Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 2015 ""

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Allan Mott

Allan Mott is a 40 year-old man who these days is seldom seen without some kind of tie and his Wonder Woman Chuck Taylors. He is currently searching for a reasonably priced Candy Stripe Nurses one-sheet to round out his Corman nurse pictures poster collection. His film writing can be found online at Flick Attack, One Perfect Shot, xoJane, the pulp press, Canuxploitation and his own site, Vanity Fear. His book, Scary Movies (credited to A.S. Mott), is currently a decade out of date, but can be bought used for a penny (+shipping) on Amazon if you’re into that sort of thing.
12 + 1 (Nicolas Gessner, 1969)
For many this film exists more as a historical footnote than it does as a movie, owing to the fact that it was the last to star Sharon Tate before her terrible date with destiny. I saw it as part of an effort to see all of the movies represented in my personal vintage poster collection, having picked up the one-sheet for 12 + 1 online for the princely sum of $2. Based on that poster I assumed it was a sordid 60s Euro-sex drama, so I was surprised to find out it was a comedy based on the same Russian novel that inspired Mel Brooks’ The 12 Chairs and the forgotten Jack Benny/Fred Allen vehicle It’s in the Bag! The poster also failed to mention that the film co-stars Orson Welles, who plays the part of the gay impresario of a Grand Guignol-style theatre company. The film is a bit of a mess, but Tate is genuinely charming in it(as well as unspeakably gorgeous), which of course makes watching the film a somewhat melancholy—but still worthwhile—experience.


Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1971)
With the exception of Mad Max: Fury Road, no film I saw in 2015 hit me as powerfully as Peter Watkins breathtaking pseudo-documentary. Despite being made 44 years ago, the only thing keeping it from feeling utterly contemporary and of-this-moment are the clothes worn by its characters. Set in an alternative version of then-contemporary America, it depicts two groups of people who have been convicted of crimes against the state (such as reading poetry at a peace rally, performing political songs and defending a protestor being beaten by the police). The first group has already faced their judgment and must make their way through the titular institution (a hot, desolate desert, where they are pursued by members of different law enforcement agencies) if they want to avoid decades long jail sentences, while the second are harangued by a group of outraged citizens who serve as the tribunal dedicated to handing out their punishments. Anyone who pays attention to current events will be shocked to hear statements and phrases identical to those used in similar arguments today and will feel their own jaws drop when they realize how little progress we have made since the film was originally released.


Avenging Force (Sam Firstenberg, 1986)
I found myself attracted to this seldom-mentioned Cannon effort when I learned that it was actually a sequel to the much better known Chuck Norris hit, Invasion U.S.A. Having seen the film (which somehow managed to skip a DVD release and made its digital debut on Blu-ray) I can understand why Norris refused to return as Matt Hunter, since—thanks to a screenplay by British character actor, James Booth—its politics are antithetical to that first effort. Whereas Invasion found Norris (who co-wrote the screenplay) protecting America from a group of organized terrorists from various communist countries, Force gives us Michael Dudikoff taking on a secret racist, right-wing organization who—when not hunting people for sport—target his liberal politician friend, Steve James, for assassination (and in the process commit atrocities that would even shock Invasion’s terrorist commies). Given Norris’ own conservative views, it’s easy to see why he bailed on a project where he had more in common with the villains than the heroes and though the result is a typically laughable Cannon effort, it still manages to succeed on its own strange terms.


Champagne for Caesar (Richard Whorf, 1950)
This year I reread Victoria Price’s excellent biography of her father, Vincent, and it convinced me to seek out this light comedy where he costarred with Ronald Colman and Celeste Holm. Price plays Burnbridge Waters, the president of a soap company that sponsors a popular radio quiz show hosted by Art Linkletter. When Colman—an obsessive and broke autodidact—realizes he can earn a fortune on the program and becomes a star in the process, Price is forced to get devious to save his company from potential bankruptcy and hires Holm to seduce the brilliant contestant and steer him towards failure. An utter delight from beginning to end, this classic comedy also benefits from the presence of Barbara Britton, an actress who I was previously unfamiliar with, but who earned my instant attention as Colman’s beautiful younger sister.


