Rupert Pupkin Speaks: March 2018 ""

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Jack Criddle

Jack Criddle is a filmmaker and cat guy from the scenic hills of Western Massachusetts. He is also the host of the weekly film soundtrack radio program Play Morricone For Me on WJJW 91. FM in North Adams. When he is not watching films or on the radio, he enjoys books, cooking, and sleep.

Never Say Die (1939, Elliott Nugent)
This year, the missus and I watched the new-to-us "Road" series, and checked out a few other Bob Hope pictures, including The Ghost Breakers and My Favorite Brunette. This one ended up being not just the best of the bunch, but probably my single favorite film discovery of last year. Hope plays a rich hypochondriac who is misdiagnosed with a fatal illness. Martha Raye is a Texan oil heiress running away from her father and blueblooded fiancĂ©e, with the intent of eloping with her sweetheart, played by Andy Devine at his most Andy Deviniest. Hope and Raye enter into a marriage of convenience for as long as he thinks he'll live, with Devine in tow, jealously chaperoning the pair. Brilliantly directed from a Preston Sturges script, Hope had not yet settled into his "Bob Hope persona," (which is a good thing - he's funnier here than in his later star-vehicle roles) and his romantic chemistry with Raye and his bickering with Devine are pure comedic gold.
Amazon Button (via

The Wizard of Speed and Time (1988, Mike Jittlov)
This film is an fictionalized autobiographical account of its director, special effects wizard Mike Jittlov, and his experiences in Hollywood. Playing himself, Jittlov is hired to create a TV special about the history of special effects in cinema, but is intentionally sabotaged by his producer, who's out to throw him under the bus for a quick buck. It's a fascinating meta-narrative, as the producer is played by Richard Kaye, the real producer on the film, who really did rip Jittlov off and release the recut film without the director's consent. With its eye-popping stop-motion animation and optical effects, the film is a bipolar mixture of childlike wonder and gee-wiz ingenuity, but with an undercurrent of anger, malice, and self pity simmering beneath the surface. The whole thing doesn't really "gel," as it were, but it still provides a fascinating glimpse inside Jittlov's head.
Amazon Button (via

The Thing With Two Heads (1972, Lee Frost)
So. Much. Fun. Made the same year as the brilliant Frogs, this film again sees Ray Milland as AIP's embodiment of America's white, right-wing, patriarchal old guard. This film isn't quite on Frogs' level, but it's still a wildly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek romp that melds Blaxploitation and mad science tropes (with a lengthy motocross chase thrown in, because hey, why not?) as Milland's racist, fatally-ill surgeon has his head grafted onto the body of wrongly convicted convict Rosey Grier. It's a never-not-wonderfully-silly picture that I think would play great on a double bill with Get Out.
Amazon Button (via

Django, Kill...If You Live, Shoot! (1967, Giulio Questi)
I'm far from an expert on spaghetti westerns not directed by either of the Sergios (Leone and Corbucci) but I found this one to be an excellent, grim, nasty, nihilistic bit of business. It's a Django sequel in name only, focusing on Thomas Milian's "The Stranger," who claws his way out of a shallow grave after being left for dead by his partners in crime, only to have to do battle with a town ruled by greed-mad locals and run by a gang sadomasochistic gay cowboys(!) Fun for the whole family.
Amazon Button (via

Son of Ingagi (1940, Richard C. Kahn)
This fun, if threadbare horror picture is understood to be the oldest surviving horror film that features an all-black cast. Unrelated to the thought-to-be-lost gorilla-shagging picture Ingagi, the film features pair of newlyweds staying at a mansion owned by a witchcraft practitioner, and her ape-man manservant creeps around, offing the side characters one by one. Amos N' Andy's Spencer Williams, also credited as screenwriter, is the only recognizable face. Due to lack of resources and budget, the film plays more like a movie from 10 years earlier, at just the beginning of the sound era, but it's still a lot of fun for people who enjoy early genre and exploitation affairs. What's most striking about the film is its lack of racial stereotypes, compared not just to other films of the era, but to today.
Amazon Button (via

The Sadist (1963, James Landis)
If you only know Arch Hall Jr. from his would-be teen heartthrob roles in bargain-basement fare like Eegah!, buckle up. After being steered to this film by a Joe Dante Trailers from Hell recommendation, this film shot to the top of my list of favorite 60's exploitation
pictures. Hall is so raw and terrifying in the role of Charlie Tibbs - a character inspired by Charles Starkweather, also the inspiration for Martin Sheen's Kit in Badlands and Woody Harrelson's Mickey in Natural Born Killers. The movie is surely one of the great single-location films ever, unfolding more-or-less in real time as a trio whose car breaks down at a roadside car junkyard are threatened and tortured by the howling-mad Charlie and his child-minded girlfriend. It also got me thinking, after viewing the recent Black Mirror episode "U.S.S. Calister," that if he plays his cards right, Jesse Plemons could be the Arch Hall Jr. of today.
Amazon Button (via

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Roger Leatherwood

Roger Leatherwood studied Moving Image Archiving at UCLA and currently works in the UCLA library. He occasionally writes about film culture, like everyone else in the world, on his blog, Mondo Cine (
On twitter @RogerLB.

