Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - John S. Berry ""

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - John S. Berry

Attempted positive guy on Twitter @JohnSBerry1 (I am not high on quantity of followers but overflowing with quality), occasional wise cracker on Gonzo Guys podcast and guy that saw Alien on HBO at way to young of an age. I still actively hunts down VHS tapes and am constantly taking notes to seek out films. It is near impossible to describe how happy I am after watching a gem of a film, often I have to go walk it off in the cool night air. Viva la cinema! 
I wanted to write this piece as an exercise in a well edited concise manner and not my usual diatribe stream of consciousness. Well, after two hour commutes, mandatory work overtime and old man aches and pains I find myself in a hazy Argento like world so go with what you know!
American Hollow (1999): 
An early HBO documentary I found at the end of a blank tape bought at a Goodwill (the home movie at the start of the tape is an amazing find in itself). American Hollow follows the Bowling family in Virginia through moss and root collecting, chicken neck snapping, jail time and teenage hillbilly heartbreak. 
It is a fascinating and at times charming look at a family truly living off the grid. This is way before The Wonderful World of the Whites and does not have that for the cameras feel that some recent docs or CMT/MTV shows regarding this culture have. You never feel like the filmmakers are exploiting this family.
Watching this doc you start to think about how maybe the Bowling family has it more figured out than the rest of us. They are living a life that works for them and they do seem close. You feel the genuine love and support among them for one another. The scenes of teenage heartbreak can resonate with any of us regardless of background or social stature, especially when the mom is trying to calm her son down. 
On days of three hour commutes my mind often wonders back to this movie and how maybe I need to simplify my life, walking in the woods moss collecting sounds pretty nice some days.

Silent Night Deadly Night 3: You Better Watch Out (1989): Sure Silent Night Deadly night 1 is a mean spirited classic and SNDN2 is hovering high in cult status due to brilliant/insane eyebrows of Eric Freeman but I have to say I enjoyed part 3 You Better Watch Out in all its fever like glory even though it really did not have too much Christmas feel to it. 
Bill Moseley as Ricky (huh?) slipper shuffles down the highway after a blind psychic connection with a battery packed fish bowl exposed brain. Meanwhile Robert Culp hauls ass down the 101 and gives an infomercial from the future about cell phones and somehow the shuffling hitch hiker got there first. 
The highlight for me was the odd muscle man casting (hmm a SNDN theme?) of Eric DaRe. With his shoe horned 80’s pop culture quotes, flowing fields of chest hair to match his Winger lion’s mane I may have found one of my new favorite what the hell performances. 
This film fit perfectly into my Christmas Eve I cannot sleep 5AM haze viewing and I found myself scratching my head into Christmas day about all the random oddness I saw in SNDN 3. 

Hi, Mom! (1970): 
I heard a discussion recently when the question came up if DeNiro was going to be able to have one more classic role before his time was up. Maybe he should go back to a strange art house type film to change things up a bit. 
I bought this on VHS on a whim for $2 from the great Captain Video store. I was shocked to see it was a Brian DePalma early film. It is truly interesting but not totally enjoyable and it stuck with me for some time. 
The first act feels like a silly comedy and DeNiro as a Peeping Tom trying to make a buck but is not great at his hustle and I enjoyed this section. The film then takes a dramatic shift in tone to black and white film and features a long performance art Black Panther play where the white audience is humiliated as part of the show. 
The film also has some amazingly catchy tunes which is not something I can say for a lot of films that unsettle you. There are a lot of different tones in the film and De Niro goes from nervous bumbling guy to activist to manipulator very easily, wonder if he still could? 

