Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Allan Mott ""

Friday, June 3, 2016

Underrated '86 - Allan Mott

Allan Mott is a 40 year-old man who is seldom seen without a bow tie, but who also owns 10 different Wonder Woman T-shirts. He recently added a Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine poster to his vintage one sheet collection and is quite smug about it. His film writing can be found online at Flick Attack, xoJane, the pulp press, Canuxploitation and his own site, Vanity Fear, but his proudest achievement is being mentioned in the liner notes of the Slumber Party Massacre trilogy DVD set and being cited as a reference on Ms. 45’s Wikipedia page. His book, Scary Movies (credited to A.S. Mott), is currently a decade out of date, but can be bought used for a penny (+shipping) on Amazon if you’re into that sort of thing.
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Link (Richard Franklin, 1986)
I was 11 in 1986, which was around the age when I started reading copies of the Leonard Maltin Movie Guide I took home from the library from beginning to end, like a novel. I mention this, because I distinctly remember this interesting effort from Australia’s most unapologetic Hitchcock acolyte getting Maltin’s infamous BOMB movie rating, which (along with L.A. Morse’s similar pan in the much more horror friendly Video Trash & Treasures) kept me from seeking it out for years. Fortunately, I eventually did decide to check it out and was surprised to find a much more accomplished work than I had been expecting.

Perhaps the only slasher movie (written by Franklin’s frequent collaborator, Everett De Roche) where the killer is a devious orangutan in a butler’s suit, it benefits not only from the presence of a pre-Adventures in BabysittingElizabeth Shue (always a plus in my book), but also from being the rare effort to recognize that far from being adorable, primates are actually truly terrifying creatures no sane person would want to get anywhere close to. Bearing the de rigueur morbidly hilarious 80s horror movie ending, the film’s only real downfall is a cartoonish score by Jerry Goldsmith, which zaps some of the tension from what are otherwise effective suspense sequences.

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (Richard Pryor, 1986)
Part of my affection for this admittedly flawed attempt by Pryor to tell his own life story on film is the way hebrazenly steals his structure from Bob Fosse’s own superior autobiographical film, All That Jazz (which just happens to be my favourite film of all time). Having previously only directed his 1983 concert film, Richard Pryor… Here and NowJo Jo proves that he wasn’t a particularly skilled filmmaker, but that he was still probably the best person to tell his story at this time—if only because it allowed him to play himself (albeit under the “Jo Jo Dancer” pseudonym that didn’t fool anyone) in what is probably his most moving performance.

Killer Party (William Fruet, 1986)
Killer Party begins with a movie scene being watched by characters in a music video being watched on TV by a character in the actual movie. It never tops this moment of narrative whimsy, yet still manages to be a fun mid-80s horror flick that takes the standard slasher format and adds a twist of the paranormal that is either going to annoy or delight you—there’s really no in-between. Written by Barney Cohen, who also gave us many people’s favourite Friday the 13thThe Final Chapter—the film is filled with enough intentional humour (“You taste so sensuous,” Ralph Seymour from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure tells Final Exam’s Sherry Willis-Burch as they make out in a car. “I gargle with musk,” she tells him before returning her tongue to his mouth) to get us to forgive some of the less successful elements (most notably Endless Love’s Martin Hewitt, who was the film’s biggest star at the time, but who barely registers here at all).

My Chauffeur (David Beaird, 1986)
There’s just something about that Crown International Pictures logo. Once I see it, I always have to watch the film that unspools behind it, which is unfortunate because very few of them can be reasonably consider good by any objective measure. Still, for every The PatriotJocks and Sextette, there’s bound to be a My Chauffeur—an admittedly silly and uneven film that still manages to enchant thanks to the presence of Valley Girl star Deborah Foreman—one of those rare performers capable of being utterly adorable and devastatingly sexy in the very same look. With all apologies to Martha Coolidge, I’ve always thought VG was a bit overrated, so in my mind this is Foreman’s best starring vehicle. Sure, Sam “Flash GordonJones is no substitute for Nicolas Cage, but Beaird’s script (which sees kooky Foreman rocking the boat as the first female driver at a snooty limousine service run by misogynist Howard Hesseman) was clearly inspired by the screwball classics and almost manages to live up to that high standard. 

Happy Hour (aka Sour Grapes, John De Bello, 1986)
Eight years after giving the world Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! writer/director John De Bello finally followed up his cult hit with this forgotten sophomore comedy about a chemist (recognizable 80s “that guy” Richard Gilliland in his only starring role) who wrecks havoc via a formula that makes beer more addictive than crack. The film is as broad as De Bello’s resume (which would eventually include three more killer tomato movies and—his one outlier—a Lorenzo Lamas cop movie) suggests, but—despite the potentially dubious presence of Rich Little and Jamie Farr—it somehow works. If you’re one of those folks who has heard yourself argue that Return of the Killer Tomatoes! is far more sophisticated than its reputation suggests, then you might want to check this one out. I mean, Whitesnake-era Tawny Kitaen is in it. If that isn’t worth 90 minutes, I’m not sure what is.

Off Beat (Michael Dinner, 1986)
Confession time. For YEARS I thought this film (along with Heaven Help Us and Hot to Trot) was directed by Michael Winner, who gave us the first three Death Wish movies and who—based on the stories I’ve heard/read over the years—appeared to be a genuinely unpleasant man who actively enjoyed torturing his female performers. Because of this it was very hard for me to reconcile this charming and light-hearted Judge Reinhold vehicle with the rest of his filmography. Oh, what a difference a “D” makes! Once I realized my mistake, I was disappointed that the failure of his Bobcat Goldthwait talking horse follow up sent Dinner to TV, where he has successfully worked since. It’s a shame, since Off Beat is one of those quintessentially 80s “nice guy keeps up a lie to stick around a pretty girl” movies that shows the promise of a good romantic comedy filmmaker. 
Hollywood Harry (Robert Forster, 1986) 
Robert Forster is on my short list of all time favourite actors, so it’s no surprise I have a lot of affection for his ramshackle directorial debut. It’s a raw, often amateurish effort, but for me that’s the major part of its appeal. As an actor, Forster always charms because he’s willing to surrender his vanity for the sake of a good joke (like in Alligator, where he—having just gotten hair plugs in real life—kept adlibbing moments where he asked the other actors if they thought he was losing his hair) and that sums up Hollywood Harry in a nutshell. While the film is full of funny weird moments (Harry’s partner, played by Joe Spinell, runs a call centre out of their office, where he cruelly torments the poor bastards working for him) it’s the sentimental heart I always remember when I’m (admittedly rarely) reminded of the film’s existence. With his own daughter, Kate, playing his niece, their final moments in the film have a genuine and moving sweetness that can’t be faked.

1 comment:

Neale Barnholden said...

I had never heard of it, but that poster for HAPPY HOUR is astonishingly nice! Thanks for the recommendations!