As more and more lost gems (and not so gems) get released on Blu-ray, I find my viewing time divided between revisiting films I hadn't seen in decades (Miracle Mile, Into The Night) and finally catching up with films I missed the first time. It's a great time to be a fan of non-mainstream cinema. --Roger

Uptight (Jules Dassin, 1968)
Jules Dassin returned to America in the 70s (after a stint as an ex-patriot after being blacklisted) to film this Chicago-set remake of John Ford's 1935 The Informer. Both films follow a man who betrays his own people in the midst of class warfare, but while Ford's original was set around the Irish War of Independence, Dassin tapped into the black power movement. And it's not a celebration of unity.

At age 56, Dassin still had an eye for noir and the dark side of human experience. And late-'60s Cleveland is beautifully captured. A surreal sequence in an arcade with neon lights and fun-house mirrors is astounding.

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)
After the double-whammy in 2016 of Paterson and Gimme Danger, I realized I'd ignored, perhaps intentionally (Coffee and Cigarettes, anyone?), Jim Jarmusch for a while. I'm almost positive I'll love Only Lovers Left Alive (still haven't seen, possibly on next year's discovery list) but was more intrigued by The Limits of Control, a zen crime joint which no one seemed to like or even remember.

Featuring Isaach De Bankolé as a hitman in Madrid laconic to the point of absurdity, the film does everything a good Jarmusch film does, perhaps to excess. He walks, he drinks tea, he choses not to bed Tilda Swinton when offered. Demonstrating more attitude than plot, its zen minimalism spools by in beautiful, sterile images, creating a mysterious and frustrating landscape of crime-movie tropes that Jarmusch seems uninterested in expanding on beyond signifying its own hyper-cool vibe. That "excess" of nothingness seems to be the point. I loved it.
Amazon Button (via

You're Telling Me (Erle C. Kenton, 1934)
I finally got into the "other" films in the W.C. Comedy Collection Vol. 2 box set. Fields generally had two characters that shaped the films he was featured in: the larcenous carnival barker on the lam from the law (Poppy, You Can't Cheat An Honest Man, The Old-Fashioned Way), and the hen-pecked husband character who loved his family (or at least, his daughter) but suffered endless indignities (It's A Gift, The Bank Dick, The Man on the Flying Trapeze).

You're Telling Me is of the later style, a study of domestic frustration where he plays an inventor of crackpot schemes, his latest being a puncture proof car tire. Though practically unknown to me, this film displays all the Fieldsian charm, verbal wit and loose but hilarious set-pieces of his later, better known films. It also recreates his famous golf routine from vaudeville once again.
Amazon Button (via

Landmine Goes Click (Levan Bakhia, 2015)
This title was lurking on the best-of-year horror lists a couple years back and its title seemed little more than a one-joke idea. Yes, a character accidentally steps on a landmine that goes "click" early on, but its much more than a simple man-in-the-wilderness survival tale.

Levan Bakhia's Georgian (as in former Soviet Union) thriller puts a handful of clueless American tourists in jeopardy, not just from forgotten war materiel, but from locals who don't have the purest of motives, and from each other. The film builds in tension to end with a surprisingly tense and violent revenge sequence. From little things come the horror of unintended consequences.
Amazon Button (via

Diary of a Mad Housewife (Frank Perry, 1970)
Shown in 35mm at the New Beverly in Los Angeles this year during a Frank Perry retrospective, I was stunned by how modern and engaging this early feminist film based on Sue Kaufman's best-selling novel still was.

Typical in a wave of housewife-in-quiet-desperation films and books that felt daring at the time to simply suggest upper-middle class domestic life wasn't all it was cracked up to be, Diary transcends with a powerful spot-on performance by Carrie Snodgrass. It also benefits, I'm convinced, mightily from Perry's wife Eleanor's insightful adaptation of the book. He never made a better film once he broke up, personally and professionally, with her.
Amazon Button (via

Il Bidone (Federico Fellini, 1955)
One of the most enjoyable film projects I mounted this year was revisiting all of Fellini's films in order, finally getting a grasp on his development of themes and style. Also filling in the gaps. While it's no problem watching 8 1/2 again, I almost dreaded seeing the more serious, early neo-realist films.

