Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 2019 ""

Monday, December 30, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Stephanie Crawford

Stephanie is a Writer, podcaster (The Scream Cast, Just the Discs & beyond) & frustrated vaudevillian.
Bylines:
Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central, Daily, Grindhouse, Scream Cast, and Talk Film Society.
Follow her on Twitter @Scrawfish.

What a Way to Go! (1964)
It’s very rare I’ll dub a film “probably one of my favorites now” immediately seeing it after the first viewing, but What A Way to Go! actually convinced me about mid-way through that this was the kind of movie that Speaks Directly to Me. Ultra-prolific director J. Lee Thompson (better known for more “muscular” films like his work with Charles Bronson, the slasher Happy Birthday to Me and, of course, The Guns of Navarone) uses his genre flexibility to weave a free-wheeling, sparkling tale not of a merry widow but, rather, a charmingly bewildered one.

See, once you marry Louisa May Foster (Shirley MacLaine at the height of her gamine powers), you’ll get lucky. REAL lucky. You’ll become famous, fabulously wealthy, or even a combination of the two. Then you’ll die in a freak accident. Dick Van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelley and Dean Martin all end up wearing her ring, and each actor seems to revel in playing a solid yet comedic male archetype in their respective segments. It’s so much outlandish, weird fun, but the witty dialogue and heart beneath it all⁠—she just wants to be loved!—elevates it to something I’ll be recommending far and wide from now on.
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Cast A Deadly Spell (1991)
Back when you could corral Fred Ward, Clancy Brown, David Warner, and Julianne Moore into a TV movie, action director extraordinaire Martin Campbell made the most of it with an urban noir fantasy that has as much panache as it does a sense of humor. Make sure you have the legally mandated magical private eye named Harry (here, Harry Lovecraft. See also Harry Dresden and then Harry D’Amour from Lord of Illusions), a Necronomicon, style to burn, and you have yourself a genre companion to The Rocketeer in terms of delivering a sumptuous and effective valentine to a bygone era. Somehow balancing both the private eye and “we live in a modern world of monsters” tropes incredibly well without getting too cheesy, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t find a lot here to love.
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The Ship of Monsters (1960)
What do you get when you mix space, vampires, a charming gaucho, a romance between robot and appliance and a gaggle of bargain-basement-cheap-but-top-shelf-imaginative creatures?
You get a true treasure of several genres straight from the tireless director Rogelio A. González. I was very lucky to attend my first Fantastic Fest this year, and there was a big focus on Mexican genre cinema this year, spearheaded by Morbido Fest's head programmer Abraham Castillo Flores. It was a real gift to see some of these films on the big screen, but The Ship of Monsters far and away packed the biggest wallop, and it had me grinning and raving about its charms so as many people as possible would see its second and final showing there.

In short (because absolutely no one should spoil any of the surprises therein), this film is bonkers, but it fully knows it’s bonkers, and it’s incredibly shrewd in its bonkers execution. There is no “so bad it’s good” or “so bad it’s brilliant” here: This is about as sure a hand a filmmaker can have when it comes to pulling off very clever dialogue and characters you can’t get enough of when almost nothing on screen makes any sense. Pure, distilled joy on film.

Sunset Grill (1993)
Peter Weller is trying real hard to be the shepherd in a parade of kicky hats in this Maker’s Mark celebration of an action/neo-noir. It’d be useless to recap the plot as it’s your standard “jaunt around Los Angeles” yarn to get answers and kick some ass. What’s important to note that it pulls off the standards like a grimy, rumpled virtuoso, with enough quirky deliveries to make it stand out from the crowded early-90s straight-to-video shelves of similarly plotted “shoot first and solve the mystery later” flicks: If this isn’t the only one to have an actor from The Lord of the Rings get lassoed in a back alley, then I’m going to need the list of the others immediately. Most notable is the cast: Lori Singer, Stacy Keach, Alexandra Paul, Kelly Jo Minter, John Rhys-Davies, and Danny Trejo are the chorus of angels to Weller’s grizzled, sweaty seraph.
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Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
The older I get, the more I forgive myself for not immediately getting to films with a certain kind of sterling reputation and pedigree. In my neck of the movie-watching woods, the John Carpenter-penned Eyes of Laura Mars always loomed large in the “unwatched pile” for me, making me feel mildly guilty about not seeing it and for also confusing it in my head for Play Misty for Me for whatever reason. Well, Mill Creek releasing it on Blu-ray turned out to be the deciding factor, and I’m so glad it didn’t take me any longer than this.

Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is a talented, edgy, and sophisticated fashion photographer lauded for her outside-the-box concepts⁠—including an incredible one involving an orchestrated flaming car wreck in the middle of a city! She has it all, including the thing no one wants: a stalker. This stalker takes it to another level by basing their murders on her photoshoots, and the film goes full-tilt giallo when it surrenders itself to stylish mystery beats and unexplained metaphysical connections between Laura and the killer. That may sound messy, but its execution is slick, sexy, and incredibly engaging. I’m already in the mood to revisit it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a date with Laura Mars became an annual thing.
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Remote Control (1988)
Jeff Lieberman’s Remote Control surrounds a film that, once distributed, causes murder and mayhem for those who dare watch it, and he did it way before that whole kind of thing became a fashionable pastime. As someone who’s made no secret about my fetishistic love of video stores, this entire movie surrounding one (with a visit to several!) and the culture of renting videos was absolutely irresistible. Thankfully, this is a fun horror/sci-fi/culture comedy even if you aren’t as mad for the concept as I am, and Kevin Dillion and Jennifer Tilly are especially charming and energetic. It’s a madcap race to keep Earth from turning into the galaxy’s worst focus group, and the movie-within-a-movie looks like a blast as well. Fans of adorable sincerity and those curious about a 1960s’ retrofuturism look done through a 1980s’ lens shouldn’t miss this one.
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Lars Nilsen

Lars is a programmer at Austin Film Society and there he curates repertory series in addition to midnight movies, new releases, independent films and classics.

The Austin Film Society can be found here:
http://www.austinfilm.org
and Lars excellent AFS Viewfinders Facebook group can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/197585777057317/

Here's Lars List from last year:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2018/01/film-discoveries-of-2017-lars-nilsen.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/12/film-discoveries-of-2016-lars-nilsen.html


BELL BOOK & CANDLE (1958)
The same year they starred in Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak costarred in this very funny comedy about a lovelorn beatnik witch (Novak) who feels romantic longings for her square upstairs neighbor (Stewart) in Greenwich Village at Christmas time. Her super-witch aunt (Elsa Lanchester) and warlock brother (Jack Lemmon) help and hinder in turn. Also featuring Ernie Kovacs and Hermione Gingold if you need any more convincing. Full of mid-century bohemian interiors and hip talk, this one is well on its way to becoming a holiday tradition around here. Shot by James Wong Howe.
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THE CON ARTISTS (1976)
In the wake of the international commercial success of THE STING, Sergio Corbucci got the chance to make this ‘20s-set picaresque action comedy about a young grifter (Adriano Celentano) who drifts into the orbit of an older, master con-man (Anthony Quinn) and his equally scheming wife (Capucine). The film’s narrative strategy consists of a number of “bluffs” that mirror the cons being perpetrated by the protagonists. It’s a tricky movie, full of reverses and cross-plots. It’s also very funny and, as you would expect from Corbucci, creatively and capably directed.


THE DEVIL’S CLEAVAGE (1975)
George Kuchar had a peculiarly perceptive handle on Ross Hunter-era melodramatic Hollywood dialogue and situations. This is his feature homage to these overheated, overwritten movies. Characters volley metaphors about their unhappy lives and loves back and forth until there’s barely any (metaphorical) fuzz left on the (metaphorical) tennis ball. It works. It’s smart and funny. Sample dialogue:
"I've changed, Angie. My body's under control. I no longer have to muzzle it."

"That's just what I don't want. A body under control. Mine has been running rampant for three and a half years, just like the Mississippi River at springtime. Sure, there's a lot of mud and filth, there's a lot of copperheads, too, but the wild thrill of an elemental existence drives me on and has been driving me on, ever since the afternoon I stepped on the bus in my leopard slacks and they split with a big crack at the crack of dawn, a dawn to a new world."

GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW (1959)
I never got around to this one before now, and I sort of assumed it would be pretty generic, but it’s actually a daring and unusual spoof that’s very funny - though the haunted house/ghost stuff is nowhere near as prevalent as the title and poster would imply. Dialogue is very sharp and well delivered. It’s like a good MAD magazine feature. There are laughs all the way through and a few big ones. MVP is Sanita Pelkey as the towering engineering nerd girl.
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GIRLS OF THE WHITE ORCHID (1983) aka DEATH RIDE TO OSAKA
In this made-for-tv movie, sweetened for foreign theatrical release, talent scouts recruit a young LA woman to work in a Japanese nightclub, but it’s all a front for a prostitution ring. But here’s the good part: it’s directed by Jonathan Kaplan and stars Jennifer Jason Leigh. If you don’t think those two could do anything wrong in 1983, you are probably right, because this movie really works on its own sleazy terms. The nightclub acts - particularly Leigh’s song and Ann Jillian’s dance (!!!) are exceptional. This is ‘30s pulp with ‘80s aesthetics.
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HAMMERSMITH IS OUT (1972)
Here’s a hyper-strange movie that absolutely nobody wanted when it was released. That number has probably increased by 2 or 3 since then and I expect the figure to remain fairly stable. Beau Bridges plays a horn-dog asylum orderly who teams up with a sexy, gum-chewing diner waitress (Elizabeth Taylor) to break the Hannibal Lecter-like genius inmate Hammersmith (Richard Burton) out of the mental hospital. They do so, and become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, etc. Peter Ustinov (who also appears) directed the film and must have provided a lot of the movie’s absurd humor. It is loaded with bizarre dialogue and settings. Interestingly, even in the company of such thespian heavies, Bridges has the best moments and the biggest laughs.


HEALTh (1980)
Made during that period when Robert Altman was condemned to wander the wastelands and forage roots and berries, this is yet another of the master’s unfairly ignored and/or maligned films. Carol Burnett, Lauren Bacall and Glenda Jackson are all candidates for the leadership of an influential national organization. Against the backdrop of a crazy health food conference, the three press their various advantages. As you would expect, Altman feasts on this kale and bean sprout buffet. With a dream supporting cast to balance that formidable lead trio of Burnett, Bacall and Jackson: James Garner, Henry Gibson, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dooley - even Dick Cavett and Dinah Shore.
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MANCHU EAGLE MURDER CAPER MYSTERY (1972, released 1975)
Completely unique and oddly brilliant noir spoof written by and starring former Bowery Boy Gabriel Dell. There’s a really pure vision animating this story of a visionary poultry engineer (Dell) who takes on a side gig as a private detective in his small southwest town. There are loud echoes of THE MALTESE FALCON here but nothing really moves in a straight line. Dell moves from one encounter with a bizarre local character to another, and each new bit of information helps to sketch a bizarre portrait of a bizarre community. All the cast members give it their all, though even today it’s hard to see who wanted a movie like this then or now. I loved it, but I can’t imagine many others would. Check out this supporting cast: Barbara Harris (she has a brilliant monologue), Will Geer as a small town Doctor Benway, Anjanette Comer, Nita Talbot, Vincent Gardenia, Huntz Hall, Jackie Coogan and Joyce Van Patten.
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STARSHIP INVASIONS (1977)
This Canuxploitation CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is surprisingly intelligent. Director Ed Hunt (BLOODY BIRTHDAY and THE BRAIN) always has interesting ideas. This is smarter than you’d expect and the outer space scenes have a super-cool ‘70s pinball back-glass look. Robert Vaughn plays the UFO expert who gets caught in a battle for Earth between the good-guy aliens and the bad-guy aliens, led by Christopher Lee. All of that’s great, but what really ties it all together is a hyper-stoned Creed Taylor-esque narco-jazz score by Gil Melle.
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THIS PROPERTY IS CONDEMNED (1966)
Somehow nobody ever talks about this movie, but it’s a knockout. This is one of those films that straddles old and new Hollywood. Based on a Tennessee Williams fragment, scripted by Francis Ford Coppola (among others), produced by Ray Stark, shot by James Wong Howe, directed by Sidney Pollack and starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Charles Bronson, Mary “Scout” Badham and Robert Blake. Pretty good bona-fides. For this movie to be so obscure it must be terrible, right? What a surprise to discover that it is absolutely terrific, a classic. This is one of those examples of a film’s initial commercial failure coloring its subsequent reception. It was clearly not a film that anyone wanted in 1966, but as we look back on it we can see that it is as good an Oscar-level performance as Wood ever gave. This is big, Oscar-y acting and that’s not an insult. It’s a particular style of star acting, and this is as good an example of it as you’ll see. Redford is also magnetic and he clearly already understands the demands placed on a Hollywood leading man. I can keep typing, but you should just go watch it instead.
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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Some 2019 Blu-ray Favorites!

