Rupert Pupkin Speaks: November 2014 ""

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Underrated Thrillers II - "Cocaine Noir" B-Sides - James David Patrick

After posting my first list of "Cocaine Noir" titles, I had a few requests for more underheralded thrillers from the 80s and early 90s. I threw together another quick lists of favorites that didn't quite make the original cut of the Cocaine Noir B-Sides. These may not be quite as good as the original six, but they'll deliver high that's almost as satisfying. 

Miami Blues (1990) 
"The first thing they shoulda told you at your hooker classes is that you shouldn't ask the client so many fucking personal questions." 

Miami Blues doesn't care about character "likability" or "narrative drive." What it cares about is giving Alec Baldwin a bad 90s haircut and a playground for crazy. Baldwin plays Frederick Frenger, Jr. Newly released from prison, Junior kills a Hare Krishna by breaking his finger off. No explanation necessary, right? Clearly he's a bad mutha if he can kill a guy by breaking his finger off. He promptly checks into a hotel and falls in love-ish with a prostitute/college student with the heart of a cat lady (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When Sgt. Hoke Mosely (Fred Ward clad in a cacophonous array of floral Hawaiian prints) comes to ask him a few questions, Junior takes copious notes about the detective's procedure. He then beats up Sgt. Mosely, steals his badge and goes on a crime spree, all the while pretending to be a cop. The sociopathic Robin Hood act carries him only so far before the Sgt. Mosely tracks him down and the altruistic hooker/cat lady grows suspicious of his activities outside their new abode. 

With all the crazy headlines of individual lunatics coming out of Florida, Miami Blues feeds right into the theory that Floridians are batshit crazy. 

Exhibit A: Junior. 
Exhibit B: Everyone that believes Junior's a cop in a pink suit jacket and plaid pastel pants. 

Miami Blues is about enjoying the performances of the lead actors and looking back at the decade of Miami Vice with fondness but also a bit of skepticism. Alec Baldwin flashes crazy eyes every time he slips into cop mode. Scruffy Fred Ward does a fine revisionist combination of Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs. Jennifer Jason Leigh overdoes understatement. 

What it lacks in thrills it makes up for in pulpy fun. Miami Blues has been a guilty pleasure for many, but now you have my permission to guilt no more. Don't bother with the non-anamorphic DVD that's currently available. A new Blu-ray is on the way courtesy of Shout Factory early in 2015. Fred Ward's shirts will finally pop on home video the way they were originally intended. 

Light Sleeper (1992) 
"I envy you. Convenient memory is a gift from God." 

Director Paul Schrader (Cat People) spends so much trying to convince you that Light Sleeper isn't a traditional thriller that you'll forget that what you're watching is supposed to be..well.. thrilling. This turns out to be a good thing. Really. When Light Sleeper finally shifts into the final act, the slow build rewards amply. 

Willem Dafoe plays creepy better than anyone, but what happens when Dafoe's character, a drug dealer looking for a way out, comes off as the sane one? The one spouting philosophy and stalking his ex-wife like a lost puppy. The one searching for meaning and acceptance. Susan Sarandon and David Clennon (The Thing, The Couch Trip) run a drug operation with Dafoe as their decreasingly trusted go between. Elsewhere someone's murdering women in apparent drug-related situations. 

Light Sleeper is a straight-up modern take on a classic film noir. Everybody talks in coded phrases and keeps their cards close to their chest. Schrader directs this film with predictable confidence Ð the man was nothing if not over-confident in his stylistic choices. Here that confidence allows him to dabble with the noir form while remaining grounded in a very human story. Meanwhile our preconceptions, aided by 22 years of extra perspective on the careers of Dafoe, Susan Sarandon, Dana Delaney (the ex-wife), redirect and shape our expectations. 

Schrader couldn't have known how this film would improve with age. Chalk it up to happy accidents. What Schrader did, however, was create tension through character rather than unexpected twists or hyper-violence. This film would have played nicely alongside the noirs of the late 40s and early 50s, when filmmakers began experimenting with the genre. Toss in Joseph Cotton, Ava Gardner and Jane Greer and you've got yourself a classic noir humdinger. 

Someone To Watch Over Me (1987) 
"I love your husband, Ellie, but he's a l'il dork." 

I'm sorry if you're too young (or weren't paying attention) to remember the days (day?) when Tom Berenger was a bona fide Hollywood leading man. Scarred inside and out, the late-80s Tom Berenger brooded like none other. In the 90s I guess we all grew too jaded to buy into Tom Berenger. We banished him to direct-to-video purgatory, tossing aside his greatest achievements as an unfortunate product of the times. NO MORE! Lets bring the Berenger back. Lets celebrate the man, the myth, and the way Hollywood cast Tom Berenger as shorthand for "this dude's got issues." 

Would you find it surprising if I said this movie the product of a little director named Ridley Scott? STWOM lacks the budget and size normally associated with a Ridley Scott picture. Billed as an "erotic thriller" to sell tickets, STWOM at best could be considered a classical noir with a few romantic interludes. Ridley keeps this one classy, occasionally PG steamy, but always classy. 

