Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '87 - Terek Puckett ""

Monday, May 29, 2017

Underrated '87 - Terek Puckett

Terek Puckett is a freelance film writer and the creator/operator of THE BRIEF MACABRE-a website dedicated to showcasing the best live-action horror short films available online:
http://thebriefmacabre.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thebriefmacabre
He is a former contributor to Taste of Cinema and PopOptiq/Sound on Sight:
http://www.tasteofcinema.com/author/terek/
http://www.popoptiq.com/author/terek-puckett/
****
1987 is home to some personal favorites including Lethal Weapon, Predator and The Stepfather.
The following less-discussed gems from that year are in alphabetical order:

Best Seller (John Flynn, 1987)
James Woods has never been more perfectly utilized in a film than his portrayal of a hitman who teams with a cop turned crime writer played by Brian Dennehy to expose the dark secrets behind a powerful politician’s rise to power.

The story has a genuine cleverness to it and the film is filled with superbly acted confrontational moments including a blistering scene between Woods and Dennehy in a bar.

Quirky auteur Larry Cohen is best known for his horror films as director including the It’s Alive trilogy (1974, 1978, 1987), Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and The Stuff (1985) but his screenplay for Best Seller demands to be considered one of Cohen’s most accomplished works.

The film is very well-directed by John Flynn, who had previously made the superb revenge film Rolling Thunder (1977).
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A Chinese Ghost Story (Ching Siu-Tung, 1987)
Pu Songling’s novel comes to life in this great action-fantasy about a tax collector who runs afoul of an evil creature after falling in love with a beautiful ghost.

Light touches such as the unexpected performance of a song about Taosim that could have easily sabotaged the tone of other films actually add to the charm of A Chinese Ghost Story.

The film’s action sequences are visually stunning including a forest battle with a deadly giant tongue and a climactic showdown in the underworld.

A major success, this classic of the 1980s-early 1990s golden era of Hong Kong films spawned two less-than-satisfying sequels, a remake and an animated version.
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Double Target (Bruno Mattei, 1987)
An ideal double-feature companion to Mattei’s own Strike Commando from the same year, this silly but enjoyable slice of Italian military action cinema stars Miles O’Keeffe and Bo Svenson.

Double Target runs with the story idea of giving its lead character a partner for his mission into hostile territory-a narrative element present in early versions of the screenplay for George P. Cosmatos’ 1985 world-wide hit Rambo: First Blood Part II.

Highlights of the film include an early shark attack on our hero that “borrows” footage from Enzo G. Castellari’s notorious Jaws rip-off Great White (aka The Last Shark, 1981) and a later motorcycle-bound escape from an enemy camp that is so ineptly executed it borders on slapstick comedy.

Add in a memorable supporting performance from Donald Pleasence as a twitchy senator and you’ve got an entertaining Rambosploitation romp.

Despite making some truly terrible movies during his career-his 1995 shark attack abomination Cruel Jaws leaps instantly to mind-Bruno Mattei is unfairly labelled as a European Ed Wood.

At his best, Mattei made multiple films that possess a level of entertainment value Wood only dreamed about achieving including the paeans to plagiarism Robowar (1988) and Shocking Dark (aka Terminator II, 1989).

Eastern Condors (Sammo Hung, 1987)
Legendary actor Sammo Hung directed and stars in this story of a group of convicts assigned to destroy a bunker full of weaponry in Vietnam.

Filled with memorable sequences that mix martial arts with military action including Hung’s high-flying machete attack on an enemy base and the film’s exciting climax that leaves few survivors-this distinctly Hong Kong take on the “group on a mission” subgenre is definitely worth seeking out.

Hung, who trimmed down substantially for his role, turns in one of the most impressive physical performances of his career here.

The screenplay for Eastern Condors was written by Barry Wong who is best known as the scribe behind John Woo’s 1992 classic Hard-Boiled.
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Extreme Prejudice (Walter Hill, 1987)
Anchored by a great Nick Nolte performance, this film about a Texas Ranger facing off with a childhood friend turned drug kingpin played by Powers Boothe is one of director Hill’s best films.

Extreme Prejudice also stars the great character actors Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown in solid performances as members of a military group that crosses paths with Nolte’s Ranger.

The story element revolving around a romantic rivalry over Maria Conchita Alonso’s character is forced and unnecessary, especially considering all the narrative threads Extreme Prejudice is already given to juggle by its multiple screenwriters, but the overall film works very well.
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The Fourth Protocol (John Mackenzie, 1987)
Adapted from a Frederick Forsyth novel, this forgotten Cold War-era suspense thriller stars Michael Caine in an underrated performance as a British agent and features the superb use of Pierce Brosnan as a Russian operative attempting to build a nuclear bomb near a military base.

The Fourth Protocol has some echoes of Fred Zinnemann’s much more famous Forsyth adaptation Day of the Jackal (1973) but is actually the better film.

Director Mackenzie is best known for the British crime film classic The Long Good Friday (1980) that featured Brosnan in a brief but important role.
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The Kindred (Stephen Carpenter & Jeffrey Obrow, 1987)
Excellent makeup effects highlight this story of genetic experimentation gone wrong.

The characters in The Kindred aren’t going to blow any viewers away but the film creates genuine atmosphere during its nighttime scenes and its nightmarish creature creations realized by future Oscar winner Matthew Mungle including the very impressive reveal of pulsating gills growing on a victim’s body are outstanding.

The creative duo of Carpenter and Obrow had previously made the horror films The Dorm That Dripped Blood (aka Pranks, 1982) and The Power (1984).
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Wicked City (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1987)
Highly accomplished Japanese animation director Kawajiri delivers a very entertaining adaptation of the Hideyuki Kikuchi novel about a pair of bodyguards assigned to protect a diplomat from assassination by shapeshifting creatures on the eve of a historic peace treaty signing.

The animation is very crude by contemporary standards but Wicked City still holds up very well due to its fast pace and creative displays of physical weaponry including organic projectiles shot from various body parts and a deadly attack by supersonic scream.

Hong Kong director Peter Mak made a far less engaging and markedly less violent live-action version of the same story in 1992.

Yoshiaki Kawajiri is best known for the popular Ninja Scroll (1993) but his masterpieces are the criminally overlooked 3-part mini-series Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990) and the stellar Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000).
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