Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Justin LaLiberty ""

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Justin LaLiberty

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in Critical Film Studies and Film Preservation in Archiving. He is currently responsible for programming at Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em. He is a regular contributor to Paracinema and can usually be found in whichever NYC art-house is showing the most sordid content on a given day.

Check out his discoveries from last year too:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2018/01/film-discoveries-of-2017-justin.html

BLUE VENGEANCE (J. Christian Ingvordsen, Danny Cuchuck)
Holy shit, where has this been hiding? Tough late 80s genre hybrid of a police procedural and heavy metal horror fantasy with inspired use of NYC locations (including an absolute showstopper of a climax featuring the Canal St. subway station and the Brooklyn Bridge) and some weirdo medieval touches. Pretty singular stuff and a huge discovery for Vinegar Syndrome.
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THE CLOWN AT MIDNIGHT (Jean Pellerin)
Unapologetic late 90s, Canadian clone of SCREAM with all manner of inexplicable film references (some choice name drops of Errol Flynn and Lon Chaney), appearances by Christopher Plummer and Margot Kidder, gratuitous "shagging" and a whole lot of Stage Fright-esque theater shenanigans. I love this annoyingly meta type of slasher and it delivers on that front plus adds in a creepy clown, it’s weird that this has been slept on for about twenty years.
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ELECTRA (Julian Grant)
Easily the most batshit discovery for me in 2018. If you look up Electra on IMDB, the first plot keywords listed are "serum", "pseudo incest", "rural setting", "bloopers during credits" and "suicide pill". And that's all you really need to know. But honestly, this incestuous super serum dominatrix erotic sci-fi film is the type of movie where someone gets their heart ripped out and then it is slow-mo thrown into someone else's mouth. And it stars Shannon Tweed! Y’all can keep MANDY, this is the type of unhinged psycho cinema that I live for.
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GHOST IN THE MACHINE (Rachel Talalay)
Early 90s technophobia goes the slasher route (this is eerily similar in form to FINAL DESTINATION) with the nonsensical story of a serial killer - The Address Book Killer who, believe it or not, kills people based on address books - getting trapped into a mainframe via an MRI. It doesn't make a lick of sense but it does give reason to use all manner of electricity to kill people in fairly clever ways, including death by bathroom hand dryer! Directed by the underrated Rachel Talalay who also gave us TANK GIRL and the weirdest NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST entry.
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GORDON’S WAR (Ossie Davis)
“He ain’t going anywhere, the rear end is tied down!”

And with that, Ossie Davis kicks off one of the most impressive stunts and chase sequences to hit NYC's streets in the 70s or any other decade. Feels like the Paul Winfield glue between his characters in TROUBLE MAN and ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, with the men-on-a-mission dynamic of the latter in full force. Some incredible use of Harlem locations here, released in the same year as Larry Cohen's one two punch of BLACK CAESAR and HELL UP IN HARLEM.
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HEART OF THE DRAGON (Sammo Hung)
What the hell is this? Basically the Jackie/Sammo version of RAIN MAN that I never knew I needed, with the pair playing brothers: one's a cop (Jackie) and the other is basically a child in an adult's body (Sammo, who goes full Robin Williams in JACK here). It boils down to about 3/4 melodrama/comedy and 1/4 super hard action with some fairly brutal combat and a chase scene that's as good as you'd expect from these two.
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HER NAME WAS LISA (Roger Watkins)
Starting your porn film with its leading lady laying dead in a casket is a bold move and about exactly what you’d expect from someone like Roger Watkins. Not one to shy away from darker themes in adult cinema, Watkins’ is at top form here mixing taboo material like drug use and sexual violence into a type of cinema usually meant to arouse. But this is porn made by someone who seems to have no intention of arousing anyone and it fits more in line with the seedier side of American cinema from the 70s than its porno chic contemporaries.
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IMPULSE (Graham Baker)
An earthquake lets out some toxic sludge and makes a small town go all THE HAPPENING (but, like, with homicide instead of suicide) resulting in crazy pyromaniac kids, a murderous sheriff with an assault rifle and one lengthy exhibitionist front lawn frolic (which I guess is why the poster looks like something much more erotic than this is?). Pretty bonkers stuff, but I guess that makes sense when you're teaming up the writer of BICENTENNIAL MAN and the director of ALIEN NATION.
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I, THE JURY (Richard T. Heffron)
Larry Cohen penned this kinked up Mike Hammer story (from a Spillane source) and it's just as excessive as you'd hope with early 80s NY a cesspool for all sorts of depravity and Armand Assante as Hammer to trudge through it all. Inspired use of a hibachi grill and cement truck and the climax featuring FIRST BLOOD-esque wilderness traps (in the same year FIRST BLOOD was released) takes this to Regan era machismo heights.
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ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN’T (Agnes Varda)
Pretty much everything you'd want in a Varda created partial musical about reproductive rights. It's like a feminist WILD IN THE STREETS by way of those PTA directed Haim videos.
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STREETS (Katt Shea)
Katt Shea takes THE TERMINATOR and ANGEL and mashes them into this bizarre genre cocktail of a young prostitute fleeing a psychotic LA cop with a weird gun that makes at least one head explode. I'm not sure what this is or exactly how successful it is at being that, but it's inspired and Applegate is fierce.
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TWO MOON JUNCTION (Zalman King)
Holy shit, this is the best. Gratuitous showering, a beefy lead dude who apparently doesn't own a shirt until the last ten minutes, Sherilyn Fenn at her histrionic best, surreal circus scenes, plenty of southern drawl and a gender (and age) swapped version of the PORKY’S shower gag.
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V.I. WARSHAWSKI (Jeff Kanew)
I mistook this for a cheap early 90s action flick but it's really a 90s crime comedy where Kathleen Turner and a 13 year old girl run around Chicago beating up and yelling at men like some PI version of GLORIA. It's pretty great.
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WILD SIDE (Donald Cammell)
Only Donald Cammell could get away with making a wildly sleazy 90s erotic thriller (of the Gregory Dark variety) wherein a satin robe wearing, cigar chomping Christopher Walken rants about Trojan condoms and then has his chauffeur put one on him while Anne Heche watches (and makes a cocktail?). Baffling.
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WILLIE DYNAMITE (Gilbert Moses)
The color palette alone in this makes it the blaxploitation equivalent of DICK TRACY. It's criminal that this isn't mentioned in the same breath as canon genre fare like SHAFT or THE MACK, but it's proof that a major studio (this is from Universal) was just as capable at making their mark alongside - and at times at the expense of - their scrappier contemporaries.
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