Rupert Pupkin Speaks: April 2020 ""

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - KC (of A Classic Movie Blog)

Kendahl "KC" Cruver writes about movies at A Classic Movie Blog and as a regular contributor to ClassicFlix. You can find her all over the web:

And have a peek at her Discoveries list from the last couple years here:

Ingrid Goes West (2017)
Watching this painfully accurate take on social media influencers and the people who stalk them was uncomfortable, but I perked up every time O'Shea Jackson Jr. appeared. I can't wait to see him steal more movies. He's like a goofier version of his dad Ice Cube and just as charismatic.

Skate Kitchen (2018)
This movie gets girls and gets why it is fun to be a girl even when everyone around you seems to think it should be pure horror. Just because it isn't easy, doesn't mean it isn't great. It irritates me that this movie didn't make a bigger splash. It is revolutionary.

The Student Nurses (1970)
I caught this at a TCMFF midnight with an intro featuring director Stephanie Rothman. I already loved her weirdly not exploitative take on exploitation in The Velvet Vampire (1971), this earlier flick is even better, with interesting characters I really cared about. It's a fun, slightly hippy-dippy film with an intriguing bit of social commentary.

Roll Bounce (2005)
Being obsessed with roller skating films as I am, it is ridiculous that it took me so long to get to this little treasure. Set in the 70s, with great music, cool rink routines and the most charming cast. 

The American Soldier (1970)
Of course Fassbinder's take on noir is going to be more Fassbinder than anything else, but his eternally weary characters fit perfectly into the genre and that bizarre closing scene makes it truly special.

Hit Lady (1974)
Tired of being the passive blonde, Yvette Mimieux wrote a series of television movie roles for herself in the 70s/80s. This is my favorite. She wears all the fashions while she tries to get out of the business of killing people. She gives it all more depth than she needs to, injecting a familiar plot with a few little interesting flourishes that give her character fascinating nuance.

Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore (1996)
What a tragedy that director Sarah Jacobson died in 2004. She would have killed it in this age. She killed it in grungy 1996 with this punk rock flick that perfectly captures the weirdly passive/passionate thrift store thrust of the time.

Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
Thanks to AGFA releasing this and lots of other goodies on TUBI, I got my first taste of the Ugandan film industry, affectionately known as Wakaliwood, which is the studio based in Kampala's slum Wakaliga. I've heard crazy things about the no-budget productions this group makes. Apparently they even made their own camera equipment? This is the first and best Wakaliwood flick I've seen, but they all share a similar go-for-broke, violent, fast-paced feel with a streak of comedy provided by a sort of MST3K-type MC called the Video Joker who comments on the action throughout the film. The movies would be watchable without the VJ, but with it, they have a sort of genius because no matter how serious everyone gets onscreen, the VJ always finds a reason to laugh. I wish more Hollywood action directors would study the pacing of these flicks.

Olivia (1951)
Jacqueline Audry's tale of jealousy and passion in a French boarding school was my favorite discovery of the year. I'd heard of Audry before, she directed the first film adaptation of Gigi, but knew nothing of this film until Icarus Films released it on DVD/Blu-ray in late 2019. It's lush, tense and decades ahead of its time.

The Nun (1966)
When Anna Karina passed near the end of 2019, I decided to pay tribute by watching her in something I hadn't seen before.  Karina plays the title role, a young girl who is unwilling to enter religious life, but has no other options for survival. It's a devastating film, but Karina is so riveting that I happily struggled through with her. This would be a good double feature with Olivia; lots of shared themes.

More good flicks:
Sweetheart (2019)
One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)
Knife+Heart (2018)
The Amphibian Man (1962)
Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground (2018)
Dead and Buried 
We Are the Radical Monarchs

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Eric Hillis

Eric Hillis is a freelance film critic and editor of
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A Time for Dying (1969; Budd Boetticher)
Budd Boetticher's final film is a curious blend of a classic Hollywood western and the sort of pessimistic genre films that began emerging in the late 1960s. The amateurish Richard Lapp plays a Roy Rogers type cowboy whose 'golly gee' outlook is in stark contrast to the rest of the film, populated as it is by the sort of sweaty varmints you might find in a spaghetti western. Despite a generally light tone throughout, it boasts a shockingly downbeat ending. I can't help wonder if this movie influenced the opening segment of the Coens' western anthology Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
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Shoot It Black, Shoot It Blue (1974; Dennis McGuire)
Sometimes movies are decades ahead of their time. One of the defining images of recent years is that of police shootings of young black men caught on camera by witnesses. Remarkably, that's the premise of this 1974 drama, in which crooked cop Michael Moriarty is filmed gunning down an unarmed black man by film student Eric Laneuville. We then spend most of the film in the company of Moriarty, suspended pending an investigation, as he drifts around Los Angeles in the manner of Gary Lockwood in Model Shop. An unflinching, confrontational examination of American bigotry that's crying out for a remake.

