Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '78 - Troy Anderson ""

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Underrated '78 - Troy Anderson

Troy Anderson runs AndersonVision. While observing Film Twitter through a telescope, he invites every film writer/enthusiast/critic/reporter/gourmand to share their latest findings with him on Twitter. He repeats that he doesn’t want to join Film Twitter; he just wants to read your stuff. 

Also, he’s open for a series of collaborations, guest spots, whatever in 2019. The reclusive Anderson has a notebook of ideas that he wants to give away. It doesn’t matter how big or small your outlet might be, God’s high-powered mutant wants to share his word vomit with you. 

For details: scream into the void or contact @AVCentral or the contact spots on AndersonVision.com 

It’s not a set-up, a joke, whatever. Troy Anderson wants to get know you, the doctors call this outreach.

ON WITH THE SHOW!
Slow Dancing in the Big City
Dir: John G. Avildsen
Slow Dancing in the Big City is one of the random films that come across my lap when doing deep research dives. However, this film got my attention via an archivist friend who thought it would strike my fancy. I thank that person, as this film has never been released on home video or DVD. So, I still have no idea how this person got a REDACTED copy.

After having used Lloyd Kaufman’s services to get a lot of Rocky’s Philly shoot handled, Kaufman got to produce John G. Avildsen’s follow-up to the legendary boxing movie. Many critics at the time called it Rocky for Ballet dancers, but that seemed to be missing the point.

Paul Sorvino is practically miming Jimmy Breslin in this one, as he seems to not have a remote understanding of why he likes Anne Ditchburn. Ditchburn is a professional dancer, so she carries the weight of the dancing scenes. However, she fails to sell the impact of her character’s severe disease.

The film wants you to appreciate that her dancing with Sorvino will be the last healthy chances she has at her life’s passion. Meanwhile, Sorvino looks like a portly Frankenstein almost stomping her to death while they dance. Lloyd Kaufman gets a fun cameo looking almost as confused as anyone watching the film.

But, it’s charming in its oddity. Fun fact: the film’s love theme is now used during the Academy Awards’ In Memoriam sections when Bill Conti is the show conductor.


Born Again
Dir: Irving Rapper
Born Again is what happens when the Right-Wing elements left in Hollywood get together to turn a sinner into a Saint. Charles Colson was Nixon’s special counsel responsible for attacking Pentagon Papers activist Daniel Ellsberg. Colson was also one of the first to get sentenced for his crimes in the Watergate case due to his many Obstruction of Justice charges. It’s super weird how much things stay the same over four decades.

In prison, Colson decided to form Prison Fellowship. While most spent their time in the Alabama Detention System sweating through their days, Colson got right with the Lord and tried to make an International business of it. The Darn Cat star Dean Jones ditches Disney live-action to play Charles Colson.

Teaming up with The Christine Jorgensen Story director Irving Rapper, the duo makes a film that stung a little too close to home for the Post-Watergate era. After all, Colson barely served a year and made a business off the backs of government malfeasance.

Yet, if you watch this movie…Dean Jones plays the moment like the hand of God anointed Colson to save us all. What makes the film more impressive is its big budget and released by then-major studio AVCO Embassy. Billy Graham plays himself in the film because nobody misses a PR opportunity like Billy.
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Foul Play
Dir: Colin Higgins
Foul Play is underrated now. That seems odd to me, as it seemed like everyone’s parents had a VHS copy of this movie when I was a kid. The film was originally designed to play as a darkly comic homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Now, the film seems like it was written by Stefon from Saturday Night Live.

This film has everything:

Killer Albinos

Sexed-up Dudley Moore

Barry Manilow scoring an assassination plot against The Pope

The German mortician from Return of the Living Dead tries to kill Goldie Hawn

Dan Cortese

If Paramount can’t get this back into circulation, then farm out the job to Criterion or Olive. Let’s bring this cult classic into the HD era.
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Remember My Name
Dir: Alan Rudolph
Anthony Perkins has lady trouble in this semi-forgotten Alan Rudolph tale. He’s been remarried after getting out of a terrible first marriage. The catch is that the first wife needs to crash at his place after she gets out of prison. What Perkins didn’t tell anyone is that the first wife went to prison for murdering his secret lover.

