Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '85 - Joe Gibson ""

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Underrated '85 - Joe Gibson

Joe Gibson is an extremely serious Cinephile living in Austin, Texas. He can be found on twitter @Karatloz and on Letterboxd (a highly recommended follow) here:
Joe watches pretty much more films in a given year than any human I know. He may be a robot.
Check him out on this episode of the My Favorite Movie Podcast (very cool show):

Crime Killer (1985; George Pan Andreas)
The Crime Killer - He Kills Crime!

I saw this a few years ago in a theatrical VHS exhibition series in town, and it gave me a faith in the possibilities of direct-to-VHS entertainment that continues to punish and bewilder me to this day.

Phenomena (1985; Dario Argento)
Dario Argento is the master of batshit horror, and this is one of his battiest. I recently got to see the cut-down-to-size 'Creepers' cut, and was struck by how well Argento's signature set-pieces play on a big screen, transitioning from "baroque, imaginative camerawork" to "oh my god this is terrifying help." Creepy sexual undertones? Yeah they're there, as is Donald Pleasance and a killer chimp. I like it.

The Holcroft Covenant (1985; John Frankenheimer)
This might actually be properly rated, since it is unarguably a disappointment given the talent involved - it represents a reunion between John Frankenheimer and George Axelrod, the director and screenwriter of the unassailable classic The Manchurian Candidate. But rather than trying to make another unassailable classic, John and George just try to make an entertaining spy movie, one that's probably spoofing the genre but isn't really funny enough for you to be sure. Still, the fact that so few people have seen or ever talk about a movie from the director and writer of The Manchurian Candidate and starring Michael Caine means it's automatically underrated, and the fact that it's actually pretty good doesn't hurt.

Poulet au vinaigre (1985; Claude Chabrol)
It's been a while since I've seen this one, but I remember liking Claude Chabrol's stab at the out-of-town-cop-investigates-an-upper-class-murder-mystery genre. The out of town cop in question, Inspector Lavardin, acts as kind of a genteel French precursor to Jack Bauer, roughing up suspects and making his own rules, as anyone who watches French crime films knows that French cops are wont to do. And he was popular enough to appear in another film by Chabrol, and a French TV series which I haven't seen. But here in the States he's underrated, so deal with it.

Also, I believe this has a very good Peeping Tom esque title sequence introducing many of the characters (aka the suspects) in a long POV tracking shot taken from a camera held by another character.

Crime Wave (1985; John Paizs)
This is a fantastic B-movie/educational film/industrial film/etc pastiche that's funny, sweet, just a little sad, but mostly funny. It's all about a made-up movie genre called "color crime films," and one man's attempt to break into the color crime film field. But it has plenty of entertaining digressions, running gags, and set-pieces, too many to enumerate here, in fact. My main takeaway from it was the tragedy of director John Paizs not becoming a hot Hollywood commodity, because he's clearly a filmmaker who loves and understands Hollywood product in a way that's really rare and wonderful. In a just world, this would have been the beginning of a terrific career, but as we all know, the world of color crime is not a just world.

Year of the Dragon (1985; Michael Cimino)
Little bit of a theme forming on this list, which is fallen 70s auteur kings trying to make it work in the more commercial 80s environment. Auteur kings don't get any more fallen than Michael Cimino, and it's true that this seems loaded with way more violent action than a more assured director would deem necessary, almost as if he's worried about audiences growing bored (and can you blame him for that?). But this is still an ambitious work, with soundstage cinematography standing in for New York City locations that reportedly fooled even the notorious stickler Stanley Kubruck, and an overcooked Oliver Stone screenplay that gets ridiculous like only Ollie can.

Gymkata (1985; Robert Clouse)
Gymnastics. Karate or whatever. Together they form gymkata, the most ridiculous martial art ever conceived. I like this movie for its sheer audacity, its total divorce from reality, and, yeah I'll admit it, the gymnastics fight scenes. Did you ever watch the Summer Olympics with your parents when you were a kid and bored-ly wish that two of the gymnasts would start just beating the shit out of each other? This comes as close to delivering on that desire as is reasonable.

To Live and Die in L.A. (1985; William Friedkin)
William Friedkin is another dude that doesn't get his due as far as the 80s are concerned. Here we have Billy trying to go commercial, which of course means this is as nasty and uncompromising as his (massively popular, go figure) 70s films, but with bright day-glo colors and a relatively conventional hero vs villain plot. He also tries to one-up his famous French Connection car chase, and who knows, maybe he succeeds

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