Great Cult Movie Classics

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10 Great Cult Movie Classics You May Have Never Seen

bring me the head of alfredo garcia (1974)

During the sixties and seventies cult films were more popular largely due to the midnight movie circuit. Films would show at dumpy grindhouse theaters each week starting a recurring weekly fan base for the film.

Cult films can come in many different forms. Some have a rabid fan base forming a cult following around a film. High profile directors can also have films in their filmography that are underseen or forgotten that can also gain a cult following. At the time many of these films were poorly reviewed or forgotten.

With films varying from yakuza gangster pictures to medieval period dramas. These are ten underseen cult films from some of the best directors in world cinema in no particular order.

 

10. Stardust Memories (1980)

Charlotte Rampling in ‘Stardust Memories’

In Woody Allen’s homage to Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, Allen combines dream sequences and flashbacks to tell the story of an accomplished director struggling to reach ultimate happiness at his career retrospective.

The opening dream sequence sets up the dream like feel for the rest of the film. Whether it be in heaven or meeting alien invaders, Allen sets up a number of gags for his protagonist. Although he has received tremendous success in career, mostly due to his “early funny ones”, the character of Sandy Bates played by Allen himself is still lost in the world without his one true love.

Throughout the film Bates has flings with various muses but by the end he is still yearning for the one that got away Dorrie played by the magnificent Charlotte Rampling in her prime. At the time “Stardust Memories” was met with mixed reviews, with many feeling it was lesser Allen. Now the film is looked at as one of the directors best standing alongside classics like “ Annie Hall” and “The Purple Rose Of Cairo”.

 

9. Blanche (1972)

blanche

Mostly known for his more erotic films polish director Walerian Borowczyk took a more subtle approach with his 1972 medieval drama “Blanche”. Blanche the lead is like a trapped bird in a cage living under her much older husband the lord of the castle. When the king and his frier come to visit they begin to lust after Blanche which starts threads of jealousy throughout the castle, not to mention the affair that is going on between Blanche and her step son.

The film is all shot on one location with a few exterior scenes around the castle, giving the film a stage play feel. The singular location grounds the film in its own world, feeling as if it is a side story in ‘Game Of Thrones”.

The film only shows brief nudity from the very beginning which is a huge contrast to Borowczyk’s other cult films “Immoral Tales” and “The Beast”. All of the more erotic moments are told through the eyes of the characters, showing their lust for one another.

 

8. Pale Flower (1964)

Pale Flower

This Noir from Japanese New Wave master Masahiro Shinoda explores the usual troupes that appear in New Wave films of the period. Both leads feed into their desires, may that be their desires to keep gambling or the troublesome relationship that forms because of it. From the time their eyes meet each other you can tell Muraki and Saeko are doomed. Muraki is fresh out of prison with no interest in changing his ways.

Shinoda sets up card game sequences behind a boisterous jazz soundtrack with the only voice coming from the dealer. The players facial expressions are shown with quick cuts, coming off like an action sequence.A majority of the comedic element in the film comes from the yakuza bosses,most notably when one takes a trip to the dentist.

The black and white cinematography brings a hard Noir element to the film. Unlike some other directors in the Japanese New Wave who take a cartoonish approach with their violence. The final shootout sequence is shot with a cloudy lens in slow motion, giving off a heavenly feel.

 

7. The Yakuza Papers, Vol 2: Deadly Fight In Hiroshima (1973)

One of very few sequels that is better than the original. Vol 2 takes everything that worked in the first film and expands on it. The lead characters have more in depth motives for why they do certain actions. The lead of the series Shozo Hirono played by Bunta Sugawara takes a backseat to Shoji Yamanaka. After Yamanaka is released from prison he rises up the ranks of the Muraoka yakuza family.

This film has more heart than the previous entry, mainly due to the relationship between Yamanaka and the niece of boss Muraoka. Shozo is still present in the film but he is more occupied with starting his own family. Fukasaku takes the gang fights up a notch with tons of shootouts and drive bys. The documentary technique is still used showing the names and affiliation of each character.