Blue-collar Detective Mike Keegan falls for upper crust Claire, the murder witness (an excellent Mimi Rogers) he's been assigned to protect until the trial. The accused is the powerful mobster Joey Venza. As Venza's threat of violence spirals ever closer to Claire's marble palace, Mike and Claire become more entangled through their shared fear. Naturally, this relationship with a beautiful, rich and altogether pleasant woman throws Mike's modest home life into conflict. 

Scott's direction and the quality of the supporting cast boost this one above your average B-grade thriller. Lorraine Bracco plays the estranged wife with profanity-laced hyperbole. She's no wilting housewife. Their relationship feels real, messy and honest. Jerry Orbach stops by to preview his role in Law and Order, and the notorious Joey Venza is played by the menacing character actor Andreas Katsulas. You'll recognize Katsulas as Sykes, the one-armed man from The Fugitive. 

You'll watch this feeling like you've seen it somewhere before, perhaps ten somewheres before but as the movie plays out, you'll be hooked, hanging on until that inevitable final confrontation. Plus you get one of those great 80s/90s moments where the credits roll over a long shot of surviving heroes, an ambulance, and a gathering crowd. 

Masquerade (1988) 
No movie might be more unapologetically 1980s than Masquerade. It's a Mad Libs of the "Me Decade" (but not the "Me Decade" as coined by Tom Wolfe because that was the 1970s. but that all seems rather supercilious considering how modern social media has created an entire culture focused on the "Me" that dwarfs the "Me-ness" of the 1970s or 80s). But I digress. Back to Mad-Libs. 

Actor. Rob Lowe. Car. Ferrari. Sport. Yachting. This one comes with a slight caveat, much like Heaven's Prisoners in my last group of Cocaine Noir recommendations. Masquerade is not an especially good movie, but is a delectable little snuffbox of a thriller and a time capsule of a (regrettably?) bygone era. 

Few actors directly recall the 1980's more than Rob Lowe. The hair, the perfect charm, the dial that switches between cheese, charmer and slimeball at the blink of an eye. Multiply Rob Low with Yacht racing. The boat shoes, the popped collars, the feverishly whipped hair from the ocean breezes. When it comes to the most mocked and maligned activities of the rich and famous, yacht racing rises right to the top. It just so happens that yacht racing features prominently in Masquerade. Even better Rob Lowe is a renowned yacht-racing prodigy. 

But now about the ladies of Masquerade. First there's Kim Cattrall. Gratuitous Kim Cattral in an 80s movie means various states of unnecessary undress. And then there's Meg Tilly. For a flickering moment in time, Meg Tilly (Jennifer's younger sister) was an It-Girl of the 1980s. As a dancer, she made a name for herself in Fame (1980) and then as an actress in The Big Chill (1983) after a bout of fragility undermined her dancing career. You mostly likely don't recall her Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Agnes of God (1985) or that she was cast (and then replaced due to a broken ankle during rehearsals) as Mozart's wife in Milos Forman's Amadeus (1984). As Tilly began appearing in lesser-received productions her career dissolved and the talented actress abruptly disappeared in 1995. Lucky for us, she paused to star in this trashy little Hollywood B-picture. 

Shy little rich girl with step-daddy issues (John Glover!) falls madly in love with Lowe's bad boy yacht captain, much to the chagrin of an old flame (now local cop) who thinks she deserves better. As it turns out, of course, everyone's conning everyone else to get a piece of Meg Tilly and her trust fund. As double crosses turn into triple crosses, Masquerade flies off the handle and into the realm of delirious prime time soap material. Writer Dick Wolf went on to become writer/producer of Law & Order in all of its various incarnations, so this makes perfect sense. 

When I first watched Masquerade I didn't think much about it. A fun but transient piece of fluff. It was a serviceable film with a few nice twists. For days after, however, I keep returning to its absurdities, the eccentricities beholden only to a thriller of a certain decade with a certain aesthetic Ð the je ne sais quoi that makes "Cocaine Noir" so damn enjoyable.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Vinegar Syndrome - CHRISTMAS EVIL on Blu-ray

CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980; Lewis Jackson)
It takes a special actor to really effectively pull off a slow-burn descent into insanity. Some just want to jump right to 11 and bring all the nuttiness out too quickly which can make things rather cartoonish. Obviously some of it is in the writing and directing as well. Director Lewis Jackson really taps into some dark areas with his script for YOU BETTER WATCH OUT (it was retitled CHRISTMAS EVIL, apparently not his choice). I gotta give credit to lead actor Brandon Maggart though. His portrayal Harry Stadling is one filled with subtle and frightening nuance. The little things he does, the gestures, the ticks and some of the way he interacts with others just carries a slow arc of madness pretty well. CHRISTMAS EVIL is not a film you'd likely seen made today. Harry might get flagged more quickly for his odd behavior a little sooner in a script written for 2014. But he plays pretty well in a film set in 1980 or thereabouts. Brandon Maggart just has this nice, put-upon guy look about him that is perfect for character. There is a melancholy and a sense of loneliness that he brings that is authentic is this quite believable way. Apparently this film was a decade in the making and Lewis Jackson had quite a singular vision for it. He even went so far as to storyboard every shot in the movie and went so far as to hire cinematographer Ricardo Aronovich (who had shot movies in France for Alain Resnais and Louis Malle). Jackson himself has said that the movie was meant to be a black comedy and was never intended to be taken completely seriously. I guess I believe this, however I must say that I myself don't find it too funny and this is mostly due to Brandon Maggart's performance which I find has a true humanity that I feel was certainly intentional. What Jackson has ultimately created is not what many might associate with the idea of a "Santa Slasher" along the lines of SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT and the like, but rather something of an art film. It may sound silly to call it such, but I really feel like that's more the category it falls into and that is part of the reason it was not received too well when it was released. It's a neat little film though and one that is clearly coming from a singular vision pretty much unlike any other movie in this genre.
Special Features:
Not only did Vinegar Syndrome go all-out with a new 4K transfer on this movie (which looks quite nice), but they've also compiled a plethora of supplemental goodies. First off, there are THREE commentary tracks here.
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson (Courtesy of Synapse Films).
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson & the film's star Brandon Maggart (Courtesy of Troma Entertainment).
-A commentary with Director Lewis Jackson & filmmaker John Waters (Courtesy of Synapse Films).
-Also included are separate on-camera Interviews with Lewis Jackson (7 mins), Brandon Maggart (7 mins), Audition tapes (25 mins) with Richard Bright, Carla Borelli, Larry Pine, JoBeth Williams, Brandon Maggart, Pat Hodges, Michael Beck & Lindsay Crouse, Jeffrey DeMunn & Lindsay Crouse, George Dzunda & Jeffrey DeMunn, and David Rasche & Ellen McElduff. PLUS: Deleted Scenes (7 mins), the original comment cards and also all of Lewis Jackson's storyboards.

Find out more about Vinegar Syndrome and their releases here:
http://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/christmas-evil-bddvd-combo/
And order CHRISTMAS EVIL from Amazon here:
http://goo.gl/XlTUAq


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Colin McGuigan

"My name's Colin McGuigan. I'm originally from Northern Ireland but resident in Greece for many years now. I've been a fan of classic Hollywood as long as I can remember and caught the western bug early on - watching Randolph Scott on Saturday afternoons on TV probably sealed it for me. It's a vast genre, always offering up new surprises and even the stuff I've become most familiar has the ability to reveal different aspects and perspectives. I've come to love the westerns of the 50s most of all, even though I can and do appreciate every era, and feel that decade saw the genre at the peak of its maturity and sophistication."

Colin's Blog is 'Riding The High Country' - found here:
http://livius1.wordpress.com/

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Tread Softly Stranger (1958)
A neat noir/thriller which uses the right kind of working-class, urban setting, something British efforts sometimes failed to do. It has that suitably desperate feel to it - poverty, lust and bleak prospects laying the foundations for crime. The highlight of the movie is Diana Dors' turn as Calico, a sexy hostess who acts as the catalyst for the downfall of two smitten brothers. It's all very stylishly photographed by Douglas Slocombe and features a strong cast of reliable British character players.
http://livius1.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/tread-softly-stranger/


The Long Memory (1952)
A quest for revenge that turns into a journey towards redemption: a theme common to a fair few westerns but one that blends seamlessly into this gritty crime drama. Robert Hamer was one of the best directors working in British cinema at this time and John Mills was a subtle yet compelling screen presence. Together they gave us this tale of a wronged man consumed by bitterness whose heart is gradually thawed by Eva Bergh's refugee waitress. Along with the absorbing story, the use of authentic locations is an added boon.
http://livius1.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/the-long-memory/


Payroll (1961)
Another British thriller, and this time a heist movie. In addition to a well-staged robbery, we're treated to corruption, betrayal, double-crosses and revenge in the north-east of England. This pacy and tight little B movie sees strong performances by Michael Craig, Kenneth Griffith and Billie Whitelaw. Once again the location filming stands out and adds a layer of realism to a tough and diamond-hard yarn. More people need to see this film.
http://livius1.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/payroll/


Obsession (1949)
Nightmare noir is a subset of a genre or style that itself is hazily defined at best. Edward Dmytryk left his Hollywood troubles behind and came to Britain to make this thriller which is reminiscent of a Cornell Woolrich story in its treatment of dread and despair. Robert Newton completely owns the movie as one of the most chillingly determined and seemingly invincible villains you're likely to see. The whole setup has the kind of macabre plausibility that grabs your attention and never lets go.
http://livius1.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/obsession/

The River's Edge (1957)
And a quick hop across the Atlantic takes me to my final selection here. Allan Dwan was one of those cinematic pioneers who never seems to get the credit he's due. The latter stages of his career is studded with little gems, visually and thematically rich films which defied the constraints of their budgets. Anthony Quinn, Ray Milland and Debra Paget form the three points of a treacherous romantic triangle in this tense pursuit through the wilderness thriller.
http://livius1.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/the-rivers-edge/

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Steve Q

Steve Q blogs about terrible movies at http://zerostarcinema.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter at @Amy_Surplice.
He also recently did an Underrated Westerns list you should check out:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/04/underrated-westerns-steve-q.html
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When people look for thrillers, they rarely venture into foreign films, so I thought I'd cover French thrillers. "Wages of Fear" is perhaps the most tense film I've ever seen, "Diabolique" is a masterpiece and "Rififi" and "Topkapi" are classic heist films. If you haven't seen these - do so now! Claude Chabbrol is often called "the French Hitchcock, and his films are worth seeing. Assuming you've already discovered these, here's five lesser-known French thrillers.