The Cannibal Man (1973)
Just by the title you would imagine this being a savage gross film and while it does have a few rough scenes it is more in the character slowly digging a hole further and further down into madness. 
The opening is super rough showing the inner workings of a slaughter house and you get a glimpse of Marcos simply eating his sandwich the same as if he was by a beautiful fountain at an office park. Marcos is a regular guy content to work his slaughter house factory job and is not looking to set the world on fire, he seems content with his life. 
What makes the film so compelling is how one incident in just a regular night gets escalated and leads to a chain of events, Vicente Parra plays Marcos as a sympathetic character who isn’t a villain or bad guy, but a man slowly unravelling. You also never know how much Marcos’ neighbor knows about what is truly going on and to add to the tension you also are unsure of the neighbor’s motives.
The dusty and dry setting of Marcos’ shack and surrounding also adds the feeling of oppressive heat and odor similar to how in Martin the small abandoned steel town of Pennsylvania almost acted as a character. This film is a subtle but intense one that created a very unnerving atmosphere. 

Pancho El Sancho (1988): 
Picking up this multi disc collection may be the best .99 I spent in recent years. In the 80s it seems Mexico movies also had the idea of making screwball comedies but amped it up by offering full blown nudity rather than the US bikini clad counter parts. 
My friend picked one up on VHS at the Flea Market in San Jose and that first film (translated to The Three Boatmen) got the ball rolling. If you would look at my DVD collection you would think I spoke Spanish, well you would be muy muy wrongo! Not knowing the spoken language of a film gives any film no matter how silly an art house quality added with a sense of choose your own adventure. 
With this in mind scenes in Pancho El Sancho seem non-linear and you wonder why is a guy wearing a bright green oversized cowboy hat in full body bandages, why is there a poster of Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra on a living room wall and why did the maid strip down naked for the portly man in a pants suit on a roof top? The answer that comes to mind is WHY NOT? 
You can piece some of the plot together and it involves a Love Potion #9 theme where a magic locket makes you appear to women as their biggest fantasy. Alberto Rojas is a charming bug eyed goof ball who in this roll is similar to Patrick Dempsey in Loverboy, albeit an older one with thinner hair. While not a great film it does have a fun sense to it and watching it makes for a fun experiment in a hour and half dose. 

Grave of the Vampire (1972):
On Black Friday I pulled out my bible of Nightmare USA and searched thru the Roku to watch some films from this amazing book. As with most of the movies featured in the book the description sounded intriguing and the art of a bloody mouthed Michael Pataki sold me to fire this up. 
The print on streaming was scratchy but it added to the overall feel (although I would love to see this released on Blu Ray). The opening is truly a masterpiece of dread. At this point I was pretty sure I knew which direction the movie was going but was total wrong which is one of my favorite things in life! But when I looked up information about the film I found that David Chase of Sopranos fame wrote this so that explains the unexpected turns. 
Reviews I have read often say that William Smith was a bad choice for the lead mail as he is stiff and way to muscle bound to be a sympathetic character. I found him endearing as kind of a big shy, awkward galoot tracking down his evil father. The love interest angle takes an interesting twist as well and Michael Pataki as Caleb Croft (may be the best villain name ever) is masterful as the charming vampire professor. 

Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936): 
The night I watched this I tweeted that I was pretty sure that I may be the first person in history to watch a Tod Slaughter film on a treadmill. This film may also be the first to ever have a meta moment as it opens with a radio broadcast and an interview with the charming Tod Slaughter about the film and we head into the lean efficient hour film (I felt proud to have watched a whole film while doing cardio).
Slaughter does an amazing job of playing basically two different roles. He transforms himself very slyly from Stephen Hawke a frail old money lender who dotes on his daughter Julia to the sinister and ultimately wicked Spinebreaker who has no qualms about snapping the spines regardless of age or who they are related to. 
The movie is a great example of a man getting deeper and deeper into trouble. As the film progresses Hawke becomes more reckless in his actions all the while still having a sweet sentimental side about his daughter the one thing that matters even while he is committing acts of brutality. The style and acting is definitely a product of its time and feels similar to a play but it was a great pallet cleanser for me as I often watch too many shot on video and or 67 horror movies for $3.99 variety. 

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