Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - Hal Horn ""

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Hal Horn

Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old').

Also read his previous Discoveries lists for Rupert Pupkin Speaks:

On Twitter @halhorn86
Thanks to Warner Archive Instant, one can check out the entire Bomba the Jungle Boy series. 12 films from 1949 through 1955 for Monogram that pretty much comprised lead Johnny Sheffield's film career. John Kellogg and the always shady looking Myron Healey are our villains this time: ivory poachers who are also sexually harassing teacher Donna Martel. Martel is here to teach the natives how to read and has taken a liking to Bomba, but our Jungle Boy pushes her away--I know, dumb decision to our eyes, but Bomba is more concerned with saving elephants than making a little hey-hey. No harm, no foul---until she foolishly decides to use the villains to make Bomba jealous. As cheap as the rest of the series, but surprisingly vicious at times, especially the ending. And I'm always up for an anti-poaching film. My favorite of the four in the series that I've watched so far. As was the case for most of the Bomba films, written and directed by Ford Beebe.
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MELINDA (1972) 
Calvin Lockhart didn't get enough leads; this rare one turned up on TCM Underground earlier this year and is also on DVD via Warner Archive. Lockhart is a narcissistic (so much so that his apartment is a shrine to himself) and popular Los Angeles drive time DJ. He enjoys all the trappings of his fame and can get any woman he wants. Then titular, mysterious Vonetta McGee arrives from Chicago, becoming a challenge for him and sending his charmed life into a tailspin. The downward spiral continues when McGee is found slashed to death. Abrupt tonal shifts enhance the viewing experience on this one, a pleasant surprise from the early Blaxploitation era. With Rosalind Cash, Rockne Tarkington and Jim Kelly.
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Finally got around to this early effort by the usually schlocky Ted V. Mikels, who passed away in October. Near the end of his film career, Richard Gilden got the lead as a light-skinned black man who decides to pass for white and infiltrate the KKK after his daughter is killed in a church bombing. Exploitation, no doubt, but well acted and decently written, though the pacing falters in the second half. Still, a cut above most Mikels films. Film debut for three actors who would all make an impact in the 1970's: Max Julien, Whitman Mayo and James McEachin.
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THE TRAP (1946) 
Sidney Toler's final Charlie Chan film (he was suffering from cancer during filming and passed away 3 months after its release) is another public domain film that I should have run across before now, but finally checked out on Warner Archive this year. Toler's screen time is limited due to his terminal illness, but surprisingly this works somewhat to the film's advantage, giving more spotlight time to co-stars Victor Sen Yung and Mantan Moreland. More cheesecake than you'd expect in a Chan film, further easing the star's workload. Interesting despite the clunky setup and production problems; among the young starlets: Bettie Best, Rita Quigley, and series multi-timer Barbara Jean Wong.
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Just reviewed this as part of our new tribute series to the great comedian Leon Errol, who was in his fifties before he really got going in Hollywood but brought his impeccable timing and one-of-a-kind drunk portrayal (he was nicknamed "Rubberlegs") to numerous short subjects and films for two decades until his 1951 death. Here, working with frequent collaborator Leslie Goodwins (the MEXICAN SPITFIRE series), he objects to daughter Pamela Blake's engagement to reckless spender Dennis O'Keefe. O'Keefe proves up to Leon's challenge to save $1,000 while Errol is simultaneously experiencing financial difficulties. Walter Catlett and Tom Kennedy have hilarious supporting roles in this agreeable "B" from RKO. One of the few Leon Errol features I hadn't seen; TCM gave it a rare airing in November. Worth a DVR'ing if it returns.
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