Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - George White ""

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - George White

"I am nineteen, an Irish writer/animator, trying to get work as a genre film journalist. I run ateenagersguidetotrash.blogspot.comboldbrat.blogspot.com and you can check out my vids"
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Blame It On The Bellboy (1992)
Seen as somewhat of a poor relative to A Fish Called Wanda, I'd consider it better. It's a farce about a hotel, and three similarly named men, Orton (Dudley Moore), Horton (Richard Griffiths, while watching this made me realise even more of a loss he was to cinema) and Lawton (Bryan Brown), the latter being a gangster, who book into the same hotel in Venice, where the titular Manuel-esque bellhop played by Bronson Pinchot causes them to be mixed up with Andreas Katsulas' gangster, Penelope Wilton (the mother in Shaun of the Dead and one of the cast of Downton Abbey, if you Americans need any help of knowing who she is) as a lonely Mancunian woman, Alison Steadman as a jilted wife and Patsy Kensit. Smart, funny, silly and pleasing and glossy (it looks like a 1990s British Airways ad), unlike director Mark Herman's later Brassed Off, a nasty, unfunny film only popular because it made the Northern English brass band popular again. 

The Little Convict (1979)
I discovered this ironically after the arrest of its star, Rolf Harris, who was until his arrest last year and eventual jailing for historical abuse of underage girls, a legendary singer, artist, cartoonist, entertainer in both his native Australia and the UK. Since his arrest, people have resented him and tried to retcon him out of history (for example, a BBC radio quiz listed all the UK Christmas number ones except Harris' 2 Little Boys in 1969). I think this is not right, because although child abuse is a sinful act, we should remember the art not the artist. After all, we are film geeks. We still watch the work of OJ Simpson, Roman Polanski, Bill Cosby and other individuals who may or not be despicable. People like R Kelly and Pete Townshend can get forgiven but supposed "family entertainers" like Rolf get shafted into prison and get blacked out of history, their awards removed. And seeing a childhood hero locked up (I've always wanted him to see my animations as he hosted showings of classic cartoons on British TV) is not right, especially unlike his fellow disgraced UK TV legend Sir Jimmy Savile, Rolf was never viewed in an odd or disturbing light and I know people who have met him who say that he is a top bloke. This film, the work of Australian-Israeli animator Yoram Gross is a charming story of colonial origins of Australia hosted by Rolf, who gets to sing his once-legendary song "Jake the Peg". 

Detroit Rock City (1999)
Adam Rifkin's story of four teens trying to get to a Kiss concert and getting into misadventures and scrapes is a riot. It feels like a 1970s sub-Rock 'n' Roll High School flick rediscovered. Lin Shaye is magnificent in a role as the fiercely Catholic mother that probably would have been Cloris Leachman if done in 1979. Pity it got shafted at the box office.

Raid on Entebbe (1976)/Victory on Entebbe (1976)/Operation Thunderbolt (1977)
Well, both this and its fellow Entebbesploitation rivals in 1976. Victory on Entebbe is the stagey videotaped interiors-only (including a terrible airfield set) and despite for a TV movie, having a wowser cast, (Liz Taylor, Kirk Douglas and Linda Blair as a family, Helen Hayes doing her Airport character to play a real-life Doomed British Hostage, Dora  Bloch, who is renamed Etta Grossman but kept as British despite Hayes keeping her mid-Atlantic accent), Anthony Hopkins as a Welsh Yitzhak Rabin, Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Lancaster, Julius Harris not physically right as Idi Amin, Theodore Bikel and Severn Darden as Jews, Helmut Berger as the kidnapper), it feels very maudlin and mawk. Operation Thunderbolt, the official Israeli attempt at dramatisation made by a pre-Cannon, post-Norman Wisdom Menahem Golan has some dynamic scenes and a great soundtrack, done by the Israeli version of a Welsh male voice choir, and has Klaus Kinski and Sybil Danning as the kidnappers. But the best is Irvin Kershner's Raid, also a TV movie (although all three got UK cinema releases), this has Charles Bronson, Peter Finch, Yaphet Kotto (Julius Harris' boss in Live and Let Die) as Amin, terrifically mad in the role, Jack Warden, Sylvia Sidney as Bloch, James Woods, Martin Balsam who got an Emmy for his role, James Woods, among others, has some great tension and action and doesn't feel like a TVM. 

