Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '89 - Kevin Maher ""

Friday, August 16, 2019

Underrated '89 - Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is a writer-producer and the host of KEVIN GEEKS OUT, a live video variety show. You can see his video essays at

1989 saw the start of the Bush presidency and the demise of “7-Up Gold”. Mel Blanc died, and Jake Lloyd was born. Movie theaters were showing a number of franchise sequels and launches, but here are six films that didn’t get their due.

SONNY BOY (dir. Robert Martin Carroll)
Filmmakers like Jess Franco talk about combining grindhouse and art house, SONNY BOY delivers. The result is a polarizing cult film, which some viewers will inevitably call “difficult to watch.” But the rest of us will be thrilled to see weirdo character actors in starring roles: Paul L. Smith shines. Brad Dourif showcases an array of hairstyles over the film’s 20-year story. Plus, Sydney Lassick with a fake mustache.
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THE TALL GUY (dir. Mel Smith)
This British rom-com puts the “light” in delightful. THE TALL GUY is structured as a charming triptych, alternately focusing on West End revues, a love story and high-concept musical theater. (Director Paul Smith and screenwriter Richard Curtis were old pros of sketch comedy, so they do for ‘80s revues what 30 ROCK did for TV Sketch shows.) Plus, it’s Jeff “Brundlefly” Goldblum playing an actor playing the Elephant man in a stage musical.
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LEVIATHAN (dir. George P. Cosmatos)
The summer of ‘89 included a rash of undersea adventures. LEVIATHAN is like an Italian knock-off of THE ABYSS, copying bits of JAWS, ALIEN, and DIE HARD for good measure. This is by no means a “hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered” but a late ‘80s action movie that’s better than its reputation. The secret weapon is Ernie Hudson.
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Satire doesn’t deal in lot of laugh-out-loud moments, even more so when it’s British Satire. This critique of advertising is preachy, but bizarre. Plus, a superb performance by Richard E. Grant. For best results, go back in time and show this film to your impressionable teenage self.
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SKIN DEEP (dir. Black Edwards)
By 1989, Blake Edwards’ brand of comedy was an endangered species. (Not because of its dated sexual politics, but because of the gag-driven approach.) This was the second-to-last theatrical feature from the director of THE PINK PANTHER, VICTOR/VICTORIA and THE PARTY. Watching SKIN DEEP today, it’s refreshing to see the lack of ad-libs and lengthy improvisation. Here’s a filmmaker constructing comedic scenarios and letting them play out like a farcical Rube Goldberg machine, filled with a horny lothario, a hateful mother-in-law, zany car accidents, and a tough-talking shrink (played by choreographer Michael Kidd!)
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(Buy this poster here:
THE ‘BURBS (dir. Joe Dante)
It took me multiple viewings (over several years) to “get” THE ‘BURBS, the same way people require repetition to unlock THE BIG LEBOWSKI or Radiohead’s OK Computer. In 2016, Joe Dante screened it as a double-feature with IT’S A GIFT, and I understood how parts of THE ‘BURBS play like a W.C. Fields film.
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