Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Mike Delaney ""

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Mike Delaney

Mike Delaney is an educator and independent film and theatremaker (“Medias Res”, “The Sadist”, “Eegah!”) working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently he is working with his “Medias Res” production partners Sarah Coykendall (actor, co-pro) and Edwin Fernando Gonzalez (co-writer, dir.) towards finding distribution for their neo-noirish, satirical-thriller (think “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” meets “Repo Man”). Delaney loves bargain bin filmmaking, particularly offerings from the 70’s and 80’s. His film discoveries list below represents the type of films he’s watching these days having spent his formative years devouring the Criterion Collection offerings and big studio/indie classics. It’s come to watching and enjoying bad Burt Reynolds flicks. Honestly.

You can contact Delaney on twitter @mikedimpact or follow him on Instagram @mediasresmovie. Please “LIKE” his film, “Medias Res”, here: and check out its IMDb page here: . “Medias Res” begins its journey as a festival film later this year in the United States and abroad.
Heat (1986)
dir. R.M. Richards, Jerry Jameson (uncredited)

No one does Burt Reynolds better than Burt Reynolds did Burt Reynolds in the 1980’s. It’s almost meta how cool and carefree his performances during this period are whilst conveying a blithe approach to the craft. It’s curious I hadn’t seen “Heat” until last year; It’s written by William Goldman (a man who wrote many movies and books on film I delight in), it co-stars Howard Hesseman (Johnny Fever himself!), and it features a scene where Reynolds violently kicks a man’s kneecap in. “Heat” is movie never quite sure what it wants to be (buddy comedy, gambling drama, revenge film) but it’s everything I demand it to be. By the time Reynolds is setting up “Home Alone” style ways to dispatch expendable mobsters I was sold on this tonally schizophrenic trip to Vegas. From the cliche music cues to the freeze frames while Burt karates hard, “Heat” delivers. Who woulda thought Reynolds would be the poor man’s Miyagi to MacNichol’s rich-brat Daniel-san? It’s an odd pairing (like onion and peanut butter) that definitely works. Best consumed on vintage VHS with your favorite domestic beer (or off brand cola) and some shitty nachos.

TeenAlien* (1978)
dir. Peter Semelka

Nothing is more enticing to this film fanatic than finding a finely aged VHS tape of a movie I have never heard of. This is a wonderfully terrible haunted house movie made with so much heart and innocence you’ll wonder why it’s not as widely known as “Laserblast”. The plot concerns a group of kids (presumably played by community theatre actors or regional radio contest winners) as they try to out haunt kids with their spook alley...but one of the teens is an alien! Say what?! This is the best kind of bad seventies filmmaking complete with shaming a doofy, fat man in a gorilla suit, ridiculous spoken pre-titles exposition, and a big question mark when the credits read, “The End”. I’ll tell you what though, the filmmakers sure got their money’s (penny’s?) worth with a dilapidated mill set piece and a (borrowed?) Rolls Royce. I mean it when I say this amatuer oddity deserves a wider audience. It’s ridiculous, PG-rated DIY sci-fi (if it were by Dennis Muren or the Chiodos, you’d be all over it by now). First time viewings best enjoyed with several other like-minded VHS archeologists.

*No space between the two words. There’s an important reason, I’m sure...I just don’t know what it is.

Barn of the Naked Dead (1974)
dir. Alan Rudolph

This is the type of film I yearn to “discover”; Low-budget, dusty, seventies horror. Movies like this are why I fell in love with genre filmmaking. This film, also known as “Terror Circus” or “Nightmare Circus”, isn’t terribly good but for me it’s as rewatchable as some of my high desert horror favorites, “The Chooper aka Blood Shack”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, and the made-for-tv film, “Gargoyles”. The plot concerns some groovy gals that breakdown on the way to Las Vegas when they are rescued by Andre and taken back to his property. Subsequently, the women are chained up, generally mistreated, and left to be terrorized by Andre’s mutated monster of a father. The film features some fun make-up and gore effects from some of the creators of effects for Cronenberg’s “Rabid” and the Clint Howard classic, “Evil Speak”. Rudolph, of course, would later make a handful of much better, higher profile films (After Glow, Roadie, Endangered Species, to name a few) but it’s this rusty little picture that I’ll find myself revisiting sooner than later. Check out the overpriced, underproduced bluray version from Code Red for the best picture quality available.

The Mephisto Waltz (1971)
dir. Paul Wendkos

All hands were, I presume, on deck at 20th Century Fox for Quinn Martin’s single theatrical production (it was the only in-house production Fox worked on in 1970, due to pressing financial troubles), and what results is a better than expected occult thriller. The seventies were full of “Satan movie of the week” titles and I expected this picture to be no different but man, it really delivers in the quirk department. First up is a haunting score by Jerry Goldsmith that sounds somewhere in-between Quinn Martin’s generic television music cues and Hans Zimmer’s work on “Interstellar” (mixed with a dose of the titular piece by Liszt). Next, we have Alan Alda and Jacqueline Bisset killing it as hot, deluded artists living the bougies life and Bradford Dillman as the charming, weird ex-husband of a satanic practitioner. Also, watch for the hellhound in the human mask; That is the same style Captain Kirk mask John Carpenter later used for “The Shape” (aka Michael Myers) in his classic “Halloween”. Finally, the cinematography by William Spencer reminds me of how Dan Curtis’ best works (The Night Stalker/Strangler, Trilogy of Terror) look. I was shocked to see Spencer primarily shot police procedurals for the small screen and not spook shows. Very seventies, indeed. Highly watchable.

Pit Stop (1969)
dir. Jack Hill

I had not seen Jack Hill’s “Pit Stop” until 2015, it’s true, I’m sorry. I’m not necessarily apologizing to you, dear reader; Though, if you frequent you’re no doubt a (genre) cinephile and familiar with this entry of Hill’s filmography. No, friend, I am personally apologizing to Hill, Haig, Corman, Moede, and Burstyn all of whom I’ve claimed to be HUGE fans of in the past. How could I miss this film?! It is an amazing slice of each of their cinematic journeys. Well, I’ve come around to calling it “Fast Company Syndrome”, named after the Cronenberg film I kept putting off watching due to preconceived notions of the subject (also auto racing) and the misconception that it would be devoid of his signature style. No, “Pit Stop” is legit low budget filmmaking (on par with every other effort by Hill) with a fascinating backdrop of Figure Eight racing and fully realized performances in what could have easily been uninspired, campy melodrama. I love Austin McKinney’s (“Axe”/”Kidnapped Coed”) high contrast black and white cinematography to compliment Hill’s docu-drama camera work. Hill is an incredible director that really knows, as his own editor, how to cut a film to keep its narrative and action moving (much like George Romero at his best). THis movie comes highly recommended by management. Check out the Arrow Video bluray release mastered from Hill’s personal print.


Peter said...

I had no idea about Alan Rudolph's past as a horror guy. That's why this blog is the best.

SteveQ said...

I've always had a soft spot for Barn of the Naked Dead. There's some interesting camera work and atmosphere; it's not surprising Rudolph went on to bigger things.