The Last Remake of Beau Geste (1977)
Locally made (in Ardmore Studios, Bray Co. Wicklow) take on the classic story with Marty Feldman as twin brother of Michael York as the titular Beau, and they do oddly look like brothers, not twins, though. With a great and varied cast, Ann-Margret as their adopted mother/York's lover, Trevor Howard, Peter Ustinov, Henry Gibson, Spike Milligan, Ted Cassidy, Avery Schreiber, James Earl Jones, Roy Kinnear, Stephen Lewis ("Blakey" in the UK TV sitcom On the Buses and the Hammer film spin-offs) and Burt Kwouk as an Irish priest/nun. It's barmy and post-modern even in its studio-compromised form. 

Bloody Birthday (1981)
A really odd, stupid, bonkers, inventive, holy crap slasher. Jose Ferrer (in a day's work or maybe two days, as he comes back in the middle but doesn't get killed, somehow) operates on three babies on the same day, who turn out to be little evil bastards. Ten years later, a weird astrological event somewhat makes them killers. 

That's Sexploitation (2014)
Not really a discovery as it's new, but it is Frank Henenlotter's compilation of old sexy stuff, basically, pre-Hardcore, so loops, clips from birth of a baby films, sex hygiene films, nudie cuties, roughies, loops, peepshows, soft-core historicals, all with framing story told by the late great David F. Friedman. Very interesting. I had the honour of seeing this in the cinema at Dublin Horrorthon 2014 with Mr. Henenlotter himself. 

The work of Rene Cardona Junior
Oh Christ, this Mexican exploitation dynamo's work is staggering. His father Rene Cardona Senior made Santo movies, then the two made the Argentinean rugby player cannibals in the Andes film Survive! in 1976, which was an international hit when released by Paramount (!), so Cardona Junior made for Universal, Guyana - Cult of the Damned, a very odd, weird Jonestown Massacre adap with Stuart Whitman as "Reverend Jim Johnson" (names changed to protect the innocent, nothing innocent about Jim Jones, though), Yvonne De Carlo, Gene  Barry as Leo Ryan, sorry "Lee O'Brien", Bradford Dillman, Robert DoQui, Hugo Stiglitz and Joseph fucking Cotten. And then Bermuda Triangle, where John Huston goes to the mysterious sea area and discovers that it is caused by a haunted maneating doll that washes up on ships, gets played with by kids on board, then bites people and transports them to an unseen dimension, I think.  


Virus (1980)
Quite simply, wow. 
Kinji  Fukusaku directs what was then the most expensive Japanese film of its time, filmed mainly in Japan and Canada, with locations all over the world, a cast so huge. There's Glenn Ford as President, Chuck Connors as a British submarine captain, Olivia Hussey, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy (it's a disaster movie, you see, the most ambitious of them all, I think), Sonny Chiba, Edward James Olmos, Henry Silva, Cec Linder, and various Canadian stalwarts. It's also incredibly downbeat. It's about how a virus decimates the world, AND THEN A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST! It never got a US theatrical release, was cut down, sold to US TV, with the mushroom cloud scene used as the end, part of the climax used out of context to tell the story out of flashback (SPOILERS - part of the main hero's massive walk from Washington to Chile, yes, through North, South and Central America to reach his love - Olivia Hussey) and 45 minutes cut out. No other disaster movie bar perhaps Meteor! (1979) has so much scope, so much ambition and international setting until Roland Emmerich's disasters of both types. You can see the Japanese trying their very best to compete with the US, but kind of failing because it's not feel-good entertainment. I watched it and just thought, "ebola and all, this world's going to end up shit!" 

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