Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Brad Gullickson ""

Friday, January 11, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Brad Gullickson

Brad Gullickson is a desperate freelance writer and podcaster. You can find him rambling nearly every day on Film School Rejects, or jibber jabbering weekly on In The Mouth of Dorkness, Rest In Pictures, and The Comic Book Couples Counseling podcasts. If you would like to follow along on his cinematic adventures you can find him @MouthDork on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd.

For such a weird and horrendous year, I found a great deal of hope escaping into cinema. Several of the movies I encountered were straight, weird fluff that offered distraction from daily worries, but others challenged the basic pleasures by exposing and confronting societal concerns. We need a good mixture of both to get through life, and I look forward to finally knocking out some classics and not-so-classics in 2019.

Things To Come (1936; William Cameron Menzies)
Spinning out of H.G. Wells’ desire to discuss the dark path humanity was traversing in the 1930s, this film was meant to act like a raging alarm. A second world war explodes from the center of Everytown, England, lasts for well over a decade, and irrevocably shatters the glorious potential of civilization. Raymond Massey guides the audience through a series of technological horrors that reduces people to herds of groveling savages. From the near-future of 1940 to the far-future of 2036, THINGS TO COME never falls into complete despair but suggests that the hopeful will always have to wage war with the fearful. Toss in some astonishing design work including one helluva flight suit from Vincent Korda (brother of the producer Alexander Korda) and you’ve got a must-see early example of an aesthetically rich, superior social science-fiction.
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Terror in a Texas Town (1958; Joseph H. Lewis)
The film opens with Sterling Hayden carrying a gargantuan whaling harpoon into a shootist showdown with black hat, Nedrick Young. If that doesn’t hook you immediately, nothing will. The plot is basic B-movie Western revenge, and despite Hayden’s insanely awful Swedish accent, TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN sizzles with the requisite fire demanded by the basest of gunfighter confrontations. Don’t let the screenwriter’s handle of Ben Perry fool you; blacklisted idealist Dalton Trumbo supplies the eat-the-rich rage bubbling under every frame of the film. Working in the most popular genre at the time, Trumbo jabs two middle fingers at the American Dream and happily condemns those that put the worth of a dollar above the health of their neighbors.
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Come Drink With Me (1966; King Hu)
Friends have always proclaimed this Hong Kong adventure as the greatest kung fu film ever made, but for whatever reason, I dared not test such hyperbolic sentiment. That’s a lot of baggage to saddle a movie. However, the opportunity to catch it on the big screen was too delicious to resist and I am happy to report that the grand praise that often blankets the film is one hundred percent accurate. Han Ying-chieh’s choreography is exceptional and propels its heroes to heights that various wannabes have been chasing ever since. Balletic, yes. Fantastical, yes. Outrageous, yes. Brutal, oh you betcha.
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The Yakuza (1974; Sydney Pollack)
Screenplay by Paul Schrader with a rewrite from Robert Towne. That’s a volatile mix of talent and the result is a damn mean movie in which Robert Mitchum wages a one-man war with the Japanese mob. The emotions are ugly, the character even nastier. And apparently, that’s after Towne came in at the request of Sydney Pollack to soften the edges of Mitchum’s hateful P.I. I cannot imagine what Martin Scorsese or Robert Aldrich would have done with this material given its already dark heart, but such nightmares are almost as much fun to consider as the film itself. THE YAKUZA was probably never going to be a smash hit, but I love that 70s filmmakers and studios were so eager to scrape and feed off the very bottom of human decency.
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From Noon Till Three (1976; Frank D. Gilroy)
This is one of those “the less you know, the better” kinda movies. Charles Bronson and his gang of outlaws set off to rob a bank. He has a bad dream around a campfire. The next morning his horse breaks a leg. His partners leave him at a nearby ranch with Jill Ireland. What goes on behind those doors changes the two permanently. Dubbed a comedy on the poster, but the only laughs stem from the audience’s inability to register the events on screen. This WTF Western melodrama is a true joy, and it’s a miracle that the film manages to up the ante from one scene to the next until it leaves you with a climax that is at once baffling and absolutely satisfying. I’m rather mad that none of you out there got me hip to this movie before, as it’s one of those bizarre gems I’ve experienced in quite some time. If you haven’t heard of the film, or simply dismissed it because of that goofy poster, then please give this film a chance. You won’t forget it.
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36.15 Code Pére Noël (1989; René Manzor)
A young boy sits at home on Christmas Eve. His belief in Santa is wavering. His belief in Arnold Schwarzenegger is increasing. All he desires this year is proof of life via the consumption of milk and cookies. The kid’s mom leaves grandpa in command of the house while she tends to the dirty business of retail management. Her careless actions anger the department store Santa under her charge. The demon St. Nick seeks revenge on her by attempting to murderize the kid back home. Filmed a year before HOME ALONE, this delightful oddity similarly champions the imagination of youth through a series of horrific booby-trap assaults on a criminal. The film flopped; saw no love in its native country, and the international release never rose above a whisper. It’s gone under the title of GAME OVER, but I caught it at this year’s Fantastic Fest as DEADLY GAMES. As it plays more and more festivals, hopefully, word will spread, and the film will find new life as a perennial holiday classic.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991; Ngai Choi Lam)
This is another film like COME DRINK WITH ME that carried legendary hyperbolic baggage. Based on a manga, the film follows the plight of a superpowered young man who is imprisoned after slaughtering the crime lord responsible for his girlfriend’s death. Inside the jail, Ricky runs afoul of various thugs and often leaves them limbless or headless. The action violence is joyfully, cartoonishly extreme and absolutely lives up to its gorehound reputation. For those caught in a bloodlust, RIKI-OH delivers on every glimpse you caught thanks to a gif or Craig Kilborn’s Daily Show montage.
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The Vagrant (1992; Chris Walas)
Bill Paxton is a proud new homeowner, but he cannot bask in his acquisition because of the gross, hideous hobo that squats in a vacant lot across the street. At first, he treats the grotesque creature as a pest, but as tensions escalate, THE VAGRANT transforms into a Kafkaesque descent into madness in which decency is revealed as villainy and villainy is exposed as…well, really awful villainy. Imagine the very best episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT stretched to its lurid limits with an unhinged Bill Paxton firing on all cylinders. The film only grows wilder and weirder when Detective Michael Ironside appears to dish out righteous justice.
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