Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '76 - Eric Hillis ""

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Underrated '76 - Eric Hillis

Eric Hillis is a freelance film critic and editor of themoviewaffler.com.
On Twitter:
https://twitter.com/themoviewaffler
or
https://twitter.com/HillisEric

Here's his Underrated '96 and '86 lists:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/04/underrated-96-eric-hillis-movie-waffler.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/05/underrated-eric-hillis-movie-waffler.html
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Black Shampoo (Dir: Greydon Clark)
Only in the '70s would an exploitation meister like Greydon Clark attempt to cash in on the success of a critical darling like Hal Ashby. Well that's just what Clark did with this blaxploitation ripoff of Ashby's hit Shampoo, but apart from the hair salon setting and a leading man banging every woman he meets, this couldn't be more different, as hairdressing hunk Mr Jonathan goes to war with the mafia, leading to an insanely violent climax.

Bound for Glory (Dir: Hal Ashby)
Ashby himself had an under-rated release in '76 with this gripping biopic of folk singer Woody Guthrie. David Carradine gives a career best performance in the lead role, showing he could stretch himself beyond the low budget action flicks he's best remembered for. American cinema of the mid-70s was full of protagonists fighting the good anti-authoritarian fight, and Carradine's Guthrie is one of the most memorable.

Eaten Alive (Dir: Tobe Hooper)
Take an all star cast of household grindhouse names - Marilyn Burns, Robert Englund, Mel Ferrer, Roberta Collins, William Finley - and stick them in a dingy motel run by Neville Brand, who has a worrying penchant for feeding his guests to the establishment's pet crocodile. That's how Tobe Hooper followed up his debut masterpiece The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. This has all the ingredients of a drive-in classic, and even made the infamous British Video Nasties list, but it's only recently started to get the credit it deserves, thanks in no small part to a great blu-ray issue from Arrow Video.

Exposé (Dir: James Kenelm Clarke)
Udo Kier is at his crazy-eyed best in this erotic thriller about a novelist whose plans of writing the great British novel are disrupted by the arrival of his new typist, played by saucy '70s sex kitten Linda Hayden in the role of her life. Add pornstar Fiona Richmond to the mix and you've got one of the seediest movies of the decade. Yet this is no piece of trash; director James Kenelm Clarke does an outstanding job of creating a paranoid and claustrophobic atmosphere, and I can't help but wonder if this film was a huge influence on Lars von Trier.

The Front (Dir: Martin Ritt)
Many films have taken the Hollywood blacklist as their subject, but this comic drama is the best of multiple efforts. Michael Murphy and Woody Allen are excellent as a blacklisted writer and the nebbish who puts his name to his work. When questioned in the film's climax, Allen's final retort to the House Un-American Activities Committee is a wonderful piece of wish fulfillment.

God Told Me To (Dir: Larry Cohen)
The prolific writer-director Larry Cohen is responsible for many cult classics, but God Told Me To transcends the rest of his work. It's a genuinely creepy thriller in which members of the public commit acts of violence following visits by the titular deity. Tony Lo Bianco excels as the troubled Catholic police detective investigating the killings. What an under-rated actor he was. He should have been as big as his fellow Italian-Americans De Niro and Pacino.

Grizzly (Dir: William Girdler)
Director William Girdler shot fast and sadly died young, directing nine feature films from 1972 to his death at the age of 30 in 1978, leaving behind a legacy of drive-in gems including this classic man vs nature flick. Shamelessly ripping off Jaws, Girdler sends a bunch of characters off into the woods to track down the 15 foot grizzly that's been tearing hikers limb from limb. The 'explosive' finale has to be seen to be believed.

The Human Tornado (Dir: Cliff Roquemore)
Rudy Ray Moore follows up Dolemite with this mad cap sequel in which he takes on a redneck sheriff and the Italian mob while attempting to rescue a brothel madam and her girls. Full of the killer lines you expect from a Rudy Ray Moore joint, along with a ridiculously funky soundtrack and the sort of bad kung fu that would make Jackie Chan vomit.

Mother, Jugs and Speed (Dir: Peter Yates)
I could easily assemble a list of 10 under-rated Peter Yates movies; what a great CV this guy boasts. Viewers may be reluctant to seek out this one given the presence of Bill Cosby, but don't cut off your nose to spite your face - this is a real gem. Set among a group of oddball ambulance drivers - including Harvey Keitel, Raquel Welch and Larry Hagman - the movie plays like an urban take on Robert Altman's MASH, and is a cinematic predecessor to the many workplace sitcoms (Taxi, Cheers etc) that arrived on US TV shortly after.

Welcome to L.A. (Dir: Alan Rudolph)
Alan Rudolph really got a raw deal. Despite delivering a slew of great movies from the '70s to the '90s, many still ignorantly label him a poor man's Robert Altman, despite some of his best work standing toe to toe with that of his one time tutor. This, his debut, is his most Altmanesque work, an ensemble drama revolving around the return of singer-songwriter Keith Carradine to Los Angeles. As with Nashville, Carradine gets to show off his vocal talents on a wonderfully melancholic soundtrack. I'd like to think if someone with Rudolph's talents emerged today, he would be celebrated and given the respect he deserves.

1 comment:

C Chaka said...

Eric, I love your lists! Eaten Alive, Expose (aka House on Straw Hill), Grizzly, and the Human Tornado! I forgot how great a year 76 was. I wrote a review of Grizzly for my blog that you might get a kick out of, focusing on how traumatizing this PG rated film was for children. Must check out God Told Me To and Black Shampoo.