Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Thrillers - Joe Gibson ""

Friday, September 26, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Joe Gibson

Joe Gibson is an extremely serious Cinephile living in Austin, Texas. He can be found on twitter @Karatloz and on Letterboxd (a highly recommended follow) here:
Joe watches pretty much more films in a given year than any human I know. He may be a robot.

"Thriller" is a tough genre because it covers so much ground (including earlier Rupert Pupkin list topics like detective movies and stuff) so I'm trying to restrict this to the more classical definition of the term, stories that at least vaguely involve a villainous scheme and a heroic attempt to thwart it. And no detectives! We'll see how I do.

Mr. Moto is only occasionally a traditional detective, preferring instead to deliver cold-blooded justice to his enemies with knives, judo, or some combination of knives and judo. This is one of the better ones, but you can consider it a stand-in for the entire Fox Mr. Moto series, which is great stuff if you're a retro-pulp fanatic.

Can't take credit for discovering this one, since it was a Weird Wednesday pick, but it's sturdy stuff in any case. Highlight is Tony Todd as The Count, the quasi-vampiric leader of a street gang called, uh, The Vampires. Todd has always been one of the best bad guys around, and here he gets a chance to really sink his (metaphorical) fangs into the graffiti-soaked scenery.

It's very possible that I've written on this movie on this site before, as I love Tsui Hark and this is possibly my favorite of his (that I've seen, the guy is frighteningly prolific). The repetition is apt, though, since there are DNA strains of a seemingly-impossible number of genres present here (this is, of course, a Tsui signature). For our current purposes here, Agent 999 is a perfect thriller protagonist, and the island band of insane cannibals he's up against are the perfect antagonists.

This is a Hammer joint that blurs the line between horror and thriller, especially since the violence is unusually bloody and gory than what we generally expect from Hammer. The lush visuals, though, are all exactly what the Hammer name promises.

This is another genre-hopper, might be considered more of a horror movie than a thriller (in fact, I saw it at a Terror Tuesday screening a while ago). But I think there's enough thriller juju here to justify its inclusion, like its Pino Donaggio score, which recalls the best of his work with superthriller-maestro Brian De Palma. You could probably cut out the gory kills and still have a decent movie here, as long as you didn't touch anything with Kinski in it. I wouldn't condone this, though.

This is a twisty Psycho knockoff from Hammer Film Productions, and it nails that creepy widescreen black-and-white vibe. Like a lot of Psycho knockoffs, it leans much more heavily on a plot twist or two than Hitchcock ever did, but it is, as they say, a hell of a ride, and very different from the Hammer monster movies that usually get talked about in connection with the studio nowadays.

36 HOURS (1965)
In honor of the recently departed James Garner, I'm including this mid-60s wartime thriller that has one of the best suspense hooks I've ever come across. Garner plays a US Army Major with inside information on the approaching D-Day invasion, which the Nazis still think is going to be in the wrong place. In order to get some proper intelligence on the operation, the Nazis devise an incredible plan: Acquire Garner, knock him unconscious, and when he wakes up convince him that it's actually 1950 and the war ended years ago through an elaborate deception involving a mocked up army hospital. That way he can share the D-Day details with who he thinks are American doctors but are actually ... Nazis! It's a fantastic premise, which the movie (perhaps inevitably) doesn't quite live up to, but it's definitely worth seeing, especially if this sort of thing appeals to you.

I know Brian is a big fan of this one but I double-checked and it's not on his thriller list, so voila. This is probably not a movie that will keep you awake at night after you see it, but it really hits the spot provided you have a spot for quaint, well-plotted genre product they don't really make anymore. Lots of good amusement park footage, and an appearance by the great Craig "Body Double" Wasson.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great list! I was thinking of including Crawlspace on mine but planned to file it away in case there's another horror list coming up. That movie is pretty priceless.