Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Thrillers - Samuel B. Prime ""

Monday, October 27, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is a writer, film curator, and archivist based in Los Angeles, where he currently works in film distribution. He is presently writing and editing a two-volume set for The Critical Press on the pioneering and highly influential LA-based pay cable station, the Z Channel, which existed from 1974 - 1989. As a film curator, he has helmed high-profile screening events for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and UCLA's Melnitz Movies. Otherwise, he deeply admires Dick Cavett's savoir faire and his favorite Sonny Chiba film is Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's perpetually unavailable WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (1975). Find him online at for essays and free streaming movies.

1. PETULIA (Dick Lester, 1968)
At this point in my life, any narrative about marriage or divorce seems like a horror story. PETULIA isn't helping alleviate any hang-ups I may have about love, loss, and commitment. Boasting a peculiar, innovative, and alternating flash-forward and flash-backward structure, the terror underlying Dick Lester's tale of fidelity and adulthood unravels at a painfully gradual pace, but with grandiose purpose. Once Archie (George C. Scott) along with the audience realizes the conundrum of Petulia's (Julie Christie) imperceptible prison and his own powerlessness, all that can be done is to bemoan that what is chiefly moral or ethical is not always easily achieved.

2. VENUS IN FURS (Jess Franco, 1969)
VERTIGO, but with dreamlike jazz structure and syncopation - also, Klaus Kinski S&M scenes.

3. DANGEROUS GAME (Abel Ferrara, 1993)
Filmmaking as a violent, complicated, emotional act. I saw this film when I was 10 years old and I didn't understand a damn thing except that Madonna was one of its top-billed actors. A decade and a half later, I find it one of the most harrowing, haunting meta-cinematic films I've ever seen, a chilling exploration of where one draws the line between reality and performance.

4. THE NINTH GATE (Roman Polanski, 1999)
Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) is a smarmy, "unscrupulous" book dealer who in the selfish pursuit of a salary delves too deep into a world of deepest darkness. I don't know if I can even capture in writing exactly what it is that I love so much about this particular Polanski, but it is a film that even having seen it upwards of 50 times, I never tire of the experience. Maybe it is because, like Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT, there's always more to see onscreen at any given time than is initially evident. The film itself is quietly playful in its presentation. That some are thrown off by its occasionally goofy tone is a testament to the difference between immersing yourself totally in the film and simply wanting to know how it ends.
5. COLD WEATHER (Aaron Katz, 2010)
Aaron Katz - a somewhat tertiary figure in the Mumblecore movement - crafts a deceptively brilliant feature film that begins in that familiar, annoyingly awkward indie mode but that gradually, masterfully evolves into an edge-of-your-seat thriller by its final sequence. It is as if Katz himself evolves as a filmmaker throughout the course of its 90-ish-minute runtime.

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