Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - Peter A. Martin ""

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Peter A. Martin

Peter is managing editor at Screen Anarchy. He is also a contributing writer for and other fine print and online publications. He is a member of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Film Critics Association and the Online Film Critics Society.

Here is another cool Film Discoveries list he did last year:
As it happens, many of the older films I watched for the first time in 2016 were … alright, kinda average, … meh. Certainly I don't regret the hours I spent watching them; how else to know unless you see for yourself? Still, I was very pleased to make the following discoveries.
The Laughing Policeman (1973; Stuart Rosenberg)
A police procedural that is elevated by Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern as police detectives partnered on the night that Matthau's former partner is killed in a mass murder on a city bus. Matthau spends a lot of time just thinking, rather than talking, but the movie includes plenty of low-key action. It's set in San Francisco, which theoretically should make the cops more sophisticated, but Dern's racism keeps spiking things up. It's all held together by Matthau under Rosenberg's understated direction.
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Castle Freak (1995; Stuart Gordon)
Tense and quite engaging tale of terror, reuniting Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton with director Stuart Gordon. Since this is based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and Gordon excels at making screen adaptations of the writer's work, it's better than what a synopsis might suggest, and it's great to have Combs and Crampton battling it out as a married couple who no longer see eye to eye.
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Backfire (1950; Vincent Sherman)
Terrific! A noir-ish mystery with a crackling script, and Edmond O'Brien too. Sterling Hayden plays a police detective who brooks no nonsense, with Gene Nelson as a hapless ex-con trying to go straight. Set in Los Angeles, which is always a bonus.
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Crime Wave (1954; Andre De Toth)
Precise, almost to the point of machine-tooled, but the wonderfully grotty human shortcomings make it even more compelling to behold. Sterling Hayden in his heyday was such a magnetic force.
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Figures in a Landscape (1970; Joseph Losey)
An existential road movie with bursts of vibrant action. Great scenery chewing by Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell. Daring script, adapted by Robert Shaw. The first half-hour or so is nothing but running, running, running! And we don't even know why! I loved all the bits that were not at all what I expected or might have anticipated.
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The Woman on the Beach (1947; Jean Renoir)
A riveting daytime noir in which melodrama run grimly amuck. Robert Ryan is a Coast Guard veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (?!); he falls for Joan Bennett, who is married to a kindly but blind painter (Charles Bickford). Striking compositions and nervy performances make this compelling, even though RKO execs reportedly slashed the movie to 71 minutes.
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The Last Detail (1973; Hal Ashby)
What makes it extraordinary is how ordinary it is. Jack Nicholson gives his finest performance, or at least one on equal with CHINATOWN, and that's because Robert Towne wrote a very fine script, filled with authentically salty language, and Nicholson embraces it fully. Both he and Otis Young actually sound like military lifers who have been worn down by years of submission to a system they don't believe in anymore.
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Scene of the Crime (1949; Roy Rowland)
Snappy crime drama written by Charles Schnee, featuring a fine lead performance by Van Johnson as a dogged homicide detective and a striking femme fatale in Gloria DeHaven. Not a true film noir but in a similar spirit.
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Too Many Husbands (1940; Wesley Ruggles)
Spot-on delivery, sparkling performances, gangbusters direction. Eminently silly and eminently enjoyable comic tale of a husband who has long been missing returning to find his wife has married another. Jean Arthur is awesome, naturally, so the pleasant surprise for me here were the sophisticated laughs wrought by Fred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas.
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