Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 2019 ""

Friday, September 20, 2019

Underrated '89 - Dan Gorman

Dan Gorman is the co-host of Notes from the Back Row, a magazine-style cinema podcast with new episodes every-other week. He can also be found co-running CHUD Buddies, an online B-Movie screening collective and Discord community or finally just sitting around on Twitter as @yckmd.

Fatal Exposure (1989)
Directed by Peter B. Good
This shot-on-film but edited-on-video gem features Jack Rippington (grandson of, you guessed it, Jack the Ripper) who is on a mission to kill ladies and drink their blood (at least once he downs a pint and belches like he just slammed a Coors.) Why is he doing this? Because his grandfather told him that's how you get to be a real man. Also, he wants a son so he can "show him the magic of being A RIPPINGTON." This is essential viewing for VCR jockeys looking for their next unknown thrill.

This head-spinning epic is stuffed with solid gore, ridiculous dialogue and a main character who DIRECTLY ADDRESSES YOU, THE VIEWER. Someone get this one on a BluRay, stat!!!
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Prancer (1989)
Directed by John D. Hancock
John D. Hancock's film is as magical as it is unrelentingly depressing; this tale of a young girl, her struggling apple-farmer father, and a reindeer - who might just be Prancer - absolutely won me over. Bring some tissues though, because: Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel.

Probably the most popular/well-known film to grace my “Underrated 1989” list, but having seen Prancer for the first time last year and falling in love with it, I just couldn’t bring myself to not include this. I still can’t believe that this movie isn't kept in high regard, because it's a masterpiece in my eyes.

Prancer seems to sit in an odd place in film history; growing up, I couldn’t even count the amount of times I’d run into this movie on a friend-of-the-family’s movie shelf, or sitting somewhere in the basement of a pal’s house - it even seemed to pop up in every Walmart DVD bin ever, with a cloyingly sweet cover. Maybe a whole generation of kids my age pushed this bleakly realistic and depressing movie out of our minds?
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American Hunter (1989)
Directed by Arizal
Before seeing American Hunter, I had already checked out Final Score by Indonesian director Arizal (known for pumping out action flicks from ‘74 through ‘94) but that film left me a little cold.

Where Final Score had a bit more of a queasy set-up which hindered the fun-level significantly, American Hunter by comparison is a non-stop barrage of awkward lines ("You saved my life!" "....GREAT"), hilarious crowd ADR, fist fight after fist fight, shootouts, modest car flips, impressively reckless car flips, and one extremely plain faced and drably paced helicopter chase.

Nightwish (1989)
Directed by Bruce R. Cook
This is some primo hooey; another pesudo-gem that seems lost to time despite having a lot going for it - though I guess the fact that the plot is a bunch of nonsense about experiments and reaching beyond to the other side (doing so through some kind of proto-flatlining) doesn't help. Nor does the unfortunate character work from one particular actor - oof.

But! It's chock full of green-lighting, glowing floating snake... things.. every once in a while a nice goopy effect shows up, and there's some fairly charming late-80s atmosphere.

This probably won't be for everyone, especially since the characters are essentially annoying nobodies, but I had a lot of fun here otherwise. And I'll say this, lots of movies from this era have incomprehensible plots or over-complicated stories, but not too many of them actually try to tie them together somehow, and Nightwish almost accomplishes that. So, points for some level of ambition here.
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Dead Bang (1989)
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Frankenheimer followed up the sleazy and wonderful 52-Pick Up with this workmanlike thriller about a cop (played by Miami Vice's Don Johnson) who is tracking down a cop-killing member of a small but deadly group of white supremacists.

I say this is dialed back ever-so-slightly, because we're still left room for Johnson to accidentally barf on a perp after chasing him down while nursing a hangover. The final showdown has squibs-a-plenty, and there's a solid explosion in an earlier shoot-out.

It's all thoroughly watchable and very entertaining, but it certainly doesn't reach the heights of even 52-Pick Up.
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Action U.S.A. (1989)
Directed by John Stewart
Listen: while this movie can’t hold a candle to the kind of action-fests that PM ENTERTAINMENT churned out in the 90s (see: RAGE for my personal favourite), as far as late-eighties action flicks goes, this one has the goddamn goods.

