Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Samuel B. Prime ""

Friday, March 13, 2015

Underrated '85 - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is a writer, film curator, and archivist based in Los Angeles, where he currently works in film distribution. He is presently writing and editing a two-volume set for The Critical Press on the pioneering and highly influential LA-based pay cable station, the Z Channel, which existed from 1974 - 1989. As a film curator, he has helmed high-profile screening events for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and UCLA's Melnitz Movies. Otherwise, he deeply admires Dick Cavett's savoir faire and his favorite Sonny Chiba film is Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's perpetually unavailable WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (1975). Find him online at for essays and free streaming movies.
Also, check out his recent Film Discoveries list which includes the amazing WICKED WOMAN among other cool stuff:
YEAR OF THE DRAGON (Michael Cimino, 1985)
If I had been alive in 1985, Michael Cimino’s YEAR OF THE DRAGON would doubtless have been my choice for best picture of that year. Why? Because despite all the backlash against the film being variously racist and sexist, the film is actually about the ugly, distinctly American compulsion to place blame on cultural others – that disturbing societal sense that “foreign” is just another word for bad or wrong. It is a sincere and measured critique of the behavior for which it was lambasted in the press. Such is YEAR OF THE DRAGON’s painful historic irony. Don’t be fooled by its reputation: YEAR OF THE DRAGON is not simply a great underrated film from 1985, but one of the greatest. As film critic F.X. Feeney wrote for Z Magazine in 1987: “To go the distance with this movie is to be put in touch with reservoirs of feeling that defy easy analysis but define America in all its democratic genius and vicious, illustrious, fractious, imperial reality.” For your reconsideration: YEAR OF THE DRAGON.

TWISTED LOVE (Yang Chuan, 1985)
From the man who made SEEDING OF A GHOST, a film about a taxi driver who accidentally runs over a sorcerer, comes this contemporary investigation of aberrant sexuality (according to mid-80s Hong Kong standards). Mr. Ma is a well-to-do businessman on the fast-track to success. However, he is the only single man among his "spoken for" business partners, who not-so-subtly urge him to settle down and find a good woman. What Mr. Ma can't and wouldn't dare tell them, because it would mean the end of his career, is that he has no interest in women. In fact, he likes to hang out in clubs, seduce younger men, and bring them back to his penthouse for a dalliance. Under mounting pressure from his colleagues, he marries a top model named Tina. This is more Tina's story than it is Mr. Ma's, as the details of their convenient arrangement reveal  that Tina can have anything she wants, with one exception: Mr. Ma will never consummate their marriage. What initially seems like a sweetheart deal soon becomes a living hell, as Tina takes to drink and finds herself taking pleasure from violent or illegal late night encounters, realized in a stunning red/blue neon-cut composition, as if director Yang Chuan is repeatedly trying to cut Tina in half with colored light.

TRANCERS (Charles Band, 1985)
Angel City, 2247: a time and place where Los Angeles as it was once known has sunk into the ocean and the urban sprawl is somehow a delightful hybrid of Edward Hopper paintings and a wet, neon, Blade Runner aesthetic. Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is on the prowl for trancers, feeble-minded citizens who have been recruited for the zombie army of the evildoer Whistler. TRANCERS is the first in a franchise of six ultra-low-budget sci-fi cash-ins, trading on the themes, plot points, art direction, style, and ethos of better, more influential, more successful films from the 80s. TRANCERS is the start of something nobody needed. For that reason, it is kind of beautiful. This entry into the series also has charm, something missing in its direct sequel, but that comes back in the third film by way of a six-foot-tall, cybernetic, fish-human bodyguard named Shark.

A.K. (Chris Marker, 1985)
Nobody makes a behind-the-scenes or making of documentary quite like Chris Marker. A.K. is the absolute gold standard for this particular subset of the documentary form. Also: leaps and bounds better than the film it documents, Akira Kurosawa's RAN. 

TUFF TURF (Fritz Kiersch, 1985)
James Spader, Kim Richards, Robert Downey, Jr. If you don't like TUFF TURF, we can't be friends. 


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen AK yet, but if it's "leaps and bounds" better than RAN it's one of the greatest films ever made.

S.B. Prime said...