Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Ira Brooker ""

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Underrated '77 - Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a writer, editor and trash cinema enthusiast living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His Letterboxd account is a document of a life poorly spent. You can find his writing all over the place, and especially at atalentforidleness.blogspot.com, irabrooker.com and @irabrooker.

Check out his Underrated '87 list here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2017/03/underrated-ira-brooker.html
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The Rubber Gun (Directed by Allan Moyle)
Allan Moyle’s popularity peaked in the ‘90s with a pair of movies about good-looking outsiders fighting the system on a small scale, “Pump Up the Volume” and “Empire Records.” I get the appeal of those movies but they didn’t click for me when I was their target audience and they don’t do much more for me now. Moyle’s debut feature, on the other hand, is an exploration of a lot of those same themes that’s also straight up my alley.

“The Rubber Gun” is arty, talky stuff focused on a group of omnisexual hipsters sharing a Montreal flat, dealing drugs to the neighborhood, and functioning as something very close to a cult of personality orbiting around charismatic motormouth Stephen Lack. Moyle directs with a loose, improvised style that makes full use of Lack’s stellar turn as the de facto dictator of the commune, a hyperverbal artist who believes himself to be the smartest guy in any given room even as a half-assed police sting closes in around him. I can see this one being too pretentious or affected for some tastes - it’s the kind of movie where the characters have the same names as their actors and conversational vignettes carry at least as much weight as dramatic development - but in my book it’s a fascinating slice of life on the margins that’s better than anything Moyle has made since.


Death Game (Directed by Peter S. Traynor)
Family man Seymour Cassell is settling in for a quiet weekend home alone when his solitude is interrupted by stranded partygoers Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke, who invite themselves in a promptly set about seducing Cassell and then torturing him emotionally, physically, sexually for what appears to be no particular reason.

I expected this movie to undergo a major rediscovery when Eli Roth and Keanu Reeves remade it as “Knock Knock” a couple years back, but it turned out nobody much cared about that movie, so this one remains obscure. It’s easy to see why - it’s an aurally shrill, viscerally unpleasant, morally repellent film, but it’s also pretty close to great. It’s a bit like “Funny Games” stripped of its message statement and played straight. As someone who considers “Funny Games” a preachy piece of gimmickry, I consider that an improvement. Camp and Locke are genuinely scary as a couple of bubbly sadists in the Manson Family vein, and the whole thing is riddled with claustrophobic ugliness that keeps you squirming. Cassell apparently hated the movie so much that he refused to come back for ADR work, so his whole performance is dubbed, which only adds to the discordant appeal.
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The Heroin Busters (Directed by Enzo G. Castellari)
There’s a lot of underrating going on in “The Heroin Busters,” starting with star Fabio Testi. While he doesn’t seem to command the same cult following as, say, Franco Nero or Maurizio Merli, for my money he’s the most soulful and charismatic of ‘70s Italian exploitation leading men. He’s an easygoing, athletic delight here as a deep cover narcotics agent looking to, as the English title subtly suggests, bust up the heroin trade in Rome. If the movie doesn’t display quite as much of his charm as some other Testi roles, it’s mostly because it doesn’t need to lean on him as much.

That’s courtesy of the film’s other major underrating, Enzo G. Castellari, a guy whose reputation as a solid director of grindhouse knock-offs does a disservice to his skills as a top-notch action director. Castellari keeps “The Heroin Busters” clipping along at a splendid pace, piling up jailbreaks, foot chases, overdoses, helicopter showdowns, vehicular mayhem, and one unforgettable escalator ride into an exhilarating splash of nonsense that’s never less than a blast to watch.

And then, of course, there’s the hard-funk score by Goblin, which qualifies as underrated mainly because I never see it mentioned in the same breath as their most famous work. I say it ranks right up there with their best, which puts it in rarified company indeed.
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Death Promise (Directed by Robert Warmflash)
This one is a pure 99%-er revenge fantasy, and heaven knows we need those now more than ever. After a cabal of wealthy landlords conspires to raise the rent on their poorest tenants, a group of multiethnic avengers rises up to set things straight via the power of martial arts. It's goofy, ludicrous wish-fulfillment full of shaky stunts and tremulous acting, but damn is it a satisfying thing to see.
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Matinee (Directed by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo)
Two small-town kids with dreams of big-city mischief wind up falling in with a group of Mexico City thieves. The boys quickly learn the good, bad, and mundane sides of a life of crime.

This is a strange one, playing at various times like a French coming-of-age film, an American outsider character study, and a seedy Italian crime flick. While the latter vibe comes through strongest, it's laced with humor and is often gorgeous to look at. It's too uneven to call a genuine forgotten classic, but it's peppered with enough moments of beauty and weirdness to make it well worth seeking out.
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Rituals (Directed by Peter Carter)
The ‘70s yielded plenty of man-against-nature action thrillers of extremely variable quality, and “Rituals” (somewhat nonsensically also known as “The Creeper”) is near the top of the heap. This one plays kind of like a hybrid of “Deliverance,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Die Hard” with Hal Holbrook in the John McClane role. Tell me there’s anything about that that doesn’t sound awesome.

The backwoods slashers and supernatural themes are plenty creepy in their own right, but it’s the Canadian wilderness that’s the real heavy here. I haven’t seen many movies that make a day in the woods seem more like a death sentence.
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Yeti: The Giant of the 20th Century (Directed by Gianfranco Parolini)
The Italian and Canadian exploitation booms of the ‘70s dovetail about as bizarrely as you could hope for in this sort-of kiddie flick. This story of a mostly gentle man-beast unearthed by researchers, exploited by hucksters, and demonized by philistines is an unabashed “King Kong” rip-off, but its clunky good nature and overall weirdness qualify it as time well spent. If nothing else, it's the only movie I know of to feature a Yeti rampaging through Toronto and doling out justice to the evil-hearted.
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