Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '66 - Justin LaLiberty ""

Monday, September 19, 2016

Underrated '66 - Justin LaLiberty

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in Critical Film Studies and Film Preservation in Archiving. He is currently responsible for programming at Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em. He is a regular contributor to Paracinema and can usually be found in whichever NYC art-house is showing the most sordid content on a given day.

Check out his Underrated '96, '86 & '76 lists here:

CHAFED ELBOWS (Robert Downey Sr.)
Robert Downey Sr’s still image driven opus of incest runs barely 60 minutes yet manages to throw in enough counter culture ethos, sock sniffing, and jabs at the then current cinema zeitgeist for a dozen pictures. And it even features a filmmaking character named Leo Realism. Downey at his most transgressive and sincere.

I feel like I’m cheating by including a short here, but when your short is as provocative and wonderful as HOLD ME WHILE I’M NAKED is, I think that it’s a safe choice. Kuchar at his most Sirkian, with his penchant for melodrama giving way to some sort of cinematic inner struggle ala 8 ½. Never a filmmaker to shy away from putting a lot of himself in his work, this may be the most personal film Kuchar made and it’s 17 minutes of bliss.

SECONDS (John Frankenheimer)
If the opening credits scene here doesn’t make you fall in love with cinema all over again, you may as well just stop watching movies. Frankenheimer at his most paranoid and assured, with each nerve shredding set piece managing to outdo whatever came before. It’s also the movie that turned me off of drinking wine forever.

THE BIG GUNDOWN (Sergio Sollima)
There are few things that I want more in a western than the presence of either Ennio Morricone or Lee Van Cleef. THE BIG GUNDOWN has both. And it adds Tomas Milian to the mix. Add in some absolutely despicable bad guys (who would go so far as to rape a 12 year old girl), good old fashioned questionable law enforcement and some classy knife throwing and you’ve got yourself a spaghetti western for the books. This deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe as anything that Leone made. 

I unabashedly love the work of Joe Sarno, especially CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, and when it comes to excessive melodrama marketed as sleaze, nobody compares. MOONLIGHTING WIVES is pure Sarno and it also manages to be one of the better portrayals of an ever shifting gender paradigm in America in the 1960s, with a group of women taking control of their lives by any means necessary. As far as the myth of the American Dream is concerned, this deserves to be in the same 60s company as EASY RIDER and MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

VIOLENCE AT NOON (Nagisa Oshima)
Before Nagisa Oshima shocked the world with IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES, he made a lot of small, borderline avant-garde dramas, none of which could predict the politics and aggression of his later work as much as VIOLENCE AT NOON. An increasingly dour tale of rape, revenge and loss, VIOLENCE AT NOON is sort of the decidedly Japanese answer to BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL. In a current, 2016, climate its title alone feels like a trigger warning yet nothing can really prepare you for Oshima’s assault. Brutal, elegant stuff.

THE SHOOTING (Monte Hellman)
It may not be as “Violent. Sadistic. Merciless” as its one-sheet may suggest, nor is Warren Oates given nearly enough screen time, but THE SHOOTING is classic Hellman in its pacing, attention to detail and vistas of America than anything else he would make. The script here is existential in a way that could predict titles like EL TOPO or DEAD MAN and Jack Nicholson is in top form – the fight between he and Oates is perfect. Impressively bleak and never comes close to wearing out its 82 minute runtime.

BLOOD BATH (Jack Hill & Stephanie Rothman)
The saga of BLOOD BATH is as fruitful and fun as the film itself (and can be explored in full via Arrow’s incredible blu-ray release from earlier this year) and that’s saying a lot as the film itself is fan-fucking-tastic. Barely an hour long, this gothic chiller begins as basic drive-in fodder but turns into something much more singular, with a lot to say about the status of The Artist in America in the 60s (much of which rings true today). The black and white photography shines in the new restoration, enough so that you may be tricked into thinking that you’re actually seeing the bloody reds of the “dead red nudes”.

QUEEN OF BLOOD (Curtis Harrington)
Bless Curtis Harrington. Aesthetically and on paper, this is pretty much PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. Only the talent behind the camera is Harrington and Roger Corman and on screen you have Dennis Hopper and John Saxon. More psychotronic than Bava’s film and imbued with a kinky sensibility that wouldn’t be out of place in a space opera directed by Jean Rollin, this deserves to be rediscovered by a bunch of weirdos ASAP.

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