Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Elijah Drenner ""

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Elijah Drenner

Elijah Drenner is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and one of the leading independent producers of Blu-ray/DVD bonus content and Electronic Press Kits. He has produced original content for The Criterion Collection, IFC Midnight, Dark Sky Films, Kino Lorber, Shout! Factory, Vinegar Syndrome and many more. In 2010, Drenner directed the documentary AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE. His second feature-length documentary, THAT GUY DICK MILLER premiered at SXSW in 2014.

THE IPCRESS FILE (Sidney J. Fuire, 1965) 
Michael Caine plays an ex-con working for Her Majesty's Secret Service in exchange for serving a prison sentence. During a seemingly-simple assignment, he finds himself wrapped up in a counter-intelligence brainwashing conspiracy. I had no idea this was part of a series of films (followed by FUNERAL IN BERLIN and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN) and now I'm hooked. Fantastic John Barry soundtrack.

STAYING ALIVE (Sylvester Stallone, 1983)
I always liked SATURDAY NIGHTFEVER, but never heard a positive thing about its sequel. After watching it twice in one week, I can attest that it's a mis-understood masterpiece. Travolta returns to his role as Tony Manero, struggling to make ends meet as a dancer in Manhattan. Stallone directs the drama and romance from one dance montage to another, culminating to the jaw-dropping, show-stopping "Satan's Alley" Broadway spectacle. Brother Frank has some nice screen-time too. I loved it. And not I'm not being ironic. 

THE SAVAGE IS LOOSE (George C. Scott, 1974) 
This is third and final film directed by Scott. A disturbing tale of a shipwrecked family raising their only son on a tropical island. Should dad teach his son to hunt and kill for survival, or should mom try to civilize, by teaching him to read and write? As the young boy matures into his teens, his sexual urges put mother at risk. The tension is slow-building, but fascinating to watch. I'm still baffled with the ending. 

ALL FALL DOWN/THE GYPSY MOTHS/I WALK THE LINE (John Frankenheimer, 1962/1969/1970)
These were woefully missing from my Frankenheimer schooling and I can't believe that I waited this long to see them. I couldn't pick just one, but I think there's a theme here; family relationships and what happens when an outside force challenges their dynamic. 

DEMON WITCH CHILD (aka THE POSSESSED, Armando de Ossorio, 1975) 
This Spanish-made EXORCIST rip-off is not scary, but the more screen time she gets, the more horrifying the possessed child is to look at. The precocious little squirt even castrates a priest. I thank/hate Nicholas McCarthy for forcing me to watch this movie on his birthday. 

SUSAN SLADE (Delmer Daves, 1961) 
Teeny-bopper Connie Stevens gets knocked up. Her parents (Lloyd Nolan and Dorothy McGuire) are forced to move to Mexico for her to have the child, away from their friends and colleagues, and pass the newborn off as their own to protect the family. This is quintessential Eisenhower-era melodrama about religious faith, maintaining social class standards and a PSA for keeping cigarette lighters out of the nursery.

THE SWIMMER (Frank Perry, 1968)
This movie quietly blew me away. Every time I tried to describe to people, my words simply could not do it justice. Don't ask me to do the same here. Just watch it.

KLUTE (Alan J. Pakula, 1971)
Another one of those, why-did-I-wait-this-long-to-see-this-movie? movies. This is the only film I can think of, where the victim takes the virginity of their protector, just to show who's really in charge. Jane Fonda is beautiful. Donald Sutherland's ears are big. A quiet, eerie and singularly captivating 2-hour experience. 

SEE NO EVIL (Richard Fleischer, 1971)
Mia Farrow plays a blind woman visiting her family in their isolated country estate. A killer (who is only shown by his cowboy boots) breaks into the house and kills the family, leaving the grisly crime for Mia to slowly discover on her own. This is, on one hand, a laugh riot; watching cross-eyed Mia Farrow bumble around like Leslie Nielsen, thumping into walls and falling down stairs. But on the other hand, there are some incredibly tense mini-moments; sitting there helplessly watching the dangers as she walks right into them. 

SEEDING OF A GHOST (Chuan Yang, 1983
A young man enlists the help of a Chinese witch doctor to get revenge on the men who killed his girl friend, giving her magical zombie power to possess the minds of her killers, turn into a monster, and kill the family of the man she was having an affair with. Or something like that. 

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