Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '97 - Dave Wain ""

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Underrated '97 - Dave Wain

Dave Wain is one half of the creative team behind - an online feast of genre film analysis and leftfield retrospectives. Along with his scribing life-partner, Matty Budrewicz, he’s part of the writing team on the acclaimed tome, It Came from the Video Aisle: Inside Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment Studio, which is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good bookstores. Paired with Matty you can regularly find him on Blu-ray releases from 88 Films, with their latest work including lengthy interviews with Tommy McLoughlin for One Dark Night and Nick von Sternberg for Slaughterhouse Rock. Dave can be found on Twitter @thedavewain.

TROJAN WAR (1997; George Huang)
I usually have a self-imposed RPS rule with most #underrated lists, whereby if I spot anyone duplicating one of my selections I’ll knock it off the list before I send it in to Brian. However, even though Brian himself has championed this film on his own list, I still feel it demands another shout out as it’s one of my favourite nineties comedies, and criminally neglected. Perhaps best remembered for its $309 gross from a $15m budget, this Scott Myers (K-9 (1989)) scripted flick serenades you straight off the bat with the opening bars of goth icon Peter Murphy’s solo hit (in Greece anyway), I’ll Fall With Your Knife. With Brian nailing it with his After Hours (1985) comparison, I’d factor in a little Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) too, as director George Huang makes a very simple premise – boy needs condom – stretch for an eighty minute orgy of trippy mayhem. Unavailable in my neck of the woods since the days of VHS, I’m relying on my old Warner Archive import. This really needs some love!
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TWENTYFOURSEVEN (1997; Shane Meadows)
Poverty, drugs and life amidst the deprivation of broken Britain. Not exactly a recipe for clicking your heels and settling down for some rib-tickling entertainment, but Shane Meadows’ film is an essential portrayal of the never-ending cycle of despair that permeates so many of the former Industrial landscapes across the UK. Bob Hoskins has rarely been better as the good-natured Alan Darcy, who strives to give the local community a little purpose by setting up a boxing club. Shot in black and white, and injected (thankfully) with moments of treacle dark humour, it’s a life-lesson that succeeds in emotionally ripping you apart. It also marks the acting debut of a startlingly young James Corden as Tonka – “Tonka’s his nickname. ‘Cos he’s fat.”
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LIVING IN PERIL (1997; Jack Ersgard)
Nineties-era Rob Lowe is choc-full of interesting projects that I find myself dusting off from time to time, most notably forgotten thrillers like Jean Pellerin’s For Hire (1998) or Jonathan Heap’s Hostile Intent (1997). Living in Peril (or just Peril for us UK folks) falls into this bracket perfectly. Directed by Full Moon alumni Jack Ersgard in the wake of his double-header Mandroid (1993) and Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993), Lowe plays Walter, an architect, whose temporary secondment in L.A is hijacked by someone out to get him. But who could it be? With exceedingly able support from Dean Stockwell as his kooky landlord, Jim Belushi as a brash client, and Alex Meneses as the sultry neighbour Catherine, it’s a crazy caper with a surprise around every corner.
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MEET WALLY SPARKS (1997; Peter Baldwin)
Rodney Dangerfield will always have his knockers [insert punchline], and while there’s no doubt that Meet Wally Sparks comes nowhere near to the genius of Easy Money (1983) or Back to School (1986), it still makes for a ninety minute gag-fest, albeit one that works better in the twilight hours with an ice cold beer in hand. Dangerfield plays a Springer-esque tabloid TV host who winds up at the Governor’s mansion and unwittingly uncovers a sex scandal. “I’m here to spread Joy… if I can find her” he announces on his arrival. While some jokes fall spectacularly flat, it remains a gleeful exercise in bad taste, the pinnacle of which being a severed stone penis gag which they were obviously determined to wring every laugh possible out of! The list of cameos include Tony Danza, Michael Bolton and Ron Jeremy, while Michael Weatherly (NCIS) makes his feature film debut, and Burt Reynolds attaches a toupe that demands your attention.
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ABERRATION (1997; Tim Boxell)
Mutant lizards. Yeah, you’ve made your mind up already on this one haven’t you? Stay with me though, because when Tim Boxell’s movie opens amid the mountainous wilderness of New Zealand, you know that it’s not your standard creature feature. Amy (Pamela Gidley) is heading home, with her VW Beetle bursting with all her belongings, not to mention her pet fish and best friend Frankie the Cat. There’s something sinister lurking in her lodge though, a threat that’s further amplified by doom-mongering yokel Mr. Peterson who delivers the predictable “Get out of Langdon, while you still can!” There’s a cool ecological twist to this movie with the introduction of Marshall (Simon Bossell), a Field Researcher, while these murderous lizards are proud purveyors of some gore-tastic practical effects. There’s a slight stumble in the final reel with a plot development that doesn’t need to be there, but on the whole this is a slice of claustrophobic cabin-based chaos that needs unearthing.

I THINK I DO (1997; Brian Sloan)
As I’ve already stated, I’m such a sap for a cool opening track and I Think I Do sucked me right in thanks to the dulcet tones of Matthew Sweet serenading me with Sick of Myself. Aside from being just a cool, life-affirming, coming-of-age movie, Brian Sloan’s film serves to remind us just what a great actor Alexis Arquette was. Here he plays college kid Bob, who while out and proud himself, feels that his roommate Brendan (Christian Maelen) is harbouring his inner gay. With a pent up crush that fails to develop into anything of note, even despite the homoeroticism of their wedgy-orientated wrestling matches, the film fast-forwards five years later to a reunion of sorts at their friend Carol’s wedding. Here all the pent-up lust and affection rears its head once more, albeit in the most awkward scenarios imaginable.
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ONE NIGHT STAND (1997; Mike Figgis)
I was a little obsessed with Mike Figgis in the wake of Leaving Las Vegas (1995), and the expectation for his next movie was huge, both from fans and critics alike. So with crushingly awful reviews (“Three of the most obnoxious people ever born, all in one movie” wrote Scott Weinberg), and a meagre box office (a $2.6m return on a $24m budget), to call it a flop would be an understatement. It demands reappraisal though, not least for the fact that New Line paid Joe Eszterhas FOUR million dollars for his script, only for it to be ripped up and re-written by Figgis. Starring Wesley Snipes and Nastassja Kinski who wind up engaging in the titular scenario despite being married, it’s a fascinating tale of morality that has a peak-addiction Robert Downey Jr stealing the show as a mutual friend dying of AIDS. It’ll still divide opinion twenty years later, but I’m willing to wager that it may surprise you.
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BAD DAY ON THE BLOCK (1997; Craig R. Baxley)
I guested on a podcast recently where the post-Stone Cold (1991) directing career of Craig R. Baxley was met with a bewildered silence. The stunt coordinator extraordinaire lensed a handful of iconic action pictures from ‘88 – ‘91, but his TV movie career (aside from Stephen King adaptations) is often unfairly ignored. If you feel like dipping your toe into this sea of made-for-television quickies, then I’d suggest beginning with Bad Day on the Block. Charlie Sheen is Lyle Wilder, a decorated fireman, who in the wake of a messy divorce is teetering on the brink of a complete mental breakdown. When the kids next door accidentally fly a model plane through his bedroom window, it sets off a sinister chain of events that finally push him over the edge. Sheen is excellent here and manages to do crazy with unerring accuracy, while able support comes from Mare Winningham and John Ratzenberger. Tense, unsettling and ever-so-gripping, it’s a tough one to track down but it’s a real popcorn-chewing slice of TVM heaven.
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