What Forgotten Flix Are You Thankful For? (Segment III)

November 24, 2010

by Joel G. Robertson (and a whole lotta friends!)

The contributions in this final segment run the gamut from exploitation to a movie that’s only a couple years old, but all the films have one thing in common– film fans who are thankful for them. And before you question a “recent” release being on a site called Forgotten Flix, know this: ANY movie that isn’t getting the attention or public awareness you feel it deserves counts as one of the “forgotten.”

The whole point of this site is to shine a light on any and all movies that we, the faithful film fans, feel are deserving of more attention. This could be because the movie is “older” (by Hollywood’s standard that means anything not released in the last 18 months). Maybe the movie was once on the pop culture radar, but has since fallen off. It may even have a devoted “cult” following. If it does, that’s great, we just want to expand awareness about these movies.

Get more recruits to the “cult,” so to speak.

And if the film is “newer,” (think Bubba Ho-Tep or Moon) but doesn’t get the proper attention (beyond that darned cult– pass the grape Flavor-Aid, please!), then by golly Miss Molly, we need to shine a little movie-light love over its way too!

So, here are Will, Uncle Jasper, Adam, Darrell, Gary, Paul, Pete, and Mike with the forgotten gems they are most thankful for this year…


by Will Silver

White Dog (1982)

White Dog PosterAfter my initial thoughts of Ghoulies and Zone Troopers from the Empire International catalog, I focused on the thankful part of the question and could only bring to mind one film, Samuel Fuller’s last American production, White Dog. Produced in 1982, the film was never released by Paramount due to rising concerns from the NAACP regarding its supposed racist plot. It’s a shame that they didn’t actually see the film, as they would have realized it was an intensely anti-racism film made with such care and skill that it easily could have been hailed as one of the best films of the year.

It wasn’t until twenty-six years later in 2008 that the film saw the light of day, when the lovely folks at Criterion debuted the film as part of their DVD collection. It is a stunning edition of a stunning film and I am truly thankful for their work in allowing the world to see this forgotten film that wasn’t even given the chance to be forgotten.


Madman Movie Posterby Uncle Jasper

Madman (1982)

If I had to settle on just one, I’m pretty sure it would be that other campfire slasher classic from the early 80’s. I am of course talking about Joe Giannone’s video store staple, Madman. This was one of my dad’s favorites and in many ways my initiation into the world of “forgotten flix”. I have many fond memories sitting in front of that giant, wood-paneled TV munching away on pizza while dad fired up Madman in the ol’ top-loader.

I suppose everybody has their own definition of male bonding. To some it may be tossing a ball out front, to others it may be weekend fishing trips at the crack of dawn, but from my own experience you just couldn’t beat hooting it up with dad as Madman Marz shamelessly hacked his wife and kids to pieces. Thanks dad, your repeat viewings of Madman no doubt contributed to my youthful flirtations with delinquency… but hey, at least I gained my first real exposure to classy, grade-A motion picture entertainment in the process!

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by Adam Davies

Two Idiots In Hollywood (1988)

If, after the perceived disaster of Dune, David Lynch had failed to reclaim his position as Indie Laureate with caustic picket-fence puzzler Blue Velvet, he might very well have ended up as a journeyman hack slathering his twisted metal soundscapes and stifling mood-mares over outwardly simplistic fables of Hollywood’s also-rans such as the forgotten flick that Ex-Rent Hell is most genuinely thankful for – Two Idiots in Hollywood. There are those who say he actually succumbed to this malaise years ago, but no matter: the point is that if it could so easily have happened to a master such as Lynch, who’s to say that many of the more outré gems that made up the glistering fallout of the VHS mushroom cloud didn’t come from similarly talented directors who had glanced upon Lady Fortune’s less charitable aspect?

Two Idiots is – in essence – the chronicle of two forty-something defectives from Dayton, Ohio and their slap-happy relocation to the ashy tract housing and crimson parlours of East Hollywood. It’s structural audacity, breakneck cutting, sly self-reflexivity and narrative pliancy, however, transmutes the film’s feeble production values and back-alley conception into a slipshod Slaughterhouse-Five for our times; a benign Being John Malkovich, or – for the young uns reading – a Speed Racer running on bad, bad acid.

