Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '56 - Daniel Budnik ""

Monday, November 28, 2016

Underrated '56 - Daniel Budnik

Daniel R. Budnik’s writing can be found at Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things. He is part of four podcasts: Podcastmania – a free-for-all horror good time, The Made For TV Mayhem Show, which he co-hosts with Amanda Reyes and his own shows, Eventually Supertrain: The Short-Lived TV Show Podcast and Dan's Drive-In Double Feature. He is co-author of Bleeding Skull: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey. His second book 80s Action Films On The Cheap is due out in the Winter of 2016/17.

Check out his Underrated '86, '76, & '66 lists as well:

The Black Sleep
Nice and nutty low budget sci-fi directed by the gloriously named Reginald Le Borg. A scientist’s wife develops a brain tumor. Before he will experiment on her, he experiments on unwilling subjects brought to him by a gypsy. The experiments never work and he ends up with a basement of brain damaged and deformed people. Yes, it may not sound like a hoot. But, it’s much better than the similar The Unearthly from around the same time. And, you get Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Tor Johnson, Lon Chaney Jr. all together. What?! The film might be a bit too long at 82 minutes. (72 would have been perfection.) But, it’s loaded with great looking weirdoes in the cellar and it’s always fun to see what’s going to happen next. Especially under the firm, but gentle, hand of Le Borg.

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Invitation To The Dance
Gene Kelly’s no dialogue, all-ballet anthology was made in 1952 but released in 1956. It was a resounding flop. I’m a huge fan of Singing in the Rain and quite like An American In Paris. My least favorite parts of those films were the ballet sequences so I was in no rush to find Invitation. In her review, Pauline Kael says that this is the sort of film that feels like it should be a lost marvel. She immediately followed that with “But it isn’t.” So, again, no rush here. TCM showed it one night. And I watched it. All three segments, “Circus,” “Ring Around The Rosy” and “Sinbad the Sailor.” Kael could be correct. It’s almost a lost marvel. Almost. It is also self-indulgent, bordering on kind of pretentious. But, it is beautifully danced. Kelly is as charming as ever. And, it’s one of those films that I think everyone should see at least once (like The Human Condition trilogy, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World or Tales from the Quadead Zone).
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It Conquered The World
I include this film solely because the ridiculous Venusian monster (Oh, you know what he looks like) has consigned this film to the Rubbish Pile. The fragrant pile of “So Bad they’re good films.” But, have a closer look. It’s directed by Roger Corman who, even at his worst moments, knows where to point the camera and how to shoot a scene. It’s got Beverly Garland, Peter Graves and Lee Van Cleef in it. No slouches. Charles Griffith did the final re-write. He’s the Dennis Potter of Z movies. The film moves at a nice pace and it’s really fun. Don’t let the goofy monster ruin it for you. I’m a fan of Doctor Who from 1963 to 2016 and beyond. If I let every awful looking monster, wonky effect or goofy spaceship ruin my enjoyment of an episode, I would have very few from the first 26 seasons of the show to enjoy. Don’t let that happen to you. Give It Conquered the World another try.

Love Me Tender
Elvis’s first film! He’s not even given top billing! His first big hit was “Heartbreak Hotel,” which made it to Number 1 in January of 1956. Already they’re putting him in movies. Yes, like you (probably), I prefer the later, more camp, Elvis films to the early (more serious) ones. But, you can’t deny Elvis’s charisma and charm in this story of the four Reno brothers, set around the time of the Civil War. It’s a well-made semi-potboiler that moves through its dramatic paces towards its tragic conclusion. It’s not a super fun time like Clambake but it’s a good melodrama. With some fun songs. My mom had the EP and I would sing “Poor Boy” all day long when I was young. In fact, when my day is going rough, I take a “Poor Boy” break and dance around my living room singing the song. Am I recommending the soundtrack more than the movie? Possibly. But, the movie is definitely worth a watch. Elvis isn’t quite James Dean but he’s doing his best.
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The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues
If you follow my blog or any of my other rambling writings, you knew this was going to be on here. Somewhere off the Pacific Coast there is a strange lizard monster guarding a glowing light deep underwater. Anyone who goes near the light is killed by the monster… or explodes. Enter into this world a whole slew of perfectly clich├ęd characters… from the absent-minded scientist who mentions that science is a harsh mistress. To the expert who comes in from out of town and cultivates a romance with the oblivious daughter of the scientist. To the G-Man who is so hard boiled you just have to giggle. To a femme fatale from some Eastern European bloc… and on and on and awesome. The Milner Brothers other sci-fi film From Hell It Came is more obviously wonderful. But, Phantom sneaks up on you because the actors treat it very seriously… and not only is the monster and the story foolish but the dialogue has to be heard to be believed. I really enjoy this movie. The late, great Bill Warren in the second edition of his must-own Keep Watching The Skies!wondered how anyone could “like” this film and puts forward the theory that we’re kidding ourselves. No disrespect meant, Mr. W. But, you’re wrong there. I wish we could have watched this one together. 
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Who Done It?
I have not seen this Benny Hill-starring feature in years. But, when I was a kid, I remember loving it. He’s so silly. And I love a movie where someone wants to be a hero/ detective/ whatever and then winds up getting their chance, however unwilling they might turn out to be. Benny dresses up in various disguises. It’s all very British. It’s one of the last of the Ealing comedies, which can be an acquired taste like Hammer horror. But, if you’ve got the taste, this one is pretty delish. The only drawback to the film: No Hill’s Angels. I remember when I first taped this film off of PBS late one night around 1984… I thought it would be a young Benny surrounded by the Angels. Yes, I was disappointed. Yes, I got over it. I would like to watch this one again.
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1 comment:

Silver Screenings said...

Whoa! Elvis didn't get top billing in his first film? I'm quite surprised by that.

The Gene Kelly film, Invitation to the Dance, almost sounds intriguing. I like the idea of it, but I could never sit through it because dance just isn't my thing. But I applaud him for making it. If you're Gene Kelly and have access to Hollywood resources, you gotta try it at least once, right?