Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Brandon Smith ""

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Underrated '77 - Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has been a film junkie since the yesteryears of VHS and Laserdisc, also a hardcore advocate of physical media. @bsmith8168 is dedicated to seeking out any under seen and underrated film from around the globe. In his spare time he helps out the good people at AGFA to help in the preservation and distribution of many of oft talked of titles that many thought lost in the malaise of the grindhouse era.
The Mighty Peking Man
The Mighty Peking Man has now long become one of my favorite films of all time. Which seems like a ridiculous statement, but I've now seen this twice theatrically and owned the DVD and just recently upgraded to the new 88 Films BluRay release. The film starts off with the Peking Man literally busting out of a mountainside to completely destroy a small village. A down and out master hunter is brought in by a shyster to retrieve the beast so it can be paraded around as an amusement for quick cash. So now it's a pretty straightforward King Kong rip is what you're thinking, but wait there's more! So much more there is a jungle girl that is more than a little attractive with of course a pet leopard, a plethora of miniature and model destruction, and an onslaught of jungle threats throughout. So much fun at every turn and so much more than a rip off. The film was made by Shaw Brothers if that's helps to explain it. One of the best party films ever and a great drinking game could come out of this for every nip slip.
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The Black Panther
True story of Donald Nielsen played by Donald Sumpter (Game of Thrones) puts on a performance that is electrifying as the ex-military turned criminal known as The Black Panther. The film is gritty and holds nothing back as Nielsen starts out as a simple armed robber who kills someone in a job that got botched. From there Nielsen sinks further and further into depravity and the stakes are raised. The film has that special creepy feeling that you are watching something you shouldn't be, partially for how realistic it is. Some of the scenes in which Nielsen is reveling in his own notoriety has a strong resemblance to scenes of Taxi Driver and at the same time the scenes of him sneaking around his sleeping victims has a certain Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer danger and realism feel. Quite unsettling from start to finish and one of the high points of true crime cinema.
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Gran Bollito
The film starts as a strange and wondrous film as a mother played by Shelley Winters moves into a new home that is extravagant and picked out by her husband who then suffers a stroke whilst showing her the house. Winters continues living there with her now invalid husband and her son that she shows an unhealthy affection for. Winter's social circle includes a resident of the same building a woman that is played by a man (none other than Max Von Sydow), and multiple others women that are also played by men. Winters rapidly starts to go off the deep end when her son starts to become involved with a girl and starts to bump off her friends and makes soap out of there corpses. The entire film has a strange vibe to it. The gender bending acting roles is kind of cool due to the fact that a lot of the actors come back later in the film as male characters. Winters owns the film from start to finish and it looks great on the new Twilight Time BluRay release that seems to go on sale quite a bit.
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Stunt Squad
Great Poliziotteschi film that is about a bomber that is shaking up the city to get protection money by blowing up businesses via bombs being installed in telephones. Needless to say after multiple civilian causalities pile up the commissioner decides it's time to step it up by forming an all motorcycle police squad to take back the city. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot of motorcycle mayhem, but there is enough. Plus a ton of juicy genre tidbits like a classic castration scene, a random group of girls dance till they are naked at a jazz bar, and one of Italian '70s cinema's most rocking yet really funky score by Stelvio Cipirani. Pure entertainment from start to finish, a must for fans of crazy '70s Italian exploitation.
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Jungle Holocaust aka Last Cannibal World
Deodato's first film in his cannibal trilogy is probably the most balls out (literally) crazy entry into this subgenre. After a plane lands in a remote South Pacific region that is carrying two oil prospectors they quickly realize that something is wrong. The airstrip is unkept and the party that is suppose to meet them is nowhere to be found. Then the cannibals come out to play, the pilot and his companion are taken out first and the prospectors run into the jungle. The natives are never nice in this film, the lead played by Massimo Foschi in his only lead role to my knowledge is the main reason this film stands out. Foschi has zero fucks to give and once captured is stripped down and degraded by the cannibals for a large chunk of the film. Once he escapes Foschi is completely off his rocker, this guy does it all fights back, finds his buddy, savagely rips into a corpse for a quick snack to scare of the cannibals with cannibalism(?), and takes a female tribe member hostage. Most of this is done by the lead in the nude no less. Definitely not for everyone, this is a very crude film that unfortunately does dip into the animal cruelty zone that all these films tend to do, but is something that will drop the jaw of about any gore or genre fan.
