Rupert Pupkin Speaks: September 2016 ""

Friday, September 30, 2016

Underrated '66 - Steve Q.

Steve Q has reviewed more than 1000 bad films at and can be found on Twitter@Amy_Surplice.

See his Underrated '86 & '76 lists here:
After deciding not to do five excellent films that need more attention ("Cul-de-Sac," "King of Hearts," "Loves of a Blonde," "The Wrong Box," and "You're a Big Boy Now"); five terrible films that bear watching "The Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters," "Manos - The Hands of Fate," "Rat Pfink a Boo Boo," "The Wild World of Batwoman," and "Zontar, the Thing from Venus"); five experimental or underground classics ("Castro Street," "Chelsea Girls," "Film in Which There Appear Edge Lettering, Sprocket Holes, Dirt Particles, Etc.," "Hold Me While I'm Naked," and "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome");or five obvious cult film choices (" Lord Love a Duck," "Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment," "One Million Years B.C.," "Tarantula," and "Thunderbirds Are Go") I came up with the following list of five, which are a sort of time capsule of when everyone was trying to be "with it."
James Batman (1966)
I had just watched a terrible Filipino film based on the Adam West "Batman" when I heard that there was a second Filipino Batman film - I did not look forward to it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was a quite watchable spoof of both Batman and James Bond. The humor's dated and not much of it works, but the film goes off in many odd directions and it's never dull.

Let's Kill Uncle (1966)
This is one of the most obscure films directed by William Castle. It's a black comedy about an orphan whose inheritance is wanted by his uncle (Nigel Green) and they're trapped on an island. The uncle tries sharks, fire, tarantulas, poison mushrooms and hypnotism before the child turns the tables with the assistance of a young girl.

Modesty Blaise (1966)
This does not follow the comic strip of the same name very closely, but is a document for all the weird excesses of the 1960's. The clothes are amazing, for one thing, as are some of the sets. Dirk Bogarde plays the villain, Terence Stamp a knife-throwing anti-hero, Monica Vitti is Modesty. The film is off-kilter and weird, the music is fun and it's all a Technicolor assault on the eyes.

Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand (1966)
Marcello Mastroianni is a sculptor who can't tell his dreams from reality and believes he's involved with a murder. His uncle communicates with fireworks. His dream girl, Raquel Welch, has an oven in her van. Chairs rain from the sky. It's frantic and wild, a 1960's kind of loony anarchy.

The Swinger (1966)
Ann-Margret plays a goody two-shoes who can't get her stories printed in the salacious magazine run by Tony Franciosa, so she writes a scandalous article she claims is autobiographical. This causes her to have to pretend she's a "swinger," which at one point involves becoming a human paintbrush. The film is garish and has some wonderfully silly dialogue.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Scream Factory - LADY IN WHITE on Blu-ray

LADY IN WHITE (1988; Frank LaLoggia)
Yet another in a long line of films that I had heard about for years and even heard praised many times, but that I never gotten around to seeing. The blessing and the curse of this kinda thing is I've missed some pretty good movies, but at least I'm seeing them in good-looking new Blu-ray transfers these days. So I had only ever seen the trailer for this film and all I could remember from it was Lukas Haas being very little and having some line about "the cloakroom". I didn't realize it was a period piece (it's set in 1962) and I also didn't realize how disturbing it would be in parts. There's some heavy stuff in there - from child murder and molestation to horrible racism from the kid that starred opposite Tom Hanks in BIG (Jared Rushton). It's got a whole lot of checks in the "this movie would never get made today" column. That's not a bad thing though as that allowed it to catch me off guard. It's an interesting mix of sentimentality, mystery, and horror - not like too many movies I've seen from this period. Not that those elements are totally original, but the way it all plays out - the pacing, the structure and the mixture of tones - make it stand out a bit as unique. There are even odd bits of goofy comedy and slapstick played back to back with surreal dreamy sequences. It certainly doesn't feel like a studio film. In hearing director Frank LaLoggia talk about making the film on this disc's commentary track - you get much more of a sense of why it is the way it is. It was apparently financed independently and LaLoggia says it is a very personal film for him and he had been determined to make it with as little creative interference as possible. That said, making a movie like this one at the time he made it sounds like it was no picnic. Making any film is no easy task, but making with it independently raised money (and only a part of it in place when shooting began) is one heck of a stressful proposition. The result is something special.
I've been a fan of Lukas Haas for a long time and have always found him to be an intriguing and different naturalistic presence as an actor. He seems like the slightly offbeat kid you knew in high school that had a fifty/fifty shot at being a famous artist or living in his parent's basement at forty when he got older. The way he reacts to things is often just slightly to the left or right of what you've come to expect from child actors his age. He doesn't seem like he's on autopilot or spouting some rehearsed speech, but rather he feels like he is present in the moment of the scene he is in and thus grounding things in a much more organic way. That's part of the reason LADY IN WHITE is so frightening and affecting. It's all about his performance. His face and the way he expresses things with his eyes - especially in the context of a scary movie - really has a powerful impact. So he hooks you emotionally and you can't help but feel even more strongly for him because he seems so small in this film. He's a little kid who is witness to and put through some dark adult stuff. There's a lot of sadness underlying it all. The reality of the scenario that is revealed in the movie is terrifying enough, but when you add in the supernatural elements of the story as well, it's all the more impactful as a horror movie. Apologies for being vague, but I'm assuming there are other folks out there who've not seen the movie and I'm trying not to spoil much. It's definitely one of those hidden gems or cult favorites that horror fans recommend to each other over the years. It's creepy and atmospheric and well worth picking up. 
Special Features:
Kudos to Scream Factory on this one as it has some nice extras (and three(!) cuts of the  movie):

