2019年8月6日 星期二

Some Other Movies From 1976

In 1976 I turned one year old.  I doubt my mom took me to any movies because taking infants to movies isn't fun.

The top 5 movies of that year were Rocky, To Fly! (a documentary), A Star is Born, All the President's Men and The OmenRocky and All the President's Men are still awesome, I haven't seen To Fly!, A Star is Born (the one with Streisand) is cheesy fun, and I don't think The Omen has aged well.

Other good movies from that year were The Enforcer, Network, Marathon Man, Taxi Driver (hell yeah), Assault on Precinct 13, Bound for Glory, Carrie (classic), Logan's Run, and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

For "worst movie" I'd pick King Kong, which always seemed unintentionally funny to me.  Jessica Lange is of course stunning in it, but some of its plot points don't bear thinking about.

Movie History

1. The Shootist

John Wayne, Lauren Bacall and Ron Howard star in this, John Wayne's last movie.  It lumbers along the way that Wayne himself lumbered along, and while recalling the Westerns of yesteryear it does make some concessions to more "modern" examples of the genre.  All in all a good sendoff for Wayne, who would pass into movie history three years later.

Fun Fact: Ron Howard would direct his first movie, Grand Theft Auto, the following year.

Some Good Ones

1. Gator

I wonder how much of an influence that swamp chase sequence in Live and Let Die had on this movie.  Yeah, Gator is the sequel to White Lightning (which I haven't yet seen), but Live and Let Die came out the same year.

In Gator star and director Burt Reynolds plays a bootlegger sent to catch a local crime boss.  This movie walks a fine line between action and comedy, and does so with Reynold's characteristic aplomb.  You could see this movie as a dress rehearsal for the far more successful Smokey and the Bandit; you could also see it as a labor of love for Reynolds, who in some ways made a very personal statement with this film.

Critics hated it at the time, but I liked it.

Fun Fact: Burt Reynolds' career and Sean Connery's career have intersected at two important points.  After Connery left the 007 franchise, producer Albert R. Broccoli offered the role to Reynolds.  Several years later Reynolds was set to star in the movie Zardoz, but was unable to appear in that movie due to illness.  Sean Connery replaced him in the lead role.

2. Mother, Jugs and Speed

"Two tickets to the Cat Stevens concert tonight!"

Holy shit it's Bill Cosby.  And no, as far as I know Raquel Welch never came forward with those kind of allegations.  Then again it's only been 43 years since this movie's release, so it may be too early to say.

Not only is this movie a lot of fun, not only is it a 70s trivia goldmine, but it's also a movie trivia goldmine as well.  Peter Yates, Bill Cosby, Harvey Keitel (!), Bruce Davison, Larry Hagman, Dick Butkus, the list of associations is endless.  Besides the great cast, this movie is also really well-written and directed.  It's easy to see why it was on TV so much when I was a kid.

Fun Fact #1: Gene Hackman was originally slated to play Mother.  He passed on the role due to exhaustion, and recommended that Bill Cosby take his place.

Fun Fact #2: Writer Tom Manciewicz also wrote several of the James Bond movies.

3. Car Wash

It was never going to win any Academy Awards, but as a "slice of life" movie it works very well.  It also has a sly sense of humor that hasn't aged a bit.  Richard Pryor and George Carlin (R.I.P.) are the most famous people in it, but you might also recognize Bill Duke from Predator.

Fun Fact: Joel Schumacher wrote the screenplay.

4. Voyage of the Damned

Max von Sydow captains a boatload of Jews headed for Cuba as the Second World War heats up.  It's on the long side, but if you've got the patience it builds to a satisfying conclusion.

"Satisfying" in relative terms.  You know it's called Voyage of the Damned, right?

Fun Fact: Laura "Black Emanuelle" Gemser is in this.  Just look over Orson Welles' shoulder as the man enters the casino.

5. (Battle of) Midway

Charlton Heston leads a cast of Hollywood all-stars in this story of the famed military engagement.  Actual footage was used for the battles.  It was a moderate hit, but I feel this movie arrived a bit too late to find its intended audience.  In 1976 Vietnam was still fresh in everyone's memory, and the great WWII spectacles of yesteryear were distinctly out of fashion.

The actress who plays the Japanese girlfriend is TERRIBLE, but her particular subplot would have made for an interesting movie.  A Japanese-American family with pro-Japan sympathies?  A Japanese-American father who considers his family American, but refuses to let his daughter marry an American serviceman on racial grounds?  There are a lot of layers there, and telling this story from their point of view would have offered an interesting perspective on the war.

Just one question though: WHY would the maps used by the Japanese have English on them?  I guess you could say they were taken from Western maps at the time, but the presence of English on those maps seems unlikely.