 

6. Chinese Roulette (1976)

Chinese Roulette

Over the span of his short career, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was able to direct forty feature films and two full television series all mainly dealing in the family drama genre. The opening shot of the film is one of the best of all time, catching the audience’s attention right from the start.

This is one of Fassbinder’s later underseen films. In “Chinese Roulette” family infidelites are played out in a guessing game with the mastermind behind it all being the disabled daughter Angela.The girl’s mother and father have both been unfaithful to one another.

At times the film can feel very heavy with all the leads telling their secrets to their partners. The game is played out using rapid cuts, heightening the drama with each action the characters make. Once a gun shows up it is only a matter of time before someone is at the wrong end of it.

The comedic relief in the film comes from Brigitte Mira and her son played by Volker Spengler, both Fassbinder regulars who play hosts for the game. Anna Karina is a welcomed addition to the film bringing her French New Wave iconography to Fassbinder’s world.

10 Great Cult Movie Classics You’ve Probably Never Seen

Cult cinema is an extremely broad term. By definition, cult classics are films that have acquired a subculture or a following that keep the film alive for the years to come. These films are often unsuccessful or misunderstood upon initial release, but gain more traction within certain communities of film watchers later on.

Many cult films have attained such a devoted following that they get pushed toward canonized classic movie status, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) or A Clockwork Orange (1987). Other films, meanwhile, develop such an esoteric following by such a finite group of cinephiles that the films face total obscurity.

Once the canon of essential cult films has been seen, it’s hard to know which of the thousands of more obscure films are worth one’s time. This list explores a handful of such lesser known, less acknowledged cult classics that deserve far more attention.

 

1. Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla Final Wars

With the inclusion of the newer American series, the Godzilla franchise has been running strong for over 60 years across three distinct periods: the Showa era, Heisei era, and Millennium era.

Godzilla: Final Wars was the last film of the Millennium era, and it was supposed to be the last Japanese Godzilla film ever made (until Hideaki Anno took a crack at the iconic monster with Shin Gojira (2016)). Being the final, true Godzilla film for the time, Final Wars serves as the ultimate send-off for one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

Released 50 years after the original Gojira (1954), the film essentially pits Godzilla against almost every foe he had fought in the past, along with a menacing new one called Monster X. Godzilla even has a hilarious encounter with the pitiful 1998 American Zilla. Meanwhile, the Earth Defense Force of superhuman mutants must help Godzilla in defeating the evil alien race of Xiliens from taking over the earth to harvest humans as a food source.

Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura of Versus (2000) and Azumi (2003) fame, Godzilla: Final Wars is in some ways the ultimate kaiju film. Take every Godzilla film ever made, put it in a blender, shoot it like a 90s nu-metal music video and a live-action anime adaptation, and you’ll get something close to Godzilla: Final Wars. It’s absolutely bonkers.

The film has the campiest setup and the most delirious fight sequences in the entire franchise. It takes all the tropes and clichés of the previous films and pushes them to their logical extreme.

It all may just seem to be two hours of mindless fan service to the uninitiated, but Godzilla: Final Wars is much more than that. It’s the peak of the franchise in terms of sheer audacity and the perfect summation of all 28 films preceding, and it really needs to be seen to be believed.

 

2. G.I. Samurai (1979)

G.I. Samurai is a 1979 Japanese action/samurai crossover from director Kôsei Saitô, based on a novel by Ryo Hanmura. The film is perhaps most notable for starring the iconic cult martial artist Sonny Chiba… and for its absolutely ridiculous premise.

A group of Japanese soldiers led by Lieutenant Yoshiaki Iba (Chiba) on patrol with a tank, helicopter, patrol boat, and other military essentials are abruptly and magically teleported back in time to feudal warring Japan. The troop befriends a local warlord and together they wreak havoc upon the ancient countryside.

Of course, the troop eventually gets antsy and wants to return home. The solution? Kill a bunch of people to create a time paradox so the gods will send them back to the future… climaxing in one of the longest, most ridiculous and bloody fights in cult cinema history. Samurai vs. army. Genius.

