Rupert Pupkin Speaks: March 2021 ""

Monday, March 29, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of March 30th, 2021

DEFENDING YOUR LIFE on Blu-ray (Criterion)
BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/3s8keJH

THE BAD NEWS BEARS on Blu-ray (Paramount)

ISLE OF THE DEAD on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

THE BERMUDA DEPTHS on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

PERDITA DURANGO on 4K Blu-ray (Severin)

THE DAY OF THE BEAST on 4K Blu-ray (Severin)

NOSFERATU IN VENICE on Blu-ray (Severin)

A SCREAM IN THE STREETS on Blu-ray (Severin)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS on Blu-ray (Paramount)

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH on Blu-ray (Paramount)

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON on Steelbook Blu-ray (Arrow)

ROLLERBALL on Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

THE KILLER ELITE on Blu-ray (Scorpion Releasing)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Mike Gebert

Michael Gebert is a Chicago food writer and the proprietor of NitrateVille.com, a discussion site devoted to silent and classic film, and the podcast NitrateVille Radio, which talks to archivists, collectors, authors and others in the world of classic film.
On Twitter @Nitrateville.

His 2019 Discoveries list can be seen here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2020/02/film-discoveries-of-2019-mike-gebert.html

Last year I said we should note not only the films we saw the first time, but where we saw them (to prove it wasn’t all streaming). Well, I can sum up where I saw this year’s films pretty easily: my couch, my couch, my couch…. We’ll see if people go back to theaters when we’re all vaccinated, but right now it looks like the biggest technological extinction event for the medium since sound killed silents.

Still, I see signs of evolution in how we watch films, and where movies come from, in my list this year. It wasn’t all big corporate streaming services, either—I “went” to two different virtual film festivals this year, ultra-obscure films from archives being streamed over YouTube or Vimeo to anyone willing to pay to see them. For me it was a demonstration of what movie watching might become… the locked-away treasures of world cinema offered in curated festivals available to everyone.


The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)
Early in 2020 Criterion Channel had a series of films starring Jean Arthur, and I kind of think I came out of it loving her more than any other vintage female star, a scratchy-voiced, snub-nosed angel. The best of them, I think, was a big-hearted comedy about the workers in a department store, which in its humanism seemed more like something from France or Weimar Germany than Hollywood: when the workers start talking about unionizing, secretive owner Charles Coburn goes undercover in his own shoe department to spy on them, and discovers through Arthur that they’re people too. She sure is.
https://amzn.to/3f9JSdk

Abwege (1928)
The Pordenone Silent Film Festival, the top event worldwide for silent films and research presentations, went online this year, and the best film I saw was this little-know3n G.W. Pabst film (which I suspect was mostly borrowed from Arthur Schnitzler’s then-recent bestseller Traumnovelle, better known as the source material for Eyes Wide Shut).

Clueless husband Gustav Diessl works too hard, leaving wife Brigitte Helm bored; she goes out with a fast crowd, samples decadence (including cocaine!) and shocks herself—but when she comes home repentant and hungry for him, he gets his dander up, and they wind up headed for divorce. A slight story but told with loads of style, from art deco set design to swirling cinematography to Helm (Metropolis), who can slink in a cocktail dress like nobody’s business.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
Not sure how I never saw this winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar before, by Italian director Elio Petri, but it’s a biting satire couldn’t have been more timely in this year of riots and police violence. Gian Maria Volonte has just been appointed head of the anti-revolutionary unit on the police force, and to prove that the police are the law, he… murders his mistress and plants clues which will lead his fellow cops to suspect him. Which they won’t accept, because as all the cops know, the revolutionaries are the true enemy. Volonte gives a performance of Brandoesque power and Kinskiesque batshit-craziness, in a brass-balled social commentary movie (and kudos as well to the Academy of 1970 for having the cojones to honor it).
https://amzn.to/3eYRWhf

Big City Blues (1931)
Another series on Criterion Channel was devoted to Joan Blondell, rarely a lead but excellent as a sassy female costar in racy pre-Codes. This one, about a country hick getting swindled in the big city, is like a sendup of its own subgenre, with dada snappy dialogue and stopping a wild party dead at one point for a radio commercial for Yum Yum Popcorn, recommended by doctors for expectant mothers. (The wild party isn’t the only thing that will end up dead before the night is over.) The cast, including Humphrey Bogart as a partygoer, Walter Catlett as a close relation to his fox in PInocchio, and Guy Kibbee as a house detective, is a tribute to the genius of the Warner Bros. casting office.