The Fifth Musketeer (Ken Annakin, 1979)
Despite all efforts to suggest otherwise, this 1979 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Maskhas nothing to do with Richard Lester’s Salkind-produced Musketeer films. And though it’s nowhere near as good as those two efforts, it still manages to be a film worth seeing for its own merits. Much of its charm is found in its cast, which isn’t quite at the level of the Lester films, but still manages to feature a group of game and always-watchable pros. Beau Bridges takes on the double role of the separated twins (and proves to be much better as the spoiled, ruthless king than as the rather bland hero), while Cornel Wilde, José Ferrer, Lloyd Bridges and Gilligan’s Island’s Alan Hale Jr. (!) play the aging musketeers tasked with returning the good Beau to his rightful place on the throne. Euro sex-goddesses Sylvia Kristel and Ursula Andress show up to add some visual sizzle and Ian McShane, Olivia de Havilland and Rex Harrison also appear along the way.

Twilight Time - THE DETECTIVE on Blu-ray

THE  DETECTIVE (1968; Gordon Douglas)
So I consider myself a pretty big Sinatra fan, both of his music but also his acting. That is not to say that I always think he's spectacular in everything he's a part of, but his films interest me to say the least. For some reason, despite being a proponent of both his TONY ROM films (especially LADY IN CEMENT which came out the same year as THE DETECTIVE), I somehow passed by this one despite it also having been directed by Gordon Douglas (who is a journeyman director I've come to truly appreciate in the past five years or so). What I did not realize as much until viewing this movie (and hearing the excellent Twilight Time commentary track) is just how impactful this film was in its time. It deals with a world weary detective (Sinatra, obviously) who by way of his investigation of the murder of a homosexual man, finds links to corruption and much more dark seedy perversion than he ever expected. What's interesting about the film is mostly its frankness with the explicitness of the actions of the characters in the story. For 1968, it's a pretty bold text for a movie. As I watched the opening scene wherein Sintra's character examines the dead man and he describes it to a rookie officer as he takes notes, I became aware of the more direct way it was going about things. While the body is not shown, Sinatra's description includes details about the victims penis having been cut off. While it sounds odd, hearing Frank Sinatra say the word "penis" in a movie, let alone in such a clinical way struck me as unusual. Since I mostly think of him as a classic Hollywood era actor, I doubt I'd ever heard him make specific reference to male genitalia in a film before. Such is the partially the place and context of THE DETECTIVE though and the movie goes on to deal with homosexuals (albeit badly) and perverse lifestyles in what would have been a much more progressive way than was the norm in 1968. It was around this time that things like BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE GRADUATE and THE WILD BUNCH were putting the final nails in the coffin of Hollywood's outdated Production Code-y ways and opening the door to the ratings system and allowing for more specifically adult entertainment in cinema. It was films like THE DETECTIVE that would lead shortly to stuff like DIRTY HARRY and a much more explicit and gritty police drama in the movies. It was also a big hit apparently at the time and played as something of a big deal for Sinatra whose career had been flagging badly, as had his personal life. THE DETECTIVE is notoriously the movie that kind of broke up his marriage with Mia Farrow. She had been cast in her career-making role in ROSEMARY'S BABY and it caused a huge rift between them. It was Sinatra though who had served her with the ultimatum that she was to report to the set of THE DETECTIVE for her role before ROSEMARY'S had wrapped or else. She chose "else" and Sinatra then had his lawyer serve her with divorce papers on Polanski's set. There is even a role in THE DETECTIVE which is played by a young and badly wigged Jacqueline Bissett that seems to have been earmarked for Farrow, but was apparently cut way down when she didn't show. So this film serves a specific place in gritty, police cinema as well as a significant place in Sinatra's life. Though the homosexual characters in the film are portrayed rather terribly (one can draw a line from this film to Friedkin's CRUISING), Sinatra's character is shown to be fair handed with them. He even gives a verbal lashing to another detective (played by a young Robert Duvall) after he is abusive during a raid dealing with a bunch of awful stereotypically gay men. The most powerful scene, perhaps in the film, features Sinatra's detective coaxing a murder confession from a gay man. It is a powerful scene in the way Frank plays it at least, as it is something of a seductive interrogation wherein he touches the gay man (played by actor Tony Musante) in a very inviting way that could be perceived as quite brave, at least at the time. Sinatra was and is a classic example of macho manhood and for him to agree to do the scene, he must have known how it would play contrary to his image at large. Overall the film is quite dark and moody and much different than his TONY ROME films, but it is memorable mostly for how it pushed boundaries at the time it came out. It seems oddly foreign to me to think of Sinatra as a boundary-pusher, but I guess he was in some ways. 

