Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 (Rupert's List) - Part One ""

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 (Rupert's List) - Part One

I've said it a lot, but the Film Discoveries series is my favorite thing that I do with this site. It really is what Rupert Pupkin Speaks is all about. If I had a "mission statement" to declare I'd say the site's real purpose is to always remind people (even those that watch a lot of movies and think they've perhaps seen everything) that there is just so much out there in terms of cinema to be digging into. I always tell my kids that is a "lifetime love" we dive into when we start to fall under the spell of movies. These Film Discoveries lists show the passion of the film fans who curate them and I always find them all truly inspiring. This whole thing started about 5 years ago as a way for me to drum up some recommendations for movies to seek out in the coming year. It's grown much bigger than that and I love that people read these lists and use them as a resource for things to see. It's with this series and the contributors who honor me with their discoveries that I feel like my site is most like an almost serious film entity. Not to get all Hoity-toity about it, but it's this time of year when I feel most like I'm curating some kind of prestigious film magazine like Film Comment or something. Just my own imagination of the situation, but I love these lists and the response they get. Thanks to all my regular readers for your support and love of cinema! Spread that love to everyone you can! And with that cheesiness, on to part one of my own personal list of discoveries from 2014:

RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (1955; Jesse Hibbs)
My favorite discovery of 2014. I saw it very early in the year and it stuck with me throughout. A great, lean little western. One of the best I've seen in some time. I haven't seen many Audie Murphy films, but this one got my attention and I'll be seeing more soon enough. In this film he reminds me a bit of Ricky Nelson's character in RIO BRAVO, which is very cool. I've never been a huge Dan Duryea fan, but this is my favorite role of his for sure. Was turned onto this movie by this guest list (part of last year's Film Discoveries series):
I'll be checking out more of the stuff on here in the near future.

OUR RELATIONS (1936; Harry Lachman)
I am both upset with myself and also overjoyed to have somehow missed out on films like this classic as it allows me the sense of cinematic discovery that I really crave. I have an odd fondness for movies with double roles and this is like a Laurel & Hardy Doublemint commercial. Two sets of long lost twins make all kinds of trouble for each other in this wonderful farce. Double the fun!

CRASHOUT (1955; Lewis R. Foster)
A great noir prison break movie that spends most of its time dealing with the aftermath of the breakout and the group of prisoners making their way through the perils of the world outside. They all go on the hunt for one guy's stashed loot and things get complicated on foot, car, truck and train as they go. Kind of like a noir version of THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, but with convicts instead of a cat and two dogs. These guys are much less cuddly though.

TENSION (1949; John Berry)
Really outstanding film noir with an outstanding femme fatale performance by Audrey Totter. I'd never really seen her before this and she blew me away. Story reminds me of the Elisha Cook Jr./Marie Windsor part of Kubrick's THE KILLING. Richard Basehart plays a timid drugstore manager who's wife (Totter) takes on him with another dude. He plans to murder the other dude and things don't go quite as planned. Great stuff.

FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955; Joseph Pevney)
I really go back and forth with Joan Crawford. At times I'll think of her as the shrewish nutjob that Faye Dunaway portrays her as in MOMMIE DEAREST (or at least I'll see parts of that person seemingly coming through in her performances). At other times I see her grumpiness and sometimes abrasive nature line up perfectly with a character and it makes a movie just sail. Here she plays a widow with who decides to move into her late husband's beach house on the day after the former tenant fell/was pushed to her death outside. She is immediately annoyed by both her real estate agent and her hunky neighbor, but eventually comes around. There's still the mystery of what happened to the former tenant though...
I must credit film writer Miriam Bale for inspiring me to check this one out. She programmed it as a double bill with the Joan Bennett film THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH back in 2011:

MAGIC BOY (1959; Akira Daikuhara/Taiji Yabushita)
A dark and mesmerizing early Japanese anime film. I believe it may be like the second anime ever and it is a remarkable fairy tale filled with fantasy and darkness. Reminiscent of Disney films of the time (or before) in it's animation style but with a Japanese cultural lean on the story itself. It harken back to earlier Disney films like SNOW WHITE or DUMBO. There was even a sequence reminiscent of the Pink Elephants in DUMBO. The animation in MAGIC BOY is much more fluid and dream-like. It is an intriguing mixture of techniques which all feel very organic, even when the animation is mixed with what look like real photographic plates. The story though is the the thing that hooked me. Boiled down it seems very simple, but as I watched it play out it felt very special to me. Our main character is put into dangerous situations, characters are killed or eaten, but it all weaves into a lovely tapestry of a fabled nightmare/daydream. I love that it's in 2.35 to 1 too.  A wonderful film that I hadn't heard of until Warner Archive's DVD release. 

LATE AUTUMN (1960; Yasujiro Ozu)
As Ozu is want to do, this is something of a reworking of one of his earlier films (LATE SPRING) with a little gender reversal. LATE SPRING is probably my favorite Ozu film (and is among my favorite films of all-time) so I'm totally a sucker for something like this. 