When was the last time a movie made you involuntarily toss your arms in the air and clap them over your head? Because ACTION U.S.A. made me do that. One second I was watching the opening car chase, and the next a car was barreling through a camper which exploded for no reason and boy, was I happy.

This movie has everything you need: terrible acting and hilarious dialogue, fantastic stunts (helicopters! dudes on fire hurtling off bridges!), and groan-worthy attempts at comedy. The only downside is that there are a few draggy stretches, but the stunts more than make up for it. Watch with some friends and get your high-five hand ready.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Just the Discs - Episode 124 - TEXAS CHAINSAW NEXT GENERATION + THE BEACH BUM (w/ Brendon Small)

Matthew McConaughey appreciation! Brendon Small returns to talk about two films from the man, the myth, the legend -- one from the very beginning of his acting career (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION) and one of his latest efforts (THE BEACH BUM) and it is a lively discussion of how much we love him almost no matter what roles he chooses. 

Follow Brendon on Twitter @_Brendonsmall

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Discs Mentioned on This Episode:
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THE BEACH BUM (Universal)
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Monday, September 16, 2019

New Release Roundup for the week of September 17th, 2019

MY FAVORITE YEAR on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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WHIRLPOOL on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

THE TALL MEN on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

POLYESTER on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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CLUNY BROWN on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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NOIR ARCHIVE 9-FILM COLLECTION VOLUME 3: 1957-1960 on Blu-ray (Kit Parker)
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POPEYE THE SAILOR: THE 1940s VOLUME 3 on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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BILOXI BLUES on Blu-ray (Shout Factory)
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GUNS on Blu-ray (Mill Creek)
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DO OR DIE on Blu-ray (Mill Creek)
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WHO SAW HER DIE? on Blu-ray (Arrow)
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THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 on Blu-ray (Arrow)
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THE HOMECOMING on Blu-ray (Kino)
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Friday, September 13, 2019

Underrated '89 - Allan Mott

Allan Mott is the person you want to meet if you ever want to talk about that Italian poster of 1990: Bronx Warriors that has the Village People on it. Tweet him @HouseofGlib, Letterboxd him @VanityFear and check out some of his old essays at

Oh, what a difference a decade makes! Several months ago Brian was kind enough to ask me to contribute an Underrated ‘99 list and I happily said yes only to completely flake when I realized I couldn’t find a single movie from that year I honestly considered “underrated” (and I didn’t want to bore anyone with my thoughts on obvious movies you already know and have opinions about). But now that we’ve moved back 10 years, I have the complete opposite problem. The list you’ll find below only represents one-third of my initial picks, so be thankful I held myself back!

The Return of the Swamp Thing (Jim Wynorski)
I have a lot of affection for the films of Jim Wynorski and I think it’s fair to say that The Return of the Swamp Thing is his crowning achievement. It’s not my favourite (that would be The Lost Empire) or most cult-worthy (Chopping Mall), but it's the closest he ever got to making a film that is obviously his while also looking like a real honest-to-goodness-played-in-theatres movie. With all apologies to Wes Craven, it’s definitely a solid entry on any superior sequel list, adding a sense of humour that I’m sure is anathema to Alan Moore fans, but a boon for those of us who only willingly sit through the first film for a solid dose of Adrienne B.
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She’s Out of Control (Stan Dragoti)
Yeah, I’m surprised as you are this is on my list, but whaddaya gonna do? I didn’t see this when it came out, because as a pretentious 13 year-old the idea of seeing a Tony Danza movie seemed laughable, so it was only a few years back that I caught up with it as I embarked upon the spiritual journey of seeing as many Ami Dolenz movies as I could find. Remembering only Siskel & Ebert’s blistering review and its general reputation as a flop, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Sure, it was problematic even then, but Stan Dragoti (Mr. Mom) gave me a completely different experience than the glorified TV movie I was expecting and I found myself laughing in spots where they clearly wanted me to laugh. Also, did I mention Ami Dolenz is in it?
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Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (J.F. Lawton)
I’m a big fan of movie titles you can use to test relationships with. All you have to do is mention them and the reaction you get says everything you need to know about your potential future with that person. Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is the gold standard of such titles. If a potential partner’s immediate reaction is to remark how dumb that movie sounds, then jump out the nearest window--they are NOT worthy.