The Great Leap (1927)
Kino Lorber released a ton of obscure silents this year, but for sheer improbability, try to beat a slapstick comedy starring Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl. It’s a mountain-climbing comedy about a city slicker who’s smitten by her ability to scale rocks barefoot, and enters a skiing competition to win her, inventing an inflatable suit so he won’t get hurt (though looking like the MIchelin Man on skis doesn’t seem likely to impress the chicks to me). Lots of goofy physical gags—certainly more than in her later films—make this German Expressionism’s answer to Buster Keaton.
https://amzn.to/3c7AJ39

Ice Cold in Alex (1958)
This British war film, little known in the US, was the highlight of a blu-ray set from Film Movement called Their Finest Hour, with five British WWII films, three of them starring John Mills as the archetypal British soldier. The title refers to a beer Mills plans to drink in Alexandria once he gets himself, his sergeant (Harry Andrews) and a nurse (Sylvia Sims) across the Sahara in a rickety truck as Rommel overruns the British position at Tobruk. Along the way they pick up a South African officer (Anthony Quayle) who they come to suspect of being a German officer in disguise—which would be grounds for him to be shot when they get to Alexandria. What follows is a gripping action film, like a British Wages of Fear, shot on location by J. Lee Thompson (Guns of Navarone), and a humanist take on war that suggests that following orders isn’t always the only responsibility of a soldier.

Monday, March 22, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of March 23rd, 2021

WORLD OF WONG KAR WAI on Blu-ray (Criterion)
BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/38ZSgbO

EVENT HORIZON on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)

GATTACA on 4K Blu-ray (Sony)

DOC on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

SHOOT OUT on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

SHOWDOWN on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

CROSSED SWORDS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

THE KAISER OF CALIFORNIA on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS on Blu-ray (Code Red)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Kevin Sharp

Kevin hosts the comic creator interview series “Between The Panels” at Fanbase Press. You can find more of his work at www.kevinsharpwriter.com, and find him on Twitter @thatkevinsharp.

Here’s how I introduced my 2019 Discoveries list: “Ranked in order of the point on the calendar — which felt about five years long — at which I saw them.” For 2020, just change that “five” to “fifty” and off we go…

DUEL (1971, Steven Spielberg)
A textbook example of the power of editing. This is mostly made up of Dennis Weaver’s grimacing closeups, spinning tires, a speedometer, etc. But all put together, it really is a solid thrill ride — though funny to see the “holy shit” moment of a needle going over 70, when today it would take about 120 to get an audience nervous. Biggest takeaway? I’d love to see the current Spielberg try a lean, stripped down project like this.
https://amzn.to/3cSvrb8

SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955, Edward Dein)
After watching this in the wee hours, I awoke later that morning unsure if it had actually happened or whether it was all a divine vision brought on by first class edibles. Without the proof via IMDB, I might still be wondering. Lee Marvin is a character named “Slob” and if you’re not already on board just knowing that, this may not be the flick for you. The directing is first-week-of-film-school level, the set probably cost $1.98, the screenplay probably cost less than that… and yet, I still grin in happy disbelief that the movie even exists.

ST. ELMO’S FIRE (1985, Joel Schumacher) / ABOUT LAST NIGHT… (1986, Edward Zwick)
These two have been so ubiquitous in my life, I just wasn’t sure which one of them I’d actually seen before this year. When I started SEF and didn’t recognize any of it, I realized that would be my first time watch. Then, a few days later, when I didn’t recognize any of ALN either, I realized they were both first timers. While Zwick’s is probably the better movie overall, Schumacher’s is so full of bright, bubbly 80s energy I think I preferred that one. Ask me in a year whether I could pass a matching quiz on which events happened in which of these.
https://amzn.to/3144ZFU

THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994, John Dahl)
We’ve been living with a Linda Fiorentino-shaped hole in the movie business for a long time now.
https://amzn.to/3c7WwIc