Special Features:

This Blu-ray has a nice widescreen transfer that almost shows too much of Sinatra's face and how he was clearly too old to play this part, but it looks good nonetheless.
--Included is a great commentary from Twilight Time regulars Nick Redman and Lemm Dobbs, but with a new addition in David Del Valle. The trio expound upon the film and its significance in context at length as well as examining the place where Sinatra was in his career at this point. There is much discussion of how Sinatra was as an actor on set  and how he dealt with his directors and other actors (based on some stories told by members of THE DETECTIVE's cast). They talk about Sintra's relationship with Gordon Douglas and how hands off he was with Frank. It begs the question what he would have done with some stronger directors to really push him, but it's obviously difficult to know the outcome of such things, based on the way Sinatra was and how he protected himself. There are many tales of Sinatra's monstrosity AND generosity contained on this track and for fans of him in general, it is certainly recommended.
-- Also included is an isolated score track with Jerry Goldsmith's music. This is always a nice Twilight Time touch and I salute them for continuing this tradition on their releases.

This Blu-ray can be purchased via Twilight Time's Website here:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Paul Corupe

Paul Corupe: Writer, editor, salvager of cultural detritus. See: @Canuxploitation.com, SpectacularOptical.ca, @BlackMuseumTO lecture series, @RueMorgue magazine.
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Drying up the Streets (1978)
D: Robin Spry
Canadian exploitation movies of the 1960s and '70s tended to depict Toronto's infamous Yonge street as a hotbed of risqueadult businesses, a mini-42nd street for the toque and snowmobile set. One of the first films released in the wake of calls to clean up the strip's seedier elements, Drying up the Streets first aired on national TV broadcaster CBC. In it, anaddict gone cold turkey (Don Francks, looking grizzled with greasy long hair) heads to the big city to track down his estranged daughter who has also gotten involved in the drug trade. To find her, he makes a deal with a hard-nosed cop to go undercover and help him take down a local criminal enterprise by posing as the gang's chemist. Released the year after an infamous 1977 murder and sexual assault of a 12-year-old shoeshine boy on the rooftop of a Yonge street massage parlour, director Robin Spry doesn't shy away from the street's more unsavoury aspects, including depressing sex clubs and brutal pimps that ruled the neon-lit sidewalks. Sure, it's a heavy-handed anti-drug parable (complete with a police-administered "scared straight" slideshow), but Francks gives an affecting performance and the film is often cited as an apparent influence on Hardcore (1979).

Together Brothers (1974)
D: William A. Graham
A surprisingly engrossing (if admittedly minor) entry in the ‘70sBlaxploitation boom, Together Brothers is a memorable entryabout a black youth gang in Texas trying to get to the bottom of the murder of a popular African-American cop nicknamed Mr. Cool (Ed Bernard). The only witness to the act is Tommy (Anthony Wilson), the younger sibling of gang leader HJ (Ahmad Nurradin), and when it looks like the killer is now after Tommy, HJ has to form a truce with other gangs in the area and try to find the assailant’s identity, including working with them to break into the local precinct to peek at important documents. Director Graham mostly specialized in TV movies, and the gang members are all virtual unknowns, but it succeeds due to theself-sufficient teens, a clever script that examines permutations of brotherhood and dose of local atmosphere in the depiction of the hot Galveston afternoons. It’s also still relevant today,revolving directly around themes of race and police relationships with black communities.

