Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Peter A. Martin ""

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Peter A. Martin

Peter Martin is a connoisseur of 70s cinema. He is managing editor for, and is a contributing writer for both Fandango and On Twitter @peteramartin.

Dial Code Santa Claus (1989; d. René Manzor)
Also known as 36.15 code Père Noël and Game Over, I saw the film under the title Deadly Games on 35mm at Fantastic Fest in Austin this past fall, and I was utterly bowled over with happiness. Sure, it's your standard clever kid vs Santa Claus home invasion tale (?!), made before Home Alone, but it's exceptionally smart, funny and kinda fiendish too. It's a great family action movie for families who hate the holidays.

The Other Side of the Wind (2018; d. Orson Welles?)
When Orson Welles talked about this movie at his AFI Life Achievement Award presentation, I got terribly excited, based solely on the audience reaction and my own recent viewing of Citizen Kane. Forty years later, I'm very satisfied to have finally seen at least a second-hand version of what Welles might have done, even if the film itself is not terribly satisfying as a whole. But what glimpses of mastery!

Electra Glide in Blue (1973; d. James William Guercio)
I am short and so the idea of Robert Blake as a short hero was very appealing when I first saw the poster for this movie, which I could never manage to see until now. This is a wonderfully off-kilter drama that doesn't follow narrative rules, yet still manages to contain its various indulgences and missteps inside a very compelling motorcycle movie.
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Uptight (1968; d. Jules Dassin)
An unbelievably urgent and exciting film, this is a rare thriller that never manipulates the audience. I always felt as though it is the events that unfold that were making me tense and nervous. Raymond St. Jacques is some kind of magnificent. It's John Ford's The Informer, soaked in 60s cynicism.
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The Spirit of the Beehive (1973; d. Victor Erice)
Usually I lean toward more straightforward narratives, and that's where this Spanish film begins. And then the young heroine, inspired by a viewing of the original Frankenstein, starts to falls into her own world of fantasy and there's no coming back. Nor would I want her to come back. Simply magnetic.
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Vigilante Force (1976; d. George Armitage)
Based on this film, I believe writer/director George Armitage tapped into a gold mine of creativity that he never shared with anyone else. It feels like a 70s comic book come to life, only better. Somehow, placing Kris Kristofferson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Victoria Principal and Bernadette Peters in close proximity to each other ignited forces that even Armitage could not control.
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Sudden Fury (1975; d. Brian Damude)
A Canadian tax-shelter production that remained buried in secrecy for years, I believe, it has been brought back to life through the good offices of Vinegar Syndrome. I was privileged to watch it on 35mm at Fantastic Fest and what struck me most was that I couldn't predict how weird it would get, just by toying with my expectations for a fairly standard tale of murder that goes completely bonkers, all on a tiny budget and exceptional thought and creativity.
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Capricorn One (1977; d. Peter Hyams)
Hyams is the definition of an old pro as a director, but his secret weapon is that he is also a writer; he can conjure up the wildest plot twists on paper and then execute them superbly on the screen. The premise of a faked moon landing is only the start of a very intense thriller.
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Mr. Majestyk (1974; d. Richard Fleischer)
Fleischer had far more experience than Hyams as a director, so calling him a journeyman is overly dismissive. I love how this movie shakes out, and that's due to Fleischer; I also love how the characters are defined and what they do, and that's due to the superb original script by Elmore Leonard, who is one of my favorite writers of fiction.
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The Long Night (1947; d. Anatole Litvak)
Henry Fonda exudes steely intensity and unwavering integrity, even though he stands accused of murder. He's angry about it, though, and refuses to give up, even though he is stuck in an indefensible position under siege by the authorities. Vincent Price is evil, even though he is entirely human, which might make him more evil than the horror characters for which he is best known.
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The Locket (1946; d. John Brahm)
A whirling dervish of mind-blowing, interlocking stories that travel through time and multiple characters to achieve some kind of amazing synchronicity. Laraine Day, Robert Mitchum, Brian Aherne and more star.
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Juggernaut (1974; d. Richard Lester)
A thriller that does pretty much what you would expect, but Richard Lester's staging, framing, and pacing is exceptional, and the performances by Richard Harris, David Hemmings, Anthony Hopkins, Ian Holm really surprised me with their full-bodied roar. Good studio fun.
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