Rupert Pupkin Speaks: November 2016 ""

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Underrated '56 - Laura G

If you weren't already aware, Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans:
She can be found on Twitter here:

STRANGER AT MY DOOR (William Witney, 1956)
I just saw this Western for the first time at the Lone Pine Film Festival, and it made quite an impression. It's the story of Clay (Skip Homeier), a bank robber on the run who finds himself hiding out at a farm owned by a minister (Macdonald Carey). The minister quickly deduces Clay's identity and hopes he can break through to the younger man with Christian kindness. As time passes, Clay forms an attachment to the minister's son (Stephen Wootton); meanwhile the minister's young second wife (Patricia Medina) is simultaneously thrilled, terrified, and guilty about the attraction she feels toward Clay, despite a loving relationship with her husband. This bare bones description really doesn't do the film justice; its centerpiece is an unforgettable, nightmarish sequence when a wild horse tears up the farm. My only complaint is that I was left wanting a longer movie, as it was so interesting and I was left with unanswered questions about the characters and their relationships. It's a thought-provoking film with a moving ending.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.
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FULL OF LIFE (Richard Quine, 1956)
FULL OF LIFE is a warm, funny, and touching film about a happily married couple about to have their first child. Nick (Richard Conte) and Emily (Judy Holliday) have a highly functional marriage which is delightful to watch. Over the course of this gentle movie, Nick repairs his relationship with his father (Salvatore Baccaloni) and finds his way back to church, which he realizes he'd stopped attending as an act of rebellion against his father. Holliday plays a sunny-natured, intelligent woman who is well matched with her introspective writer husband; those who know Conte from his tough guy roles will enjoy seeing him in a very different role as the supportive husband. The depiction of pregnancy is refreshingly realistic (mostly) for entertainment of the era.

Available on DVD from Sony.
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SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (Charles Haas, 1956)
I'm echoing my pal Jerry Entract in recommending this movie, which I described at my blog as a "darn good Western." Jock Mahoney plays Jim Trask, a Civil War veteran who returns home to discover his sweetheart (Martha Hyer), believing him dead, is now engaged to his friend Dave (Lyle Bettger). Jim takes his old job as sheriff, despite being unable to fire a gun due to a "friendly fire" incident in the war. It's a well-written film with strong acting by the leads; Bettger brings a bit of heartbreak to the villain, and there's also a nice part for David Janssen as Jim's deputy, whose loyalties are initially ambiguous. Mahoney's longtime experience as a stuntman is very much apparent as he takes flying leaps on a couple of occasions!

Not available on DVD in the U.S.

NIGHTFALL (Jacques Tourneur, 1956)
One of my favorite discoveries of 2013, I'm slipping this into the list thanks to its 1956 release in the UK; the U.S. release followed in January 1957. Like Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST (1947), NIGHTFALL was filmed in my favorite little town in the Sierras, Bridgeport, California. (In fact, the murder early in NIGHTFALL was filmed just steps from where Robert Mitchum is fishing at the start of OUT OF THE PAST.) Aldo Ray plays a man caught in a nightmare, as some very bad guys (headed by Brian Keith) believe he has a missing bag containing $350,000. He ends up on the run with Anne Bancroft, with a mysterious man (James Gregory) following along. Besides the terrific Sierra scenes, there are also some interesting Los Angeles locations. There's an excellent screenplay by Sterling Silliphant which slides easily back and forth in time, juxtaposing romance and humor with brutal violence. A very underrated and enjoyable film.

Available on DVD from Sony.
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THE LAST WAGON (Delmer Daves, 1956)
Richard Widmark is terrific starring as Comanche Todd, who has lived with Indians most of his life. After being unjustly arrested for murder, the wagon train escorting him to trial is raided and he finds himself using his unusual know-how to save the lives of a half-dozen teenage survivors of the attack. Many of the younger people are wary or insulting to Comanche due to his Indian connection and his status as a prisoner, yet as they travel to safety all learn important life lessons, and the oldest survivor, Jenny (Felicia Farr), falls in love with Comanche. The film has gorgeous scenic vistas filmed in Sedona, Arizona, and a lovely score by Lionel Newman.

Available on DVD from 20th Century-Fox.
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Underrated '56 - Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is an avid collector of films that is on an endless quest for more shelf space. Chef by trade, one the the few, the proud, the AGFA interns, and plans to one day be able to train his cats to sit. New to Letterboxd with three followers at Bsmith8168. On Twitter @Bsmith8168.
Check out his Underrated '66, '76, and '86 lists here:
At first I was a little scared to try to find 1956's obscurities, but now I'm blown away.  So many titles I cut from the original list that I wrote.  Anyways this is what I think deserves a little more time in the spotlight than they were originally given.

