Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Paul Davis ""

Friday, May 6, 2016

Underrated '86 - Paul Davis

Paul Davis is an award winning filmmaker and writer whose first film was the 2009 feature documentary Beware the Moon, on the making of An American Werewolf In London. This coming August he strays off the road and back onto the moors once again with his first book, Beware The Moon – The Story of An American Werewolf in LondonThis limited edition (1,000 copies) 200 page, hardback book is, in the words of director John Landis, “the most complete and accurate account of the making of American Werewolf”. 
Pre-orders available at:
Twitter - @kesslerboy
dir. Savage Steve Holland
I believe, across the board, that Savage Steve Holland is criminally underrated as a filmmaker, period! Both BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER, for my money, really tap into the exaggerated mentality of teenagers dealing with real life as it slaps them in the face - more so that John Hughes, I think. 
I remember seeing the trailer for this movie on a rental of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2, and shortly after that seeing it in store and renting it. The film didn’t disappoint when I was five-years-old (it has cute and fuzzy bunnies!) and even today, at 35, I can watch the movie over and over. 

There are some things in the film that are so over the top and so bat-shit nuts, but’s okay, because Holland is very smart to set the tone from the off, so that when you see a dog dressed as a doctor, in a veterinary clinic, pushing another dog in a wheel chair, its perfectly acceptable! The use of animation spliced into the narrative is used perfectly and never feels forced - again, its a perfect example of how someone of that age would make their problems relatable.  It’s anarchic, incredibly silly, laugh out loud funny and my god, THAT cast! John Cusack, Demi Moore, Bobcat Goldthwaite, Curtis Armstrong, Joel Murray, Mark Metcalf, Jeremy Piven… that’s an insane amount of talent right there, for a movie that I think is criminally under seen. I showed the movie to a group of friends a couple of years back and they all LOVED it. So if you haven’t seen it… fix that! Also, I’ve got to shout out Honeymoon Suite for the track over the end credits. I can’t NOT sing a long when the credits roll!

dir. Walter Hill
This is another movie that I saw a trailer for on a rental copy of CRITTERS. My dad was a guitarist and I was a fan of THE KARATE KID, so renting this was a no brainer. It wasn’t until many years later that I really appreciated this movie, and also learned that it was directed by Walter freakin’ Hill! The story is pretty straight forward, and literally mimic’s the legend of Blues artist Robert Johnson and his deal with the devil in exchange for fame. Ralph Macchio plays Eugene, a young Johnson obsessive from Long Island, who tracks down one of Johnson’s cohorts, Willie Brown, in a retirement home in New York. Brown promises Eugene the chance to record a lost song written by Robert Johnson, in exchange for busting him out of the retirement home, so that he can head out to the crossroads and settle an old debt. 

What’s fascinating to me about CROSSROADS is that Ralph Mscchio really had to learn all of the chords that his character plays in the movie. They were overdubbed by guitarist Steve Vai, who also appears in the movie as the devil’s pick to face Eugene in a guitar battle. The final piece that Eugene plays, known as ‘Eugene’s Bag’ has actually become a highly imitated piece by guitarists all over the world. If you don’t believe me, just type it into YouTube! Along with THE BLUES BROTHERS, this film really opened up my world to the sound of the Blues - guys like BB KIng, Albert King and Howling Wolf. 

I really have no idea why this film has been largely forgotten. Its a solid film, made by a great director, with a great cast (including a pre-Lost Boys Jami Gertz) and a superb score by Ry Cooder. My only understanding is that Macchio was likely stuck in the shadow of Daniel Larusso, and the populous weren’t particularly interested unless he was crane kicking people in the face while playing his guitar. 

dir. Sondra Locke
Okay, I’m just going to say it… this movie is nuckin’ futs! Nothing is ever explained as to what or who Ratboy (another character called Eugene) actually is! He’s just there, he’s a part human, part rat and that’s all there is to it.

Directed by and starring Sondra Locke (yup, from ALL those Clint Eastwood movies), the film, which was panned by critics, tells of the discovery and exploitation of Eugene, a boy that’s part Rat. It’s actually incredibly touching at times and features a relatively forgotten, yet flawless, makeup design by Rick Baker. As well as being bashed from the critics, the film’s box office returns were dismal - probably due to Warner Bros. doing very little in terms of marketing. Cold feet after HOWARD THE DUCK, perhaps?  It was released for the first time on DVD a couple of years ago via Warner Archive. Well worth checking out, purely because there’s very little out there that’s like it. 

dir. Steve Miner
This is another movie I saw very young and didn’t realise who directed it until many years later. Steve Miner!? The FRIDAY THE 13TH guy!? Really!? Then I remembered that he indeed showed his comedy chops in HOUSE (released the same year), so the shock was short lived. 

I unashamedly love this movie. It’s got balls coming out of the wazoo and actually treats the subject or racial prejudice with great respect. The synopsis and general concept of the movie can easily be misconstrued as offensive and in bad taste, but once you get to the heart of the piece, it really is a positive movie. Plus, it’s just funny as hell! C. Thomas Howell, Rae Dawn Chong, James Earl Jones… all brilliant! Why this movie doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as other 80s comedies such as CADDYSHACK, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF or FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, is beyond me!

dir. Peter Weir
Pound for pound, Harrison Ford’s greatest on screen performance. That will probably piss off a lot of Indiana Jones fans, but I’m just calling it how I see it.
Based on the novel by Paul Theroux and co-starring Helen Mirren and River Phoenix, the story tells of an erratic inventor, Allie Fox, (Ford) who uproots his family from the United States, to the jungles of Central America to create his own Utopia. As is the case with these stories, paradise becomes polluted by man, causing Fox’s behaviour to descend into madness.
THE MOSQUITO COAST, for me, started a period in Ford’s career that solidified him as a serious leading man. You could argue WITNESS (also directed by Peter Weir), but even that was marketed with Ford wearing a fedora on the poster! This film shows off a completely different Harrison Ford to what we were used to - he’s borderline psychotic in this film, and justifiably comparable to Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING (who ironically was offered the role prior to Ford).

A very interesting movie, directed by a dramatic master and, as I’ve hammered home already, shows Harrison Ford at his absolute BEST!

1 comment:

C Chaka said...

I love THE MOSQUITO COAST! It's so heartbreaking to see Ford's character's cleverly constructed dreams come crashing down and watching River Phoenix helpless to stop his dad's descent into madness.

Your book sounds pretty fantastic, too.