BACK FROM ETERNITY (1956; John Farrow)
Enjoyable remake of Farrow's own FIVE CAME BACK (which I am a big fan of). Rod Steiger steals every scene he's in, especially towards the end.

ALEX AND THE GYPSY (1976; John Korty)
I had no knowledge that this movie even existed until I saw a picture of the movie poster on the wall of an old video store coworker. He is a super neat guy who turned me onto all of his obsessions when I worked with him. Said obsessions included disaster movies, Karen Black and of course Genevieve Bujold. So it totally makes sense that he would know about this movie. I had to see it once I discovered it was out there and it just happened to have gotten a Fox Cinema Archives DVD release right around that time (sadly full frame, but nonetheless). Jack Lemmon (one of my favorite actors) plays a bail bondsman who has previously had a relationship with a gypsy girl (Bujold) who ran off on him. When he encounters her in jail later on he is understandably still a bit upset with her. They make a lively couple and the presence of a very nerdy James Woods is a pleasant bonus.

DEAR HEART (1964; Delbert Mann)
This is a very simple story about a lonely but extremely kind woman postmaster who goes to a convention in New York City and ends up meeting a soon-to-be-married man (Ford) at her hotel. They don't necessarily hit it off, but there may be room for some romance perhaps. Suffice it to say that this movie snuck up on me in a very nice way. When I see a character like the one that Geraldine Page plays in DEAR HEART, I start to feel ever so slightly annoyed at first. "Oh she's going to be obnoxious," I think to myself. She'll be one of those "lonely spinsters" that the movies love to hang out to dry and often make fun of in a way. Enter Glenn Ford. He seems like he's going to be a certain way too. But then something happens and the movie clicks into this place of "These characters aren't what I thought they were going to be" and then my perspective on the movie has to take a turn. It's a pleasant turn. A turn into "I'm not exactly sure where this is going, but I'm along for the ride now," territory. That's a really neat turn for a movie to take. I feel like I've become rather cynical when it comes to films I think. I guess it's the double-edge sword of loving movies so much that I'm driven to watch a lot of them. It takes a bit more to get me enthusiastic these days because I feel like I've been burned (singed really) by many many mediocre films over the years. But that makes the surprises that much more delightful when they happen. 

MY REPUTATION (1946; Curtis Bernhardt)
A wonderful Sirkian melodrama, with a perhaps a bit of an Ozu feeling as well. Reminiscent of  ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS. A nice companion piece film to THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW.

I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944; William Dieterle)
A charming if dark Christmas movie that should be better known than it is. This film came recommended from film Critic Alonso Duralde, who literally wrote the book on Christmas films. He really did, it's called Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas and this was one of the underseen gems he came across while doing research for the book. Ginger Rogers plays a woman out on a 10 day pass from a jail sentence she is serving and she's come back home to spend time with her family. She meets a troubled soldier on the train (Joseph Cotten) and they connect on some small level and he pursues her. They spend time with her family and with each other and she dreads him finding out about her checkered past whilst he has something of a secret himself. It's a truly enchanting and emotional little movie. Should be a Christmas classic.

IT'S A DOG'S LIFE (1955; Herman Hoffman)
A movie featuring a life story told by a main character who happens to be a bull terrier. This movie is also very emotional, especially if you're a big dog person like I am. It's a pretty unique film for the period. As much as were used to talking animal movies now, this isn't like those. It's the tale of how this dog went from the streets of the bowery to the lap of luxury. Shoulda been a sitcom.

THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939; David Howard)
This one also came recommended from a discoveries list posted here last year:
It's a lean little western (only 62 mins) gem.  My introduction to actor George O'Brien. He's a tenacious, no-guff-takin' badass here and it makes for a very fun movie.

THE BLUE MAX (1966; John Guillermin)
This one was another I'd had on the back of my brain due to an old video coworker recommend. I had been meaning to watch it for some time and even owned the DVD for a year or two, but it wasn't until Twilight Time's lovely Blu-ray that I finally came around. THE BLUE MAX is a remarkably exciting film with excellent dogfighting sequences. It is truly the TOP GUN of its day and I'm surprised it is not often mentioned in the same sentence as that film or any of the other great air-warfare films of all-time. It is of course a much much darker portrait of the tragedy of war and the death theirin than TOP GUN would ever think of being. This movie has much more on its mind. It's more an anti-war film epic than a piece of popcorn entertainment. George Peppard's portrayal here is among his very best and he brings a great pathos to the proceedings, while playing a character that is quite flawed to say the least. His character, a German soldier having come literally from the trenches to being a pilot gives him a whole different perspective on the loss of life on either side. There is a certain antiquated gentlemenly attitude and chivalry that pervades the squadron where Peppard has been assigned. Peppard's character sees it flying in the face of the horrors of war he has witnessed previously and much conflict arises from this clash of ideologies. James Mason rounds out the cast nicely here as well. And Ursella Andress is welcome in any film I happen to be watching. Additionally, Jerry Goldsmith provides a wonderful, rousing and majestic score that really brings the movie up to another level (the film even features an old-school intermission which gives a lovely platform for the music). Theres something quite gloriously cinematic about watching these aerial battle scenes amidst the roar of the plane's engines and their machine guns with Goldsmith's melodies accompanying.