Panique (1946)
Based on a George Simenon novel, this has been filmed a number of times, often under the title "Mr. Hire." It's a complicated film noir, with an innocent but eccentric man being assumed guilty of murder. He does, however, accidentally possess a photograph showing the real killer and just might use it for blackmail.

Le Choix des Armes (1981)
Starring Yves Montand, Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieux, this film has a man dying after a prison break asking his partner to take him to a couple for help, but they all end up at crossed purposes while being hunted by the police.


Le Corbeau (1943)
This film was highly controversial when released, because it was a French film directed under Nazi supervision. Someone's sending out poison-pen letters to a town's local leaders, causing unease and menace, including a doctor accused of performing abortions and having affairs. Soon, no one trusts anyone.


Plein Soleil (1960)
This is the first filmed version of Highsmith's novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley," directed by Rene Clement. It was hard to find until Martin Scorsese extolled its virtues and I think it's better than the more famous version with Matt Damon.


Le Samourai (1967)
This could easily be seen as just an exercise in style (it's visually arresting), but it's an excellent crime film as well. A professional hitman gets seen and tries to provide himself with an alibi, driving him ever further into a corner. It'd make an interesting double-bill with Jim Jamusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - THE LONG GOODBYE and THIEVES LIKE US onBlu-ray

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973; Robert Altman)
I will say this right up front, THE LONG GOODBYE is one of my all-time favorite movies. We're talking top 5 for me. I find this interesting because I didn't necessarily love it the first time I saw it. I can't recall my exact reaction when the film finished, but it was not one of having been blown away. I'd hate to run into that earlier version of me in a bar by some mishap in the space time continuum someday and get into a discussion about it, because I'd probably end up punching myself. As it stands now, I find the movie to be nearly flawless. A remarkable, free-wheelin' adaptation of a hard boiled crime novel that is infused with such a glorious post modern-ish viewpoint that I can't help but adore it. You what else helps it? Elliott Gould. You wanna talk about an actor being in their heyday, let's talk about Gould in the 1970s (I still love him to this very day btw, but in the 70s he was a man on fire). Gould's performances during that period were perfectly suited to the time. He was able to capture a laid-back coolness that Steve McQueen never reached. And his coolness was never more cool than in THE LONG GOODBYE .I love him in CALIFORNIA SPLIT, BUSTING, LITTLE MURDERS, M.A.S.H. and others as well, but this was his pinnacle in my mind. Not only was Gould like Jeffery Lebowski for the 1970s (the man for his time and place), but he was also the man for Altman and his sensibilities as well. There's just something about Gould's voice, his mannerisms and his general physicality that make him wonderfully unique and a perfect fit for this role in particular.
Now I love Altman's films and his style. I've heard some folks that I respect aren't into him (*cough* Tarantino) and I just don't get it. I mean, yeah I get that Altman's films don't appeal to everyone, but it seems that most of the hardcore cinephiles I know can at least appreciate him if they don't outright adore his output. Anyway, we've all seen a lot of private eye films and in turn a lot of self-aware private eye films to boot. What THE LONG GOODBYE does it take that sort attitude of self-awareness and fold it in on itself with character, location and some undefinable sense of the time in which it was made. Speaking of location, Los Angeles has a long and torrid history with the movies and private eye movies in general. I do tire of hearing that inevitable phrase, "the city is really a character in the movie". I see what is trying to be touched upon but I feel that it's become a shortcut quip for press junkets and people don't really even think about what it means anymore. Los Angeles is most certainly a big part of THE LONG GOODBYE. It is not and I don't think it ever could be a New York movie. I think there are a lot of movies that could be set in a lot of different places and they'd still be as effective as they are with wherever they happen to be located. Altman's Los Angeles of the THE LONG GOODBYE is such a great fit. This has to do with a lot of things as Altman tends to create a kind of tapestry in his cinematic melting pot, but credit certainly needs be given to the great Vilmos Zsigmond. The great Hungarian-born cinematographer and Altman worked together previous to this on MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (which is a gorgeous-looking film) and he had just shot DELIVERANCE (and Altman's woefully underrated IMAGES, both in 1972) the year before rejoining Altman to do THE LONG GOODBYE. Zsigmond is no accidental part of a lot of great 70s cinema. His contributions to the works of Altman, De Palma and Steven Spielberg in the 1970s and 80s cannot and should not be left as a small footnote. The look he gave to each of the films he worked on during this period is specific and evocative. THE LONG GOODBYE is no exception. Zsigmond chose to 'flash' the to give it a Los Angeles a look more evocative of the 1950s in his mind and it works beautifully. Once I'm in the movie I don't think about it, but it effects the mood of things in such a way as to be more immersive for sure. Another thing that helps me get lost in the world of THE LONG GOODBYE is the music. John Williams' theme is weaved throughout the movie in a truly wonderful way. It starts off in a lovely, croonery style with Johnny Mercer singing the song with lyrics as the credits roll. That version of the theme is a stunning mood-setter without question. From there we begin to hear the theme in all manner of ways diegetically throughout the movie. It crops up in muzak form as Philip Marlowe shops for Courry Brand cat food at the supermarket. It can be heard in a bar as the piano player noodles about on the piano. It finds its way into the movie in all these different wonderful ways and I've always adored that approach. Sure it's not a novel idea to have your film's theme pop up again and again, but I love the way Altman does it here. Speaking of Altman, this film is full of a lot of his trademarks. His penchant overlapping dialogue (one of the more distinct things he does) is quite apparent and put to good use here. He also throws in a lot of actors in smaller roles that work well in that space (David Carradine, Mark Rydell and many others all slot right in). I hope the release of this Blu-ray will remind people just how good this movie is as I believe it to be one of the greatest of the 1970s. I used to love CHINATOWN more, but THE LONG GOODBYE has surpassed it for me.

