Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Series - Thrillers ""

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Underrated Series - Thrillers

There's probably good reason why Alfred Hitchcock was most at home working in the suspense genre. Suspense and tension are some of the most fun things to build in cinema and they are a fun thing to be engaged by. As a longtime movie-watcher, I find myself drawn into the suspense of a lot moments and situations in films and TV shows - even with comedies. A simple moment of awkwardness between to characters can provoke ad remarkable response from me as I am quite sensitized to any scenario wherein there is some kind of tension. To this very day, I often find myself covering my eyes and crying out "arrrggh!" (yes, like Garfield) when I get caught up in a show I am watching. I really do like that I am still affected that way and I think it says something about the inherently cinematic nature of suspense. Thrillers are certainly films I go to with a good deal of frequency. Any movie that can get my blood pumping and give me that charge is a compelling view in my book. Here are a few thrillers I find to be under-appreciated:

RAW COURAGE (1985; Robert L. Rosen)
This is a very interesting DELIVERANCE-style thriller penned by star Ronny Cox and his wife Mary. Some right wing militant nutjobs make captives  of a group of marathon runners in training. Also has that SOUTHERN COMFORT vibe of course (may be a little more in line with this with the military folks in it). A New World VHS release that has never seen any type of proper DVD.

CRY TERROR! (1958; Andrew L. Stone)
Stone is a wonderful directed of crime and suspense films. One of the first times ever heard him mentioned by Quentin Tarantino in the DVD commentary for TRUE ROMANCE (wherein he mentioned Stone's film HIGHWAY 301). I had already know QT to be a Stone fan though as he had come into the video store I used to work at and purchased Stone's excellent sinking boat movie THE LAST VOYAGE. I watched THE LAST VOYAGE because of Tarantino's purchase and enjoyed it very much. It kicks off quick with the captain of the ship getting a note that says "Fire in the engine room" within the first couple minutes. It was clear to me that Stone was a guy who liked to cut to the chase. The chase in CRY TERROR is that Rod Steiger has kidnapped James Mason's wife (Inger Stevens) and daughter and wants to use an bomb that Mason's character has designed to ask fro $500,00o in ransom. The is fantastic and also includes Neville Brand, Angie Dickinson, KennetH Tobey, Jack Klugman, Jack Kruschen and William Schallert.

THE SATAN BUG (1965; John Sturges)
Before OUTBREAK and CONTAGION came this solid procedural virus-on-the-loose movie from the director of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and THE GREAT ESCAPE (John Sturges). Some vials of a governmentally developed virus known as "the Satan Bug" have gone missing and must be recovered to avoid cataclysmic consequences. Cast includes Richard Basehart, Anne Francis, Dana Andres and Ed Asner. Based on a novel by Alistair MacLean who also wrote the source books for GUNS OF NAVARONE, WHERE EAGLES DARE, FEAR IS THE KEY and ICE STATION ZEBRA.

MIDNIGHT LACE (1960; David Miller)
In an early take on a DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE type story, Doris Day is an american woman in London who is tormented by a sadistic stalker and has trouble convincing the authorities or her husband Rex Harrison. Also stars Myrna Loy, John Gavin, Roddy McDowall, and Herbert Marshall.

TIGHTROPE (1984; Richard Tuggle)
I remember the creepy "horror movie guy" in the 80s farce MOVING VIOLATIONS making reference to this film (and some gruesome scenes in it) amidst a flurry of other horror films I was already aware of. Once the gauntlet was thrown down and this film was put into that company, I was quite intrigued. TIGHTROPE is a very interesting in that it is Eastwood moving into some even more mature and dark territory than he had gone for prior. Kinky sex is a big part of the M.O. for the serial killer he is after in this film. And it's not a DIRTY HARRY film which is also intriguing. I am glad of that too because as much as I enjoy that series of films, the fact that he is Detective Wes Block and not Harry Callahan allows the film to dig a little deeper into the warped psychology of both Block and the killer as well. I remember this being an early R-rated film that I saw as it came also as part of a big Clint Eastwood kick I went on as a youngster (starting with the Leone westerns and movie through all of his films that I could get my hands on). Co-stars the lovely Genevieve Bujold.

WOMAN IN HIDING (1950; Michael Gordon)
Highly suspenseful paranoid thriller with Ida Lupino as a woman on the run from her psychotic husband (played with effective menace by Stephen McNally), who clearly wants her dead and may be responsible for her fathers death as well. Excellent nail-biter with some scenes that really got me (and I only saw it for the first time this year).

TALK RADIO (1988; Oliver Stone)
Still one of my favorite Oliver Stone films and one of a handful of stage play adaptations that I truly enjoy (as a general rule I have trouble with them for the most part). Adapted from a  a stage play by Eric Bogosian who plays the lead in the movie (with elements of a book by Stephen Singular).

Honorable mentions:

SUTURE (1993; Scott McGehee/David Siegel)
This film mixes influences from things like SECONDS and Hitchcock films and comes up with a unique modern arthouse melange that still packs a punch. 

NIGHTMASTER (1987; Mark Joffe)
This might have also slotted in nicely on my Underrated Action/Adventure list, but I think it can work here too. My friend described it best when he said "It's like TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME, GYMKATA and AMERICAN NINJA had an Australian baby". I cannot think of a better way to sum it up. And it has a young Nicole Kidman, 4 years after BMX BANDITS and 2 years before her American breakthrough in DEAD CALM.

1 comment:

FakeShemp said...

I just saw Nightmaster a couple of months ago. I loved every minute of it!