As well as the grubby parallels with Lynch and the extent to which the film surely informed the subsequent careers of the Wachowskis and – notably – Charlie Kaufman, there is a prevalent strain of cinematic hypertension that prefigures Oliver Stone’s late-Eighties move from the conventions of Platoon and The Doors into the hallucinatory maelstrom of editing and photographic techniques that illuminate JFK and U Turn. Wilfully degenerate library-shots, film stock that often flip-flops mid-scene, continuity bear-traps that constantly keep the viewer on their toes; all are employed in the service of a celluloid two-step in which the fourth wall is nothing but a whirling disco ball into which the cast and crew pontificate, proselytise and plead for forgiveness.

Directed by Stephen Tobolowsky (best known as the terminally annoying insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day and for writing True Stories with David Byrne) in a style that makes Naked Gun look like Derek Jarman’s Blue, TIiH is episodic, nonsensical and impossibly enjoyable. Toblowsky might have been advised to eschew the lengthy psychosexual musical interludes of ‘Donkey Magic’ and ‘Big Men, Big Women’ and the myriad fantasy sequences – the mildest of which sees the camera zoom into character’s ear to reveal a mental montage of people trying on watches – but he’s wise enough to know, like Kubrick before him, that when it comes to these overblown genre think-pieces, you sell the sizzle – not the steak!

Talking heads criticise the film even as it unspools, shares in the director’s next project are touted at every possible opportunity and the ghosts of William Castle, Godard and Woody Allen are honoured in a courtroom finale set in a carpeted swimming pool complete with two-headed judge, a well-stocked carvery and a naked jury that degenerates into a close harmony rendition of ‘Blow the Man Down’. Is it any wonder that the director chose to blindside his distributors and the audience with asinine gimcrackery or outsize erotica..?

Two Idiots is a truly awful film that somehow manages to be both shockingly amusing and amusingly shocking – which could be as fine a definition of pure cinema that one could ever possibly hope to conjure.

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Nothing’s On Podcast

by Darrell Taylor

Die Hard 3 (1995)

Mine would probably be Die Hard 3. I think the film is the second best in the franchise, Willis and Jackson’s chemistry in the film was fantastic and the plot was related to the first movie. I think this film is highly underrated and a must see!

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by Gary Collinson

Arena (1988)

Arena Movie PosterI have put something together if you’d like to use it for your article, a film that I haven’t seem myself for close to twenty years but used to absolutely love when I was a kid… “For a thousand years no human has been the champion. He wants to be the first…” The film in question is Arena (1989) and the ‘he’ from the tagline is Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield), a guy who travels to a space station to take part in what can only be described as an intergalactic MMA tournament. As far as sci-fi beat-em-ups goes this one had everything that an action-crazy child of the 80s could want and more, with Steve squaring off against a host of rubber aliens (and possibly cyborgs, if memory serves correct) on his way to proving that humans are the top dogs in the universe.

Unfortunately Arena really seems to be a forgotten film – I only have the vaguest recollection of it myself (or rather, the recollection that it totally kicked ass) and I’m yet to find another soul aware of its existence. There have been times I thought I must be crazy but it does exist and the 10-year-old me thought it was great, so if you ever stumble across it do put me out of my misery and let me know how it stacks up a couple of decades down the line. Or better yet, send a copy my way and let me soak in the nostalgia…

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by Paul Osborne (Writer/Director “Official Rejection”)

Crimewave (1983)

I’m thankful for Crimewave, which is not only a forgotten flick but was a pretty obscure one to begin with. Sam Raimi’s second feature, a screwball black comedy made under the title XYZ Murders, follows a pair of psychotic exterminators who were hired by a businessman to kill his partner and then inadvertently end up on a dementedly homicidal spree. Raimi, who co-wrote Crimewave with a young Joel and Ethan Coen, was put through hell on this, his first “Hollywood” movie, by Embassy, the studio behind it. Embassy overrode him on casting decisions, tormented him during the editing process, and then promptly went out of business before the film could be released. Dumped directly Crimewave Posterto video in the mid-80’s, Raimi and the Coen Brothers have long since officially disowned the movie.

Regardless of this abandonment, and despite all of Crimewave’s odd flaws, it’s a terribly entertaining viewing experience. Raimi uses a broad visual style, very similar to what Joel and Ethan did with Raising Arizona, and while the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts, many of Crimewave’s sequences are brilliant pieces of cartoonish, comedic filmmaking. Raimi’s love of The Three Stooges and all things Looney Toons are on full display, and some of the visuals he achieved are simply unbelievable when you consider this flick was made long before the advent of CGI trickery.

