Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '87 - Scott Drebit ""

Monday, April 17, 2017

Underrated '87 - Scott Drebit

Scott Drebit is a columnist for Daily Dead website, as well as Deadly magazine. His milkshake would bring all the boys to the yard, but he’s lactose intolerant. Find him on twitter @phantasm2.
Hey everyone! Here are some picks from 1987 that I feel deserve more attention than they currently receive. As well, some proof that I don’t ingest only horror.
The Offspring (1987; Jeff Burr)
However, I’m going to start with Jeff Burr’s horror anthology, The Offspring, AKA From a Whisper to a Scream. There’s always room for a good omnibus, and Burr’s take has it all: Psychotic siblings, voodoo, avenging carnival folk, and some Southern comeuppance. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of my adored Amicus joints (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror), but a game cast (Clu Gulager, Terry Kiser, Cameron Mitchell), some keen twists, good gore, and a wraparound featuring Vincent Price elevate the material above “been there, seen that” status.
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Best Seller (1987; John Flynn)
Some films seem to be constructed as a showcase for great actors; or, if they’re not built that way, at least that’s how they are remembered. Such is the case with Best Seller; a taut, lean thriller directed by John Flynn (the electric Rolling Thunder), and written by trash sensei Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q, The Stuff). Brian Dennehy portrays a cop who is also a novelist with a bit of writer’s block. James Woods, spring loaded as usual, is a hitman who wants Dennehy to write about his exploits. At the end of the day, it isn’t the plot you’ll remember, but rather the interplay between the two unique actors, which is more than enough to satisfy.
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Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987; Gary Sherman)
Rutger Hauer had a very interesting career stateside, post The Hitcher (1986). Surprisingly, he was offered protagonist roles following that psychotic turn. One such role was as bounty hunter Nick Randall, the great grandson of Steve McQueen’s Josh Randall from the 1950’s TV series of the same name. I saw this when it came out, and I had no idea about the connection, nor would I have been old enough to care. Anyhoo, Nick’s a loner, rides a motorcycle, all that good stuff, and goes up against a Middle Eastern terrorist played by KISS’ Gene Simmons. It was the ‘80s folks; and unfortunately these were the targets we chose as villains in film and on TV. Wanted still works because a) Hauer is cool as leather; and b) Gary Sherman, no stranger to kinetic action films (Vice Squad), directs with the kind of aplomb that makes a B reeler like this stand out. He also directed the amazing horror film Dead & Buried, which gives him an automatic pass for life. Never forget: “Fuck the bonus.”
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Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987; Taylor Hackford)
Say what you will about Chuck Berry; from his noxious bathroom activities to his sincere appreciation of money over art, the tunes hold up. One of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll, Berry has been alternately coy and brazen about his place in the lexicon. Superfan Keith Richards, after watching Berry’s music suffer at the hands of sloppy pickup bands from town to town (the only way Berry performs; he hires local bands on the cheap to reap the majority of coin), decides to throw a 60th birthday bash in Berry’s hometown of St. Louis. As bandleader, Richards brings in Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, and many more to join in this once in a lifetime concert. And as uplifting as the show is (there are some real corkers here), the best part of Taylor Hackford (Ray)’s film is the rehearsal footage, with Richards and Berry butting heads, Richards demonstrating his “what, me, worry?” attitude is sharply challenged by Berry’s “my way or fuck off” creed. Hail! Hail! is a fascinating look at a flawed but essential figure in rock history.
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The Believers (1987; John Schlesinger)
Voodoo, that hoary staple of ‘40s horror, was back in vogue by the ‘80s. The Believers is a dark arts thriller mixed with a police procedural in an attempt to ground it in some sort of reality. Martin Sheen plays a recently widowed police psychiatrist (watch out for that opening scene – yikes) who becomes embroiled in a diplomatic conspiracy. The film takes the subject matter very seriously, to a fault really; a slier tone may have melded the material better. But, a great cast (Robert Loggia, Richard Masur, Helen Shaver, Jimmy Smits), and some very effective moments (that opening; an arachnophobic’s nightmare; some indigestion problems), put the film over enough for me to recommend. It’s ultimately kind of silly, and I kind of love it.
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