Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - James McCormick ""

Friday, February 3, 2017

Film Discoveries of 2016 - James McCormick

James is a writer and member of the Criterion Cast family from way back. He has also been writing for this new site called That's Not Current (www.thatsnotcurrent.com)  He likes all kinds of movies but has a remarkable appreciation for both low and high art. He's one of the good ones as far as movie fans go. Follow him on twitter at @FistfulofMedia. Check out his TV Movie Podcast Small Screen Cinema is a show you should check out:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/small-screen-cinema/id1111892828
Here are his discoveries from last year:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/01/film-discoveries-of-2015-james-mccormick.html
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2016 was a strange year. Ups and downs, a promotion at my day job that took over my life a bit this year, so trying to watch films was a bit tougher, but I made sure to still check out as many as I could via streaming and whatever 35mm screenings that happened here in NYC. Now with a Drafthouse here, I've been going there as often as I can, so if you're ever in the Brooklyn area, come on down and grab a beer with me.


Blood Rage (1987 dir. John Grissmer) - Finally got to see this film, after so many years of hearing about it. My friend and co-host of Small Screen Cinema, Joe Yanick, invited me over one day with the intention (I assumed) to see this cinematic treasure. And it became a film I fell in love with so much, I watched it another 3 times this year. It's such a weird slasher film, a late cycle one, mainly because it didn't get released until 3 to 4 years after it was done. Louise Lasser acts the hell out of it. Mark Soper does an amazing job as twins with different personalities. And I always say, "It ain't cranberry sauce." repeatedly. Get that complete Arrow release. It's essential.
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Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987 dir. Norman Mailer) - Awww man, oh god, oh man, oh god... yes, we all know the infamous video of Ryan O'Neill where it seems like he completely forgot how to act. It's a shame that he gets made fun of for this film, because he's actually not bad in it at all (well, besides that scene but it seems like O'Neill was correct in saying Mailer hung him out to dry). I got to see this on the big screen in 35mm at the Anthology here in NYC and it was a wonderful surprise. And any film that also stars Isabella Rossellini, Wings Hauser, Penn Jillette and Lawrence Tierney in a sleazy murder mystery is something I love to discover.
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The Legend of Hell House (1973 dir. John Hough) - I felt so weird that I never saw this Richard Matheson adaptation (from his own novel). I absolutely love everything Matheson does, so finally catching this, I knew I'd like it. But I didn't know it would seriously creep me out and impress me with it's wonderful slow burn and British aesthetic. A physicist husband and his wife bring a young female psychic and the only person to survive the last investigation to the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of a serial killer. Roddy McDowall is stellar in it, meek at first, warning the others of the evil in the house. And slowly he becomes this unlikely hero. Another standout is the music in the film, by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson. The names might not sound familiar, but for you Doctor Who fans, she helped create the theme song and he created the TARDIS sound, among many others.
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Trashy Lady (1985 dir. Steve Scott) - Vinegar Syndrome will probably be on this list a lot. And this was my favorite porn release of theirs this year. Yes, a pornographic film is on my list. It's a simple story. Big time gangster Dutch Schultz (Harry Reems) and his girlfriend break up. Instead of moping around, he sees this beautiful girl working at the club he frequents named Kitty (Ginger Lynn), but she's too goody two shoes. So he enlists the help of Rita (Amber Lynn) to help Kitty become a bit more trashy. The reason why this film works is because of a few reasons. One, it's quite funny. The actors are all great in it, and it shows what a great script can do for any film. And being a porn, it's also very sexy, because it has interesting scenes with different people, especially some big names or soon to become big names in the porn business. A young Tom Byron is in it, and Herschell Savage (who is a lot of fun in another Vinegar Syndrome release, Blue Ice), is great as Dutch's rival. The Blu-ray looks absolutely gorgeous, and another reason why I will watch anything and everything Vinegar Syndrome puts out.
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Bare Knuckles (1977 dir. Don Edmonds) - Oh boy. Another film that Joe raved about and we ended up watching at my birthday last year (my girlfriend had gotten me a projector for my birthday and so we did an all day screening at her place). And it did not disappoint. It blew me away. I can't truly explain the film. Zachary Kane (Robert Viharo) is a bounty hunter in Los Angeles, who is tracking down a masked serial killer who is killing women with kung fu moves. It's one of most bizarre films I've seen (well, another one is coming up on the list) and there's a scene with some sweet flute playing by our hero, but never talked about or seen again. It has to be seen to be believed. So I hope a legit release comes out soon so more can fall in love with this bonkers film,
