Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Daniel Budnik ""

Friday, February 1, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Daniel Budnik

Dan Budnik's second book, '80s Action Movies On The Cheap, is available now and can be ordered from Amazon. His first book, Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey, is out of print but can still be found by those who look hard enough. His writing is on the Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things blog and the Bleeding Skull! website. He is host of the Eventually Supertrain and the Dan's Drive-In Double Feature podcasts, located at eventuallysupertrain.blogspot.com. He is also co-host of The Made For TV Mayhem Show and part of the Podcastmania horror discussion.

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (1974)
The second in the “schoolgirl trilogy” of giallos from the 1970s. I love What Have You Done To Solange?, the first one. It’s sad and strange and has more than a touch of depravity to it. Red Rings of Fear, the third one, is right at that point where giallos where saying “To Hell With It” and diving headfirst into sleaze, sleaze and more sleaze. (Please see Play Motel and Giallo In Venice.) Daughters, however, always eluded me. But, thanks to the Arrow Blu, I saw it and I loved it. A 14-year-old girl is found naked and hanged in an attic. There’s a nut dressed like The Wraith with the world’s biggest meat cleaver running around killing people. It’s not a tremendously stylish film. It’s pretty matter-of-fact but it’s also pretty nuts. It splits time with the poliziotteschi genre, like Blazing Magnum and Suspicious Death of a Minor do. I love when these films do that. Give me the crazy gore and the general uneasiness and the horror scenes and then throw in a ten-minute long car/ motorcycle chase. It’s a lot of fun. If anything else is needed to convince you, look at the opening scene with the body of the naked girl hanging from the ceiling. It’s clearly fake. But, they focus on it so long that it becomes disturbing. (Like H.G. Lewis’s gore in stuff like The Wizard of Gore.) I think that’s rather daring filmmaking.
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Xtro (1982)
I thought I had seen this film. I got the Blu-Ray, watched it, turned to one of my dogs (George, the one who likes sci-fi) and said “I’ve never seen that.” He claimed he had. As he was a rescue dog and about two when we got him, I couldn’t deny that he may have. I had not seen this, though. Oh, I knew of it. But, I didn’t know it was this nutty. A man is abducted by aliens. He returns a few years later and he may not be himself… and he may be trying to transform his son into something like him. It’s gory, gross and has a few surreal moments that made me sit up and smile. It’s not as absolutely wonderful as I thought it would be but it brought me a lot of joy. The imagination behind it (and the sense of gross) is something to behold. I refuse to say more because I thought I knew everything about it until I realized that I knew nothing. May you feel the same way.
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Flesh and Bullets (1985)
Strangers On A Train as made by a porn director. (With Mike and Mari Cartel of Runaway Nightmares hanging around). One man is going to kill another man’s wife. In return, the “another” man is going to kill that “one” man’s wife. It’s all down to excessive alimony. (As decreed by Judges Yvonne De Carlo and Cesar Romero during two brief and weird scenes.) Things don’t go according to plan. From the opening goofy bank robbery scene to several lengthy not terribly erotic love scenes to a side tangent with two characters listed in the closing credits as “Homo Wrestlers” and… I don’t know. This film was completely unknown to me. 90 minutes later, it was all I wanted to know. It does feel like it’s going to become porn, but it never does. Although, everyone looks like they’re up for it (except our judges). After a time, the film goes exactly where you think it’s going to go. The route it takes to get there, though, is fraught with loopiness. Plus, it has one of my favorite closing lines ever delivered by someone who looks exactly like my Aunt Elaine.
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Thank God, It’s Friday (1978)
A bunch of people go to a disco, listen to the Commodores, Donna Summer and others and dance. It’s a super fun disco film along the same structural lines as Skate Town U.S.A. I’ll be honest, the set-up, the section that assembles everyone and brings them to the disco, didn’t really thrill me. Normally, I love that part of movies like this. (The pre-killing scenes of slasher films are some of my favorite moments in that subgenre, for example.) Here, I found the “assembly” scenes to be a little dull. But… but, once everyone hits the disco the whole thing is a heck of a good time. Fun music, fun characters and some interesting/ funny moments. It’s a four on the floor treat. And scenes from it are featured throughout the very rare 1st season of You Can’t Do That On Television. Because of that, I pretty much already knew I was going to love the film before I watched it.
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The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)
I don’t know if this makes me sound jejune but this film (along with 1977’s Cracking Up, which I had seen before) was my most watched film of 2018. I watched it probably about 10 times. I have it on the flipside of an MGM DVD with The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini. I’d watched Bikini numerous times. I’m a huge fan of the Beach Party films, by the way. (I know there’s no beach in Bikini, but it’s considered part of the series.) However, I’d never flipped the disc. In all my days, I don’t think I’d ever read an enthusiastic review of Dragstrip Hollow. One day, I was flipping through The Encyclopedia of Horror Movies when I happened to re-read their review. Something in it grabbed my attention. I watched the film. Then, I watched it again. I re-re-read the review and saw what it was that grabbed me: the words “virtually plotless.” I’d never noticed those words before. They use them negatively but that’s right up my alley. This film is brilliant and is virtually plotless. It’s 65 minutes long. The first 40 minutes or so is a hot rod gang hanging around their club, dancing, singing, partying, occasionally racing. Then, in the last 25 minutes or so they party in a haunted house. All you need to know is that it is wonderful. I had such a good time watching the movie. It’s like a black and white, slightly low-key beach party movie mainly set on a couple of cheap sets. Plus, it has one of my favorite movie dads ever. And Elaine Dupont! Watch it. Watch it now.
