Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Paul Corupe ""

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Paul Corupe

Paul Corupe is a longtime, dare I say 'veteran', contributor here at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. He writes for RUE MORGUE magazine, Fantasia Festival's official webzine SPECTACULAR OPTICAL and his own spectacular site, CANUXPLOITATION. All his writing is recommended reading. He is a man of many varied likes as far as film goes. He has turned me onto many fine and less than fine films all of which have brought me great enjoyment.
Also, Paul put out a cool book you should check out ASAP:
http://www.spectacularoptical.ca/2014/07/buy-spectacular-optical-book-one-kid-power/
Further, here's Paul's Film Discoveries list from last year:
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Night Tide (1961)
Can't imagine how I previously missed Curtis Harrington's debut feature, an atmospheric chiller that is often (and accurately) compared to CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Johnny (Denis Hopper), a sailor on shore leave, meets Mora (Linda Lawson), who works at a pier "freak show" attraction as a gaffed mermaid. Johnny isn't sure of the motives of her barker and longtimecompanion/father figure, Captain Samuel Murdock (Gavin Muir), and subsequently becomes even more confused whenMora tells him that she's a real sea siren whose previous beaus have all died. Scenes of dreamy black and white clash against the stark washed-out shots of the seaside town and give the film a nightmarish quality even though it's not particularly scary. Just the mere suggestion of the supernatural hangs over the picture but it's enough to make this a memorable debut from one of the most underrated and versatile directors of his kind.

Aaron Loves Angela (1975)
Gordon Parks Jr. only made three films after his debut, the rough 'n' tumble black action classic SUPERFLY, but this is surely his most interesting. It's a rarely seen inner city love story about a black teen (Kevin Hooks) falling for a Puerto Rican girl (Irene Cara) and having to overcome family and neighbourhood prejudice over their interracial affair. The relationship evolves nicely with a minimum of schmaltz or overt moralizing, but the real reason to check it out is that it seems to play out almost entirely in the blaxploitation  world of SUPERFLY, including a third act hinging on a missing suitcase full of money. Robert Hooks (the teen star's dad) appears as a suspiciously Priest-like pimp and Charles McGregor plays Duke, a virtual reprisal of his role of SUPERFLY’s Freddie, who even comes to a similar ignoble end. This time, Parks opts away from soul and funk to tap Jose Feliciano, who delivers a handful of fine Latino pop songs that work quite well with the crumbling NYC '70s flavour. Not sure why this film still hasn't made it to DVD, or why the soundtrack was only released on LP.

The Hired Hand (1971)
Peter Fonda and Warren Oates teamed up for a western and nobody thinks to even tell me about it? Made just a few years after EASY RIDER, I just happened to stumble on this Fonda-directed, minimalist work in which he plays a rambler who decides to head back to his wife's farm instead of heading off to California with his friends. Though the story largely hangs on a typical revenge plot, it's focused more on Fonda's homecoming and awkward reunion as he deals with his wife's infidelity during his long absence. What's notable is that the back-to-basics drama was made in almost the immediate wake of revisionist westerns and increasingly violent works like the WILD BUNCH (and a million spaghetti westerns), but takes a markedly different direction from both. The best element of the film, however, may be the incredible, sparse guitar soundtrack from Bob Dylan session player Bruce Langhorne.

On the Yard (1978)
Similarly, I wasn't even aware there was a film based on Malcom Braly's classic book--if not the best prison novel ever written, it's damn close--before it hit DVD earlier this year. No surprise, it's a top notch '70s prison drama, a more downbeat ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, in which Juleson (an early role for John Heard) borrows smokes from Chilly (Thomas G.Waites) but can't pay him back when his weekly stipend from his family unexpectedly dries up. Meanwhile, con Morris (Joe Grifasi) engineers an elaborate escape plan involving a hot air balloon he wants to send over the wall during a prison boxing match. Braly adapted his own novel, a sprawling ensemble piece, and pares down the extraneous details to focus on just a few of the big house tales that make the most impact--and provide unconventional surprises. An unjustly forgotten gem.

The Astrologer (1975)
God is dead! Shit on life! Hell is Earth! Yes, I was lucky enough to check out Craig Denney's sole directorial work THE ASTROLOGER at this year's Fantastic Fest, a breakneck-paced vanity project about the rise and fall of America's most gifted and well-travelled psychic. From diamond smuggling in Kenya, rescuing his drug-addled wife from a scummy California motel room and getting chased by cops in Tahiti, it's the kind of smash cut-addled journey where in any given scene you can only barely remember how you got to that point. Riddled with wild self-importance and inventive approaches to otherwise mundane scenes (like going to the bathroom and arguing in a restaurant), this is the product of a singular warped vision made for no one but it's creator. A must-see for cult film fans even though a Moody Blues soundtrack may keep it from a proper home video release.

Road to Revenge (1993)
And speaking of mind-blowing vanity projects, LA attorney John De Hart decided to try his hand in filmmaking with this bizarre action film that's mostly just an ode to himself. The IMDB awkwardly sums this up as "an ex-cop comes back as vigilante to bring down with blazing weapons and martial arts a satanic cult that has taken over his town," but I'd say "mustachioed line-dancing lawyer hangs with William Smith and a drunken Wings Hauser, occasionally sleeping with a Playboy model." The supposed plot gets bogged down about halfway through, with most attempts at coherency sidelined by a string of outrĂ© scenes--especially Hauser's intense improv ramblings (including insisting Hamlet was the playwright’s name and shooting utility bills with a handgun), and De Hart's godawful new country anthem, "The Shimmy Slide" which he delivers from a dive bar stage with the enthusiasm of a malfunctioning robot. Also known as GETEVEN, which you'll agree is a far better title.

The Suns of Easter Island (1972)
I love paranormal '70s films like the Sunn Classic Pictures docs and Bigfoot travelogues, but this French film comes at the topic from a completely different angle. It's a psychedelic exploration of unexplained phenomenon concerning six individuals who are mysteriously drawn to Easter Island by vivid dreams of stone heads and the appearance of metallic hexagons in their palms. On meeting, they learn they must make psychic contact with an alien species when the stars are in a specific alignment. The flaky story, which manages to throw in all kinds of '70s paranormal mainstays without really becoming as blatantly ridiculous as its American brethren, is given an air of authority by a narrator who helps makes pseudo-sense of the whole mildly surreal affair. But this is a fascinating film that has more in common with PHASE IV than IN SEARCH OF, featuring a strong visual design sense brought together by striking hexagon imagery and a striking new age synth score from Bernard Parmegiani.

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