Special Features:
--"Rip Van Marlowe" – An interview with director Robert Altman and star Elliott Gould
--"Vilmos Zsigmond Flashes THE LONG GOODBYE" in this 14 minute interview, the veteran cinematographer talks about his working relationship with Altman, and their specific process on THE LONG GOODBYE. He touches on their decision to flash the film 50% to give it a certain look, Altman's affinity for the zoom lens and other technical details of the production.



Bonus: Elliott Gould discusses THE LONG GOODBYE:


THIEVES LIKE US (1974; Robert Altman)
Robert Altman followed THE LONG GOODBYE with this adaptation of Edward Anderson's novel Thieves Like Us. Though Altman's film of THIEVES LIKE us is based on the same material as Nicholas Ray's THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, it is intriguing to me how different the two films are. Of course there is a gap of almost thirty years in between them so there's a natural shift in how movies look and feel, but there's more than that. Altman has truly made the material his own, for better or for worse. It shows a lot of his trademark filmmaking techniques which certainly gives a feeling much more laid back than the 1948 film.then you've got the boy and girl played by Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall. A more Altman couple than that is hard to find as I personally associate these two actors strongly with his movies. I happen to prefer Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger, but Keith and Shelley are a nice pair too. THIEVES also features several other Altman regulars like John Shuck and Bert Remsen as well as Louise Fletcher and Tom Skerritt. The script by Calder Willingham (THE GRADUATE) and Joan Tewksbury (NASHVILLE) is interesting and low key. For me, it's an oft overlooked film in Altman's quite robust filmography. Quite worth discovering.
Special Features:
This disc features the commentary track from the old MGM dvd with Altman himself. It's a solid track and a nice one to hear especially now that Altman is no longer with us. It's a screen specific thing and within it he talks about various aspects of the production. He talks about his DP Jean Boffety, and the actors (how he first met Shelley Duvall and his initial impressions of her). He also goes into detail about his decisions with regards to how to show period and tell this story in particular. It's a loose commentary, but just the kind of thing you'd expect from a guy who made films as Altman did.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - DR. GILLESPIE MOVIE COLLECTION

DR. GILLESPIE MOVIE COLLECTION
Some roles were just made to be played be certain actors and the character of Dr. Gillespie is just such a match for Lionel Barrymore. I was given a wonderfully healthy does of Barrymore as Gillespie via Warner Archives excellent DR. KILDARE Movie Collection set from earlier this year. Now WAC is back with more Gillespie solo stuff and it's just as fun. Much like serialized television, these films play as lovely installments of what is basically the Gillespie spinoff show with this new six-film set:


CALLING DR. GILLESPIE (1942; Harold S. Bucquet)
This film is something of a thriller and interestingly done. An unstable man fixates on Gillespie after he's been examined to be a possible "mental case". His fiance (played by Donna Reed) is extremely concerned and becomes a target as well. The last act is taught and well done and features an exhilarating rating finale within Blair General itself! Featuring a young and lovely Donna Reed. 
Just a heads up - there's some implied dog trauma near the beginning of this one. Be warned!


DR. GILLESPIE'S NEW ASSISTANT (1942; Willis Goldbeck)
Amnesia is the key word in this installment as Gillespie and his three potential new assistants (Van Johnson, Keye Luke & Richard Quine) try their darndest to solve the mystery of a newlywed gal's sudden loss of memory. The big question though is who will Gillespie choose as his new assistant?