ISHTAR (1987, Elaine May)
The notorious bomb. The big budget turkey that finished Elaine May’s directing career. I won’t say I sat down to watch with arms crossed, but I was ready to bail at any moment. But surprise, surprise! Hanging with Beatty and Hoffman’s lounge act was some good, low-key fun. And Charles Grodin is a welcome sight in anything. Unfortunately, once the “plot” started and the guns came out, the whole thing got a lot less interesting. I understand why a studio wouldn’t support the amiable, ambling movie this started as; I only wish it had somehow been possible for May to sneak it through.
https://amzn.to/3c5tIQw

DESPERATE HOURS (1990, Michael Cimino)
Remember when god Mickey Rourke held mountains in the palm of his hand? On paper, this is a can’t-miss: a remake of a decent, not-great Humphrey Bogart vehicle, now starring Rourke, Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, et al. It unfortunately never rises above the level of “fine.” Yet it’s hard to look away from what madman Cimino has wrought: Kelly Lynch’s multiple (pointless) topless scenes… Lindsay Crouse’s accent… criminal mugshots that look like they should be hanging in a modeling agency lobby. More than anything else, this feels like a sad snapshot from when it all started to slip away from Mickey.
https://amzn.to/3vGitpk

URBAN COWBOY (1980, James Bridges)
My first ever mechanical-bull-centric movie. The milieu feels so authentic: the bars, the trailer park, the supporting players. But John Travolta just… doesn’t fit. I kept wishing for someone like Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, or co-star Scot Glenn in the lead. Or even better, center the whole movie around Debra Winger and show what it’s like for a woman to put the men in their places while navigating this (literally) rough and tumble world.
https://amzn.to/2PcyToT

SOYLENT GREEN (1973, Richard Fleischer)
I feel like I’ve known the “punchline” all my life without ever seeing the movie itself, so what better way to wrap the year than with some prime 1970s cheese featuring Charlton Heston in all his clenched-teeth glory? Then I pushed play. From the opening montage — pollution, famine, environmental collapse, people in the streets wearing surgical masks — this was so unexpected, surprising, and rewarding. Other than the technology in their version of 2022, the story could pretty easily be transposed to the world outside our windows right now. It’s a hell of thing for a nearly 50 year old movie to make one realize that we’ve let both a utopia and dystopia form around us simultaneously.

As a tearful Edward G Robinson asks, “How did we come to this?”

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - Todd Liebenow

Todd writes about neglected cinema at his blog Forgotten Films, which I am a big fan of: http://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/
He also runs a great podcast about those kind of movies there too and I was a guest on the show (talking about MIDNIGHT MADNESS):
https://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/forgotten-filmcast-ep-65-midnight-madness/

Check out the other episodes here:
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/forgotten-filmcast/id620200136
Todd also has another podcast called "Walt Sent Me" all about Disney films:
http://waltsentmepodcast.podomatic.com/

Also, here is Todd's Discoveries list from last year:


2020 Film Discoveries:

Big Wednesday (1978)
I had the great pleasure of guesting on the Popcorn Auteur podcast this year for an episode discussing the films of John Milius. I knew nothing about Big Wednesday going in, but by the end I was saying “where has this film been all my life?” I never thought I could be so taken in by a film that centers on surfers...and which doesn’t involve Frankie and Annette. The three leads, Jan-Michael Vincent, Gary Busey, and William Katt, all deliver fantastic performances, and the camaraderie between the three is solid. As engrossing as the story is, though, the breathtaking surf sequences are jaw-dropping. This is one of the best coming of age films this side of American Graffiti.
https://amzn.to/3c0cKDe

Dillinger (1973)
Speaking of Milius, I also found myself really taken in by his 1973 directorial debut, Dillinger. At its heart, it is clearly an attempt by AIP to get some of that sweet Bonnie and Clyde bread for themselves. Milius, however, elevates it beyond simple gangster exploitation. Both Warren Oates and Ben Johnson shine as John Dillinger and Melvin Purvis, respectively There are plenty of over-the-top shoot ‘em up moments, but also several spots that have somewhat of a documentary feel. If you’re going to rip off Bonnie and Clyde, this is the way to do it.
https://amzn.to/3lByE2M

Abby (1974)
This notorious, and hard to find, blaxploitation take on The Exorcist must be seen to be believed. You could certainly call it a ripoff. I mean, Warner Brothers sure thought so. They filed a lawsuit back in the day. However, this tale of a woman who ends up possessed by an African sex demon is legitimately creepy in its own right. Carol Speed, in the title role, goes through a terrifying transformation. Blacula himself, William Marshall, now batting for the other team, also is a standout.