Wild Beasts (1984)
D: Franco Propseri
made some progress catching up with previously missedEurotrash classics this year, but few in the subgenre resonatedwith me as much as Wild Beasts, one of the craziest and sickest animal attack films ever unleashed on an audience. When hippies dump PCP into a German zoo's water supply, absolute mayhem breaks out as creatures great and small trip out and head for the city. Elephants smash walls and storm an airport, cheetahs get involved in a highway chase, tigers stalk subways and polar bears hunt down kids, all layered on a melodramatic story in which people try to locate their loved ones. Not everyone will find this stuff palatable--I doubt the SPCA would approve of much of anything here, including one sceneinvolving attacking rats and a flamethrower. Stillon the whole,it’s actually less disturbing than some of Mondo movie pioneerPropseri’s other filmsfocused less on transgression than jaw dropping novelty, right up until the wild (and nonsensical) twist endingThis would make a great double feature with Roar, a seeming inspiration that it easily outdoes in the gore and shockdepartment.


Night Patrol (1984)
D: Jackie Kong
Move over, Zuckers--Exploitation power couple Jackie King and Bill Osco didn’t just dabble in horror and XXX crap, they also were the brains behind Night Patrol, a weird no-brow comedy vehicle for Gong Show star Murray Langston (AKA the paper-bag clad The Unknown Comic) tailor made for the Up All Night crowd. There have been a handful of films that have managed to transpose an anarchic Mad Magazine spirit to film, and this attempt—although not particularly good by traditional standards—is remarkably fun in its energetic, aggressively dumb approach that encompasses sight gags, wordplay, slapstick, rude noises and film parodies (and also, unfortunately, a blackface bit). The plot involves Langston’s character, a cop, having to moonlight as a standup comedian with, ahem, a paper bag on his head to hide his identity. Comedians Pat Paulsen, Jaye P. Morgan, Bill Kirchenbauer and Andrew Dice Clay make cameosalongside established actors like Linda Blair, Sydney Lassickand Pat Morita. For all its faults, it’s the pinnacle of a certain kind of dopey comedy from the early 1980s that made me nostalgic for my old beat up copies of Laugh Factory magazine (anybody remember that one?). But in sheer audacity, it’s in a distinctive league alongside willfully crude ‘80s classics like Oddballs (1984) and Bad Manners (1984).


Seventeen (1983)
D: Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreine
Like Together Brothers, this great cinema verite doc considers race relations, but from the raw and painfully honest perspective of teens growing up in the Midwest United States. Aside from the expected sex, drugs and rock music, the film largely focuses on one girl’s harassment for dating outside her race, and then shifts focus to the accidental death of Church Mouseanother teenager who doesn’t recover from a car crash. The candidness of the teens and incredible access granted to the filmmakers are what make the film such an indelible experience of “fly on the wall” reality. It goes out on a high note during the boozy house party finale which ties together the story’s sometimes episodic nature (it was originally conceived as an ongoing TV series before being dumped by PBS for its frankness). "No doubt about it, it just ain't a kegger without Church Mouse!"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a writer and editor living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He barely remembers what it's like to watch a well-regarded movie anymore. He writes all over the place, and especially at atalentforidleness.blogspot.com, irabrooker.com and @irabrooker.

Check out his Discoveries from last year too!
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/12/favorite-film-discoveries-of-2014-ira.html
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Four of the Apocalypse (Directed by Lucio Fulci, 1975)
I can’t argue with Lucio Fulci being primarily remembered as a purveyor of gore and horror. The man was certainly some manner of genius in that domain. Still, I wish he’d gone to the Western well a few more times, because I think Fulci could’ve been one of the best Euro-Western directors of all time. As it stands, he left us with a very good one in Massacre Time and a near masterpiece inFour of the Apocalypse.
This is one of those Westerns where a band of misfits sets out for a distant destination in the face of endless challenges. The misfits this time around include a rakish gambler (Fabio Testi, radiating charisma), an innocent prostitute (Lynn Frederick, radiating beauty), a barely functional alcoholic (Michael J. Pollard, radiating saliva) and a mentally impaired mystic (Harry Baird, radiating insanity). The challenges include snowstorms, a small-town massacre, cannibalism, forced peyote consumption and a persistently sadistic bandito (Thomas Milian, radiating cruelty). Fulci folds in some of his trademark gore (although no more than a lot of his Spaghetti contemporaries) but on the whole this is a haunted, melancholy piece of work that’s as likely to tug the heartstrings as churn the stomach. I certainly never expected a Lucio Fulci movie to elicit actual tears from me, but here we are.

