Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '78 - Stephanie Crawford ""

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Underrated '78 - Stephanie Crawford

Stephanie Crawford is a co-host of The Screamcast and frequents only the best podcasts, including Just the Discs. A columnist at Dread Central and contributor to places like F This Movie, all of her work can be found at House of a Reasonable Amount of Horrors ( https://scrawford.typepad.com/ ).

Ah, 1978. It was stuffed full of blockbusters and massive genre-shifters, a personal favorite of mine, BLUE SUNSHINE, plus Charlie Chaplin’s coffin got stolen! With that in mind, I’m here to ignore all that to talk about movies that are absolutely worth your precious time if you are in a very, VERY specific mood.

THE BEES (Dir: Alfredo Zacarías)
I’ve made my affection for THE BEES pretty widely known, and I’ll never turn down another opportunity to spread the buzz. Ha! Maybe the hints of Jack Hill’s involvement helped propel this story of smuggled-bees-that-turn-killer-before-you-can-say-shoo into my heart? Possibly, but I think the truth is that, especially for a killer bee movie, this thing is stuffed full of heart. John Saxon is adorable as an optimistic bee scientist guy who also does judo and romance. John Carradine gets to wear a lab coat in this, and I’m not sure if anything outside of Roger Ebert’s Great Films list could sell a movie to me more thoroughly than that can. For a movie that just kind of stops instead of ending, I can’t get enough of this sweet stuff.
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STARHOPS (Dir: Barbara Peeters)
I discovered this gem earlier this year thanks to Amazon Prime, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, until I realized it was written by Stephanie Rothman... under a pseudonym. The plot is basic: Cute girls try to save a carhop restaurant that a greedy rich guy wants to buy out. They gracefully dodge the hands of cretinous customers while gliding on roller skates straight into hijinks. What elevates this (slightly) in the realm of affable exploitation is pretty much the same thing that makes all of Rothman’s movies stand out: characters have distinct personalities, the comedic dialogue is actually funny, and the whole thing just makes you feel good. While Rothman claims her work was completely changed or cut out (and the things I would do to see her pure version...) I think the ghost of her talent laid a great foundation. STARHOPS is cinematic soda pop as its most sparkling.
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JENNIFER (Dir: Brice Mack)
If the film landscape was a high school, JENNIFER would sit comfortably at the “unusual young people with strange powers” table with CARRIE, PATRICK, (another ‘78 alum), WILLARD… it’s nice when your name is also the title of the movie, isn’t it? Still, the deeply sincere vulnerability of Lisa Pelikan in the titular role resonated with me: As much as I love Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of Carrie, it seemed a little too detached for me to completely fall into. Jennifer is also the daughter in a weird, religious family—though for her, it’s snake handling. Though that’s in her past, she’s still targeted for intense bullying at her new private school. It’s so intense, in fact, that I have a physical reaction to how much it builds: It’s really, really ugly. By the time we’re ready for Jennifer to unleash everything and take her ultimate revenge, I was bloodthirsty. Sure, it’s a minor entry in a niche subgenre, but it’s filled with performances that are often a bit too realistic, and set pieces with stunning lighting that are glorious and memorable: The scenes in the indoor pool and on the roof of a parking garage particularly stand out.
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TERROR (Dir: Norman J. Warren)
Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, this deeply British horror film has had new life. I was lucky enough to interview Warren this year, and his enthusiam cemented this as a new favorite of mine. I’m also a sucker for films about films or set on a film set, and TERROR takes place at the estate of a director who just happens to be part of a cursed bloodline. After he screens his new horror movie, giallo influences clash with strange, soap opera twists and a wry, dry British humor (sorry, humour) including one of the most aggressively unique scenes in a strip club I’ve seen yet.
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