Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '97 - Daniel Budnik ""

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Underrated '97 - Daniel Budnik

Dan Budnik's second book, '80s Action Movies On The Cheap, is available now and can be ordered from Amazon. His first book, Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey, is out of print but can still be found by those who look hard enough. His writing is on the Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things blog and the Bleeding Skull! website. He is host of the Eventually Supertrain and the Dan's Drive-In Double Feature podcasts, located at He is also co-host of The Made For TV Mayhem Show and part of the Podcastmania horror discussion."

Check out Dan's Underrated '87 list here:

Bloodletting: An SOV- story of a couple who go on a killing spree, a la Natural Born Killers, but without all the Oliver Stone flourish on top of it. It’s a well-acted, gory, sometimes shocking movie that is based on a short piece called I’ve Killed Before. A lot of these 1990s direct-to-video horror movies have kind of gotten lost to time. While the 80s (and the very early 90s) seem to be getting constantly mined, the majority of the 90s is semi-forgotten except by the hardcore horror fans. Bloodletting stumbles the more it tries to be Tarantino-esque (as pretty much everyone did) but it has its own idiosyncrasies that make it worthwhile. Plus, on a personal note, I first saw this with the star of the film, Ariauna Albright. I showed her Don’t Go In The Woods. She showed me this. It was a lovely evening.
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Fierce Creatures: “In order to enjoy Fierce Creatures, keep repeating ‘It’s not A Fish Called Wanda… it’s not A Fish Called Wanda…’” Everyone thought the next film from the Wanda gang would be Wanda 2. It wasn’t nor was it meant to be. It was another John Cleese script with the same ensemble. And, unfortunately, it was nowhere near as good as its predecessor. But, it is quite good. I saw it on opening night. Once I got over the fact that these weren’t the characters from Wanda, I was in. I laughed. I appreciated the satire. I loved the cast. I had an honest-to-goodness swell time. Later when I saw reviews, I thought “Oh, I should have disliked that. Oops.” Well, I still don’t dislike it. If you only saw it when it came out, it’s time for another viewing. If you skipped it, watch it now. You’ll laugh a whole bunch. What else can you ask for?
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Speed 2: Cruise Control: By 1997, action films had gone completely dumb. In the 1980s, which I am somewhat familiar with (see my second book), they could be dumb. But, the best of them weren’t and the ones that leaned towards dumb generally knew it and were winking at us. By 1997, the best of them were as dumb as the rest of them and any eye winking was simply obnoxious. There were three movies (from 1995 and 1996) that killed my interest in big summer blockbusters. But, I saw the preview for Speed 2 and had to go see it. If this film was half as dumb as its trailer and its premise, then I would have a swell time regardless. I went. I had a great time. Is it dumb? Oh yes. Maybe the dumbest. Did it rekindle my interest in summer blockbusters? No. My thinking was “This was completely straight-faced stupidity that was so entertaining I can’t imagine another film getting that combination so right so I’ll stop here.” The initial premise is daft as a brush. And, then they keep piling it on. When you think “Surely, they’ve got nothing else,” they do! They always do! All the way up to the final absurd/ enthralling scene. Damn, I need to watch this again.
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Mr. Nice Guy: Let me get the negative out of the way first: The script for this movie does no one any favors in the dialogue department. Jackie is all right. But, the Australian actors are generally stranded, delivering poor dialogue flatly. That’s too bad because the rest of the movie is Jackie Chan-action stripped down to the barest minimum of plots to allow for maximum action and stunts. Sammo Hung is, as always, a brilliant action director and he and Jackie are in the pocket throughout the (non-speaking) parts of the film. Yes, occasionally Sammo tries something a little bit experimental (like some of the slow-mo) that doesn’t fully work but I’d rather see someone stretch and not quite make it than stay safe all the time. Jackie plays a chef who winds up with a VHS tape that some gangsters want. Then, fighting starts and it doesn’t end. I’m not sure why more folks don’t go nuts for this one. It’s great fight, after action scene, after stunt scene, followed by slapstick action followed by one of Jackie’s best fights ever on the construction site. I love it to bits.
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House of Frankenstein (mini-series): This one is a 2-part miniseries that remakes (in its own way) House of Frankenstein. I grew up on the Universal horror films and I still watch them regularly. When I heard this was airing, I had a friend tape it for me. I was (mostly) not disappointed. It was a bit too mid-90s for me. (I’m not sure what I fully mean by that. Suffice it to say, some of it felt dated as I watched it even though it was brand new.) The plotting felt a little off. Maybe like it could have done with another re-write. And, it suffered from the Amerika Flaw (aka V: The Final Battle syndrome). Amerika was a 13 ½ miniseries that I watched religiously and got super pissed at when it didn’t have an ending. It was all set up for a series that never came. House of Frankenstein kind of does this. However, monsters are always more fun than communists so it didn’t hurt as much. Even though this miniseries wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I enjoyed it. It’s always lovely to see the monsters. No matter if it’s Mad Monster Party? or The Monster Squad or The Groovie Goolies or Monster Squad, I love them unconditionally. Although I have not watched it since 1997, I hold very fond memories of it. I’m going to try to watch it again this Halloween.

The Man Who Knew Too Little: We get wiseass Bill Murray at his most flippant. We see Joanne Whalley dressed as a maid. We’re covered in International spy shenanigans. And, I remember, I had a particularly good box of popcorn that day. All these things add up to a movie that I quite like but I didn’t love. However, in watching it again about a year ago, I found… I still had the exact same opinion. I don’t know why the film isn’t funnier than it is but it’s definitely amusing and very charming. (I’m reminded of The Man with One Red Shoe.) I love the script’s willingness to follow the main joke all the way down the line. Regardless of whether it’s funny however, it is Bill Murray being wonderful. That should make everyone consider checking it out.
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