-Introduction By Frank LaLoggia
-Audio Commentary With Frank LaLoggia
-Behind-The-Scenes Footage With Introduction By Frank LaLoggia
-Deleted Scenes With Introduction By Frank LaLoggia
-Extended Behind-The-Scenes Footage – Production And Post-Production
-Promotional Short Film
-Theatrical Trailer & Alternate Trailer
-TV & Radio Spots
-Behind-The-Scenes Photo Montage
-Extended Photo Gallery


You can purchase LADY IN WHITE on Blu-ray here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lionsgate/Vestron Video - CHOPPING MALL and BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray

CHOPPING MALL (1986; Jim Wynorksi)
The old Vestron Video logo (which has been re-animated in a cool new way for these releases) brings to mind a lot of fun memories for genre fans of the VHS generation like myself. Just hearing that musical sting that went along with it conjures up images of gore, nudity and lots of other things I probably shouldn't have been watching at the age I was when I was renting those movies from my local video store. Sure, you had your major studio horror stuff like the FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series, but what was a kid to watch when you had plowed through all of that and were looking for more horror entertainment? Never fear, Vestron Video was there to rescue you with "classics" like CHOPPING MALL, THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, BLOOD DINER and THE MONSTER SQUAD. I saw so many Vestron movies in my youth that I would get giddy just hearing that music after I popped a tape into the VCR. Vestron wasn't just about horror though. They also put out a lot of Cannon Films and even some classier stuff on VHS. I remember seeing Peter Bogdanovich's films THEY ALL LAUGHED and SAINT JACK for the first time thanks to Vestron VHS tapes. So needless to say, I rejoiced when I first heard the announcement that Lionsgate would be starting up this new Vestron line and their first two Blu-rays do not disappoint. 
CHOPPING MALL was a movie that I had basically given up on getting the nice deluxe Blu-ray treatment. I saw a revival screening of it many years ago at Los Angeles' New Beverly theater and it played great with a crowd. This only mad me sadder that all I had in my collection was a pretty crappy looking old DVD version of the movie. It wasn't widescreen and it looked like a glorified VHS transfer. 
So CHOPPING MALL has two great 80s elements to it that really make it stick - the mall and robots. I know that kids still go to malls these days, but in a time before the internet, the mall was a truly magical place. Imagine as a real place that you could walk through and find pretty much anything you ever wanted to buy. Malls now are much like they were then, but with no online way to get stuff we wanted, the mall was this amazing kingdom that we all wanted to go to. One problem with the malls then was that they were super crowded. I'm sure I'm not the only kid who thought about being alone in a mall at night and having free reign to do whatever I wanted. The other thing that malls had a lot of was girls. Lots and lots of cute girls. And wouldn't it be great to be alone in the mall with some of those cute girls? Yes, it certainly would be. CHOPPING MALL captures that part of the fantasy and even adds some sex stuff to sweeten the deal and make it irresistible to your average teenage boy. It takes it one further thing and through a in robots. Movies like SHORT CIRCUIT were popular and America was fascinated with both computers and robots. CHOPPING MALL actually came out before SHORT CIRCUIT, but it had no aspirations to be that movie anyway. These weren't nice robots like Johnny Five, not at all - they were killers that were out to dispatch any intruders by any lethal means necessary. An early alternate title for the film was KILLBOTS and I still prefer that poster to the final CHOPPING MALL artwork. So you've got the empty mall, sexy ladies and killer robots and all of that is a nice setup for a fun film. CHOPPING MALL is made more fun by a sort of DAWN OF THE DEAD type looting the mall approach that helps our teenagers stand a better chance against the bots. Another thing I was fascinated by as a kid was guns and this mall had a sporting goods store (humorously called "Peckinpah's") that had lots assault rifles, shotguns and more that our heroes could use to combat the evil metal dudes. For those of us that were big into slasher movies from around this time, we had gotten used to seeing teenagers get picked off with little or no defensive attempts so seeing them kick a little butt with some heavy artillery was a pleasant turnabout. 

