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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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

Here are some more of the gems that I managed to come across in 2014. My list of interesting "new to me" watches last year was rather extensive, so I should have at least one more installment after this:

Here's Part One of my list by the way:

HAVING A WILD WEEKEND (1965; John Boorman)
The Dave Clark 5 have quite the swinging pad in HAVING A WILD WEEKEND. It even had a trampoline, which is used several times to fun effect. Overall, the film isn't quite as energetic and frenetic as A HARD DAYS NIGHT, but it still moves along at a good clip, has some interestingly edited bits and features some undeniably catchy tunes by the band themselves. It is certainly more poignant than HARD DAYS though. The "plot" is odd but memorable in that it centers around the boys (of the band) who are working a short stint as stuntmen in commercials for this "Meat Counsel" whose goal is to brand and continue a series of print and TV ads to sell more meat to the public. One of the boys has taken a fancy to the girl that the Meat Counsel has chosen as the face of their campaign. She has become disenchanted with her role and is swept off on an adventure with the dude from the band. This adventure takes the couple a ways from London and into some interesting scenarios whilst the Meat Counsel minions give chase. One of the best sequences in the movie is a wonderful costume party. Costume parties are one of my favorite conventions of movies and television. The soires are so well designed and it's always fun to spot what famous characters that people are dressed up to look like. In this case, costumes for Groucho and Harpo Marx, Charlie Chaplin and Frankenstein play key roles.

THE WALKING STICK (1970, Eric Till)
An affecting 70s romantic drama wherein an introverted, straight-laced woman (Samantha Eggar) finds herself swept off her feet by a bohemian artist-type (David Hemmings). This features that convention I love which is when the gentlemen continues to pursue the lady despite a lack of interest in the beginning. His pursuit is done in a charming and not creepy stalker-ly way and it's quite endearing. The plot also has some turns which are not the conventional fare for this type of movie. 

FUNNY BONES (1995; Peter Chelsom)
Something of a mix of Woody Allen and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. An interesting companion piece to THE IMPOSTORS. Suffers slightly from being a touch too long, but overall a fascinating film. Cast includes Jerry Lewis, Oliver Platt, Lee Evans, Leslie Caron, Richard Griffiths and Oliver Reed.

POSSESSED (1947; Curtis Bernhardt)
Compelling noir which finds Joan Crawford a woman obsessed with an engineer (Van Heflin) she met whilst in the employ of a rich man. Suffice it to say that he does not quite feel the same way about her. Features a great noir opening involving amnesia. Warner Archive put this out on a nice looking Blu-ray late last year.

DAWN AT SOCORRO (1954; George Sherman)
Another neat western recommend from Laura  G. (of Laura's Misc Musings) who has put me onto plenty of great stuff from the genre. This one is the story of one Brett Wade (Rory Calhoun) a seasoned gambler and gunslinger who has a nose for trouble even when he's trying to find a place to benefit his health (tuberculosis). Well written and tense.

PANHANDLE (1948; Lesley Selander) 
Still another from Laura G. and the best Rod Cameron movie I've seen. A solid little B western with some good dialogue - written, produced and starring a young Blake Edwards (who also makes a fun heavy).

WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS (1971; Richard Compton)
I think I first heard Josh Olson mention this one during a Trailers From Hell commentary or something. It's sort of freewheelin' 70s drama about some Vietnam veteran solider buddies on a little bender through the south. From the director of MACON COUNTY LINE and you can see some of the connective tissue between the two. Joe Don Baker leads the cast and he's supported by Paul Koslo, Billy Green Bush and Geoffrey Lewis.