Wilder Napalm (1993)
Wilder Napalm is your typical sort of romantic comedy about a love triangle involving two brothers (Dennis Quaid and Arliss Howard), and the woman they both love (Debra Winger). It’s just that the two brothers happen to be able to start fires with their minds. It’s a film that pulls off being both quirky and sweet. Not to mention it has one heck of a fiery battle between the two pyrokinetic brothers. The film is also a great reminder of why we love Debra Winger, who is lovably weird in this film.
https://amzn.to/3s5j7uo

Mortuary (1983)
Mary Beth McDonough grew up as a child actor on The Waltons. But when that show was done, she ended up in this often overlooked 80’s slasher, as a teenage girl dealing with the loss of her father and being stalked by a classmate with a crush who works in his father’s mortuary. Oh, and said mortuary also happens to host satanic rituals, and the girl’s mother is one of the participants. This movie takes the idea of the dark side of the suburbs to a whole different level. It’s got a weird vibe and a great performance from a young Bill Paxton as the awkward youth at the center of the sinister goings-on.
https://amzn.to/3ttMvdW

Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)
A bunch of aliens in a spaceship shaped like an electric guitar come to earth in search of rock n’ roll and teenage love in this lovably quirky 80’s musical. The vibe is 50’s mixed with the 80’s and it’s a legit musical with songs that are pretty delightful. Pia Zadora is bubbly and adorable and Craig Sheffer is spot on as her tough-guy boyfriend. We also get a robot that takes the form of a fire hydrant, a cameo by Jermaine Jackson, and travel-by-phone-booth five whole years before Bill and Ted did it.
https://amzn.to/3eSlOLY

With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
This story of a widow and a widower who bring their two families together certainly brings to mind other similar stories from the late 60’s. Think Yours, Mine and Ours, or The Brady Bunch. I was really struck, though, with how this film, as sweet as it is, isn’t afraid to delve into the darker side of the new siblings struggling to get along. Still, the film has many charming moments, thanks in no small part to leads Doris Day (in her final film role) and best 60’s dad of all time Brian Keith. Barbara Hershey is also a delight, in her first film, as Keith’s teenage daughter. We also have a wonderfully rich comedic cast in smaller supporting roles, including George Carlin, Pat Carroll, Alice Ghostley, Vic Tayback, and future M*A*S*H co-horts Jamie Farr and William Christopher as a couple of hippies.
https://amzn.to/3tAfbSU

Beer (1985)
Speaking of M*A*S*H, this underseen 80’s comedy features Loretta Swit as an ad executive who recruits three schlubs (William Russ, David Alan Grier and Saul Stein), who inadvertently stop a robbery at a bar, to be the spokesmen for a struggling beer company. Of course, these average-joe pitchmen cause the beer’s sales to skyrocket and fame quickly goes to their heads.. The film is both goofy and yet quite a skillful satire of the advertising industry and the nature of fame. The commercials within the film are among the funniest moments, as is a spot-on riff on The Phil Donahue Show.
https://amzn.to/38PIqcn

BMX Bandits (1983)
This Australian teen BMX flick is surprisingly well written, shot, and acted. It features some really creative chase sequences with BMX bikes careening through a rugby game, a shopping mall, and even down a water slide. We also get a really appealing young cast, fronted by a 16-year-old Nicole Kidman. Overall a very fun and satisfying early 80’s romp.

Monday, March 15, 2021

New Release Roundup for the week of March 16th, 2021

THE DUNGEON OF ANDY MILLIGAN COLLECTION on Blu-ray (Severin)
BUY IT HERE: https://severin-films.com/shop/andy-milligan-collection/

RUNAWAY TRAIN on Blu-ray (Kino)

RUNNING TIME on Blu-ray (Synapse)

CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING on Blu-ray (Criterion)

RAD on Steelbook Blu-ray (Mill Creek)

CROSSFIRE on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

THE LAST REMAKE OF BEAU GESTE on Blu-ray (Kino)

IN GOD WE TRUST on Blu-ray (Kino)

POSITIVE I.D. on Blu-ray (Kino)

THE INVISIBLE MAN APPEARS/ INVISIBLE MAN VS. THE HUMAN FLY on Blu-ray (Arrow)

DAMN YANKEES on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)

TOWER OF EVIL on Blu-ray (Scorpion)

PSYCHO GOREMAN on Blu-ray (RLJ)