Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Sara Fist ""

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Sara Fist

Sara Fist tweets a lot about movies, especially horror, noir, and Sergio Corbucci's CompaƱeros  (@fisty). She's two-thirds of the Peanut Butter & Gialli blog  ( and Tumblr (,  and also Tumbls at Horror Without People ( and Rendezvous in Noir ( Sometimes she moderates Dreadit. Her Letterboxd is at:

Messiah of Evil (Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, 1973)
This was on my to-watch list for ages, and now that I've seen it, I'm torn between wishing I'd seen it  sooner so that I could have had years more to love it, or being grateful I first saw the Code Red Blu,  which lets its true beauty shine. Because this is one gorgeous flick. A surreal, unnerving,  Lovecraftian nightmare in a Quiet Little American Town. Arletty comes to Point Dude looking for her  artist father, and while she doesn't find him, she finds his diary describing a ddescent into madness.  Aided by the mysterious collector Thom and his duo of nymphets, she attempts an investigation, but  their efforts are stymied by the horrors overtaking Point Dune. I'm in love with everything in Messiah  of Evil, and watched it every day for a week this October. Every. Damn. Day. It's really the unsung  masterpiece of American Seventies horror, and I can't rhapsodize about it enough.

The Arcane Enchanter aka L'arcano incantatore (Pupi Avati, 1996)
Though he's still writing and directing in Italy, Pupi Avati pretty much fell off the horror map after  Zeder, with that and the giallo House with the Laughing Windows as his genre legacies. But in 1996 he  released this beautiful, moody, and incredibly spooky period horror about a seminary student who takes  refuge from his sins (and prosecution thereof) with an excommunicate priest and diabolicist. If we've  learned anything from horror films, that is just not a good idea. So Giacomo learns as the atsmosphere  and gradually increasing dread coalesce into an absolute nightmare of evil. It's a sort of folktale of  fear; the Devil therein isn't apocalyptic in scope, but one of the devils that plague us daily. 

The Star (Stuart Heisler, 1952)
When I saw this on TCM's Next On, I knew I could miss Bette Davis as a washed-up actress hitting  bottom, and I was right. This is Bette Davis at possibly her most Bette Davisesque, and a beautiful  young Sterling Hayden star in an enjoyably histrionic melodrama. The Star's Margaret Elliot lies  somewhere between Margo Channing and Baby Jane Hudson, with her drunken antics (the Oscar drive is a  delight) and redemption by way of the love of a good man (somewhat contrived, yes, but who wouldn't  give up a great deal for that Norse God?). A pure popcorn film.

Born to Kill (Robert Wise, 1947)
Claire Trevor is the calculating divorcee Helen, and Lawrence Tierney murderous bad boy Sam, and Born  to Kill is an illustration of what happens when two irresistable forces collide, and it is hot as fuck.  In a year of noir discoveries (by virtue of TCM's #NoirSummer, as well as #Noirvember), Born to Kill is  one of the most memorable; many of the #TCMParty people I watched it with were equally stunned.  HHelen's gotten a quickie divorce so she can marry up, but then she meets Sam, and the obsession is  instant and mutual. When she returns to her finace, he follows her and marries her wealthy foster  sister. Things get complicated by a few murders along the way. Trevor's Helen is a bitch in heat, and  Tierney's Sam a hot-tempered psychopath, and their greed and ruthlessness and self-destructive desires  combine to destroy virtually everything they touch. It's grim, it's hardboiled, it's amoral and  perverse, and it is so very sexy. 

Flavia the Heretic aka Flavia, la monaca musulmana (Gianfranco Mingozzi, 1974)
Flavia checked off my nunsploitation category for the October Horror Movie Challenge, but it's really  not exploitative in the slightest. Florinda Bolkan, she of the cheekbones and eyes, is positively  incendiary as a not so young noblewoman immured in a convent per her father's wishes. She has an  inquiring mind and a desire for more than the world behind the convent walls, leading her to friendship  first with her tutor, Abraham the Jew, and later with a heretical (and possibly mad) nun, Sister  Agatha. The corruption and hypocrisy she witnesses in the Church leads Flavia to flee and seek  vengeance, taking up arms against her people with an Ottoman invader, Ahmed. Often stunning, sometimes  sickeningly gory, and occasionally delirious, Flavia straddles the line between art film and  exploitation, but what it is is (bluntly) feminist and scathingly anticlerical (can you imagine a more  depressing double feature than this and Fulci's Beatrice Cenci?). Also notable is Anthony Higgins as  the beautiful Ahmed; his relationship with Flavia is fascinating. 

Runners up: The White Reindeer, Sobrenatural, Ganja & Hess, Rabid Dogs.

No comments: