This is my second pass at 1975, so for background on the year in film I'll just refer you to the Some Other Movies From 1975 entry.
I was also thinking that some historical perspective on these years in film might be in order. In other words, according to Wikipedia, the following things happened in 1975:
- The Altair 8800 was released, sparking the microcomputer revolution.
- Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac.
- The Watergate Scandal happened.
- OPEC raised crude oil prices by 10%.
- Gerald Ford became President after Nixon's resignation.
- Keith Jarrett played The Koln Concert (great album).
- Margaret Thatcher rose to lead the UK Conservative Party.
- After the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese began working their way down to Saigon.
- Jeff Beck released Blow by Blow (another great album).
- Microsoft was founded in someone's garage.
- Jimmy Hoffa went missing (see: The Irishman for details).
- NBC aired the first episode of Saturday Night Live.
- The world's population stood at just over 4 trillion.
1. The Passenger
Auteur director Michelangelo Antonioni helmed this story of a journalist who borrows another man's identity. Jack Nicholson stars as the journalist, with Maria Schneider as a young woman he picks up along the way. I have no doubt many people have obsessed over that shot of the town square near the end of this movie.
2. Picnic at Hanging Rock
Several young women go missing during a school outing in 19th century Australia. Peter Weir directed. This was the film that broke him into the mainstream, and it's wonderfully atmospheric.
Fun Fact: If you look real hard you'll notice actress Jacki Weaver as one of the school employees. 37 years later, Weaver would appear as Bradley Cooper's mom in The Silver Linings Playbook.
3. Grey Gardens
Weirdly fascinating documentary about a mother and daughter living in a New York mansion. However bad you think your life is, it's probably not as bad as what these two women had to deal with every day. It sounds depressing, but I walked away from it feeling very good about where I am and what I have.
Fun Fact: The mother and daughter documented in this film were close relations of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, former First Lady of the United States.
Some Good Ones
1. Man Friday
This film is Robinson Crusoe told from the indigenous point of view. Peter O'Toole stars as Crusoe, with Richard Roundtree as his Man Friday. The parts where Roundtree sings are embarrassing and could have been avoided altogether, but aside from that this movie still has a lot to say about intercultural relations and the "white man's burden."
2. Let's Do It Again
It's creepy to see Bill Cosby engaging in sex talk with his female costars. Did any of the beautiful women in this movie receive "the Cosby treatment?" Seems likely.
In Let's Do It Again Cosby and costar/director Sidney Poitier go to New Orleans to gamble their lodge's savings. It's predictably well-acted and the story is well thought out. The Curtis Mayfield soundtrack works well too. My only complaint is that Sidney Poitier doesn't have much to do in front of the camera.
Fun Fact: The Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, took his name from this movie.
Amitabh Bachnan and Dharmendra star as two criminals hired to apprehend the local warlord. This is one of the most famous Bollywood movies, and I've been hearing about it for decades. In tone it resembles one of Sergio Leone's films, with high production values evident throughout. Like all such movies it's LONG, but if you have the patience it's a very engrossing film. The songs are good, too.
Fun Fact: The plot of this movie is loosely based on Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai.
4. Yeong-ja's Heydays
After Parasite's unparalleled success the Korean Film Archive added many movies the Korea Classic Film channel on YouTube. This channel offers a wide variety of award-winning South Korean films from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. If you're curous about South Korean movies it's a good place to start.
In Yeong-ja's Heydays a factory worker falls in love with a girl newly arrived in Seoul from the countryside. After he's sent away to serve in Vietnam, he returns to find a woman very different from the girl he remembers. It's a good (if somber) movie that must have scandalized many Korean moviegoers at the time.
5. Silent Action
"Are you suggesting that I demagnetized the tape?" Funny to see those reel-to-reel tape recorders in 2020. In this day and age I wouldn't even know where to find one.
In this Italian whodunnit the police investigate a series of murders. The director, Sergio Martino, did some giallo films later on, and this film, although not particularly memorable, shows a professional hand.
6. Carry On Behind
British sex comedy in which double entendres abound. It's not without a certain element of cringe, but it managed to win me over. According to Wikipedia there were 31 (!) Carry On films between 1958 and 1992.
1. Friday Foster
Pam Grier stars as... a photographer? A photographer's assistant? A journalist? To be honest I'm not exactly sure what she stars as, and her reason for being in this movie seems to have more to do with her impressive rack than whatever role she's playing. I'm even less certain about Yaphet Kotto's job. Maybe he's just her... friend?
I'm at still greater pains to explain the plot of this movie. Apparently someone's trying to destroy "black unity?" Anyway, Friday Foster investigates (and sleeps) her way through a series of prominent black community members, leading her to the whitest of all the black community members, who may or may not be the bad guy. There's also some guy in a wheelchair, but the movie never bothers to explain who he is.
Grier appeared in this a year after Foxy Brown and two years after Coffy. It was a transitional period in her career, and the 80s would see her in both various TV roles and lower-budget action films.
Carl Weathers also appears in this movie. It was his second film and his first speaking role.
Some Bad Ones
1. Mr. Sycamore
Jason Robards stars as a postman who hopes to metamorphosize into a tree. It was adapted from a play, it feels like a play, and the premise isn't enough to sustain an entire movie.
1. Psychic Killer
So... um... the convict gets psychic powers from the amulet given to him by a fellow inmate? And then he goes about getting revenge on the people who "wronged" him? Except for the butcher, I guess. They never explain about the butcher. And I'm also not clear about the land developer guy. And... um... how does the cop get that done in the end, exactly? Wouldn't an autopsy be in order?
Whatever. The music's very effective, and that scene where the cop looks into the rearview mirror and sees the killer is surpsingly creepy. This movie is more entertaining than it has any right to be, and at 1.5 hours it never overstays its welcome.
The guy who plays the psychic killer happened to be Timothy Hutton's dad. The guy who plays the detective did a lot of TV. Ditto for the psychiatrist lady. The most famous person in this movie, ironically enough, is Della Reese, who's in it for less than five minutes.
2. Murder on Flight 502
"Go on, lick your own juice! Taste it! I want you to taste it!"
Low budget successor to 1970s Airport. This was a TV movie, and also an attempt to cash in on the 70s disaster movie craze. The Towering Inferno it's not. The Poseidon Adventure it's not. It's not even the original Airport, and that movie wasn't very good.
In 2020 the most famous cast member has to be Farah Fawcett, who was still married to Lee Majors at the time. The other stewardess is played by Brooke Adams, whose fame - like Fawcett's - waned after the decade ended. Robert "Unsolved Mysteries" Stack, future congressman Sonny Bono, Danny Bonaduce (!) and various others round out the cast.
The cop's "interrogation" at the end though. One of the most homoerotic things ever. And what was the bad guy's plan exactly? And why gather the witnesses? A nervous breakdown is one thing, but outright psychosis?
Poor Diana Ross. She just needs a good man to support her, and instead she's either Anthony Perkins' chocolate fantasy or Billy Dee William's support system.
I got about halfway through this movie before realizing I'd seen it before. That modeling sequence - you don't get any more 70s than that. Ross isn't an awesome actress, and this movie was clearly intended as a vehicle for her fabulousness, but you can catch glimpses of original director Tony Richardson's artistry in the finished product.
1. The Image
Sadomasochism for the sake of sadomasochism, or "the best erotic film ever made?" I aqcuired this one without knowing anything about it, and it took a few minutes before I realized just what kind of movie I was watching. Radley Metzger directed it, and if you're familier with his "porno chic" aesthetic you'll know exactly what's on offer.
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