Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - Kristina Dijan ""

Friday, December 30, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Kristina Dijan

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

Check out her other RPS lists here:

This year I watched more movies than ever (many suggested here at RPS!) from all genres, explored world cinema, and caught up with many cinephile essentials, so it’s excruciatingly tough to narrow down discoveries to a handful. Here are 5 lesser-known titles that I liked the most:

The Great Garrick (1937) is a delightfully witty comedy directed by James Whale. A troupe of French actors are totally misinformed about, but nonetheless very insulted by, comments made by visiting British stage star Brian Aherne, so they conspire to take over the inn where he’s staying to show him a thing or two about realistic acting. Aherne gets wind of the grand prank and plays along, but mistakes real guest and runaway Countess Olivia de Havilland, for one of the actors and mistreats and misleads her accordingly.
Amazon Button (via

In Branded (1950), Alan Ladd plays a gunfighter who’s talked into scamming a rich ranching family by pretending to be their long lost son. The loner is so touched by the warmth and love “his” family shows him, that instead of ripping them off he sets out to find their real son, who was kidnapped and raised by a Mexican outlaw. A gorgeous, smart film and a lesson on how to make predictable story elements totally surprising and suspenseful. This was one of 20+ Ladd movies I saw in ’16; other gems of his were Two Years Before the Mast, The Great Gatsby and Whispering Smith.
Amazon Button (via

In Four Faces West (1948), Joel McCrea is a nice-guy bank robber who only steals what he needs to help his dad, leaves an I.O.U., and starts paying the money back asap. He’s hunted by Marshal Pat Garrett (Charles Bickford), who wants to arrest this decent fellow before the dead-or-alive posse finds him. McCrea has sweet chemistry with real-life wife Frances Dee, who plays the Eastern nurse encouraging him to give himself up. Noble McCrea does many admirable things including saving a family, before Bickford catches up to him, in a western where not one shot is fired nor punch thrown. This movie was part of my big McCrea binge that also included discoveries Saddle Tramp, Stranger on Horseback and Colorado Territory.
Amazon Button (via

Charley Varrick (1973) has Walter Matthau playing a smart and sardonic, relatively small-time thief who accidentally robs a tiny bank in the middle of nowhere that ’s actually a major mob money drop. Soon the mob’s terrifyingly cool enforcer Joe Don Baker is on Varrick’s trail, which winds through seedy connections toward an unforgettable showdown in the desert. Intelligent, excellent and gritty picture by the great Don Siegel. Along with Varrick I also found the 70’s crime gems Walking Tall, The New Centurions and The Outfit.
Amazon Button (via

The Underworld Story (1950). The great Dan Duryea is an opportunistic journalist who recovers from a firing and blacklisting by buying into a failing bedroom-community paper, just in time to exploit a sensational murder in the town. A wealthy family try to cover a spoiled son’s crime by framing their black maid, and Duryea is enough of a corrupt heel that he cynically exploits the story to sell his new paper, but he’s also just enough of an idealist that he grows a conscience and does the right thing. More gritty noir discoveries from this year: Canon City, Shack Out on 101.
Amazon Button (via


john k said...

Hi Kristina....and Happy New Year!

The only one I've not seen is THE GREAT GARRICK but I love
BRANDED is one of Ladd's top Westerns-possibly his best after
SHANE.FOUR FACES WEST has just been announced as a 2017 Blu Ray
so that's great.CHARLEY VARRICK is, in my opinion one of the
best of all 70's films..isn't Joe Don Baker a total badass in
that film especially in the scene where he roughs up poor Tom Tully.
In an extra on the Koch Blu Ray Andy Robinson states that he did not
like Baker and the scene where Baker roughs him up in the
caravan (which took all night to film) was hard to endure.
Andy however loved working with Siegel.
I've wanted for years to see THE UNDERWORLD STORY and only caught up
with it recently but to me is was a bit of a let down-perhaps my hopes
were too high.
All in all great choices-and frankly that's just what we have come to expect from you.
BTW I've just watched THE NEW CENTURIONS for the first time since
1972 and again another 70's landmark.George C Scott is even scarier than
Baker in that incredible scene where he loses it with the sleazebag
slum landlord.

Jerry Entract said...

Like John, the one I have never seen is "The Great Garrick". The rest are great choices, Kristina, and I am so glad you managed to single out "Branded" & "Four Faces West", classics of their genre. Never easy to whittle favourites down to a handful.

Kristina said...

John & Jerry: Thanks both for reading and leaving your thoughts. Boy was this ever hard to do! I saw so many great things this year, many in my Ladd and McCrea binges, but hope these are a nice variety and would love RPS readers to check them out.

Loved THE NEW CENTURIONS, and yes on Baker. Also saw WALKING TALL for the first time this yr and almost put it on here. I have many of you to thank for suggestions to see BRANDED and what a good one, you can kind of guess where it might go but it's totally thrilling anyway.

Anonymous said...

Like the guys, the only one that's new to me here is "Garrick" so I'll be looking out for that. Your other choices are all terrific movies, fine discoveries at any time.

beamish13 said...

UNDERWORLD STORY is a great film. I saw it at the UCLA Film & Television Archive earlier this year as part of a terrific Cy Endfield retrospective

Kristina said...

Colin- Garrick is such fun for Olivia and Edward Everett Horton too, pokes fun at actors' egos. Thanks for reading!
Beamish- Right after Underworld I watched another Endfield, Try & Get Me, also good, if a tragic end for Frank Lovejoy's character, that's another fine actor who deserves more attention.
Happy New Year!

Laura said...

Hi Kristina! We've talked elsewhere but I wanted to jump in here also to say how much I enjoyed your list! I'm glad you squeezed quick mentions of some other really interesting movies into your reviews. :)

I especially love FOUR FACES WEST, a lovely story I revisit regularly.

Really enjoyed THE UNDERWORLD STORY which was shown with ABANDONED (1949) as part of a Gale Storm double bill at the Noir City Hollywood Festival a couple of years ago. You just can't go wrong with Dan Duryea!

I enjoyed BRANDED but I don't think I appreciated it as much as you and some other Westerns fans I know did, so I want to return to it again with a fresh eye.

Really looking forward to THE GREAT GARRICK. I got the Warner Archive DVD and I believe my father was similarly enthused about it, but I haven't watched it myself yet! So many movies, so little time, and all that. :)

Looking forward to another great year of movie viewing and more suggestions from you!

Best wishes,

Kristina said...

This was tough to narrow down, especially since I saw so many great Alan Ladd and Joel McCrea movies around the same time--could've done 5 for each! I bet you'd like GARRICK. Thanks for reading!