Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '76 - Samuel B. Prime ""

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Underrated '76 - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is a writer, film curator, and archivist based in Los Angeles. He recently served as one of the producers for Etiquette Pictures' Blu-ray of CATCH MY SOUL and also worked on the special features. Otherwise, he deeply admires Dick Cavett's savoir faire and his favorite Sonny Chiba film is Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's perpetually unavailable WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (1975). Find him online at for essays and free streaming movies.

Check out his Underrated '96 & '86 lists here:
EMMA MAE (Jamaa Fanaka, 1976)
L.A. Rebellion filmmaker Jamaa Fanaka is best known for the carnal desires and the unrelenting carnage of his big house boxing epic PENITENTIARY (1979), as well as the sequels it spawned, but the masterpiece of his modest filmography is his second feature, a distinctly American story that goes by the name EMMA MAE. An innocent country bumpkin travels by bus to live with her Los Angeles relatives and has no way to prepare herself for the harsh reality of life in the big city. Her outsider perspective illustrates with great clarity everything that is broken about the society and that she, too, is not immune to its terrors and temptations. Like James Toback's EXPOSED (1983), this movie is anchored by the trajectory of its main character and the expansion of their world. By the film's end, it is hard to believe that you have been following the story of a single person. Speaking personally, Fanaka was my friend and a mentor. I knew him in the last couple years of his life. He loved telling stories offscreen as much as he did onscreen and would hold court for hours. He was my friend. I miss him a great deal, but we will always have EMMA MAE.

HIGH VELOCITY (Remi Kramer, 1976)
A most delightful entry in the imagined sub-category of action/adventure films that I refer to as "Mercenary Dads." In other words, over the hill men who are "too old for this shit," but tasked with carrying out some kind of dire mission. In particular, this film manifests as biracial buddy picture between Ben Gazzara and Paul Winfield playing two Vietnam vets who shout things like "You racist nazi!" at their enemies. As goofy as this movie is, it manages to achieve something truly remarkable: it never glorifies war or violence. Plus, the Jerry Goldsmith score is one of his best.

WELCOME TO L.A. (Alan Rudolph, 1976)
A love letter to "the city of one-night stands" wrapped up in songs and sidelong glances. Alan Rudolph subtly breaks the fourth wall by allowing his characters to peer out at the audience in otherwise private moments. Everyone in LA is in search of love, or something like it, while living intense and temporary lifestyles. Its story of fleeting romance parallels the intimate, but short-lived experience that goes hand-in-hand with the proximity of making a film. In a wonderful way, LA is shown for its hazy days, memorable nights and interminable loneliness. Rudolph illustrates that even momentary carousings can be as sincere and meaningful as the longest of relationships.

DEATHCHEATERS (Brian Trenchard-Smith, 1976)
A feature-length line-up of "cunning stunts" by daredevils John Hargreaves and Grant Page.

LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN (Ruggero Deodato, 1976)
LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN is maybe the best movie title of which I am aware. Fred and Tony are two ruthless cops (and possibly lovers?) who would rather break a neck than make an arrest. Light on plot, but heavy on style the film feels more like a sketch than a fully-realized story, but that doesn't matter. The scenes are so recklessly brutal that before you can wonder about anything deeper than gun blasts, gut punches, and exploding boats, the credits are already rolling.

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