Special Features:
If this CHOPPING MALL Blu-ray is any indication of what's to come from this new Vestron line, there is much reason to rejoice. This disc is stacked with supplements in a way that pretty much nobody would have ever expected for a a Blu-ray of CHOPPING MALL. Among 
the many things included are:
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney, and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell 

-Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Video) and Ryan Turek (Blumhouse/Shock Till You Drop)
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
-Featurettes - "Back to the Mall", "Chopping CHOPPING MALL","The Killbots", "Scoring CHOPPING MALL", "The Robot Speaks!", "The Lost Scene", "Army of One", "Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots" 
-Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino

You can purchase CHOPPING MALL on Blu-ray here:

BLOOD DINER (1987; Jackie Kong)
Now I don't have quite the same fondness for BLOOD DINER as I do for CHOPPING MALL and a lot of that has to do with the fact that I didn't see it for the first time until much more recently. It opens with a lovely disclaimer warning that is meant to harken back to the old ones they used to throw in front of films in the 1960s ("If you heave a heart problem, leave the theater at once" etc). Director Jackie Kong (NIGHT PATROL, THE BEING) takes it up a notch with an over the top version of said warning - which actually sets the tone for the movie pretty well right out of the gate. If you were to try to explain the plot of the movie to someone who hasn't seen it, you might sound a little crazy. It is the horror/comic tale of two brothers who resurrect the brain of their insane dead uncle - whilst keeping it in a jar. The uncle's brain (with eyeballs still attached) then instructs the brothers on how they will help him raise the ancient Lumerian goddess Sheetar by getting body parts from sinful women and sewing them together so that Sheetar may inhabit the new body - basically a female Frankenstein kinda thing. Once Sheetar is in the body, they need to have a virgin sacrifice ready for her to eat. The brothers run a vegetarian restaurant (called "Tutman Cafe" - which would have very high Yelp scores if it was around today) and they use it as a way to get girls for their super-corpse. As you might be able to guess, the brothers don't necessarily serve strictly vegetarian cuisine at their place. It's all very reminiscent of Herschell Gordon Lewis' BLOOD FEAST in a lot of ways (deliberately so), but Jackie Kong really amps up the absurdity and that makes for a lot more potential comedy mixed with the horror of death and dismemberment. I really have to give her credit for taking the ludicrousness to the next level with the creative and goofy death sequences and body parts/entrails often falling and flying everywhere. There are actually a lot of gags and bits that ended up being kind of ahead of their time. Some may find this film a tough one to stick with tonally, but I can certainly appreciate it as a curio from a time when gore and horror and comedy were much more en vogue. Not like anything you're likely to see these days on Netflix.
Special Features:
-NEWLY remastered in high-definition from the original film elements.
-Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong
-Featurettes "Queen Kong", "The Cook, The Uncle, and The Detective", "Open for Business", "Scoring for Sheetar!", "You Are What They Eat"
-Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots
-Still Gallery

You can purchase BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray here:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Release Roundup - September 27th, 2016

SLUGS on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
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CHOPPING MALL on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
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VALLEY OF THE DOLLS on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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BILL & TED'S MOST EXCELLENT COLLECTION (Both Movies) on Blu-ray (Shout Factory)
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THE LADY IN WHITE on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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BLOOD DINER on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
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UP FROM THE DEPTHS on Blu-ray (Shout Factory) (Limited Edition)

MESSAGE FROM SPACE on Blu-ray (Shout Factory) (Limited Edition)

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (Restored Edition) on Blu-ray (Universal)
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TIME WALKER on Blu-ray (Shout Factory) (Limited Edition)

THE VELVET VAMPIRE on Blu-ray (Shout Factory) (Limited Edition)

TWO FILMS BY DOUGLAS SIRK on Blu-ray (Coehn Media)
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DEKALOG on Blu-ray (Criterion Collection)
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KAMIKAZE '89 on Blu-ray (Film movement)
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CABOBLANCO on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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HORROR HOUSE ON HIGHWAY 5 on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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COUNT DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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HELLBENT on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME on Blu-ray (Blue Underground)
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PRIVATE LESSONS on Blu-ray (Cinema Epoch)
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CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE on Blu-ray (Warner Bros)
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THE SHALLOWS on Blu-ray (Sony)
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WARCRAFT on Blu-ray (Universal)
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THE NEON DEMON on Blu-ray (Broad Green Pictures)
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