DR. GILLESPIE'S CRIMINAL CASE (1943; Willis Goldbeck)
Van Johnson and Keye Luke return in this straight follow-up to CALLING DR. GILLESPIE. Donna Reed is back again asking Gillespie's advice on moving on from her psycho ex-fiance from that film. Gillespie recommends to the courts that that man be committed but they don't see eye to eye (and this leads to trouble). The film also has Margaret O'Brien in a small role.


THREE MEN IN WHITE (1944; Willis Goldbeck)
This one could kinda be called "ALSO GILLESPIE'S NEW ASSISTANT" as he is forced to choose between Van Johnson and Keye Luke here. Both are given a specific assignment and must decide their own fate at Blair General. Watch for Ava Gardner!
http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/120350/Three-Men-in-White-Original-Trailer-.html


BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (1945; Willis Goldbeck)
Still more Van Johnson (who is pursued by ladies), plus a nightclub singer and anorexia (neuro-psychological self-starvation) this round. Also - more Keye Luke and an extra wonderful dose of Keenan Wynn!
http://www.tcmclassicfilmfestival.com/mediaroom/video/81770/Between-Two-Women-Original-Trailer-.html


DARK DELUSION (1947; Willis Goldbeck)
This the final film in the Dr. Kildare series, features Gillespie sending a new Doctor (James Craig) to a small town to help a young girl with her psychological issues.
http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/145061/Dark-Delusion-Original-Trailer-.html


Pickup this collection from Warner Archive here:
http://goo.gl/hqXTQT

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - WHITE LIGHTNING, GATOR, SAM WHISKEY, MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE and VIVA MARIA on Blu-ray

WHITE LIGHTNING (1973; Joseph Sargent)
"You two are more fun than going to an all-night dentist."
-Gator McKlusky
Burt Reynolds became known in the 1970s for playing a certain kind of loveable scamp and it kind of all started with Gator McKlusky. First off, Gator McKlusky is one of the great character names in the history of cinema and I mean ever. I love that name and Reynolds brings him to life in a way that brings so much of what you might expect a guy with that name to be like. WHITE LIGHTNING belongs to that rarified genre of what Quentin Tarantino calls "Good 'ol boy car-chase movies" and it's darned fun genre unto itself for sure. Tarantino ran WHITE LIGHTNING as part of one of his "QT Fests" way back in 1997 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas. He even used a track from Charles Bernstein's score for the film in his own movie INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (which is a great piece of music by the way). When you watch WHITE LIGHTNING, you can kind of see why QT is such a fan of it. There is this infectious spirit that I feel like only Burt Reynolds at that time could bring to Gator and his antics that is absolutely inimitable. On top of that, the film is filled with that special 1970s brand of out-of-their-mind of stuntwork that is still truly spectacular to this day. It certainly falls under the category of "they don't make em like that anymore".

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 1" (10 mins) - this is a neat new retrospective interview with the man Burt Reynolds himself. He looks back on WHITE LIGHTNING here with fondness and how it was the beginning for him of playing a lot of "that kind of rascal". Reynolds touches on his memories of a bunch of folks from the production including writer William Norton, director Joseph Sargent (and how Spielberg almost made the movie before him), stunt man Hal Needham (and tells a neat story of one specific stunt from the film), actor Ned Beatty, actress Jennifer Billingsley, Bo Hopkins, Diane Ladd, R.G. Armstrong and more. They really pack a lot into this 10 minutes and it's a pleasure to watch Reynolds reminisce. This interview is continued on the Kino Lorber GATOR Blu-ray.

GATOR (1976; Burt Reynolds)
One good Gator turn deserves another and Burt himself sat in the director's chair on this one. Gator is back, outta prison and roped into a federal sting operation to catch a dirty politician. This film benefits greatly from a couple new additions: Burt's mustache, Jerry Reed and the lovely Lauren Hutton. Gator had been sans-stache in WHITE LIGHTNING, but Reynolds corrects that here. Hutton had done THE GAMBLER with James Caan in 1974 and followed it with this. Jerry Reed and Burt had done W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCE KINGS and then GATOR and would go on in 1977 to hit it really big with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. They've always had great chemistry and this film is no exception.

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 2"(11 mins)

In this continuation of the interview from WHITE LIGHTNING, Reynolds talks about the why he wanted to direct GATOR (his debut feature), the challenges he faced therein, and shooting in Georgia as a location. Apparently the success of GATOR would be the thing that kept Reynolds acting. He also discusses Lauren Hutton, her behavior on set and Jerry Reed's first role as a bad guy. Burt also has more praise for Hal Needham here and his pride in the stuntwork in the films he directed. Actors Dudely Remus and Patrick Moody also have some brief recollections here about their memories of the movie.