LITTLE BIG LEAGUE (1994; John Scheinman)
I avoided this film for years because the video cover (see below) made it look like some dumb kiddie baseball flick akin to THE MIGHTY DUCKS or something. It's not that though. It's much more grounded. You might be able to get away with calling it a mix between MAJOR LEAGUE and MONEYBALL, but with a kid in charge of the team. I liked the way the film approached the whole "kid running a major league baseball team" aspect. It's played for jokes at times, but they also look at it in a "what kind of effect would this have on a kid this age" kinda way. Very enjoyable and absolutely one of my favorite baseball movies.

BOOM TOWN (1940; Jack Conway)
THERE WILL BE BLOOD if it was directed by Howard Hawks and Douglas Sirk as more of a two-fisted, oil baron bro-mance. Gable and Tracy are pals and rivals in the ups and downs of the oil game and of course there's a ladies to get in the middle (Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr). Gable is at his most Gable-y in terms of his charm and charisma here and that's always a treat to watch.

ED'S NEXT MOVE (1996; John Walsh)
Charming, low key little indie that I remember gracing the video store shelves of my college place of employment. Looked to generic at the time to be any good so I never bothered. Then the movie popped up on my pal Cinema Du Meep's Underrated Comedies list so I realized I needed to see it. The tricky thing was that it never got a DVD released (that I could find) and was only on VHS. I kept meaning to order it on tape, but never did. Low and behold it showed up on Netflix Instant and my wife and I were able to catch it. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first. It seemed like a truly shoestring little independent and was so low key that I thought it might get boring. Thanks to great performances by Matt Ross (you may recognize him from SILICON VALLEY among other things) and Callie Thorn, this plucky little flick won me over in a big way in the end.
Still available on Netflix Instant:
And Amazon Instant:

STATION WEST (1948; Sidney Lanfield)
Was turned onto this one via it being programmed at the New Beverly in Los Angeles by Quentin Tarantino (at least, he was supposedly programming himself during that time). It's a neat little noir-western starring Dick Powell and Jane Greer (as well as Agnes Moorehead and Burl Ives). What better way to cast a noir western than with two noir icons like Powell (MURDER, MY SWEET, CRY DANGER) and Greer (OUT OF THE PAST). Has some snappy dialogue and a good ending. Hopefully will get a DVD release at some point, currently VHS only.

ROCK ALL NIGHT (1957; Roger Corman)
This Roger Corman directed classic was one of the big things that grabbed my attention in Elijah Drenner's wonderful documentary, THAT GUY DICK MILLER. I am a huge huge Dick Miller fan and not only loved the documentary, but also viewed it as inspiration for several Miller flicks that I still needed to see. He's rarely given a showcase to tear things up like he does in ROCK ALL NIGHT. It's basically the story of some hoodlums (one of them played by 'The Professor' from Gilligan's Island) who take a late-night diner full of folks hostage and Miller is among those trapped. He plays a sarcastic smart-ass who seems to have no fear of the crooks potentially shooting him and says whatever grouchy thing he is feeling as things are getting more and more tense. It's really one of my favorite Dick Miller performances now as he is razor sharp here and often very funny. Highly recommended. Currently only on VHS and also import DVD. 

Check out THAT GUY DICK MILLER when you can for more recommendations:

(also, check out the Film Discoveries list that director Elijah Drenner did for this series:

If you dug this list, Check out my list(s) from 2013:


the Trash Man said...

Ed's Next Move (1996) is an old favorite of mine, which I've been unable to revisit in well over a decade. Back when I worked at our town's old mom'n'pop video store [Video Showplace] in high school, it's one that I would always go back and re-watch when I needed to relax. I loved the soundtrack from Ed's Redeeming Qualities, as well.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Very cool! If you have Netflix Streaming, it's on there so you could revisit. Needs a DVD release!

George White said...

The Blue Max is a film I have a personal connection to. It was filmed in Ireland, and apparently when it was shown in Dublin, the audience would shot, "sure that's not Berlin, that's up near Christchurch (Cathedral)". My granddad was an extra/animal trainer and danced with Andress on set. While a bloke who worked at Laser Video, now sadly closed, but essentially the Irish Scarecrow Video claimed his mother kissed Peppard in the film, only to actually see the film, and find she was cut...

KC said...

The Joans on the Beach double feature is a brilliant idea. I'm always mixing up those two movies. They're both very much alike and entirely different from each other. Though I was enchanted by The Magic Boy, the witch terrified me, and I wondered if it might be scaring my 3-yr-old too. Nope, she thought she was hilarious. It's crazy the way you can predict how kids will respond to movies.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Yeah I worries about the witch too when showing to my 5 yr old, but she was fine with it too.

Laura said...

I'm so delighted I could help you find some cool stuff to watch!! And you have listed other favorites of mine as well, loved your list!

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Dear Heart and I'll Be Seeing You <3

Wixpix said...

As always love the list! The list is life. Can't wait for part 2.