Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Samuel B. Prime ""

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Underrated '77 - Samuel B. Prime

Samuel B. Prime is a moving image advocate, curator, and archivist based in Los Angeles. He is also a contributor to LAist and The Village Voice. In 2015, he served as a producer for Etiquette Pictures' Blu-Ray release of CATCH MY SOUL (1974) and also worked on the special features. Otherwise, he deeply admires Dick Cavett's savoir faire and his favorite Sonny Chiba film is Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's now on Blu-ray WOLFGUY: ENRAGED LYCANTHROPE (1975). Find him online at www.lacinesalon.com for essays, film reviews, and free streaming movies.

DEATH PROMISE (Robert Warmflash, 1977)
Back in 2005, after the midday bacchanal of a close friend's high school graduation party, we made a trip to our local Best Buy to immediately spend a gift card that he had received. We wanted to buy a movie, or - ideally - many, but our budget was limited. Then, there appeared to us a shining top-shelf beacon, a DVD collection that demanded ownership: The All-New Wu-Tang Clan Soldiers of Darkness DVD collection. 20 feature films, including a poorly-produced, but eminently well-meaning documentary on the Wu-Tang Clan entitled DA MYSTERY OF KUNG-FU. The contents ranged from foundational martial arts movies like HELL'S WIND STAFF (1979) to Taiwanese productions such as EUNUCH OF THE WESTERN PALACE (1979) to a bizarre compilation of "extreme wrestling" clips.

But then there was Robert Warmflash's DEATH PROMISE (1977). From the first moments of its sky-scanning camera pan across New York City and the funky beat of its title theme, we were in love. Charles Bonet and Speedy Leacock, looking to latch onto the throats of greedy tenement landlords and never let go. There is so much to genuinely love about what is maybe the world's only rentsploitation jam: that it aspires to be the greatest kung-fu movie ever made (ever!), features near-subliminal rats, Dr. Claw from INSPECTOR GADGET, and a mush-mouth martial arts master, and more! Almostten years later, midnight programmer extraordinaire Phil Blankenship would screen the film on 35mm and it would be an all-time memorable LA repertory viewing experience. The best! :-)
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THE RUBBER GUN (Allan Moyle, 1977)
A film from the era where all Canadian feature films were either experimental, educational, or dyed-in-the-wool arthouse pictures, THE RUBBER GUN is of that third set: a curiously metatextual faux documentary presumably inspired by its creators true-to-life experiences. Director Allan Moyle and other cast members appear in the film not as themselves, but as characters using their real life names (as in the character 'Stephen Colbert'). This is a film where dramatic truth - truthful resonance within an obvious, all-but-acknowledged fiction - is favorable to truth in actuality. Its thesis seems to be that an observer or interloper perverts genuine truth by influencing, shaping, distorting, interfering, or destroying what may be a natural order; in this case, a unit of people united socially as a family without any blood relation by their common interest in narcotics.

The heart of THE RUBBER GUN seems to be an accidental betrayal. Moyle can neither study nor write about this most atypical family unit without drawing unwanted (but not exactly unwarranted) attention to himself and those that comprise the family. Since their business is illegal, after all, this by-product has perhaps obviously negative implications. Moyle doesn't mean to cause harm, but cannot help it. His quest could never end in anything but tragedy. In that sense, this film feels like an apology to those whose names are perhaps missing from the film, replaced with the cast and crew who are seen, heard, or otherwise mentioned within the narrative. I don't know enough about this film's history to know if that is true, but that is - for the moment - what *feels* true. In any case, this is a remarkable picture that amongst numerous other creative triumphs illustrates that Stephen Lack, who is such a dud in SCANNERS (1981) through no fault of his own, is (or can be) one of the most charming, affable, and charismatic onscreen personas in - I mean it - cinema history.

JABBERWALK, or: THIS IS AMERICA (Romano Vanderbes, 1977)
Everything worth loving about America, in all its fucked-up, fractious capitalist complexity: drive-thrus, drive-ins, tune-ins, drop outs, fast food, fast cars, crashed cars, fast women, loose women, muddy women, Miss All-Bare America 1975, Hollywood Woodlawn (R.I.P.), hot dogs, pizza snacks, junk food of all shapes and sizes for people of all shapes and sizes, Satan worshippers, waggling dicks both real and fake, gyrating lady parts, polygamy in Salt Lake City, and so much more that I have forgotten since last watching this two years ago over the 4th of July weekend.
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1 comment:

Ira Brooker said...

100% with you on Stephen Lack in "The Rubber Gun." It really is a performance for the ages. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is maybe David Thewliss in "Naked," but that doesn't quite capture the hyperverbal charisma of Lack's work here.