If you want to see this lost gem, you’ll have to do some legwork. Crimewave is difficult to track down. Decades out of print on VHS and never released on DVD in the states, your best bet is to locate the Chinese import, which surprisingly exists in NTSC format. You simply turn off the subtitles, select the English language track, and sit back for the ride. Crimewave is a true original. There’s nothing else like it. How many of those ever cross your path, movie fans? See it. You’ll be… thankful.

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The Deuce

by Pete Roberts

Bamboo Gods & Iron Men (1974)

Bamboo Gods and Iron MenSince The Deuce is all about classic exploitation and cult cinema, this makes my choice even more subjective because as we know, people don’t take those kinds of films as seriously as other more critically acclaimed titles. That being said, one movie that’s been mostly forgotten that I really enjoyed is Cesar Gallardo’s blaxploitation-martial arts film Bamboo Gods & Iron Men (1974). It stars James Iglehart (Beyond The Valley of the Dolls) as a boxer named Cal Jefferson who travels to Hong Kong on his honeymoon with his new wife (played by Shirley Washington). He also gets a sidekick (who’s mute) in the form of Philipino actor Chiquito (TNT Jackson).

The story revolves around a Buddha statuette that holds some special mystical powder that happens to be in Jefferson’s possession. There’s the evil businessman and his gang of henchman who are out to get it at all costs. What you’d expect is the standard low budget Filipino exploitation film but it becomes a sort of unique action/screwball comedy with a lot of goofy charm. The ending in particular is one of the most memorable I’ve ever seen in B-films. It’s so offbeat and comical. Now, I’m not claiming this is the best B-movie ever made but I’d like to put a little marker on it for the more open minded film fans. I hope you have fun with it!

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Mike Flanagan Films

by Mike Flanagan (writer/director “Absentia”)

Lake Mungo (2008)

The forgotten flick I’m the most thankful for … how to begin! What a tough question. I was tempted to talk about Robert Redford’s forgotten masterpiece Quiz Show. Or maybe one of the many recent films I’ve loved that didn’t seem to catch on for some reason, like “The Brothers Bloom,” or something obscure and recent that barely blipped on the radar of pop culture, like the genius indie experience The Signal.

But instead I’m going to go with a movie most people have never heard of, and that found its way to DVD and almost instantly disappeared into obscurity. I’m talking about Lake Mungo, Joel Anderson’s dazzling 2008 horror/docudrama that I stumbled across much by accident on Netflix. It immediately became one of my favorite movies of all time, which is unheard of on a first viewing, and deserves so much more attention than it’ll ever get.

Released with After Dark’s uneven Eight Films to Die For series, an annual straight-to-DVD horror “festival” designed for the impulse shoppers at Blockbuster, Lake Mungo was crippled out of the gate by misleading cover art and a plot summary that does everything it can do to avoid giving you any indication what this movie is actually about. Once you experience the film, looking back at the cover art might even make you mad.

Lake Mungo PosterIt’s an image of a weird screaming woman, who is not in the movie, who seems to be disintegrating into black water (also not in the movie.) They went further with the title itself, even minimizing the “U-N-G-O” so that the title seems to read Lake M. Everything about the packaging seems embarrassed by the movie itself, and is trying desperately to appeal to the casual horror crowd who are trying to decide between Lake Mungo and The Grudge Part 3, or Pulse 2.

I can only imagine their disappointment when they popped in a film that appears to be a genuine documentary, is essentially goreless, and is more concerned with evoking spooky atmosphere and dealing with questions of loss and grief than popping out at you and screaming.

To reveal more is to do you a disservice, as part of the joy of Lake Mungo is the manner in which its complicated, at times terrifying plot unfolds. This movie scared the crap out of me, and had me so uneasy and uncomfortable that I had to pull my girlfriend into the room to watch with me. Beyond that, it’s a heartbreaking, fascinating story that’ll stay with you for days after the film ends.

In a world where visionless gimmicks like Paranormal Activity pass for groundbreaking horror, it’s even sadder to see films like Lake Mungo (which surpasses PA in every possible way) going entirely unnoticed by its intended audience. I felt its influence searing into my mind as I watched, and I only hope to someday create a film as beautiful, thoughtful, and scary as Lake Mungo.

Joel here… so there you have it, the final installment of a series that brought you more movie thankfulness than you could fit on a mass-produced, turkey-decaled serving platter!

So, until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!

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