The film is worth watching for the audacity and ambition of its premise alone – and somehow, it totally works. Chiba plays the Lieutenant with a classic tough-as-nails gusto. The relationship between him and warlord Koizumi is sappy and wonderful (cue montage of Sonny Chiba and Koizumi riding horses on the beach in slow motion). It’s a wacky and wonderful exploitation flick that’s unfortunately been forgotten in a sea of other Japanese genre films.

 

3. Brain Damage (1988)

Though this is an undoubtedly silly film with initially poor critical reception, and though it is easily overshadowed by Henenlotter’s more famous Basket Case (1982), Brain Damage is essential viewing for anyone interested in horror comedy and B-movies as a whole.

A young man named Brian contracts a talking leech-like creature on the back of his neck named Aylmer. Aylmer offers his host ecstatic hallucinogenic trips, which Brian is quickly addicted to, in turn for one small favor: brains. While Brian is under the influence of Aylmer’s trip, he mindlessly prowls the neon night streets, murdering unsuspecting outcasts of society to feed the smooth-talking Aylmer.

Aylmer proves to be an iconic and hilarious horror creature, voiced expertly by John Zacherle. The film is effectively photographed to generate a lush, urban, nocturnal atmosphere – Henenlotter captures the fervent nightlife texture of the big city and the surreal, drugged-out mindscape of Brian.

The film’s special effects, though modest, deliver on the sticky, gooey, gory goods, and there are some very memorable and ridiculous kills throughout the film (i.e. the infamous Aylmer blowjob scene). Brain Damage serves simultaneously as a solid allegory for addiction as well as a fun, stylized ‘80s gore fest.

 

4. The Streetfighter (1974)

The Streetfighter

This is the film that really put Sonny Chiba on the map as a martial arts star to be reckoned with. While actors like Bruce Lee utilized a level of style and grace to tackle their foes, Chiba takes them down with apathetic brute force and a sneering face, like a wild animal. The film was a success in America, spawning two sequels and a spin-off series called Sister Street Fighter.

The film follows Chiba as an amoral karate master named Terry Tsurugi who, with a rather affecting change of heart, decides to do the right thing and save a businessman’s daughter from the yakuza.

What ensues is a series of brutal and over-the-top encounters with wacky villains and mindless goons. Quentin Tarantino undoubtedly pulled from The Streetfighter in the making of his own films; this is one of the director’s favorite grindhouse films, after all.

The Streetfighter was the first movie to be released in the U.S. with an X rating slapped on it solely for violence, and even if the film is a little tame by today’s standards, it sure does earn the title. Skulls are crushed, limbs are broken, bright red blood flies everywhere.

At one point in the film, Chiba literally rips off a rapist’s testicles and stares at the bloody clot of underwear in his hands like he’s about to explode from constipation and rage. But outside of the hilarity and carnage, The Streetfighter serves as an excellent exercise in catharsis.

Chiba plays the ultimate anti-hero: a heartless man that, just this once, does something good in his own violent way, and goes down fists-blazing in the process. At the end of the day, nothing says badass like Sonny Chiba, dressed in all black, crunching the bones of all that cross his path.

 

5. Infra-Man (1975)

Infra-Man

Though the iconic Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers historically focused on cranking out iconic cult martial arts films like Five Deadly Venoms (1978) or The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), they also were not prone to turn down an opportunity for an easy cash grab.

Infra-Man is an example of such a cash grab film, serving as the studio’s answer to Japan’s success with tokusatsu series like Ultraman. A knock-off though it may be, Infra-Man is an absolute blast to watch, and it might even surpass Ultraman in its visceral, candy-colored schlocky goodness.

The plot is simple enough. After eons of slumber, the evil Princess Dragon Mom (yes, you read that correctly) rises again to conquer the earth with her onslaught of mutant goons. Only the super-powered Infra-Man can stop her.

Explosions, acrobatics, earthquakes, laser fights, kung fu, giant monsters, robots, tentacles, skeleton armies… Infra-Man really does have it all. There’s never a dull moment. It’s a ridiculous and campy flick that plays something like the physical manifestation of an ADHD 8-year-old boy’s notebook doodles. It’s childish, goofy, and just loads of fun.