Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Jason Hyde ""

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Jason Hyde

Jason Hyde is a man whose tastes in cinema are quite trustworthy. He's been kind enough to do many lists for me in the past including one for my Underrated Comedy series:
and also my Underrated Dramas: 
& Detective/Mysteries:
Here is his discoveries list from 2013:
Lots of good stuff on all of those lists so check them out if you haven't and enjoy his discoveries from 2014.


SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN (1929; Benjamin Christensen)
It's always rewarding to be able to mark a film off the must-see list. Doubly so when you never thought you'd ever get to see it in your lifetime. SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN has alway been an elusive item. For years, the only print in existence was one with Italian intertitles that never screened anywhere. Now the fine folks at The Serial Squadron have put together a nice edition for all to see. It's not as stunningly restored as some of their other efforts, but it looks pretty good, and it's got some inventive tinting and a new score. As for the film itself, it's pretty dubious as an adaptation of A. Merritt's novel, but terrific as a particularly deranged slice of old dark house hokum. Once the story gets going, it plays like a fever dream of crazy characters running from room to room. There's a gorilla, a sinister Asian, a guy with very strange sideburns, a sultry femme fatale, and so on. If you're into this sort of thing, you really owe it to yourself to check this one out. Thankfully, you can do so free of charge:

THE BLACK VAMPIRE (1953; Román Viñoly Barreto)
This Argentinian remake of Fritz Lang's M is easily the best thing I saw all year. It follows the basic skeleton of Lang's plot pretty closely, but shifts the focus to a cabaret entertainer of ill repute played by Olga Zubarry who witnesses one of the child murders and is afraid to come forward because of the possible scandal. In doing so it injects some ripe and very welcome melodrama into the story. Zubarry was considered a sort of Argentinian answer to Marilyn Monroe a the time, and she's seriously hot stuff in this film. As the murderer, popular comedian Nathán Pinzón is anything but funny. He's alternately pitiful and terrifying and just as impressive in this film as Peter Lorre was in the original. I got to see this in a Noir City double feature with Joseph Losey's enjoyable 1951 remake of M that reworks the story as a nifty post-war noir, and it was easily the most enjoyable night that I spent at the movies all year.

LOVE HAPPY (1949; David Miller)
Despite a lifelong love of The Marx Brothers, I had never gotten around to seeing their final film until just recently. It never seemed to pop up on TV the way most of the earlier ones did (although MONKEY BUSINESS was similarly elusive), and its not so great reputation didn't exactly make me too anxious to watch it. Having seen it, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's no DUCK SOUP, but it's got more than enough to recommend it. Much is made of Groucho's role being not much more than a cameo, and that's true, but it's a memorable cameo and he's in full Groucho mode, leering at a young Marilyn Monroe and cracking wise like the Groucho of old. Chico is actually less memorably used and doesn't really get all that much to do, although his obligatory piano number is one the his best, a crazy duet with a violinist that keeps changing tune and tempo and gets downright discordant at times, almost like something John Cage might come up with if he was asked to write a piece for Chico. This is really Harpo's movie, and as Harpo is easily my favorite Marx Brother, I have no issue with that. And he's terrific throughout, but especially when he's being shaken down by Ilona Massey's thugs (one of whom is Raymond Burr) and riding a neon sign in a particularly surreal bit towards the end. Also, Vera-Ellen does a seriously sexy Sadie Thompson-themed dance routine. 

CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958; Robert Day)
2014 will probably go down as the year I finally got around to seeing some Boris Karloff movies that I'd always meant to watch but never did for some reason. Of these, CORRIDORS OF BLOOD was easily the best. Less a horror movie than a dark melodrama about the early days of anaesthesia, this film reminded me quite a bit of the sort of thing Tod Slaughter specialized in back in the 30s. Karloff is in full-on sympathetic mode as Dr. Bolton, whose obsession with eliminating pain from surgery leads him into drug addiction and murder. Also on hand is a particularly sinister Christopher Lee as Resurrection Joe, along with other Hammer favorites Yvonne Romain and Francis De Wolff and the great Nigel Green. 

