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Synopsis:

Young war veteran, Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford), sets out to live the life of a “mountain man”, surviving by hunting and trapping up in the Rocky Mountains. After a difficult start when he nearly starves and freezes to death, he’s lucky enough to fall in to the company of experienced trapper, Bear Claw (Will Greer), who passes on a lot of his knowledge before Johnson once more decides to make his way on his own. He does well, doing his best not to offend any of the Indian tribes nearby and along the way acquires a surrogate son, in the form of an orphaned boy whose family have all been killed and a squaw wife, the daughter of a local Indian Chief. For a time it seems as if Jeremiah has finally found the life he was yearning for. …


We end our posts this year with a special about my favorite documentaries, either about specific films (or series of films), aspects of moviemaking or film directors. There’s 12 in all, so one for each of the twelve days of Xmas. These are simply some of my personal favorites rather than a definitive list, but hopefully even the most ardent cinephile might find something in here they’ve not seen before. …


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Synopsis:

Aided by an unnamed motorcyclist (Jeremy McWilliams), a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) lures unsuspecting young men that she meets on the streets of Glasgow, back to to a house where they are consumed by a black liquid. After letting a disfigured young man (Adam Pearson) live, however, she seems to question what she is doing and escapes into the Scottish highlands.

We conclude our series on underrated “disturbing” films with this stunning and mesmerizing sci-fi featuring a truly amazing performance by Scarlet Johansson.

Some films aren’t so much underrated as under seen. Everyone I know who has seen this film has praised it for its visual style, its amazingly creepy soundtrack by Mica Levi and Johansson’s performance, which is truly unlike any other she’s given; and yet there are plenty who haven’t seen it, perhaps put off by its highly stylized take on sci-fi, which divided the critics on its release and which is why I think it warrants inclusion on this blog. …


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Synopsis:

As the coastal town of Antonio Bay prepares to celebrate its centennial, a series of paranormal disturbances occur in the town. Alcoholic town priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers his grandfather’s diary. It reveals a terrible secret: the town was founded using gold given to them by the wealthy Captain Blake, who wanted to establish a leper colony for himself and other unfortunate sufferers nearby. His grandfather and 5 other conspirators then deliberately lured Blake’s ship, The Elizabeth Dane, too close to the shore where it was shipwrecked and Blake and his crew all drowned.

Local radio DJ Stevie Wayne, (Adrienne Barbeau) spots a strange glowing fog out at sea and a crew of fishermen out in it come across The Elizabeth Dane and are murdered by ghostly revenants using fishhooks and cutlasses. Blake and his crew have returned to seek their revenge.


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Synopsis:

Now a successful novelist, writer Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his home town of Salem’s Lot with the idea of writing about the creepy Marsten House on the edge of town – a place that has haunted him since he snuck into the deserted building on a dare as a child. He initially intends to rent the Marsten House whilst back in town, but discovers it has already been taken by a pair of newly arrived antique dealers, Mr Straker (James Mason) and Mr Barlow – whom no-one has seen, but whom Straker insists will arrive shortly. Undeterred, Ben stays in town, reconnecting with his former tutor, Jason Burke (Lew Ayers) and beginning a tentative romance with post graduate student Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia) – which sets the town gossiping and annoys Susan’s on/off boyfriend. Around the same time, people start to go missing in town or otherwise succumb to a form of pernicious anemia and die within a few days. …


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Synopsis:

New York Private Detective, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is hired by the mysterious and wealthy Louis Cyphere (Robert De Niro) to track down singer Johnny Favorite, who has disappeared but owes Cyphere a debt. As Angel tries to track down Favorite, starting with the hospital where he was admitted after the war and continuing down in Louisiana, a pattern starts to emerge. Everyone who had any connection with Johnny or his disappearance ends up murdered in bizarre and grisly ways, shortly after Harry meets them. With the police beginning to suspect him for the murders, Harry becomes more and more uneasy with what he discovers about Johnny’s past and his connections with voodoo and the occult. …


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Synopsis:

After her best friend is permanently left in a coma when she fails to regain consciousness after a routine operation, surgery resident Dr Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold) discovers that there have been a string of similar cases at the hospital where she works. Despite the warnings of the Chief Of Surgery, Dr Harris (Richard Widmark) and her boyfriend and fellow surgery resident, Mark (Michael Douglas) she discovers a disturbing link between the coma patients and the mysterious Jefferson Institute. Can Susan survive, however, once she learns the truth about what’s happening or will she too become a victim?