IshirĂ´ Honda's second foray into the Godzilla universe almost captures the real life threat and horror of over nuclear exposure and the effects on nature as his Gojira does.  Rodan is a great monster film the acting is actually pretty decent and the story keeps the action flowing the entire time.  The monsters look good as does the destruction, unfortunately Rodan is one of the lesser loved creatures of the Kaiju genre and deserves to make a comeback.
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Bob le Flambeaur 
Early effort from Jean-Pierre Melville and the first of his gangster films that would later make him a household name.  Roger Duchesne makes a career making role as the title character Bob and his super suave goings on in the French criminal underground.  The stark B&W photography makes this film come alive and the French cityscapes look great.  Not an over abundance of action as the story is told more through the characters reactions, still the tension is always silently present like the latter made Melville gangster epics.
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The Silent World
Palme d'Or and Oscar winner for best documentary you'd think that this film would be more popular, but it is not.  Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle team up for this gorgeously shot film that depicts multiple types of aquatic life and Cousteau's crews interaction with these animals.  Definitely not for everyone as some scenes depict a great deal of violence being dished out on some of the ocean's more notorious citizens.  Not only of interest for it's underwater photography, it's also a testament of how the treatment of wildlife has gotten much better in the present time.

The Animal World
I know what you're thinking, "Ugh another nature documentary?"  Yes, another nature documentary.  Much unlike the The Silent World this film is 100% focused on the animals with a pretty humorous and dated narration.  Somehow magically spinning evolution and creation into the same thing, The Animal World is feat of itself.  Starting at the dawn of time and featuring a extremely satisfying stop motion animation dinosaur sequence by none other than Ray Harryhausen and Willis O'Brien.  For me these older scientific documentaries are pretty entertaining in their depiction of facts that are now proven false, like how the Brontosaurus is shown as a menace to early man for it's insatiable hunger for flesh.  The rest of the film is about the modern day animals and the final warning in the narration is a nice touch.  Highly recommend hunting this title down for a viewing from yesteryears.
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Street of Shame
Kenji Mizoguchi's Street of Shame is a masterpiece.  From the opening title screen and eerie score you know you are in for something special.  The story follows the lives of a group of prostitutes that all work in the same brothel and the living hell that it their life and future.  Extremely depressing and effective in the film's multiple views of prostitution from the different interactions amongst many characters.  Has the feel of a large ensemble cast of a director like Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson as well as it's freshness and being way ahead of it's time.
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The Weapon
The Weapon directed by Val Guest is a little slice of Noir from England that has enough going for it to deserve a little more respect.  The films follows a young boy that discovers a pistol is an old demolished building and shortly after an accidental shooting happens and the boy is on the run.  The bullet that is taken out of the boy's victim turns out to be a match for one involved with an unsolved crime of the past.  The hunt is on for the boy and the gun by both friends and foes.  The film has some great cinematography and is also filled with great shots of London.  The pacing and length of the film keep your interest sucked in through this lost little gem.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

New Release Roundup - November 29th, 2016

BIGGLES: ADVENTURES IN TIME on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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T.A.M.I. SHOW/ THE BIG T.N.T. SHOW on Blu-ray (12/2) (Shout Factory)
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DEATH MACHINES on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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THE GREASY STRANGLER on Blu-ray (FilmRise)
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SACRIFICE on Blu-ray (Raro Video)
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FINDERS KEEPERS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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TABOO II/TABOO III on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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DON'T BREATHE  on Blu-ray (Sony)
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THE BFG on Blu-ray (Disney)
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PETE'S DRAGON on Blu-ray (Disney)
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Vestron Video - RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 and C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD on Blu-ray

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 (1993; Brian Yuzna)
For some reason, my mind goes to odd places sometimes in attempts to encapsulate a film. In the case of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3, my brain goes to a completely unrelated line from the 80s classic LICENSE TO DRIVE. The late Corey Haim says, "An innocent girl. A harmless drive. What could possibly go wrong?". While ROTLD 3 isn't quite summed up thusly, there is an element of "what could possibly go wrong?" in there that amuses me. It's a continuation of the mythology of the military experiments with the very evil gas liquid "245 Trioxin" - which can reanimate dead tissue in a very nasty way. While zombies in other films of this ilk can be dispatched by taking out their brains in some fashion, Trioxin zombies don't stop when you try to put them down. They are like terminators and any part of them that you separate wriggles its way at you until you burn it out of existence. In ROTLD 3, our main character is a teenager named Curt Reynolds (J. Trevor Edmond). He has a leather-jacket clad wild thing of a girlfriend named Julie Walker (Melinda Clarke) and she's something of a bad influence on him. One of the first outings we follow them on finds them sneaking into a Military facility (Curt's dad is a Colonel stationed there) and witnessing some experiments with trioxin that go horribly wrong (in a gleefully gory kind of way). As you might infer from the box art (Julie is looking a little zombie-ish), there is a point where things go south for the couple and Curt decides he's going to resurrect Julie with a shot of trioxin. Good plan right? What could possibly go wrong? (see how my thoughts went to LICENSE TO DRIVE? No? Fair enough). He just wants to have the woman he loves back and this seems like the best idea at the time. As is always the case, trioxin is NEVER a good idea for anything and only leads to a whole dump-truck load of trouble. 
One thing I certainly appreciate about ROTLD  is the way that it levels up the disgustingness in terms of the corpses and how they tear people apart. Brian Yuzna directed and he is responsible for SOCIETY, which is one of the most vile and gruesome films ever created. Yuzna is also obviously tied very much to the RE-ANIMATOR films - having produced the first one and directed BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR himself. The gruesome and yet darkly comic world of RE-ANIMATOR very much feels like a sister universe to ROTLD 3. As a VHS renting horror fiend in my youth, I passed by this movie many times based solely on my own prejudices. For one, the cover made the movie look cheap to me somehow. I mean, it is cheap and I was far from averse to renting low-budget horror flicks, but this one just didn't look right to me. The other factor was that it was a Trimark movie. Trimark was a company that I became intimately familiar when I was working at a video store in the 1990s. We got tons of Trimark product in all the time and a big portion of it was kinda crappy so I became quite wary of any movie with that logo on it. Watching it today, I regret my lame preconceived notions and find that I enjoy it as a delightful piece of nostalgia that I missed out on. The only thing about it that still irks me is the somewhat terrible 90s synth score that remains and plays under much of the suspenseful scenes (it took me out a little). It's been mentioned too that this new Blu-ray contains the unrated cut of the film and they even took the time to re-conform the commentary (which was initially done for the R-rated version of the movie) to fit this version of the movie. I'm not always a die hard fan of "uncut" versions myself as they sometimes only put back a few seconds of gore - which I can take or leave honestly. In this case though, I am much more excited to see the extra bloodsoaked cut of the movie as that is one of its major selling points. 

