Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Rob G. ""

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Rob G.

Rob Galluzzo is the co-host of the weekly horror talk show podcast Killer POV, which appears on GeekNation and iTunes, and also the co-creator of the horror web publication Icons Of Fright.com. He was formally the web coordinator at the now defunct FEARnet and has contributed to Fangoria magazine, Gorezone and Shock Till You Drop. He produced and engineered the official DEXTER and THE FOLLOWING podcasts and wrote/directed/produced the documentary project The Psycho Legacy.
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SECONDS (1966)
I was always familiar with this John Frankenheimer helmed pic, but I never knew any specific details about it. Earlier this year, I was at the 40th anniversary screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre where very special guest William Friedkin interviewed director Tobe Hooper on stage prior to the show. Hooper named SECONDS as one of his many influences on Chain Saw, as well as one of his all time favorite films. And so, once Criterion had one of their half off sales, I took advantage and finally picked this up. It was as great as Hooper promised it'd be. It plays almost like a feature length episode of The Twilight Zone and the fact that I knew nothing about it only added to the tension and my ever growing nervousness. All you need to know is that in the world of this movie, if you're bored and unsatisfied with the monotony of your life, you can pay to start over with a new one. Features gorgeous photography courtesy of cinematographer James Wong Howe, (you'll definitely notice the close up of the eyeball shots as a direct influence on Chain Saw) and also an amazing performance by Rock Hudson. The Blu-Ray has a fun interview with actor Alec Baldwin, a huge fan of both Seconds and Frankenheimer talking about his love of the film and his working experience with the auteur director. 

THE FURY (1978)
Holy smokes! Was this a pleasant surprise! I had grown up watching a handful of DePalma pics, but at a young age, I always felt he was biting a bit too hard off of Hitchcock films. But now as an adult, I've been able to revisit them all with fresh eyes and truly appreciate his filmmaking craft. Of Brian DePalma's early filmography, this was the only title I'd never seen, and it blew me away. Things go into high gear almost immediately with a bad-ass Kirk Douglas on the run after his son is kidnapped by his former friend John Cassavetes. From there, what exactly is going on with his son and Amy Irving (as gorgeous as can be here) could be described as the perfect pre-cursor to David Cronenberg's Scanners. (I'm sure The Fury was an influence on him.) In fact, the last 30 or so seconds of the movie are so awesome and unbelievable that I had to rewind it twice. Easily one of the most tense and brilliantly executed of DePalma's films. And bonus: it also features a great John Williams score!


THE DRIVER (1978)
Another one I'd been hearing about for years, but only now got to enjoy via Twilight Time's excellent looking Blu-Ray release, THE DRIVER lives up to the hype! Ryan O'Neal stars as the most epic getaway driver in cinema history, with Bruce Dern as the Detective hot on his trail. Add in the unbelievably beautiful Isabelle Adjani (POSSESSION!), as well as the incredible chase sequences captured by cinematographer Phillip Lathrop and you've got one of director Walter Hill's absolutely gritty best! Would make a great and ideal double bill with Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE.

ROPE (1948)
The thing I love about Alfred Hitchcock's filmography is that there's always more to discover. Over the summer, I caught a live orchestrated performance of select scenes from 12 of his movies queued up with live score at The Hollywood Bowl and it inspired me to break out my box set and dig into some of his best output I may have missed. ROPE was one of those films. I was always familiar with the "one-take" gimmick of the flick. (Of course, it's not really one-take, but cleverly hidden cuts during transition shots), but I didn't realize this simple story about 2 men who murder their school friend prior to a party and attempt to hide the crime in plain sight would be as intense and suspenseful as it turned out to be! (I should have known. This is after all the "master of suspense" we're talking about here.) But what excited me about the execution of this story was just how much it felt like a stylized play. Sure enough, after watching the movie, I read that it was based on a stage play that in turn was inspired by a real life murder! This also features a great, fun performance by James Stewart in his first collaboration with Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Highly recommended. 

CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994)
As a lover of Asian cinema in general, it's a surprise I hadn't delved into Kar Wai Wong's work sooner, but I'm glad my first experience with him was this bizarre and surreal duel love story. The movie is literally split in half, the first part following the lonely Hong Kong police officer that falls in love with a mysterious girl with ties to the criminal underground. But the second half about a girl working at a restaurant that falls hopelessly in love with the police officer that stops by daily, had me completely smitten. Neither of these crossing stories unfolded how I expected, but the execution of both was pure cinematic joy and awe for me. Looking forward to seeing more of his work. I've got the Blu-Ray of 'In The Mood For Love' waiting for just the right evening here. 

BODY BAGS (1993)
How the hell did I miss this John Carpenter horror anthology flick after all these years? I finally watched the Scream Factory Blu-Ray release back in October and fell head over heels in love with it. Firstly, Carpenter as the "Crypt Keeper"-esque host was a delight. Who knew the often grumpy director could have this much fun in front of the camera? Second, he helms 2 of the 3 segments; with his Stacey Keach one titled "Hair" being one of the funniest things Carpenter of his directing career. The final segment stars Mark Hamill and is directed by Tobe Hooper and could be one of Tobe's best slices of pure horror fiction. Plus, the cameos galore! I was grinning like a fool every time someone like Wes Craven or David Naughton or Sam Raimi popped up. This anthology is now on my list of favorite horror anthologies, but it'll also now serve as an annual Halloween tradition for me.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976)
Since we're talking Carpenter, let's talk about his first (real) film. I recently acquired just about every one of John Carpenter's movies on Blu-Ray, or at least the ones that are available, but I hadn't seen DARK STAR, technically his first film, but more of a college feature or this, ASSAULT. While Dark Star definitely has it's issues, ASSAULT is the work of a fully formed director. It's stylistically John through and through, between the wide photography, musical score composed by the man himself and his gruff "real" characters like Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston). I was blown away by just how good this feature was, and how confident and established Carpenter was right out of the gate. Definitely among his best and worth adding to your collection!

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