Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - John Knight ""

Monday, February 29, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - John Knight

John Knight does not host a blog,but he is a regular contributor to The Hannibal-8, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and Riding The High Country.
As far as my attitude to cinema goes I would best describe myself as a dedicated
B Movie Junkie!

THE DEFENSE RESTS (1934; Lambert Hillyer)
A legal drama/thriller with dark and disturbing elements. It's the sort of film that you watch and think..."just where is this going" Jean Arthur plays a newcomer to the legal profession who is thrilled to get a job working with her mentor (Jack Holt) Problem is,Holt who has never lost a case is a lawyer hired by The Mob to get various unsavory characters off the hook. It's unusual to see the usually stalwart Holt play such a morally dubious character. Things come to a head when The Mob ask Holt,against his better judgement to defend a creepy child kidnapper/murderer. This is the final straw for Arthur who then turns against her "hero" Although the ending is rushed and conventional this is an intriguing little film. As far as i know it is only available as part of a TCM Jean Arthur collection.

I love Universal's Invisible Man films. For some reason this entry has always eluded me.
I was finally able to catch up with it on Turbine Media's (Germany) Invisible Man Collection. What I liked about this entry is that The Invisible Man is a total rotter from the word go. Jon Hall in the title role is very good and low budget expert Ford Beebe does a very good job working with a decent budget for a change.

SECRET OF THE WHISTLER (1946; George Sherman)
One of 2015's highlights was Sony releasing seven of the eight "Whistler" lovely remastered versions. All eight films are worthwhile and as good as B Movies get. This entry is more straightforward than usual,but is still a very strong addition to a great series. Richard Dix plays a devious artist who wishes to hasten the demise of his ailing wife so he can pursue gorgeous model Leslie Brooks.

CANON CITY (1948; Crane Wilbur)
Canon City is a tension filled prison break/hostage thriller. John Alton's photography is sensational. Film starts as a semi documentary where we get to know the warden and what makes several of the inmates tick. We also witness more progressive elements of the prison system;the gymnasium,the cinema and classes where prisoners can learn creative skills like embroidery. By contrast the solitary confinement section is chilling and claustrophobic.Eventually a dozen inmates escape-split up and take several families hostage.The decency and courage of some of the hostages is both moving and harrowing. Scott Brady is the only escapee who shows humanity and compassion. The final scenes where the man-hunt closes in on Brady are incredibly moving.At times the tension is intense in the extreme. Producer Bryan Foy and director Crane Wilbur several years later made another prison film INSIDE THE WALLS OF FOLSOM PRISON (1951) This hard hitting film is set in the bad old days of the 1920's where sadistic monster Ted De Corsia is the warden. There is a prison break in that film too but the main focus of the film is prison reform.

THE BEAT GENERATION (1959; Charles Haas)
No producer in Hollywood made more contrasting films than Albert Zugsmith. At one end of the quality scale we get true classics like TOUCH OF EVIL and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. At the other end we get SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE and THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ADAM & EVE. The Beat Generation attempts to address serious issues like rape and abortion. This regrettably,is contrasted with typical Zugsmith zaniness which reaches a high point when the incomparable Vampira reads poetry to a group of beatniks adorned with a pet rat! The film does have very good performances from Fay Spain and Maggie Hayes who never really had the movie career that they both deserved. The males are represented by Ray Danton a pathetic woman hating psycho and Steve Cochran,the cop on his case who has a very questionable attitude towards women. The antics of "The Beatniks" seem to be a preview of American International's Beach Party Movies. Had the film-makers played it more or less straight we could have ended up with a minor classic. The Beat Generation is available on DVD and Blu Ray from Olive Films.

THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966; Sergio Solima)
I love Lee Van Cleef but this film has always eluded me. It is arguably the best non-Leone Spaghetti Western. Co star Tomas Milian never considered Van Cleef much of an actor but admitted that his screen presence was formidable. It's a shame that Van Cleef was not able to carry on making films of this quality.- he is aces as bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett. Explosive Media in Germany have released the full length version on Blu Ray. There are brief moments in the film where the actors speak Italian-English sub titles are provided.There is no existing English soundtrack for several short scenes. This is an epic Spaghetti Western,occasionally haunting,always involving.The picture quality on the Explosive Blu Ray is superb. The Explosive package also includes a 50 minute Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western trailer reel. There we really do get The Good...The Bad..and....The Ugly.


Jerry Entract said...

I always knew your choices were going to be interesting, John! disappointment there then!
Although the final two films are not really my thing the first four certainly are. The only one I have never seen is 'THE DEFENSE RESTS' which sounds terrific. I saw the Invisible Man film reviewed when BBC2 showed the whole series many years ago. And the other two films, 'SECRET OF THE WHISTLER' & 'CANON CITY' are absolutely my kind of movie.
You made some pretty remarkable discoveries in 2015.

Laura said...

As Jerry says, this is an interesting list, John! I've never seen any of the films, but I have a couple of them including the one in the Jean Arthur set -- it sounds intriguing. Love your eclectic assortment!

And thanks for the shout-out in your intro!

Best wishes,

Kristina said...

Love the Whistler movies, these all look good but I'm most curious about the Big Gundown and Canon City! Great stuff.

john k said...

Thanks Jerry,

I think you would have also liked THE BEAT GENERATION
if they played it more or less straight and left out
all the wacky stuff....shame.


I think you will enjoy THE DEFENSE RESTS but will have a hard
time,as I did,when the murdered child's mother confronts Holt
in his office.....harrowing stuff!
Thanks very much for the link on your blog


I'm pretty sure you will love CANON CITY and THE BIG GUNDOWN.
BTW this Phil Karlson kick you are on at the moment is GREAT!!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting choices there, John, although I'd expect that from you. I think the only one I've seen is the Invisible Man picture and that would be 25+ years ago now. My memories of that series are naturally hazy now but i recall it being variable in quality.