Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Evan Purchell ""

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Underrated '77 - Evan Purchell

Evan produces and cohosts the forthcoming Don’t Go in the Closet Podcast, which focuses on queer content in genre film. He’s @schlockvalue on Twitter and is on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/schlockvalue.

Andy Warhol’s Bad (1977, dir. Jed Johnson)
Like an early John Waters or Andy Milligan film with an actual budget, one-and-done director Jed Johnson’s BAD sits comfortably between the two, mixing the weaponized shock of PINK FLAMINGOS with the Staten Island gutter nihilism of SEEDS. It’s not quite as extreme (or LOUD) as either of those, but Johnson does share one thing in common with Waters and Milligan: he’s more than willing to toss a baby out of a window. Susan Tyrrell is the biggest surprise, cast against type as the sole character who ISN’T completely reprehensible.
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The Battle Wizard (1977, dir. Pao Hsueh-Li)
Wizard battles are one of my favorite elements of genre cinema because they’re nothing but pure visual wankery – an excuse to throw everything at the screen in an explosion of lazer beams, fireworks, smoke bombs, and squibs. Think THE RAVEN. Think DREAM WARRIORS. Think STUNT ROCK. And most of all, think THE BATTLE WIZARD. It’s got what all of those other films don’t have: snake men, sorcerers with robot chicken legs, and dagger-shooting dog bones – and it’s only 77 minutes long. What more could you ever want?
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Hitch-Hike (1977, dir. Pasquale Festa Campanile)
A sleazy, bourbon-and-sweat-soaked RV Western from a man who spent most of his career making comedies, HITCH-HIKE might just be one of the most mean-spirited Italian movies of the 70s. David Hess is once again riffing on his Krug character from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but here, he's the personification of Franco Nero’s cuckolded writer’s id, an unrepentant misogynist whose frequent homophobia hints at something deeper. This is what Italians think America is like, and they’re not wrong.
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Polk County Pot Plane (1977, dir. Jim West)
Like a likkered-up CLOSE-UP, this blurs the lines between documentary and fiction in a haze of pot and BO. I'm not sure which is stranger, the real-life story that it’s based on, or the fact that it even exists and that no one died while making it. Cars hurtle through prefab houses, people hang from helicopters, and RVs are ripped in half, but this wasn’t made by a team of professionals – it’s just a former politician, a couple off-duty cops, and the members of some local bar band staging insane stunts around their backwoods roadside town. There’s a geniality to this that makes it so endearing, feeling less like a for-profit venture than it does the film version of a private-press country record, meant to tell a local legend and entertain townies at the Jonesboro drive-in.
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Take One (1977, dir. Wakefield Poole)
Wakefield Poole’s best films are the ones that bridge the thin divide between art and pornography, positively depicting male sexuality in a way that was groundbreaking at the time and is still revelatory even now. TAKE ONE isn’t quite as good as his earlier BIJOU, but it is much more ambitious. Combining documentary with fantasy, Poole lets a series of real men describe and then live out their erotic fantasies on camera, before assembling his cast for a screening at San Francisco’s Nob Hill Theatre that becomes a mental orgy as each man watches the others on screen. Largely unseen until Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration last year, TAKE ONE is an essential piece of queer cinema from the pre-VHS era – and is more of a realistic, honest portrayal of gay men and culture than any other film from 1977.
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Six more picks:
DAY OF THE ANIMALS (dir. William Girdler)

FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE (dir. Robert A. Endelson)

THE MIGHTY PEKING MAN (dir. Ho Meng-Hua)

PUNK ROCK (dir. Carter Stevens)

THE PSYCHIC (dir. Lucio Fulci)

SHOCK (dir. Mario Bava)

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