So with 2014 now well and truly over it’s time to look back at the film discovery highlights from the year. What I’ve compiled here is a list of my top vintage film discoveries, these are older films which I watched for the first time last year, so take a read and I hope you find something that makes you want to track one, or more, of these films down.
So in no particular order at all here we go!
Blonde Death (1984) – The sole film output of noted author James Robert Baker, Blonde Death is a finger in the eye to the norms of 80s suburban life and was produced by the influential but short lived EZTV. It’s a raw blast of cinematic anger, think what you’d get if John Waters had made a Shot On Video film and you’d be close. The copy I watched had a constant flicker all the way through it, which gave me a terrible headache, probably the perfect way to watch this extremely angry film. Plus it’s got wall-to-wall Angry Samoans on the soundtrack!
You Can’t Stop The Murders (2003) – “Small-town police fear for their lives after a set of serial murders with a Village People connection.” I nearly fell off my chair when I read that, seriously, do you need to know anything else? Well OK, to be truthful the film doesn’t quite live up to that synopsis, but it tries really hard, plus it’s Australian and it’s got an early appearance by Jason Clarke. We had a great time watching this one and it’s got a very weird ending. So far it’s the sole directional output of Anthony Mir.
Split (1989) – Continuing the theme of one time directors here’s the sole output from scientist and mathematician Chris Shaw, “Split”. A film I enjoyed so much that we dedicated a Duke night to it during 2014. A strange futuristic vision of Big Brother corporations, surveillance, time travel and anything else that the film can hold, Split is a true one off, unique in its world vision and trippy as hell in places. I not sure that anyone at our screening enjoyed it, but they sure as hell remember watching it.
Two Men In Manhattan (1959) – What would happen if one of the coolest directors in the world made a super cool film dedicated to one of the coolest cities on Earth? That’s what we have here, Jean-Pierre Melville’s tribute to all things American and all things cool feels like he just hit the town with a few friends and a camera and went out to shoot anything and everything that summed up his perception of cool. Seriously the film feels like it exists just to make you want to step in and join in the coolness, you’d have to be wearing a hat and trench coat though.
Knights Electric (1980) – Probably my favourite find of 2014, this obscure Punk and New Wave short film washed up on my desk by a very strange route. Missing out on buying a 35MM lead me to track down the director and ask if there was any way to get a copy of the film, 48-hours later he’s sent me a DVD of it for free! This short went out in cinemas as the supporting feature to Inseminoid and features a gang of punks on the rampage in a seaside town. I’ve watched this so many times this year; it’s perfect in so many ways.
Nomad Riders (1984) – Absolutely wild revenge film from the mid-80s, opens with our hero in a glider as his wife and child are killed on the ground by a wild biker gang, then things just crazier and nastier as the film goes on. Add in an unexpected, but very good, electronic score and you’ve got a mean, nasty and essential 82-minute watch on your hands.
Flyin’ Cut Sleeves (1993) – Very obscure but totally amazing documentary looking at the New York street gangs of the 1970s. I never get tired of seeing how bad things got in NY during the 60s and 70s, this documentary takes original footage shot at the time and intermixes it with early 90s footage of those featured in the film, looking back at how their lives and how the communities have changed. A powerful and intimate look at a time long gone.
Lefty: Memory Of A Dead Man In Brooklyn (1978) – I really can’t get enough of any New York films as here’s another similar documentary looking at New York street gangs. This time it’s a German TV crew and what sets this one apart is the incredible access they’ve been able to get with the gangs, following them around the city and just letting things happen as the day goes by, ending incredibly with the film crew on the streets in the middle of a full blown riot. Don’t let the all-German narration put you off, this is an essential watch for any NY fans.
Berlin Express (1948) – One of my favourite themes in films is when a group of strangers have to band together to overcome a greater evil. This thriller features a multi-national cast who meet up on a train then band together to stop villainous goings on in post-war Berlin. It might feel a bit forced in parts, but this great thriller is put together with expert care by Jacques Tourneur and was the first American film to shoot on the streets of bomb ravaged Berlin after the war.
The Astrologer (1975) – Here’s a real one-off, the fine folks at AGFA have the only surviving print of this beyond-obscure 1970s oddity, a tale of a side-show Astrologer who really does have strange powers, who sets off into some very odd adventures which don’t seem to make any sense. It’s the sort of film where you have no idea what’s coming next and simply seems to have been made up as they went along. It also gets the award for best line of the year:
“You’re not an astrologer, you’re an asshole!”
So that wraps up 2014, we’re already hitting it hard in 2015 and we’d love to see you at the Duke through the year!