Rupert Pupkin Speaks: February 2020 ""

Friday, February 28, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan is a writer and movie fan, a regular contributor to The Dark Pages film noir newsletter, can sometimes be found at her blog and on twitter at @HQofK

Check out her other RPS lists here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/search/label/Kristina%20Dijan

SENSO (1954; Luchino Visconti) 
During Austrian occupation and Venetian resistance, countess Alida Valli is so infatuated and obsessed with scoundrel and con-man Lieutenant Farley Granger that she makes massively bad decisions, like betraying her country in attempt to hold on to her lover and comfortable social status. Along with the juicy melodrama and beautiful leads, enjoy the movie’s opulence, the breathtaking sets, costumes, and photography.
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THE STUFF (1985; Larry Cohen) 
Like Q THE WINGED SERPENT, this has another juicy role for Michael Moriarty. What’s the mysterious source and power of the addictive marshmallow-fluff-like dessert taking the world by storm? Catchy ads for “The Stuff” brainwash the masses, but one boy learns that this ice-cream substitute confection possesses, and then violently vacates, victims’ bodies. Great 50’s monster movie container for more modern views on marketing, militarism, conformity, conspiracy, and questionable food sources.
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ADUA AND HER FRIENDS (1960; Antonio Pietrangeli) 
All-star cast of women (including Simone Signoret and Emmanuelle Riva) playing friends and sex workers who open a country restaurant, to start over and be seen as more respectable, but they’re plagued by the kinds of creeps and troubles bound to foil those goals. Wonderful, deep characterization and sincere storytelling; you get to know all these women and their situations, and feel for them in their frustrations and the heartbreaking unfairness they face.
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THE MAD BOMBER aka THE POLICE CONNECTION (1973; Bert I. Gordon) 
Sleazy, entertaining and violent exploitation procedural about LAPD (led by detective Vince Edwards) racing to find a serial rapist (Neville Brand) who has valuable info on a bomber (Chuck Connors). Memorable trio of actors, especially Connors as the madman who feels like he never belongs and is triggered to punish ingrates, ignoramuses, and people with poor manners (no wonder several reviewers compare it to FALLING DOWN).
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CRIME WITHOUT PASSION (1934; Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur) 
Gorgeously shot, thrilling, dark, indie pre-Code gem with an unforgettable opening sequence, that alone makes this worth seeking out. It’s the juicy tale of hotshot lawyer Claude Rains trying to establish a foolproof alibi and planting exonerating evidence after he murders his mistress. Margo plays that victim, a nightclub singer, in a great performance, and also good is Whitney Bourne as Rains’ other snooty love interest.

CLASS OF 1999 (1990; Mark Lester) 
It’s like BLACKBOARD JUNGLE but with punks vs. killer android teachers, who are installed and controlled (just barely) by a devious, albino, crew-cut and rat-tailed Stacy Keach. Pam Grier, karate moves, Malcolm McDowell… one letterboxd reviewer describes it well, as THE TERMINATOR meets THE FACULTY.
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A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM (1990; Jan Egleson) 
Michael Caine puts in so many years as a suffering husband, and loyal hardworking ad executive, that he snaps after he getting passed over for promotion. One accidental death triggers for him a wickedly clever and cathartic murder spree that turns circumstances his way, until he gets too greedy; that part may be predictable but the ending isn’t.
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A DOLLAR BETWEEN THE TEETH aka A STRANGER IN TOWN (1967; Luigi Vanzi) 
Ultra-minimal, nearly dialogue-free spaghetti western about a trickster drifter (Tony Anthony) who gets recruited into a Mexican bandito plot to rob an American gold shipment, then has to fight for his share of it.
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GUNFIGHT AT COMANCHE CREEK (1963; Frank McDonald) 
A western starring Audie Murphy as a detective gone undercover to stop a gang of bank robbers, who have the unusual M.O. of recruiting ex-cons, fronting them in the heists, then killing them to collect the rewards. Murphy as usual is a nice guy, stoic and determined action hero, plus this has a great role for DeForest Kelley.
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COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (1970; Joseph Sargent) 
Say, why don’t we put artificial intelligence in charge of all the nukes because we can depend on the AI’s clear logical assessments, 100% free of pesky human emotion; what could possibly go wrong? Well, for starters, the US AI detects and mind-melds with its Soviet version, resulting in a new conjoined superthinkbot that decides to run the world, free of pesky humans, sending its inventors underground to find a way to unplug this mess. Great cautionary story with nice work by Eric Braeden as the classy scientist who must destroy his creation.
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THE SILK NOOSE aka NOOSE (1948; Edmond T. Gréville) 
A comedy thriller with Carole Landis as a fearless reporter who, along with her fiancé and some allies from the local gym, works to expose a gang of racketeers. Fantastic cinematography and lots of charm from Landis make this a fun crime and murder spree.
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More gems first seen in ’19 worth mentioning:
NIGHTHAWKS (1981), MODEL SHOP (1969), PRETTY POISON (1968), SILENT RUNNING (1972), DOUBLE SUICIDE (1969), J.D.’S REVENGE (1976), STAKEOUT! (1962)plus some newer movies very much worth a look: THE GUILTY (2018), THE DOMESTICS (2018), and BEAST (2017)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Jim Reding

