The forgotten. The underrated. The obscure. The underappreciated. The cult. There’s a million reasons why some films get consigned to a cinematic oblivion and there’s a million films that deserve it. These don’t. This is a weekly list that unearths the gems of cinemas past.
Grab your shovels and your pick axes, it’s time for Monsoon’s Buried Treasures (part. 7)
01. Windy City heat (2003)
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Plot: A man caught up in the glamor of being a Hollywood celebrity has no idea that the production he’s in is a fake.
The film American Movie has long held the title of the funniest documentary and while the amazing ineptitude of Mark Borchardt is certainly hilarious, the film lost that distinction the second Windy City Heat was released.
Since 1995, comedians Don Barris and Tony Barbieri have been fucking with their friend Perry Caravello with infantile pranks but around 2001, the pranks hit their apex. Director Bobcat Goldthwait had heard about their pranks and decided to up the ante and designed an entire fake film constructed for the sole purpose of fucking with Caravello. The wannabe actor would be put in increasingly insane scenarios, each more hysterical than the last.
The shit the duo (plus the director) convince him to do, is almost unbelievable. Caravello has the perfect combination of stupidity and ego that makes everything he says or do utterly captivating. You can’t believe the shit this motherfucker actually believes about his “talents” or the nonsense that spills out of his mouth about any topic. At first you’ll think it’s mean spirited but than you’ll realize he kind of deserves it. He’s an asshole, he’s unlikable but goddamn is he the perfect target.
02. Road Games (1981)
Directed by: Richard Franklin
Plot: A truck driver plays a cat-and-mouse game with a mysterious serial killer on a desolate Australian highway.
You’d think since the movie brat generation (I.e: Brian De Palma) is fucking obsessed (I.e: they all have cinematic hard on for him) with Hitchcock, there’d be much better rip offs or “homages” but for a man who inspired an entire genre of film based on his work, the majority of his contemporaries have no idea how to craft a thriller in the same vain without reverting to thievery. And most can’t even do that right.
I believe one of the only directors to successfully ape the formula without leaning too hard into remake, is Richard Franklin. Which sounds like a contradiction considering Road Games is shamelessly ripping off the structure of Rear Window, but what separates Road Games from the other copycats *cough* Disturbia *cough*, is it’s setting. Replacing a housing complex with the Australian outback and a bored cripple with a equally bored trucker, Road Games is more than just location swaps. It’s a tightly wound game of cat and mouse brought to you by way of Australia.
Take the dread of Rear Window‘s last act, mix it with the unrelenting tension of the Hitcher, add the amazing chemistry of Stacey Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis (in her best role) and panini press that shit into a delicious sandwich. Keach’s characters dingo would be the pickle on the side.
03. The Movie Orgy (1968)
Directed by: Joe Dante
Plot: A four and a half hour compilation/explosion of 50’s nostalgia.
The rarest of unicorns. More than any other film I’ve covered, there might not be a better definition of the title “hidden gem” than the Movie Orgy. Originality clocking in at a staggering seven and a half hours, director Joe Dante (along with producer Jon Davison) eventually cut it down to the more manageable length of four and a half hours. That’s 270 minutes of batshit insanity. There’s clips from everything including:
- Nixon’s infamous checkers speech
- A tampon instructional film
- Hotrod derbies
- Superman cartoons
- The Beatles concert footage
- Clips from TV shows you’ve never heard of and films that don’t exist anymore
- And enough monster movie footage to make about three Toho movies
No matter which version you’re looking for–whether it’s The Movie Orgy, Son of Movie Orgy or Movie Orgy Rides Again, the original The Movie Orgy is almost impossible to find. Because of rights issues, it will never see a physical release and it’s usually only ever shown every ten or so years during Dante retrospectives but if you get a chance to see it, I guarantee you’ll never forget it.
04. The Quiet Earth (1985)
Directed by: Geoff Murphy
Plot: A man named Zac Hobson awakens to find himself alone in the world. In a desperate attempt to search for others, he finds only two who have their own agenda.
Mini review written by William Dhalgren:
The Quiet Earth is like a really good, home-cooked burger. The ingredients are simple: a straightforward, last-man-on-earth premise; interesting characters; striking visuals; and big ideas. There’s no name brand, no special sauce, no fancy toy in the bag, but it hits the spot and doesn’t leave you feeling guilty later. Just make sure you save room for the ending – it’s like a double scoop of the best ice cream you ever had.
*If you’ve never seen The Quiet Earth, DO NOT watch the trailer.
As per Dhalgren’s wishes, I am not including the trailer but trust us, The Quiet Earth is a fantastic entry in the post apocalyptic genre.
05. The Straight Story (1999)
Directed by: David Lynch
Plot: An old man makes a long journey by lawnmower to mend his relationship with an ill brother.
Mini review written by Basement Bros:
When most movie fans think of David Lynch, they probably think of Twin Peaks, Dune, or a C.H.U.D. baby in black & white. And I don’t fault you for that. I associate him with those things as well. But I also think of Lynch’s superb G-rated drama for Walt Disney Pictures: The Straight Story.
Momentarily shedding his cynicism in 1999, Lynch crafted a bittersweet family film based on the true story of Alvin Straight– A 73-year-old man who drove a riding lawn mower nearly 240 miles in order to visit his ailing, estranged brother. Why didn’t he drive, you ask? Health reasons, but also because the man was damn stubborn, and I think that’s a theme to which Lynch and I can relate. Despite the judgment, mockery, and the fact that he was a diabetic smoker, Alvin used what resources he had to do what he felt was right, on his terms.
What follows is a fairly straightforward (heh) road movie, where Alvin overcomes hurdles and meets colorful characters. But make no mistake, this is Richard Farnsworth’s movie. I’m not familiar with the actor outside of this film, but there’s a sincerity to his performance that elevates the material. The plot synopsis probably reads like a sleeping pill on the Hallmark Channel, but you feel as if we’re actually documenting Farnsworth’s ride off into the sunset– A cowboy on a riding mower. There’s a lot more I could say, but like the final scene of the film, less can be more.