Il Bidone (The Swindle) was generally considered a failure upon its release, cynical and anti-human coming on the heals of La Strada. But Fellini's fondness for questionable characters, his endless fascination with city values encroaching on some idealized rural "paradise," and his sober sentimentality are in full display as much as in any other film. Broderick Crawford is perfect as the dead-eyed, tragic swindler who can't stand to disappoint his daughter, and the ending achieves the same kind of grace, dirt-smudged as it is, as Zampano finds in La Strada.
Amazon Button (via

The Hot Nights of Linda (Jess Franco, 1975)
If Jess Franco was such a bad director, why do they keep remastering his films for blu-ray? That doesn't mean I'm going to watch all HIS films. I've seen more than I should probably admit, and have a fondness for his rambling, sexually and aesthetically transgressive (meaning, they're not always coherent) films from the early to mid '70s when he worked for Robert Nesle and Golden Harvest. Also, naked Lina Romay.

The Hot Nights of Linda, released last year by Severin, is the perfect example of the Sadean family dramas Franco's so fond of, with a horny, probably insane woman at the center. But what makes this one a surreal masterpiece is its narrative (il)logic. Linda starts as a tale of an outsider (Alice Arno) visiting a mansion, then drifts, like a half-drunk uncle, into weird investigations of dark sexual secrets of the inhabitants, with occasionally strikingly gorgeous images, an eye for using architecture in his compositions, and an obsessive love of lingering over naked bodies. I'm not sure it's a depiction of a waking dream or a sexual nightmare.
Amazon Button (via

Friday, March 16, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Eric J. Lawrence

Eric J. Lawrence has been a DJ over at KCRW(a wonderful radio station) for many many many years and I have been a fan of him there for more than a decade. He plays quite an eclectic mix of new and old songs, it's described on KCRW's site as thus:
"A musical line-up of criminally overlooked tunes, hidden gems, guilty pleasures and standout selections from the latest releases... from Jacques Brel to Mott the Hoople to Gary Numan to the Fall, and everything in between. Like playing poker with dogs -- only better."
I can't really recommend the show higher than a decade of listenership can I? Check him out!

The Plague of the Zombies (Dir. John Gilling, 1966)
Each year I track down a bunch of Hammer films that I haven’t seen, and this one was the cream of this past year’s crop. One of the best not to feature either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, this spooky gem is still populated with Hammer favorites such as Andre Morell, Jack Carson and Michael Ripper. Released on the eve of Romero’s “Living Dead” revolution, this film retains the classic voodoo-type zombies, albeit with a somewhat more aggressive attitude.
Amazon Button (via

The Hit (Dir. Stephen Frears, 1984)
I was drawn to check this film out in the wake of John Hurt’s passing (after re-watching his awesome performance in the legendary UK TV serial, I, Claudius). I was also prepping for an interview I did with Tim Roth, and one never needs any special reason to check out a film with Terence Stamp in it, so watching this was a no-brainer. All three leads are stellar, and Frears keeps this character-driven gangster film moving. Keep a lookout for brief appearances from Jim Broadbent & Fernando Rey!
Amazon Button (via

Green for Danger (Dir. Sidney Gilliat, 1946)
This cheeky detective story is a quintessential example of the “stiff upper lip” stereotype of British citizens during WWII, as it manages to serve as a variation of the classic “drawing room” kind of English mystery story, while set in a grim, rural, makeshift hospital beset by Nazi bombardment. Alastair Sim plays the detective with his usual eccentric pique, and among the familiar faces of mid-century UK cinema is Trevor Howard (The Third Man) and Megs Jenkins (The Innocents).
Amazon Button (via

ffolkes (aka North Sea Hijack) (Dir. Andrew V. McLaglen, 1980)
Keeping with a British theme, this is one of those weird one-offs Roger Moore did in-between Bond movies. Directed by the son of John Ford’s pal, Victor McLaglen, action specialist Andrew leads Moore (alongside James Mason, Anthony Perkins, Michael Parks and George Baker) in a Bond-like adventure to take down terrorist on board a North Sea oil drilling platform. Being somewhat more realistic than 007’s escapades (which ultimately means less gadgety & more talky), this actually holds up better than many of Moore’s Bond films!
Amazon Button (via

The Rocking Horse Winner (Dir. Anthony Pelissier, 1949)
An oft-overlooked example of pre-Hammer British horror films, this dark fable is a quite faithful adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence short story about a boy who discovers he can predict horse racing winners while in a trance riding his toy horse. Ultimately it becomes a terrifying, existential look at obsessive/compulsive behavior with a healthy dose of tough social commentary to boot. John Mills (who also produced) & Valerie Hobson (both from David Lean’s Great Expectations) impress, as does child actor John Howard Davies, who later became a top BBC producer & worked on Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, among other hits.
Amazon Button (via