Death Game (Directed by Peter S. Traynor, 1977)
Family man Seymour Cassel has his quiet evening home alone interrupted by lost travelers Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke, who promptly seduce him in the hot tub and then spend the weekend blackmailing and torturing him for no apparent reason. This is an exhilarating exercise in ugliness, anchored by Locke and Camp’s psychotic sexuality. Their shrill, violent nihilism is like a right-winger’s wet nightmare of the Free Love era: a pair of manic Manson Girls on the prowl without their Charlie, giggling all the way.
Cassel’s lines are awkwardly dubbed because the actor reportedly despised this movie so much that he refused to do ADR. That distaste comes through in his performance and actually improves the film. In a movie stuffed to the gills with this much loathing, it’s nice to know that some of it is genuine.

Shock Waves (Directed by Ken Wiederhorn, 1977)
A tour boat gets shipwrecked on an island inhabited by a platoon of genetically engineered, amphibious Nazi super-soldiers bred to kill on sight. That’s a pretty over-the-top premise, but Shock Waves plays it completely straight, and thank heavens for that. What could have been just another low-rent gore-fest becomes something much more memorable, a disturbing, dread-drenched blend of claustrophobia and agoraphobia. Rather than elaborate kills or gratuitous gut-munching, these zombies traffic in infinitely more chilling drownings and stranglings. Adding to the visceral terror, these castaways behave not like Horror Movie Characters, but actual human beings facing down an unthinkable situation.
John Carradine and Peter Cushing pick up paychecks and lend some street cred as a crusty sea captain and a Nazi hermit, respectively, but Shock Waves hardly needs the help. This deserves a slot amongst the all-time great zombie movies by virtue of being not much like any other zombie movie.

Tenement (Directed by Roberta Findlay, 1985)
In the few Roberta Findlay interviews I’ve read, the director ranges from dismissive to outright disdainful of her cultish veneration as an artist. She seems to regard herself as more of a tradesperson, tossing off genre films with the familiar efficiency of a woodworker cranking out birdhouses.While it’s true that much of her oeuvre is, shall we say, undistinguished, there’s no denying that she (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, her late husband and collaborator Michael) mastered the mechanics of trash cinema as well as just about any director you could name.
Tenement might be Findlay’s masterwork, a seething, skeevy wallow in claustrophobia and cruelty. A gang of thugs gets evicted from a sketchy apartment building, then comes back at night to torture and kill the tenants for no particular reason. That may sound like a nihilistic plot, but nihilism implies more intent than I think is at play here. Roberta Findlay isn’t trying to shock us, disturb us or even entertain us. She just knows exactly what a movie like this is supposed to do and how to do it. She’s dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” and then heading home to collect her modest residuals, and bless her for that.

Hail, Mafia! (Directed by Raoul Levy, 1965)
When word gets out that gangland informant Eddie Constantine is holed up in France, the mobsters-that-be pair up coolly efficient young hit man Henry Silva with blustering veteran killer Jack Klugman and ship them off to Paris. That’s a pretty basic mob movie set-up, but this one unfolds in unexpected fashion. Rather than double-crosses and blazing pistols, this film is more about existential yearnings and philosophical debates. That might sound like a snooze, but the edgy interplay between Klugman’s kvetchy old-jack and Silva’s no-nonsense company man is far more engaging than your standard shoot-’em-up.
There’s a lot of French New Wave in Hail Mafia’s DNA, and it also feels like a clear precedent for Quentin Tarantino’s chatty gangsters 30 years hence. The scene where Klugman and Silva bond over their shared distaste for a French cover of The Animals’ version of “House of the Rising Sun” could pass for a deleted Jules and Vincent scene.

Pick-up (Directed by Bernard Hirchenson, 1975)
You know those kids’ movies like A Bug’s Life or Happy Feet where an animal dreams of doing something that’s not in the nature of his or her species? Pick-up is kind of like if that character was a ‘70s softcore erotica movie. The plot, such as it is, follows a hippie dude driving a luxury bus across Florida. He picks up two hitchhiking young ladies - one a bubbly free spirit and the other a gloomy goth type - and promptly gets the bus stuck in the Everglades. From there on it’s mostly the three of them wandering around the swamp and occasionally pausing to have sex and/or psychosexual hallucinations.
This could’ve been just another skin flick for the drive-in crowd, but it’s clear that the director Hirchenson had artsier aspirations. This is a tripped-out, dreamy bit of oddness that meanders from playful to traumatic to just plain weird, all nestled in the embrace of the lush Florida wetlands. Neither the director nor any of the actors ever worked in that capacity again, which just adds to Pick-up’s hazy, mysterious charm.