Now, all three people are under one roof and trying to make a go of things. What makes it crazier? The film’s entire soundtrack is sung by an 82 year old nightclub singer. 1978 is the year where everyone made movies on a dare and we were all better for it.

While this film is getting a slowly growing second life due to its Feminist elements, it often hammers its point home with a sledgehammer. Earthquake reports are always on the background TVs and every outdoor billboard is a reminder for Geraldine Chaplin not to take revenge on Perkins.

Yet, there is that overwhelming desire to make Perkins answer for how he treated his first wife. She was wrong too, but she paid for her crimes. When does Perkins have to pay for what he did? Also, how much of his past life has he shared with Wife #2? As far as I know, the film has only been shown a handful of times on TCM since the early home video days. Somebody has to have an HD print kicking around their vaults.

The Small One
Dir: Don Bluth
Yes, it’s a Disney short film that was attached to the 1978 re-release of Pinocchio. But, it’s also the film that got Don Bluth the attention and acclaim to break out as a solo director. Banjo the Woodpile Cat had to have been kicking around at the same time The Small One hit theaters, but I don’t want to work out the chronology here.

The Small One was a Christmas short about a young boy being forced to sell his pet donkey. The family can’t afford to keep the scrawny runt, so our hero takes his pet out for one last adventure. Along the way, they meet a variety of people that try to scam and cheat them. When all seems lost, a man and his pregnant wife find the duo.

The not-named man pays the boy a single piece of silver to buy his pet, so he can carry his pregnant wife into Bethlehem. Not having an inkling of what’s to come, the boy entrusts his pet to the couple and marvels at giving his friend a better life.

Due to the heavy Christian imagery and reference points in the film, Disney has re-edited the film in recent years. Always bundled in studio compilations, background Crucifix imagery is blurred out or redrawn. The merchants also had their song changed due to a few lines involving Jewish stereotypes. I’d still love to see an effort made to bundle the short with a future release of Pinocchio.
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Debbie Does Dallas
Dir: Jim Clark
Debbie Does Dallas matters more than Deep Throat. It’s not being the first to do something that matters. What really shows impact is taking that original formula, showing it’s not a fluke and making a bigger mainstream splash. The 1970s had this cutesy love affair with pornography that nobody directly acknowledged.

Hell, it leaked into everything from the Watergate Investigation to the Meese Report and any number of Crown International exploitation flicks. Cheerleaders, nurses, random women in cages all got trotted out to mine what made Deep Throat worked and they all failed.

What Jim Clark does with Debbie Does Dallas is make a porn narrative film that could play as a Teen Exploitation film with a few cuts. That says a world about the nature of the teen sex comedy. Let’s take a step back and examine a truth about 70s cinema. The impact of pornography on what got distributed in America needs to be acknowledged.

Theaters were numerous throughout the country before the home video boom. If you were in a bigger city, having cheap thrills packaged into 90 minute features meant having to go down to the Theater Row. You would pass a screening of The Psychic, Black Belt Jones or Misty Beethoven on any night. It was a glorious time where any film that wasn’t a major budget release got to fight it out on neighboring screens. Your film was a major, a mid-major or an indie guerilla fighting in the Prehistory days of the Content Wars.

Debbie Does Dallas was shot like any other guerilla production. They stole shots at the Pratt Institute Library and anywhere they didn’t get chased out of in Brooklyn. Sure, Debbie was never shown getting to Dallas. It didn’t matter as the film’s success proved that adult sex films with a story had staying power in the cinema.

The film would also serve to kick start the VHS/Betamax boom from its infancy to a full-fledged industry. Many distribution houses released their own Debbie Does Dallas tapes due to the lack of a clear copyright. The result was a series of lawsuits lasting 5 years that helped define the rules of how second-tier studios can handle independent properties. Smaller distribution houses now had set rules about how they could acquire anything from foreign films, older titles, hard-to-market cult films and even the bigger adult titles. This meant that more people across the world would have a shot at seeing movies that never made it past major markets.

That is a pretty impressive feat for a movie about cheerleaders trying to raise money for a trip to Texas. All content had the chance to become equal, as more avenues and more audiences got to see whatever they want when they want it. The downside is that it began the slow trickle that is killing the theatrical exhibition. But, that’s a story for another time.
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