Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Kerry Fristoe ""

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Kerry Fristoe

I watch a lot of movies. I like large bugs, hard-boiled detectives, scary monsters, and Leeloo. My teenager begs me to stop quoting films, but I’m not going to stand here and see that thing cut open and have that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock! Oh wait. I write about a weird variety of films on On twitter as @echidnabot.
After a nuclear explosion lays waste to all but a few survivors, George Peppard, Paul Winfield, and Jan-Michael Vincent leave their Nevadan desert base and head east to the promised-land, Albany, New York.  Yup.The crew take off in their militaristic Oscar Meyer Weinermobile in search of civilization and mustard, ok not mustard.  Picking up Dominique Sanda and Jackie Earle Haley on the way, the crew fight a colony of cockroaches, mutant hillbillies, and giant scorpionsThe effects are cheesier than the other science fiction film 20th Century Fox released that same year.  STAR WARS was their throwaway movie, but DAMNATION ALLEY was going to be big.  That went well.  DAMNATION ALLEY has a lot going for it.  Winfield, Peppard, and Vincent work together well, and it’s fun watching Peppard program the Weinermobile using a calculator.  I would have watched this series.
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Christopher Lee is at his Christopher Lee-est as an expert in satanic rites trying to keep cult leader Charles Gray away from his pals.  The screenplay by Richard Matheson is full of twists and turns, while director and Hammer regular Terence Fisher keeps us guessing.  This might be my favorite Hammer horror.

This atmospheric drama stars Kim Stanley as a medium convinced that committing a crime and then publicly solving it will boost her psychic career.  Richard Attenborough is her milquetoast husband who goes along with her plan up to a point.  The best aspects of this film are the subtle direction by Bryan Forbes, cinematography by Gerry Turpin, music by John Barry (yes, THAT John Barry), and the stunning performances by Stanley and Attenborough.  It’s a beautifully made film.
Full review

Called to a remote hospital to solve a murder, Scotland Yard inspector Alistair Sim must piece together a medical mystery while cracking wise and dodging Nazi bombs.  Trevor Howard, Leo Genn, Sally Gray, and Megs Jenkins round out the stellar cast of British actors in this intelligent whodunit.  Complex characters, an original story, and Sim’s standout performance make GREEN FOR DANGER worth a look.

In Danny Boyle’s first feature film, three flatmates invite a fourth to room with them.  When he turns up dead, the friends (Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor) search his room and find a pile of cash.  Their find causes friction among the three, who spend the rest of the film trying to out-maneuver each other to get the money.  Snappy dialogue, a complex and macabre plot, and three strong leads helped make SHALLOW GRAVE a huge hit in the UK.  I’m not sure why I waited so long to see this.

Mysterious deaths plague a small Japanese island.  Japanese police, U.S. military officials, and most of the locals agree on the killer, but entomologist Keisuke Sonoi thinks it may have been a group effort.  Hint: he’s an entomologist.  This is not a perfect film, but the original concept and some of the effects make it worth a watch.  Plus, I’m a sucker for an insect film!

QUARTET (1948)
This anthology film of four Somerset Maugham stories stars Dirk Bogarde, Honor Blackman, Bernard Lee, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Basil Radford, and Naunton Wayne, among others.  The stories vary in subject matter, but they’re well-acted and entertaining.  Though they lack the twist endings of O. Henry’s tales, the stories are unpredictable and satisfying.  QUARTET boasts a talented cast of future stars in smaller roles.
Susan Strasberg, wheelchair-bound after a childhood accident, comes to live at her father’s estate after a long absence.  Her stepmother tells her that dad’s out of town on business, but when his zombie-like doppelganger keeps appearing, Susan suspects foul play. This non-gothic Hammer horror also stars Ann Todd, Ronald Lewis, and Christopher Lee.  SCREAM OF FEAR is a suspenseful, twist-filled film.  Fun to watch.

THE 7th VICTIM (1943)
This Val Lewton-produced horror film introduces Kim Hunter as a young girl who ventures to the big city to find her missing older sister.  Tom Conway, Isabel Jewell, and Hugh Beaumont also star in this beautifully shady and atmospheric story of a satanic cult and the lengths to which it will go to keep its existence a secret.  Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, who worked with Lewton and Jacques Tourneur on a number of films, including CAT PEOPLE, plays with light and shadows skillfully to create a dark, sinister mood.  Haunting and unpredictable.
Full review

Dirk Bogarde stars as an opportunist whose murderous plot may have backfired.  Margaret Lockwood has a terrific part as a street smart ex-barmaid with money who knows the score, but goes along with Bogarde anyway.  Wouldn’t you?  CAST A DARK SHADOW has a drawing room mystery quality to it along with the suspense of a well-written thriller.  Bogarde and Lockwood have a great rapport and the snappy dialogue suits them.  
Full review

ASYLUM (1972)

Mussorgsky’s “A Night on Bald Mountain” sets the mood for one of Amicus’ best anthology horror films. ASYLUM takes place at a mental institution where a new doctor must interview four patients to solve a mystery.  Each exchange leads to the patient’s gruesome story.  Peter Cushing, Barry Morse, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Richard Todd, and many other members of the Amicus/Hammer repertory company star in these grisly tales written by PSYCHO’s Robert Bloch.  Amicus/Hammer veteran Roy Ward Baker directs this absorbing portmanteau film.  
Full review

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