Bandidos (Directed by Massimo Dallamano, 1967)
I’ve seen ample evidence of how easy it was to get away with lazy filmmaking in the heyday of Euro-exploitation. When your industry is cranking out dozens of unambitious, fundamentally similar genre flicks every year, it’s gotta be tough to resist the temptation to just go with the flow. That makes it all the more exciting when I come across a filmmaker who aimed higher, as Massimo Dallamano clearly did with Bandidos.
A legendary gunslinger gets his hands maimed by a former protege turned bandit. Several years later he trains an escaped convict in the way of the gun and sets out for revenge. The story is nothing all that novel, but the style sets it apart. Dallamano luxuriates in unexpected camera angles, startling close-ups and visual flourishes that stop just short of extraneous. The most notable of these is an achingly slow dolly shot along the length of a just-robbed train, with the camera forcing us to bear witness to each and every victim of the bandits’ massacre. Extracting beauty from brutality is a hallmark of the best Euro-Western directors, and Bandidos suggests Dallamano could have ranked among them.

Darna vs. The Planet Women (Directed by Armando Garces, 1975)
If you’re not familiar with Darna, you’re not alone. Despite her enduring, decades-spanning popularity in her native Philippines, the character has never really crossed over into American consciousness. That’s a shame, because if this movie is any indication, she’s a lot of fun. Darna is a superhero with a backstory resembling Captain Marvel Jr’s - an average, physically disabled young woman in her daily life, she uses a magic stone to transform into a super-strong, flying avenger who doesn’t mind showing a little skin. In this go-round she battles a race of multi-colored, equally clothing-averse space women bent on kidnapping leading Filipino scientists in order to conquer Earth.
Despite all the scantily clad ladies, this is actually sort of empowering in its own way. Not only are both the hero and the villains strong-minded, powerful women, their missions are made easier because they’re constantly being underestimated and patronized by clueless men. Obviously no movie with this much bikini-clad disco fighting is exactly going to be a feminist manifesto, but it’s more progressive than a lot of mid-’70s cinema, exploitation or otherwise. (One cool footnote: leading lady Vilma Santos is a governor nowadays. What is it with action stars and their gubernatorial ambitions?)

The Purple Monster Strikes (Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Fred C. Brannon, 1945)
For good old-fashioned ‘40s style fun, it’s hard to top this lunatic entry in the Republic serials catalog. A pompous alien invader called, for some reason, The Purple Monster kills a prominent American rocket scientist and inhabits his body in an attempt to steal the Earth technology that will enable a full-scale Martian invasion. Fortunately, the scientist’s plucky niece and her boyfriend are there to run interference. Unfortunately, the Purple Monster is abetted by a traitorous mobster willing to sell out humanity for a slice of the post-invasion pie. This is whiz-bang action packed with great miniature work, white-knuckle stunt pieces and solid performances by Roy Barcroft, Bud Geary and Linda Stirling as the Monster, the mobster and the niece, respectively.

New Release Roundup - December 29th, 2015

BONE TOMAHAWK on Blu-ray (Image Entertainment)
http://amzn.to/1OsA5qH

A WALK IN THE WOODS on Blu-ray (Broad Green Pictures)
http://amzn.to/1OsAxFF

HITMAN: AGENT 47 on Blu-ray (Fox)
http://amzn.to/1OsAFol

HEIST on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
http://amzn.to/1OsAJ7L

Monday, December 28, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Millie De Chirico

Millie De Chirico is Manager of Programming at Turner Classic Movies. She is responsible for TCM Underground, the network’s late-night cult movie block. She’s on Twitter at @milliedechirico and you can follow the TCM Underground schedule here: @TCMUnderground

MANSON (1973)
Dir: Robert Hendrickson, Laurence Merrick
Like a lot of folks I was obsessed with Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This podcast series on Charles Manson's Hollywood this year. Admittedly I was pretty uneducated on the history and lore of Manson but quickly got sucked into the information rabbit hole. Luckily my local video store (Videodrome in Atlanta, GA) had a copy of this. It’s very much a product of its time, stylistically and otherwise: lots of diptychs and trippy music (made by actual Manson family members), interviews with the Manson girls holding giant guns, lots of “ripped from the headline” footageI think my favorite scenes were the ones with Ronnie Howard (w/ all the aliases) and Sharon Rossberg, the women who shared the jail cell with Susan Atkins.