HYPERBOLOID OF ENGINEER GARIN (1965; Aleksandr Gintsburg)
Terrific pulpy Soviet sci-fi thriller about a mad engineer with a death ray attempting to gain control of the world's gold market. This feels very much like the Soviet response to the Bond films, but the overall atmosphere is more in line with the German Dr. Mabuse films of the time. Things get more than a little confusing in the first half when Engineer Garin is on the run and using doubles to mislead the authorities, but once he settles down to his island lair, it turns into thrilling stuff. It's also easily one of the most gorgeous movies I've ever seen. Pretty much every frame of this movie is jaw-dropping stuff. I seriously doubt that there's ever been a better looking film about death rays and Zeppelins and heroic detectives doggedly pursuing dastardly villains than this one.

The Krimi obsession continues unabated. I'm enjoying these things so much that I'm already starting to worry about running out of them. Thankfully there's a lot of them, so that won't be happening anytime soon. Of the Krimis I managed to track down this year, THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE and HORROR OF BLACKWOOD CASTLE were easily my favorites. THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE (1960; Harald Reinl) is easily one of the best I've seen from the entire cycle. It's got just about everything that makes these movies great. There's the late Joachim Fuchsberger as the heroic Scotland Yard man, Eddi Arent as comic relief (this time a very squeamish crime scene photographer), lovely Karin Dor as the damsel in distress, and a twisty plot about revenge from beyond the grave that's thoroughly engrossing on every level. I managed to guess the killer's identity, but the reveal is carried off superbly nonetheless. The only thing missing is Klaus Kinski. HORROR OF BLACKWOOD CASTLE (1968; Alfred Vohrer) is also a blast, and my favorite so far of the later color entries, which tend to be a bit more camp than the black and white ones. This one's basically Edgar Wallace's version of Hound of the Baskervilles. There's a sinister hound killing people on the moors as well as a nefarious gang trying to get their hands on a treasure hidden in an old castle. It's pretty classic Wallace, although it's not clear which book it's actually based on. Krimi regulars Heinz Drache, Karin Baal, Siegfried Schürenberg, and Ilse Pagé are all present and accounted for, the atmosphere is thick and colorful, and the crazy jazz soundtrack by Peter Thomas is out of this world. As for the rest, INN ON THE RIVER (1962; Alfred Vohrer) is pretty top notch stuff as well. Kinski does pop up in this one,  playing a seedy French smuggle, alongside regulars Fuchsberger and Arent. The plot this time concerns sinister doings around the Thames waterfront, where criminal mastermind The Shark commits a daring series of robberies and murders. THE MAN WITH THE GLASS EYE (1969; Alfred Vohrer) is a crazy tale of white slavery and heroin smuggling (inside pool cues) from the waning days of the Krimi craze. By the time it was made, they were getting a bit sexier and bloodier, but also somehow sillier, and this one has the silliest character I've ever seen in one of these films, a long-haired, Beatle-quoting Scotland Yard detective named Sgt. Pepper, who has the most annoying voice I've ever heard in the English dubbed version (it's apparently not much better in the original German). Nonetheless, it's still seriously enjoyable stuff full of vibrant color, cool jazz, and bizarre plot twists, but it is pretty clear that the series was running out of steam, though, and the attempts to keep up
with the times make it feel more dated than many older entries. THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA (1971; Jess Franco) feels more like a post-mortem on the Krimi than an extension of what's gone before, but it's still a lot of fun. It's definitely more a Franco film than a true Krimi, but it's a good Franco film, making fine use of a lot of his then-regulars (Soledad Miranda, Howard Vernon, Paul Muller) alongside familiar Krimi faces (Siegfried Schürenberg, Horst Tappert, Walter Rilla). Soledad Miranda has her customary nightclub number and it's a memorably strange one, with her kind of but not really dancing while wearing what looks like a shredded garbage bag and not much more. The plot this time involves a stone whose rays can turn metal into gold or humans into burn-faced zombies and a bunch of spies, detectives, and scientists who are all out to get it. Like a lot of Franco films from this time, it's a thriller that isn't all that thrilling, but that laid back, disconnected vibe is kind of what's most appealing about it. Well, that and the groovy psychedelic soundtrack.

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