The Wild One (Dir. Laszlo Benedek, 1953)
I wouldn’t say I’m well versed in the “biker gang” genre, but this one is the granddaddy of them all, so I was curious to check it out. That said, also being a fan of Marlon Brando’s other 50s films made it an essential watch, and it is worth it! The presence of Lee Marvin doesn’t hurt either. Surely the lowest budget film Brando ever did, although it really transcends being just an exploitation film – it cemented his iconic image with the leather jacket & motorcycle cap just as much as the grimy, rolled-up t-shirt in Streetcar did. No love from the Oscars (unlike most of his films from that era), but a timeless performance.
Amazon Button (via

They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (Dir. Gordon Douglas, 1970)
The first sequel to the award-winning Sidney Poitier classic, In the Heat of the Night, is quite a different animal, but it sure doesn’t want you to notice, going so far as to take its name from the famous line from the original, despite not being uttered in this one. Nonetheless, fans of gritty, urban ‘70s crime films should have no complaints, as the sweaty, racist Mississippi town is left behind for vice-ridden, Bullett/Dirty Harry-era San Francisco. Joining Poitier is a nifty cast including Martin Landau, Anthony Zerbe, Jeff Corey & a hirsute Ed Asner, and was ably directed by the eclectic & prolific Gordon Douglas (The Great Gildersleeve, Them!, Robin & the Seven Hoods, Tony Rome, In Like Flint, etc.)
Amazon Button (via

Demon Seed (Dir. Donald Cammell, 1977)
More of a WTF than a genuinely great film, this sci-fi/horror hybrid is based on a Dean Koontz novel about a sentient computer that seeks to impregnate its creator’s wife. This alone should qualify it as whacko, but throw Performance director Donald Cammell in the mix and Fritz Weaver and Julie Christie as a pretty unconvincing married couple (plus Robert Vaughn as the voice of the computer), and you’ve got a genuinely disturbing mind-blower! Further consider that, given its era (the mid ‘70s), the depiction of the computer, both in its physical and virtual forms, is quaint and decidedly unpretty. Props to Ms. Christie for committing to her role, which she surely does, despite the ridiculousness of the situation.
Amazon Button (via

The Late Show (Dir. Robert Benton, 1977)
I will admit I never considered either Art Carney or Lily Tomlin as particularly noteworthy actors, but The Late Show proved me wrong. A clever, not-so-gentle satire that mixes The Odd Couple with The Big Sleep, this charming buddy pic also works as a time-capsule of mid ‘70s LA, as the two leads follow the breadcrumbs of a murder case throughout the city. Surprisingly violent at times, it still takes full advantage of its leads (along with TV’s Maude’s husband, Bill Macy) as comedic legends to keep things fairly light and fun. Still, like Bubba Ho-Tep or even Twin Peaks: The Return, it also extols the heroism of older folks.
Amazon Button (via

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Hal Horn

Veteran RPS contributor Hal Horn runs the irreplaceable Horn Section Blog ('reviewing the obscure, overlooked and sometimes the very old').

Also read his previous Discoveries lists for Rupert Pupkin Speaks:

On Twitter @halhorn86

MONTANA (1950) 
Errol Flynn made his final two westerns in 1950, and while MONTANA isn't quite the tense character study that ROCKY MOUNTAIN is, it's entertaining. Errol is an Australian sheep man who runs afoul of cattle barons. Finally got to see it thanks to Warner Archive. With Flynn's frequent co-star Alexis Smith. Directed by Ray Enright (CORONER CREEK).
Amazon Button (via

Another entertaining old school western making the rounds at Retroplex. Confederate spies Van Johnson and Milburn Stone (yes, Doc!) steal a prototype Gatling gun hoping to turn the Civil War's tide. They con Union nurse Joanne Dru into coming along, with Union intelligence officer Jeff Morrow hot on their trail. Baddie Richard Boone also wants the Gatling for his own nefarious purposes. Directed by Rudolph Mate, the same year that the legendary cinematographer helmed the infamous BLACK SHIELD OF FALWORTH.
Amazon Button (via

Randolph Scott leads a hunt for gold treasure in the titular sand dunes, with Edgar Buchanan, Arthur Kennedy, William Bishop and Ella Raines among those along for the ride. Lots of intrigue follows; no points for guessing we'll get a fierce sandstorm eventually. Solid western noir from director John Sturges.
Amazon Button (via

Sturges appears twice on my list this year. Eurasian shutterbug Laurence Harvey is trying to emigrate to the U.S. from Tokyo, trying to use his charm to speed the process. It works on American Martha Hyer and Japanese aristocrat France Nuyen. More interesting than good, but the former qualifies it as a discovery. Filmed on location in Japan.
Amazon Button (via