MY BODY HUNGERS (1967)
Dir: Joe Sarno
I went to see this at Fantastic Fest in Austin this year based on the title alone, which honestly, is almost too great of a title for the quality of this film.  To me it was almost like an 80’s erotic thriller that was made in the 1960’s (including the bad acting, which actually grew on me after a while).  But I loved whatever stark, depressing gentlemen’s night club the lead character went to work in.

PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967)
Dir: Shirley Clarke
I feel so ashamed for having slept on this until this year. What a classic. I’m hoping a programmer somewhere will pair this movie with PARIS IS BURNING one day (maybe even as part of a bigger festival called People Recalling Tales with Lit Cigarettes in Their Hands).

THE SANDPIPER (1965)
Dir: Vincente Minnelli
I went to Big Sur for the first time this year and watched this immediately after I came home. I love Elizabeth Taylor’s look in this movie; she still manages to look so glamorous despite her character being a bohemian artist. At one point she wears an entire outfit of bright purple (top and pants) and I thought, “Only Liz could pull this shit off.”

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947)
Dir: Edmund Goulding
Is there a subgenre of “carny noir”? Feels like there should be.There’s kind of a lot going on in this movie but the costumes and general carnival magic are really greatAlso, I think I’m the last woman on Earth that figured out how smoking hot Tyrone Power was. Shame on me!

PAROLE VIOLATORS (1994)
Dir: Patrick G. Donahue
Thanks to Matt Lynch from Scarecrow Video for bringing this film (and the term “video cop”) to our attention.

ANGEL HEART (1987)
Dir: Alan Parker
This had been on my watch list for a long time. I worshipped Lisa Bonet when I was younger and remember how shocked everyone was when she did this film (and I have to say, the sex scene with her and Mickey Rourke is completely out of control).But the scene with De Niro eating the egg with his long fingernails gave me nightmares for weeks.  

DANGEROUS MEN (2005)
Dir: John S. Rad
Brian, I know you said we had to choose titles made before 2000, but as we know - lots of time travel associated with this movie. I still have so, so, so many questions. And I think I actually screamed when the movie finally ended. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Jeremy Allison

Jeremy Allison is the self-proclaimed Made for TV Mogul and Keeper of the Weird at LA’s greatest video store, CineFile Video! Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jeremyallison!
https://twitter.com/jeremyallison
Burnt Offerings (1976)
As a huge fan of Dan Curtis and his TV show DARK SHADOWS, as well as his Made for TV Movies THE NIGHT STRANGLER, THE NIGHT STALKER, DEAD OF NIGHT, THE NORLISS TAPES and of course, TRILOGY OF TERROR, I had been dying to see BURNT OFFERINGS for years. Unfortunately for me, the DVD was way out of print and way too expensive. Thanks to the awesome people at Kino Lorber, I finally got to see this cult classic, and was blown away. This amazing “haunted house” film, starring the always great Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis, and featuring supporting roles from character actors Dub Taylor and Burgess Meredith, this creepy, moody film has quickly shot up to be one of my favorite horror films of all time!

Some Call it Loving (1973)
Not so much a discovery, as it is a re-discovery. I had watched this before on an old bootleg DVD years ago from a terrible VHS transfer from an old TV broadcast from the early 90s. Basically, SOME CALL IT LOVING is a dark, dramatic love story riff on the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The new Blu-ray/DVD reissue from Etiquette Pictures is one of the most beautiful transfers I’ve ever seen, bringing out the best of the beautiful cinematography by Mario Tosi (CARRIE, THE STUNT MAN). It also doesn’t hurt that the performances by Zalman King, Tisa Farrow and Richard Pryor are all fantastic!

