Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '56 - Kristina Dijan ""

Friday, November 18, 2016

Underrated '56 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan is a movie addict and collector who blogs at Speakeasy ( and shares her viewing on Letterboxd ( and Twitter (

Check out her other RPS lists here:
Fine thriller with Glenn Ford playing a wealthy vacuum company exec whose son is kidnapped (you know the story if you’ve seen the good Mel Gibson 1996 remake). He weighs the odds of getting his boy back alive, and decides to offer the ransom money as a bounty on the thugs’ heads instead. Ford was great at playing tightly coiled, conflicted, ordinary heroes, and does a super job enacting this father’s dilemma, anguish and anger. He makes an excruciatingly tough choice, and accepts that most will accuse him of gambling his son’s life away. He addresses the criminals and public directly, using the media who are portrayed as an uncaring mob jockeying for the hottest scoop. Leslie Nielsen makes an impression in his first movie as a cynical, blackmailing reporter whose brutal honesty comes in handy.
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The Last Hunt
Epic, intelligent and tense psychological western. Trigger-happy, Indian-hating Robert Taylor goes on a hunt with gunshy, guilt-ridden, buffalo-hunting legend Stewart Granger, and only one comes back alive. Great support by Lloyd Nolan as a wry, one-legged alcoholic trapper, Russ Tamblyn as a half-breed who passes as white, and Debra Paget as an Indian girl and one more things over which Taylor and Granger clash. Taylor gives an excellent performance as the increasingly unhinged killer. Desperately needy, hotheaded and entitled, he’s increasingly paranoid and vengeful as he hunts the elusive white buffalo. Grim ending with an unforgettable image borrowed by Kubrick for The Shining.
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Red Sundown
Rory Calhoun is a gunfighter who barely makes it out of a deadly scrape and promises to go good. He tries to reform by acting as deputy to sheriff Dean Jagger, but faces doubts about his character and gets sucked into a range war. This smart, great-looking Jack Arnold western looks at the different types of men who live by the gun, and whether they can ever change while still using one. Lots of unpredictable plot twists, unexpected, rewarding directions and fascinating characters, like doomed gunman James Millican, and charismatic psycho gun-for-hire Grant Williams (who starred in Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man), whose arrival forces a showdown that tests Calhoun’s commitment to his new life and values.
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X: The Unknown
Dean Jagger again, this time playing a heroic atomic scientist investigating an unstoppable, dark, buzzing, gooey mound of pure energy that’s crawled out from deep underground. Jagger happens to be working on an atomic neutralizer that might stop the killer tapioca, if he can scale the gadget up to the monster’s massive size. Lots of of creative efforts to stop the thing, escalating gore and suspense, and cool effects that show us a scary blob with the power to knock out communication, fry people in their cars and vaporize soldiers, leaving only empty uniforms in its wake. This Hammer movie was meant to be a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment (1955); rights issues prevented any direct or overt connection, but it has some of that series’ serious and disturbing scifi spirit.
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The Man Who Never Was
A huge military operation and the course of WW2 hinges on one plan, one man, several strokes of luck and good timing. Royal Navy Commander Clifton Webb convinces a man to donate his dead son’s body for a top secret mission. They dress the corpse in uniform, put fake documents on him and dump him where the Nazis will find and hopefully fall for the false invasion. To humanize “Willie” they include a phony love letter written by an office assistant and her roommate (Gloria Grahame). The Germans find the stuff but have doubts, and send over spy Stephen Boyd to pretend he can stand the English long enough to confirm the dead man’s identity. Director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure) makes this a nail biting and ultimately touching thriller about patience: bait the trap, anticipate every potential problem, wait out the enemy, and hope it doesn't all fall apart when the spy meets the woman who doesn’t even realize she’s the fake girlfriend. Fun bonus: that’s Peter Sellers playing Winston Churchill (in voice only, when he approves this mission). Amazon Button (via


Jerry Entract said...

As I've said elsewhere, 1956 was a great year at the movies. Terrific choices here, Kristina!
I know and like all five films chosen and those like "RANSOM" and "THE LAST HUNT" are examples of how mature and well-made films were at that time (compare with today's output generally!!!). And "RED SUNDOWN" is on my list of personal favourite westerns.

john k said...

Great choices Kristina,and each one truly undervalued.
Loved the Kubrick reference regarding THE LAST HUNT-never
considered that before,but how very true.
X THE UNKNOWN originally meant to be directed by Joseph Losey
but right winger Jagger refused to work with him.
I wish Hammer had sent Jagger on his way and cast Forrest Tucker
instead,with Losey directing. Having said that I feel Norman did a
pretty decent job.

Anonymous said...

Great picks there, Kristina. Not a weak one among them and, I'd say, two genuine classics. A very strong year indeed.

Kristina said...

Thanks to all for the comments, super tough to narrow down to only 5 in such a strong year, and I left out other faves that I'm sure will show up on other people's lists, so no good ones will be left out.
Jerry, totally agree about how mature and forward-looking Ransom and Last Hunt were. Just the kinds of movies I hope people new to classics would try and like.
John, isn't there quite a resemblance between that "frozen" LH image and The Shining? Filmmakers love movies and absorb then remix those memorable images.
Always a pleasure and fun challenge to be asked to do a list here at RPS!!

Laura said...

Kristina, what a great list! I can't believe I haven't seen any of the films on it -- I need to *finally* catch up with RED SUNDOWN soon. I've also had THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS highly recommended by multiple people (and I have a DVD I got in a Fox Connect sale for just a couple dollars!). I'm a bit chicken about watching THE LAST HUNT, despite loving everyone in the of these days!

Thanks for the recommendations!

Best wishes,

Silver Screenings said...

So glad you included a Science Fiction pick ("X the Unknown"), although it does sound more edgy than some of the sci-fi offerings from this year. I'll have to watch for it.

I'm also intrigued by "The Man Who Never Was" and how this was orchestrated. Another one to add to my list.

Speaking of the man who never was, years ago I worked in a company where the boss (Mr. X) was ALWAYS out of the office. A woman from another company would call almost every week, hoping to speak with him, and would get annoyed when I'd say, "He's not here." One day she became really angry and I said, "Here's the thing: Mr. X does not exist." She burst out laughing and we actually became friends.

Kristina said...

Thanks for the comments!
Laura, I hope you see some of these, RED SUNDOWN and MAN WNW would really appeal to you I think.
Ruth, and that's a funny story! MAN WNW is very good, seen it a few times now and love it. If the idea of X appeals then check out the Quatermass series!