Castor’s Underrated Gems – Sitting Target (1972)

Amazon.com: Sitting Target: Douglas Hickox, Oliver Reed, Jill St ...

In the eruptive, lurid Sitting Target, the inimitable Oliver Reed is an incretionary “animal in a cage” as Cockney convict Harry Lomart. He does push-ups from the pipes above his prison cell. Moreover, Harry is not an alpha male who will be cuckolded during his 15-year sentence. Edward Scaife’s ultrastylish cinematography partitions the reflections during an increasingly moribund conversation between Harry and his wife Pat (Jill St. John) like split-screen panels.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Replicant (2001)

Replicant (film) - Wikipedia

For a science-fiction gimmick dabbling in cloning and symbiotic mnemonic cortices, the most fatuous element is Van Damme’s Tommy Wiseau wig. The neonatal technology for cellular duplication is sketchy and preposterous. Is The Torch so notorious that the NSA would experiment with such a financially exorbitant gamble to pursue him? How can the replicant recollect the Torch’s home invasions via osmosis?

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Darker Than Amber (1970)

Darker Than Amber movie poster

Firstly, this Travis McGee test run deserves better than an infuscate, pixelated VHS-rip DVD which was the only outlet to watch this humdinger. Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice and Trancers also suffered from similar transfer issues. The nighttime scenes are borderline indecipherable but the soundtrack isn’t terribly waterlogged thankfully. Beware, the DVD version that runs 91 minutes, it excises the film’s infamously dropsical scuffle and displays chopping editing for scene buttons.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Dark of the Sun (1968)

Dark of the Sun and Other Lot (MGM, 1968). Posters (2) (40" X 60 ...

Jacques Loussier’s progressive score tipples through the ear canals with mischievousness. A rescue-mission-as-subterfuge-for-a-treasure-trove framework is practically a porcine genre unto itself but it is the Simba Rebellion (as opposed to World War II Europe) as a backdrop and the central mercenaries that carve out the differences. Australian juggernaut Rod Taylor fraternizes seamlessly with Jim Brown who is less avaricious than his companion since he semi-sarcastically remarks that Africa is “his country”.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Possession (1981)

Amazon.com: Andrzej Zulawski's POSSESSION (1981) UNCUT Special ...

Sometimes the phrase “I don’t know” can be the most crippling statement. The uncertainty can propel people to extremism. Ingeniously, Sam Neill’s Mark is a castoff from a John Le Carre espionage novel. Andrzej Zulawski swirls the camera around Neill and his increasingly paranoid eyes dilate with furor. Like a scene from a Pink Panther movie, the couple sit diagonally from each other in a restaurant while Mark’s male ego is shattered irrevocably.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Spookies (1986)

An ark of the covenant from the 80’s that bypassed a DVD release and was mostly an object of misbegotten legend, Spookies has been varnished with immaculate care by Vinegar Syndrome. Firstly, the 4k print is monumental achievement for the company. The werecat in the trees isn’t bleached of moonglow. Most of what transpires on screen is obfuscating from a storytelling point-of-view. The production was mongrelized when the producers mandated new footage after the Twisted Souls cut was too bereft of gelatinous crawlers.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – The Cotton Club (1984)

Cotton Club (1984) Original One-Sheet Movie Poster - Original Film ...

Disclaimer – Review based on the Encore Edition.

When it comes to period recreation, Francis Ford Coppola had the clout to be retroactive back to 1930’s Harlem with painstaking authenticity. The Bamville Club and the flappers aren’t just tinseled scenery; they’re components to Coppola’s Dionysiac, swooning tribute to the buzz of jazz music.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – The Hidden Fortress (1958)

The Hidden Fortress (1958) — True Myth Media

While it might not be latent among Kurosawa acolytes, The Hidden Fortress wasn’t a crossover export when it was released in the U.S. Despite its acclaim, it isn’t exulted alongside Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon as one of his masterworks. Which is a pity because it heralded two innovations for Kurosawa- Tohoscope widescreen photography and Perspecta directional sound.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – The Hit (1984)

Eric Clapton and Roger Waters’ title track is no more than moody guitar thrumming but it is a perfectly minimalist accompaniment to Stephen Frears’ picaresque, introspective British road movie. The film is quite cavalier about Willie Parker’s (Terrence Stamp) embroilment in London gangster activities and to that extent, it is refreshingly tongue-in-cheek. The “We’ll Meet Again” crane shot in the courtroom is a signpost to Frears’ baroque naughtiness.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – The Swimmer (1968)

The Marvin Hamlisch score is pitched like a requiem mass before the camera trails behind Burt Lancaster’s initial dive into a pool. Ned Merrill (Lancaster) is a social butterfly and Lancaster magnetizes every plutocrat within his orbit except for a select few to whom he is a persona non grata. The gimmick is Ned cogitates a quest from his neighbors’ recreation areas to “swim home”. Based on a short story by John Cheevers, Ned’s river expedition is soulfully existential as he often gazes skyward to pontificate in pregnant pauses.

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