Continuing our series on underrated „disturbing“ films, we have what might be (alongside Westworld) Michael Crichton‘s best outing as a director. Interestingly it’s one of the few exceptions in his filmography where the movie wasn’t based on an original screenplay by Crichton himself. Instead it’s an adaptation of the bestselling debut novel of former doctor, Robin Cook. Crichton, of course, had himself trained as a doctor (he and Cook were actually friends since Crichton’s post graduate days) and brings his experience of hospitals and doctors to the film. The result is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the book as well as having an almost documentary feel, in terms of its setting and medical procedures. It’s a continuation of the „science gone wrong/science used for the wrong reasons “ theme that features so heavily in many of both Crichton’s novels and films, but there’s more here too, and in its E.R. meets David Cronenberg concept you have a film that was not only far ahead of its time but also one that has even more chilling resonances today in the era of organ harvesting, stem cell research and so on. …


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Synopsis:

When Planet Earth is attacked, out of boredom, by interplanetary dictator Ming The Merciless (Max Von Sydow). American football star, Flash Gordon (Sam Jones) and reporter Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) find themselves forced by eccentric scientist Dr Max Zarkov (Topol) into trying to thwart Ming’s attempts to destroy the planet. Journeying to Ming’s homeworld of Mongo, Flash, Dale and Zarkov attempt to start a rebellion to overthrow the evil ruler, but can they do so in time to save the world?

Yes, we’re still continuing our series on underrated “disturbing” films and at this point many of you reading this blog will clearly think I’ve lost the plot – what’s disturbing about Flash Gordon other than how kitschy and silly it is? You’re right of course, but I first saw this film when I would have been about 7 years old, perhaps younger, and all the silly humor went completely over my head. Instead, what stuck with me was android creatures with wires protruding from their eye sockets; Klytus’ death on the spiked floor, with eyes and tongue bulging out; Woodbeasts, small and large, that looked like a cross between a bullfrog and scorpion and whose sting made poor Peter Duncan from Blue Peter (a reference that will mean absolutely nothing to American readers – he was a children’s tv presenter, ok?) beg to die, Zarkov’s memory being erased (the part that terrified me the most as a child – the idea that you could be made to forget your own mother). Then there was the scene where Ornella Muti, as Princess Auri, in her skin tight outfit is whipped, which evoked several different emotions that my then childish brain was unable to process properly… It was only when I saw the film again as a teenager that I finally realized how tongue-in-cheek the whole thing was and even then those same scenes mentioned above still haunted me. …


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Synopsis:

Beginning at the end of the 1960s, Dr Edward Jessup (William Hurt) begins experimenting with flotation tanks to reach altered states of consciousness believing it might have some baring on his research into schizophrenia. These experiments are forgotten for several years once he meets Emily (Blair Brown). However, after taking hallucinogenic mushrooms with a tribe in Mexico, Jessup resumes his experiments combining the mushrooms with the flotation tanks in an attempt to regress his consciousness back into an earlier form. In doing so, he begins to regress physically too as his consciousness and genetic structure become further and further stretched. …


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Somehow I’d managed to completely miss this blog’s 5th anniversary back in March!

I certainly had no idea that I’d still be writing about underrated films 5 years down the line — initially I’d simply considered making a list on Facebook of my favorite underrated films. However, after a few attempts I realized I had more to say about each of them than just a few words and so this blog was born, first on Tumblr and since December 2016, here on Medium. …

About

Rupert Lally

Electronic musician and self-confessed movie nerd: Rupert Lally writes about underrated movies that he loves.

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