The Incubus (1981; John Hough)
John Cassavetes is rumoured to have rewritten the script for this bizarre, distasteful yet fascinating supernatural thriller. Cassavetes plays a doctor in a small town ravaged by a spate of sexual assaults and murders that appear to be the work of something inhuman. The creepiest thing about the film is how the good doctor ogles his teenage daughter as she undresses. Knock back a shot of White Russian every time Cassavetes mentions "sperm" and you'll be legless by the end of the first act.
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Baby Blue Marine (1976; John D. Hancock)
Director John D. Hancock is one of those '70s filmmakers whose work has been unfortunately overshadowed by that of his more famous peers, but he delivered some of the decade's most interesting films. Baby Blue Marine stars Jan-Michael Vincent as a WWII marine sent home from training in disgrace. After trading uniforms with Richard Gere's officer, who wishes to avoid the frontline, he finds himself in a small Californian town, where he is hailed as a hero for the uniform he hasn’t earned. The townsfolk are a loveable bunch, but the introduction of a subplot involving escapees from a nearby Japanese internment camp is a reminder that even the nicest of people can hold despicable views.
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Phantom Lady (1944; Robert Siodmak)
What's most interesting about Robert Siodmak's noir is how it reverses a gender trope. When her boss (Alan Curtis), with whom she is infatuated, is accused of killing his wife, secretary Ella Raines sets out to prove his innocence. It seems the real killer has gone to great lengths to cover their tracks, with potential witnesses denying ever seeing Curtis and refusing to provide alibis. The film's highlight sees Raines pretend to seduce a drummer played by the great Elisha Cook Jr, resulting in the musician performing a ritualistic drum solo in an attempt to impress her.
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The Party's Over (1965; Guy Hamilton)
Best known for directing four James Bond movies, Guy Hamilton helmed this gritty drama, which couldn't be further from the glamorous exploits of 007. Oliver Reed is at his monstrous best as the leader of a gang of London beatniks who cover up the accidental death and subsequent necrophilic rape of a young American woman. With its unfeeling young characters and quiet rage against a disenfranchised society, Hamilton's film plays like a companion piece to Tim Hunter's similar River's Edge.
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Nightfall (1956; Jacques Tourneur)
Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall is often lumped in with the noir movement, but it owes more to the 1930s chase thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock. Photographer Aldo Ray and model Anne Bancroft set off to Wyoming in search of a bag of cash buried in the snow, attempting to keep ahead of the pair of goons (Brian Keith and Rudy Bond) on their tails. Ray and Bancroft are thoroughly charming together, both exhibiting a loveable goofiness that makes their characters all the more easy to root for.
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The Mad Miss Manton (1938; Leigh Jason)
This screwball mystery stars the great Barbara Stanwyck as a socialite who comes across a murdered corpse and swiftly rounds up her posse of high society girlfriends to solve the crime. Her bumbling love interest is played by Henry Fonda, and their repartee plays like a trial run for their acclaimed coupling in Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve three years later. I wish this had spawned an ongoing series, as Stanwyck's Miss Manton really is a delightfully kooky character.
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Nightkill (1980; Ted Post)
Imagine Blood Simple by way of Jess Franco and you'll have some idea of the unique tone of this '80s noir. Director Ted Post is often thought of as the very definition of a journeyman director, but Nightkill feels like the work of a European arthouse filmmaker who has landed a Hollywood gig yet isn't about to deliver a generic thriller. Jaclyn Smith finds herself caught up in a murderous scheme concocted by the man she's cheating with behind her husband's back. Robert Mitchum arrives on the scene as a detective who suspects Smith of murder. With its Arizona setting and curiously European feel, Nightkill makes an ideal double bill partner with Donald Cammell's White of the Eye.
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The Third Secret (1964; Charles Crichton)
Like a decidedly downbeat '60s British Léon the Professional, Crichton's film sees a newsreader (Stephen Boyd) investigating the suspicious death of his therapist with the man's young daughter (Pamela Franklin) in tow. Robert L. Joseph's dialogue is a tad on the flowery side but Crichton's downbeat direction and a powerhouse performance from the prodigious Franklin make this a moody and melancholy treat.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Film Discoveries of 2019 - Marc Edward Heuck

I’m in a peculiar position this year, in that while I have plenty of wonderful first-time viewing experiences to share with everyone who has followed my contributions here, I’ve been struck with some inarticulance in expanding upon them and what they meant to me. I don’t know if I’ve got writer’s block or if I’ve run out of adjectives to unpack. So I warn you upfront, there won’t be as much prose on some of these picks as you’ve come to expect. My prayer is that you’ll still trust me and seek out these fine movies all the same.