The annual "Blu-ray Favorites of 2019" episode of Just The Discs drops this week so I'm leaving off my main five picks from that show so you can listen and hear for yourself - however - Here are a a BUNCH of other releases that I enjoyed from this year. Some of them are heavy on supplements, some are just movies I like. Enjoy!


10 TO MIDNIGHT (Scream Factory)
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ABBOTT & COSTELLO: THE COMPLETE UNIVERSAL PICTURES COLLECTION (Shout Factory)
https://amzn.to/2EIgd7Q
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THE ANGEL COLLECTION (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/the-angel-collection
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THE BIG CLOCK (Arrow)
https://amzn.to/34ML6m9
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BIRDY (Indicator)
https://amzn.to/35OLTV8
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CHARLEY VARRICK (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2Sgk04n
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CLEOPATRA JONES (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2sbxeV9
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COBRA (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/2rgqWDk
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CORVETTE SUMMER (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2EE5GKO
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CRIMSON PEAK (Limited) (Arrow)
https://amzn.to/2PNNq8m
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CRISS CROSS (Shout Factory)
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DAY OF THE OUTLAW (Kino Lorber)
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DEAD OF NIGHT (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2ShzpkI
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THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/35NPgvj
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EARTHQUAKE (Shout Factory)
https://amzn.to/2ZdXL09
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EASY LIVING (Kino Lorber)
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A FACE IN THE CROWD (Criterion)
https://amzn.to/2sbAhN5
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THE FLY COLLECTION (Scream Factory)
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F.M. (Arrow)
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A FOREIGN AFFAIR (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2s9aipH
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GASLIGHT (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2MgRrzG
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THE GLASS KEY (Shout Factory)
https://amzn.to/2tGNBtq
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THE GROUP (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2EEavno
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HORROR EXPRESS (Arrow)
https://amzn.to/2Q86Svt
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JONNY QUEST: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES (Warner Bros)
https://amzn.to/34KfD3W
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KLUTE (Criterion)
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THE LANDLORD (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/393LPmc
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THE LEOPARD MAN (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/2EI6crq
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THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR (Arrow)
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MATEWAN (Criterion)
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MIKEY AND NICKY (Criterion)
https://amzn.to/34JIkxZ
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MY FAVORITE YEAR (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/392kUXZ
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THE NEW SCOOBY-DOO MOVIES: THE (ALMOST) COMPLETE COLLECTION (Warner Bros)
https://amzn.to/34I9oxt
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NIGHTBEAST on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://amzn.to/35JL8ww
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NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/34MLjWt
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NOW, VOYAGER (Criterion)
https://amzn.to/2tBLNSk
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PHANTOM LADY (Arrow)
https://amzn.to/2PJ4LPE
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THE PLAGUE DOGS (Shout Factory)
https://amzn.to/34Ilffe
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THE RECKLESS MOMENT (Indicator)
https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/products/the-reckless-moment-le
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SCARY MOVIE (AGFA)
https://amzn.to/2EJWrJe
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SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? THE COMPLETE SERIES (Warner Bros)
https://amzn.to/2Zcah0l
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THE SET-UP (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2PLLuNG
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STRANGER THAN PARADISE (Criterion)
https://amzn.to/2EGEM51
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THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS (Kino Lorber)
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THE THIN MAN (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2sOkns6
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UNIVERSAL HORROR COLLECTION - VOLUME ONE (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/2PJJB3O
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USED CARS (Shout Factory)
https://amzn.to/2EIQCLW
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VICE SQUAD (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/2Q8HiGx
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WILD ROVERS (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2PNk9KR
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