Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Laird Jimenez ""

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Laird Jimenez

Laird, like myself, has worked at video stores over the years to feed his passion for movie watching. He's does video editing for the legendary Alamo Drafthouse and hosts/programs for their "Weird Wednesday" series. He did an interview about it last year:
http://lightscameraaustin.net/interviews/laird_jimenez_december_2013
See more about what's going on there at the Drafthouse Cinephile Facebook Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/177453722382314/

Laird has good taste and watches a lot of movies. I have often made discoveries based on his suggestions.
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Orgasmo (aka Paranoia, 1969, Umberto Lenzi)
Kind of like when one first meets the parents of a close acquaintance, and the reaction is, "Well, of course those are your parents!" watching Orgasmo one can see the seed (and the seediness) of the drugged out, oversexed, twisty, and admittedly, dopey core that would be found in stylish European thrillers for the next decade to come. That alone would make it a worthwhile curio, but Orgasmo is also a whacking good thriller. Well paced, somewhat diabolical, and centering around a trio of players who are very committed to their parts (including the stunningly gorgeous Carroll Baker). Lazy trash director Umberto Lenzi puts in enough snap zooms and flashy rack focuses to let you know he's there and that the year is 1969, while Piero "Mahna Mahna" Umiliani's swinging bossa soundtrack sets the scene. The less you know about the plot the better, but I have to say: if the ending doesn't get you, I don't know what will.

Get Rollin' (1980; J. Terrance Mitchell)
So many great documentaries focus on somewhat ordinary people with, at risk of sounding condescending, extremely silly goals. Be it setting a world record in Donkey Kong, running a successful haunted house, or what have you, even in achieving their goal the success would be seen as moderate at best by the world at large. Get Rollin' follows a handful of New Yorkers who are dead set on becoming professional roller disco performers, filmed in a fairly loose style, very similar to Derby, but with some scenes that are very painfully and obviously staged. The two featured players "Pat the Cat" and "J. Jammer" (name abbreviated for political correctness), like the subjects of the aforementioned documentaries, are bright, funny, colorful, and above all inspiring in their quixotic quest. I read a Jacques PrĂ©vert quote recently that perfectly sums up the appeal of these kind of stories about the ridiculous and the driven: "There is nothing sadder than an idiot, and nothing more beautiful than a fool."  

Hard Women (1970; Alfred Vohrer)
Going through the series of Edgar Wallace adaptations produced by Rialto in the 1960s my favorites are fairly consistently directed by Alfred Vohrer. By 1970 when Perrak (re-titled Hard Women by Sam Sherman for U.S. distribution) was released, that style of mystery was showing signs of creakiness and audiences demanded content that was a bit more risque. That clash of antique sensibilities and modern exploitation elements makes for an awkward, but hilarious ride. Gangsters threateningly shout, "And no monkey business!" into the phone while the plot revolves around the brutal slaying of a transgender prostitute who was mixed up in shady affairs at a brothel where, among other kinky acts, a man has pancakes slapped on his ass. Fun, needlessly convoluted, and so popular it spawned a long running hit TV series for Vohrer and star Horst Tappert (who was posthumously disgraced when it came out that he was a member of an elite SS group during World War II).

Go For Broke (1985; Genji Nakamura)
Wild exploitation from Japan that is kind of like Seven Samurai set in a high school. Twice a year the students are bullied by a hot-rod driving lesbian dominatrix and her motley biker gang so they enlist the help of dirt bike riding tomboy who gathers together a gang of other tough women including a stuntwoman and a female wrestler. Not as sleazy as your average pink film, but gets nastier than you would expect from a movie with a climactic fireworks fight.

Arcana (1972; Giulio Questi)
The same writer/director/editor team that made Django Kill! and Death Laid an Egg made this odd,  artsy horror film about a charlatan witch and her spiritually gifted, but mentally unstable son. Exudes a similar nervous, twitchy vibe as their two previous features, but ends up even more beguiling (and bewitching) when it really goes off the rails into abstraction for its final act. Haunting, mysterious, and gorgeous.

Hard Day For Archie (aka Hot Times, 1974, Jim McBride)
When David Holzman's Diary writer/director Jim McBride fell on hard times he went to his good pals the Mishkins (William being a notable 42nd Street producer/distributor) to see if he could get some low down, dirty work, he ended up with these simple instructions, "Write a script where in every scene they're either doing it or talking about doing it." The resulting screenplay became an unlikely mix of boilerplate 70s sexploitation and a light hearted spoof of Archie comics marketed under the absurd tagline, "American Graffiti... but with sex." It's one of the sharpest, wittiest trash sex comedies to come out of the era. Dense with silly slang and double and triple entendre, it's very easy on the ears even when it isn't on the eyes. Guaranteed to disappoint Archie fans.

Don't Look in the Basement (1973; S.F. Brownrigg)
S.F. Brownrigg independently produced several sweaty, quietly intense and subtly sleazy horror thrillers in the mid-70s, including the (due to debut on bluray from Grindhouse Releasing any day now) masterful Scum of the Earth (aka Poor White Trash Part II). All of his movies seem to be about crazy people, but Don't Look in the Basement finally gives them a good excuse: it's set in an insane asylum. Claustrophobic and high on histrionics and melodrama that tip it ever so slightly into camp territory, it's just plain fun, if you ask me.

Pot! Parents! Police! (aka The Cat Ate the Parakeet) (1972; Phillip Pine)
Reportedly made to debut in Jerry Lewis's doomed chain of fully automated movie theatres, this wackadoo film is either a big inside joke about the absurdity of paranoid parenting or one of the most unintentionally funny drug scare films to reach feature length. Either way, you'll learn not to feed your pet dog frankfurters, how to speak many lines of dialogue at a time while holding in a lungful of pot smoke, and rockabilly musician/vintage film dude Johnny Legend as an instigating hippie pusher.

Outside the Law (1920; Tod Browning)
An early Tod Browning/Lon Chaney pairing about a  young couple who fall  from grace thanks to a conniving gangster (Chaney, of course). Features a typically expressive Chaney performance and some intense action and suspense scenes. At one point there's a threeway standoff of sorts between characters that have their hands on hidden guns, all unbeknownst to each other.

The Duel (aka Duel of the Iron Fist, 1971, Chang Cheh)
Fairly typical heroic bloodshed from Chang Cheh, but elevated by an extra-emotive performance from Ti Lung, an extra-icy-cool performance from David Chiang, and the most bombastic use of Strauss since that 2001 space movie about that odyssey. I'll let the psychoanalysts deal with the implications of all of the impaling between the two intimately bonded male leads, and stick with a simple: this movie kicks all kinds of ass.

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