Special Features:
-Audio Commentary with Director Brian Yuzna.
-Audio Commentary with Actress Melinda Clarke and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Rainone.
- “Ashes to Ashes” – A Conversation with Director Brian Yuzna and Screenwriter John Penney
- “Living Dead Girl” – An Interview with Actress Melinda Clarke
- “Romeo Is Bleeding” – An Interview with Actor J. Trevor Edmond
- “Trimark & Trioxin” – Interviews with Production Excecutive David Tripet and Editor Chris Roth
- “The Resurrected Dead” – Interviews with Special Effects Designers Steve Johnson and Chris Nelson

Buy RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 on Blu-ray here:
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C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD (1989; David Irving)
This movie opens with a long steadicam shot through a hospital and I must say I am a sucker for long steadicam shot beginnings. We follow a doctor down to a room/lab where he meets the titular "Bud" the C.H.U.D. Simultaneously, we learn that the joint chiefs have discontinued the C.H.U.D. research program and that the last C.H.U.D. is to be terminated. The late Robert Vaughn plays a colonel who was excited about the program as he saw it as a means to create an force of powerful soldiers who could continue fighting after their deaths. The Colonel is not pleased that the C.H.U.D. program is ending. Bud (Gerrit Graham) is not happy either and puts up a bit of a fuss when they attempt to put him down. He ends up frozen as a result. He ends also ends up getting heisted by some bumbling high school kids (Brian Robbins from HEAD OF THE CLASS and Bill Calvert looking very C. Thomas Howell-y) who are trying replace another cadaver they "misplaced" (in a classic bit of slapstick which sees that body rolling through the streets on a runaway gurney). The goofball kids then accidentally re-animate Bud and thus he begins to run wild in a suburban neighborhood. The "C.H.U.D. Enzyme" functions very much like the 245 trioxin from ROTLD in that once a person (or animal) is bitten, they become "CHUDified" zombies who are seeking flesh to munch on. So you've got a serious monstrous threat mixed with high comedy. There's also a  STARMAN or ENCINO MAN kinda vibe of a "being discovering the world" with Bud here that is goofy and enjoyable.
Now, I've been a Gerrit Graham fan for quite a while. Between his turns in PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and USED CARS alone, he cemented a place in the pantheon of legendary character actors. He is an incredibly gifted physical performer, so he brings a remarkable vibrance and comedic energy to his performance of Bud. Robert Vaughn is also gleefully bigger than life in his role as the Colonel and that is quite entertaining to watch as well. 
BUD THE CHUD was written by Ed Naha, who also penned movies like TROLL, DOLLS, HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS and ODDBALLS (one of my favorite underseen 80s camp comedies). I like Naha's writing and he is clearly inspired by some great stuff as he credited himself as "M. Kane Jeeves" for C.H.U.D. II. That name will be familiar to fans of W.C. Fields as "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" was one of the many pseudonyms he used as a writer on some of his movies (THE BANK DICK comes immediately to mind). So Naha's sensibility is one of comedic wackiness and cleverness that ends up elevating the whole movie from a throwaway horror sequel to a fun 80s romp. As a film title, C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD stands in good company with other great sequel subtitles like ELECTRIC BOOGALOO and THE QUICKENING - at least as far as I'm concerned.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director David Irving
- Interview with actor Gerrit Graham
- Interview with actress Tricia Leigh Fisher
- Interview with special effects artist Allan Apone

Buy C.H.U.D. II: BUD THE CHUD on Blu-ray here:
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