Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Allan Mott ""

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Allan Mott

Allan Mott is a 40 year-old man who these days is seldom seen without some kind of tie and his Wonder Woman Chuck Taylors. He is currently searching for a reasonably priced Candy Stripe Nurses one-sheet to round out his Corman nurse pictures poster collection. His film writing can be found online at Flick Attack, One Perfect Shot, xoJane, the pulp press, Canuxploitation and his own site, Vanity Fear. His book, Scary Movies (credited to A.S. Mott), is currently a decade out of date, but can be bought used for a penny (+shipping) on Amazon if you’re into that sort of thing.
12 + 1 (Nicolas Gessner, 1969)
For many this film exists more as a historical footnote than it does as a movie, owing to the fact that it was the last to star Sharon Tate before her terrible date with destiny. I saw it as part of an effort to see all of the movies represented in my personal vintage poster collection, having picked up the one-sheet for 12 + 1 online for the princely sum of $2. Based on that poster I assumed it was a sordid 60s Euro-sex drama, so I was surprised to find out it was a comedy based on the same Russian novel that inspired Mel Brooks’ The 12 Chairs and the forgotten Jack Benny/Fred Allen vehicle It’s in the Bag! The poster also failed to mention that the film co-stars Orson Welles, who plays the part of the gay impresario of a Grand Guignol-style theatre company. The film is a bit of a mess, but Tate is genuinely charming in it(as well as unspeakably gorgeous), which of course makes watching the film a somewhat melancholy—but still worthwhile—experience.

Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1971)
With the exception of Mad Max: Fury Road, no film I saw in 2015 hit me as powerfully as Peter Watkins breathtaking pseudo-documentary. Despite being made 44 years ago, the only thing keeping it from feeling utterly contemporary and of-this-moment are the clothes worn by its characters. Set in an alternative version of then-contemporary America, it depicts two groups of people who have been convicted of crimes against the state (such as reading poetry at a peace rally, performing political songs and defending a protestor being beaten by the police). The first group has already faced their judgment and must make their way through the titular institution (a hot, desolate desert, where they are pursued by members of different law enforcement agencies) if they want to avoid decades long jail sentences, while the second are harangued by a group of outraged citizens who serve as the tribunal dedicated to handing out their punishments. Anyone who pays attention to current events will be shocked to hear statements and phrases identical to those used in similar arguments today and will feel their own jaws drop when they realize how little progress we have made since the film was originally released.

Avenging Force (Sam Firstenberg, 1986)
I found myself attracted to this seldom-mentioned Cannon effort when I learned that it was actually a sequel to the much better known Chuck Norris hit, Invasion U.S.A. Having seen the film (which somehow managed to skip a DVD release and made its digital debut on Blu-ray) I can understand why Norris refused to return as Matt Hunter, since—thanks to a screenplay by British character actor, James Booth—its politics are antithetical to that first effort. Whereas Invasion found Norris (who co-wrote the screenplay) protecting America from a group of organized terrorists from various communist countries, Force gives us Michael Dudikoff taking on a secret racist, right-wing organization who—when not hunting people for sport—target his liberal politician friend, Steve James, for assassination (and in the process commit atrocities that would even shock Invasion’s terrorist commies). Given Norris’ own conservative views, it’s easy to see why he bailed on a project where he had more in common with the villains than the heroes and though the result is a typically laughable Cannon effort, it still manages to succeed on its own strange terms.

Champagne for Caesar (Richard Whorf, 1950)
This year I reread Victoria Price’s excellent biography of her father, Vincent, and it convinced me to seek out this light comedy where he costarred with Ronald Colman and Celeste Holm. Price plays Burnbridge Waters, the president of a soap company that sponsors a popular radio quiz show hosted by Art Linkletter. When Colman—an obsessive and broke autodidact—realizes he can earn a fortune on the program and becomes a star in the process, Price is forced to get devious to save his company from potential bankruptcy and hires Holm to seduce the brilliant contestant and steer him towards failure. An utter delight from beginning to end, this classic comedy also benefits from the presence of Barbara Britton, an actress who I was previously unfamiliar with, but who earned my instant attention as Colman’s beautiful younger sister.

The Fifth Musketeer (Ken Annakin, 1979)
Despite all efforts to suggest otherwise, this 1979 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Maskhas nothing to do with Richard Lester’s Salkind-produced Musketeer films. And though it’s nowhere near as good as those two efforts, it still manages to be a film worth seeing for its own merits. Much of its charm is found in its cast, which isn’t quite at the level of the Lester films, but still manages to feature a group of game and always-watchable pros. Beau Bridges takes on the double role of the separated twins (and proves to be much better as the spoiled, ruthless king than as the rather bland hero), while Cornel Wilde, José Ferrer, Lloyd Bridges and Gilligan’s Island’s Alan Hale Jr. (!) play the aging musketeers tasked with returning the good Beau to his rightful place on the throne. Euro sex-goddesses Sylvia Kristel and Ursula Andress show up to add some visual sizzle and Ian McShane, Olivia de Havilland and Rex Harrison also appear along the way.

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