Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2020 - John Knight ""

Monday, May 10, 2021

Film Discoveries of 2020 - John Knight

John Knight does not host a blog,but he is a regular contributor to The Hannibal-8, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and Riding The High Country.As far as my attitude to cinema goes I would best describe myself as a dedicated
B Movie Junkie!

BADLANDS OF DAKOTA  (Alfred E Green) 1941
Big budget Universal Western with a most engaging cast: Robert Stack, Ann Rutherford,Broderick Crawford,Lon Chaney. Action packed goings on in Deadwood circa 1876 with the following historical figures thrown into the mix: Wild Bill Hickok,(Richard Dix) Custer (Addison Richards) and Frances Farmer a knockout as Calamity Jane. Film has eye popping second unit work from serial expert Ray Taylor.

Available on Blu Ray from ESC Editions,France: https://amzn.to/3vXiN2d

NONE SHALL ESCAPE (Andre De Toth) 1944
Although made in 1943 this film is set after World War 2 and pre figures the Nuremberg Trials. Alexander Knox plays a disabled World War 1 veteran now a schoolteacher and the film follows his story as he becomes a dedicated Nazi monster. What makes the film so powerful is that it refuses to engage in cliche or caricature. There are decent Germans who pay a heavy price for their ethical stance. We even get Nazi's who show some degree of conscience. An extraordinary film with superb direction from de Toth and strikingly shot by Lee Garmes. Lead player Marsha Hunt of course had a career setback through the blacklist and writer Lester Cole also a blacklist victim was at one time imprisoned because of his political stance. Mr Cole's writing career came to an abrupt halt but he  did surface many years later as writer (under a pseudonym) of the huge international hit BORN FREE.

Available as a Sony USA Blu Ray: https://amzn.to/3hk7dtW

POWER OF THE WHISTLER (Lew Landers) 1945
The eight "Whistler" films from the 1940's are model B Movies. POWER OF THE WHISTLER is one of the very best although they are all very good indeed. Janis Carter plays a young woman who likes to tell people's fortunes from her deck of playing cards.When her group of friends tire of her antics she picks on a total stranger (Richard Dix) that she encounters at a bar., The cards state that Dix will die within 24 hours, Janis thinks by engaging with Dix,she can alter fate. Unbeknown to Janis,Dix is not only an  amnesiac but also an escaped homicidal maniac. Contrived,to say the least, but this is still a creepy little entry in an excellent series.

Available as a Sony USA MOD DVD disc: https://amzn.to/3o7p2hn
Hopefully Mill Creek or someone will present the whole
series on Blu Ray.

COUNT THREE AND PRAY (George Sherman) 1955
Van Heflin plays a brawling "roughneck" who returns from the Civil War a changed man,he decides to re-invent himself as a preacher and get a church built in the community that he settles in. Understandably Heflin faces huge opposition from the often contentious townsfolk. More "Americana" than Western this is a most engaging folksy saga. Joanne Woodward is the rural "wildcat" that Heflin takes in and gets all the locals tongues wagging.

Available on Blu Ray from Sony USA: https://amzn.to/3eFyWn6

TIME WITHOUT PITY (Joseph Losey) 1957
The source material for TIME WITHOUT PITY was a play, a thriller unmasking the actual killer. Losey disposes of all this;we know who did the murder in the opening scene,instead we get what is basically an anti capital punishment drama. Michael  Redgrave plays a shambling alcoholic who has scant hours to save his son from the gallows. There is nothing subtle about this film-it rams it's points home,the constant Noir trick of using clocks is evident throughout. Nothing subtle about some of the performances either with Leo McKern and Alec McCowen overwrought to say the least. In spite of all this the film works; Losey's flamboyant style serves the film perfectly. Interesting to see Peter Cushing just before his re-invention as an all time great horror actor. Hard core Hammer fanatics will delight in seeing the great Richard Wordsworth playing an anti death penalty politician. An early DOP gig for another horror legend Freddie Francis. Sadly Francis and Losey did not get on,they never worked together again. In summing up Francis' opinion of Losey was as follows "A bit of an old misery,an unhappy person."

Available on Blu Ray from Indicator UK: https://amzn.to/3hj581F

THE UGLY DUCKLING (Lance Comfort) 1959
For many years THE UGLY DUCKLING was considered a "lost" movie. Suddenly it turned up last year on the UK's Talking Pictures TV. The film was a vehicle for the very popular UK comedian Bernard Bresslaw. Bresslaw plays Henry Jekyll descendant of you know who! Henry is a wimp who discovers his old relative's secret formula, and guess what he transforms into smooth Terry Hyde. More British 50's comedy crime caper than Hammer Horror, but the film is engaging enough if you like those sort of things. An oddball choice for Hammer-completists will certainly want this film. Bresslaw also had a bit part in Hammer's first color film MEN OF SHERWOOD FOREST(1954). He was also lined up to play the monster in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN but Christopher Lee's agent agreed a lesser fee which was peanuts, I might add. Director Lance Comfort like many esteemed 1940's British directors in the late 50's found themselves scuffling around for work,B Flicks and cardboard TV series. Others who followed Comfort's downward spiral were Arthur Crabtree,Lawrence Huntington and Compton Bennett.

Now available remastered in high definition on Blu Ray from Sony USA: https://amzn.to/3eFRaVT

THE SYSTEM (Michael Winner) 1964
Also known as The Girl Getters. Oliver Reed plays a beach photographer, who with his pals likes to bed as many tourists as possible during the holiday season. He more than meets his match when he encounters upper middle class "free spirited" Jane Merrow. Like Winner's previous WEST 11 the film takes acerbic aim at the British class system. In Winner's (and writer Peter Draper) later I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT'S IS'NAME  the aim on the class system is even deadlier. THE SYSTEM is given a wonderful feel of "the time and the place" Cinema Verite style by Winner's direction and Nic Roeg's photography.

Available on Blu Ray from Indicator UK: https://amzn.to/3y4eYug

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