SAM WHISKEY(1969; Arnold Laven)
From Kino's site:
"When it comes to trouble, make his a double! Welcome to America's Wild - and very wacky - West! Burt Reynolds (Gator), Clint Walker (More Dead Than Alive), Ossie Davis (The Scalphunters) and Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo) star in this tongue-in-cheek tale of love, lust and larceny that's brimming with real charm and sharp wit. Thanks to ingenious plot twists, hilarious blunders and delightful chemistry, Sam Whiskey is a comely caper full of mischief and mayhem that is altogether intoxicating. Even crooks have standards - and keeping the loot is usually one of them. But when cowboy con artist Sam (Reynolds) falls head over spurs for a sexy widow (Dickinson), he finds himself compromising a lot more than his principles. After she seduces him into helping her break into the US Mint - to return a fortune in stolen gold - Sam begins to suspect that honesty might have some very ample rewards. Wonderfully directed by western specialist Arnold Laven (Rough Night in Jericho) with a great script by William W. Norton (White Lightning, Gator)."
This comedy western sees Burt joining an unlikely team of Angie Dickinson, Clint Walker and Ossie Davis on a mission to retrieve a bunch of gold bars from the bottom of a river. That's not all though, they have to sneak the bars back into the Denver mint as well. So you've got one part adventure, one part heist movie and it's a fun time. Burt is well suited to the Whiskey character and I feel in general that I wish he had made more westerns. Apparently the film originally featured a full "upper torso" frontal shot of Angie Dickinson, but this was later cut to save the film from the newly created "R" rating.
Special Features:
"Lookin' Back with O.W. Bandy" (9 mins) - This new interview with Clint Walker has him talking about his character in the film and his inventor-ly nature (which Walker himself apparently also shares), and his recollections of working with Burt Reynolds, Ossie Davis, Angie Dickinson and director Arnold Laven. While Walker is not nearly as lively an interview as Burt Reynolds, he is still an affable old fella and a veteran actor that you can feel the gravitas of even when he's sitting there in a recliner telling stories.


MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1969; Robert Sparr)
This Clint Walker film vehicle was one of only a few western films (not TV shows) that he made during this period. He plays a famous killer released from prison and trying to go straight only to find life on the outside quite difficult for a notorious murderer like himself. He finds some solace in a traveling carnival runner (Vincent Price) and a lovely young gal (Anna Francis), but it's still hard out there for a legend. One of those westerns that has a memorable ending and reminds us that the west was a place that built myth and reputations and created an environment in which many sought to capitalize on them. Vincent Price is good here and like Burt Reynolds, should have made more westerns. He is very much a "man out of time" and it allowed him to play period in a really wonderful and believable way.

Special Features:
"The Infamous Killer Cain" - an interview with Clint Walker (10 mins) - Walker talks about a memorable lunch he had with Jack Warner, his fondness for Vincent Price and how he very much liked working with him in MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE,  working with Anne Francis, some changes that started to happen to westerns around that time that troubled him and brought about a general disenchantment with Hollywood. You get a sense of  the classy actor and person that Walker was in this chat. 

VIVA MARIA (1965; Louis Malle)
If you're like me, there's a chance you hadn't heard much about this movie prior to this new Blu-ray release. How something like this slipped under my radar I have no clue, but with it starring Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and George Hamilton and being directed by Louis Malle there's a whole lot of immediate appeal there. 
The film features a pretty cool opening sequence which sets up the Bardot character nicely and ends with her riding a train like a tramp and looking like Veronica Lake in disguise from SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (whether this is a direct nod I don't know, but I like it). Soon she meets Jeanne Moreau's character and they eventually hit it off. Moreau has always reminded me of the prototypical French film female in that she carries the most bored look on her face most of the time. Her mouth is almost naturally shaped to look as though it's turned downward into a frown when it is at rest. I have a natural inclination against women with faces like this so each time I see her in a film again I have to fight that urge and warm up to her. Regardless of my personal feelings, the two ladies are of course quite iconic and very good together here. It's a fun adventure film overall and one I'd recommend discovering. It reminds me ever so slightly of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE FABULOUS STAINS, in terms of the way these two ladies gain popularity and become revolutionaries.
There were French and English Dubbed versions released. The Blu-ray features the French version.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Andrew Wickliffe

Andrew Wickliffe has been blogging about film and comic books for almost ten years.
1. The Woman in White (1948)
I always have a hard time describing The Woman in White. It's a costume drama period piece, set in the mid-1800s, with Syndey Greenstreet terrorizing, but there's also a lot of difficult romance.
Greenstreet's always good as a terrorizing villain, but Woman in White also has a fantastic, three part damsel in distress situation (Eleanor Parker--in two roles--and Alexis Smith). The supporting cast is
strong, the main cast is sturdy enough, and the element of danger is constant. It's a surprisingly effective late forties entry from Warner.

2. The Seventh Victim (1943)
My favorite of the Val Lewton-produced RKO thrillers; it's masterful stuff from director Mark Robson with an especially strong script from DeWitt Bodeen and Charles O'Neal. Dealing with issues like urban apathy and discontent, The Seventh Victim alternates between lulling the viewer into some sense of grounding and complete confusion. It's a wonderful film, with a great performance from Kim Hunter in her debut.

