Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '75 - Josh Olson ""

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Underrated '75 - Josh Olson

Josh Olson is the Academy Award Nominated screenwriter of A History of Violence (2005), and a remarkable cinephile to boot. His commentaries over at Trailers From Hell are always among my favorites. Spend an hour and go through all of the films he's covered and I guarantee you'll come away with additions to your watchlist:
http://trailersfromhell.com/gurus/olson-josh/

In fact, be sure to check out his new Trailers From Hell on THE BROOD!
http://trailersfromhell.com/brood/

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Five overlooked movies from 1975

Used to be, it was easy to distinguish between an overlooked movie and one that was getting its proper due. But these days, what’s overlooked and what’s not can be very difficult to distinguish. I mean, Dolemite and Death Race 2000 have played in theaters in Los Angeles more frequently in the last few years than The Man Who Would Be King, for cryin’ out loud!

So when compiling a list of five great overlooked movies from 1975, I tried to accommodate that reality. Thus, the absence of A Boy And His Dog, Smile, Switchblade Sisters, and Cooley High doesn’t mean I don’t think those movies aren’t amazing; it means I think that if you’re reading this blog, you’re almost certainly well aware of them, and probably hold them in high enough regard without me giving them an extra boost. 

So herewith, my list of movies I think you may not be as familiar with, and which you should be. 

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RANCHO DELUXE is one in a string of smart, entertaining, and just plain enjoyable Jeff Bridges movies (Has any star been in more great films? Seriously - for every pretty good Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Cruise movie, there are five terrific Jeff Bridges films. He might be our most under-rated movie star.) He and Sam Waterston play a pair of n’er-do-well modern day rustlers, and Slim Pickens plays the cattle detective set loose to find them. None of which gives any insight at all into the charms of this movie, which are all about character moments. The script by Tom McGuane sets the tone, and proves that nine times out of ten, writer trumps director (Frank Perry does a fine job, but, boy, does this feel more like McGuane than Perry.) Rambling, loose fun. 

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I know for a fact that Two Lane Blacktop is a great movie. I can prove it - to crib a line from Bill Hicks - with an abacus. But goddammit, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I take it out for a spin every few years, and nothing. Zip. Nada. So call me a churl, call me a thug, call me a goon, but I’ll take the cheap visceral pleasures of RETURN TO MACON COUNTY over Hellman’s masterpiece. Not even remotely concerned with the existential dilemma of its heroes, RTMC covers a few days in the lives of some hot rodders in the late fifties played exquisitely by Nick Nolte and Don Johnson, about ten seconds before Nolte broke big, followed shortly by Johnson. It’s all shambling charm, charisma, and innocent violence until a crazy cop gets it in his head to shut down our heroes, but even then, nothing too much like a plot threatens to rock the boat here. 

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DARKTOWN STRUTTERS is a delightful piece of lunacy from the mind of writer George Armitage (Who gave us a couple of personal favorites - Miami Blues and Grosse Pointe Blank) about an all girl motorcyle gang in the imaginary land of Watts. It’s a blaxploitation fairy tale that runs on pure joy and weirdness, and it pops up on TCM from time to time. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for. 

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When people talk Russ Meyer, they tend to focus - and rightly so - on Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! or the even more brilliant Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. But he made a lot of other films, and some of them are well worth checking out (Mudhoney’s a particular favorite - imagine William Faulkner writing soft core porn.) 

SUPERVIXENS, though, might be the purest distillation of Meyer ever put to film. It’s a screaming, propulsive journey into one WWII veteran’s babbling id. All of Meyer’s weird issues and obsessions are front and center, and his rage at his recent divorce paints every frame of this insane and - no way around it - misogynistic film. But he’s just as hard on his own gender, which somehow makes it all OK.  Funny, ugly, and crazy. What’s not to love?

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I saved the best for last. How important is a good title to a movie? Critical, I’d say. Because DEADLY HERO might just be the single worst title for a film you could come up with. I mean, like EVER. Nothing about it compels or attracts or intrigues. But the film - starring Don Murray, James Earl Jones, and - in one of his first movie roles - Treat Williams - is an astonishing piece of work. This isn’t just one of those terrific B-list thrillers that were so pervasive in the Seventies. This is top notch stuff. This movie should be spoken of in the same breath as TAXI DRIVER and MS. 45. It’s that fucking good, people. Don Murray plays a working cop who uses too much force when rescuing a woman from a rapist - an amazing performance by James Earl Jones. She finds she can’t live with what happened, and threatens to report the cop’s actions, sending everyone spiraling into chaos and confusion. This is one of those great films where everyone’s motivation makes perfect sense, and you can argue all sides passionately. And Murray.... Murray’s a revelation. It’s astonishing he didn’t get to do more work of this caliber. 

Seriously - track this movie down. See it. It belongs in the pantheon of great Seventies movies.

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