I feel particularly sheepish that I had almost no previous awareness of this very recent film until a valued friend insisted I watch it with them. But thankfully, these circumstances created a very rewarding “blind buy” experience. Mouly Surya finds a new manner to tell a classic revenge saga.

Fassbinder’s gift for adding his own spin to classic melodramatic tropes is well-documented. What struck me most about my first experience with this landmark of his is its meta-layers. Title character Petra is an effectively spoiled child, whose fashion work lets her play dress-up on herself and style idealized looks for others, and who spends most of the story bending others to her will, with the action unfolding entirely on one set. Step up a notch, and notice how all the characters are always well-dressed, made up, and frequently seem to be frozen in tableaux. It’s as if Fassbinder, who himself was notorious as an iron-willed high maintenance personality, bought himself a Barbie Dream House, put a bevy of dolls in it, and put them through his own whims and paces.

This was a good year for catching up with Stephanie Rothman’s CV: both UCLA and TCM gave her a wide berth to speak at length and screen her films. I saw three, and loved them all. THE STUDENT NURSES, as it did for Roger Corman, made me eager for more stories of young women in service profession dramas, and THE VELVET VAMPIRE, besides being a gorgeous moody erotic horror gem, reminded me that for the early '70s, Michael Blodgett was the most handsome man you ever wanted to punch in the face after he started talking in a film - did he ever *not* play fuccbois? However, after years of seeing the trailer, TERMINAL ISLAND is my favorite of this Rothman plunge. Left to her own devices with what could have been a tired women on an island prison outing, Rothman made this movie zag when I expected it to zig. Moreover, its targeted jabs at the media and the patriarchy and its bleak (and increasingly plausible) notions of a police state felt like the groundwork for what Lizzie Borden dramatized so fiercely a few years later in BORN IN FLAMES; they’d make an excellent double feature. And hey, seeing Magnum P.I. getting dressed down like a little boy is quite a sight; maybe that’s the real reason why Selleck spent an '86 David Letterman visit taking passive-aggressive shots at it.

BABYLON (1980)
The co-screenwriter of this movie, Martin Stellman, also co-wrote the screenplay to QUADROPHENIA, which of course went on to be a very influential film to generations of VHS-owning teen rebels. (If you don’t believe me, start chanting “We are the Mods” among a group of Gen-Xers and see how many start pogoing along with you.) Had BABYLON gotten its U.S. release around the same time it came out in the UK, instead of only this year, I argue it would have found just as receptive an audience, especially among the pockets of marginalized youths that didn’t consider themselves Mods or Rockers, who in fact maybe felt threatened by both groups because of the color of their skin or the music they listened to. This is the kind of movie I wish I could have seen when it was supposed to come out, during my own teenage years; it would have been such a cinematic and social education. Just glad maybe we can now have that parity denied in my adolescence.

Similar to BABYLON, here is another film that due to personal and financial misfortunes spent many years in limbo before finally being liberated, the sole feature credit by the late Horace P. Jenkins, which also presents lives and cultures rarely dramatized on film: in this case, the class and historical divides between residents of Louisiana’s early cities founded by people of color. Jenkins previous background in television newsmagazines is a boon to depicting these people and how they balance ordinary living with the constant shadows of the past. Thanks to Sandra Schulberg’s IndieCollect organization, the film has been preserved, and now thanks to Oscilloscope, it will be getting a commercial release later in 2020.

I am sorry it took this long to see this, a touchstone of that subgenre we’d call “cringe comedy.” Its absence from my canon is, well, the cinematic equivalent of having egg salad on my face! Charles Grodin is one of the few performers who can inhabit someone that fully predicts the banal horrors of incel culture and its sense of entitlement in having access to The Beautiful Ones, and yet not make you fully hate him or completely snark in his inevitable fate. And also, think about the poor parenting both Jeannie Berlin and Cybill Shepherd have been dealt in this tale, the former being all-too-eagerly thrust into a rash marriage, the latter coyly cognizant of being regarded as a trophy by her materialistic father and thus willing to string along the wrong man just to rebel back. I'm surprised and sad that some savvy '70s porn producer didn't do a knockoff where their Berlin and Shepherd stand-ins actually meet and decide to ditch the whiny loser they had in common and go live happily ever after. I would love to see this play with Vicente Aranda’s THE BLOOD-SPATTERED BRIDE as a Toxic Honeymoon double feature. Either that, or I wish Elaine May would write and direct her own adaptation of CARMILLA.

