Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '55 - Steve Q ""

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Underrated '55 - Steve Q

Steve Q blogs about terrible movies at http://zerostarcinema.blogspot.com and can be found on Twitter at @Amy_Surplice.
He also recently did lists the Underrated '85, Underrated '75 and Underrated '65 series:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/04/underrated-steve-q.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/05/underrated-steve-q.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2015/06/underrated-steve-q.html
Steve is also a Letterboxd member and can be followed here:
http://letterboxd.com/stevequick/
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Choosing "underrated" films is always challenging. Essentially, one's choosing what should be a cult film, but isn't because not enough people have seen it. When too many people recognize the quality of a cult film, it becomes a classic; this has happened with 1955's "Night of the Hunter," for example. People who watch a lot of films - such as anyone reading this blog - already know the cult film canon, so "The Big Combo," "Shack Out on 101," "Daughter of Horror" (aka "Dementia,") "Creature with the Atom Brain," "Devil Girl from Mars" and "Bride of the Monster" are not considered underrated. That leaves films that are under-seen either because they're genre films (like film noir and westerns) or were not widely distributed in the U.S. (like foreign films and exploitation).

1955 was the year film noir hit the French Wave and I could've chosen 5 French crime films: "Diabolique," "Rififi," "Bob le Flambeur," "Death of a Cyclist," "La Craneur." These, however, are not underrated by anyone who's seen them.

1955 was the year westerns went to television. I could've chosen 5 solid but under-seen westerns: "Tennessee's Partner," "A Man Alone," "The Silver Star," "The Man from Miller Ridge, "The Americano."

I could've chosen 5 sex films you've never heard of: "Teaserama" (featuring Bettie Page and Tempest Storm), the similar "Shock-O-Rama," the sexual educational film "Your Body During Adolescence," the art house film "Mechanics of Love" and the venereal disease educational film "Invader."

I finally decided to choose films that have unfairly received bad press, making them truly underrated, like the Bowery Boys film "High Society," which is the only film to have an Oscar nomination withdrawn (it was mistaken for the musical of the same name that came out early in 1956); that film, however, is not good. 

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The Cobweb (1955; Vincente Minnelli)
The Movieline magazine column "Bad Movies We Love" 25 years ago trashed this film, which has become known as the film where curtains cause people to go insane. It's more of a story about artistic temperament, directed by Vincente Minelli and with a great cast: Gloria Grahame, Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Lillian Gish, Charles Boyer, Susan Strasberg and Fay Wray.


Land of the Pharaohs (1955; Howard Hawks)
 Admittedly light on action, this film has been used to show that William Faulkner couldn't write screenplays. The well-known story asserts that he said he didn't know how a pharaoh would speak, so he wrote him as a Kentucky colonel. Add Joan Collins as the villain and it's easy to underestimate this film, which is better than it sounds, with terrific scenery.


This Island Earth (1955; Joseph M. Newman) 
When "Mystery Science Theater 3000" decided to create an episode for distribution to theaters, they chose a decent science fiction film, rather than their usual schlock. Fans of the show have since continued to malign the film. It was the first serious film about space travel, with plenty of action and excellent (especially for the budget) effects. If you can't see Russell Johnson without shouting "Professor!" stick with the MST3K version.


It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955; Robert Gordon)
The giant octopus doesn't have enough tentacles - get over it. Reportedly, time and money constraints led to the amputee octopus, but the effects of Ray Harryhausen are still spectacular. Faith Domergue, also in "This Island Earth," is the heroine. This excellent 1950's science fiction film's one flaw should not be all it's known for.



Ju Jin Yuki Otako (1955; Ishiro Honda)
Ishiro Honda's elegiac and moody "Gojiro" got edited into the Raymond Burr monster flick "Godzilla" for American audiences. Similarly, this abominable snowman film had all Japanese language scenes removed and replaced with footage of John Carradine and Morris Ankrum and was released as "Half Human" in the U.S. in 1958. That film stinks. The original, however, if you can find a copy with fan-added English subtitles (it appears from time to time online), is a very interesting film.


1 comment:

Silver Screenings said...

Great list! Two titles I must see right away are This Island Earth and Land of the Pharaohs. (A Pharaoh who talks like a southern colonel? Fabulous!)