Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Todd Liebenow ""

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Todd Liebenow

Todd writes about neglected cinema at his blog Forgotten Films, which I am a big fan of:
He also runs a great podcast about those kind of movies there too and I was a guest on the show (talking about MIDNIGHT MADNESS):
Todd also has another podcast called "Walt Sent Me" all about Disney films:
He also writes articles for Man I Love Films:

Lastly, find him on twitter here:

Palmy Days (1931)
One of my last watches of 2017 was also my introduction to Eddie Cantor. This is a wild musical comedy where Cantor becomes efficiency manager at a gigantic doughnut factory manned entirely by shapely beauties wearing aprons and little else. It features plenty of irreverent humor and musical numbers by Busby Berkeley.
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The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
This gritty post-apocalyptic tale sees Yul Brynner as hired muscle for a group of hapless survivors in the ruins of New York City. Brynner’s stoic performance is a highlight as he jumps into a role that would’ve been right up Arnie or Stallone’s alley just a decade later. Plus, where else are you going to find a film with a bad guy named Carrot?
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The Girl from Mexico (1939)
The first of eight films in the “Mexican Spitfire” series is an absolute joy. I think I instantly became the world’s biggest Lupe Velez fan after watching this. She’s funny, gorgeous and has an amazing singing voice. I doubt the seven films that followed this maintained the same level of energy this one has, but I’m looking forward to finding out for myself.
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Kill and Kill Again (1981)
Martial artist James Ryan assembles a bizarre team of fighters to go up against a cult leader called Marduk and his legion of kung fu followers. It’s a bit of a silly Enter the Dragon rip off, but the action is good and the characters are so goofy that so help me I was charmed by them.
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Boy (2010)
Leading up to the release of Thor: Ragnarok, I got to check out all of Taika Waititi’s previous films for a podcast retrospective. Boy was the most pleasant surprise of all of them. A simple and touching tale of fathers and sons set in my favorite year, 1984. Stay for the end credits which features Waititi leading the cast in Thriller Haka.
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Phase IV (1974)
I thought this was an ants attack movie. Wow, is that an understatement. The one and only feature directorial effort by graphic designer Saul Bass is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The micro photography of the ants is both eerie and poetic. The story has real suspense and builds to a head-scratcher of an ending...which is still nothing compared to the cut ending that Bass actually shot (and can, of course, be found online).
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The Psychotronic Man (1980)
You’ve all heard of the Psychotronic Film Guide, well this film was the inspiration for that book’s title. Made by a couple of ambitious filmmakers in late 70’s Chicago, it tells the story of a man who suddenly develops mysterious and deadly mind powers. What really struck me about the film was its visual creativity and its no-hold-barred guerilla filmmaking approach. Despite an ultra low budget it still manages to be creepy and quite thought provoking.
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Teen Witch (1989)
I’ve been trying to fill in many of my cinematic gaps when it comes to 80’s movies. Teen Witch is one I should’ve seen as a teen. If I had, Robyn Lively would’ve surely been one of my top teen crushes. She is absolutely adorable in this and pretty much sold me from the beginning...and then came the musical number and I was completely hooked. I’m going to just choose to believe that the “I Like Boys” sequence is a true representation of how every high school girls’ locker room was in the 80’s.
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The Love God? (1969)
While Don Knotts films are typically fun, they aren’t usually as smart or risque as The Love God? Knotts plays a hapless publisher of a bird watching magazine that finds himself thrust into the role of a second rate Hugh Hefner, and I think it may be his best performance. While the film addresses issues such as obscenity and how that should be treated under the first amendment, it also has a strong streak of family values running through it. The films’ wonderful psychedelic style is also a real treat.
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Heavyweights (1995)
I had written this off as being essentially The Mighty Ducks go to Fat Camp (it does feature many of the same cast members). What I didn’t expect was such a sharp and irreverent Disney film, and penned by Judd Apatow, no less. This probably now ranks as one of my favorite Ben Stiller comedic performances, and I gotta believe 90% of it was improvised. I’m not sure Disney realized what they had in this kids film, which may actually be far more entertaining for adults.
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Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
In recent years I have loved discovering some horror sequels that go a bit crazy. Halloween III...Amityville II...Elm Street 2...etc. Well, add the in-name-only Prom Night sequel to that group. Truth be told, I was less than thrilled by the original Prom Night, but part two is off-the-charts nuts. It’s got zombie prom queens, killer lockers, soul-sucking computers, and a blackboard that sucks people in like a whirlpool. Better than the original by leaps and bounds.
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The Burning (1981)
Jason lived on for tons of films, Freddy kept going and going, but why not Cropsey? Perhaps it’s because The Burning has such a similar premise, and was released in close proximity, to the original Friday the 13th. Truth be told, though, I thought this was a much better film. Filled with some creative gore moments courtesy of Tom Savini and a cast of future stars like Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter, The Burning is a wickedly fun 80’s slasher.
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Shag (1989)
Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, Page Hannah and Annabeth Gish play four friends in 1963 out for one last weekend of fun at the beach before one of them gets married. All four leads have their own moments to shine in this comedy, but the very sweet love story between Gish and Scott Coffey steals the show. It clearly takes some degree of inspiration from Dirty Dancing, but ultimately does a better job of capturing the early 60’s atmosphere.
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Pennies from Heaven (1981)
This musical penned by Dennis Potter is both sweet and tragic. With stellar performances from Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, and skillful direction by Herbert Ross, the film is absolutely hypnotic. It features the cast lip synching to several classic tunes including “Let’s Misbehave,” “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” and, of course, the title tune. A magical and sadly overlooked gem.
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Never too Young to Die (1986)
What an awesomely ridiculous film this is! John Stamos plays a slightly dorky college gymnast who teams up with Vanity to take down a terrorist out to poison the world’s water supply...a hermaphrodite played by Gene Simmons in drag. If all that isn’t enough, George Lazenby plays Uncle Jesse’s secret agent father. Watch it on a double bill with Ninja III: The Domination.
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Half Shot at Sunrise (1930)
This year also saw my first exposure to comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey. This military comedy was a great introduction to their unique mix of physical comedy and rapid-fire wordplay. Also has a great performance from Dorothy Lee who struck me as a perfect live-action embodiment of Betty Boop. A great introduction to an often forgotten comic duo.
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King Solomon’s Mines (1985)
Yes, it’s an Indiana Jones rip off, but it still manages to be a downright fun adventure flick. Plus, it’s a Cannon film, which gives it an extra level of nuttiness that ends up putting this film in it’s own weird world. Leads Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone both deliver fun, slightly tongue-in-cheek performances, and we even get Indy’s lovable sidekick, John Rhys-Davies, as a delightfully over-the-top villain.
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1 comment:

Hal said...

Great batch here. The second MEXICAN SPITFIRE film is arguably better than the first, and all are enjoyable thanks to Lupe Velez and Leon Errol. The humor does get repetitive after a while, but if you like one, you'll like them all.

Wheeler and Woolsey have several gems worth considering, including COCKEYED CAVALIERS, DIPLOMANIACS (a great double-bill with DUCK SOUP IMO), HIPS, HIPS, HOORAY! and PEACH O'RENO.