Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Action/Adventure - Spenser Hoyt ""

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Underrated Action/Adventure - Spenser Hoyt

Hello, my name is Spenser Hoyt. I live in Seattle and work at the public library. I also serve on the board of directors of the Grand Illusion Cinema and am also involved with Scarecrow Video. I like to watch movies and eat toast. I am a simple man. You can follow me on twitter (though I haven’t tweeted much lately – the handle is @hoytoid) and letterboxd where I realize I failed with my “movie a day in 2014” vow. I guess there’s always next year!
Flame Over India / North West Frontier (1959) – J. Lee Thompson
Set during the 1900s, Flame Over India deals with a young Hindu prince who must be snuck across India in an old trainthrough hostile Muslim territory by British soldiers. The filmplayed a lot on PBS when I was a twerp and it seemed like one of those timeless movies of which I had no idea about when it was made. Additionally I only had the vaguest knowledge of British/Indian/Hindu/Muslim history and politics. It was an old fashioned adventure film when it was originally released and, in many ways, it seems just as quaint now. But it remains a cracking adventure with a great cast whose plot is struck from the Stagecoach mold. J. Lee may be a bit of a hack but when he’s on his game the director can really deliver the goods.

Mercenaries From Hong Kong (1982) – Jing Wong
From the prolific Jing Wong comes this “team of merciless mercenaries on a doomed and dangerous mission” that takes some of the most recognizable stars of the Shaw Brothers repertory, plucks them out of the Wuxia genre and sticks them in a John Woo type of adventure. Maybe the John Woo comparison is flawed because in 1982 he hadn’t made anything likeMercenarieyet but so what? Let’s get back to the movie at hand which gleefully mixes guns, explosions, double crosses,fists and kicks. Ti Lung, as his usual bad ass self, assembles a team of tough dudes to track down an assassin who has fled to Thailand. Still unavailable on domestic DVD, this is one of the many thousands of rare films that can be found on the shelves of Seattle’s mighty Scarecrow Video.

Ffolkes (1979) – Andrew V. McLaglen
Made at the peak of Roger Moore’s James Bond tenure, Ffolkeswas a deliberate effort to cast the affable Brit against type asFfolkes-- a bearded, eccentric, misanthrope whose interest in pussy is of the purely feline variety. Anthony Perkins plays a terrorist who plants some bombs on an oil rig and demands a ransom. Ffolkes assembles a team of mercenaries in an attempt to thwart Perkie’s plans. The film unfolds at a deliberate pace that is somewhat lacking in action but still generates ample suspense. And, as you can see, I dig movies about teams of mercenaries.

Boom Town (1940) – Jack Conway
Boom Town was Clark Gable’s follow up to Gone With The Windand re-teams him with Spencer Trac(his co-star in 1936’s San Francisco). But, even for fans of the actors, it seems to be a somewhat forgotten film in the 21st Century. Certainly it is underrated as hell. Gable is Big John McMasters and Tracy is Square John Sand and they are a couple of fun-loving wildcatters who eventually make it big in the oil biz but their success nearly wrecks their best friendship. The chemistry between the two Johns (Big and Square) is infectious andpalpable. Even though ample love interest is provided by Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr this is much more of a bro-mance (God I hate that term) than a romance and the film is just as much of a soap opera as it is an action film—and I don’t mean that as an insult!

Cloak and Dagger (1984) – Richard Franklin
Though somewhat lost amongst the plethora of 80s kids movies,those of us who know better have not forgotten Cloak and Dagger. E.T.’s best pal Henry Thomas is Davy Osborne a melancholy youth who reacts to the death of his mother by entering into a world of fantasy via videogames and imaginarysecret agent friends. Davy stumbles onto some top secret information stored on a video game cartridge and soon finds himself pursued around the streets and waterways of San Antonio by a bunch of bad guys. While the computer technology portrayed in Cloak and Dagger hasen’t aged gracefully themovie still holds up quite nicely as a Hitchcock-esque action film for young film goers. Thomas and Dabney Coleman (in a dual role) give solid performances but much of the praise must go to the film’s consistently underrated director and screenwriter (Richard Franklin and Tom Holland respectively).
Polk County Pot Plane (1977) – Jim West tied with Deadbeat At Dawn (1988) – Jim Van Bebber
On one hand, these two pictures couldn’t be any more different in tone. Polk County Pot Plane is a fun loving hippies vs. pigs/bandits vs. bacon in the southern car chase style while Deabeat At Dawn is a grim and graphic urban gang revenge film.  On the other hand they are incredibly similar productions as they are both highly enjoyable, action packed low budget romps made entirely by amateurs. No stunt men, no expensivespecial effects, no green screens, no Hollywood suits and, thank god, CGI hadn’t been invented yet to wreck all the fun. Polk County Pot Plane is based on a true story and stars most of the people involved in the real life events. Here’s all you really need to know besides the descriptive title, the leads are two brothers named Oosh and DooshDeadbeat At Dawn is the product of one man modern grindhouse auteur Jim Van Bebber who basically does everything from jumping off buildings to cutting the negatives. Both films are excessive and satisfy in their own singular way.

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