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The Model Couple
I've championed William Klein once and I will again. Klein's view of the human species is always fun to watch for it grand absurdist view and The Model Couple is a prime example. A couple in a near future France is chosen to be in an experiment that is like The Truman Show only the couple knows about the viewers from the get go. Not only are they viewed living their life, they are specimen of some random scientists that basically are just there to fuck with them. This vision of the future is unique and is full of cutting edge sequences that keep the subject matter engaging even though you think the gimmick will start running thin it doesn't falter.
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Demon Seed
Let the head shaking begin this offbeat horror sci-fi mashup that is part 2001 and part Rosemary's Baby, but somehow highly original and rewarding. Julie Christie plays the lead the wife of a scientist that has created a revolutionary computer system that is self processing and is expected to become some sort of medical game changer that will cure everything. The film starts as the couple are breaking up and Christie remains in the house that contains the mind of the supercomputer Proteus. Proteus has his own agenda of scientific exploration and that is Christie and to reproduce with her. The premise sounds a lot more perverse than it really is, even though the computer does have his way with Christie and then becomes a ruthless entity that will let nothing stand in it's way. I don't understand the physics of computerized semen and you really shouldn't try. The film is well made there are a ton of great practical effects used and a choice appearance by Gerrit Graham that is always a solid bonus.
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The Devil, Probably
Second to last film from the great Robert Bresson is a masterwork that is not so much underrated, but not referenced nearly enough for what a quality piece it is. The film is focused on Charles who is a little more than slightly a wayward youth who is part of a group that is aware of the current problems on Earth such as pollution, war, and the greed of the soul of man. The group studies everyday human atrocities and also the interactions with some of the members of this group start to make a toll on the psyche of Charles. Charles is not a bad person, he tries to help his friends, he wants to have a good time, but after a while he decides that the only way for him to become content is to not exist and suicide starts to become an option. The film's tone is not very uplifting mostly because Charles rational of suicide in a way of it's own makes sense. The camerawork is really well done throughout and has a naturalist feel that is complimented nicely by a cast of unknowns. There is a DVD copy of this film that exists in England, but hopefully since Criterion has released more than half of all of Bresson's work this may be down the pipeline and will get the exposure that this film sorely needs.
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Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon
Sonny Chiba is back as the world renowned assassin Gogol 13 and this time he must take down a drug kingpin in the streets of Hong Kong. Sounds like your run of the mill action film of the '70s, but with the charisma of Chiba and the nonstop insanity of the violence throughout this film it is elevated for a memorable experience. There is a little bit of everything in this film, the cops are about as ruthless as the criminals, and it features some pretty ingenious assassinations from Chiba. Unfortunately the only copy of this film I could track down was a really poor looking DVD that is in dire need of a remaster. The original Chiba Gogol film is not even available in America and OOP in Britain so maybe a nice double feature on BluRay would be able to bring these films the attention that they deserve.
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The Squeeze
Who else but Stacy Keach can pull off such a likable loser? The Squeeze is nothing short of amazing in every way, there is nothing wrong with this film. The plot is about a washed up drunken ex-cop that randomly gets pulled into a hostage situation, because the woman that is kidnapped is his ex-wife that wants nothing to do with him. The film is loaded with great actors besides just Keach, David Hemmings, Edward Fox, Stephan Boyd, Freddy Star and even Alan Ford (Bricktop from Snatch). The tension is always high and Keach's character presents such a existential view on things that you never really know what he'll do next and the ending is amazing. This is one of the best finds I've had this year. This needs to be on Blu-ray,
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