Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Stephanie Crawford ""

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Underrated '77 - Stephanie Crawford

Stephanie Crawford has been writing and watching movies since she was a kid, and she likes to think the passion makes up for some of the lack of insight. You can catch her co-co-co-hosting and writing for The Screamcast, writing at F This Movie! and on Twitter @scrawfish.

DESPERATE LIVING (John Waters)
It's the classic tale of a hyper neurotic lady freaking out on her husband, causing her nurse to smother him to protect her "delicate" employer. Now on the lam--"I'm not your maid anymore, we're SISTERS IN CRIME!"--the duo end up in Mortville, a candy-colored shantytown filled with society's outcasts who are ruled by the fascist Queen Carlotta. This is about as classic John Waters as you can get without actually having Divine around, but everyone from Edith Massey to Mink Stole to a baby in a refrigerator are here. If possible, listening to the commentary with Liz Renay where she lists classic actresses she's more beautiful than is essential listening. John Waters is my favorite director after Alfred Hitchcock, and with lines like "I wouldn't wear this to a dog fight!" or "I'm so hungry I could eat cancer!" scattered like rubies among eye gouging wrestling scenes and dedicated fetishists, I think he should be yours, too.
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HIGH ANXIETY (Mel Brooks)
Mel Brooks is Mel Brooks, and there's a comforting certainty a viewer feels when starting one of his films. HIGH ANXIETY is a no-shame slapstick homage to the master Alfred Hitchcock (a BLAZING SADDLES fan who actually helped Brooks out with the script), where Brooks himself plays the new head head doctor at a corrupt asylum. Many of the gags could (and have been) in other Brooks' movies, and most of the Hitchcock homages are quick nods most audiences would catch, especially the "Vertigo" pay off. The charm and pure shamelessness of the cast are winning, and Harvey Korman is so gleefully sadistic, devious and game for bondage that it's worth the viewing alone. Throw in a loungey theme tune and a gorgeous Madeline Kahn and ruthless Cloris Leachman, and you got yourself a good time.
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EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (Burt I. Gordon)
Talk about a crummy real estate scam: Try explaining away giant ants during your open house! A group of strangers end up together for a free day of food and (kind of) travel under the guise of buying land from Joan Collins. People die while the survivors try to figure out why there are giant ants everywhere, which is reasonable enough. The effects are appropriately Burt I. Gordon no-budget magic, the ending is absolutely bonkers and wonderful, and the how seriously the plot is taken paired with how fierce Joan Collins consistently is when battling giant ants makes this one I thoroughly enjoy revisiting every few years.
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AUDREY ROSE (Robert Wise)
The 1970s was the decade of possession (mostly Satanic or demonic, but sometimes a witch would sneak in there) and by all accounts, Audrey Rose looked to be yet another rip-off of THE EXORCIST. However, this slow burn thriller-drama settles much more into parental unease rather than the horror of outside forces. Having the legendary Robert Wise kept it coherent (though this may be bad news for those who prefer a more gonzo approach to their possession movies) and Anthony Hopkins is sensitive and believable as a father who lost his child. He believes she's been reincarnated into another little girl displaying violent, startling symptoms that seem to defy normal explanation. If you allow yourself to get pulled into its lulling pace, it's memorable and even a little bit intoxicating.
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TENTACLES (Ovidio G. Assonitis)
Shelley Winters is always a good time (I'd sincerely watch the straight vacation footage of her here for hours) and having her in a movie with John Huston is the perfect aperitif to THE VISITOR, which came a few years later, which Assonitis also worked on. Heavy on the JAWS and hip bumping against IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, TENTACLES is comfortably familiar and a lot of silly, splashy fun. We go through the set pieces and classic motions of cutaway death and almost-death scenes bolstered by class acts like Henry Fonda and killer whales, all while we try not to get too distracted by the fact that octopi technically don't have tentacles. Some movies centered around violent death manage to keep an innocence about them, and that's definitely the case here.
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