ROADBLOCK (1951; Harold Daniels)
Ostensibly a reworking of a DOUBLE INDEMNITY type story, ROADBLOCK stars film noir stalwart Charles McGraw (THE NARROW MARGIN) and features a screenplay co-written by Steve Fisher (who wrote one of my GIVEAWAY - one of my favorite books - among many other things). I've always thought that McGraw's gruff voice and features make him a perfect noir figure. Here he plays a crafty insurance investigator (see also: Fred MacMurray) who meets an even craftier femme fatale (see also: Barbara Stanwyck) in an airport as she pretends to be his wife to get cheaper airfare. McGraw sees her (Joan Dixon) as a "chiseler" right off the bat and he's kinda right on the mark. She very focused on having the very finest things in life asks McGraw "Can happiness buy money?". That kind of says all you need to know about her. And Joan Dixon is quite the cutie too so you just know she's gonna be trouble. She cuts quite a nice frame in a sweater for sure. Definitely the kinda girl you can see yourself contemplating robbing a bank for. This is a solid little noir film though, with a great cameo by the L.A. River. 

Billy Wilder was a filmmaker who had a tremendous impact on me when I was younger and starting to get into cinema in a much more serious and academic way. Wilder and Howard Hawks were and are two of my favorites to this very day. I studied film in college and it was right around the time that I dedicated myself to that path that I started to discover Wilder's remarkable body of work. I saw DOUBLE INDEMNITY and the APARTMENT and I was immediately obsessed and have never stopped loving his movies. That being said, for some reason I had never gotten to see WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION.
The courtroom drama is a genre that's all but disappeared from contemporary cinema. Even an academy award powerhouse like A FEW GOOD MEN is all but forgotten today, especially as far as it having an influence on contemporary movies. Though it may sound like an inherently unexciting (an perhaps uncinematic) atmosphere to some folks, the really great courtroom dramas can be remarkably compelling and engaging. One of the great things about directors like Billy Wilder (and Hawks for that matter) is this remarkably ability to work so well inside of a variety of different genres. Just when you think you have him pegged as a comedy kinda guy, along comes a searing cynical yet powerful portrait like ACE IN THE HOLE or a tense war film like FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO. Wilder is just a master director so it is no real surprise to see him move so deftly between these different types of movies.

WOMAN IN HIDING (1950; Michael Gordon)
Wonderful film noir with Ida Lupino. She plays a gal with a husband she suspects arranged the death of her father to inherit his business and that he wants her out of the picture too. Some real nail biting suspense in this one. Very impressive.

ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948; Fred Zinneman)
For all you need to know with regards to this film, please check out Josh Olson's Trailer's From Hell (that's what finally sold me on watching it):

SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (1921; Max Linder)
Discovering the films of Max Linder in 2014 (via a nice collection on DVD from Kino), was quite a delight I must say. He is one of those silent masters along the lines of Keaton and Chaplin, but who is surprisingly unknown. SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK was Easily the standout gem from that set. The film has a pretty amazing mirror gag that feels like maybe it influenced the classic sequence the Marx Brothers made famous in DUCK SOUP. It also had lots of great chases and sequences involving Linder disguising himself and hiding from various authority figures. All very clever and quite well done. An unheralded classic. 

NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959; Jack Arnold)
An excellent, tension-filled slow-burn of a western from the director of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Audie Murphy starred in my favorite discovery of 2014 (RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO) and this is another solid Murphy flick. Joe Dante is one of the film's biggest cheerleaders which is why I made it a priority.

ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949; John Farrow)
Another Dante recommend and a neat deal-with-the-devil/film noir combo from director John Farrow. Solid stuff from Ray Milland. Needs a decent DVD release.

IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935; William A. Seiter)
Herbert Marshall and Jean Arthur star in this screwball comedy for fans of MY MAN GODFREY and SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS. Feels like a Preston Sturges runoff movie. 


Ned Merrill said...

WALKING STICK was a real nice Warner Archive discovery for me as well, Rupe, and I wrote about it last year. I LOVE that Stanley Myers "Cavatina" theme...made popular later in DEER HUNTER. WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS remains an under-the-radar VERY EARLY depiction of Vietnam vets and never gets recognized as such. Paul Koslo again! ACT OF VIOLENCE is superb. Need to revisit that one. Heflin and Ryan are at the top of their respective games.

Rupert Pupkin said...

Hey man, pretty sure it was your mention of WALKING STICK (coupled with the fact that it was on Warner Archive Instant) that finally got me to watch it - so much appreciated!