principal (Patrick Allen) mentions she and her friend were asked to strip naked and dance by the town’s wealthy patriarch (a creepy, silent Felix Aylmer), whose family holds the town in its sway. Part suspense, part courtroom drama, and part social commentary, NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER benefits mightily from Frankel’s sensitive direction, sharp camerawork by future director Freddie Francis (his first job for Hammer), and fine acting by a low-wattage cast.

GETEVEN (1993)
Trash-movie fans are always looking for the next big WTF-film—MIAMI CONNECTION, for instance, or THE STABILIZER. If they ever track down a copy of the astonishing GETEVEN (sic), their heads may explode. Written, directed, produced, and starring John De Hart, an L.A. attorney who thought he was handsome, talented, and charismatic enough to carry an action movie. He wrote himself three love scenes with naked former Playmate Pamela Jean Bryant (DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE) and jumped onto a phony-looking stage to sing an awful country-western song with all the passion and stage presence of Rockin’ Mel Slurrup. Sets, costumes, sound, music, casting, and photography are the pits, but thankfully just bad enough to be hysterical under the right circumstances. De Hart, so wooden he makes Jim Mitchum look like Ace Ventura, is a hilarious counterpart to a coked-out Wings Hauser, who seems to be channeling Dennis Hopper’s APOCALYPSE NOW performance, rambling for minutes on end about nothing, inexplicably splashing fully clothed in a pool with two thongedbeauties, and showing up at a wedding in an amazing orange suitthat probably came straight from Wings’ closet. It’s rare to see filmmaking this incompetent, and like a pearl within an oyster, it should be treasured.

A legitimately good direct-to-video action movie, which is only available on an old VHS, so I hope you can find a copy. Whatmakes MISSION OF JUSTICE stand out from typical DTV drivel are its fight scenes. Director Steve Barnett’s pacing throughout is good with plenty of well-staged action, but he, star Jeff Wincott (LAST MAN STANDING), and stunt coordinator Jeff Pruitt (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) deserve extra credit for a couple of cool setpieces. In one, Wincott takes on a gauntlet of about twenty stickfighters to get initiated intoBrigitte Nielsen’s evil gang, and later he initiates a wild fight in an auto chop shop. MISSION OF JUSTICE is definitely something of a sleeper and one of Wincott’s best pictures.

The world’s first psychic vigilante kung-fu priest movie with a deranged Don Stroud (COOGAN’S BLUFF) as the “Vampire of Los Angeles,” a serial killer who picks up prostitutes, removes their blood with a syringe, injects it into his arm, and keeps his victims’ skulls as trophies. Stroud screams, rambles, rants, bugs his eyes, messes up his hair, takes off his shirt, flips the bird, and says dumb stuff like “You know what I mean, jellybean!” At one point, he looks at a mirror, yells, ties a shirt around his head, and takes a Polaroid of himself. I don’t know what the hell Stroud is doing, but it’s a sure thing he’s making it all up. It’s a remarkably terrible performance matched by a director who focuses on a skull shouting at Stroud to “kill the bitch” and “give me some blood.” Also with a hilariously miscast Erik Estrada (CHIPS) as a pipe-smoking monsignor and a clearly drunk Jan-Michael Vincent, who can be seen reading his lines off a script page glued to the newspaper he’s holding. Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar worked a day in this stunningly incompetent action movie that deserves to be discovered by the “so bad it’s good” crowd.

Those VCI/Kit Parker box sets of short B-pictures from the Robert Lippert library often contain some fascinating time capsules. Even the not-so-good films usually have something going for them, but these two are pretty sharp and worth an hour of your time.

WESTERN PACIFIC AGENT stars Kent Taylor as a railroad detective investigating a payroll robbery that resulted in two murders. While he and Sid Melton plod from one clue to the next, the killer (Mickey Knox) finds himself hiding out with the hobos, unable to spend his stolen money because the serial numbers are catalogued. Busy director Sam Newfield does a great job pushing this procedural right along with some interesting locations, including a real double-decker train that makes rail travel sure look glamorous. It ends with a nifty shootout and a fitting denouement for the baddie.

HIGHWAY 13 is also a procedural with private eye Steve Pendleton and unfairly accused trucker Robert Lowery investigating a plague of mysterious tractor-trailer accidents along the titular two-lanerMuch of the action is set around the Clover CafĂ©represented by an attractive interior set that includes a neighboring garage and gas pumps. Director WilliamBerke (COP HATER) pillaged the stock footage files for great miniature shots to represent the accidents, which give the production some extra oomph.

A thinking man’s (modern) western, RUNNING TARGET is an offbeat sleeper worth catching. It reminds me of Andrew L. Stone’s terrific RING OF FIRE, but more existential. Shot entirely on location near Saliday, Colorado by one-and-done director/writer Marvin R. Weinstein, it opens in media res with a beautiful panorama of the Rocky Mountains, a fleeting figure of a man in the distance, and a fatal rifle shot. Sheriff Arthur Franz (interesting for once) is an introspective, violence-hating small-town sheriff leading a posse into the mountains after four escaped prisoners. The drama involves the volatile relationships among the posse, including Smitty (Doris Dowling), a woman who talks tough, wears her hair short, and is referred to as being more of a man than the men. The film sometimes bogs down in philosophical malaise, but it earns its occasional flight of fancy. Performances are first-rate, and the story is exciting enough to qualify as action. 

Writer/director/producer/editor/star Steve Barkett’s entertaining low-budget post-apoc epic with big-shot filmmakers Dennis (THE ABYSS) and Robert Skotak (ALIENS) and Jim Danforth(7 FACES OF DR. LAO) chipping in time and effort to help with cinematography, production design, and visual effects workMY THREE SONS son Stanley Livingston co-wrote the story, which finds Barkett and Larry Latham crashing their shuttle into the ocean near Los Angeles and encountering mutants, tabletop models, and Sid Haig, whose roving band of psychos kill any male survivors and kidnap the women. Dollops of gore and nudity combine with stunts and imaginative special effects to form an interesting little exploitation movie thatBarkett, unfortunately, never really followed up on.

One of the best Bowery Boys features appears to be a takeoff on ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN and co-stars that movie’s monster, Glenn Strange, as a monster. MASTER MINDS has a very funny script by series regulars Charles Marion and Bert Lawrence and gets all the Boys, not just Hall and Leo Gorcey, involved. Perhaps most important to MASTER MINDS’ success is its supporting cast of genre actors who play the fantastic elements straight, which grounds the slapstick and allows director Jean Yarbrough to create real stakes for the heroes. The story is played for real (care is taken in the lighting), which makes for great fun in scenes where Strange, playing a hairy beast with Sach’s brain, hams it up with a terrific Huntz Hall impression. Hall dubs the voice, but Strange sells the brain transference with Hall’s trademark walk and mannerisms. It’s a delightful physical performance, paralleling Hall’s scary turn as the savage, animalistic Sach withStrange’s brain.

Directed by Brian G. Hutton. Stars Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure. Adventure writer Alistair MacLean penned the screenplay (his first) for this rousing World War II film and the novel of the same title simultaneously. It’s a straightforward thriller with plenty of action and beautiful Bavarian scenery. Anyone familiar with MacLean’s literary works will likely see the plot twists, but the suspense and energetic stunt work by second unit director Yakima Canutt’s team more than make up for any narrative flaws (at one point, a character bellows, “This is preposterous!” and he could be talking about the plot). Six British commandos, led by Major Richard Burton and U.S. Army Ranger Clint Eastwood, are assigned to infiltrate a Nazi-held castle in the Alps, where a captured American general is being held. Double- and triple-crosses give way to all-out action in the film’s long third act with the surviving heroes jumping, blasting, and crashing their way through a series of daring escapes, thanks to their magic satchels that carry unlimited bombs and ammunition. Jolly good show.

1 comment:

Dr. Freex said...

Another remarkable thing about GETEVEN: our amazing star also stops everything to deliver a Shakespearean soliloquy.