Who Killed Mary Whats’ername? (1970)
Sure, it’s not the greatest film ever made, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun. Red Buttons plays a former boxer who, disappointed with the police's apathy to investigate, attempts to solve the murder of his friend, a hooker who lived in his apartment building. Along the way, he recruits Sam Waterston (who plays a hippie experimental filmmaker), Sylvia Miles, Conrad Bain, Ron Carey and Bosley himself, David Doyle! Shot almost entirely on location in New York City with a cast of brilliant 1970s character actors, and a soundtrack by jazz legend Gary McFarland, it’s not currently available on DVD, but I think this is one to go out of your way to check out.

The Fan (1982)
I knew nothing about this amazing German film when Mondo Macabro released it earlier this year on Blu-ray, but the cover art intrigued me and I decided to give it a chance. From the second I pressed play, I was hooked. It’s a deep, dark horror story of teenage obsession, with a badass new wave soundtrack. I can’t remember the last time I was so taken by a film. It’s just brilliant. By far the best blind purchase I’ve ever made.

Middle Age Crazy (1980)
I’m only 29, but for some strange reason, I’ve always really related to mid-life crisis films and, as far as I’m concerned, MIDDLE AGE CRAZY, based on a song by the great Jerry Lee Lewis and produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, is one of the best of that strange subgenre. Bruce Dern stars as Bobby Lee, a just-turned 40 year old Texas architect who’s bored with his life and wants something, anything new. His wife, played by Ann-Margret, loves him and does everything she can to please him, but he’s still distant and uninterested. While trying to find himself, he buys a Porsche and starts an affair with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Also along the way, he has multiple surreal dream sequences where he fantasizes about having sex with his son’s girlfriend in the backseat of a car, officiating his own funeral and giving a graduation speech at his son’s high school graduation, telling the kids “Fuck the future!”. Unfortunately, this amazing film is only currently available on VHS. If there’s one movie I’d kill for on an official Blu-ray/DVD, it’s this one.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Dick Grunert

Dick Grunert is a staff writer on the Emmy Award-winning Cartoon Network series "Adventure Time." He has also written and directed several short horror films, including "The Trap," which has screened at over 20 film festivals this year.
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MY DEAR KILLER (1972) – I had never even heard of this Italian thriller before seeing it at the Secret Sixteen screening at Creature Features in Burbank in October. It’s a pre-giallo flick that must have influenced Argento. It’s a little slow in spots but features two fantastic kills (one that opens the film and another right at the mid-point that made the audience burst into applause at the screening I was at).

BUTCHER, BAKER, NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING (1982) – I bought the DVD after hearing about this movie on the Killer POV podcast, and boy, did it live up to the hype with a truly insane performance by Susan Tyrrell that has to be seen to be believed!

THE LEGACY (1978) – I remember seeing parts of this film on HBO when I was a kid, so I was excited to check it out when Scream Factory released it earlier this year. It’s a strange one, I’ll say that much. Katherine Ross and Sam Elliott are great as an American couple trapped in an English mansion by… well, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s a fun watch.

I, MADMAN (1989) – Okay, I’m kinda cheating here because I saw this movie when it first came out on home video back in ‘89, but watching the new Scream Factory blu-ray that came out earlier this year was like seeing it for the first time. Beautiful Jenny Wright is an aspiring actresswho works at a used bookstore, where she discovers the work of pulp horror author Malcolm Brand. Fact and fiction begin to blur as Wright is stalked by the madman from Brand’s books. I love this movie so much and hope more people discover it.

TRICK OR TREATS (1982) – This little-seen slasher isn’t very good (the acting is terrible and the script is a mess), but I loved every minute of it! A super obnoxious kid plays a series of pranks on his hot babysitter on Halloween night. So when a nutjob escapes the local asylum and comes to the house to exact revenge on his conniving wife (the kid’smother), all hell breaks loose. This is one 80’s horror film that deserves a kick ass remake. Anybody know who has the rights?

PARENTS (1989) - I love movies about cannibalism, and I was surprised I had never seen this little gem directed by, of all people, Bob Balaban and starring Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt. It's set in the 1950's and follows a strange little boy who suspects his parents are cannibals. It's sort of like "Leave It To Beaver" directed by David Lynch. And if that doesn't sell it to you, I don't know what to say!