Jim Reding is a writer and film fan based about an hour outside of Nashville. He hasn’t updated his Letterboxd account in years but keeps handwritten notes on everything he watches. His goal for 2020 is reviving his long-abandoned blog. He occasionally Tweets @JimReding2.

2019 was the most challenging year of my life to date. My dad was hospitalized for most of the year, eventually passing away in September. When I could make time for movie watching amidst the chaos, I found myself primarily seeking comfort in old favorites before taking a chance on something new. Still, I made a few exciting discoveries along the way.

The Lineup (1958)
Following a quick, sharply edited pre-title sequence involving a seemingly unmotivated getaway car crash, this Don Siegel directed, Stirling Silliphant scripted crime drama almost grinds to a halt. The first act, featuring two blandly written cops played by Emile Meyer and Marshall Reed, fails to escape the handcuffs of its CBS radio and television police procedural roots. Stick it out, though. It really kicks back into gear once Robert Keith and Eli Wallach appear on the scene as two racketeers out to retrieve some contraband heroin. Keith is the methodical, intellectual Julian, Wallach, the impulsive, violent Dancer (“A psychopath with no inhibitions,” to quote the script).
Filled with excitingly tense violent set pieces, this would make a fantastic double feature with Dirty Harry, another Siegel directed, San Francisco shot crime drama.
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A Scary Time (1960)
Originally commissioned for Unicef, this Shirley Clarke short juxtaposes the pretend horrors of an American Halloween with the real-life horrors of Third World poverty. It's as jarringly manipulative as that synopsis suggests. You flinch at the cuts between boisterous, healthy children, pulling up their masks to reveal toothy smiles, and sickly starving children in tattered clothes with tears running down their cheeks, flies buzzing around their faces. It's also inventively shot and edited. The Halloween sequences stand next to those in E.T. and Don Coscarelli's Kenny and Company as some of the best in American film at capturing the fun of dressing up and heading out for a night full of trick or treating and prank pulling. The non-synch dialogue-probably a necessity- heightens the high-spirited feel.
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Something Wild (1961)
Months after watching it, I feel like I’m still processing Jack Garfein’s complicated study of trauma. I remain mystified by the second half, particularly its ambiguous conclusion, which didn’t work for me on either a naturalistic or symbolic level. Reading up later, I discovered I wasn’t alone. Almost 50 years after its initial release, critics are still divided. Sheila O’Malley praises it in her Criterion essay but places it in the category of films “that resist clarity, that beckon, haunt, persist, nag.”
Regardless of my issues, it’s an undeniably powerful film. I can’t shake it. What sticks with me are the dialogue-free opening, a pair of haunting performances from Carroll Baker as a rape victim suffering from PTSD and Ralph Meeker as the damaged brute who takes her in eventually entrapping her, Eugen Schüfftan’s New York location photography, and the fantastic title sequence by the great Saul Bass.
Note: I learned of Garfein’s death as I was typing this write up, an eerie coincidence.
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Wanda (1970)
In her sole directorial feature, Barbara Loden stars as a directionless drifter who walks away from her husband, loses custody of her kids, and falls into a life of crime with a bank robber played by Michael Higgins. That such a seemingly passive character can be a compelling protagonist is a testament to Loden’s talent and attention to detail both in front of and behind the camera. In an ideal world, this independent feature, inspired by a 1960 New York Daily News article, would have led to a long, storied directorial career. In the real world, it received little attention during its initial U.S. theatrical release and remained largely unavailable for years. Thankfully, the film’s reputation continues to grow following a loving restoration, hopefully ensuring it will never fall out of circulation again.
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Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975)
Nearly three and a half hours of a domestic widow-and occasional prostitute's- repetitive daily routine played out in long, often static takes may sound like cinematic melatonin, but if you can get on Chantal Akerman's film's wavelength, it's oddly compelling. Delphine Seyrig is brilliant as the title character, using subtle gestures to convey her slow descent into madness as she cooks, cleans, and shops. Everything is meticulously detailed, creating a fully realized world. Countless repertory series have been programmed around the joy of cooking, but how many films accurately convey the drudgery of planning and preparing a meal for an unappreciative son?
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All That Jazz (1979)
Following multiple heart attacks and open-heart surgery, Bob Fosse channeled his feelings about his mortality into this autobiographical musical. Roy Scheider is the director’s surrogate, the sex-obsessed, alcoholic, Benzedrine popping, chain-smoking, choreographer-director Joe Gideon. In the real world, Gideon consistently pushes himself and those around him to perfect his art, much to the detriment of his personal life and physical health. In his fantasies, he reflects on his life with Angelique, the angel of death played by Jessica Lange.
The subject matter is dark, but the filmmaking is so dazzlingly exuberant, the tone so frequently funny, that it never feels depressing.
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Monday, February 24, 2020

New Release Roundup for the week of February 25th, 2020

QUAI DES ORFEVRES on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2SZs2gA
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VICTORY on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/37I1PbB
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HOT DOG... THE MOVIE! on Blu-ray (Synapse Films)
https://amzn.to/3c06yJp
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PET SEMATARY TWO on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
https://amzn.to/32dC2a9
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SPOOKIES on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://amzn.to/39L9Dea
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THE CANDY SNATCHERS on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://amzn.to/2SZspI9
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FORBIDDEN FRUIT: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE EXPLOITATION PICTURE: Volume 1 - MOM AND DAD on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2v6rpdh
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FORBIDDEN FRUIT: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE EXPLOITATION PICTURE: Volume 2 - REEFER MADNESS/ SEX MADNESS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2PcTA0R
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FORBIDDEN FRUIT: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE EXPLOITATION PICTURE: Volume 3 - UNASHAMED: A ROMANCE/ ELYSIA on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/2HEB2CA
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HOLLYWOOD HORROR HOUSE on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/hollywood-horror-house
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XTRO 3: WATCH THE SKIES on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/vinegar-syndrome/products/xtro-3
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FLESH EATING MOTHERS on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://amzn.to/2HHD1pM
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ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
https://amzn.to/2vO3Y8y
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THE MAYA DEREN COLLECTION on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
https://amzn.to/38LQdWz
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PARIS IS BURNING on Blu-ray (Criterion)
https://amzn.to/39P3ygS
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IT STARTED WITH A KISS on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
https://amzn.to/2SKI5Qv
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THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER on 4K Blu-ray (Paramount)
https://amzn.to/2SZt7VG
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COLOR OUT OF SPACE on 4K Blu-ray (RLJ Entertainment)
https://amzn.to/2vNrxhV
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