Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '77 - Three Oranges ""

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Underrated '77 - Three Oranges

Three Oranges is one of those internet people. Movies, music and books fill his time when he's not working for the man. In his mind, he's free.

Follow him on Twitter, where he's trying to be less political:
See what he's watching on Letterboxd:
He also did an Underrated '87 list you should look at:

The Hobbit (1977)
Directed by Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Rankin/Bass are better known for their stop-motion TV specials, especially around Christmastime, but their TV movie of The Hobbit is one of several unique and surprisingly mature animated works.
Cast with serious, respected actors and drawn in a potentially alienating style, an audience of ‘70s and early ‘80s children instantly knew they were seeing something different. The music is either derived from the book or from folk legend Glenn Yarborough, characters die and grief is felt, and the only cuteness is character driven. Hobbits are supposed to cute, in wholesome British sort of way, after all.

As for that casting, one name stands out: Brother Theodore. Theodore was an existential comedian and performance artist turned actor, in addition to being a Holocaust survivor. He is, for some of us, the definitive Gollum. He is wretched without bathos, and his rage and insanity are natural and believable to an unsettling degree.
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Death Game (1977)
Directed by Peter Traynor
A person could do worse than watching the movies that influenced Eli Roth (some would say by watching the movies of Roth himself). He remade Death Game as Knock Knock, and it’s a fascinating artifact of late ‘70s schlock.
The performances drive this one. Not Seymour Cassel’s – he reportedly hated the project and his performance was overdubbed by another actor. Colleen Camp and Sondra Locke are all in, though, and their explosion of feminine angst and anger as they torture Cassel ‘s character is an ecstatic slap in the face. Locke, especially, is so waifish and delicate that her transformation is stunning.

It’s up to you how to interpret this one, if at all. Is it a condemnation of the dark lusts beneath the surface of the average man? A cathartic exercise in misdirected revenge, like Death Wish for the ladies? A sexy S&M exploitation romp? Ask the guy from the SPCA.
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Iphigenia (1977)
Directed by Michael Cacoyannis
The tragedy of Iphigenia is itself a tale of misdirected violence, and if one wanted a depiction of a girl mistreated in a way fuel righteous anger, this is a good choice.
Based on the Iphigenia in Auilis by Euripides, the film depicts the fall out when the goddess Artemis orders Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter to atone for his soldiers hilling her sacred deer. Without this sacrifice, the winds will not blow, the armies will not move, and how then will we get on with this war that simply must be fought?

One hesitates to apply feminist (or even anti-feminist) themes to a work from 408 B.C., but the changes made, including the ending, make it a worthwhile discussion for this version. Plus there’s the work of 13-year-old Tatiana Papamoschou, who imbues Iphigenia with such rich humanity that she is a real character, and not just a thematic pawn.
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The Visitor in the Eye (1977)
Directed by Nobihiko Obayashi
Nowhere in the world does higher melodrama exist than in the pages of ‘70s and ‘80s manga, and this film is the earliest adaptation of one of the best.
Black Jack is a doctor, a borderline mad doctor, but he is, quite simply, the best. With a shock of white hair and a stylish facial deformity, he can perform surgical feats that nobody else can, and he does it with flamboyant flair.

In this tale, a young tennis student is half-blinded by a stray tennis ball, and only Black Jack can rebuild her … using an eyeball stolen from a murder victim. The killer is imprinted on the eyeball, and he sure is handsome, and Sturm und Drang sure do result. This is mixed with some awkward comic relief and a string of cameos and references that only the most devoted fan of Japanese pop culture could catch.

For the Love of Benji (1977)
Directed by Joe Camp
Benji the Hunted is really the pinnacle of the Benji series, but they are all pleasant, family-friendly diversions. They also tend of have a bit more grit than one might expect, and they are cute without being insulting.
In this one, Benji gets lost on a family trip to Athens, after a shady character affixes a secret formula to his foot. Adventure ensues, and Benji must contend with crooked spies, a vicious Doberman, and the sheer doggy terror of being lost in a strange city.

This is Benji’s Cold War story, and it’s watchable to that extent by children and adults alike. There’s some gunplay and some hostage-taking, and the stakes are global and real. There are certainly worse spy movies from the period, and they don’t even feature “the most expressive face in dogdom.”
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