Kim Ki-young’s domestic potboiler about an upward-aspiring family undone by their mercenarial lower-class maid has been gaining some new attention since Bong Joon-ho has cited it as an influence on his worldwide smash PARASITE. Though exercising standard sixties-era discretion, it’s startling and exciting to take in this film bluntly addressing infidelity, abortion, and murder in a year where, in America, we still had a foot-on-the-floor rule about onscreen lovemaking.

I had been hungry to see Isaac Julien's first narrative feature ever since I’d missed its too-brief U.S. release by Jeff Lipsky's short-lived Prestige division of Miramax. Then I stewed over the fact that for years it was one of the few Miramax movies that seemed to never hit home video, though I have now discovered that Strand quietly put out a DVD in 2007, for which I cannot find a single review of its PQ, so great work building word of mouth to the fanbase, gentlemen! 28 years later, thanks to Brendan Lucas, Outfest, and UCLA Film & Television Archive, I finally saw it in a gorgeous 35mm print from the BFI. And what a joyous blast it was. Dare I channel Stefon, but this movie had *everything* I love: gorgeous actors in all manner of interracial and pansexual coupling, a kicking soundtrack of '70s deep cut funk, stunning color and art direction, pirate radio, social commentary (including yuuuge indictments of white nationalism, bully-boy cops, and self-righteous punk poseurs), and yeah, even a murder mystery! It reminded me of the frisson I felt watching Denys Arcand's LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS in '95. And I think I even spotted a super-baby-faced Aiden Gillen from "THE WIRE" in one of the club scenes. I'm still pissed though that I didn't see it in my 20s, when I could have been proselytizing about it sooner, because it is damned criminal that this movie is not part of our modern indie canon.

The New Beverly’s all-female-created May programming gave a large amount of space to Dorothy Arzner, and I was happy to be immersed in the sly subversive style of its trailblazing director. And CRAIG'S WIFE - holeeee sheeeeit - this is the movie GONE GIRL so desperately thought it was as it succumbed to glib nihilism and failed ironic misogyny. 73 tight minutes of fire and vinegar that, as Kim Morgan points out in her excellent essay, never resorts to cheap one-dimensionalism in depicting its impossible protagonist and her horrifying life choices.

Last year I had THE 14 with Jack Wild on my list, and talked about my love of the late child star and his streak of interesting films in the ‘70s. This Lemony Snicket-esque adventure was a title I had cited but not yet seen for myself, which got rectified this year when New Beverly screened it, possibly its first theatrical exposure in decades. The playdate provided me opportunity to write at length about Wild’s life and the making of this project, and how art was effectively imitating life for the young actor. And then somehow, I got name-checked in the Irish Times as they made an argument that the film should be a St. Patrick’s Day perennial. Really though, if you want to watch something really heartfelt at any time of year, with or without children accompanying you, this is one to seek.

The names and locations have changed, but where other late ‘60s youth-in-revolt stories may feel married to their time, the central themes of Robert Kaufman’s screenplay and Richard Rush’s direction are painfully still relevant. Elliott Gould well inhabits his character of a blood-shedding political agitator who, now slightly older than the students he mentors, is trying to handle the adult trials of paying rent and keeping a job, confronting his own hypocrisy about ideals versus practice, dealing with looser-cannoned personalities all around him, and watching himself gradually being regarded as a former great when he still feels he has something to offer. It has the energy, humor, and escalating fury that a couple decades later would make DO THE RIGHT THING equally incendiary and constant. There’s a special chill as he faces entrenched notions of how things oughta be versus what they are, and he exasperatedly screams, "Will you let go? LET GO! Stop trying to hold back the hands of the clock! IT'LL TEAR YOUR ARMS OUT!" because right here, right now, we’re having that same fight, and no matter how we want to recognize nuance, we’re going to have to decide whether to pick up and hurl that brick...or that garbage can.

Monday, April 27, 2020

New Release Roundup for the week of April 28th, 2020

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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JUST ONE OF THE GUYS on Blu-ray (Sony)
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BLOOD ON THE MOON on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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DEADLINE on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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OLIVIA on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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THE WIND on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
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ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
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MALABIMBA on Blu-ray (Vinegar Syndrome)
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THE LOST CONTINENT on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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SHATTER on Blu-ray (Shout Factory)
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BILLY LIAR on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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RADIO FLYER on Blu-ray (Sony)
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SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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