3. Delusion (1991)
Businessman Jim Metzler runs into mob flunky (and moron) Kyle Secor and his seductive girlfriend (Jennifer Rubin) after ripping off his company. There's constant danger--Secor isn't just dumb, he's psychotic--director Carl Colpaert and co-writer Kurt Voss keep all the characters on edge. No one's innocent, but it's unclear how guilty anyone is either.


4. The Lookout (2007)
Scott Frank's neo-noir has a big gimmick--Joseph Gordon-Levitt's protagonist has brain damage and can't retain short term memories. He gets involved in a heist and has to work his way out of it. The film's equal parts thriller and character study, with a great performance from Gordon-Levitt and an outstanding script from Frank. Terrifying performance from Matthew Goode as the bad guy too.

5. Bound (1996)
The Wachowskis' first movie--a neo-noir with Gina Gershon as the hero and Jennifer Tilly as the dumb (or not dumb) moll she falls for. The film embraces the gender politics of the changes, using that friction to create a very slick thriller. It's a great looking film already, but the depth comes from the Wachowskis' ambitions with Gershon as the decidedly female noir protagonist.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Shirt-Tacular - SNAPPY KID


It should be no secret that I am a big big fan of pop culture mashups. My favorite kinds of mashups are of course those involving films and television shows. For this reason, I cannot stop buying t-shirts. I mean, if you think of the economy of the fandom at play here it makes complete sense. I can wear a shirt that represents my love for not one, but at least two things at once! And there's always the sort of "secret handshake" aspect of those who not only notice the shirt you happen to be wearing, but also get the movies or TV shows being referenced therein. I have this theory about people and it basically has to do with how much inside their own heads they are. It's a difficult thing to quantify, but I've always found that silly referential t-shirts can function as a kind of litmus test for how people are in their everyday life. It's really quite simple - if they notice the shirt (even if they don't know what it's referring to) then they may be not totally self-obsessed. I realize how stupid and simplistic this test sounds, but I've found more times than not that people I end up connecting with on a personal level are those who end up "passing" this test. This is not to say that if someone doesn't notice my shirt(s) then they are some narcissistic jerk, because that is CLEARLY not the case 100% of the time. Sometimes when you first meet someone, they might be distracted or be having an off day, and of course that kind of thing happens. And I should be clear that I've never outright written anyone off based on this kind of interaction, but I've always found it a fun thing to keep track of. On top of being a quick character read on folks, these shirts can also be an obvious conversation starter based on mutual admiration for the same stuff. Being that I can be rather conversationally awkward with people I don't know that well, it's always nice to start from a common place of interest. So needless to say, I am always on the lookout for new companies online that are putting out interesting shirts. Snappy Kid is one of those companies. From their "about us" page, there's this:
"We’re two Dads living in Toronto, Canada with young families all under five. And boy, they grow out of clothes fast! We thought it would be fun to produce cool and unique tees and onesies that capture how cool and unique our kids really are.
So we came up with Snappy Kid, a place where you can find a cool, nerdy, pop culture designs for cool kids. Each of our tees and onesies showcase art from top artists from around the world, from California to the UK to the Philippines. Plus, we've added sizes for grown ups and premium options. Artists keep full rights to their designs and may choose to make the piece available elsewhere."


Cool right? How could I not be drawn to a site that has come about like this. Being a father of a five year old myself, and always wanting to dress her in some clothing that refers to something "cool" in my mind, it's a perfect fit. Of course, I don't always come to a new shirt site with my kids in mind, and often I'm hooked by a certain design that makes me laugh or just revel in the cleverness. In this case, it was this GREMLINS-based shirt that got me:
"Mogwai Beach"
Personally, I'm a sucker for most things related to Joe Dante films as he's one of my favorite directors ever, but this design got me on a couple other levels. Wether it was intended or not, it also reminded me of the animation style that the great "Savage Steve" Holland used in both BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER. So much stuff I love in one design.
"The Big Race"
Here's another example of a shirt they had that was right in my wheelhouse. Let's break it down shall we? It's got Looney Tunes (the Roadrunner and Speedy Gonzalez), Pixar (Dash from THE INCREDIBLES), video games (Sonic the Hedgehog) and DC Comics (The Flash). How can this not make you smile. It immediately begs the question, "Who would win this race?" (to which the answer may seem obvious but is still fun to theorize about it).

"Bounty Hunting Time"
Last example. I am a dude who digs Adventure Time and Star Wars (as I'm sure a lot of people do). The thing I like about this though is that they went with Dengar as one of the Finn character. Not to geek on Star Wars too much, but I've always felt Dengar didn't get his due representation in the Star Wars films. Seems like a memorable fella. So props to the Snappy Kids folks for using him.

So those are just a slice of the unique tees they have over at Snappy Kid. They have a nice selection overall and have many of their shirts broken down into convenient geek-friendly categories like Star Wars, Doctor Who, Lego, Adventure Time and so forth:
If you're on the hunt for a new place to buy fun clothing for yourself or cool kids tees, you may want to mosey on over to Snappy Kid and give them a try! Find them here:
Social Media-wise:
Twitter: 
Facebook:
Instagram:

Below find more cool and groovy designs from them that I also think are pretty cool: