Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Action/Adventure - Samuel B. Prime ""

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Underrated Action/Adventure - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is the founder of LA Ciné Salon (, a website and meeting place for cinephiles and industry professionals dedicated to presenting new, undistributed feature films in a curated context, each available completely free to stream for seven days. Samuel is a film curator, motion picture archivist, and writer who has helmed high-profile events for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and UCLA's Melnitz Movies.He deeply admires Dick Cavett and his all-time favorite Sonny Chiba movie is Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE ('75).
He's on twitter @SBPrime.

1. MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE (Patrick Tam, 1989)
Patrick Tam is one of the lesser-known figures of the 70s/80s Hong Kong New Wave, with such contemporaries as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Tsui Hark. MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE conveys a melodramatic, sentimental tone from the very start, of young kids in search of adventure but in way over their heads on account of the mistakes of their forebears. Enter in a narrative of youthful unrequited love, mixed with menacing slow burn pacing, and the rare action scene (despite being billed as an action or crime picture), and MY HEART IS THAT ETERNAL ROSE seems mostly doomed to never see western shores, except via rare import DVDs and/or Internet bootlegs. Even with some reservations, highlights include: a Hongkongese Henry Silva as the villain; a show-stopping final shootout with brutal, beautiful slow motion and more freeze frames than the freeze frame-iest John Woo films; and a penultimate shot that makes all 90 minutes worth it.

2. FAREWELL TO THE KING (John Milius, 1989)
Lesser-known John Milius, but still as good as any of the titles that people actually canonize. A British botanist travels to Borneo in the midst of World War II and discovers a modest village of native peoples led by a perpetually shirtless Nick Nolte. Nolte has learned their language, found love, and been crowned king of the native peoples. He is a man who for better or worse has willfully divorced himself from the modern world and refuses to believe the reality of the war that surrounds him in every direction, but (perhaps inevitably) the war unwelcomely shows up and sends him reeling back from the insular world of his constructed fantasy into harsh actuality. The strength of this movie is the sincere poetry of its narration, Milius' as-always bold, brilliant writing, and the way in which the Botanist's encounter with Nolte shapes and changes his worldview.

3. VIBES (Ken Kwapis, 1988)
Imagine Michael Mann's THE KEEP (1983) as a romantic adventure-comedy. It would star Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper, and the late Peter Falk, but as confounding as it might seem Cyndi Lauper would receive the top billing. It would feature deadpan wit married with an outlandish premise of two psychically-imbued goofballs who are both recruited to find a lost city and an ancient treasure. Results in pure, essential fun - a kind of antithesis to INTO THE NIGHT (1985).

4. A BREED APART (Philippe Mora, 1984)
Donald Pleasence is a kooky billionaire with an unconventional hobby. He collects rare eggs for his private egg museum. In search of the rarest of all eggs (that of the American bald eagle), he hires a mountain climber with loose morals (Powers Boothe) to accomplish the task and in so doing further endanger an already endangered species. But a reclusive Vietnam veteran and self-styled nature conservationist with a past filled with pain (Rutger Hauer) won't let it happen without a fight. He and a local widow (Kathleen Turner) must join forces in order to protect the rare bird. Because if they don't, who will? My absolute favorite Philippe Mora movie - so, so underrated!

5. HIGH VELOCITY (Remi Kramer, 1976)
This film should be called MERCENARY DADS, as neither Ben Gazzara nor Paul Winfield are at all equipped to be playing war in anybody's backyard, let alone in the middle of the Philippines. This film was released the same year as THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE, a fact which might propose one hell of a double feature, but that all things considered is hard to believe. It is never really clear why this film is called HIGH VELOCITY, but that doesn't matter much. It is equal parts biracial buddy picture and bleak war drama, in which Paul Winfield gets to shout such wild and wooly zingers as "You racist nazi!" Jerry Goldsmith's phenomenal score is among his best work. Still only on VHS, with copies on Amazon priced at just under a hundred smackaroos.

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