Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Todd Liebenow ""

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Todd Liebenow

Todd writes about neglected cinema at his blog Forgotten Films, which I am a big fan of:
http://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/
He also runs a great podcast about those kind of movies there too and I was a guest on the show (talking about MIDNIGHT MADNESS):
https://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/forgotten-filmcast-ep-65-midnight-madness/
Todd also has another podcast called "Walt Sent Me" all about Disney films:
http://waltsentmepodcast.podomatic.com/
It’s been a great thrill for me to do a Film Discoveries list for Rupert Pupkin Speaks for the last several years. I admit, though, this year was the most challenging. I just didn’t see very many films that really “wowed” me this year. Still, here are a few that did grab me in a certain way.

The Thin Man (1934)
We all have our blind spots, okay. So yeah, I’m ashamed it took me so long to get to The Thin Man. I admit, I didn’t care one bit about the mystery, I was just so wrapped up in the wonderful banter between William Powell and Myrna Loy. Sadly, I didn’t get to watch any of the five sequels before the death of FilmStruck (moment of silence, please).
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The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The only film directed by actor Charles Laughton is one of the most haunting films I have seen. Beautiful in its ugliness is the only way I can think to describe it. This is the first of several films I saw this year that made me realize what a fantastic actor Robert Mitchum was. The visuals, inspired by German expressionism, are also among the most striking ever captured on film.
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Dark of the Sun (1968)
Unbelievably brutal film about a team of mercenaries out to nab some diamonds tucked away in an African village. This is the rare film that actually lives up to its extreme poster art. I mean, this flick has Rod Taylor (who I usually think of as being quite mild mannered) in a chainsaw fight! Oh, and Jim Brown in this one, too…cool as ever.
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The Fly II (1989)
For the last several years, my film discoveries list has included at least one bonkers horror sequel. This year that honor goes to the Fly II. Sure, it doesn’t hold a candle to Cronenberg’s original, but it embraces being gross and does it in a fun way. Eric Stoltz is appropriately awkward in the lead role and Daphne Zuniga (who I could watch organize her sock drawer) also turns in a fine performance.
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Shogun Assassin (1980)
This doesn’t seem like it should work...stitch together bits and pieces of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films to come up with something American audiences will go for. However it works very very well. Slick and concise, it gets to the point and delivers some jaw dropping moments of action and violence. After watching this I watched the two films this is made from in their entirety. They are also wonderful, but this is a very good concoction that works well on its own.
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Who Done It? (1942)
A wonderful mix of mystery and comedy featuring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The film has a great visual style; more than what you get from most Abbott and Costello flicks. Of course, it features several great Bud and Lou routines that they most likely perfected on the stage. It also features some fun supporting performances from William Gargan, William Bendix, and Mary Wickes.
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Night Moves (1975)
Slick neo-noir featuring a cool performance from Gene Hackman. I’m the sort of viewer who easily gets lost a bit when it comes to detective stories, but for this film it didn’t matter whether or not I was completely tuned in to every twist and turn, ‘cuz Hackman was so dang captivating. Man I hate that we aren’t getting any new movies from Hackman.
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Slither (1973)
A fun, slightly goofy caper with James Caan, Peter Boyle, Sally Kellerman, and Louise Lasser on a road trip to locate a stash of stolen cash. All four leads turn in great performances, but Kellerman especially steals the show as a sexy and loopy free spirit.
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Battleground (1949)
Gripping World War II flick that, despite its action oriented title, is really more about struggles of the soldiers as they face the horrors of war. Features several great performances, but it is Ricardo Montalban who stole the show for me. He has a wonderful moment where he dances about in a war zone because it is the first time he has ever seen it snow. As a big Our Gang fan, I also loved seeing Scotty Beckett all grown up in a small role.
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American Gothic (1987)
This bizarre bit of 80’s hicksploitation horror was the film that really caught me off guard this October. It features a backwoods family of killers led by Rod Steiger and Yvonne De Carlo...both of whom could’ve just showed up and cashed their checks, but instead turn in wonderfully creepy performances. It also has a really cool twist on the concept of the final girl.
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Repli-Kate (2002)
I do admit to feeling a wee bit ashamed that I am including a late era National Lampoon flick on this year’s list. I watched several of these films this year and most of them are, as one would expect, quite bad. But National Lampoon presents Repli-Kate surprised me with how charming it is at times. It is goofy and gimmicky and does fall victim to the sort of sophomoric humor these National Lampoon films are often peppered with. However, leads James Roday and Ali Landry have both good comedic and romantic chemistry. This is probably the highpoint when it comes to post 90’s Lampoon films.
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