Fun Fact: Hollywood's going to try this again soon.  2019's Midway should hit theaters this November.

6. Obsession

God damn Cliff Robertson is great in this movie.  He's got this thing going on with his eyes...  Man, I don't even have words for it.

BUT there's a huge problem at the center of this Brian De Palma directed-film, and that problem is the fact that Cliff Robertson doesn't recognize a family member after a 16-year separation.  I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying that.  Other than that huge, gaping hole this movie is brilliant.  The soundtrack is amazing too.

Fun Fact: Screenwriter Paul Schrader wrote a whole other ending for this movie, which was later removed by De Palma over Schrader's objections.

7. Stay Hungry

Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and... Arnold Schwarzenegger!  This was one of Schwarzenegger's earliest film appearances, and the first where his own voice could be heard.  Jeff Bridges stars as a young man trying to escape his family's legacy, with Sally Field as the love interest and Schwarzenegger as - you guessed it - a bodybuilder.  It's an ok movie, but the voiceovers were unnecessary and its tone reflects the pretentious novel it was adapted from.  There's also a REALLY pointless sex scene near the end.

Fun Fact: Continuing with the theme of Robert Englund appearing briefly in every other 70s movie, he's in this one, too.  Oh, and Scatman Crothers, who happens to be in both Silver Streak and The Shootist, is in the cast.

Some Bad Ones

1. The Ritz

A straight man from the Midwest hides out in a gay bathhouse.  Hilarity ensues?  Not quite.  It's almost watchable, but the straight man is too credulous to be believable, and too dumb for this movie to be funny.  Just go watch The Birdcage.  It works a lot better.

2. Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw

Wonder Woman Lynda Carter and a Billy the Kid-type fall in love and drive around a lot.  The guy who plays "Outlaw" is a terrible actor, and Lynda Carter's hotness just can't save it.

Reason for Self-Abuse: If you're a straight guy (like me) who grew up in the 70s, Lynda Carter probably looms large in your sexual imagination.  If you want to see those wondrous bazooms this is the movie for you.

3. Lipstick

Hollywood's never met a good idea it wasn't willing to recycle several times.  Sure, the events of Star 80 actually happened, but years before it Mariel Hemingway had already appeared in Lipstick.

In Lipstick her big sister Margaux stars as a model who crosses paths with an emotionally disturbed man.  Anne Bancroft and Chris Sarandon round out the major cast members.  It's in too much of a hurry to get from point A to point B, and Sarandon, while a decent actor, just isn't able to summon up the kind of manic energy that made Eric Roberts famous.

Fun Fact: Margaux Hemingway was named after a type of wine.  Her sister Mariel was named after a port in Cuba where her famous grandfather liked to fish.

Not-So-Fun Fact: Several members of the Hemingway clan have struggled with mental illness.  There's a documentary, Running From Crazy, about this very thing.

4. Shout at the Devil

It's weird to see Lee Marvin and Roger Moore in a movie together.  In Shout at the Devil scheming Marvin and gentlemanly Moore run afoul of German colonial authorities.  I liked the first hour, but after that this movie just doesn't make any sense.

Note: Action movies cease being lighthearted romps ONCE YOU THROW A BABY INTO A FIRE.  Just a thought.  Make of it what you will.

5. Silver Streak

This is more of a personal thing.  I've just never liked Gene Wilder.  Ditto for the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor combination.  Wilder stars as a man who witnesses a murder during a cross-country train trip, and about halfway through he (predictably) meets up with Pryor.

So Bad They're Good

1. The Cassandra Crossing

Director George P. Cosmatos' third movie.  In The Cassandra Crossing a man carrying a killer virus boards a train in Switzerland, and the WHO must deal with the consequences.  It's one of the more overlooked disaster movies of the 1970s, and features Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster, Martin Sheen (in one of his more out of the box performances) and O.J. Simpson.  It's pretty silly, and critics hated it at the time, but I think modern viewers will get a kick out of it.

Fun Fact: This was Ava Gardner's second disaster movie of the 70s.  She appeared in Earthquake opposite Charlton Heston two years before.

2. The Food of the Gods

Getting killed by giant wasps would be FUCKED UP.

In The Food of the Gods various forms of animal life become gigantic after they eat some kind of goo.  It's based on part of an H.G. Wells novel, and I'm sure this is the part that makes H.G. Wells turn over in his grave every time someone watches The Food of the Gods.  This movie is wonderfully bad right from the start.

And hey, there's Marjoe Gortner again, last seen in Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw.  Dude was having a good time in 1976.  His acting isn't any better in this one though!

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