Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2020 - Todd Liebenow ""

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:
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):

Check out the other episodes here:
Todd also has another podcast called "Walt Sent Me" all about Disney films:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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