The title also plays the unusual trick of being completely accurate (the movie really is about a tribe of cannibal women found in a deadly jungle famed for its avocados) and deliberately parodic at the same time. Written and directed by the man who wrote Under Siege and Pretty Woman, it doesn’t resemble either of those films and is instead a madcap burlesque satire of then-contemporary feminism (as represented by the cannibal women and Shannon Tweed’s uptight anthropologist) and toxic masculinity (as represented by Bill Maher’s wannabe Indiana Jones-style adventurer and every horny dude who catches eyes on Return of the Killer Tomatoes' Karen Mistal). It doesn’t all work and the politics are as dated as you’d expect from a 30 year-old satire about gender dynamics, but it deserves to be on lists like this just for living up to that title.
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Nightmare Beach (James Justice, Umberto Lenzi)
As a horror fan who counts the 80s slasher wave as his favourite sub-genre, 1989 is a bit of a sad year, since it marked its very last gasp before Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson resuscitated it seven years later. Out of the handful of slashers that came out that year, Nightmare Beach is the clear winner (sorry Cutting Class, although I do like that your surprise twist is that there is no surprise twist) namely for a great b-movie cast (including one of the era’s most underrated starlets, Sarah Buxton, who I think may hold the record for most “introducing” credits in one career). Also released as Welcome to Spring Break, the film stretches its running time with wet t-shirt and bikini contest footage, so that alone makes it worthy of a view.
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Penn & Teller Get Killed (Arthur Penn)
Now some of you are going “Those Fool Us/Bullshit guys made a movie?” But many of you have already skipped ahead and are going, “Wait. The guy who directed Bonnie & Clyde made the movie with those Fool Us/Bullshit guys?”

It’s true!

And I don’t think it’s as surprising as it sounds, since Arthur Penn not only made Bonnie & Clyde and Little Big Man and Night Moves, but also the film version of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, which I consider the spiritual predecessor to this darkly jovial effort.

P&T wrote the screenplay in which their lives are seemingly upended when Penn jokingly suggests on a late night talk show that it would be really cool if someone were trying to kill them. What follows is less a taut thriller and more a shaggy collection of practical jokes the two play on each other, but it all leads to the title being proved accurate and finding out why Teller is the quiet one (he sounds like Snuggle the Teddy Bear).
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Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills (Paul Bartel)
I feel like any underrated list that doesn’t take an opportunity to celebrate Paul Bartel is a waste. Fortunately for me, 1989 gives us Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, which is best described as his (and screenwriter Bruce Wagner’s) raunchy Californian take on The Rules of the Game. Jacqueline Bisset stars as a former sitcom actor whose houseboy (Eating Raoul’s Robert Beltran) bets her best friend’s (Bartel’s frequent onscreen partner, Mary Woronov) chauffeur (Ray Sharkey) that he can bed Woronov before Sharkey sleeps with Bisset. Oh, and Paul Mazurksy shows up as a ghost.

Despite its amazing cast, Scenes hasn’t had a physical North American video release since it came out on VHS, which is a shame because it’s probably the only time where Bartel got to showcase his humour and sensibility in a film that always looks and feels like a mainstream Hollywood comedy from the period.
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Hellgate (William A. Levey)
In the case of Hellgate, a bizarro horror oddity directed by the man who gave us Skatetown USA, I’m doing a reversal on what the “rated” in underrated usually means. Because I think this isn’t a case of a movie that deserves more attention because it’s actually really good, but one of a movie that deserves more attention because it is almost transcendently terrible.

The film stars Welcome Back, Kotter’s Ron Pallilo as a nearly 40 year-old 20-something who ends up in a deserted town with his friends, where they are confronted by the ghost of a developmentally disabled young woman* who was murdered by bikers over 30 years ago. Throughout the narrative you can expect to see:
  • A vicious snapping turtle attack
  • An unforgettable axe vs chain showdown
  • The ghost of a woman who died in the 50s but still found a way to get very 80s breast implants
  • Horshack naked
  • Standup comedy from beyond the grave
  • Gratuitous can can dancing
  • Door sign decapitation
A movie just as ludicrously horrible as Troll 2 and just as worthy of being celebrated as a truly fantastic disaster.

*It is impossible to tell if this a plot point or just a performance “choice”.
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