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The Severed Arm (1973 dir. Tom Alderman) - What I love most about Vinegar Syndrome's subscription service Exploitation.tv (subscribe now) is finding films that they own the rights to but haven't put out on DVD or Blu yet. The Severed Arm was one of those films I randomly watched late at night and kept me up later than I had intended. Five men are trapped in a cave, and they draw straws to see which one of the men will have to sacrifice their own arm so everyone won't starve to death. The worst part is, soon after taking the arm of their colleague, they are saved, so if only they had waited. Flash forward many years later and each one of the men are being picked off by this one armed man. I dug the hell out of it and love surprises like this film from great streaming services.
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Plaga Zombie (1997 dir. Pablo Parés, Hernán Sáez) - Low budget zombie films are a dime a dozen, and usually they're worth that much. Plaga Zombie is a film that uses a small budget and goes full force. I heard about the film from the great No Budget Nightmares podcast, and they seemed to really dig it (which isn't as common on that show), so I seeked it out and was on the same page. A lot of creativity makes me happy, and it was even shot on video, which I have a soft spot for, but this isn't a negative for it. They made a fun zombie film with what little they had and what's even more amazing is that they've made two other Plaga Zombie films, which I still need to catch. This one you can check out in full on YouTube from the filmmakers themselves. Bad Taste by way of The Dead Next Door.
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WNUF Halloween Special (2013 dir. Chris LaMartina) - Found footage is a genre that I'm not the biggest fan of, and it's not because of the method. I just feel like many films that use that style tend to be lazy and also make absolutely no sense. WNUF is a beautiful exception, and it's a film I wanted to watch since I had first heard about it when it was being made. So why did it take me so long to see it? I have no idea, because finally my girlfriend and I sat down to watch it and it was a blast. Originally broadcast on Halloween 1987, this special deals with reporter Frank Stewart who is outside the infamous Webber House (what's with these infamous horror houses?). At first it seems like he's just messing around with the crowd surrounding the house, but then the investigation begins within the house and the horror is finally discovered. A creative idea, where they 'found' this tape after so many years, with commercials made inbetween the broadcast, the tape being damaged and with tracking that needs to be adjusted. A breath of fresh air, and can't wait to see what else the forces behind the film come up with next.
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Flesh and Bullets (1985 dir. Carlos Tobalina) - Strangers on a Train by way of 1980's sleaze, Flesh and Bullets was a great discovery, a film I would show with Bare Knuckles because of that level of acting that is almost bad, yet you can't keep your eyes off of it. The older I get, the more I don't abide by the whole 'so bad, it's good' movie motif, but this would fit in with that idea if you like to use that one. Two guys meet in Las Vegas, and they both seem to have awful ex-wives who are taking all of their money in alimony. So they come up with the plan to kill each other's ex- wives, because they wouldn't be able to tie it to them because they would have alibis. But then it gets really weird. We're introduced to one guy who convinces two random bums to come with him to a bank, and while he's robbing it, they don't even realize it. With one of the greatest/worst disguises ever. And the other guy was sexually assaulted by two drunken wrestlers. And a young and tight shirt wearing Robert Z'Dar (who I will always miss). One of my favorite releases from Vinegar Syndrome.
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The Brain (1988 dir. Ed Hunt) - David Gale plays another evil doctor, this time in control of a huge alien brain who is helping him take control of the minds of the people who watch his Scientology-like show Independent Thinkers. All that stands in his way is a high school student who loves to play pranks. This is one of the weirdest horror films I've seen, because it was one I had only seen pictures of the monster, The Brain, and seeing it in motion is a joy. Practical effects is something I always champion, and this one has some great monster effects, with some intense kills. One in which the Brain looks like a scrotum while eating a person. If that description doesn't have you seeking this film out, I don't know what will.
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Other films that almost made the list are The Mutilator, Evils of The Night, They Nest, Psychic Killer, Pigs, Night Slaves, Seeding of a Ghost, The Final Sanction, Maximum Force, Cards of Death, HollowGate, Revenge of the Radioactive Reporter, Designing Woman, It's Always Fair Weather and Frightmare.

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