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The Rose Café (1987)
Amanda Reyes from Made For TV Mayhem (and the accompanying podcast, which I can be heard on, talking and talking and talking) got mad at me (as mad as she gets) when I told her that this was the first Shades Of Love VHS I bought. This was a series of 1980s direct-to-video romance films made in Canada. Everyone was Canadian except for the leading man who was an American actor. This one has Parker Stevenson, I told her. She said, I should have bought Make Mine Chartreuse. OK, I bought that one. Haven’t watched it yet. But, I get a real kick out of The Rose Café. A woman is opening a restaurant. Her fiancé is helping her but is, clearly, not the man of her dreams. That man is Parker Stevenson. (Possibly he’s the Man Of All Our Dreams.) So… do I need to say more? She has her fiancé. She has her new restaurant. But there’s this hunky schoolfriend who, maybe, should be her true love. The back of the video box says “she is faced with a devastating dilemma that leads to this film’s unforgettably romantic conclusion.” I don’t disagree with that statement. If all the Shades of Love series are as fun as this one, I’m in all the way. Plus, there’s a Kim Carnes song in it! What?!
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The Party Animal (1984)
I was torn between this one or Weekend Pass for the most interesting 1980s sex/ T&A comedy I watched this year. Weekend Pass is more charming and is (in its own way) rather poignant. But, The Party Animal has one thing on its mind and drives towards that one thing hard. It’s about Pondo Sinatra, a tremendously unappealing character, arriving at college on a turnip truck to accomplish a (not-so) simple task: getting laid. The movie is a series of, more or less, vignettes with him failing and failing until he succeeds. The movie is dumb in a way that few comedies from this time are. Fireballs is my go-to for dumb but this one almost matches it. It feels like a couple of guys got some money together, got a movie deal and then got as many women as possible to take off their clothes for the camera. (Which is actually the plot of some movies if I remember correctly.) The whole thing mixes sleazy with stupid in a compact 77-minute burst that… Man, it’s so dumb. The lead character is dumb. His best friend Studly is dumb. The vignettes, many bordering on surreal, are dumb. But, I have a high tolerance for dumb and I found the willingness to follow its main concept all the way down to its logical conclusion worth a few viewings. Be warned though: Dumb.
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Death Smiles On A Murderer (1973)
I watched a lot of giallo this year. I wanted to keep to one on this list so I’m calling this a “Joe D’amato Film” rather than a giallo. That’s a genre, isn’t it? People are being killed. There’s a strange blonde wandering eerily through some people’s lives. Klaus Kinski is there, being odd. (Normally, I’d call him a “strange blond” but his hair is more grey/ white here.) The whole story is slightly askew and so, so weird. I had heard of this film but never wandered close to watching it until the Blu-Ray came out. Again, I knew nothing about it. You shouldn’t either. Just remember: It’s kind of eerie. It’s super weird. It’s quite gory and it’s bordering on “What the hell?” throughout most of it. I like Joe’s work more than I care to admit in polite company. (Plus, the ABSURD Blu from Severin has a CD soundtrack included. Love it!)
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Terror In The Jungle (1968)
Weird movies from the 1960s don’t get as much attention from me as they should. There’s kind of a reason for that. A lot of them are a bit dull. Jungle is no different. The second half of the movie is a little ponderous. But, oh boy, that first half hour! A little boy is flying alone from the U.S. (Florida?) to Rio to see his mom. The plane crashes in the jungles of Peru. The boy is worshipped as a God by an ancient Incan tribe. That is the basic breakdown. But, it leaves out the best part. The first half hour is more or less a proto-1970s disaster film on a plane. We meet a whole mess of characters from all walks of life. An aspiring actress, a rich publisher, some nuns, a possible murderess, an old lady with a bird and a Beatle-esque trio. (who are about as convincing as a Beatle-esque trio as Anthony Eisley was as a hippie in Al Adamson’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein) I am going to spoil why the first 30 minutes are so bitchin’. So you can trust me and watch it or read the rest of this entry. Thanks for hanging around. So, we meet all these people, learn their stories and the plane goes down. Then, pretty ruthlessly, the film kills EVERY single character on the plane except for the boy. Ten minutes after the plane explodes, no one gives a crap about any of them anymore. It’s such a weird bit of storytelling that I knew I’d love the film, even when I started to lose interest somewhere around the hour mark. Over-emphatic music mixes with strange acting choices and people behaving contrary to all forms of human interaction to make this one I’ve gone back to a few times now. Plus, the moment one of the nuns accidentally falls out of the plane when it’s still in flight made me laugh out loud. I’m going to Hell for that one.
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1 comment:

Professor Brian O'Blivion said...

Great list. I love Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow!